|The Week That Was
April 24, 2004
1. New on the Web: REFLECTIONS ON EARTH DAY: ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS SINCE 1970
2. BOOKS TO READ FOR EARTH DAY
3. BURYING THE KYOTO PROTOCOL
4. SCARES ABOUT ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE UNFOUNDED, RESPONSIBLE SCIENTISTS
5. GLOBAL WARMING DISCUSSION IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS
6. An Earth Day surprise: LOMBORG NAMED ONE OF THE GLOBAL 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE BY TIME MAGAZINE
7. And finally: DIAPERLESS BABIES SEEN AS EARTH-FRIENDLY SOLUTION
2. Books To Read For Earth Day
Challenging Environmental Mythology
Over the past three decades the United States and many of its global partners have taken extraordinary measures to improve and preserve our environment. But for some environmental activists, environment preservation and cleanup efforts appear to never be satisfactory.
Why? Because environmental issues become a vehicle for achieving unrelated and unidentified ideological or economic goals. The American who would once proudly claim to be an environmentalist and support efforts to curb dumping of raw sewage into rivers and lakes soon became entangled by association in deviant efforts to remove miniscule levels of alleged toxins from some waters -- even though there was no evidence that the chemicals in question posed either ecological or public health threats. Under a new environmental banner, more radical environmentalists redefined pollution and contamination using increasingly lower measurements -- as low as one part per trillion, equivalent to one second in 32 years. Often the mere ability to detect the presence of a chemical sufficed to fit this new-fangled definition of pollution. Now, scientist and environmental expert Jack Dini has given us the tools to fight this kind of extremism and misinformation. In Challenging Environmental Mythology, Zini refutes every significant pseudo-scientific assertion now clouding the environmental issue -- showing that much of what we have been led to believe about the environment is actually myth.
A peek at the contents:
POLLUTION: Can Someone Please Define Pollution? * The Good Old Days...Weren't* Indoor Air Pollution - Is Your Home Sick? * Nitric Oxide - From Pollutant to Molecule of the Year* Global Warming: The Controversy Rages On
CHEMICALS - THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY: Chemophobia* DDT: The Real Story* The Single Molecule Theory of Chemical Contamination* Hormesis: Mother Knows Best* A Vocabulary Lesson - Bioavailability and Chirality* Nature's Newly Discovered Chemical Behaves like PCBs
MOTHER NATURE - DO WE CONTROL HER DESTINY? Nature, Frail or Force to be Reckoned With? * Species Extinction May Not be Caused by Pollution* Killer Rocks: Please Spend My Money Here
ASSESSING RISKS AND THE COSTS OF LIFE: The Precautionary Principle - Better Off Staying in Bed* The Cost of a Life and Interventions* One in a Million - Human Health Risk* The EPA's Fat Chance*
RADIATION AND CANCER RISK: Radiation - It's What You Think You Know* Radiation Hormesis - A Little Bit Means a Lot* Cancer Clusters - Shoot First, Ask Nothing* Poverty is the Worst Carcinogen
THE CULTURE OF THE ENVIRONMENT: Environmental Indicators - "Gimme
the Bad News Doc!" * Bad News is Big News* Scientists vs. Journalists*
Environmental Education - Breeding Brainwashed Activists* Statistics:
Speaking with Forked Tongues* Environmentalism and Cultural Differences
- "The Envirocrats" * Environmental Hysteria - Funny Stories,
Animal Rights and Wrongs
An unapologetically conservative response to animal rights radicals
A Poverty of Reason
Oxford economist delivers knockout blow to enviro-myth of "sustainable
Climate Alarmism Reconsidered. (Institute of Economic Affairs, London
The Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 international treaty on global warming that the United States has drawn criticism for declining to ratify, would not only be "outrageously costly" to carry out, it would be "completely ineffective" and was based on bad science from the start, says S. Fred Singer, a professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia. And while the treaty is now "essentially defunct," he writes, it offers cautions for future global-warming treaties.
