Saturday, June 30, 2007

Understanding the IPCC and its origins and purpose

In the latest in his series on key scientists skeptical about the threats posed by climate change, Lawrence Solomon offers a profile of the dean of climatology, Reid Bryson.

Now 87, Bryson is considered by many the "father of scientific climatology," and he's also pronounced on the most consequential climate issue of the day -- man-made global warming. His verdict: "That is a theory for which there is no credible proof. There is very little truth to what is being said and an awful lot of religion," he has decided. "It's almost a religion where you have to believe in anthropogenic global warming or else you are nuts."

Bryson is everything a scientist should be. Principled and objective, not letting his politics influence his view of the science. Clearly, climate is changing. Always has, always will because climate is itself, dynamic -- always in a state of change. Clearly, human beings are modifying the climate, warming it some ways, cooling it others. Neither activity is cause for alarm, unless it becomes the cause and vehicle for ideologically driven alarmism.

In discussing the origins of the climate change issue and the IPCC, this essay raises the following questions:

  • How much of the global warming issue is shaped by new scientific discoveries, and how much by broader cultural and political trends?
  • How has the interaction between scientists, international institutions, governments, media and activists influenced the development of climate change policy?
  • Was the establishment of the IPCC a visionary act or an expression of political implosion in the West?
It suggests that the emergence of global warming as the dominant environmental narrative today is a reflection of an ideology characterized by
  • ...sense of profound social pessimism' in which human potential became viewed more as a 'threat rather than a positive attribute'. The orthodoxy of precaution 'emphasised not only the actual damage being done to the environment but potential threats in the future'. This is precisely how the global warming issue was framed by certain scientists and latterly latched on to by environmental campaign groups that had paid little or no attention to it prior to the late 1980s.
  • From the moment the IPCC was born, the scope for an overtly political approach to dealing with any questions raised or problems thrown up by climate change was compromised by politicians with little vision for society, who became increasingly attracted to the notion of 'natural limits' as a justification for political and economic stasis.

Let's be clear: consensus is a political term, a political desire for some. Science is not consensual, it is factual. Whenever we discourage scientific skepticism, we are being political and not scientific. The IPCC was founded to promote a particular perspective on science. It is a politicized perspective that is not about science but about the use and mis-use of science to advocate an ideology of stasis control and governance.


Al Gore is called to account to his own (new) standards for scientific integrity here. Seems Al wants people to do as he says not as he does: no wonder he is now credited with inventing Gorebull warming.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Iran: Floating on oil and rationing gas

One of the hardest constructs for people to grasp is that resource development is not only a function of its geographical quantity, quality or location. Resource development is predicated upon the human factors of economic development and the political system that governs any particular locale.
  • This article highlights the quite laughable paradox of Iran suffering from a gasoline crisis, despite having huge reserves of oil.
  • This article discusses the myths perpetuated by the European Union as being "government" that is good for the environment.
Centralised, bureaucratic, stasist governance has never resulted in effective, efficient resource management. Which is why ecomyths exist: to put the element of fear into the populace and thus justify the continued intervention of centralised, bureaucratic, stasist governance into resource development.

Sustainability is a wonderful construct. Sadly it has largely and exclusively been confined by an insistence on thinking of sustainability as a stasis construct of prevention and conservation. In fact, where elements of sustainability have actually been implemented it is where the notion of sustainability as dynamic change has been embraced -- to be sustainable one had to be open to change: change in practice, change in design, change in thinking, change in dominant constructs. When an ideology is set, closed to modification and self-assured in its dogma -- as is contemporary environmentalism -- there can be no dynamic change, no learning, no new design, no new ideas: no sustainability.

It is this contradiction that leads environmental ideologues to protest so loudly, to be so afraid of contrary perspective and to embrace the authority and power of bureaucracy, stasism and government: they are their shield against change, against new ideas, against the dynamism of the globalization and the stochastic nature of natural environmental change and adaptation.

The world is, and can remain, sustainable. But to be sustainable, we must be open and receptive to change and not afraid of the challenges change poses for us.


Conversely, we can accept with increasing passivity the notion that politics is now primarily a means of imposing conformism on the population using a series of unnecessary laws that are less a practical measure to address a real problem than a politico-moral intervention designed to shape wider public opinion in the way that old-fashioned Politics no longer can.

