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Kerry Begins



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…by saying Newt is actually a global warming denier, then goes on to the litany of scientific complaints, including agreeing that we don’t know much about temperatures over 400 years ago but then, essentially, saying that we do know enough…

He praises Jim Hansen as one of the best scientists America has to offer, and suggest that these scientists believe in a “tipping point of catastrophe.” Even the alarmists are a little more subtle than that. He also argues for a very low target for CO2 concentrations – which even sir Nicholas Stern says will be “extremely costly” – before arguing that it won’t be costly.

Newt’s Final Point



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Newt remembers the Second Earth Day and the spirit of catastrophism. He reminds how how spectacularly wrong Paul Ehrlich was. He also points out mankind’s adaptive capacity – which the IPCC ignores, as he says. Above all, he is optimistic.

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Newt on the science



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He begins by re-emphasizing that we know very little about global temperatures over 400 years ago. Then he reminds us that there is no consensus that humans are the only factor influencing the climate, and points out that computer models are only computer models, and even those only suggest moderate sea level rise.

After that, he reminds us of the role of economic development. Failure to commit to economic growth will consign billions to poverty and disaster.

Now Newt gets to the meat – China is going to have cars, India is going to have air conditioning. His focus is on developing new approaches and incentives to ensure those developments. His preferred incentive is prizes, not grants. That’s good.

Newt praises Kerry’s book



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Newt begins by saying that he agrees with 60 percent of John Kerry’s book “A moment on the Earth,” to whit to those points that demonstrate how local leadership is often better for the environment than central government. That’s a fair point.

Liveblogging the Gingrich-Kerry debate



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I’m going to try to liveblog the Kerry-Gingrich debate on global warming starting now, which you can watch online here.

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Make all the Bush Jokes You Want...



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…or maybe it should be the FoMoCo CEO joke. But I’m staying away from “Ford’s hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid” and anywhere you might juice one up. Is their idea of clever design on that the average harried Joe (or U.S. President) has the ready, socket-compatible option of plugging it in properly or blowing it, himself and his immediate environs up at the service station just off the ramp? What are these, being built for markets in certain, ah, other geographical regions?

This has to be some kind of sick joke. You want to place a car bearing a compressed store of hydrogen that requires a plug for an electrical source into the land of millionaires made from the trick of spilling hot coffe on their lap?  When and where I attended law school they had courses specifically designed for engineers. How quaint.

Markets work. And let me posit that it’s going to take a(nother) federal subsidy to get these bad boys road-ready, because no insurer would touch something like that intimated in the piece. I think violating the protocol of the President’s personal space is the least of this chap’s worries.

Or, someone’s telling a fish story.

A cat speaks...



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I agree, a carbon tax is a lot better than a cap and trade scheme. But the optimal carbon tax is $0.00.

Dogs and Cats, Living Together...



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Now, I know that the idea of a carbon tax isn’t exactly popular with everyone around here, but I’m also pretty sure that everyone agrees that it makes more sense as policy than cap-and-trade.  On the other side of the ideological fence, TNR’s Bradford Plumer agrees, and, noting Ron Bailey’s interest in the idea at Reason, wonders if “maybe we’ll see some bizarre alliance between greens, right-wing economists, and libertarians on the issue.” I don’t know if we’ll ever really see an “alliance” in any true sense, but I think that it’s at least somewhat plausible that we’ll see enough rough consensus on the issue to nudge U.S. policy-makers intent on enacting some sort of global warming policy away from cap-and-trade and toward a straight carbon tax.  

A rsising tide floats all boats...



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Viewers of An Inconvenient Truth will remember the terrible images of the fishing fleets stranded in the desert that was once the Aral Sea, a disaster caused by Soviet central planning, not by climate change, of course.

Well, increased political freedom combined with ambitious engineering are reversing that catastrophe and growing the Aral Sea once more. A new dam has risen the sea level by 8 meters (yes, sea level rise is a good thing here) and 30 million fish will be released into the Sea this year.

The Aral Sea is far from saved, but mankind’s resiliency is helping to restore it slowly.

The Hybrid That Could Have Made Dick Cheney President



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From the Detroit News:

Credit Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally with saving the leader of the free world from self-immolation.

Mulally told journalists at the New York auto show that he intervened to prevent President Bush from plugging an electrical cord into the hydrogen tank of Ford’s hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid at the White House last week. Ford wanted to give the Commander-in-Chief an actual demonstration of the innovative vehicle, so the automaker arranged for an electrical outlet to be installed on the South Lawn and ran a charging cord to the hybrid. However, as Mulally followed Bush out to the car, he noticed someone had left the cord lying at the rear of the vehicle, near the fuel tank.

