Posts tagged ‘Earth Day’

Celebrating Earth Day

Unfortunately, the combination of April being our busiest month every year (when all our seasonal operations start up), the addition of operations in two new states (which requires a myriad of registrations, permissions, licenses, etc), and several unusual very late bid packages for the operation of parks means that I am working on Sunday.

I spent my first hour of Earth Day, appropriately enough, fiddling with my building's computer HVAC system, trying to get the air conditioning (normally off on a Sunday) turned on.  I was finally successful, so I can now enjoy a comfortable Earth Day even in nearly 100 degree Phoenix weather, thanks to modern technology and a generous helping of fossil fuel combustion.

Cloudy with 100% Chance of Corporate State

It does not appear that Rick Perry is the guy to dismantle our growing corporate state.

The LA Times investigates the big-money culture of Texas politics, which has gotten even bigger and money-er since Rick Perry became governor:

Perry has received a total of $37 million over the last decade from just 150 individuals and couples, who are likely to form the backbone of his new effort to win the Republican presidential nomination....Nearly half of those mega-donors received hefty business contracts, tax breaks or appointments under Perry, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.

Perry, campaigning Monday at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, declined to comment when asked how he separated the interests of his donors from the needs of his state. His aides vigorously dispute that his contributors received any perks. "They get the same thing that all Texans get," said spokesman Mark Miner.

Nearly half! And this doesn't even include anything about David Nance and the largesse Perry distributes via his $200 million state-managed venture capital slush fund. Doling out political favors in industrial quantities is obviously something that isn't frowned upon by Texas political culture, and Perry has taken it to whole new levels.

Kudos to the LA Times and folks like Kevin Drum for digging this up, but everyone involved should be embarrassed by just how partisan outrage on this kind of thing can be.  The same folks who are rightly upset at Perry actively cheered on Obama as he took ownership of GM away from the secured creditors and handed it to his major campaign supporters in the UAW.  His stimulus program has been a trillion dollar slush fund to pay off nearly every liberal constituency, and while I find the idea of a state-run venture capital fund horrifying, I see no difference here with Obama's green job investments, many of which have gone triends, campaign supporters, and even spouses of prominent administration officials.

As I asked the other day, if the President is really supposed to be our VC in chief (an absurd thought) who in the hell would pick Obama for the job?  As one random example out of my feed reader:

Last year, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced the city had won a coveted $20 million federal grant to invest in weatherization. The unglamorous work of insulating crawl spaces and attics had emerged as a silver bullet in a bleak economy – able to create jobs and shrink carbon footprint – and the announcement came with great fanfare.

McGinn had joined Vice President Joe Biden in the White House to make it. It came on the eve of Earth Day. It had heady goals: creating 2,000 living-wage jobs in Seattle and retrofitting 2,000 homes in poorer neighborhoods.

But more than a year later, Seattle's numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.

"The jobs haven't surfaced yet," said Michael Woo, director of Got Green, a Seattle community organizing group focused on the environment and social justice.

"It's been a very slow and tedious process. It's almost painful, the number of meetings people have gone to. Those are the people who got jobs. There's been no real investment for the broader public."

At the same time, heavily subsidized Evergreen Solar is going bankrupt.

Bloomberg News reports that the firm Evergreen Solar will file for bankruptcy and close its operation in Midland, Mich. The maker of solar cells cites over-capacity in the industry, competition from China and fewer government subsidies as contributing factors. According to Bloomberg, the firm has 133 employees worldwide.

Given a Michigan location and participation in a politically faddish industry, readers won't be surprised that Evergreen was the beneficiary of special state subsidies and a local tax break. Specifically, three years ago Evergreen Solar was offered a $1.8 million "refundable" tax credit by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority. For firms with little or no tax liability, this amounts to an outright cash subsidy, contingent on attaining certain employment and investment milestones. Evergreen Solar's specific tax liability is not public information.

The deal was based on crystal-ball projections from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation using a software program known as REMI, which predicted that an Evergreen deal would create exactly 596 direct and "spin-off" jobs by 2018, producing $18.5 million in new state tax revenue.