That these laws are imposed on us by politicians who are closed-minded, stasist and singularly unable to adapt to dynamic change, should be the real source for alarm.

To paraphrase Shakespeare: a leader, a leader, my kingdom for a leader.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Put your money where your myth is

Finally, Al Gore has been called to account for his self-serving advocacy of global warming. In an update of the Simon vs. Ehrlich wager of the 1980s, a marketing forecaster from the University of Pennsylvania, Scott Armstrong, has challenged Al Gore to a $20,000 wager as to the predicted rise of temperatures 10 years from now: Armstrong taking the position that temperatures will be at or near steady, while Gore would be placing his money on the oft-cited and heavily promoted contention that temperatures will significantly rise in the next decade as per IPCC forecasts.

Armstrong states that the purpose of the wager is:
  • ...really to promote the proper use of science, rather than the opinion-led science we have seen lately
  • ...Gore says there are scientific forecasts that the Earth will become warmer very rapidly. But I have not found a scientific forecast that supports that view. There are forecasts made by scientists, of course, but they are very different from a scientific forecast'....
  • What we have is climate forecasters effectively translating their own opinions into maths...Their claims are not built on clear and thorough scientific forecasts but on their own outlooks.
Of course Julian Simon won his bet with Paul Ehrlich. Over a ten year period, scarcity and resource depletion did not occur as "forecast" by Ehrlich and his ilk. In fact, because of technological advancement, resource prices declined significantly, as predicted by Simon.

Flash forward 20 years. Bjorn Lomborg validates all of Simon's claims about resources, the lack of limits and the positive role of technology in minimizing human impact on the environment. And what do we teach in schools? in college curricula? in the media? yet still more alarmism, doom and gloom and potential disaster, this time based on the "scientific" evidence of forecasts that temperatures will rise drastically in the upcoming years. Well that should be a pretty easy wager to settle. Just like for Simon and Ehrlich.

So the only real question is: when the green ideologues lose this bet, what will they replace global warming with as the next great environmental doomsday narrative?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

There is no global 'temperature'

Three important and timely articles in today's Financial Post section of the National Post. The first explains why talk about "average temperature" on a global scale has no physical meaning. There is no scientific meaning to the term. That it has become the standard metric in discussions about climate change is indicative of how much those discussions are politically motivated and informed and not about science at all.

Why is this significant? Well the second article addresses that point. Increasingly, environmental issues are packaged in alarmist language which purports to use science and numbers to substantiate its claims: chief amongst the junk science purveyors is Canada's David Suzuki, who's foundation again weighed in this week with another scare story on pesticides that completely distorts the data. Simply put, there is no reason to fear the use of lawn pesticides.

And, lastly, the effect of distorted, junk science and its mis-guided attack on pesticides is shown in the final article discussing the extended implications of the failure to use DDT to suppress malaria in Africa.

There are real world consequences to ideological environmentalism, the mis-use of science and the appeal to populist authority of self-appointed, celebrity guardians of environmental morality. Sadly, the most frequent consequence is loss of human lives (elsewhere), the suppression of economic development (elsewhere) and the continuation of non-sustainable practices (elsewhere).

But the advocated are green and morally sure of themselves. Moreover, they have science on their side -- or at least that's what they tell us. They wouldn't be lying now would they?

Because it has numbers attached to it doesn't make it science. Because its published, doesn't mean its accurate. Because lots of very loud people believe it, doesn't mean its the truth.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Air confusion index

Understanding the science behind environmental alarmism is crucial. In this timely article, Ross McKitrick discusses Ontario's Air Quality Index (AQI) which is better thought of as the Air Confusion Index, because while smog in Ontario is down, the number of smog advisories are up. Confused? Maybe that's the point:
  • The AQI creates two false impressions. The first is that air pollution is going up. The second is that government needs to "do something." The reality is that the air pollutants we can control have been reduced to the point where they no longer give rise to smog warnings. Smog is now associated with the types of air contaminants over which we have little or no local control.
There is an extensive literature on the use of indices for environmental communication: as tools to drive awareness and environmental education they have utility. As a measure of public policy needs and priorities they are inappropriate and misleading.