“I just thought, ‘Oh my goodness!’ So, I started walking faster, and the President walked faster and he got to the cord before I did. I violated all the protocols. I touched the President. I grabbed his arm and I moved him up to the front,” Mulally said. “I wanted the president to make sure he plugged into the electricity, not into the hydrogen This is all off the record, right?”

We’re doomed! Doomed! Part II



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One of the baffling things about the IPCC Working Group II document released on Friday is how much it ignores mankind’s ability to progress. Time after time it fails to take into account any increase in adaptive capacity as the world gets richer. Essentially, it assumes we spend all our money on iPods while our feet get wet. But it’s even worse than that. Indur Goklany sums it up:

In the few cases where they consider that existing technologies will be adopted more widely because of increasing wealth, these studies don’t generally allow for new technologies. This is the case for some of the studies of agricultural production and hunger, for example. These studies estimate impacts for 2085 using technologies from the 1990s or earlier. This is like estimating today’s food production and levels of hunger using technologies from the 1910s! You are bound to underestimate food production and overestimate hunger. In developing countries prevalence of chronic hunger declined from 37% to 17% between 1970 and 2001, despite an 83% increase in population, in substantial part because of new technologies. These improvements would not be captured using the above methodologies had they been applied in, say, the 1960s to estimate hunger in the 2000s. [This view -- that adaptive capacities and technologies are static -- was exactly why Paul Ehrlich’s predictions in the Population Bomb, for example, bombed in reality.] Not allowing for secular technological change or for technologies developed specifically to alleviate any impacts of climatic changes does not reflect “business-as usual” as the IPCC scenarios claim to do. One should expect the greater the potential food shortfall, the greater the adaptive response. It means that net negative impacts for the future are overstated.

Indeed, even where it’s quite obvious that existing technology will help, the IPCC doesn’t go far enough to pointing this out. While the New York Times suggests in its web-only sidebar on the release (which very creditably shows how the report was made more alarmist in some ways) that this statement is watered down,

Many millions more people are projected to be flooded every year due to sea-level rise by the 2080s. Those densely populated and low-lying areas where adaptive capacity is relatively low, and which already face other challenges such as tropical storms or local coastal subsidence, are especially at risk

…there’s actually a very good scientific basis for that. The underlying documentation makes it clear that the number of displaced people drops by 90 percent if the world keeps investing in sea defenses at the same rate as it is today.

As Goks concludes in his as yet unpublished analysis, the report:

· Overstates negative impacts and understates positive impacts

· Overstates the level of confidence that should be attached to the impacts on both human systems as well as “natural” systems (because the latter are also affected by human actions)

· Fails to examine the impacts of climate change in the wider context of other stresses affecting humanity and the rest of nature

· Fails to examine the relationship between climate change and sustainable economic development more fully, which could mislead policymakers into opting for policies that would divert resources from dealing with today’s urgent problems in favor of policies to pursue longer term, and more uncertain, problems.

That’s no basis for a report to policymakers. Governments should refer this back to the IPCC with a request: Please Try Harder.

Struggle for the WaPo’s Soul



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Today’s Washington Post carries this story by Steve Mufson, “Europe’s Problems Color U.S. Plans to Curb Carbon Gases”. That’s not just a nice title but, for the Post, not a bad take on the matter (you remember last week’s absurd piece touting Europe’s glorious success).

Key take-aways from today’s article are a) the advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitting that “higher electricity prices are ‘the intent of the whole exercise’” and b) WaPo itself admitting that cap-and-trade is “rationing” (see the 2d paragraph, under “US pioneered system”).

Yet despite the piece simply tossing in a line in the penultimate paragraph about the major dispute over whether to auction emission allocations or give them away, in toto, it clearly buttresses objections to freely awarding them instead to well-connected mandarins, a mistake that Europe’s Member States made in buckling to industry pressure resulting in windfall profits when industry passes along the “cost” of these allocations to the electricity consumer, on the grounds that, hey, they could’ve sold them, so simply using up their ration coupons with emissions is a cost.

UK Tories reject Stern



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Not sure where Tim is, but he makes a great point on his own blog about how the UK Conservative Party is adopting a target for greenhouse gas reductions that even Sir Nicholas Stern regards as “likely to be extremely costly” to the economy. Given that they’re not going to get into power for another three years at least, the measures they’d need to take to meet the target would be even more drastic than Sir Nicholas envisages. This is, frankly, crazy.

