|The Week That Was
March 3, 2007
Quote of the Week:
"Instead of addressing real problems, Congress is occupying itself with elaborate hearings on Global Warming and with fabricating outlandish schemes of controlling the emission of carbon dioxide (read: the use of energy). All these schemes are quite ineffective in reducing the global growth of atmospheric CO2 -- never mind in having any effect on climate. The schemes do have one thing in common: they will damage the US economy and hurt the pocketbooks of every consumer of energy -- the folks who drive cars, heat their homes, and pay electric bills."----SFS
GREAT NEWS: “Unstoppable Global Warming -- Every 1500 Years” and “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism” both made the NY Times Best-Seller list this week.
For a review of UGW, see http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=20645
“A panel of scientists has presented the United Nations a detailed plan for combating climate change. ...A group of 18 scientists from 11 countries is calling on the international community to act quickly to prevent catastrophic climate change," reports Voice of America. "In a report requested by the United Nations and partially paid for by the privately funded U.N. Foundation, the panel warns that any delay could lead to a dangerous rise in sea levels, increasingly turbulent weather, droughts and disease. The report was issued three weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that global warming is real and caused in large part by human activity."
What VOA did not reveal: The UN Foundation was set up by Ted Turner and is run by Gore ally, former senator Tim Wirth. The Panel was headed by John Holdren, a Paul Ehrlich disciple.
National Geographic has an article from February 28, 2007 entitled, "Mars Melt Hints at Solar, Not Human, Cause for Warming, Scientist Says: "Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.” The enviro-nuts must be going crazy now: Science is upsetting the precepts and pronouncements of their precious High Priest of enviro-wackoism. Not only on Mars, but there is warming at Pluto, Jupiter and Titan:
I guess that evil SUV's have been traveling while we failed to watch the launches.
Check out the referenced link. A very good series of articles has just begun in Canada.
How India is gaming the Kyoto Protocol – outdoing even China
Everyone is trying to figure an angle for making money on Global Warming:
Al Gore in various devious ways (ITEM #1). A long read but meaty
Some industries in ways that ENRON only dreamed about (ITEM #2). (The Wall Street Journal called the corporations a "pack of climate profiteers.")
The feds, collecting more taxes (ITEM #3).
New UK Documentary 'The Great Global Warming Swindle' (ITEM #4)
Cheney Interview on Global Warming: The science is NOT settled (ITEM #5)
The Problems of Publishing Scientific Papers: Hassling with editors and referees (ITEM #6)
1. AN INCONVENIENT POOL
March 1, 2007; Page A12
There is an irresistible quality to the story about Al Gore's energy-hungry Tennessee home, replete with a heated pool house that burns more natural gas -- $500 a month worth -- than most of us can afford to use while heating houses that shelter people, as opposed to swimming lanes. Did you know that Mr. Gore's house uses more electricity in a month than the average household does in a year?
The climate-change activist and former vice president insists, through a spokesperson, that this is not as simple as it sounds. The Oscar winner has a clear conscience because he makes sure he pays a premium for electricity from "renewable" sources and claims that he purchases "carbon offsets" to make up for his rampant energy use.
To "do the carbon offset," as his spokesperson put it, is to fund projects elsewhere that may reduce the total carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. So, one might burn up hundreds of dollars worth of natural gas to keep one's pool house toasty, but then do penance for this carbon sin by paying someone else to put up solar panels. Drew Johnson of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, the think tank that broke the story, called these offsets a way of "buying his way out of his guilt."
We don't begrudge Mr. Gore his Tennessee spread or his pool, but his energetic energy use does underscore the complicated nature of modern economic life and the real costs of "doing something" about global warming. The pleasures of affluence take energy, whether they be relaxing in a hot tub after a long day of predicting the end of the Greenland ice sheet, or flying in a private jet to talk political strategy with Leo DiCaprio. You never know where you're going to leave your next carbon footprint.
Mr. Gore is rich and fortunate enough to be able to afford the "carbon offset" for his energy indulgences. The middle-class parents who need a gas-guzzling SUV to haul the kids to soccer practice might not be so lucky. They might even settle for an unheated pool.
Media Ignore Al Gore’s Financial Ties to Global Warming
Posted by Noel Sheppard on March 2, 2007 -
As NewsBusters reported, there are huge dollars to be made from global warming alarmism. However, conceivably no one is better positioned to financially benefit from this scam than Dr. Global Warming himself, former Vice President Al Gore, a fact that the media will surely not share with Americans any time soon.
As reported by Dan Riehl (emphasis mine throughout): “Former Vice President Al Gore has built a Green money-making machine, capable of eventually generating billions of dollars for investors, including himself, but he set it up so that the average Joe can't afford to play on Gore's terms. And the US portion is headed up by a former Gore staffer and fund-raiser who previously ran afoul of both the FEC and the DOJ, before Janet Reno jumped in and shut down an investigation during the Clinton years.”
