Sunday, August 19, 2007

Except for That


Have we turned a corner on climate change? In its August 13 cover story, Newsweek says so, the proof being that Scientists and Democrats agree:

source: Newsweek

Sen. Barbara Boxer had been chair of the Senate's Environment Committee for less than a month when the verdict landed last February. "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal," concluded a report by 600 scientists from governments, academia, green groups and businesses in 40 countries. Worse, there was now at least a 90 percent likelihood that the release of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels is causing longer droughts, more flood-causing downpours and worse heat waves, way up from earlier studies. Those who doubt the reality of human-caused climate change have spent decades disputing that. But Boxer figured that with "the overwhelming science out there, the deniers' days were numbered."
Like that lede, most of the article read like a Dem-party press release, the departure being Newsweek'sfear that blue-state eco worriers underestimate their Red-State opposition:
[O]utside Hollywood, Manhattan and other habitats of the chattering classes, the denial machine is running at full throttle—and continuing to shape both government policy and public opinion.

Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless. "They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry," says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. "Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That's had a huge impact on both the public and Congress."
Diabolical! Imagine: lobbying and advertising to shape policy and public opinion. You'd think they had the right to "petition the Government for a redress of grievances" or something. For Newsweek, "issues" must be "spearhead[ed]" the way Wirth did--by lying:
The left barely noticed when Timothy Wirth, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs for President Clinton, proclaimed "We've got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing."
So, preserving Wirth's lie demands that skeptics should be ignored or mocked.

It's even worse since Wirth: echoing Capitol Hill Democrats and a left-wing British newspaper, Newsweek accuses DC think-tank American Enterprise Institute of shilling for Exxon, whose petroleum profits baited "up to 20 "respected climate scientists" to "convince the public that the science of global warming is riddled with controversy and uncertainty." What nerve! Except that, like liberal think-tanks such as Brookings AEI does no lobbying--it's prohibited by law. Except that Exxon's contributions "represents less than 1 percent of AEI's total revenue during that period." Except that, says Jonathan Adler of the Volokh Conspiracy, all AEI did was "encourage those who have been critical of climate projections in the past to provide a detailed assessment of the new IPCC report. . . In the end, some may wish AEI was not sponsoring critical research and analysis of the IPCC report and current climate policy proposals, but it's hardly a scandal that they do." Except that, according to Newsweek's own economics columnist Robert Samuelson, "this accusation was long ago discredited, and NEWSWEEK shouldn't have lent it respectability." But except all that, Newsweek's slander is accurate.

Except for the fact that in 1975, Newsweek reported "massivively" accumulat[ing]" "evidence" of global cooling. Back then, observes the Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby, the magazine said "scientists were "almost unanimous" in believing [in] the looming Big Chill." Newsweek was certain then--and equally certain of the contrary today. So, desipite its 180 degree flip, Newsweek is "unequivocal" about climate--or is that "gullible"? Either way, except for that contradiction, Newsweek's right--it never met a doomsday it didn't like.

Oh, and except for Newsweek's belief we've turned the corner and man-made warming is a proven fact. Ironically, Newsweek annointed warming the same week history will conclude "globalony" alarmism peaked. The bombshell was corrections to NASA's U.S. surface temperature measurements.

It seems NASA's commitment to the scientific method didn't extend to sharing "the algorithm used to generate graph data. So those "paralyzing" skeptics -- one a smart fifteen year-old -- reversed engineered the formula and spotted a huge metaphorical and literal gap in the data for the year 2000:

source: Daily Tech via NASA

NASA fessed up, and quietly revised its data. Still, Newsweek suggested climate battles pitted modern, transparent and empiric professionals against medievil alchemests. And the magazine was right, except for the fact that so-called skeptics had the superior syllogysm and resourcefulness. As Coyote blog concludes: "I cannot get over the irony that in the same week Newsweek makes the case that climate science is settled and there is no room for skepticism, skeptics discover a gaping hole and error in the global warming numbers."

But, given the current heat wave and upward temp drift, surely Newsweek can make a good case for warming. Well, except for the fact that the fix applied to a significant percentage of U.S. surface data sets, producing cooresponding changes in U.S. historical tempertature trends:

source: Aug. 16th email (.pdf) from NASA's James Hansen
Two points:
  1. Do the revised temperature changes coorolate with increased atmospheric CO2? No, says Michael Fumento:
    The real 15 hottest years are spread over seven decades. Eight occurred before the chief "greenhouse gas," atmospheric carbon dioxide, began its sharp rise; seven occurred afterwards.
  2. Do the revised temperatures show similar increases in both rural and urban areas? No; skeptic Steve McIntyre did the math:

    source: Climate Audit

    Coyote blog explains the possible ramifications (emphasis in original):
    For this particular set of US temperature data, all the 20th century warming was observed in urban areas, and none was observed in rural areas less affected by urban heat islands, asphalt, cars, air conditioning, etc.

