Listening to President Obama’s inaugural address today, I was struck by his rhetoric with respect to “apologizing for our way of life.” It was a bit unclear, but hopefully he was referring, not only to threats to our national security, but to energy consumption — the notion that we (Americans, westerners) should not apologize for the energy we consume, which enables us to live better, more productive, healthy lives.

With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

As my colleagues have noted, many of Obama’s energy and environment appointments have a long track record of supporting anti-energy policies, such as renewable energy mandates, that drive up energy costs for the rest of us. But, for a moment, it would be nice to think that our new president doesn’t want us to apologize for the energy that empowers all of us to live better lives.

Fatal conceit alert! Here’s the text of the Inaugural Address, with some comments from your humble servant.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Obama already shows that he does not understand infrastructure. The grids – roads and electric grids and so on – only work if the flows – cars and energy – are allowed to flow freely. And flows only work if the grids are sufficient to allow them to flow. This is why liberating or constructing grids is of no help if you restrict the flows, and vice versa. An electric grid designed to meet the demands of the next 30 years will be of no help if we restrict ourselves to the false promise of solar and wind power, which cannot possibly provide more than a tiny fraction of our energy at current – or foreseeable – technology. Similarly, what good is a road network if we restrict our cars to a range of 40 miles? A proper approach to infrastructure liberates both. The best government can do for infrastructure is actually to get out of the way. NEPA reform is essential.

As for “science in its rightful place” – I hope so! Something to inform, not dictate policy.

And “soil” – does that mean nuclear?

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions – who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Ah, a classic obfuscation deployed against the “cynic” – that’d be me, a loyal follower of Diogenes the Dog. “Big plans” are the fatal conceit. “Big works” we could and can handle. There is a big difference. As for the question of the size of government, the most important insight of liberalism is that government that “works” is often still harmful (see J.S. Mill, passim). The tyranny of the majority works for the majority, not the minority. That’s why government has to be limited as a moral imperative, never mind the mountain of economic evidence in favor of limited government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control – and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

The market has self-limiting devices to prevent it spinning out of control, but too often government regulates against them. It can also be spun out of control by government pushing it too hard in the wrong direction, as happened here, both in the UK and US. I do have to agree with him on opportunity, however. Opportunity is at the base of resiliency and adaptation to circumstance. What we cannot do, on the other hand, is guarantee opportunity, for that by its very nature reduces resiliency. Instead, we must have institutional reform to allow people to make the most of what they have, whether their resources be modest or ample. Property rights, rule of law, the market, many others – all are institutions that allow opportunity and which government has weakened.

…roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life

Interesting juxtaposition. It would be nice if he meant it. Moreover, the use of the word specter is appropriate – a terrifying fantasy that exists only to frighten naive people.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

Again, I agree completely with the professed end, but the means by which he hopes to achieve it contradict the end. Artificially restricting energy access on a global basis will keep the poor in poverty and guarantee suffering outside our borders. That is why we need a different approach.

I’ll pass over the cant and the security issues, and end by commenting on a misinterpretation of George Washington:

“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

Notice the subject and the voice. The people came forth voluntarily. they were not commanded by a government or leader. Thomas Paine is asking his compatriots to help, but no government forced it – indeed, that is the point of the request, that it should be said that people did it voluntarily. And respond they did. They sprang forth from their farms and homesteads to see off a tyrant whose list of abuses to their ancient rights and freedoms served as an affront to their heritage and liberty. There was no fatal conceit in the creation of America, rather a reaction against it. [This paragraph has been edited to correct a misrepresentation. See comments.] That is why the misunderstandings, contradictions and wishful thinking embodied in this inaugural address will be no more than a footnote in history.

Anyone who lives in the nation’s capital knows that it has been FREEZING, with well below average temperatures. Even today, inauguration day, started out with the wind chill in single digits. It’s good to know that the president already is seeking to fulfill his promise to halt global warming. After all, as candidate Barack Obama told us in his June speech celebrating having locked up the Democratic Party nomination

“This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

Of course, I have to say–as a warm weather person, I think we’ve had a bit too much planet healing lately!

A Tide Turning?

by Iain Murray on January 20, 2009

in Science

Very interesting new poll from Rasmussen that suggests a significant reversal in public opinion over the causes of global warming.

Forty-four percent (44%) of U.S. voters now say long-term planetary trends are the cause of global warming, compared to 41% who blame it on human activity.

Seven percent (7%) attribute global warming to some other reason, and nine percent (9%) are unsure in a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democrats blame global warming on human activity, compared to 21% percent of Republicans. Two-thirds of GOP voters (67%) see long-term planetary trends as the cause versus 23% of Democrats. Voters not affiliated with either party by eight points put the blame on planetary trends.