Timely Reminders



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It’s often argued that the mid-late 1990s international deals on reducing acid rain and ozone depletion provide a great model for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They don’t. In both cases the costs were much higher and the effects much less than the environmental lobby likes to admit – exactly what we’re seeing in Europe and other Kyoto countries right now. So here are two essays form a while back reminding us of the inadequacies of the model:

Paul is now Executive Director of the Center for Science and Public Policy, while Ben is now a Senior Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

Taking the Long View



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We’ve certainly seen the media manifest a lack of awareness of basic facts surrounding the Kyoto Protocol and climate-related issues generally, and it is nothing new to find them a little behind the curve – for example, the recent NYT recognition that scientists think Al Gore is an alarmist. But that piece’s lag of fifteen-months or so is nothing compared to this story.

“The recent economic slowdown in the former Soviet republics and former East bloc nations” – that is, the one that began with the transition from Soviet-style communism to a liberal market economy ca. 1990 – has left these countries with “greenhouse gas credits” they can sell to countries blessed not with such a surplus, if quite rich in the kind of central-planning and rationing that over the longer-term tends to create such surpluses.

It does seem that if more people took such a long view of things as this reporter there would be fewer of the millions susceptible to alarmism over a decade-or-three’s cooling, now warming, as “proof!” of millennia-long geophysical processes reacting one way or another to the human stimulus.

Still, note in addition to Kyoto Jobs this particular twist on Europe’s newest export: economic failure. Get a piece of the (in)action while it’s hot…so to speak.

When you put the question like that...



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Roger Pielke Jr has what I consider a tremendously important point about what the IPCC and the Stern Review are really saying when they focus on the costs of climate change to global GDP. It’s also one that Tim Worstall has made repeatedly, so I hope he’ll chime in here.

Basically, if we take global GDP as the metric for whether or not future generations suffer, then the choice of development pathway is a lot more important than restricting greenhouse gas emissions:

The IPCC finds global per capita GDP to be $4,000 in 1990. Under each of its four storylines it describes global per capita GDP for 2100 as follows (in constant 1990 dollars):

A1: $74,900
A2: $16,100
B1: $46,600
B2: $22,600

Under each storyline people around the world are significantly wealthier than they are today. The IPCC SRES report is careful to avoid a judgment of whether or not this is desirable. But because both Stern and IPCC WGII identify losses in GDP as being problematic, and a cause for action, we can safely conclude that both reports identify a higher GDP as being a better societal outcome than a lower GDP.

Now what happen when we factor in the effects climate change? For a 4 degree increase according to IPCC WGII these values would decrease by 5%:

A1: $71,200
A2: $15,300
B1: $44,300
B2: $21,500

And unmitigated BAU, according to Stern could reduce these values by as much as 20%:

A1: $59,900
A2: $12,900
B1: $37,300
B2: $18,100

So how the world chooses to respond to climate change, independent of how the world develops, will modulate future GDP by a factor of 1.05 to 1.20 (i.e., 5% to 20% found in IPCC WG II and Stern).

But implicit in the IPCC storylines, is how the world chooses to develop, independent of how the world responds to climate change, will modulate future GDP by a factor of up to 4.7 (i.e., the GDP in A1 divided by the GDP in A2). To put this another way, from the standpoint of global GDP, decisions that the world makes that make one storyline more likely to occur than another are between 19 and 74 times more important than decisions that are made about greenhouse gas emissions, under the assumptions provided by the IPCC! [19 ~= 3.7/0.2 and 74 = 3.7/0.05]

This is the main reason why some people have concluded that decisions about development, otherwise known as adaptation, must be front and center in any discussion of climate change.

Exactly. And whatever path we take, even the bad-sounding ones, the world will be much better off than it is today. Yet the world under the A1 scenario of very rapid economic growth will be able almost to shrug off the effects of climate change without noticing. Under the B1 scenario, the technological optimist’s dream, we’d still be much poorer. We should also note that Sir Nicholas Stern based all of his arguments on the A2 scenario – the one where the world is poorest.

In any event, these figures show that in a world where GDP is the important performance indicator, the most successful society is one where rapid economic growth and globalization is encouraged. We could then absorb the costs of even catastrophic climate change and still be over ten times richer in real terms than we are today. That’s resiliency, ladies and gentlemen.

Of course, there are decent arguments that global GDP is not the most appropriate metric. Yet that’s what the IPCC and Stern chose, and this is where their logic ends up, as Roger so rightly says.

Richard Lindzen in Newsweek



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No doubt in an effort to give the appearance of balance, Newsweek’s cover story with Arnold on the cover includes an excellent article by MIT prof Richard Lindzen. One of his central points: there’s no such thing as a perfect temperature.

