California is about to implement a new climate tax via a cap and trade system, where revenues from the tax are supposed to be dedicated to carbon reduction projects. Forget for a moment all my concerns with climate dangers being overhyped, or the practical problems (read cronyism) inherent in a cap-and-trade system vs. a straight carbon tax. There is one improvement California can and should make to this system.
Anyone who can remember the history of the tobacco settlement will know that the theory of that settlement was that the funds were needed to pay for additional medical expenses driven by smoking. Well, about zero of these funds actually went to health care or even to smoking reduction programs (smoking reduction programs turn out to be fiscally irresponsible for states, since they lead to reduced tax revenues from tobacco taxes). These funds just became a general slush fund for legislators. Some states (New York among them, if I remember correctly), spent the entire 20 year windfall in one year to close budget gaps.
If California is serious that these new taxes on energy should go to carbon reduction programs, then these programs need to be scored by a neutral body as to their cost per ton of CO2 reduction. I may think the program misguided, but given that it exists, it might as well be run in a scientific manner, right? I would really prefer that there be a legislated hurdle rate, e.g. all programs must have a cost per ton reduction of $45 of less -- or whatever. But even publishing scores in a transparent way would help.
UNTIL we fully understand what turned two brothers who allegedly perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombings into murderers, it is hard to make any policy recommendation other than this: We need to redouble our efforts to make America stronger and healthier so it remains a vibrant counterexample to whatever bigoted ideology may have gripped these young men. With all our warts, we have built a unique society — a country where a black man, whose middle name is Hussein, whose grandfather was a Muslim, can run for president and first defeat a woman in his own party and then four years later a Mormon from the opposition, and no one thinks twice about it. With so many societies around the world being torn apart, especially in the Middle East, it is vital that America survives and flourishes as a beacon of pluralism....
So what to do? We need a more “radical center” — one much more willing to suggest radically new ideas to raise revenues, not the “split-the-difference-between-the-same-old-options center.” And the best place to start is with a carbon tax.
I wrote below about Chinese pollution, but here is one other thought. Shifting Chinese focus from reducing CO2 with unproven 21st century technology to reducing particulates with 1970s technology would be a great boon for its citizens. But it could well have one other effect:
It might reverse the warming in the Arctic.
The reduction of Arctic ice sheet size in the summer, and the warming of the Arctic over the last several decades, is generally attributed to greenhouse warming. But there are reasons to doubt that Co2 is the whole story. One is that the sea ice extent in Antarctica has actually been growing at the same time the Arctic sea ice cover has been shrinking. Maybe there is another explanation, one that affects only the northern hemisphere and not the southern?
I don't know if you have snow right now or even ever get snow. If you do, find some black dust, like coal dust or dark dirt, and sprinkle it on a patch of snow. Then come back tomorrow. What will you find? The patch of snow you sprinkled in dark dust melted a lot in comparison to the rest of the snow. This is an albedo effect. Snow takes a while to melt because it reflects rather than absorbs solar radiation. Putting black dust on it changes that equation, and suddenly solar radiation is adsorbed as heat, and the now melts. Fast. I know this because I run a sledding hill in the wintertime, where snow falls on a black cinder hill. The snow will last until even the smallest patch of black cinders is exposed. Once exposed, that small hole will grow like a cancer, as it absorbs solar energy and pumps it into the surrounding ground.
By the way, if you have not snow, Accuweather.com did the experiment for you. See here. Very nice pictures that make the story really clear.
So consider this mess:
Eventually that mess blows away. Where does it end up? Well, a lot of it ends up deposited in the Arctic, on top of the sea ice and Greenland ice sheet.
There is a growing hypothesis that this black carbon deposited on the ice from China is causing much of the sea ice to melt faster. And as the ice sheet melts faster, this lowers the albedo of the arctic, and creates warming. In this hypothesis, warming follows from ice melting, rather than vice versa.
How do we test this? Well, the best way would be to go out and actually measure the deposits and calculate the albedo changes from this. My sense is that this work is starting to be done (example), but it has been slow, because everyone who is interested in Arctic ice of late are strong global warming proponents who have incentives not to find an alternative explanation for melting ice.
But here are two quick mental experiments we can do:
We already mentioned one proof. Wind patterns cause most pollution to remain within the hemisphere (northern or southern) where it was generated. So we would expect black carbon ice melting to be limited to the Arctic and not be seen in the Antarctic. This fits observations
In the winter, as the sea ice is growing, we would expect new ice would be free of particulate deposits and that any new deposits would be quickly covered in snow. This would mean that we should see ice extents in the winter to be about the same as they were historically, and we would see most of the ice extent reduction in the summer. Again, this is exactly what we see.
This is by no means a proof -- there are other explanations for the same data. But I am convinced we would see at least a partial sea ice recovery in the Arctic if China could get their particulate emissions under control.