In July 2006, 46% of voters said global warming is caused primarily by human activities, while 35% said it is due to long-term planetary trends.

In April of last year, 47% of Americans blamed human activity versus 34% who viewed long-term planetary trends as the culprit. But the numbers have been moving in the direction of planetary trends since then.

I must put in the obligatory disclaimer here: I believe that the weight of the scientific evidence points towards human activity having an effect on climate. However, I also believe that this effect is minor and that it is likely to remain minor. Which means that I believe these 44% are wrong. But what is and isn’t true actually isn’t the case here.

The truth is that political action in a democracy depends on what people believe, not on what actually is fact. This significant reversal trend suggests that it will be much harder to justify significant costs – particularly at household level – to combat global warming.

The new Administration and Congress would therefore be wise to step away from expensive anti-energy measures and concentrate instead on improving the resiliency and adaptive capacity of those who are most vulnerable should global warming turn out to be a problem. Otherwise, they run the risk of the electorate reacting like Batman.

When President Bush leaves office today, will the capital be warmer or colder than when he was sworn in eight years ago?

It’s not scientifically meaningful, but it is interesting.

Bush has been heavily criticized for doing precious little to curb our emissions of carbon dioxide. During his eight years in office, atmospheric CO2 levels climbed by over four percent.

So what did Bush’s dilly-dallying produce in terms of deadly global warming? The temperature at noon in Washington DC will give us one factoid. It’s a scientifically meaningless factoid, since the local temperature on any one day, let alone any one hour, tells us nothing about long-term temperature trends, but it’s heavy in symbolism.

When Bush was first sworn in, in 2001, the temperature at noon in DC was 36 degrees F. What will it be today, when he leaves office? Will the capital be warmer or colder than when he took office eight years ago?

Don’t be surprised if it’s colder. Today’s forecast is for relatively low temperatures. More importantly, despite steady increases in atmospheric CO2, and despite everything you’ve heard about climate catastrophe, there’s been no warming for about the last decade, and the planet has actually cooled over the last three years. (This is from the British Hadley Centre’s data on land and sea surface temperatures. The Centre’s global surface temperature graph shows this in somewhat compressed form, but you can easily graph its data yourself to get a better idea.)

That should lead us to ask where’s the warming?

But first, let’s see what the temperature is at noon, when President Obama is sworn in.

And I repeat–this is scientifically meaningless, but I think it’s interesting.

(As for Bush’s failure to curb CO2 emissions, I doubt that even stringent curbs would have had any effect on atmospheric CO2 levels.  More importantly, that failure was, I believe, a good thing in terms of affordable energy and human wefare.  And the CO2 curbs that Bush did support and which will soon go into effect, such as higher fuel efficiency standards for cars, will prove extremely harmful to both consumers and the auto industry.  But that’s off topic, sort of.)

Paul Chesser, Climate Strategies Watch

The New York Times reports today that "a new picture of the early earth" that controverts the earlier consensus-driven, always-right scientific community. Seems their previous belief that the planet was too hot, up until 3.85 billion years ago, for any kind of life to exist was a mistake. From the article, with my added emphasis just because I want to:

Norman H. Sleep, a professor of geophysics at Stanford, recalled that in 1986 he submitted a paper that calculated the probability of life surviving one of the giant, early impacts. It was summarily rejected because a reviewer said that obviously nothing could have lived then.

That is no longer thought to be true.

“We thought we knew something we didn’t,” said T. Mark Harrison, a professor of geochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles. In hindsight the evidence was just not there. And new evidence has suggested a new view of the early Earth.

Over the last decade, the mineralogical analysis of small hardy crystals known as zircons embedded in old Australian rocks has painted a picture of the Hadean period “completely inconsistent with this myth we made up,” Dr. Harrison said.

I only bring this up on a global warming Web site for the simple usefulness that so-called experts are capable of contradicting their claims of unassailable science by saying things like what I've italicized above.


Blood Out of a Stone

by Iain Murray on November 11, 2008

in Science

Roger Pielke Jr has the tale of how Steve McIntyre, who has uncovered numerous egregious errors in global warming science, such as the infamous Hockey Stick scandal, attempted to get some information from prominent alarmist scientist Ben Santer.  Santer's response is,as Roger suggests, a perfect example of why more and more people just don't trust the alarmist scientific establishment.

Paul Chesser, Climate Strategies Watch

The John Locke Foundation (my former employer and current office landlord) hosted University of Alabama-Huntsville research scientist Roy Spencer at a luncheon (full video presentation is linked) in Raleigh yesterday, where he spoke about his book "Climate Confusion." Our local, ever-dwindling McClatchy rag (The News & Observer) sent a reporter over to cover his presentation, and gave Roy a fair shake, while also getting the obligatory opposition quote:

Bill Chameides, dean of Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, said Spencer's arguments are what magicians call "ignoratio elenchi" or logical fallacy.