The city of Midland also granted property tax abatements worth $3.9 million over 12 years, according to Mlive.com. It's not known how much, if any, of these subsidies and tax breaks were ever collected by the company.

This actually understates the total subsidies, as it ignores subsidies to its customers, incoluding above market geed-in tariffs, to buy the solar panels.

Closer to home, a Tucson solar panel manufacturer that was opened to great fanfare with the help of Janet Napolitano and Gabby Giffords just closed after being open barely 2 years.  They scored some subsidies, got some large government and utility contracts on the promise of local employment, and then packed up shop for China.  Apparently they were attempting to compete in the commodity solar panel market on a strategy of having a higher fit and finish on their product, a product that sits on the roof and no one ever looks at.  Good plan.

PS-  Yes, private investments fail all the time, but they are 1) not using my money, unless I voluntarily offer it and 2) there are real consequences for those who make bad investments

Absurd Argument of the Day

This comes from an email I got from some folks called the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

FAIR's new report, The Environmentalist Guide to a Sensible Immigration Policy examines the relationship between America's mass immigration policies and skyrocketing population growth.  It details how both are severely limiting America's ability to make meaningful progress toward important environmental goals.

"Some environmental groups like to pretend that this correlation does not exist," said Dan Stein, President of FAIR. "Because of pressures brought to bear by politically charged special interests demanding open borders, groups sincerely interested in advancing sensible environmental policies remain muzzled on the issue.  Overpopulation fueled by uncontrolled immigration - the root cause of most resource depletion - is unfortunately deemed too radioactive to discuss in some circles."

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, U.S. population has grown by 50 percent, or about 100 million people. U.S. population now stands at approximately 308 million and is currently growing by nearly three million a year "“ the equivalent of adding a new Chicago each year.  By 2050, an estimated 438 million people will live in this country with more than 80 percent of the increase coming from post-2005 immigrants and their children.

Uh, these people would exist whether they live on one side of the map or the other, its not clear how immigration contributes to over-population, unless they are taking some coldly Malthusian argument that more of them would die young in poverty than do once they improve their lives in the US.   Sure, they may be wealthier having come to the US and use more energy and consume more, but my strong sense is that as they come to the US and get wealthier, then their birthrates actually fall, even if they remain higher than the US average.

Happy Lenin's Birthday

Nothing better illustrates the succesful rebranding of most of the principles of socialism into environmentalism than Earth Day, itself a rebranding of Lenin's birthday.

It is no accident that all the things we supposedly have to do to fight climate change are the exact same things socialists used to demand under the banner of Marxism.

After the failure of communism in Eastern Europe, promoters found their message -- to give up our freedoms for the collective -- didn't really have much power.  I guess they deserve some credit as marketers to have successfully gotten so many people who rejected the socialist message to buy into the plea that they need to give up all their freedoms for a 0.01% change in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

Thoughts for the Day

Happy Birthday Vladimer Lenin Earth Day.  I have a few thoughts for the day:

Sucking the Oxygen Out of the Environmental Movement

Observe today how little of the discussion is about anything other than climate.  There are still many environmental issues in the world that can be improved by the application of man's effort and technology -- unfortunately, climate is the least of these but the issue getting the most attention.  Consider how the global warming panic has sucked the oxygen out of the environmental movement.  Ten years from now, I predict that true environmentalists will be looking back on the hysteria over trace amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere as a huge setback for real environmental progress.

Environmentalism and Socialism

If you attend any Earth Day events today, notice how many of the speeches and presentations and such are anti-corporate, anti-trade, anti-capitalist, anti-wealth screeds, and have little to do with the environment.  If you actually go to a live Earth Day event, you will see why the selection of Lenin's birthday was no accident.  You will not see this on the network news, because the media is sympathetic to the environmental movement and tends to edit the socialist rants out as PR protection for the environmentalists, knowing that American audiences would lose sympathy for them if they listened to the whole package. (This is mostly an American phenomenon - I have found from my brief travels in Europe that the media there does less such editing, perhaps because they know their audience is more comfortable with socialism).