I have not written much about climate of late because my interest, err, runs hot and cold. As most readers know, I am in the lukewarmer camp, meaning that I accept that Co2 is a greenhouse gas but believe that catastrophic warming forecasts are greatly exaggerated (in large part by scientifically unsupportable assumptions of strong net positive feedback in the climate system). If what I just said is in any way news to you, read this and this for background.
Anyway, one thing I have been saying for about 8 years is that when the history of the environmental movement is written, the global warming obsession will be considered a great folly. This is because global warming has sucked all the air out of almost anything else in the environmental movement. For God sakes, the other day the Obama Administration OK'd the wind industry killing more protected birds in a month than the oil industry has killed in its entire history. Every day the rain forest in the Amazon is cleared away a bit further to make room for ethanol-making crops.
This picture demonstrates a great example of what I mean. Here is a recent photo from China:
You might reasonably say, well that pollution is from the burning of fossil fuels, and the global warming folks want to reduce fossil fuel use, so aren't they trying to fight this? And the answer is yes, tangentially. But here is the problem: It is an order of magnitude or more cheaper to eliminate polluting byproducts of fossil fuel combustion than it is to eliminate fossil fuel combustion altogether.
What do I mean? China gets a lot of pressure to reduce its carbon emissions, since it is the largest emitter in the world. So it might build a wind project, or some solar, or some expensive high speed rail to reduce fossil fuel use. Let's say any one of these actions reduces smog and sulfur dioxide and particulate pollution (as seen in this photo) by X through reduction in fossil fuel use. Now, let's take whatever money we spent in, say, a wind project to get X improvement and instead invest it in emissions control technologies that the US has used for decades (coal plant scrubbers, gasoline blending changes, etc) -- invest in making fossil fuel use cleaner, not in eliminating it altogether. This same money invested in this way would get 10X, maybe even up to 100X improvement in these emissions.
By pressuring China on carbon, we have unwittingly helped enable their pollution problem. We are trying to get them to do 21st century things that the US can't even figure out how to do economically when in actuality what they really need to be doing is 1970's things that would be relatively easy to do and would have a much bigger impact on their citizen's well-being.
Via Icecap (I still don't think they have permalinks that work)
In his Dec. 10, 2007 “Earth has a fever” speech, Gore referred to a prediction by U.S. climate scientist Wieslaw Maslowski that the Arctic’s summer ice could “completely disappear” by 2013 due to global warming caused by carbon emissions.
Gore said that on Sept. 21, 2007, “scientists reported with unprecedented alarm that the North Polar icecap is, in their words, ‘falling off a cliff.’ One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week warns that it could happen in as little as seven years, seven years from now.”
Maslowski told members of the American Geophysical Union in 2007 that the Arctics summer ice could completely disappear within the decade. “If anything,” he said, “our projection of 2013 for the removal of ice in summer...is already too conservative.”
The former vice president also warned that rising temperatures were “a planetary emergency and a threat to the survival of our civilization.”
However, instead of completely melting away, the polar icecap is at now at its highest level for this time of year since 2006.
This month, the world will get a new report from a United Nations panel about the science of climate change. Scientists will soon meet in Stockholm to put the finishing touches on the document, and behind the scenes, two big fights are brewing....
In the second case, we have mainstream science that says if the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles, which is well on its way to happening, the long-term rise in the temperature of the earth will be at least 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but more likely above 5 degrees. We have outlier science that says the rise could come in well below 3 degrees.
In this case, the drafters of the report lowered the bottom end in a range of temperatures for how much the earth could warm, treating the outlier science as credible.
The interesting part is that "mainstream science" is based mainly on theory and climate models that over the last 20 years have not made accurate predictions (overestimating warming significantly). "Outlier science" is in a lot of cases based on actual observations of temperatures along with other variables like infrared radiation returning to space. The author, through his nomenclature, is essentially disparaging observational data that is petulantly refusing to match up to model predictions. But of course skeptics are anti-science.
I have not had the time to write much about climate of late, but after several years of arguing over emails (an activity with which I quickly grew bored), the field is heating up again, as it were.
As I have said many times, the key missing science in the whole climate debate centers around climate sensitivity, or the expected temperature increase from a doubling of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere (as reference, CO2 in the industrial age has increased from about 270 ppm to close to 400 ppm, or about half a doubling).
In my many speeches and this video (soon to be updated, if I can just find the time to finish it), I have argued that climate computer models have exaggerated climate sensitivity. This Wikipedia page is a pretty good rehash of the alarmist position on climate sensitivity. According to this standard alarmist position, here is the distribution of studies which represent the potential values for sensitivity - note that virtually none are below 2°C.
The problem is that these are all made with computer models. They are not based on observational data. Yes, all these models nominally backcast history reasonably correctly (look at that chart above and think about that statement for a minute, see if you can spot the problem). But many an investor has been bankrupted by models that correctly backcast history. The guys putting together tranches of mortgages for securities all had models. What has been missing is any validation of these numbers with actual, you know, observations of nature.
