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Posts Tagged ‘Nicholas Stern’

Is Global Warming a Religion?

Mon ,22/07/2013

No, but environmental concerns and stewardship is becoming a part of most religions. Because of their concern for their fellow man and a commitment to the stewardship of God’s creations, many churches and religions have adopted policy positions on climate change , some specifically mentioning the threat of greenhouse gases. For example, the Presbyterian church had the foresight to adopt a policy in 1989, which it reaffirmed in 2008, stating its “serious concern that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems.” Recently, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UNCC) adopted a strong resolution on climate change that calls upon church members to “make shareholder engagement on climate change an immediate, top priority for the next five years”, to “demand action from legislators and advocate for the creation and enforcement of carbon-reducing laws.” , to “make lifestyle changes to reduce the use of fossil fuels in our lives, our homes, our businesses and our churches”, and to “to reduce the use of fossil fuels, our carbon footprint, and our complicity with the fossil fuel industry.”

Apparently, Dr. Stephen Carter is unhappy with the United Church of Christ’s resolution and severely criticized the church in an op ed article , Do unto Exxon as you would do unto yourself .  He is a Professor of Law at Yale, where he has taught courses on law and religion, the ethics of war, contracts, evidence, and professional responsibility. Dr. Carter argues the matter as if he had taken on Exxon Mobil as a client. Apparently, Dr. Carter wants us to treat Exxon Mobil as our brother. Though he claims that he is “no climate-change skeptic”, his article would certainly win the praise of the network of Libertarian think tanks, fossil fuel funded foundations, front groups, and authors who have become part of the climate change denial machine . Perhaps the greatest evidence of this is that his arguments do not include things that he should know.

He has singled out the UNCC without mentioning that most major churches and religions have similar statements. He should probably know about that as the extensive list mentioned in the first paragraph was compiled by Yale University, where he teaches. Mr. Carter implies the UNCC is hypocritical for urging its members to take action against climate change while they are still using fossil fuels, criticizing “the suburban family that crowds into the SUV to attend Sunday services.”  He finds it” perplexing that a church should take the view that it’s perfectly fine to demand regulation that might hurt working-class coal-mining families in West Virginia, but wrong to inconvenience its own members even slightly.” His is one of those all or nothing arguments, implying that if the church is committed to reducing the use of fossil fuels, it must give them up completely. He knows full well that being a “resolution”, it states a desire to improve future actions, and that, at present, few other energy alternatives are available. He seems to be unaware of the low pay, terrible conditions, and hazards that coal miners face, and that they might gladly change jobs if an alternative were available. Perhaps he, or the church, should take that up as a cause.

Dr. Carter’s main argument seems to be based upon the law of supply and demand. He expresses his “perplexity and sorrow” that the document “seems to place the blame for our heavy use of fossil fuels on the companies that produce them – not the consumers who demand them”. He thinks “the trouble is that the resolution – like the general idea of divesting fossil fuel investments – seems to confuse supply and demand.” Dr. Carter’s argument breaks down because the laws of supply and demand do not apply very well to fossil fuel companies. They have used their vast profits and political power to limit and inhibit technologies that might compete with them. They have helped create propaganda and policies that discourage the use of wind and solar energy, alternative fuels, and electric vehicles. Perhaps a coal miner would rather work in one of those emerging technologies, if given the opportunity. We subsidize fossil fuel companies by several billion dollars each year, though they are well-established and highly profitable companies, yet they oppose subsidies to growing companies that might compete with them. Let’s level the playing field and see what choices consumers will then make.