The accord would require industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions to below 1990 levels within the next four to eight years. But at best, Mr. Singer objects, that provision would merely slow the rate of growth in those emissions, at a time when developing countries like China, India, Brazil, and Mexico, which are not covered by the treaty, would start becoming major greenhouse-gas emitters.
The protocol was also flawed, he says, in focusing on carbon-dioxide emissions, produced by burning fossil fuels, but largely ignoring other pollutants. Supporters of the accord grudgingly acknowledge that point, Mr. Singer writes, but only by saying that greenhouse gases would later have to be further reduced -- and to a degree that "would cripple the global economy," he adds.
Worse, he says, the accord's authors relied on crude climate models and studies, now discredited, that never substantiated claims of global warming and never admitted to the "total lack of warming evidenced in both satellite and balloon observations."
The Kyoto Protocol, which is connected to an earlier United Nations treaty on climate change, is unlikely ever to win enough support to be put into effect, Mr. Singer says. But its underlying concept lives on, backed by "an impressive set of stakeholders," including thousands of international bureaucrats, suppliers of wind- and solar-energy technologies, and "a multitude of nongovernmental organizations that make their living from climate scares."
The article, "The Kyoto Protocol: A Post-Mortem," is available
online at http://www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/4/singer.htm
4a Slowdown In Ocean Currents May Bring Ice Age To Britain
A crucial "cog" in the circulation of the North Atlantic is slowing down, which could signal a major upheaval in the climate of Britain, according to a study published today.
The report in Science comes as Hollywood prepares to release a film on the same theme, "The Day After Tomorrow," in which snowstorms batter New Delhi and tornadoes strike Los Angeles after global warming disrupts ocean circulation patterns.
It seems logical that a gradual build-up of greenhouse gases will lead to an equally gradual change in climate. But this has been overturned by evidence found in ice and sediments which reveal that the global climate can lurch from warm to cold in a few decades when ocean circulation patterns change.
Water, even when moving sluggishly, carries significant heat and the tightly-linked Arctic and North Atlantic regions play a key role in the delicately balanced global ocean circulation system that warms the UK with the Gulf Stream. Disrupt it, and the UK could suffer drastic and unpredictable changes in temperature and rainfall, even an ice age, within a timescale ranging from a decade to a century.
Today in Science, a team reports that satellite measurements of sea surface height show there has been a slowdown in the anticlockwise circulation of surface water just below the Arctic Circle in the North Atlantic over the past decade.
Whether this slowdown is a consequence of basic global warming or part of a mid-term climate cycle it is too early to know, said Prof Peter Rhines of the University of Washington, Seattle. Nor is it clear whether the slowdown will mean major changes in Atlantic circulation.
The 1990s was one of the most active periods of climate change during the past century in northern latitudes. "The question is, how much 're-plumbing' of the ocean circulation is required to push the coupled atmosphere-ocean system over a threshold?" said Prof Rhines.
SEPP Comment: The sensible perspective by Richard Kerr [Science
304, 371-2, 2004] discusses the actual finding - a rise of 4 to 9 cm between
1992 and 2002 -- in the interior of the subpolar gyre (south of Greenland).
But no overall trend is seen in the heat flux since 1980. i.e., no obvious
dependence on GH gas levels. Does this mean a slowing of the North Atlantic
Conveyor Belt? Unlikely - see below.
4b. Global Warming Unlikely To Cause Ice Age
Despite the recent IPCC (2001) assessment that
Here we document the history of this misconception and quantitatively show how it is impossible for an ice age to ensue as a consequence of global warming. Through analysis of the paleoclimate record as well as a number of climate model simulations, we also suggest that it is very unlikely that the MOC will cease to be active in the near future. We further suggest that a region where intermediate water formation may shut down is in the Labrador Sea, although this has more minor consequences for climate than if deep-water formation in the Nordic Seas were to cease.