Junkfood Science: Private: for girls only

As the proud parent of two beautiful daughters I can only concur with this message and with Sandy's efforts to correct the mis-leading and destructive message the mainstream media bombards our young ladies with (ladies, you're always young to us guys!).

Life has enough challenges without having a constant pre-occupation with your body image.

If you are a female reader of this site, please take this and the other messages on JunkFood to heart: be as appreciative of your body as we men are.

And guys, read this, appreciate the pressures your lady has to cope with and be supportive, not critical: its called empathy and men should try it occasionally, we might get better at it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

things to think about

Two items that caught my attention this week. The first was one in a series of newspaper ads from the automotive sector pointing out that new cars and trucks represent 1% of greenhouse and smog emissions in Canada and that the total number of 19 million vehicles in the country only account for 13% of total greenhouse emissions and 10% of smog-related emissions. The second was a post pointing out that China, and not the US, is now the world's largest source of greenhouse gasses.

Now, I am clearly not in agreement that AGW is our biggest nor most pressing environmental issue, but these two snippets to point to the reality that those who do believe in the AGW thesis must also accommodate. Targeting western lifestyles, automobiles and air traffic is a moralistic indictment, not one that will actually lower greenhouse gasses to any significant extent.

The next greenie who seeks to chastise your economic choices, ask what science they are reading. Then give them this to read and suggest they adopt a more positive, environmental approach.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Malthus was wrong: so why do people listen?

On Spiked, Frank Furedi has this timely article on the alleged problem of over-population. The "perils" of over-population have been alleged since Roman times, mostly in the context of to many of "them" and not enough of "us". The basics of the debate have not altered that much. Popularized as an environmental problem by Malthus, predictions of dire consequences from "over" population have continually resurfaced in every generation, the mantra being varied to fit the contemporary circumstances. Thus today's Malthusians posit "over" population as the central cause of all things bad and catastrophic from an environmental perspective. As Furedi writes:
  • it is difficult to celebrate human life in any meaningful way when people – or at least the growth of the number of people – are regarded as the source of the world's problems. Alongside today's respect for human life there is the increasingly popular idea that there is too much human life around, and that it is killing the planet.
  • The vocabulary of our times – 'human impact on the environment'; 'ecological footprint'; 'human consumption' – invokes a sense of dread over the active exercise of human life. Apparently, there are too many of us doing too much living and breathing. In a world where humanity is portrayed as a threat to the environment and to the very survival of the planet, human activity – from birth to consumption to procreation – is regarded as a mixed blessing.
  • For contemporary Malthusians, every new child is another pollutant.
Wow. Sadly, Furedi is not exaggerating. Many environmentalists adopt this pessimistic view, especially about the impending impact and degradation that others' children will have, the others who will destroy the planet trough their rampant consumerism (they, of course, being pristine, carbon neutral, organic and all round green friendly -- just how they make a living and contribute to societal gain we won't ask).
  • the fact that Malthus' predictions did not come true has not discouraged anti-humanists from pursuing the population-control project. They simply invent new reasons for why we must control population growth.
This is because Malthus' arguments are not scientifically valid: his pessimism reflects straight line mathematical projections which fail to account for the increasing and variable pace of human ingenuity and innovation. Again:
  • ...the success of Malthusianism has never been down to the rigour or eloquence of its ideas. Rather, the success of Malthusian ideas depends on the strength of cultural pessimism at any given time. And today it is the loss of faith in the human potential, a fatalistic view of the future, which has rejuvenated the population-control crusade.
And here is the key: we teach our children that "over" population is a problem in social studies, world studies, environment studies and geography, the mainstream media repeats the message from vested and biased interest groups that too many people,means too much consumption,which is bad and then we pander to groups and politicians that wish to regulate our behaviour and activities to counter act this "well-established" problem.

The problem: demographers have been telling us for the past 30 years that the planet is neither over-populated, nor facing a population crisis. Check the UN population projection over the past two decades: it keeps coming down. Meanwhile, we are experiencing the greatest explosion in innovation the world has ever seen. Everything we consume is getting cheaper and cheaper because long before any theoretical limits are ever reached a newer, better and cheaper substitute is used.