Way back 6 or 7 years ago I began taking these numbers and projecting them backwards. In other words, if climate sensitivity is really, say, at 4°C, then what should that imply about historical temperature increases since the pre-industrial age? Let's do a back of the envelope with the 4°C example. We are at just about half of a doubling of CO2 concentrations, but since sensitivity is a logarithmic curve, this implies we should have seen about 57% of the temperature increase that we would expect from a full doubling of CO2. Applied to the 4°C sensitivity figure, this means that if sensitivity really is 4°C, we should have seen a 2.3°C global temperature increase over the last 150 years or so. Which we certainly have not -- instead we have seen 0.8°C from all causes, only one of which is CO2.
So these high sensitivity models are over-predicting history. Even a 2°C sensitivity over-predicts the amount of warming we have seen historically. So how do they make the numbers fit? The models are tuned and tweaked with a number of assumptions. Time delays are one -- the oceans act as a huge flywheel on world temperatures and tend to add large lags to getting to the ultimate sensitivity figure. But even this was not enough for high sensitivity models to back-cast accurately. To make their models accurately predict history, their authors have had to ignore every other source of warming (which is why they have been so vociferous in downplaying the sun and ocean cycles, at least until they needed these to explain the lack of warming over the last decade). Further, they have added man-made cooling factors, particularly from sulfate aerosols, that offset some of the man-made warming with man-made cooling.
Which brings us back to the problem I hinted at with the chart above and its distribution of sensitivities. Did you spot the problem? All these models claim to accurately back-cast history, but how can a model with a 2°C sensitivity and an 11°C sensitivity both accurately model the last 100 years? One way they do it is by using a plug variable, and many models use aerosol cooling as the plug. Why? Well, unlike natural cooling factors, it is anthropogenic, so they can still claim catastrophe once we clean up the aerosols. Also, for years the values of aerosol cooling were really uncertain, so ironically the lack of good science on them allowed scientists to assume a wide range of values. Below is from a selection of climate models, and shows that the higher the climate sensitivity in the model, the higher the negative forcing (cooling) effect assumed from aerosols. This has to be, or the models would not back-cast.
The reasons that these models had such high sensitivities is that they assumed the climate was dominated by net positive feedback, meaning there were processes in the climate system that would take small amounts of initial warming from CO2 and multiply them many times. The generally accepted value for sensitivity without these feedbacks is 1.2°C or 1.3°C (via work by Michael Mann over a decade ago). So all the rest of the warming, in fact the entire catastrophe that is predicted, comes not from CO2 but from this positive feedback that multiplies this modest 1.2°C many times.
I have argued, as have many other skeptics, that this assumption of net positive feedback is not based on good science, and in fact most long-term stable natural systems are dominated by negative feedback (note that you can certainly identify individual processes, like ice albedo, that are certainly a positive feedback, but we are talking about the net effect of all such processes combined). Based on a skepticism about strong positive feedback, and the magnitude of past warming in relation to CO2 increases, I have always argued that the climate sensitivity is perhaps 1.2°C and maybe less, but that we should not expect more than a degree of warming from CO2 in the next century, hardly catastrophic.
One of the interesting things you might notice from the Wikipedia page is that they do not reference any sensitivity study more recent than 2007 (except for a literature review in 2008). One reason might be that over the last 5 years there have been a series of studies that have begun to lower the expected value of the sensitivity number. What many of these studies have in common is that they are based on actual observational data over the last 100 years, rather than computer models (by the way, for those of you who like to fool with Wikipedia, don't bother on climate pages -- the editors of these pages will reverse any change attempting to bring balance to their articles in a matter of minutes). These studies include a wide range of natural effects, such as ocean cycles, left out of the earlier models. And, as real numbers have been put on aerosol concentrations and their effects, much lower values have been assigned to aerosol cooling, thus reducing the amount of warming that could be coming from CO2.
Recent studies based on observational approaches are coming up with much lower numbers. ECS, or equilibrium climate sensitivity numbers (what we would expect in temperature increases if we waited hundreds or thousands of years for all time delays to be overcome) has been coming in between 1.6°C and 2.0°C. Values for TCS, or transient climate sensitivity, or what we might expect to see in our lifetimes, has been coming in around 1.3°C per doubling of CO2 concentrations.
Yesterday saw the publication of a paper in a prestigious journal,Nature Geoscience, from a high-profile international team led by Oxford scientists. The contributors include 14 lead authors of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientific report; two are lead authors of the crucial chapter 10: professors Myles Allen and Gabriele Hegerl.
So this study is about as authoritative as you can get. It uses the most robust method, of analysing the Earth’s heat budget over the past hundred years or so, to estimate a “transient climate response” — the amount of warming that, with rising emissions, the world is likely to experience by the time carbon dioxide levels have doubled since pre-industrial times.
The most likely estimate is 1.3C. Even if we reach doubled carbon dioxide in just 50 years, we can expect the world to be about two-thirds of a degree warmer than it is now, maybe a bit more if other greenhouse gases increase too….