The Climate Denier Trick

There are a lot of reasons not to be worried about "inaction" on global warming.  To justify the enormously expensive cuts in CO2 productions, on the order of 80% as supported by Obama and Clinton, one has to believe every element of a five-step logic chain:

  1. Mankind is increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere
  2. Increased atmospheric CO2 causes the world to warm (by some amount, large or small)
  3. The increases in CO2 from man will cause substantial warming, large enough to be detectable above natural climate variations
  4. The increases in world temperatures due to man's CO2 will have catastrophic impacts on civilization
  5. These catastrophic impacts and their costs are larger than the enormous costs, in terms of poverty and lost wealth, from reducing CO2 with current technologies.

Climate alarmists have adopted a rhetorical trick that no one in the media seems willing to call them on.   They like to wage the debate over global warming policy on points one and two only, skipping over the rest.  Why?  Because the science behind numbers one and two are pretty strong.  Yes, there are a few folks who will battle them on these points, but even very strong skeptics like myself accept points one and two as proved. 

Here are some examples of how this trick works.  If, like me, you do not accept steps 3-4-5 in the above logic chain, you will be called a "denier."  When asked what a denier means, a climate alarmist will often position this denial as somehow disputing #1 and #2.  On the other hand, if one publicly accepts #1 and #2, the alarmist will shout "QED" and then proceed to say that strong action on CO2 is now justified.  When an alarmist says that the a consensus exists, he is probably correct on points 1 and 2.  But he is absolutely incorrect that a consensus exists on 3-4-5.

Don't believe me?  Think back to the early Republican debate, where the moderator asked for a show of hands whether [I can't remember the exact question] man was causing global warming.  The implication is that you either have to accept this whole logic chain or not.  One can see why Fred Thompson begged to have 90 seconds to explain his position, and why the moderator, presumably in the alarmist camp, denied it to him. 

Over the last year or two, skeptics have gotten a lot better at making their argument.  Most all of them, like I do, begin their arguments by laying out a logic chain like this and explaining why one can believe that man-made greenhouse gases cause warming without accepting the need for drastic climate action.  The result?  Alarmists have stopped debating, and/or have declared that the debate is "over."  Remember that last great Al Gore climate debate?  Neither do I.

The Single Best Reason Not To Be Worried About Climate

I could, and have, in my books and videos, made arguments on many points in 3-4-5 (links at the bottom of the post).  In four, no one ever considers the good effects of warming (e.g. on growing seasons and crop yields) and most every other problem is greatly exaggerated, from hurricane formation to sea level rises.  And in five, every time someone has tried to put a price on even small reductions in CO2, the numbers are so enormous that they are quickly suppressed by a environmentalist-sympathetic media.  Suffice it to say that even the climate-sanctimonious Europeans have not been willing to pay the price for even slowing down their CO2 growth (which has risen faster than in the US), much less reducing it.

But in this logic chain, there is little need to argue about four and five if #3 is wrong.  And it is.

The effects of CO2 acting alone on temperatures are quite small -- And everyone, even the alarmists, agree!  A doubling of CO2 concentrations, without other effects that we will discuss
in a moment, will heat the earth no more than about 1 degree Celsius (though several studies recently have argued the number is much less).  This is not some skeptic's hallucination -- this is
straight out of the IPCC third and fourth assessments [IPCC text quoted here].  In fact, the IPCC in their reports has steadily reduced their estimate of the direct contribution of CO2 on temperatures.  CO2, acting
alone, warms the Earth only slowly, and at this rate we would see less
than a degree of warming over the next century, more of a nuisance than
a catastrophe.

But some scientists do come up with catastrophic warming
forecasts.  They do so by assuming that our Earth's climate is
dominated by positive feedbacks that multiply the initial warming from
CO2 by a factor of three, four, five or more.  This is a key point -- the
catastrophe does not come from the science of greenhouse gases, but
from separate hypotheses that the earth's climate is dominated by
positive feedback.
This is why saying that greenhouse gas
theory is "settled" is irrelevant to the argument about catastrophic
forecasts.  Because these positive feedbacks are NOT settled science.