That was just the tip of the questionably melting iceberg, as reported by Bill Hobbs in Nashville, Tennessee: “ [H]ow Gore buys his "carbon offsets," as revealed by The Tennessean raises serious questions. According to the newspaper's report, Gore buys his carbon offsets through Generation Investment Management: “Gore helped found Generation Investment Management, through which he and others pay for offsets. The firm invests the money in solar, wind and other projects that reduce energy consumption around the globe…” Gore is chairman of the firm and, presumably, draws an income or will make money as its investments prosper. In other words, he "buys" his "carbon offsets" from himself, through a transaction designed to boost his own investments and return a profit to himself. To be blunt, Gore doesn't buy "carbon offsets" through Generation Investment Management - he buys stocks.
So, as Dr. Global Warming travels the world in his private jet while spending 20 times the average American on energy for his home, all the time telling us it’s okay because he’s buying carbon offsets, he’s actually purchasing these investments from himself. Furthermore, and maybe more important, Gore stands to benefit financially in a potentially huge way if more and more people buy into this junk science. Isn’t that special? Yet, it is not clear that Gore’s money is going to purchase carbon offsets at all. Riehl reported: “Here's a list indicating what it takes to make money along with Al. Funds associated with these companies have placed millions of dollars under Al Gore's control. And, as you'll see below, Gore's selection for the US President of GIM might raise a few eyebrows as well. AFLAC INC - AQUANTIVE INC - AUTODESK INC - BECTON DICKINSON & CO BLACKBAUD INC - GENERAL ELECTRIC CO - GREENHILL & CO INC - JOHNSON CTLS INC - LABORATORY CORP AMER HLDGS - METABOLIX INC - NORTHERN TR CORP - NUVEEN INVTS INC -STAPLES INC - SYSCO CORP - TECHNE CORP - UBS AG - VCA ANTECH INC - WATERS CORP - WHOLE FOODS MKT INC ¬ According to their own documents, GIM intends to invest in, or buy companies poised to cash in on Global Warming concerns.” Putting this in perspective, for years the left and their media minions have posited that George W. Bush started war with Iraq to benefit the company Vice President Dick Cheney used to run, Halliburton, as well as Bush’s oil tycoon friends. In fact, there have been times when you couldn’t swing a dead cat in any pressroom in this nation without hitting a reporter working on such a story. Yet, as the former Vice President continues to plug global warming as a coming crisis in need of immediate attention, the same media completely ignore his obvious financial conflicts of interest. No liberal media bias there.
However, as Riehl pointed out, this story is even juicier: “To add insult to injury, Gore chose Peter S. Knight, an old friend and colleague some are sure to recall, as the US President of GIM. Peter S. Knight, formerly Managing Director Met West Financial, lawyer, Chief of Staff for Senator Al Gore (D-TN) from 1977-1989, and Campaign Manager for President Clinton's successful re-election in 1996, is President of Generation U.S.¬ This would be him: Reno Rejects Inquiry Into a Clinton Aide. Atty Gen Janet Reno decides against any further investigation of Peter Knight, Pres Clinton's 1996 campaign manager in connection with office-building development in nation's capital; such an investigation could have led to naming independent counsel to look further into activities of Knight, who is also former top assistant to Vice Pres Al Gore.¬ Yes, thanks to Janet Reno, no one ever found out how $20,000 in stock turned up in an account for Knight's then 13 year old child. Dispute over Democratic Party campaign-financing shifts to Zachary Knight, 13-year-old son of Peter S Knight, Clinton-Gore campaign chairman in 1996, who was given $20,000 in stock by William Haney 3d, chairman of Molten Metal Technology Inc; Republicans believe gift, which came after father was named chairman of campaign, was really payment to Knight, who had worked as $7,000-per-month lobbyist for company; Knight denies involvement in any impropriety;
Riehl accurately asked: “If Gore's motivation in pushing Global Warming is so altruistic, was it really necessarily for the already wealthy Gore to establish a multi-million dollar corporation in England to cash in? And given the history of Gore and Knight, are these people we should trust to drive a re-vamping of the world economy at the same time they're lining their pockets because of our much smaller carbon footprints?”¬Riehl marvelously concluded: “If Al Gore is successful with this latest scheme, Gore and his cronies are going to be much more $green$ than most of the earth. And the only green in this for you and me is the kind that accompanies envy as Gore trucks around on private jets putting dollars to offset his extravagance into a cash machine generating profits on the backs of the middle class with misrepresented science that doesn't deserve to be called science at all.”¬
Meanwhile, a complacent media, rather than hounding Gore over his financial conflicts of interest, continue to shill for this conman’s junk science. When you add it all up, this is a flimflam of epic proportions: • First, Gore sets up a company that will invest in other companies that will benefit from global warming alarmism• Second, Gore gets some Hollywood types to fund and produce a movie designed to scare the carbon out of the population• Third,, Gore travels the world promoting this movie, while pushing the view that a cataclysm is imminent if the world doesn't immediately act• Fourth, an adoring media falls for the con hook, line, and sinker. Rather than debunking the flaws in the theories, the media promote every word of it while advancing the concept that Gore's views represent those of an overwhelming majority of scientists• Fifth, scared governments and citizens across the globe invest in alternative energy programs, driving up the shares of companies Gore's group has already invested in• Sixth,, Gore and his cronies make millions, nay billions, as they laugh all the way to the bank at the stupidity of their fellow citizens
America -- what a country!