This is still tough work, likely with a lot of necessary improvement, because it is really hard to dis-aggregate multiple drivers in such a complex system. There may, for example, be causative variables we don't even know about so by definition were not included in the study. However, it is nice to see that folks are out there trying to solve the problem with real observations of Nature, and not via computer auto-eroticism.
Postscript: Alarmists have certainly not quit the field. The current emerging hypothesis to defend high sensitivities is to say that the heat is going directly into the deep oceans. At some level this is sensible -- the vast majority of the heat carrying capacity (80-90%) of the Earth's surface is in the oceans, not in the atmosphere, and so they are the best place to measure warming. Skeptics have said this for years. But in the top 700 meters or so of the ocean, as measured by ARGO floats, ocean heating over the last 10 years (since these more advanced measuring devices were launched) has been only about 15% of what we might predict with high sensitivity models. So when alarmists say today that the heat is going into the oceans, they say the deep oceans -- ie that the heat from global warming is not going into the air or the first 700 meters of ocean but directly into ocean layers beneath that. Again, this is marginally possible by some funky dynamics, but just like the aerosol defense that has fallen apart of late, this defense of high sensitivity forecasts is completely unproven. But the science is settled, of course.
1. They want to say something about themselves. This is the Leonardo DiCaprio buyer, using the electric car to pronounce that he cares about his carbon footprint. And it looks great parked next to his Gulfstream V.
2. There is no meter on the electric line you plug into the car. When you fill your car up with gas, you get to stand there watching the spinning money dial. There is no parallel experience for plugging in an electric car. The costs and fossil fuel use of an electric car are not necessarily less than the same size (e.g. subcompact) gasoline-engine car, they are just better hidden.
Owners of electric cars are not smarter about managing the energy costs of their driving, they are substantially more ignorant. I know exactly how many dollars of gas I have put in my car this month. How many electric car owners have the first idea how many dollars of electricity they put in theirs?
A reader sent this abstract of a Henrik Svensmark study with a one word caption: Wow! I agree. The notion that "local" (and by local, we mean unimaginably far away) supernova affecting the Earth's climate is certainly creative. Haven't even read the thing so certainly not buying it yet, but it certainly is an amazing hypothesis.
Observations of open star clusters in the solar neighbourhood are used to calculate local supernova (SN) rates for the past 510 Myr. Peaks in the SN rates match passages of the Sun through periods of locally increased cluster formation which could be caused by spiral arms of the Galaxy. A statistical analysis indicates that the Solar system has experienced many large short-term increases in the flux of Galactic cosmic rays (GCR) from nearby SNe. The hypothesis that a high GCR flux should coincide with cold conditions on the Earth is borne out by comparing the general geological record of climate over the past 510 Myr with the fluctuating local SN rates. Surprisingly, a simple combination of tectonics (long-term changes in sea level) and astrophysical activity (SN rates) largely accounts for the observed variations in marine biodiversity over the past 510 Myr. An inverse correspondence between SN rates and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels is discussed in terms of a possible drawdown of CO2 by enhanced bio-productivity in oceans that are better fertilized in cold conditions – a hypothesis that is not contradicted by data on the relative abundance of the heavy isotope of carbon, 13C.
I was initially very skeptical of Svensmark's work attempting to link cosmic rays to cloud formation, with that affect acting as an amplifier (in terms of warming and cooling effects) of changes in solar output. I must say that over time, that work has survived replication effects pretty well.
I have written a number of times on the silliness of food miles and the locavore movement (here and here and here). For some reason the energy and resource intensity of foods is being judged merely on one component - transportation of the end product - which actually is only a tiny competent of food costs (and thus their resource use). Is it really more environmentally sensitive for us Phoenicians to grow our corn in the Arizona desert, where soils are unproductive and water must be imported from hundreds of miles away, rather than have it grown in the fertile soils of Iowa and trucked in?
TWO brands of olive oil, one from Australia, the other shipped 16,000 kilometres from Italy, sit on a supermarket shelf.
Most eco-friendly shoppers would reach for the Australian oil. But despite burning less fossil fuel to get here, it may not be better for the planet.
Contrary to popular belief, ''food miles'', or the distance food has travelled before we buy it, is a poor indicator of our food's total greenhouse gas emissions, or ''carbon footprint''.
More important is the way our food is farmed and produced, and how far we drive to buy it....
It turns out that stuff like economies of scale really matter
''Local food can often have a higher carbon footprint than food from afar,'' says principal researcher Brad Ridoutt.
He says even home-grown vegetables, with ''zero food miles'', do not necessarily have a smaller carbon footprint than those bought in the supermarket.
''With my veggies, I drive to Bunnings to buy fertiliser, and I go away for the weekend and forget to water them, and in the end I only harvest a few things that I can actually eat.
''By contrast, big producers, who can invest in the latest energy-efficient, water-efficient technology, and make use of all the parts of food, can be much more efficient,'' he says.