Surely Dr. Carter is aware that fossil fuel companies gain a competitive advantage as consumers do not have to pay the “true cost” of fossil fuel use, which should  include environmental and health costs. Nicholas Stern, one of the world’s top economists, estimates the cost and risks of climate change is equivalent to losing at least 5% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year, and could rise to 20% of GDP or more in the future – and impose the additional risk of an environmental catastrophe. Taking 5% of the US GDP for 2010 would give an environmental cost of $727 billion. As to health costs, the American Lung Association estimates the cost of exposure to particulates alone are as much as $281 billion annually. Those two add up to about $1.08 trillion for the US alone, and will surely grow unless we reduce our fossil fuel use.
One would also have to wonder about  Dr. Carter’s motives when he refers to the United Church of Christ as part of the “religious left”. One of the favorite tactics of fossil fuel companies is to label their critics as being leftists or liberals. The fossil fuel companies encourage the Cornwall Alliance, a religious organization based upon the doctrine of Dominionism, to try to stem the growing movements of conservation and environmental stewardship. The Cornwall alliance claims that stewardship is a Green Dragon trying to take over our churches and corrupt the true meaning of religion. Their videos feature a number of ministers who preach against mainstream stewardship.  It seems wrong to use the power and respect that people have for ministers and Scripture to criticize Christians who believe in good stewardship. The Cornwall Alliance will not reveal its funding sources, but its mission is certainly in harmony with that of the fossil fuel companies.

Some Christians believe that what is happening to the Earth is God’s Will and that we can do nothing about it. Others believe that if we begin to destroy the Earth, God will step in and save us. However, that type of rhetoric clashes with the idea of free will and personal responsibility. Certainly, the many churches that have acted out of a concern for their fellow man and a commitment to good stewardship should not be unfairly criticized.

(c) 2013 J.C. Moore

 

Book Review : Resisting the Green Dragon

Tue ,10/04/2012

 

Preface: I first encountered the Green Dragon on a blog post by Publius Redux where he introduced it with: “Now, here is a novel analysis of the undercurrent of urgency and irrationality characteristic of climate doomsayers’ prophecy. This explains the haunting familiarity of the preaching and proselytizing we have endured from the climate change fearmongers.” Curious, I tracked down an article about Resisting the Green Dragon by Dr. James Wanliss, Associate Professor of Physics at Presbyterian College. Finding no religious or scientific arguments that could possibly address the issues in the article, I wrote a play about what the future might hold for Dr. Wanliss, Publius and their followers.Sometime later I received a critique of my play from Dr. Wanliss and  subsequently offered to write a proper review if Dr. Wanliss would send me a copy, which he did. Dr. Wanliss said he wrote the book in part because he had been bullied by environmentalists. That is certainly a very bad thing, however replying in kind is usually not the correct response and revenge often hurts others than its intended victims. If you identify with environmentalism, mainstream religions, or believe we should be good stewards of the Earth, you may feel bullied while reading the book.

 The book claims not “to provide scientific or economic answers” as that is done by “multiple excellent resources that appear in the endnotes.” However those resources and end notes do not accurately represent the views of scientists, economists, or environmentalists – but are carefully picked from extreme positions, as are his examples. Dr. Wanliss gives examples of vegetarians, PETA members, Eco terrorists, environmental extremists, and someone who thinks men are “useless breathers” – and tries to claim they are representative of the Christian stewardship movement. They are not. Environmentalists may want you to make responsible choices, but that does not mean they want to “control how you live, eat, drive, and even the light you use to read by .” Environmentalists may have a goal of achieving balance in nature and sustainability, but Dr. Wanliss claims sustainability places “human life directly in the crosshairs of violent men.” And, are those violent men found in the Christian stewardship movement?

 The Cornwall Alliance: The book was published by the Cornwall Alliance which has chosen the Green Dragon as a symbol of their opposition to the growth of environmentalism in Christian churches. The Cornwall Alliance describes itself as a grassroots Christian movement. It does not disclose its funding sources but many paths to it come from corporations and fossil fuel interests and its message is certainly favorable to them. Dr. Wanliss says that he did not receive an advance from the Alliance and profits only from the royalties on the book. The Alliance has produced a series of videos based upon Resisting the Green Dragon , assailing its hold on the churches. There is little truth to much of the propaganda in the videos. They seem designed more to protect the profits of the fossil fuel companies than to protect the Earth, or the people who depend on the Earth for survival.

It became apparent in the early 1980s that carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels was causing changes in the environment that would impact mankind, particularly those in poor and indigenous societies who do not have the resources to adjust to the changing climate. Many churches have adopted statements encouraging environmentalism based upon good stewardship, some specifically mentioning the threat of greenhouse gases. For example, the denomination sponsoring the Presbyterian University where Dr. Wanliss teaches stated in 1989 and reaffirmed in 2008, its “serious concern that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems.”

