January 2010

In the News

Obama’s Energy Muddle
Marlo Lewis, National Journal, 29 January 2010

The Scientific “Consensus”
Chip Knappenberger, MasterResource.org, 29 January 2010

Mandated Carbon Cuts Won’t Work
Bjorn Lomborg, Wall Street Journal, 29 January 2010

Insecurity and Change Commission
Wall Street Journal
editorial, 29 January 2010

The Real Climate Confusion
Iain Murray, National Review Online, 28 January 2010

EPA Should Ground Carbon Regs for Good
Washington Examiner
editorial, 28 January 2010

IPCC Newest Headache: Amazongate
Gene Koprowski, Fox News, 28 January 2010

EPA at Center of Coal Controversy
David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post, 27 January 2010

Floating Islands
Willis Eischenbach, WattsUpWithThat.com, 27 January 2010

Discredited IPCC Report Reveals Media Malpractice
Paul Chesser, GlobalWarming.org, 26 January 2010

James Hansen: Would You Buy a Used Temperature Data Set from This Man?
James Delingpole, Daily Telegraph, 22 January 2010

Why We Need Innovation, Not Insulation
Bill Gates, Huffington Post, 22 January 2010

News You Can Use

Pew Poll Ranks Global Warming Last

A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that the American public ranks global warming last among twenty “domestic priorities.”

Inside the Beltway

Myron Ebell

SEC’s Demand for Climate Disclosures Might Backfire

The Securities and Exchange Commission this week voted 3 to 2 to issue guidance that will require companies to disclose to investors the effects that climate change and climate change policies could have on the company’s performance.  As Joel Kirkland reported in Climate Wire (reprinted on the New York Times web site), “The SEC public disclosure guidance on climate-related risks is seen as a major victory by an army of environmental groups and institutional investors that have pressed the issue since 2007.”

Well, maybe, but Tom Borelli pointed out in a National Center for Public Policy Research press release that the new rules will actually work against the promoters of energy-rationing policies.  “Fully disclosing the business risk of cap-and-trade will embarrass many CEOs who are lobbying for emissions regulations. Shareholders will discover that these CEOs are pursuing legislation that will negatively impact their company.”  We will discover, I think, that many CEOs have joined the U. S. Climate Action Partnership and other business coalitions that support cap-and-trade without doing adequate or indeed any analysis of what the effects of enacting such legislation could have on their companies’ profits.  This violates their legal fiduciary duties to their shareholders.

Obama to Democrats: Jump off the Cliff

It’s been a busy week on global warming and energy-rationing policy for President Barack Obama and his Administration.  In his State of the Union address to Congress on Wednesday night, the President re-iterated his support for cap-and-trade legislation.  Here is the transcript: “And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. (Applause.)  I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. (Applause.)  And this year I’m eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate. (Applause.)  I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy.  I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.  But here’s the thing — even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future — because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation. (Applause.)”

President Obama has thus fallen back on the argument first enunciated by then-Senator Timothy Wirth (D-Colo.) in 1988: even if global warming isn’t a problem, it will make us do the right thing.  I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of Democrats in the House and Senate who wish that the President would stop beating his head against this particular political wall.  Cap-and-trade is dead because it is a huge political liability going into November’s congressional elections.  Many who voted for the Waxman-Markey bill in the House last June now regret it and would not vote for it again.  Several Democrats who voted for it have decided to retire.

U.S. Makes Carbon Pledge To Comply with Copenhagen Accord

Todd Stern, the Administration’s top climate negotiator, on Thursday announced that the U. S.’s pledge under the Copenhagen Accord to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. This was the number that was unofficially announced before the fifteenth Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen in December, so it’s no surprise.  What is slightly surprising is that Stern said that it’s conditional on Congress passing legislation and therefore could be subject to change.  According to a list compiled by the U. S. Climate Action Network, 15 countries have now (as if Friday, 3 PM EST) submitted their pledges to the Copenhagen Accord and 14 more have announced that they are likely to do so.  The 29 countries account for more than 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Obama Orders Feds To Curb Carbon Footprint

President Obama this week also ordered the federal government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 28% below current levels by 2020.  This order follows from Executive Order 13514, which the President signed last fall and which requires federal departments and agencies to set targets for cutting emissions.  He has now set their target for them.  The most practical way to meet this goal would be to shut down large parts of the federal government.  Let’s hope President Obama seizes this opportunity and achieves the most drastic downsizing of government in history.  The Administration claims that these emissions reductions will save from $8 to 11 billion dollars in energy costs, but the Institute for Energy points out the costs of achieving the reductions are not included and probably outweigh the savings. Ironically, according to a 2008 GAO report, the Environmental Protection Agency had the poorest record among federal departments and agencies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Across the States

Even Green Energy Isn’t Good Enough for Greens

A Maryland developer has agreed not to build 24 turbines and will abandon 31 proposed sites at a West Virginia wind farm, settling a lawsuit by environmental groups worried about potential harm to the endangered Indiana bat, according to a report from ABC News. In related news, California Senator Dianne Feinstein is pushing for federal legislation to block one million acres of the Mojave Desert from solar power development, so as to protect the endangered desert tortoise.