Of course, transporting food from producer to retailer still burns fossil fuels that release greenhouse gas emissions, in turn accelerating global warming. But freight emissions are only a fraction of those released during production, meaning even imported food, sustainably produced, can have a smaller carbon footprint than local alternatives.
Even the most rudimentary reading of economics should have given greenies a clue. In commodity products like most foods, prices tend to be driven down to a point that they reflect resources (and their relative scarcity) that went into the product. The cheapest foods tend to be those that use the least, and least scarce, resources in production. So buying locally grown food, which often tends to carry a price premium, should have been a flashing red light that maybe this was not the least-resource-intensive choice.
Peter Gleick violated a principle rule of the global-warming debate: Climate scientists must be better than their opponents....
It’s very tempting for scientists and their allies to employ to tactics of their over-aggressive critics. Yet the global warming camp must make an affirmative case for ambitious action on carbon emissions. Critics need only poke holes in the scientists’ arguments, or, as is so often the case in global warming debates, merely insist they’ve done so. Manipulation and perfidy work much better for the deniers.
Whatever the misdeeds of those who attack climate research, however braindead the opposition to climate scientists appears to be, advocates degrade themselves when they allow their frustrations to get the better of their ethical responsibilities. They lend credence to the (wrong) impression that both sides of the debate are equally worthy of criticism, that global warming is another ideological war that both sides fight deceitfully. In that context, those who want to spend lots of money to green the economy lose, and those who want to do nothing win. As Rick Santorum tours the country accusing climate activists of treachery and conspiracy, this should be only more obvious.
In other words, shame on Gleick for stooping to the level of those corrupt and evil skeptics. A sentence or two of denunciation of Gleick for an actual crime, accompanied by 500 words of unsubstantiated ad hominem attacks on skeptics. Nice. I try to have a "let's play nice" response and this is what comes back in return? Very frustrating.
EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration...
EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.
Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.
For three years a group of government employees actually got paid to come to the conclusion that drinking water does not prevent dehydration. Congrats.
If you want an explanation, my guess is that this is part of the Left's war on bottled water. For some bizarre reason, bottled water has been singled out as one of the evils of modern technology that will drive us into a carbon dioxide-induced climate disaster. So I don't think the EU would have approved any label claim for water. Since this is such an absurdly obvious claim that most consumers would just chuckle at (yes, consumers can be trusted to parse product claims), I almost wonder if some water company didn't just float this to make the point that no claim could be approved in the EU system.
Now that the carbon tax has passed through [Australian] federal parliament, the government’s clean-up brigade is getting into the swing by trying to erase any dissent against the jobs-destroying legislation.
On cue comes the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which this week issued warnings to businesses that they will face whopping fines of up to $1.1m if they blame the carbon tax for price rises.
It says it has been “directed by the Australian government to undertake a compliance and enforcement role in relation to claims made about the impact of a carbon price.”
There will be 23 carbon cops roaming the streets doing snap audits of businesses that “choose to link your price increases to a carbon price”.
Instead, the ACCC suggests you tell customers you’ve raised prices because “the overall cost of running (your) business has increased”.
Addressing the press in Australia, where legislators passed a carbon tax earlier this month, Obama praised Prime Minister Julia Gillard for pursuing “a bold strategy” to trim industrial emissions that most scientists say are contributing to global warming.
"I think the answer is no," [MN representative Keith] Ellison said when asked if he believes regulations kill jobs. "And here is why: When we talked about increasing fuel efficiency standards, the industry responded, and they need engineers and designers and manufacturers, and they need actually more people to help respond to the new requirement."
"I believe if the government says, look, we have got to reduce our carbon footprint, you will kick into gear a whole number of people that know how to do that or have ideas about that, and that will be a job engine. I understand what you mean, because if anything adds a cost to a business, you could assume that that will diminish that business’s ability to hire. But I don’t think that’s actually right. I think what businesses want is customers and what — if they are selling product, if they have a product to sell they will do well even if they have some new regulations to meet," the Congressman said.
There is a lot about economics we still do not understand, but one thing we are pretty certain about is that shifting labor and investment from productive to unproductive activities destroys wealth and reduces economic growth. Of course, since much of the press is at least as ignorant on economic fundamentals, they just nod sagely.
The European Union is overestimating the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions achieved through reliance on biofuels as a result of a “serious accounting error,” according to a draft opinion by an influential committee of 19 scientists and academics.
The European Environment Agency Scientific Committee writes that the role of energy from crops like biofuels in curbing warming gases should be measured by how much additional carbon dioxide such crops absorb beyond what would have been absorbed anyway by existing fields, forests and grasslands.
Instead, the European Union has been “double counting” some of the savings, according to the draft opinion, which was prepared by the committee in May and viewed this week by The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times.
“The potential consequences of this bioenergy accounting error are immense since it assumes that all burning of biomass does not add carbon to the air,” the committee wrote.
Duh. This has been a known fact to about everyone else, as most independent studies not done by a corn-state university have found ethanol to have, at best, zero utility in reducing atmospheric CO2.