Dragons: The Green Dragon on the dust cover of the book is a very ugly Dragon, but Dr. Wanliss may have misjudged what is in its heart. Though some mythical dragons were portrayed as evil, Draco in Dragonheart and Sapphira in Aragon imparted their ancient wisdom to mankind and helped them in the times of crisis. And it was the flying dragons in Avatar who helped the Na’vi drive out the greedy corporation destroying their planet and their homes for the sake of ore. Perhaps the Green Dragon is being vilified by the Cornwall Alliance so that we will not heed its message.

 Science: Although Dr. Wanliss is a physicist, there is very little climate physics in the book. He seems to have arrived at many of his opinions about climate science, not from peer-reviewed literature, but by films made by Al Gore and Martin Durkin, neither of which are scientists. Dr. Wanliss points out the errors in The Inconvenient Truth, and rejects it entirely. However, Al Gore received a Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental work and his movie won an Oscar. The movie also had its day in court in Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education, a suit which sought to prevent the educational use of An Inconvenient Truth in England. The court ruled that, though the film had some errors, it was substantially founded upon scientific research and fact and could be shown.

Dr. Wanliss embraces Martin Durkin’s movie, The Great Global Warming Swindle, though it is based upon bad science and fraud. How do I know that? Mr. Durkin gives the impression he is a geophysicist but his degrees are in medieval history and financial journalism. The movie distorts the work of some of the scientists that appear in it. For example, Dr. Friis-Christensen, said, “parts of the graph were made up of fabricated data that were presented as genuine.” He should know as it was his research that was distorted to support claims that recent climate change was the result of solar activity. Also, Dr. Carl Wunsch points out that the movie uses his data but distorts it. Ihe ocean would have had to release more CO2 than they had absorbed, so impossible that he calls it fraud. The movie also distorts NASA’s temperature record, something that can be easily checked. The two graphs are below, with the screen shot on the left showing how Durkin redrew the graph to support his claim that most of today’s global warming occurred before 1940.

 A 2010 StanfordUniversity poll of 1,372 climate scientists found that 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in climate science agree that global warming is occurring and man activities are the main factor. Research shows that global warming is causing many undesirable changes in the Earth and that no natural factors are significantly responsible.

 Ecology: Dr. Wanliss does not seem aware of the principles of ecology or the interrelation among species, as he says: “There has been, in past decades, a cosmic shift towards a social climate that begins to favor the environment — polar bears, trees, and bugs — over human beings.” Well, where would we be without the bears, trees, the environment, and umm … bugs?  He thinks that “destruction of one species can enormously benefit many others” and that man had a right to hunt sperm whales to extinction if we needed the oil. However, he does not seem aware that many species depend on the nutrients that the whales distribute throughout the ocean.  Passenger pigeons, once an important source of food, were hunted to extinction. And whooping cranes and buffaloes almost disappeared forever, but were saved from extinction by chance and a tremendous effort on the part of conservationists. Would we have missed them? The book tells the story about the Canary being used to test the safety of coal mines, using it to point out that some bird lover may have objected, putting the bird’s safety above that of the miners. Ecologists now tell us that many species are beginning to disappear from the Earth and many more are threatened by global warming. Would we want our grandchildren to go into a coal mine where the Canaries are dying?

Economics: Cap and trade is considered to be the free market solutions to reducing carbon emissions. It may not be the best, but it will help and it appears to be the way the nations are heading. Dr. Wanliss argues against it because he thinks it will lead to the creation of a world government and because of its high cost. We all share the same atmosphere and it is necessary that all industrialized and developing countries cooperate, but that is not the same as establishing a world government. Dr. Wanliss claims the cost of cap and trade regulations would amount to an annual cost of “$120,000 for the average family of four”. That value is unrealistically high – and it also ignores the cost of not acting. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of the cap-and-trade program by 2020 would average about $175 annually per household.

It is possible to estimate the cost of inaction on global warming. The Stern Report, using the results from formal economic models, estimates the overall costs and risks of climate change is equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year. And unaddressed, the cost could rise to 20% of GDP or more by 2050 – and increase the risk of an environmental catastrophe. Using 5% of the US GDP for 2010 would give an environmental cost of $727 billion. Reducing carbon emissions would also reduce particulates which the American Lung Association  cites as the primary cause 38,000 heart attacks and premature deaths each year as well as 1.5 million cases of acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma – which they estimate has an economic cost of $281 billion. Those two add up to about $1.01 trillion annually, and that is just for theUnited States. And what cost was should we put on premature death?