Profit of Doom
February 28, 2007
In a follow up to The Goracles energy bill imbroglio, Bill Hobbs has this stunner today:
As the controversy over global warming hypemaster Al Gore’s voracious energy-eater mansion rolls on, there’s an angle I think merits deeper investigation than it is currently getting. In its original story, The Tennessean reported that Gore buys carbon offsets to compensate for his home’s use of energy from carbon-based fuels. As Wikipedia explains, a carbon offset is a service that tries to reduce the net carbon emissions of individuals or organizations indirectly, through proxies who reduce their emissions and/or increase their absorption of greenhouse gases. (snip)
So far, so good. But how Gore buys his carbon offsets, as revealed by The Tennessean raises serious questions. According to the newspapers report, Gore buys his carbon offsets through Generation Investment Management: Gore helped found Generation Investment Management, through which he and others pay for offsets. The firm invests the money in solar, wind and other projects that reduce energy consumption around the globe...
Gore is chairman of the firm and, presumably, draws an income or will make money as its investments prosper. In other words, he buys his carbon offsets from himself, through a transaction designed to boost his own investments and return a profit to himself. To be blunt, Gore doesn’t buy carbon offsets through Generation Investment Management - he buys stocks. (snip)
One way to misrepresent things: Tell a newspaper your stock purchases are really purchases of carbon offsets.
Meanwhile, Gore runs around the country and the world trumpeting climate crisis and blaming man’s use of carbon-based energy - burning thousands of gallons of jet fuel as he goes. His efforts have served to put climate change at the top of the national and even global agenda, driving up the value of the stocks and companies viewed as green or environmentally friendly. Companies like those his investment management firm invest his own and other people’s money in. (You can see a list of Generation Investment Managements holdings here, courtesy of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission.)
As one commenter posting here and on other blogs has noted:
Hmmm. The Goracle is chairman and a founding partner of Generation Investment Management LLP, a boutique international investment firm that invests other people’s money, for a fee, into the stocks of green companies. ... So when Al beats the drum for possible future global warming, he’s also drumming up business. And profiting from hyping the global warming crisis.
In a nutshell, Gore consumes large amounts of carbon-based electricity while he trumpets a growing global warming crisis that drives up the value of green companies like the ones in which he buys carbon offsets invests in their stocks...
Bill is doing work the mainstream media refuses to do. After 6+ years pounding Bush/Cheney for their big oil relationships, will they be as tough on Gore?
Don’t hold your CO2.
Tennessee blogger Bill Hobbs picks up the story of Al Gore's voracious household energy use, which we noted Tuesday http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110009720 :
*** QUOTE ***
The Tennessean reported that Gore buys "carbon offsets" to compensate for his home's use of energy from carbon-based fuels. As Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_offset explains, a carbon offset "is a service that tries to reduce the net carbon emissions of individuals or organizations indirectly, through proxies who reduce their emissions and/or increase their absorption of greenhouse gases." . . .
But how Gore buys his "carbon offsets," as revealed by The Tennessean raises serious questions. According to the newspaper's report, Gore buys his carbon offsets through Generation Investment Management http://www.generationim.com/ :
*** QUOTE ***
Gore helped found Generation Investment Management, through which he and others pay for offsets. The firm invests the money in solar, wind and other projects that reduce energy consumption around the globe . . .
*** END QUOTE ***
Gore is chairman of the firm and, presumably, draws an income or will make money as its investments prosper. In other words, he "buys" his "carbon offsets" from himself, through a transaction designed to boost his own investments and return a profit to himself. To be blunt, Gore doesn't buy "carbon offsets" through Generation Investment Management--he buys stocks. . . .
Meanwhile, Gore runs around the country and the world trumpeting "climate crisis" and blaming man's use of carbon-based energy--burning thousands of gallons of jet fuel as he goes. His efforts have served to put climate change at the top of the national and even global agenda, driving up the value of the stocks and companies viewed as "green" or environmentally friendly. Companies like those his investment management firm invest his own and other peoples' [sic] money in. (You can see a list of Generation Investment Management's holdings here http://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/browse-edgar?company=generation+investment+management&CIK=&filenum=&State=&SIC=&owner=include&action=getcompany , courtesy of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission.)
*** END QUOTE ***
Another Volunteer State blogger, Bob Krumm http://www.bobkrumm.com/blog/2007/02/28/then-and-now-and-equal-time-is-for-the-other-guys/ , looks at Gore's demands for the suppression of dissent. Yesterday's Tennessean http://tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070228/NEWS01/702280434 reported on a speech the erstwhile Veep gave in Murfreesboro:
*** QUOTE ***
"I believe that is one of the principal reasons why political leaders around the world have not yet taken action," Gore said. "There are many reasons, but one of the principal reasons in my view is more than half of the mainstream media have rejected the scientific consensus implicitly--and I say 'rejected,' perhaps it's the wrong word. They have failed to report that it is the consensus and instead have chosen . . . balance as bias.