REF: Weaver, A.J., and C. Hillaire-Marcel, 2004: Ice growth in the greenhouse:
A seductive paradox but unrealistic scenario. Geoscience Canada, in press.
See also "Global Warming and the Next Ice Age" Science 304,
400-402, 2004. The authors stress their disagreement with several popular
articles (by Rahmstorff, Calvin, Lemley) and the movie "Day After
The pioneer researcher on Atlantic conveyor circulation and climate change demolishes the much-ballyhooed "Pentagon" study by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall. It requires not only a sudden release of fresh water into the North Atlantic but amplification by sea-ice formation. [ W S Broecker, Science 304, 388, 2004]. "Exaggerated scenarios serve only to intensify the existing polarization over global warming."
SEPP Comment: This should take care of the scare stories and scare
movie. The more responsible supporters of global warming are afraid that
exaggerated scares will make all environmental concerns look like science
[Extract from Hansard begins]
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, we are satisfied that the economic and statistical work of the IPCC is the most comprehensive assessment available. We note that it represents consensus between governments based on careful analysis.
Lord Taverne: My Lords, does the Minister agree that forecasts of global warming depend not only on scientific forecasts but on economic forecasts? Is the department aware that some extremely pertinent criticisms have been made of the special report [on] emissions scenarios by two very distinguished economists - Mr Ian Castles, the former head of Australia's Bureau of Statistics, and Mr David Henderson, the former head of the economic division of OECD? ..."
Barnoness Farrington of Ribbleton: ... The results of the report and the views expressed by Mr Castles and Mr Henderson were considered extremely carefully both by the Government and by the IPCC ... The difficulty that everyone has is that we are inevitably in an imprecise area because we are looking at long-range forecasting over the next century. However, we owe it to future generations to ensure that we err on the side of caution. The noble Lord's reference to Castles and Henderson would lead us in the direction of perhaps being far too laid back in our attitude towards the future and of failing to take steps now with devastating environmental results.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, I realise that the Minister did not know that she was going to be answering this Question, but might it not be more sensible to lean in the direction of truth? Is she aware that the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, has put his finger on what is potentially a major scandal?
Under the flawed proceedings of the IPCC even the lowest emissions scenario, which leads to the lowest extent of projected global warming, is based on a rate of growth of the developing countries in the coming century that is far faster has even been known ... Is the noble Baroness really content that this very important matter on which major policy and public expenditure decisions have to be taken should be left to what is little more than an environmentalist closed shop that is unsullied by any acquaintance with economics, statistics or, indeed, economic history?
Baroness Farringdon of Ribbleton: ... Very careful consideration has been given to the methodology that is to be used. I think that the noble Lord is in error in some of the points he makes. It is extremely important to recognise that once, for example, Castles and Henderson complained about the methodology, they were given an opportunity to express their views. It is not a closed shop of environmentalists; it is people who are taking seriously the future of the planet ...
The implications of the rate of change to our planet are so serious
that the Government are committed to continuing to be very cautious about
listening to those, of whom the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, spoke, who say
that we are taking the matter too seriously and assuming the worst.
Lord (Dick) Taverne, who asked the question, was a Labour Member of Parliament from 1962 to 1972, during which time he was successively Minister in the Home Office, Minister of State in the Treasury and Financial Secretary in the Treasury. He was subsequently the first Director, and later Chairman, of the Institute of Fiscal Studies. He has also been Chairman of the Public Policy Centre and of the Advisory Board of the Oxford Centre for the Environment, Ethics and Society. His latest book, "The March of Unreason", will be published by Oxford University Press later this year. [TWTW readers will recognize him as the author of the essay warning about the unthinking application of the precautionary principle].
Lord (Nigel) Lawson, who strongly supported Lord Taverne's concerns about
the economic and statistical work of the IPCC, is a former Conservative
Chancellor of the Exchequer (1983-89). He had previously been Secretary
of State for Energy (1981-83), and in recent years (1995-2003) has been
President of the British Institute of Energy Economics, which is the UK
affiliate of the International Association of Energy Economics.