Religion: Dr. Wanliss’ view of the relationship between man, other species, and the Earth’s resources is based upon the doctrine of Dominionism. He bases this belief upon his interpretation of Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” From there, he uses a number of carefully selected Scriptures to argue how  “ the humans’ filling and ruling of the Earth can release it from bondage.” It is his view this will bring about the Second Coming which will render efforts to protect and sustain the planet useless.

 But, is the Earth not growing full? There are now 7 billion people on the planet and at our present birthrate, the population will double again this century. And have we not established dominion over the Earth? We now have fish and game laws, catch limits, and international treaties to protect other species as our needs have grown until we threaten their existence? The caveat in Dr. Wanliss’ argument is that the Second Coming will not occur until man has established Christian dominion. There are many religions on the Earth, and even among Christians, there are many different interpretations of the Scriptures. What he believes is necessary is very unlikely to happen in the next 50 years, and even if it did, there is no assurance that Dominionism is the true religion.

 Those who argue for Christian stewardship think that dominion means “benevolent rule”. Does it seem reasonable that God would make the heavens and the Earth and all the species, proclaim them good, and then give man a license to destroy them if he wished? And do some men have the right to seek dominion if by doing so they damage the lives and resources of other men? Dr. Wanliss makes a special point that dominion is not domination; however, men who wish to dominate and exploit the environment for profit will certainly find his arguments useful.

Native people: The book claims that the environmental movement is” dreadfully harmful to the environment and humans, particularly the poor” and at one point claims that environmentalists may be responsible for millions of deaths. It is most cynical and wrong to claim that environmentalists are somehow responsible for deaths and damage in the poorer countries of the world. Global warming is changing the environment and increasing the probability of severe weather events, particularly droughts. Last year’s drought on the Horn of Africa led to widespread famine and many deaths among the poor. The people of Kashmir are concerned that the glaciers that feed their streams in the summer are receding – making less water available. The Sherpa of Tibet worry that their villages may be flooded by lakes that now form each summer from melting glaciers, held back by unstable ice dams.

The Inuit in Greenland cannot use their traditional hunting grounds at the ice is too thin for their dog sleds to traverse. Those in the Arctic are having to move their coastal villages to keep them from being eroded away by wave action of open seas, which used to be ice year-round. Their inland villages are threatened because the permafrost upon which they are built now becomes a quagmire in the summer. They are being forced to change a way of life that sustained them for centuries. While some may adapt, their way of life and culture will be destroyed, and many will likely end up among the poor and unemployed.

Population: Dr. Wanliss says God has commanded us to fill the Earth and that we should let God decide how many children we shall have. But do not men and women have free will and the right to decide such things?  And, what happens when the earth is full? The Earth’s population has just surpassed 7 billion people and, at our present birthrate, will reach 14 billion sometime in the latter part of the 21st century. The Earth is finite and evidence suggests that the carrying capacity of the Earth is somewhere between 10 and 12 billion. When a population exceeds the carrying capacity of its environment, there is usually a massive die off of the population. For us, this might mean the deaths of billions of people through starvation and wars over resources.

 Prudence: Dr. Wanless believes that man has a remarkable ability to reason, and that is certainly true.  God has given us science so that we may understand nature by observation and reason. Scientific research shows that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that is damaging the Earth and will do so even more in the future. The EPA has determined that CO2 is an endangerment that may be regulated under the Clean Air Act, and the Supreme Court has upheld that ruling. Dr. Wanliss opposes action to correct the problem and thinks that when the Earth is full and Christian dominion is achieved, God will make our problems disappear. What if he is wrong? We will have a very full and a very hot, inhospitable Earth through our own ignorance, and not through God’s will. The Green Dragon, though a mythical creature created by Dr. Wanliss, would be a good symbol for Prudence.