"I don't think that any of the editors or reporters responsible for one of these stories saying, 'It may be real, it may not be real,' is unethical. But I think they made the wrong choice, and I think the consequences are severe.
"I think if it is important to look at the pressures that made it more likely than not that mainstream journalists in the United States would convey a wholly inaccurate conclusion about the most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced."
Gore would not answer any questions from the media after the event.
*** END QUOTE ***
Krumm notes that Gore was complaining as early as 1992 about excessive balance in the media. Yet in a speech at the October 2005 We Media Conference http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/10/06/D8D2IU703.html , Gore seemed to urge government-mandated balance, at least on other topics:
*** QUOTE ***
As early as the 1920s, when the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in the United States, there was immediate apprehension about its potential impact on democracy. One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, "no nation can be free."
As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S.--including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine--though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.
*** END QUOTE ***
Gore is mistaken on two out of three points: Although the Federal Communications Commission abolished the Fairness Doctrine (which regulated the presentation of "controversial issues of public importance") in 1987, the Public Interest Standard (which is part of the law that created the FCC) and the Equal Time Provision (which applies to political candidates) remain in force.
So, let's sum this up: Here we have a major American politician who is calling for policies that would impose huge costs on society but appears to be profiting handsomely himself; who is leading an extravagant lifestyle while demanding sacrifices from ordinary people; and who is calling on the media to suppress the views of those with whom he disagrees, while at the same time urging more government regulation in the name of "fairness" to his partisan and ideological allies.
Why is it left to think tanks and bloggers to investigate and expose all this? Why aren't the mainstream media all over the story? Could it be . . . bias?
2. CAP AND CHARADE THE POLITICAL AND BUSINESS SELF-INTEREST BEHIND CARBON LIMITS.
OpinionJournal, March 3, 2007
The idea of a cap-and-trade system for limiting carbon-dioxide emissions in the U.S. has become all the rage. Earlier this year, 10 big American companies formed the Climate Action Partnership to lobby for government action on climate change. And this week the private-equity consortium that is bidding to take over Texas utility TXU announced that, as part of the buyout, it would join the forces lobbying for a cap on carbon emissions.
But this is not, as Lenin once said, a case of capitalists selling the rope to hang themselves with. In most cases, it is good old-fashioned rent-seeking with a climate-change patina.
Start with the name. Most of those pushing this idea want you to think about it as cap-and-trade with emphasis on the trading part. Senator Barbara Boxer touts all the jobs that would be created for people trying to game the system--er, save the planet. And her colleague Jeff Bingaman calls cap-and-trade "market based," because, you know, people would trade stuff.
But for that to happen, the government would first have to put a cap on CO2 emissions, either for certain industries or even the economy as a whole. At the same time, it would allocate quotas for CO2 emissions, either based on current emissions, or on energy output, or some other standard. If a company then "over-complied," which means it produced less carbon dioxide than it was allowed to under the rules, it could sell the excess allowance to someone else. That someone else would buy the right to produce CO2 if doing so cost less than actually reducing emissions.
In this way, emissions would be reduced in an relatively efficient way: Those for whom reductions were cheap or easy would reduce, and if they reduced enough, they could sell their excess allowance to someone for whom the reductions were harder or more expensive. This kind of trading works, and we've argued in these columns that cap-and-trade beats the pants off just plain capping by lowering the overall economic burden of a cap.
The difficulties don't lie with the trading, but with the cap, which is where the companies lobbying for restrictions come in. James Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, put it plainly earlier this year: "If you're not at the table when these negotiations are going on, you're going to be on the menu." Translation: If a cap is coming, better to design it in a way that you profit from it, instead of being killed by it.
Which is why the emphasis really should be cap-and-trade. It's all about the cap, because without it there's no trading. We don't buy our daily ration of oxygen because it's in abundant supply. Same with carbon dioxide--there's no constraint on your ability to produce CO2 until the government creates one. When it does, it creates an artificial scarcity. What Duke, Entergy, TXU, BP, Dupont and all the rest want is to make sure that when the right to produce CO2 becomes limited, they're the ones that end up owning the allowances. Because that would mean they could sell them, and make money off something that previously wasn't worth a dime.
Thus, Entergy, a utility that relies heavily on natural gas and nuclear power and thus produces relatively less CO2, would love a cap that distributes the allowances based on how much electricity you churn out, rather than on how much CO2 you produce. Entergy's "carbon footprint" is small compared to some other utilities, so an electrical-output-based cap would be windfall city. Dupont, meanwhile, wants credit for reductions already made because it sees instant profit in costs already paid. It also wants a cap to cover as many industries as possible so it can make money selling emissions-reduction products.
We don't begrudge anyone the opportunity to make a buck. But there's a difference between making money by producing things people want and making money by gaming the regulatory process. There's no market here unless the government creates one, and who has the profit opportunity depends entirely on who the government picks as the winners and the losers in designing this market in the first place. So it's no wonder that almost any business that has ever put an ounce of CO2 into the atmosphere is rushing to show its cap-and-trade bona fides.