6. Lomborg Named One Of The Global 100 Most Influential People By
Lomborg was not the first to say these things, but he hit a nerve.
7. Diaperless Babies Seen As Earth-Friendly Solution
As environmentalists celebrate the 34th annual Earth Day, some in the green movement are now advocating "diaper-free" babies to help save the planet. Citing concerns about plastic disposable diapers clogging landfills and the amount of washing and detergents that cloth diapers require, many environmentalists are taking a page from tribal cultures and seeking to eliminate the use of the baby diapers altogether.
The green movement already has declared war on the modern flush toilet, declaring it an "environmental disaster," and has instead pushed waterless "dry" toilets as an earth-friendly solution. Former Vice President Al Gore joined the board of a waterless urinal company late last year to further the dry toilet cause and to help avert what many environmentalists believe is a looming international water crisis.
"There is a way to have a baby and NOT use diapers," says one website advocating diaperless babies. Parents are urged to get in tune with their infant's body signals and hold babies over toilets, buckets and shrubbery or any other convenient receptacle when nature calls. One advocate suggests bringing a "tight-lidded bucket" along to serve as a waste receptacle when mothers take their babies out in public.
But Robert Bidinotto, publisher of ecoNOT.com and a critic of environmentalists, dismisses such notions as "primitive-worship." "Incredibly, some environmentalists actually prefer that the foul messes we normally capture in diapers and landfills, spill instead onto our linoleum, carpets, and even our children," Bidinotto told CNSNews.com.
Noting many Greens' opposition to flush toilets and now baby diapers, Bidinotto said environmentalists' have a "strange affinity for bodily wastes," and he believes they have become "obsessed with toilet issues."
Umbra Fisk, advice columnist for Grist Magazine , a major environmental e-publication, has joined the diaperless baby effort.
"The concept is logical and simple: Infants give recognizable signs of imminent peeing and pooping; it's possible to learn your infant's signs; infant pee isn't frightening; and if you train your kid to ignore their outputs, you'll just have to go back and retrain them when traditional potty-training time arrives," Fisk explained.
Although green advocates estimate that diapers account for only between 0.5 to 1.8 percent of landfill space, they nevertheless consider that troubling. "One percent of billions of tons is worth worrying about. If we don't think about how to address that one percent, which one percent will we address?" asked Richard Dennison, a senior scientist with Environmental Defense.
Scott Noelle, editor of the Continuum Concept website and a father, explained why he eventually stopped using diapers on his infant daughter Olivia: "In my mind, diapers became the symbol of the Evil Empire of Western Parenting in which babies must suffer to accommodate the needs of their parents' broken-continuum culture: a controlled, sterile, odorless, wall-to-wall carpeted fortress in which to live with the illusion of dominion over nature," wrote Noelle, on the website livingharmony.com.
Despite his concerns, Noelle continued to use diapers on his daughter, despite the fact that he "felt like a monster and a fraud." Noelle finally chose to go diaperless and looked to traditional cultures for inspiration. "How I longed for a simple, dirt-floored, baby-friendly hut like that of a Yequana family," he wrote.
But Bidinotto of ecoNOT.com bristles at what he considers the glorification of a "primitive" way of life by diaperless baby advocates. "These people have no idea what primitive life is really like. Their preferred alternative to today's 'controlled, sterile, odorless' environment is a world of filth and disease, where countless millions died in plagues and epidemics.".
Bidinotto rejects any notion that industrialized nations should mimic the traditional cultures. "The only thing that we moderns have to learn from primitive cultures is what they themselves learned. They learned that life is much better with modern conveniences, such as diapers. And in fact, most primitive peoples can't wait to get and use such conveniences," Bidinotto explained. "But now environmentalists want to sentence millions to the filth and drudgery that our ancestors were so eager to escape."