 Resist? Dr. Wanliss is advising us to resist the Green Dragon based upon his religious views and personal philosophy. His book would certainly encourage some interesting discussions about the meaning of Hebrew words, the interpretation of scriptures, the meaning of free will, and the responsibility Christians have toward mankind, other species, and the Earth itself. Those discussions should occur among scientist, theologians, and philosophers who have the knowledge to defend their ideas. However, it seems wrong to use the power and respect that people have for ministers and Scripture to criticize Christians who believe in good stewardship. The Cornwall Alliance does just that, as resisting the Green Dragon aligns with profit motives. The only time Jesus showed anger in the Bible was when he drove the money changers from the Temple. How might Jesus feel about the Cornwall Alliance using Dr. Wanliss’ book to bring their corporate interests into places of worship? Perhaps Dr. Wanliss should rethink whether he wishes for his book to be used in that way.

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

Book Review: The Greatest Hoax by Sen. James Inhofe

Tue ,20/03/2012
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s long promised book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future is finally finished. It was published by WND Books, which has published other grand conspiracy books such as The Late Great USA: The Coming Merger with Mexico and Canada . The book will certainly be a hit with some lobbyists, politicians and corporate leaders. It may also be popular among scientists as it reveals some interesting things about Sen. Inhofe and gives scientists an opportunity to examine his ideas and arguments.

 Sen. Inhofe has served as the mayor of Tulsa and is the senior Senator from Oklahoma. He has been a strong advocate for many of his constituents and he has been a strong critic of the lack of openness of some congressional procedures. He was instrumental in getting federal Superfund money to clean up the Pitcher lead mines in northeastern Oklahoma. A large area of northeastern Oklahoma was affected and millions of dollars have been spent to try to mitigate the environmental damage. No one knew at the time that lead was toxic, and Pitcher is a perfect example of how what you don’t know can hurt you and be costly.

Sen. Inhofe has often stated “Global warming is a hoax” but proving that may be difficult. Every major scientific organizations in the world has adopted a statement similar to that of the American Chemical Society: ”Careful and comprehensive scientific assessments have clearly demonstrated that the Earth’s climate system is changing rapidly in response to growing atmospheric burdens of greenhouse gases and absorbing aerosol particles. There is very little room for doubt that observed climate trends are due to human activities. The threats are serious and action is urgently needed to mitigate the risks of climate change.” A 2010 Stanford University poll of 1,372 climate scientists found that 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in climate science agree that global warming is occurring and man activities are the main factor. The Greatest Hoax tries convincing us otherwise by quoting media sources, politicians, lobbyist, and the 2-3% of the scientists who claim to be skeptics, though some receive substantial rewards for being skeptical.  Legitimate science is based upon evidence and reason, but many of the ideas put forward in this book are not.

Politics:  Sen. Inhofe says: “I am not a scientist. I do understand politics. “He says he went into politics because a Tulsa city engineer would not approve his request to move a fire escape on his building. Mr. Inhofe told him that he was going to run for mayor and fire him when he won. And he did. It is possible that the engineer was following the building code adopted by the city’s elected officials, and that there may have been a good reason to leave the fire escape where it was, such as it being easily assessable in case of a fire. That incident, however, explains Senator Inhofe’s attitudes toward regulations, regulators, and scientists whose research show the need for regulations. It also explains the Senators approach to regulations. He sees them as an impediment to business but he does not see that most regulations are developed to protect the public. One of his favorite targets is the EPA, which was created by Pres. Nixon to protect the environment. Sen. Inhofe chose to work on the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works (EPW) committee so he could protect businesses from what he considers needless environmental regulations.

The Hoax: Sen. Inhofe was apparently convinced “global warming is a hoax” by one of the worse hoaxes in recent Congressional history. It started when Dr. Willie Soon managed to get a paper through the peer review process at Climate Reviews with the help of an editor sympathetic to his views. The paper reviewed the literature on climate science, and concluded that the global warming in the 20th century was not unusual and that natural forces, rather than man’s activities was the cause. An important piece of his evidence was the Medieval Warm Period, which he claimed was warmer than the latter 20th century. But there was something wrong with the paper. There were no accurate temperature records in Medieval Times, the Americas had not yet been discovered, and much of the Southern hemisphere was unknown. Dr. Soon’s paper contradicted the evidence from hundreds of other peer-reviewed papers. It caused quite a furor at Climate Reviews which ended with 3 members the editorial board resigning in protest and the newly hired chief editor stating the paper had serious errors and should never have been published. The EPA was unwilling to include the paper in its assessment of climate science, so Sen. Inhofe scheduled a meeting of the EPW committee to examine the paper.