By far the biggest question, however, is where the cap is set. The trading of emissions credits does nothing to lower the quantity of emissions--it merely shifts around the right to emit. It's the cap that sets the amount of CO2 put into the air. And as Europe has learned, that figure is a political football unto itself. When the EU started emissions trading in 2005, the price of a ton of CO2 quickly tripled before cratering when participants realized that the cap hadn't been set low enough to create a genuine shortage.
The European Commission is now in the process of reviewing each country's plans for allocating emissions allowances for 2008, but in the first round it found that all but one national plan had set the cap too high to comply with Kyoto's 2008-2012 limits. Of course, even a stringent cap means nothing if countries don't comply, and so far Europe's commitment to Kyoto has been more hot air than action.
The reason is hardly a secret, though you rarely see climate-change activists admitting it. Despite all the talk of "alternative" fuels, some 80% of the energy that the world produces today comes from carbon-based fuels. Barring cold fusion or some other miracle technology, that ratio won't change much for decades to come. That means, in turn, that any stringent CO2 cap would inevitably have serious economic costs. We doubt voters will elect politicians who tell them the cost of reducing their "carbon footprint" is more blackouts or a lower standard of living. And in any case China is putting up a new coal-fired plant every week, raising emissions that will overwhelm whatever reductions cap-and-trade would yield in the U.S.
The emerging alliance of business and environmental special interests may well prove powerful enough to give us cap-and-trade in CO2. It would make Hollywood elites feel virtuous, and it would make money for some very large corporations. But don't believe for a minute that this charade would do much about global warming.
3. THE TRUTH IS OUT: GLOBAL WARMING SCARE IS NOT ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT, IT'S ABOUT RAISING TAXES
By Tom Randall
February 27, 2007
Issue: The House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Charles Rangel (D-NY) and the Senate Finance Committee are now investigating proposals for a carbon tax to cut down on so-called greenhouse gas emissions. The first clue that something is wrong is that these committees have nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with increasing federal revenue.
In fact, according to Environment & Energy Daily, "A Congressional Budget Office estimate...counted $11.8 billion in revenue in 2008 if Congress approved a tax of nearly $4 for every ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. That translates into $95.4 billion in revenues by 2012 and $228.9 billion by 2017." That provides a second and even more compelling clue that these are simply tax-raising scams and not measures designed to do anything for the environment. If these tax increasers were really trying to control carbon emissions, tax revenues on such emissions would go down, rather than increase. In other words, if they expected such Draconian taxes to curb the emissions of carbon dioxide, tax revenues should ultimately decline with emissions.
"Anyone for balancing the budget," Anne Applebaum asked, writing in the Washington Post in support of carbon taxes. "Fixing Social Security for future generations?
"All of a sudden, there's this pot of gold people are going to be interested in," agrees Ned Helme, president of the Center for Clean Air Policy.
Comment 1: Taxes, no matter where they are levied, are ultimately paid by consumers. This tax will be no different. It just sounds better to politicians who will claim to be taxing energy companies.
Comment 2: As usual, it is the less fortunate that the big tax raisers will hurt hardest. Those making less than $10,000 per years pay 48 percent of their income for energy, Those with $10,000 to 30,000 annual income spend 17 percent of that money on energy and those who make up to $50,000 pay 11 percent for energy. Any new carbon tax will fall particularly heavily on these groups. Welcome to the pot of gold.
Comment 3: Over 17,000 scientists have signed letters saying that the science of climate change is insufficient to use as a basis for public policy.
4. NEW UK DOCUMENTARY 'THE GREAT GLOBAL WARMING SWINDLE' http://comment.independent.co.uk/columnists_a_l/dominic_lawson/article2318675.ece
Dominic Lawson, 2 March 2007 <d.lawson@ independent.co.uk>
Here is another inconvenient truth (but this one will infuriate the Green lobby)
It won't have made up for seeing the Presidency of the United States snatched away in a late flurry of Floridian hanging chads, but at least Al Gore now has the satisfaction of seeing his climate change manifesto An Inconvenient Truth elected best documentary film by the American Academy of Motion Pictures in that peculiarly self-regarding ballot known as "the Oscars".
As Gore beatifically absorbed the standing ovation from all those who had cruised via private jet and stretch-limo to the ceremony in Los Angeles, he could also smile in the knowledge of another piece of good news: the British Government had agreed to send An Inconvenient Truth to every secondary school in the country.
Announcing this unexpected bit of promotion, the Environment Secretary, David Miliband, declared: "I was struck by the visual evidence the film provides, making it clear that the changing climate is already having an impact on our world today, from Mt Kilimanjaro to the Himalayan mountains."
I shall be fascinated to learn what accolades Mr Miliband will bestow on another film about climate change, which is to be shown on Channel 4 next Thursday. This one is different, very different. The Great Global Warming Swindle claims to be nothing less than: "The morality tale of the decade." The film's director is Martin Durkin. That name might mean nothing to you, but among many British environmentalists it is more hated than that of any multinational oil company chairman.