    If it can be generalized, this is an amazing conclusion -- it would imply that the sum of US measured warming over the last century could be almost 100% attributed to urban heat islands (a different and more localized effect than CO2 greenhouse gas warming). Perhaps more importantly, outside of the US nearly all of the historical temperature measurement is in urban areas -- no one has 100 year temperature records for the Chinese countryside. However much this effect might be over-stating US temperature increases, it would probably be even more pronounced in measurements in other parts of the word.
The second chart -- the global and U.S. side-by-side before and after the correction -- is James Hansen's. He's a senior official at NASA, produced the originals and has now released the revisions. Does his name seem familiar? He's NASA's loud, lionized, anti-Bush warming warner. Because the warming cover issue was published before NASA corrected its error, Newsweek paints Hansen in Biblical terms:
It was 98 degrees in Washington on Thursday, June 23, 1988, and climate change was bursting into public consciousness. The Amazon was burning, wildfires raged in the United States, crops in the Midwest were scorched and it was shaping up to be the hottest year on record worldwide. A Senate committee, including Gore, had invited NASA climatologist James Hansen to testify about the greenhouse effect, and the members were not above a little stagecraft. The night before, staffers had opened windows in the hearing room. When Hansen began his testimony, the air conditioning was struggling, and sweat dotted his brow. It was the perfect image for the revelation to come. He was 99 percent sure, Hansen told the panel, that "the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now."
Given his importance in Newsweek's "proof," Hansen must be simon-pure, like all other pro-green forces, but unlike those Exxon and AEI fog-generators. Well, except for the fact that warming alarmists "receive far more money from Big Oil" as compared with warming skeptics, and Hansen is both partisan and paid: "Not mentioned by Newsweek was that Hansen had acted as a consultant to Al Gore's slide-show presentations on global warming, that he had endorsed John Kerry for president, and had received a $250,000 grant from the foundation headed by Teresa Heinz Kerry." Which might explain Hansen's take on the effect of the correction and who was at fault. He blames conservatives:
A document that opens with an attack on "Fox, The Washington Times, and their like”, is telegraphing a bias at best. Or worse, the author may be intentionally grabbing at some common political touch stones.
As HotAir's Allahpundit says:
Remarkable, isn’t it, how we’re assured that this is the most important scientific issue of our time and yet one of the basic calculations from which the evidence is derived has to be reverse engineered from the data in order to check it. Can we at least get some peer review before we build the ark?
Too late: Newsweek's not peer reviewed. Nor is Former Vice President Al Gore, who's hammering away athough, unlike Noah, Gore started with screenplay and soundtrack before substantiating the science. For that reason, unlike Noah, Gore's boat won't float, says Robert Bryce, managing editor of the Energy Tribune, in a piece explaining why "Al Gore’s Zero Emissions Makes Zero Sense":
It is the nature of civilization to use energy and it’s the nature of liberalism to feel bad about it. That’s my conclusion after finally sitting down to watch "An Inconvenient Truth," the Oscar-winning documentary that has turned Al Gore into a rock star (and rock music promoter). Here’s my review: it is an overly simplistic look at a complex problem and it concludes with one of the single stupidest statements ever put on film. Yes, that’s harsh criticism. But it’s the right one, given that just before the final credits, in a segment addressing what individuals can do about global warming, the following line appears onscreen: "In fact, you can even reduce your carbon emissions to zero."

This statement is so blatantly absurd that I am still stunned, weeks after watching Gore’s movie, that none of the dozens of smart people involved in the production of the movie -- including, particularly, Gore himself -- paused to wonder aloud something to the effect of, "Hey, what about breathing? Don’t we produce carbon dioxide through respiration?"

The answer, is yes, we do. Thus, by including the claim that you can “reduce your carbon emissions to zero” the film’s producers might as well have hung a sign around Gore’s neck that says "I’m an idiot." . .

[But] given that the world economy (and most living beings) depends, one way or another, on emitting carbon dioxide, then how are we going to manage to stay fed, clothed, and transported? If we agree that carbon dioxide is bad, then can the world economy transition to some other no- or low-carbon energy source in a short enough timeframe to satisfy Gore’s contention that we have to reduce carbon emissions by 90 percent over the next four decades? . . .