Shortly before the meeting, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) issued a press release from 13 of the scientists whose work was used in Dr. Soon’s paper, saying the paper distorted their research. At the hearing, Michael Mann represented the scientific viewpoint, presenting evidence from multiple sources showing that the Medieval Warm period was not worldwide and resulted only in a small hump in the temperature record. Soon stood behind his work and testified that he had not received any funds that might have biased his objectivity. However, the paper lists the American Petroleum Institute as a major source of funding and documents received since from the Smithsonian Institution in response to FOIA requests, revealed that since 2001  Dr. Soon has received over $1 million in funding from oil and coal interests. Sen. Inhofe was upset by the turn of events and tried to get him fired – Michael Mann that is. At Sen. Inhofe’s insistence, the University of Pennsylvania, a Quaker University, has conducted 2 investigations into Dr. Mann’s research and found no misconduct. A 2010 Science article reviewed the investigations, declaring “Michael Mann is cleared, again. “ Dissatisfied with the ruling, Sen. Inhofe has tried to get the attorney general to charge Michael Mann with fraud. Sadly, for the first time in history, scientists are collecting a legal defense fund to defend scientists against political attacks. And even worse, the scientific opinion of the senior member of our Environmental and Public Works committee is apparently based on a paper that would not pass freshman English.

Endorsement: The Greatest Hoax was endorsed by Dr. R.M. Carter, a paleontologist from Australia, who was the star witness at Sen. Inhofe’s 2006 Senate hearing on Climate Change and the Media. No credible members of the media testified, and one might wonder why Sen. Inhofe would be interested in the media bias in Australia. Dr. Carter was likely there because he could be counted on to testify that historically the rise in global temperatures had always preceded rising carbon dioxide concentration; thus some natural cause must be releasing the carbon dioxide that is causing the temperature to rise. He was right about the role of carbon dioxide in increasing the Earth’s temperature, but he rather ignored the possibility that the CO2 concentration was rising because the burning of fossil fuels was releasing 30 billion tons of CO2 annually.

After the hearing, Dr. Carter was challenged by climatologists to produce research showing the natural variability he claimed, but the paper he belatedly produced was soon refuted when significant errors were found in his reasoning. Though two of the four scientists who testified at the hearing were skeptics, all four agreed that the Earth had warmed about 1°C in the last century. Sen. Inhofe’s own hearing had clearly refuted his claim: “Global warming is a hoax.” That was of little concern to Sen. Inhofe, as the main purpose of the hearing was to intimidate members of the press – as if that were needed.

Science: There is little science in the book, though much of the book is dedicated to discrediting science and scientists by quoting friends of his from the Heartland Institute, media personalities, and other politicians. He even sets up Al Gore as a strawman for scientists. In the book’s introduction, he displays a rather tasteless picture of Al Gore naked, and considerable space is devoted to vilifying him. That is a shame as Al Gore has served as a respected Senator, Vice President, and as a Presidential candidate came within a few hundred votes of being elected. Al Gore received a Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental work and his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, won an Oscar. The movie also had its day in court and won. Interestingly, the same Dr. Carter, who endorsed the book, was the star witness for the plaintiff in Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education, a suit which sought to prevent the educational use of An Inconvenient Truth in England. The court apparently did not agree with Dr. Carter and ruled that, though the film had some errors, it was substantially founded upon scientific research and fact and could be shown. Sen. Inhofe claims to be a free market capitalist, but he seems to take great umbrage that Al Gore has profited from his investments in green energy, apparently without realizing that most of those profits have been dedicated to promoting conservative causes, such as protecting the Earth.