Around the World

The EPA Is Working on Bin-Laden’s Climate Solution

The AP reported this week that terrorist kingpin Osama bin Laden has released a new audio tape claiming that global warming must be stopped by bringing “the wheels of the American economy” to a halt. To learn more about how the Environmental Protection Agency is doing everything in its power to implement Bin Laden’s climate policy recommendation, click here.

Climategate Update

The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ruled that the University of East Anglia violated the Freedom of Information Act by withholding raw data requested by Stephen McIntyre, the Canadian statistician and businessman who earlier exposed Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” fraud.  The ruling results from a complaint filed by David Holland, a retired engineer in England. The ICO also announced that they could not prosecute Professor Phil Jones, then-director of the university’s Climatic Research unit, and others implicated in the Climategate scandal because of a flaw in the statute, which they will now recommend be corrected by Parliament.  However, others have suggested that the ICO is misinformed and that the six month statute of limitations does not begin when the violation occurs, but when it is discovered.

As an official British government enquiry into Climategate continues, the House of Commons announced this week that its science and technology committee will undertake their own investigation of the scandal.  Roger Helmer, Member of the European Parliament for the UK, has already submitted his ideas for the enquiry.  Finally, John Beddington, the British government’s chief science adviser, criticized the CRU in an interview with the Times of London this week, defended skepticism as an essential part of scientific enquiry, and advised climate scientists to be more honest about the uncertainties involved in their research.

I imagine just about everyone at one time or another has been added to a mailing list of an organization or candidate who doesn’t align with their worldview. An amusing example of this hit the emailbox of the Commonwealth Foundation, via an message signed by environmentalist Teresa Heinz Kerry (renowned wife of two Johns), who asked recipients to provide their nominees for this year’s Heinz Awards (no, they’re not called Heinies for short):

For most of the program’s history, we have honored five awardees, one each in fields of great importance to John (Heinz), including arts and the humanities, the environment, public policy, technology, and the human condition. Last year, we made an exception to this approach, honoring 10 individuals for their work on the environment, one of John’s highest priorities. This year we want to take this focus even further.

The world is at a crucial moment, brought there by the scale of the human enterprise on Earth. Scientists refer to the cumulative effects of human activities and natural processes on the Earth as global change. The risks of failing to address global changeare too great to accept. Therefore, we seek nominations of people who are addressing global change in unique, innovative and powerful ways.

Note that environoiacs are now moving from “global warming” and “climate change” to “global change.” Let’s prevent humans from doing anything to affect the planet!

You might also recall that Commonwealth Foundation is the Pennsylvania think tank that called for an independent, outside investigation of Climategate‘s hockey stick scientist Michael Mann. I am sure they can come up with some innovative candidates for the awards. If I had the opportunity I would choose the Climategate whistleblower, who certainly instigated “global change” on the climate issue.

“Winter offered as proof of warming” declares a headline in the print edition of the Washington Post, although perhaps the irony of that  later struck the editors and they softened it a bit in the online edition to “Harsh winter a sign of disruptive climate change, report says.”

Nothing especially outrageous here. The enviros have been doing this for years; indeed, it’s why they adopted the term “global climate change” so that any change in climate or even just weather – which obviously this is – can be portrayed as a result of man’s nefarious activities in putting greenhouse gases into the air. The report, incidentally, is from the National Wildlife Federation that makes money by promoting global warming in the same way that GM makes money selling trucks.

But folks are having trouble buying it. A poll released Mondaypoll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press asked respondents to rank 21 issues in terms of priority. Global warming came in dead last. It’s come in last before, but this time just 28 percent of those surveyed list global warming as a top priority, down from 35 percent in 2008.

My Two Cents on AmazonGate

by Marlo Lewis on January 27, 2010

in Blog

Climategate, Himalayagate, Pachaurigate, and now NOAAgate — it’s hard to keep up with all the relevations and allegations buzzing around some of the biggest names in climate science.  

Earlier this week in the Telegraph, the intrepid James Delingpole debuted “Amazongate.” Like Himalayagate, this is a case in which the IPCC relied on a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report, rather than a peer-reviewed scientific study, to make a scary claim about global warming.

The IPCC (Working Group II, Ch. 13, p. 596) says that, “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation” due to global warming. The IPCC’s reference for this claim is Rowell and Moore (2000), which turns out to be an IUCN/WWF report, Global Review of Forest Fires.  