It is worth noting that the EU would likely have never made this admission had it solely been under the pressure of skeptics, for whom this is just one of a long list of fairly obvious errors in climate-related science. But several years ago, environmental groups jumped on the skeptic bandwagon opposing ethanol, both for its lack of efficacy in reducing emissions as well as the impact of increasing ethanol product on land use and food prices.
Coke has a billboard covered in some kind of plants that it claims absorbs 46,800 pounds of CO2 a year. Forgetting for a moment whether we should care about CO2 abatement, I have a question for Coke: What are you going to do with the plants after you take down the billboard and/or after they die? Are you going to shrink-wrap them and bury them deep? Because otherwise, when they die, they are just going to give up the carbon back to the atmosphere as they decompose. If you really want to abate carbon with plant growth, go build some wood-frame houses.
Update: Incredibly, as the 13th commenter on the linked post, I was the very first who did not think this was an awesome step for the environment.
This has gotten a fair amount of play around the Internet, but it's crazy enough to re-link in case you have not seen it. A proposal in Australia to earn carbon credits by shooting wild camels. Because when living, breathing creatures are dead, the environment is protected. Take that to its logical conclusion. All that time those folks were clubbing harp seals, they were saving Mother Nature!
Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country’s rich mineral deposits as “blessings” and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.
The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.
Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.
“It makes world history. Earth is the mother of all”, said Vice-President Alvaro García Linera. “It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration.”
Hmmm. There is a big gap between thoughtful conservation and fetishism for the primitive.
Update: By the way, the article says this is being driven by climate change already experienced in Bolivia. I suppose it is possible that rainfall has changed, I don't have the numbers for Bolivia, but temperatures in the tropics have shown no trend up or down for decades. Most of the warming the Earth has seen over the last 50 years (whatever the cause) has been in the Northern Hemisphere and in fact in the upper portions of the Northern Hemisphere. Here are the temps for the tropics. The spikes in 1998 and 2010 are El Ninos years.
The California Air Resources Board violated state environmental law in 2008 when it adopted a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gases and again last year when it passed cap-and-trade regulations, a San Francisco Superior Court judge has ruled in a tentative decision.
If the decision is made final, California would be barred from implementing its ambitious plan to combat global warming until it complies with portions of the California Environmental Quality Act, though it is not yet clear what the air board would have to do to be in compliance. The state’s plan, which implements AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, would reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
We have all heard environmentalists and other American intellectual snobs lamenting that we just are not as smart as Europeans because we have so much less passenger rail. But because freight and high-speed passenger rail service does not coexist well on the same tracks, urging more passenger rail on the US rail net is effectively asking for more freight to be dumped onto the highways.
Moving freight by rail rather than by truck is an enormous carbon saving; one locomotive can haul as much as hundreds of trucks. It also reduces highway congestion. Unfortunately, it's hard for passengers and freight to share tracks. In part, it's difficult simply because it's expensive to upgrade track to handle passenger speeds, but also because freight moves much more slowly, and on an irregular schedule.
I might well argue that if we were simply trying to maximize environmental benefit, we'd ignore passenger rail, and focus on upgrading our freight systems, which sorely need it. Moreover, these upgrades could largely be made without the massive procedural obstacles that block new high speed rail lines.
But freight rail is not sexy. It does not excite donors, and it does not excite most of the voters who are motivated by high speed rail. Politicians win votes by delivering (or at least promising) highly visible improvements; not by silently enhancing the movement of goods from port to Wal-Mart.
See the percentage of goods moved by freight, which is dramatically higher for the US. The end result is we have a LOT less freight on our roads than the EU or Japan, and might have even less if US maritime laws had not done so much to kill coastal shipping.
This is the great unseen in all these "sophisticated" conversations about Europe. These Euro-philes are so much smarter than the rest of us that they manage to ignore the most important part of the equation (largely because it is unseen and not sexy). In fact, the US has the best rail system in the world, and in fact the governments of Europe and Japan have likely sub-optimized their rail systems by forcing their focus towards passengers rather than freight. I will leave the last word to the Anti-Planner:
Europe has decided to run its rail system primarily for passengers, while America's system is run mainly for freight. Europe's rail system has about 6 percent of the passenger travel market, while autos have about 78 percent. Meanwhile, 75 percent of European freight goes by highway. Here in the U.S., highway's share of freight travel is only 29 percent, while the auto's share of passenger travel is about 82 percent. So trains get 4 percent of potential auto users in Europe out of their cars, but leave almost three times as much freight on the highway.
From the Thin Green Line, a reliable source for any absurd science that supports environmental alarmism:
Sending and receiving email makes up a full percent of a relatively green person's annual carbon emissions, the equivalent of driving 200 miles.
Dealing with spam, however, accounts for more than a fifth of the average account holder's electricity use. Spam makes up a shocking 80 percent of all emails sent, but most people get rid of them as fast as you can say "delete."
