Sunday, March 29, 2009

g.h.kirsch: A Convenient Half-Truth

What do you know, and what do you take on faith? Who do you trust, and should you trust them? Do you believe that failing to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere will have catastrophic environmental consequences?

Faced with uncertain threats on the one hand, and certain dire consequences on the other, what is the way to go?

The argument to cap CO2 emissions and trade the rights to its emission is:The globe is warming, driven by anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

This is at best a half truth, and very likely all wrong and intentionally misleading. If increasing levels of CO2 are in fact benign, or are not the result of human activity, there need be some very compelling reason to risk the human and economic consequences of cap and trade; or consider surrendering to some international regime.

These are not matters to be left to faith.

Changes in the climate have occurred from time immemorial. CO2 levels today are unremarkable in historical context. Not only have we survived in warmer climates, we have prospered. And these were pre-industrial times where heightened levels of CO2 could not be attributed to human actions. They occurred naturally.

Once there were vineyards in northern Europe. And the Vikings were quite able to bury their dead in the rich soils of Greenland without ice picks. They weren't idiots. They didn't call it Greenland because they found it buried under snow and ice.

If CO2 levels in the atmosphere have been substantially higher and lower in other epochs, why do we believe that present or anticipated levels are principally driven by relatively recent human activity?

Notwithstanding the constantly misrepresented claim that scientific consensus exists, and human activity is causing unprecedented and potentially catastrophic climate change, there is, in fact, a growing consensus that we are being sold a bill of goods.

One of the more noteworthy skeptics is Freeman Dyson, who has long resided at the Institute for Advanced Study, this country’s most rarefied community of scholars. During his lifetime there, he has worked alongside most of the great scientific figures of the age, including Einstein, Feynman, Bohr, Fermi, Bethe, Teller, and Oppenheimer. He is considered one of the best scientific minds we have.

Dyson has concluded, “Al Gore’s just an opportunist. The person who is really responsible for this overestimate of global warming is Jim Hansen. He consistently exaggerates all the dangers.”

Hansen is the discredited NASA scientist who was part of the early Enron team assembled to create the scientific rationale for limiting CO2 emissions.

Dyson says Hansen “exploits” the toxic elements of burning coal, which can be easily reduced, as a way of condemning the carbon dioxide it releases, “which cannot be reduced at an affordable cost, but does not do any substantial harm.”

To Dyson, “the move of the populations of China and India from poverty to middle-class prosperity should be the great historic achievement of the century. Without coal it cannot happen.” Dyson sees coal as the interim kindling of progress as solar sources develop and become practical.

Other third world peoples await the benefits of the same progress.

The argument from global warming was originally compelling to laymen because there was both evidence of warming and evidence of increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere. The proposition that they were linked seemed plausible to unscientific minds. The argument that the latter caused the former was taken on faith.

But now, more than ten years on, the foundation of the argument is undermined by the obvious cooling taking place. This cooling, inspite of increased CO2 in the atmosphere, points to the real driving force behind global warming and increased atmospheric CO2, the sun.

The best available science suggests that warming oceans and a warming atmosphere are more likely responsible for increased releases of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Increased CO2 in the atmosphere is a consequence, not a cause of global warming.

Correlation of sun spot activity, or lack of the same, better explains the warming and cooling trends throughout history. And increases and declines in atmospheric CO2 trail, rather than lead, temperature.

Just as the rooster's crowing before the sun's rise does not give us light, CO2 in the atmosphere does not give us warmth.

Dyson agrees with the prevailing view that carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere are rising, including the minuscule portion attributable to human activity. But he suggests, the rising CO2 may well ultimately be a benign occurrence in what is still “a relatively cool period in the earth’s history.” The warming, he says, is not global but local, “making cold places warmer, rather than making hot places hotter.”

Far from expecting any drastic harmful consequences from these increased temperatures, he says the carbon may well be beneficial, a sign that “the climate is actually improving rather than getting worse,” because carbon acts as an ideal fertilizer promoting forest growth and crop yields.

“Most of the evolution of life occurred on a planet substantially warmer than it is now, and substantially richer in carbon dioxide." says Dyson, "A year ago when we went to Greenland, where warming is the strongest, the people loved it.”

Dyson's view is supported by paleoclimatologist, Professor Tim Patterson. "There is no meaningful correlation between CO2 levels and Earth's temperature over the [geologic] time frame. In fact, when CO2 levels were over ten times higher than they are now, about 450 million years ago, the planet was in the depths of the absolute coldest period in the last half billion years."

Skeptics of the anthropogenic causation argument are routinely denigrated as lackeys of big oil, coal or the Chamber of Commerce. After a lifetime of scientific contributions, Freeman Dyson has been labeled a pompous twit, a blow-hard, and a cesspool of misinformation. The proponents of cap and trade characterize him as “an old coot riding into the sunset.”

The proponents of the anthropogenic argument, and cap and trade, are hardly scrutinized for connections to the self interested. Indeed, they are showered with contributions and Oscars. Nonetheless, the skeptics, though lacking a similar propaganda apparatus, have cast more than reasonable doubt on the argument.

If nearly all the carbon dioxide increase is unrelated to human activity, and is a result of the sun warming the oceans and the atmosphere, why do they want to institute a global system to regulate anthropogenic emissions and trade the rights to emit.