In 1997, Channel 4 broadcast an earlier film of Durkin's - Against Nature. This was a three-hour long polemic, which tore into organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth for the way in which they sought to deny the Third World the benefits of industrialisation which have given us lives of hygiene and plenty.
Durkin examined the Green campaigns against hydroelectric dams which would have brought clean water to parts of the subcontinent ravaged by water-borne disease, but which were opposed as "damaging to local biodiversity" - the same sort of argument, in fact, which caused countless millions of African children to die of malaria unnecessarily because the Green lobby successfully blocked the use of DDT.
Immediately after it was broadcast there was a concerted howl of rage from the eco-warriors interviewed by Durkin. Channel 4 felt obliged to broadcast an apology, confessing that some interviewees had been misled as to the ultimate content of the programme. Still, as Simon Hoggart wrote at the time: "The Greens have pulled the same dishonest stunts many, many times. It will do them tremendous good to get a taste of their own medicine."
The then environment editor of the Guardian immediately accused the programme makers of being in league with the far right, describing them, bafflingly, as "overtly racist". If there had been any extreme political input, it was from quite another direction. Durkin and a number of others involved in the film had in fact been closely connected to the Revolutionary Communist Party.
They felt passionately that the Green Movement was a deeply reactionary form of Western imperialism, which put improvement through science and industry of the welfare of people in Africa and the Asian subcontinent below its own decadent obsessions with biodiversity and so-called "sustainable development".
A similar theme pervades The Great Global Warming Swindle. We are taken to those vast tracts of Africa where there is no electricity, and see families huddled round a fire in their mud hut. Then we are told that "five million children under five die every year as a result of respiratory diseases from indoor smoke". Remember that, the next time you read about the ecological purity of heating derived from "biomass". Next we are taken to some godforsaken health centre in the Kenyan hinterland, struggling to get by with electricity from a dilapidated but undeniably politically correct solar panel. It just about manages to keep alive the fridge with the medicine inside.
Despite such scenes, Durkin's latest effort is not a manipulative tear-jerker - there's none of Gore's politically practised treaclyness ("Our children will say: what were our parents thinkin' about?"). Most of the advocacy is handed across to a series of eminent scientists, a number of whom have been involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They all believe that man's responsibility for the slight warming (of 0.6C) over the past century is much less than the "consensus" view - and ridicule the more alarmist predictions of future "man-made" climate change.
One, Professor Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, fulminates that "consensus is the stuff of politics, not of science" and says that it wasn't until he threatened legal action that the IPCC reluctantly removed his name from an assessment with which he profoundly disagreed: "That's how they make it seem that all the top scientists are agreed. It's not true."
At this point you will probably want to know: if these people claim that man isn't responsible for such global warming as has undoubtedly occurred in the past 30 years, then who or what is? The brief answer is: the Sun. Durkin gives most airtime to the theory recently advanced by Doctors Friis-Christensen and Svensmark of the Danish Meteorological Institute. It goes (I think) like this: CO2 is a very small element among greenhouse gases; far and away the most significant element is water vapour - which forms clouds. When the sun is very active it emits more intense bursts of cosmic rays which, inter alia, have the effect of dissipating clouds on Earth, and therefore increasing temperatures. [He got this quite wrong; but never mind. SFS]
On its own, this is just a theory - and not an entirely new one, but Friis-Christensen and Svensmark have accompanied it with a very detailed multi-era superimposition of global temperatures against solar activity (measured by sunspots). The correlation turns out to be striking, to put it mildly. As I said, the idea itself is not breathtakingly new: a long-dead British astronomer, E W Maunder, noted that the coldest part of the "Little Ice Age" (1645 to 1715) coincided with a period of very few detectable solar eruptions - now gratifyingly referred to in the textbooks as "the Maunder Minimum".
Even if you don't buy that, you should definitely watch the programme, if only to see the head of the International Arctic Research Centre, Syun-Ichi Akasofu, describe how "the Arctic has always been expanding and contracting ... the press come here all the time and ask us: will you say something about the Greenhouse disaster? And I say: there is none." Then Dr Akasofu emits a tiny laugh - the laugh of a true scientist at the idiocy and hysteria of the world's media and politicians
5. CHENEY INTERVIEW ON GLOBAL WARMING
Sydney, Australia, Feb. 23, 2007 - - In an exclusive interview today, ABC's Jonathan Karl asked Vice President Dick Cheney about the topic of global warming, a subject Mr. Cheney has rarely addressed in the past. The vice president agreed that the earth is warming but, like President Bush, maintained there is debate over whether humans or natural cycles are the cause-- a position that puts the administration at odds with the vast majority of climate scientists.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- made up of thousands of scientists from around the world -- reported earlier this month they are more certain than ever that humans are heating earth's atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. In Australia, for example, the IPCC said that rising ocean temperatures brought on by global warming could make Australia's Great Barrier Reef "functionally extinct" by 2050.