So how does email stack up to snail mail? The per-message carbon cost of email is just 1/60th of the old-fashioned letter's. But think about it "” you probably send at least 60 times as many emails a year than you ever did letters.
One way to go greener then is to avoid sending a bunch of short emails and instead build a longer message before you send it.
This is simply hilarious, and reminds me of the things the engineers would fool the pointy-haired boss with in Dilbert. Here was my response:
This is exactly the kind of garbage analysis that is making the environmental movement a laughing stock.
In computing the carbon footprint of email, the vast majority of the energy in the study was taking the amount of energy used by a PC during email use (ie checking, deleting, sending, organizing) and dividing it by the number of emails sent or processed. The number of emails is virtually irrelevant -- it is the time spent on the computer that matters. So futzing around trying to craft one longer email from many shorter emails does nothing, and probably consumers more energy if it takes longer to write than the five short emails.
This is exactly the kind of peril that results from a) reacting to the press release of a study without understanding its methodology (or the underlying science) and b) focusing improvement efforts on the wrong metrics.
The way to save power is to use your computer less, and to shut it down when not in use rather than leaving it on standby.
If one wants to argue that the energy is from actually firing the bits over the web, this is absurd. Even if this had a measurable energy impact, given the very few bytes in an email, reducing your web surfing by one page a day would keep more bytes from moving than completely giving up email.
By the way, the suggestion for an email charge in the linked article is one I have made for years, though the amount is too high. A charge of even 1/100 cent per email would cost each of us about a penny per day but would cost a 10 million mail spammer $1000, probably higher than his or her expected yield from the spam.
I suppose one cold say that climate alarmism jumped the shark years ago. But they have certainly moved to a new level, one for which there is not even a term, in this video. This video has everything - the government school teacher politically indoctrinating the kids, followed by bloody gory death dealt out to the kids who refuse to toe the government line. I am not kidding.
When I first saw it, I was sure it was a skeptic satire, ala Jonathon Swift's 'A Modest Proposal,' and I am still afraid that this may be some elaborate put-on because the video and its message -- that skeptics need to be killed -- is so obscene. But apparently, according to this article at the Guardian, it is totally for real and includes contributions from some fairly prominent artists, as well as funding from the UK government and the 10:10 program (a plea to reduce carbon emissions by 10% per year, eerily with a name probably purposely similar to 9-11).
Had a look? Well, I'm certain you'll agree that detonating school kids, footballers and movie stars into gory pulp for ignoring their carbon footprints is attention-grabbing. It's also got a decent sprinkling of stardust "“ Peter Crouch, Gillian Anderson, Radiohead and others. But it's pretty edgy, given 10:10's aim of asking people, businesses and organisations to take positive action against global warming by cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in a year, and thereby pressuring governments to act.
"Doing nothing about climate change is still a fairly common affliction, even in this day and age. What to do with those people, who are together threatening everybody's existence on this planet? Clearly we don't really think they should be blown up, that's just a joke for the mini-movie, but maybe a little amputating would be a good place to start?" jokes 10:10 founder and Age of Stupid film maker Franny Armstrong.
But why take such a risk of upsetting or alienating people, I ask her: "Because we have got about four years to stabilise global emissions and we are not anywhere near doing that. All our lives are at threat and if that's not worth jumping up and down about, I don't know what is."
The latter claim is hilarious. Over the next four years, CO2 levels will likely increase, if they stay on trend, from .0392% of the atmosphere to .0400% of the atmosphere. I would love to see these so-called science-based folks demonstrate how the next .0008% shift in atmospheric concentration triggers the point-of-no return tipping point. In actual fact, the have just latched onto the round number of 400ppm and declared, absolutely without evidence, that this number (which the Earth has crossed many times in the past) will somehow lead to a runaway chain reaction.
Anyway, I have teased it long enough, here is the video. Beware -- there is gore (no pun intended) here worthy of a zombie movie.
Wow, its sure good that the world has decided that skeptics are the mindless, thuggish, anti-science side of this debate, because if that had not already been made clear, we might think that key climate alarmism groups had lost their freaking minds. It will be interesting to see if this gets any play in the US media -- my guess is it will not. Magazines are happy to spend twenty pages dissecting the motives of the Koch family in funding skeptic and libertarian causes, but environmentalists get a free pass, even with stuff like this.
Lubos Motl is all over this, and has mirror sites for the video if (or more likely when) the video gets taken down. This is one of those propaganda offers that are the product of an echo chamber, with a group of like-minded people all patting themselves on the back only to be surprised at the inevitable public backlash.
I have mirrored the video here in case it gets a youtube takedown.
Update: As a reminder, this is not satire. It is made by a group of true believers. It was funded and approved and released by a climate alarmism group, which paid top dollar (including UK taxpayer funds) for a large professional team of actors, writers, and directors. All interviewed participants, including the first little actor blown up, have stated how proud they were of the film and its contribution to educating people on the need for immediate action on global warming.