The IUCN/WWF report does cite a peer-reviewed study to support the 40% estimate: Nepsted et al. 1999. Large – scale Impoverishment of Amazonian Forests by Logging and Fire, Nature, Vol. 398, p. 505. The study is available here

But the Neptsed study doesn’t quite say what WWF suggests it does. The study says: “Because of the severe drought of 1997 and 1998, we calculate that approximately 270,000 km2 of Amazonian forest had completely depleted plant-available water stored in the upper five metres of soil by the end of the 1998 dry season. In addition, 360,000 km2 of forest had less than 250mm of plant-available soil water left by this time . . .”

The IUCN/WWF report reproduces that statement almost verbatim:
“Up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall. In the 1998 dry season, some 270,000 sq. km of forest became vulnerable to fire, due to completely depleted plant-available water stored in the upper five metres of soil. A further 360,000 sq. km of forest had only 250 mm of plant-available soil water left.”

However, IUCN/WWF’s paraphase adds something — the “up to 40%” estimate. That figure does not appear in Nepsted et al.

Since the Amazon rain forest is estimated at 8.2 million km2 (http://rainforests.mongabay.com/amazon/), it would seem that about 8% (630,000 km2) of the region was threatened by the drought in 1998, not 40%.

Note also that the terms “climate change” and “global warming” do not appear in the text of the Nepsted study (although footnote 14 references a paper titled “Amazonian deforestation and regional climate change”).

Apparently, the IPCC recycled two claims in the IUCN/WWF report that the report’s supposed source – Nepsted et al. (1999) — did not make: namely, 40% of the rain forest is risk, and this is due to global climate change.

There may be other reasons to conclude that climate change endangers 40% of the rain forest, but they are not to be found in Nepsted et al. (1999) — the source for the IPCC’s source.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, North Dakota Democrat, writes today that he’s had enough of EPA’s efforts to regulate CO2:

It is time to end the irresponsible game of chicken being played with the future of energy regulation in this country. Those in favor of sweeping new regulations on our economy to address the issue of global warming are demanding that Congress quickly pass a “cap-and-trade” bill on greenhouse gas emissions or face a battery of new mandates to be developed and imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. This type of legislative extortion is not an appropriate strategy to pass any bill in Congress — especially a complicated and far-reaching cap-and-trade proposal that could have a dire impact on North Dakota.

Agencies like the EPA would normally be prohibited from jumping out in front of congressional action under the Constitution of the United States. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA can use a statute passed 20 years ago — the Clean Air Act — even though that law was written to address acid rain, not greenhouse gas emissions. Throughout this Congress, the cap-and-trade crowd has worked cheek to jowl with the EPA to try and pass this bill. Whenever a critical point in the legislative process has been reached, more rumblings would burst forth from the EPA regarding potential administrative action, just to make certain all were aware of what was in store if proposed legislation stalled out.

Looks like Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski may get more Democratic support for her motion to halt EPA than originally thought.

Hat tip: My Heartland Institute colleague Peter Fotos.

If so, then I’m bad to the bone, because my favorite scene in the James Cameron mega-hit was the one where the jarhead mercenary blasted the blue peoples’ home tree to smithereens. TIIIIIIIMBEEEER!!!!!!! Gotta get me some of that unobtainium!

I am kidding-I don’t actually condone the destruction of an alien civilization for the sake of extracting a rare, valuable mineral*, although I did love the scene in question. Rather, my intent is to make light of Cameron’s clichéd eco-plotline, which centers on the supposed evils of natural resource extraction.

In Avatar, the “bad” guy is a huge corporation intent on exploiting deposits of “unobtainium,” an anti-gravity mineral, on a distant planet. The “good” guys are a race of humanoid giants, who look blue, but act very, very green.

Over the course of the nearly 3-hour movie, the bad guys try to kill the good guys to get at the magic rock, but the good guys win a big battle, and send the bad guys back to earth, which, we are told, is heavily polluted.

As if the take home message-drilling/mining is wrong!-wasn’t heavy-handed enough, Cameron has one of the blue people come right out and say it: Minerals should be kept in the ground.

Uggh. What a load.

And what a pity. The most popular movie ever is predicated on the notion that human civilization shouldn’t exploit its natural resources. Millions of people, around the world, will be exposed to this nonsense.

There was a time when humans were an engineering-minded people intent on creating wealth by conquering nature. As I recently wrote in my hometown paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

From the 18th century to the 20th century, heavy industry-such as coal mining-was the primary metric of a nation’s economic development. Industry was exalted. To be industrialized was to be civilized.

Times have changed.

In today’s America, heavy industry is considered “dirty.” Instead of goods and services, the United States manufactures environmental lawyers and government regulators.

Raw capitalism is left to the Chinese, who busily build a coal-fired electricity plant every week to power the production of exports for the global market. By contrast, environmental lawyers in the United States recently celebrated the 100th scuttling of a proposed coal plant.