Here is a portion of the transcript from Jonathan Karl's conversation with Mr. Cheney:
JONATHAN KARL: I want to ask you about another issue that's been a subject of controversy here in Australia, global warming. Did you get a chance to see Al Gore's movie?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I have not seen Al Gore's movie.
JONATHAN KARL: Doesn't surprise me.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He didn't invite me to the showing.
JONATHAN KARL: But what's your sense, where is the science on this? Is global warming a fact? And is it human activity that is causing global warming?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Those are the two key questions. I think there's an emerging consensus that we do have global warming. You can look at the data on that, and I think clearly we're in a period of warming. Where there does not appear to be a consensus, where it begins to break down, is the extent to which that's part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it's caused by man, greenhouse gases, et cetera.
But I think we're going to see a big debate on it going forward. But it's not enough just to sort of run out and try to slap together some policy that's going to "solve" the problem. Kyoto, I think, was not a good idea -- not adequate to task. It didn't cover nations like China or India. It would have done serious damage to our economy. We decided not to go down that road. The Senate had rejected it overwhelmingly anyway.
But what we're doing with research, we're spending more money on research than anybody else, probably the rest of the world combined in this area. We've set targets for ourselves in terms of increasing energy efficiency, that is reducing the amount of energy per unit of output. And we're doing better at meeting those targets than I think virtually anybody who signed up with Kyoto. Most of the folks who signed up with Kyoto are not going to meet the targets.
But going forward, if we are going to have a policy, we've got to find ways to do that are not inconsistent with economic growth. You can't shut down the world economy in the name of trying to eliminate greenhouse gases. But there are some answers out there -- nuclear power, for example, is one of them. And getting the United States back into the nuclear power game I think would be a significant benefit -- both in terms of producing the energy we need, but at the same time not contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
JONATHAN KARL: So you think the jury is still out about whether or not this warming we're seeing has been caused by human activity?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Some of it has, I think. But exactly where you draw the line? I don't know. I'm not a scientist. I talk with people who supposedly know something about it. You get conflicting viewpoints. But I do think it is an important subject, and it will be addressed in the Congress. I think there will be a big debate on it in the next couple of years.
6. THE PROBLEMS OF PUBLISHING SCIENTIFIC PAPERS
Letter to Physics Today published Dec 2006
David Lynch’ complaint about scientific journals (Physics Today, March 2006) struck a responsive chord. He describes well the hoops one has to jump through to prepare a paper to the exact specifications of a journal. Such problems have discouraged me – and, I am sure, many others – from publishing worthwhile research results.
Submission of papers is further discouraged when working in a contentious area with policy implications, like climate change, where one faces endless hassles with referees and editors – who often openly display their prejudices in editorials.
However, I have found several workable alternatives – always assuming one no longer must publish to gain academic promotion:
■ Publishing on the web. This is akin to sending out preprints or internal reports. They don’t carry the prestige of established journals and are not as widely read. Some, like www.climateaudit.org, are highly specialized and invite lively discussion; others, like www.co2science.org, are mostly informative. My own weekly newsletter in www.sepp.org deals mainly with policy. But I am quite satisfied to simply “get the word out” to several thousand who read it.
■ Presenting a paper at professional/scientific meetings. The abstract is published -- after approval by the session organizers, a kind of peer review -- and can be quoted as a reference. Compared to preparing a publishable paper, the effort is minimal. The discussion is prompt and can be quite stimulating, especially with a poster paper.
■ Publishing with a co-author, preferably one who still has access to slave labor (aka as graduate students). I have always liked the remark by Bob Solow, Nobel Prize winner in Economics at MIT: “Our job is to get out there in our tennis shoes and explore the territory. Graduate students can do the hard work. After all, that’s why God created grad students.”
■ The most satisfying way to publish new ideas is to put them into a book. And they are read, esp. by people who disagree. I have had the experience of a researcher publish a critique of my analysis and graph in a refereed journal and later proving him wrong – much to my satisfaction.
■ Finally, of course, there is a Letter to the Editor. I don’t know about others, but I always read the Letters before the rest.
S. Fred Singer.
Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia
SFS/1/16/2006 Op-ed for WSJ (not submitted)
The spate of junk science papers appearing in respected scientific and medical journals has a damaging effects on science and in some cases has led to misguided public policies. What is causing this trend and what can be done about the problem?
Some of these papers turned out to be clearly fraudulent, like the recent Korean stem-cell fiasco in the widely read journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The British journal Lancet published papers by a Norwegian cancer researcher who simply made up medical case studies to support his claims. [Of his 908 imaginary patients, 250 were found to share the same birthday.] Other papers were based on honest errors or misinterpretations of results. Science published a sensational research paper on endocrine disrupters that gave rise to the notorious book “Our Stolen Future.” However, when researchers elsewhere could not replicate his results, the Tulane University scientist was forced to withdraw his paper.