None of this is news. But it does require constant re-iteration: science does not sustain any pessimism about the human condition.

Pessimism is purely a mis-use of somebody's political imagination and a foil for their political agenda.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Understanding Economics

One of the major problems with ecomyths is that most people do not have a good understanding of economics. Many ideological environmentalists dismiss economics and are derisive about its role in global development. For many, free-market economies are the source of destruction and consumerism is the pinnacle of evil -isms (along with corporatism, Americanism and capitalism).

Much of this intellectual disdain stems from a fundamental lack of understanding of real economics: why some countries prosper while others don't and what interventions can assist people who want to overcome poverty and what actions actually end up exacerbating the very problems they are intended to alleviate. Perhaps the best example is the
celebrity pronouncements on development, especially Africa, by people who are clearly produces of an increasingly flawed educational system wherein...the curriculum is regarded as a vehicle for promoting political objectives and for changing the values, attitudes and sensibilities of children.

Against this backdrop,
Arnold Kling presents the first in a series of essays that discuss the ideas of the economist D
ouglass North. One of North's most important contributions is his recognition of the source of wealth in today's globalized economy:
  • ...North and his adherents have an explanation for the enormous variation across countries in intangible capital. North focuses on institutions, including property rights, the behaviour of government officials, and trading methods. Where these institutions serve to reward work, innovation, and risk-taking, the residual is positive. Where these institutions serve to reward theft and expropriation, the residual is negative. When government will expropriate any wealth that people create, the present value of future output can actually be less than the value of the country's tangible resources. The power of predatory government to destroy wealth is truly awesome.
So in today's world, economics is not abstract. Economics must be contextualized and understood primarily in terms of the institutional arrangements that structure, guide and influence the conduct of companies and consumers, market behaviour and the role of governance. Moreover, economics cannot and should not be glibly dismissed using set ideological phrases plagiarized from Marx: the conditions faced by the working class in 1829 England are not those faced by emerging economies in today's third world.

Of course understanding this does mean reading some economics by economists who think: hence Kling's discussion of North and the efforts of economists such as Daniel Ben-Ami and Johan Norberg , and sites such as Cafe Hayek and the Globalisation Institute.

Me, promoting economics: who would have believed it.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Freedom, not climate, is at risk

A very timely comment from Vaclav Klaus. His main point:
  • As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning.
  • The issue of global warming is more about social than natural sciences and more about man and his freedom than about tenths of a degree Celsius changes in average global temperature.
Freedom also extends into discussion about climate change. The reactions to this post on the politicised nature of the climate debate are indicative of the ideological constraints now pervading discussions, both in the mainstream media, in politics and, sadly, in the blogosphere.

The first sign of a zealot is the refusal to see anything but the "correct" view in any dialogue. Contemporary environmentalism as Klaus correctly identifies is fuelled by a dominant, mis-guided zeal.

When fat (dare I say it?) is a good thing

Recent studies have consistently shown that under-weight is the real health risk, yet the myth persists in the media about obesity as a health risk. Here is the latest in a series of articles trying to correct this mis-perception and the dangers the obesity myth poses, especially in the images foisted on teenage girls in the media -- ultimately, body image is always tied back to the thin is healthy mantra.

Whenever the science contradicts the obesity myth, the reports are always modest and full of caution: no matter that the science often is far more conclusive than that supporting the myth -- obesity is the dominant narrative. Dominant, but false.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

interesting premise

Found a link on Q and O to this site and a particular map that has a very intriguing premise: the US States renamed to reflect countries of equivalent economic strength. The map is interesting as it provides a quick comparative tool to improve comprehension of the globalizing planet. Close to home, it points out that New York is equivalent to Brazil, Michigan is Argentina, while Ohio is Australia. Some sense of Texas is provided by its equivalency to Canada, while California ties France as the world's 8th largest economy.

Not all people are particularly map literate. Perhaps if we used maps like this to teach geography, to contextualize knowledge and ask people to reflect on meanings that they comprehend, more people would find geography more relevant.