"We've looked at every possible form of heat, including clouds, and the only source of heat is greenhouse gases," he said, adding it's insulting that Spencer would suggest scientists are paid to come to this conclusion. "Scientists make their reputation on debunking theories."

I doubt even the IPCC would agree that greenhouse gases are the "only source of heat."

Paul Chesser, Climate Strategies Watch

The Wilmington (NC) Star-News (a New York Times property) reports today about the meteorological community (as well as other folks) bemoaning the loss of ocean buoys and instruments that track hurricane strength and other impacts as they approach U.S. shorelines. The reason for the loss is attributed to a drop in federal government funding.

The buoys do more than help gauge storm impacts. The National Weather Service have found the proliferation of ocean-observing platforms useful in helping fine tune its maritime forecasts. The buoys fit in nicely between NOAA’s deep-sea buoys and shore-based monitoring stations and have helped improve rip-tide forecasting, storm tracking and storm surge modeling.

“As sparse as our marine observation platforms were, it was a big plus to have them out there,” said Steve Pfaff, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, ticking off their numerous uses, including validating and improving forecast model performance….

“It’s a shame because we’re not holding the line,” said Jyotika Virmani, executive director of the Florida Coastal Ocean Observing Systems consortium. “We’re going backwards.”

With all the wailing you'd think the precisionist weather watchers and mainstream media would be equally indignant about the drop-off and poor placement of temperature measuring stations around the world, but that is not the case. Might mess up another agenda, you know.


Paul Chesser, Climate Strategies Watch

A few days have passed since I discussed in this space my dispute with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science over an alarm-sounding global warming report that was leaked to the sympathetic Baltimore Sun but is not available to anyone else. The report is supposed to be released later this month by (or to, not sure which) Gov. Martin O'Malley as part of the findings from the Maryland Commission on Climate Change Dog-and-Pony Show to Kill the Economy and Diminish Freedom. Or something like that.

Since last Tuesday the Washington Examiner has joined in the fray with both an op-ed and an editorial criticizing the report's expected findings (based upon the Sun's story) and demanding the datasets that fed the report. Like me, the Examiner was also denied a copy of the report.

Yesterday Red Maryland blogger Mark Newgent opined for the Examiner:

The report’s editor, Donald Boesch (pictured), runs the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and, not coincidentally, chairs the MCCC Scientific and Technical Working Group.

The MCCC itself is a kangaroo court conceived and controlled by the Center for Climate Strategies, a subsidiary of an avowed alarmist advocacy group posing as a disinterested technical consultant. If you want a sneak peek at what is in store for Maryland, just look at CCS’ other state reports; the recommendations are all nearly identical.

Clearly, this report is nothing more than a push poll designed to produce predetermined conclusions. The conclusions, of course, are outrageous predictions of doom in order to sway support for draconian restrictions on greenhouse gases.

And the Examiner editorialists followed up today:

With these positions of prominence and political influence, it is no surprise that Boesch and UMCES have received more than $65 million in federal grants and contracts since 2000, as well as an unknown amount of state money. Judging by the secrecy surrounding a critically important report Boesch edited for Maryland officials, however, taxpayers should start demanding some answers about what they are getting from Boesch in return for their hard-earned money….

The Baltimore Sun reported last week that Boesch edited a report prepared for the MCCC that will be used to submit 42 policy recommendations to Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on the effects of global warming on Maryland. It’s not clear whether O’Malley’s pet daily got a leaked copy of the draft or final version of the report. When Paul Chesser, director of Climate Strategies Watch, requested a copy of the report from a Boesch spokesman, he was refused. A similar request by this newspaper was also denied.

Very curious that the Sun could easily obtain the report while others, including the third-largest newspaper in the nation's capital, could not. Sun reporters Timothy Wheeler and Frank Roylance also appear more-than-willing to bend journalistic principles in order to advance the environmental advocacy football another ten yards. For example, they don't explain how they obtained the report — why? Is this such a sensitive story with horrible implications if the leaker's name is disclosed? And of course, no counter-commentary from global warming skeptics, as per usual.

And why aren't the two environmental groups, who the reporters said contributed to the report's findings, identified? You could be certain that if this was a report on school choice that supports vouchers from former Gov. Ehrlich's administration, co-written by a couple of conservative think tanks, that the Sun would have named the groups and conducted a full rectal exam of who they are and how they are funded.

Correction, 2:55 p.m.: Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott says "We reach about three times as many households as the (Washington) Times. Not sure about the web site traffic, think they may be a little bigger." I stand corrected and my apologies.