I am personally familiar with about a dozen cases in the area of environment -- and especially ozone depletion and anthropogenic (manmade) global warming (AGW). In 1970, I was involved in the controversy that led to the cancellation of the government contract for two prototypes of a supersonic transport plane (SST). The fear was that water vapor from the exhaust would deplete stratospheric ozone and permit skin-cancer-causing solar ultraviolet radiation (UV) to reach the surface. I soon concluded that the methane emitted by rice growing and cattle raising would create as much stratospheric water vapor as a hypothetical fleet of 500 SSTs. [Curiously, the paper was rejected by Science but published by Nature in 1971; this illustrates the need for diversity in scientific journals.] A few years later, Science carried a research paper claiming both in its title and abstract that UV had been increasing at the rate of 35% a year! [To appreciate the enormity of this claim, the sum of $1000 invested at 35% a year would grow to more than one million in 20 years.] The referees never discovered the statistical error; AAAS gave the paper much publicity and the result was duly reported by the media. Science did publish our correction of the error. To this date, there has been no hard evidence of any increasing trend in solar UV at the ground.
Some of you may remember Nuclear Winter; it claimed that the aftereffects of a nuclear war – smoke from fires blotting out the Sun -- would kill most living things, including humans. This claim was based on a carefully contrived climate model. A distinguished MIT physicist called it “junk” but would not speak out against it because the study was used to justify nuclear disarmament.
In recent years, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) has taken center stage. There have been numerous failed attempts to represent the observed temperature record as proof of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) from the greenhouse (GH) effect of increased CO2 from fossil-fuel burning. Although all of them have been shown to be spurious, it is significant that none of the editors of Science and Nature have called for their retraction. The greatest publicity has been garnered by the “hockeystick” graph that claims to show the 20th century as the warmest in the past 1000 years. Two Canadian statisticians (not conventional climate scientists) made the effort to conduct a detailed audit and were able to show that the underlying data had been doctored and that the methodology used was faulty. A distinguished German climate scientist, normally a supporter of AGW, called the Hockeystick work Quatsch (bunk).
There are so many other examples; it would take a book to discuss them fully: Just during the past year there have been claims that a short-lived warming trend of the deep ocean represented the “smoking gun” for AGW (Science) and that the disappearance of frogs can be blamed on AGW (Nature). But we know enough to (1) demonstrate a breakdown in scientific standards, (2) examine the likely causes, and (3) suggest possible solutions.
In most of these cases it is difficult to blame the reviewers for failing to spot fraud. About all a conscientious referee can do in the short time allotted to him is to ask: Does the result look reasonable? Does the paper explain why past results gave different results? Do the authors have a good track record?
Eventually, the failure to replicate results in the laboratory would have exposed fraudulent results. But what about scientific results that cannot be verified by independent laboratory experiments? In the area of environmental studies we have seen the case of the “Hockeystick” – an elaborate analysis of proxy data for temperatures, which seemed to establish the 20th century as unusually warm and was accepted by many as a sure sign of AGW. It was exposed as false only through the diligence of single investigator who had never published on climate issues but was able to carry out a detailed audit of the data and methodology.
Unfortunately, such audits cannot be conducted on a routine basis – and certainly not by referees. It is the editor, therefore, who bears a special responsibility, since it is the editor who chooses the referees. It is incumbent on editors to be especially careful when dealing with “breakthrough “ papers that promise unusual results.
In this respect, the record of the leading scientific journals, Nature and Science, is not very good. This is especially true in the environmental area, which has both high visibility and policy significance. Ozone depletion was a hot topic in the 1980s and led to the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987. Global warming continues to be a hot topic – before and since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
One clue is the time elapsed between receipt of a paper and its acceptance and publication date. Spectacular results are given highest priority and often rushed through without sufficient review -- especially if the result agrees with the prejudices of the editor.
1. I put the cause squarely on the editors of Nature and Science, on their personal prejudices and also on their competitive drive to outdo each other by attracting and publishing papers that advertise spectacular results and seemingly confirm that human activities are damaging the environment.
2. With authors clamoring to publish in Nature and Science, both editors can choose the papers they wish to accept, using their personal criteria of “novelty,” “relevance,” “importance,” etc. The underlying criterion might also be: Will it support the AGW thesis and attract media attention? They can then choose the reviewers, more or less as they please. None of the studies I have cited would have been published if a different set of reviewers had been chosen; they would not have survived. From my personal experience, I review papers regularly for Environmental Geology and other journals, but have not been asked to review a single paper for either Nature or Science for at least 10 years.
3. Remedies for this situation do exist: Either competition will slowly displace these journals or editors and their policies will change. Consider that the first successful attack on the Hockeystick was published in Energy & Environment, a relatively new journal. I was one of the referees of this paper. And then there is the Internet and blogs. I spend an increasing fraction of my time reading them and their critiques of published papers.
It has become axiomatic to claim that science will always be self-correcting. So why be concerned? The danger is that junk science can lead to policy actions that have far-reaching unintended consequences. The rapid growth of natural gas to generate electric power is a good example; it went up to 23 % in just a few years, in the process raising the price sevenfold (from the energy equivalent of $12 to $84 per barrel of oil).
Scientific mistakes do have consequences