In fact, the IPCC admits it does not even know the sign of
the most important effect (water vapor), much less its magnitude.  They
assume that the net effect is positive, and in fact strongly so - on the order of 60-80% feedback or more, nearly unprecedented numbers for a long-term stable physical system [more on feedback and its math here].  This is particularly ironic because alarmist Michael Mann, with his hockey stick, famously posited that temperatures over the last 1000 years were incredibly flat and stable until man started burning fossil fuels, a proposition that is hard to believe if the climate is dominated by strong positive feedback.   Note that when people like Al Gore say things like "tipping point," they are in effect hypothesizing that feedback is greater than 100%, meaning that climate can be a runaway process, like nuclear fission.

In fact, with the 100 or so years of measurements we have for temperature and CO2, empirical evidence does not support these high positive feedbacks.
Even if we assign all the 20th century warming to CO2, which is
unlikely, our current warming rates imply close to zero feedback.  If
there are other causes for measured 20th century warming other than
CO2, thereby reducing the warming we blame on CO2, then the last
century's experience implies negative rather than positive feedback in
the system.  As a result, it should not be surprising that high
feedback-driven forecasts from the 1990 IPCC reports have proven to be
way too high vs. actual experience (something the IPCC has since
admitted).

However, climate scientists are unwilling to back down from the thin
branch they have crawled out on.  Rather than reduce their feedback
assumptions to non-catastrophic levels, they currently hypothesize a
second man-made cooling effect that is masking all this feedback-driven
warming.  They claim now that man-made sulfate aerosols and black
carbon are cooling the earth, and when some day these pollutants are
reduced, we will see huge catch-up warming.  If anything, this cooling
effect is even less understood than feedback.  What we do know is that,
unlike CO2, the effects of these aerosols are short-lived and therefore
localized, making it unlikely they are providing sufficient masking to
make catastrophic forecasts viable.  I go into several reality checks
in my videos, but here is a quick one:  Nearly all the man-made cooling
aerosols are in the northern hemisphere, meaning that most all the
cooling effect should be there -- but the northern hemisphere has
actually exhibited most of the world's warming over the past 30 years,
while the south has hardly warmed at all.

In sum, to believe catastrophic warming forecasts, one has to believe both of the following:

  1. The climate is dominated by strong positive feedback, despite
    our experience with other stable systems that says this is unlikely and
    despite our measurements over the last 100 years that have seen no such
    feedback levels.
  2. Substantial warming, of 1C or more, is being masked by aerosols,
    despite the fact that aerosols really only have strong presence over
    5-10% of the globe and despite the fact that the cooler part of the
    world has been the one without the aerosols.

Here's what this means:  Man will cause, at most, about a degree of
warming over the next century.  Most of this warming will be
concentrated in raising minimum temperatures at night rather than
maximum daytime temperatures  (this is why, despite some measured
average warming, the US has not seen an increase of late in maximum
temperature records set
).  There are many reasons to believe that man's
actual effect will be less than 1 degree, and that whatever effect we
do have will be lost in the natural cyclical variations the climate
experiences, but we are only just now starting to understand.

To keep this relatively short, I have left out all the numbers and
such.  To see the graphs and numbers and sources, check out my new climate video, or my longer original video, or download my book for free.

Update: Very relevant article by Roy Spencer on the over-estimation of feedback in climate models.

Many of us, especially those who were trained as meteorologists,
have long questioned the climate research community's reliance on
computerized climate models for global warming projections.  In
contrast to our perception that the real climate system is constantly
readjusting to internal fluctuations in ways that stabilize the system,
climate models built upon measured climate behavior invariably suggest
a climate system that is quite sensitive - sometimes catastrophically
sensitive "” to perturbations such as those from anthropogenic
greenhouse gas emissions.  Unfortunately, it has been difficult to
articulate our "˜hand-waving' concerns in ways that the modelers would
appreciate, i.e., through equations.   

After years of pondering this issue, and after working on our two
latest papers on feedbacks (Spencer et al., 2007; Spencer and Braswell,
2008, hereafter SB08), I believe that I can now explain the main reason
for this dichotomy.   Taking the example of clouds in the climate
system, the issue can be introduced in the form of a question:

To what extent are climatic variations in
clouds caused by temperature change (feedback), versus temperature
change being the result of cloud variations?