For the last hour, I have sat and tried to think if, as a skeptic, I had wanted to make a satire critiquing the excesses of global warming alarmism, could I have made a better video. The only thing that might have made it better would have been if the final button-pusher was someone famous like James Cameron or Bono, who after then pushed the button climbed on their Gulfstream jet to fly home. But that's just a quibble. I have changed my opinion. This may be the greatest skeptic video ever, and the Koch family didn't even have to pay a dime for it. Thanks 10:10.
Update #2: This movie reminds me of nothing so much as Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards. It is clearly not reality, but the author's fantasy. Tarantino fantasizes about a group of jews kicking ass on the Nazi high command and ending the war early. 10:10 fantasizes about blowing up skeptics, in a video that, amazingly, is more blood-spattered than Tarantino's.
Update #3: The group pulls the video with a classic "I'm sorry you guys are so easily offended" apology.
Update #4: Unsurprisingly, Joe Romm (in the italics in this post) goes to the kindergarten argument of "he started it," arguing that the video is just the flip side of the stuff skeptics are doing all the time. In making his pitch, he shows the mindset that allowed this stupid film to get made.
I am not sure exactly what comparable films skeptics have produced that are similar, and the only example he can cite is Anthony Watt's blog post comments on the shooting of an eco-terrorist. I did not even go back and look at Watt's comments, but I generally think that lots of people are too gleeful when suspected criminals, who are innocent before the law, are gunned down by police.
Never-the-less, its seems a stretch to equate the offhand comments in real time of an independent blogger with a film involving probably a hundred people (including those who commissioned it in the 10:10 organization), commissioned in an official and thoughtful act (after all this had to be months in the works), and funded in part by the British government. He takes the opportunity of his team's screw-up to launch this broadside on people like me (in bold no less).
None of this excuses that disgusting video. But the difference is that those who are trying to preserve a livable climate and hence the health and well-being of our children and billions of people this century quickly denounce the few offensive over-reaches of those who claim to share our goals "” but those trying to destroy a livable climate, well, for them lies and hate speech are the modus operandi, so such behavior is not only tolerated, but encouraged.
Is anyone else getting tired of this working definition that "hate speech" is any speech by people who disagree with me, because I have the best interest of humanity in mind so clearly those who oppose me hate the human race?
Note you can see this right in his statement -- "for those trying to destroy a livable climate." That's absurd. Does he really think anyone is trying to destroy a livable climate? I could say that through CO2 controls he is trying to impoverish billions of poor people in lesser developed countries by halting development, but I don't think that is really his motive. I think that is an outcome of what he advocates, just as he thinks an unlivable climate is an outcome of what I advocate, but I can distinguish between motives and assumptions, but he apparently cannot. This attitude is EXACTLY what causes this kind of unfortunate video to be made -- it is only a small step from believing, as he says he does, that skeptics are "trying to destroy a liveable climate" to making a movie that jokes about killing them all (or, to be frank, to feeling justified in acts of eco-terrorism).
I encourage you to watch my climate video and decide if folks like me are trying to thoughtfully decipher nature or are engaging in hate speech.
Update #6: I guess this was inevitable, but all the rats in the 10:10 ship are claiming that they had no idea what the video would be like and were appalled when they saw it. Right. An organization funds a major film production, including any number of high profile participants, and no one asked to see a script, screened the video before release, or even asked for some kind of written treatment of the concept? Yeah, right. No one in the 10:10 organization or who funded the video even peeked at it before it was released to the entire planet? This is so utterly lame but will probably be enough of a fig leaf for most of the media to hide behind and allow them not to follow up on a video whose basic premises they likely agree with.
My column for Forbes is up this week, and yet again I address issues related to the stimulus. This time, rather than questioning the Keynesian multiplier, I observe that Congress has passed several pieces of legislation which act as "anti-stimulus" whose magnitudes dwarf that of any fiscal stimulus programs, even at multipliers greater than one.
Larger corporations are going to face different economics, but they too seem to be anticipating higher future costs from this legislation. For example, while they may not face the penalty for having no health care plan, they will face higher Medicare taxes, taxes on overly rich plans, and increases in health care premiums. If the average business is anticipating a 5% increase in payroll-related expenses, and given that total private payrolls in the U.S. are around $6 trillion, this implies that businesses may be planning for $3 trillion of health care anti-stimulus over the next 10 years.
Similar scale numbers can be found for the overall effects of cap-and-trade. Perhaps the best estimate we have is the CBO scoring of the Kerry-Lieberman bill, which estimated that payments for carbon allowances over the first ten years would total $751 billion. Assuming that the costs of most of these allowances are passed on to consumers, then this bill represents another three quarters of a trillion in anti-stimulus. In addition, expiration of the Bush tax cuts, card check, and a number of new regulatory initiatives all will drive this anti-stimulus expectation higher. Is it any wonder, then, that the private sector yawns when the Congress rushes back from vacation to pass a $26 billion jobs bill?