None of this is an argument for taking the issue of global warming lightly. It’s a serious matter. But then so is global poverty. And an essential element in fighting global poverty is -- what else? -- assuring reliable flows of inexpensive energy to the people who want it and can pay for it. And that’s just what countries like China and India are doing.

Gore’s entire movie is suffused with a feeling of dread, that we should feel guilty about emitting carbon dioxide because we humans are the problem. Even though it is the nature of civilization to consume energy -- and lots of it -- Gore and his ilk want us to stop cold turkey.

In Gore’s worldview, feeling guilty is an essential first step on the road to salvation. And the greater your guilt about using energy, the greater your virtue. Me, I’ll forgo the virtuous life in favor of continued respiration.
Me too. Though I won't stop Newsweek reporters, Senator Boxer, James Hansen and Al Gore should they want to sacrifice and save their CO2 'for the children.' Except for the part about reporters, Boxer, Hansen and Gore, I'm sure Newsweek would agree.

But except for that, Newsweek is right--something must be done. Except that even the "consensus" warming crowd lacks any consensus remedy, observes Robert Samuelson in the WaPo:
The dirty secret about global warming is this: We have no solution. About 80 percent of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), the main sources of man-made greenhouse gases. Energy use sustains economic growth, which -- in all modern societies -- buttresses political and social stability. Until we can replace fossil fuels or find practical ways to capture their emissions, governments will not sanction the deep energy cuts that would truly affect global warming.
Well, cost might not dissuade Newsweek--except for the "inconvient fact" that, according to author and statistician Bjørn Lomborg, cutting atmospheric carbon won't work:
Their argument is that global warming is due to mankind's use of fossil fuels, that the consequences 100 years from now will be serious, and that we therefore should do something dramatic. We should make substantial and long-term reductions of greenhouse gases along the lines of the Kyoto Protocol. . .

They do not tell us that even if all the industrial nations agreed to the cuts (about 30pc from what would otherwise have been by 2010), and stuck to them all through the century, the impact would simply be to postpone warming by about six years beyond 2100. The unfortunate peasant in Bangladesh will find that his house floods in 2106 instead.
And in a world of limited resources, the money spent abaiting carbon could better be allocated to projects with higher expected health and safety returns (e.g., sanitation infrastructure and control of HIV/AIDS).

Yet, I think Newsweek would do something, except for the fact that neither science nor business nor Democrats have a clue. No economist has found a solution whose costs are less than its benefits. Except for the fact that. . . one warming solution works, writes Julian Morris in the August 13th WSJ:
[T]he main response to climate change must be adaptation. That is because most of the problems associated with climate change are extensions of problems that we already face today — from malaria and water-borne diseases to flooding and crop failure. If we could tackle those problems now, reducing their severity, incidence and consequences, then they would be also less of a problem in the future, with or without climate change.

By adaptation, economists generally do not mean government mega-projects, such as dams and the like. Rather, they mean enabling people more effectively to address the problems they face. This is especially so for the poor, who suffer the most from the vagaries of the weather — they are least adapted to the current climate.

For the poor, the best adaptation strategy is to become wealthier and to diversify away from subsistence agriculture. Then they would be able to afford to pump and purify water — avoiding the water-borne diseases that today kill around two million children. They’d be able to afford clean energy (even if it is produced in coal-fired power stations), thereby avoiding the noxious fumes that result from burning wood, dung and paraffin in poorly ventilated fires, which currently leads to over a million deaths a year from respiratory infections. And they’d be able to afford sturdier houses with better drainage and air conditioning, keeping them away from animals and stagnant water, and keeping out mosquitoes and malaria — which currently kills around two million a year. But none of this will come about without a great deal of economic growth, which is unlikely to take place if Kyoto-style policies are implemented.
In fact, Morris' proposal is essentially identical to mine, posted over two years ago:
[C]limate change can be solved by applying (Jonah) Goldberg's rule: "Don’t just do something! Stand there."
Sadly, with a few honorable exceptions, most reporters and bureaucrats are stuck in full denial of deniers mode. After all, in the battle to hamstring America and transfer wealth to the third world, holes in TOOTSIF temperature tables are easier to bridge than the doomsayers' leap to lack of faith. Except for that, Newsweek and other eco-cultists might be conservatives.

(via Powerline, Instapundit)

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