This dubious accomplishment is facilitated mightily by eco-fables of the Avatar sort.

*I should note that I am all for the destruction of a non-reasoning species’ habitat for the extraction of mineral deposits. For example, I wholeheartedly disagree with the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempts to shut down coal mining in Appalachia in order to protect a species of bug that lives for a day. When it comes down to a conflict between human beings’ welfare and that of a bug, or even a polar bear, I fall squarely on the side of mankind.

At his BBC blog Andrew Neil lays out the itemized fraud from the 2007 UN IPCC report that has been rolling out in recent days, previously reported by the BBC and other formerly mainstream media as “sound” and “consensus” science. So many “Gates,” and so many discredited reporters:

But the flood gates really opened after the IPCC had to withdraw its claim that the Himalayan glaciers would likely all have melted by 2035, maybe even sooner.

This turned out to have no basis in scientific fact, even though everything the IPCC produces is meant to be rigorously peer-reviewed, but simply an error recycled by the [World Wildlife Fund], which the IPCC swallowed whole….

Then at the weekend another howler was exposed. The IPCC 2007 report claimed that global warming was leading to an increase in extreme weather, such as hurricanes and floods. Like its claims about the glaciers, this was also based on an unpublished report which had not been subject to scientific scrutiny — indeed several experts warned the IPCC not to rely on it.

Now after Climate-gate, Glacier-gate and Hurricane-gate — how many “gates” can one report contain? — comes Amazon-gate. The IPCC claimed that up to 40 percent of the Amazonian forests were risk from global warming and would likely be replaced by “tropical savannas” if temperatures continued to rise.

This claim is backed up by a scientific-looking reference but on closer investigation turns out to be yet another non-peer reviewed piece of work from the WWF. Indeed the two authors are not even scientists or specialists on the Amazon: one is an Australian policy analyst, the other a freelance journalist for the Guardian and a green activist.

Yep, this is the “scientific consensus” that Al Gore based his post-VP life upon; the imagined groundswell that so many politicians used to justify government growth; the nonexistent evidence that journalists cited to justify their alarmism activism. It’s the two words that every global warmist (whether lying or deceived themselves) threw in the face of skeptics in an attempt to intimidate. Didn’t work!

No wonder why hardly any of them wanted to debate and those who did got slaughtered. We tried to explain that the “consensus” was an illusion. You — yes, I’m talking about you, Society of Environmental Journalists — would have none of it.

Now you’re stuck in the shoes of the environmental equivalent of Jayson Blair as your newspapers and television stations fall apart, and while what’s left of your audience doesn’t care about the issue you hold so precious. But it’s your good fortune that you still qualify for the do-nothing flack positions that are plentiful in both government and nonprofit arms of the environoia industry.

Last Thursday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced a resolution of disapproval, under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), to overturn EPA’s endangerment finding. Murkowski’s floor statement and a press release are available here.

As you’d expect, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and other apostles of Gorethodoxy were quick to condemn the resolution as an attack on the Clean Air Act, science, public health, and the children.


At a press conference she organized on the same day the resolution was introduced, Boxer and others tried to spin the Murkowski resolution as a referendum on science – as if Congress, King Canute-fashion, could alter the results of scientific research.  

A strong case can be made that the endangerment finding is scientifically-challenged. But that’s not what the Murkowski resolution is about.

As the Senator made clear in her floor statement, and as you can see from the text, the resolution is a referendum on the propriety of EPA taking control of the economy without so much as a by-your-leave from the people’s elected representatives. The Murkowski resolution vetoes the endangerment finding’s regulatory force and legal effect, not its intellectual content.

EPA’s endangerment finding, as I explain in this column on Pajamas Media, would launch an era of runaway regulation without representation. The Murkowski resolution is a gutsy action to safeguard the economy, government’s accountability to the people, and the separation of powers under the Constitution.

Richard Morrison, Jeremy Lott and the American Spectator’s Jim Antle collaborate on Episode 78 of the LibertyWeek podcast. Among other topics, we discuss Rajendra Pachauri and the IPCC’s shameless response to the Himalayan glacier scandal (segment starts ~17:00).

In an update to my blog on the alleged melting of the glaciers atop the Himalayas (and imminent extinction of the yeti), the scientist behind the bogus claim in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report claiming the Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.

Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement, in the , did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the coordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.

The claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 relied on magazine interviews with glaciologist Syed Hasnain, which were then recycled into a 2005 report by the warmist World Wildlife Fund. Lal and his team then cited this as their source.

Moreover, the WWF article also contained a arithmetic error. A claim that one glacier was retreating at the alarming rate of 134 meters a year should in fact have said 23 meters – the authors had divided the total loss measured over 121 years by 21, not 121, said the newspaper.

As to the 2035 melting date, it “seems to have been plucked from thin air.”

Which is only right, considering how very thin the air is atop the Himalayas.