The answer, in a nutshell, is to trade the rights to emit.

Getting that done has become the United Nations' highest priority. The first of three sessions to hammer out the actual deal is to take place today in Bonn.

If enacted, the "ambitious and effective international response to climate change," will be nothing short of world-changing. The Bonn meeting is the first step to ratification of what will be known as the Copenhagen Accord, the successor to the Kyoto Treaty, to be adopted in the Danish city sometime before December.

The Obama administration supports the process. The administration has espoused "carbon taxes" on imported fuels and energy-intensive goods and industries, including airline transportation.

From a briefing paper to negotiators in Bonn, we are told cap-and-trade schemes "may induce some industrial relocation" to "less regulated host countries."

Cap-and-trade functions by decreasing the level of CO2 emissions outright permitted, which will make permits to exceed the more restricted levels, to be traded by industrial users, increasingly more valuable, and expensive.

A paper by British economist Nicholas Lord Stern, formerly a high British Treasury official, declares that industrial economies would need to cut their per capita carbon dioxide emissions by "at least 80% by 2050," while the biggest economies, like the U.S.'s, would have to make cuts of 90 percent. According to Stern, to meet the 2050 goals, "most of the world's electricity production will need to have been de-carbonized."

The U.S. Department Of Energy estimates roughly 72 percent of U.S. electrical power generation in 2007 was derived from burning fossil fuels, with just 6 percent coming from hydro-power and less than 3 percent from non-nuclear renewable and "other" sources. And even then, those "other" non-fossil sources included wood and biomass which, when burned, are major emitters of CO2.

Just as Obama's administration fails to reform the private financial sector, and allows the continued transfer of wealth from the poor and middle classes to the American aristocracy, they are similarly about to surrender our sovereignty and accept international regulation of our energy producing industries, including their taxation by private individuals and foreign nations with emission credits to provide. And as the international regime takes root, every American will find themselves taxed by a body they have no electoral recourse over.

CO2 is not a pollutant. Since shortly after this trading system was first conceived at Enron, it has been necessary to find another means, other than the Environmental Protection Act, to rationalize capping CO2 emissions because it isn't a pollutant.

This led to forwarding the argument that increased CO2 in the atmosphere caused, rather than resulted from, warming. That argument was buttressed by dubious computer models. With the passage of time, these models have failed to predict, explain or accommodate actual developments in nature.

After the demise of Enron and Ken Lay, Al Gore and some of America's leading financial schemers continued the effort to create a trading system, and a commodity whose trade would profit them.

When Henry Paulsen was still at Goldman Sachs, while helping devise a whole bag of tricks to bring down the world economy, he and Gore threw in with N.M. Rothschild and an array of international bankers to promote a trading system in emission exemptions and a cap on releases of anthropogenic CO2.

An important feature of the system envisioned is undeveloped and emerging economies that presently do not emit, who restrain themselves from emitting CO2 in the future, will be rewarded with credits. A substantial number of these countries are struggling under the weight of international loans they can not pay. The obvious solution will be for them to sell their rights to emit CO2, or exchange them with the international bankers for debt reduction or forgiveness.

As a result, these countries will be prevented from using their coal, oil and gas resources to improve the standard of living of their citizens. At the same time, the industrialized nations will pay the same international bankers to continue to emit. The additional cost demanded for the right to emit will be passed on to the citizens of developed countries.

If CO2 is an innocuous component of the atmosphere, or if the relatively insignificant contribution of CO2 from human sources isn't a substantial environmental threat, then the only beneficiaries of this new regime will be the holders and traders in the exemptions to emit.

Again, according to Freeman Dyson, “The costs of what Gore tells us to do would be extremely large, By restricting CO2 you make life more expensive and hurt the poor. I’m concerned about the Chinese. They’re changing their standard of living the most, going from poor to middle class. To me that’s very precious.”

Commenting on scenes from Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, Dyson is ofended by the claim that, as an undergraduate, Gore was first alerted to how severe the climate’s problems would become by the late Roger Revelle, a Harvard scientist who instructed him.

Dyson retorts, “For most people I’d think this would be quite effective. But I knew Roger Revelle. He was definitely a skeptic. He’s not alive to defend himself.”

Gore apparently missed the lesson. The suggestion that climate change portended significant problems of adaptation is quite different from suggesting that humans were the cause of that anticipated change.

When Gore warns of the melting snows of Kilimanjaro, the vanishing glaciers of Peru and “off the charts” carbon levels in the air; projects his scenes of disappearing ice, drunken trees and drowning polar bears; he decries, “the so-called skeptics” who say this “seems perfectly O.K.,”

Dyson, by contrast, quietly points out, “Most of the time in history the Arctic has been free of ice.” He reassures, “the polar bears will be just fine.”

“He certainly is a good preacher,” Dyson concludes. “Forty years ago it was fashionable to worry about the coming ice age. Better to attack the real problems like the extinction of species and overfishing."

Like every prophet bent on creating a flock, faith must trump facts. Half truths must do. Sure CO2 levels have increased. It is not true that human activity has contributed substantially. And it's certainly debatable if more CO2 or a warmer climate is a bad thing.

The reason to convince the sheep otherwise is the better to shear them, my dear !