Note also his bio at the bottom:

Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has always been funded exclusively by the U.S. government. He receives no funding from any energy companies.
Notice that public funding of research is now considered the criterion by which we decide if that research is objective. Not a good sign.

Gingrich vs. Kerry: The Great Debate?



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As many of you have likely seen, Newt has scheduled a “debate” with John Kerry in the Russell Senate Office Building this Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Seasoned Newt watchers aren’t enthused about this prospect any more than they are about his having a book titled A Contract with the Earth, due out in November 2007.

The reasons why are set forth in excerpts from an email exchange with colleagues, below:

COLLEAGUE 1: My guess is that Newt and Kerry will agree that manmade global warming is destroying the biosphere. Where they will disagree is that Kerry will favor mandatory limits on [greenhouse gases] which will save the planet and make us all rich because we’re saving so much energy, while Newt will support a long list of techno-geek solutions like nuclear-powered squirrels in wheels that will make us all rich and will also leave us stunned by the man’s visionary brilliance. Newt really should team up with Amory Lovins.

Let’s hope he runs for president. His defeat will give us something to cheer about.

COLLEAGUE 2: He’s a friend of leading Deep Ecology/conservation biology/ philosophical Greens such as E.O Wilson and Paul Ehrlich. He fully believes Ehrlich’s silly rivet popping thesis that every single species of plant and animal on the planet must be saved because surely one of them is the one that holds the wings on to Spaceship Earth…

He worked very hard with Greens to kill all attempts at [Endangered Species Act] ESA reform in particular and getting a takings compensation section in the ESA…Gingrich cleverly outflanked [Members touting horror stories of ESA abuses] by appointing the Speakers Task Force on the Environment (or some similar title) and made Sherry Boehlert (the most radical Green R) and Richard Pombo co-chairs. And told them no enviro bill would go to the floor unless they both signed off on it as he wanted a balanced and unified approach to Republican stance on the environment. That killed all reform. Boehlert and Pombo doubtfully ever agreed on anything. Boehlert was the guy who went to the Sierra Club Dirty Dozen fund raiser DURING the Republican Presidential Convention in San Diego in 1996 and helped them raise money to defeat conservative Republicans and was awarded with a defaced American flag — a regular flag with a green fringe sewn around all sides.

Gingrich supposedly was the one who put pressure on to quietly let the brilliant Shadegg ESA bill die — because it would have placed the Greens on the defense for the first time, it would have protected private property, and it might well have passed…
And whenever top Greens like Wilson and Ehrlich were in DC for some event or a hearing, Gingrich would often arrange a fancy dinner soiree somewhere and try to pressure the conservative GOP congressmen to attend — folks like Chenoweth — so they could get religion.

…I sat down with a list of the top dozen or so most significant environmental votes of the previous decade and on every one that we could check Gingrich had not only voted wrong but often terribly wrong. Among them if I remember correctly were that he had not only voted against opening ANWR but had voted to designate it an official Wilderness Area so it could never even be explored, let along developed. No mechanized equipment would ever have been allowed to touch the soil. A helicopter can’t touch the ground in a Wilderness Area. Not even mountain bikes If wind storms knock down miles of trees across trails, the USFS cannot send in a team by chopper and equipped with chainsaws and reopen the trail in a few days. They have to send in a team by horse and equipped with tents, food and handsaws and they spend all summer attempting to reopen the trail. That’s one reason why many wilderness “management” costs are so high.

On ESA he had voted for a radical amendment to give full protection for all listed plants that occur on private land. I think that was the Gerry Studds amendment. Right now only animals get full protection on private land. If plants ever get that status no one will be able to do anything on private lands.

He also voted to establish the National Environmental Trust — on and on…There’s much more — but that’s enough. So I fear that Gingrich will not be that good on climate change because of its probable impact on species and ecosystems. He probably believes that anthropogenic climate change is a threat to life on the planet — but may show his “conservative free market principles” by using so-called market or market-like solutions — instead of a totally planned economy. He could be the long-dreaded person who paves the road to serfdom with Green bricks.

Waiting for Spring



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It’s an awfully cold Easter here in Ohio. They’ve been having trouble playing baseball games at Jacob’s Field because of the snow. Yesterday, watching half-a-dozen deer frolic in the snow in our backyard, I could not help wishing for a bit more global warming.

An Autopsy of Media Bias



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Over at Powerline, John Hinderacker does a spectacular job of exposing the media bias tricks in the story Kathryn links to below , about hurricane expert Dr. William Gray. When the history of this mass hysteria is written, the media’s perverse bias, and ignorance, should get at least a chapter.

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