Anyways, if nothing else, the map provides a welcome respite from climate change as a topic for posting.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Carson debate

A well-written article here on the real impact of Rachel Carson. Its premise is that stasists idolize her incorrectly, while dynamists vilify her, mistakenly:
  • Both sides employ pure hyperbole and overlook the facts. Green supporters of Carson claim she 'changed the world' and conveniently ignore all the things she got so wrong about pesticides and chemicals. Right-wing critics of Carson also claim that she changed the world (but for the worse), and in their rush to blame Carson for malaria overlook all the other factors that contribute to the spread of disease in the developing world, such as dire poverty, underdevelopment, conflict and so on. Both sides overestimate Carson's contribution to world history, and fail to interrogate the origins of today's misanthropic outlook, of which Carson was merely one small part.
  • Forget the Culture Wars; these are the Carson Wars. And it is time we settled them once and for all.
It's a good article that places Carson's contribution and effects into a broader context, both societal and temporal.

Now all we need is for the Hollywood movie version to appear and officially seal Carson's real legacy into public consciousness: movie biopics rarely stay true to the real events -- "for dramatic purposes" -- but become the popular history around which myths crystallize.

But what role would Al Gore play in his sequel, and would he win another Oscar?

Paris Hilton as Rachel Carson? Sorry, too flippant?

Friday, June 08, 2007

The underbelly of CO2 Environmentalism

Well thankfully someone had the courage to call a spade a spade: not much to add to this post. Not only is global warming a sham, the circus around its "regulation" also is a sham and the trade in carbon whatever's, which does nothing to actually reduce any carbon emissions, also is a sham.

But in the best tradition of environmental governance, it does provide a lot of employment for people who want to give the impression that their impassioned efforts are all that stand between us and total doom. Which, of course, makes them very important people, doing very important stuff and keeps them flying to important meetings in all sorts of exotic places to determine how best to tell the rest of us how to run our lives.

All of which reflects the contemporary approach to environmentalism wherein science is supplanted by emotional rhetoric.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Gore visists London

Well it seems Al Gore visited London, Ontario on his climate tour. A couple of notable things seem apparent: my home institution seems to have fallen over itself in fawning over Mr. Gore, and only two questions were asked from the floor -- seems I might have been missed after all.

I always marvel at the change that seems to overtake people in the presence of "celebrity" -- people fawn and present themselves in a most unflattering way. I wonder at the ego of those who enjoy being surrounded by sycophants.

I have met few truly great people in real life and even fewer authentic geniuses. Those I have met did share one dominant characteristic: a disdain for those who pander and an appreciation for honesty.

I wonder how much truth Mr. Gore experiences on a daily basis.

Friday, June 01, 2007

While my Gaia gently weeps

Visiting England for a few days and some interesting observations. This post from Samizata captures quite well both the state of things here and my own bewilderment at the extent of the lunacy that prevails. Why lunacy? Because, not only are most of the pronouncements unfounded and unworkable, they are largely unsupported by the average Brit -- that at least is cause for optimism. I marvel at the British ability to absorb government, media and NGO pronouncements and let them pass off them like water off a duck's back -- must be the adaptation to the weather I guess.
In addition to the carbon footprint proposal noted above, the past two days have been highlighted by:
  • protests about the "expansion" of Stanstead airport on grounds of climate impact: the proposal adds no new buildings nor runways, just an increase in flights to reduce congestion and ease passenger flow -- the average Brit apparently would like to take advantage of cheap flights and visit other countries. Imagine, people wanting to travel.
  • notices that windfarms in Cornwall and Devon may be "updated" to bigger and newer turbines -- not one mention in any media report on how they have performed thus far, efficiency rates, cost nor alternatives -- all essential elements of any conventional business development proposal. Since when did "green" projects get a pass on good planning? Last time I looked, sustainability meant economic efficiency too.
  • response to George Bush's announcement on a global strategy for carbon emissions -- the media here seem to have missed the point that Bush includes both China and India in his announcement. So much for the British press being the best in the world.
I grew up in Britain and there is still much that I like when I visit now: the countryside is still beautiful, especially where my family lives in Devon, the clotted cream is still to die for and there's no fish and chips quite like English fish and chips. But much seems in flux. And the eco-hysteria seems to be an accepted but ignored part of the landscape.