Though he may be a skilled politician, in the partisan sense, Sen. Inhofe is correct when he says “I am not a scientist.” He does not understand how scientific knowledge from many fields fits together to form a consistent view of nature. For instance, the book tells that after a large snowfall in Washington D.C., his grandchildren built an igloo and put up a sign: “Al Gore’s New Home”. Sen. Inhofe used the picture to denounce global warming alarmism, though he should know that a single weather event proves nothing. And, if he were a scientist, he might understand how the warming oceans increase the probability of a record snowfall in Washington D.C. , making the igloo possible – and how carbon dioxide has made more probable the record heat waves in Texas and Oklahoma, making droughts and wildfires possible.

Sen. Inhofe shows he does not understand how science works when he brings up the “Coming Ice Age” story to discredit the scientific evidence.  The argument goes, “How can you trust science, when in the 1970s the scientists were predicting the coming of a new Ice Age, but now scientists claim that the Earth is warming?” In the 70’s, scientists found that increased industrialization was causing not only an increase in particulates, which would cause global cooling, but also an increase in CO2, which would increase global warming. There was no consensus among scientists about which effect would predominate.  A count of scientific papers in that decade showed that only 7 journal articles predicted that the global average temperature would continue to cool, while 44 papers indicated that the average temperature would rise. The research on global cooling was valuable as it showed a nuclear war was unwinnable as particulates from a nuclear exchange might create a nuclear winter, ending life on Earth as we know it.

Scientific controversies are usually settled by the evidence, but this one was settled by the intervention of man. Particulates are visible and have serious health consequences. By 1980, regulations were in place to limit particulate emissions and, as that happened, the temperature of the Earth began increasing again. The fossil fuel companies became alarmed, as it was becoming apparent that we should also limit carbon emissions to keep the Earth’s temperature at equilibrium, so they began a propaganda campaign to convince us that carbon dioxide was harmless. If you believe that, remember the lesson of Pitcher, Oklahoma. What you don’t know can hurt you and be very costly.

Cap and Trade: Sen. Inhofe claims that cap and trade is the “crown jewel” of a global conspiracy of scientists, Hollywood stars, and media personalities who want to take away your freedom and create a world government. However, cap and trade was devised by free-market conservatives for President Reagan, who used it successfully to stop the acid rain drifting into Canada from our Northeastern power plants. It was part the Clean Air Act signed into law by President Bush I and many prominent Republicans, including John McCain, have supported it. Cap and trade is considered to be the market solution to reducing carbon emissions. It is described by the EPA as “an environmental policy tool that delivers results with a mandatory cap on emissions while providing sources flexibility in how they comply. Successful cap and trade programs reward innovation, efficiency, and early action and provide strict environmental accountability without inhibiting economic growth.” Does that sound like it “Threatens Your Future” , as the subtitle of the book claims? And, it  cannot be making Al Gore rich – or be the cause of rising energy prices – as it has not yet been enacted for carbon emissions.

Costs: Sen. Inhofe main objection to environmental regulations is their tremendous cost; but an accurate analysis of costs and benefits are not in the book. He just claims that it would cost each U.S. household $3,100 a year, a cost that has great sticker shock, but is totally inaccurate. Dr. John Reilly, the MIT economist whose work was used to arrive at that number, has publicly criticized a Republican lobbyist for distorting his work to arrive at that inflated value. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of the cap-and-trade program by 2020 would average about $175 annually per household, and that associated savings would reduce the federal deficit by about $19 billion over the next decade. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences details other high economic costs of inadequate environmental legislation, such as reduced streamflow, rainfall, and crop yields. Yet Congress has refused to act on the matter.

Also, Sen. Inhofe seems to have left some important items out of his balance sheet, such as the true cost of using fossil fuels. The true cost of a resource should include repairing damage caused by its use and disposing of the waste. We are in effect subsidizing the fossil fuel industry by allowing them to freely discharge their wastes into the environment. Some of the “true costs” of fossil fuel use, such as health and environmental costs can be estimated. Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank and one of the world’s top economists, has used the results from formal economic models to examine the potential cost of failure to limit our carbon emissions. He estimates that the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the cost of mitigation and damages could rise to 20% of GDP or more in the future – and we would run the additional risk of an environmental catastrophe.

Taking 5% of the US GDP for 2010, would give an environmental cost of $727 billion. As to health costs, the American Lung Association estimates that the EPA’s proposed guidelines for particulates could prevent 38,000 heart attacks and premature deaths, 1.5 million cases of acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma, and 2.7 million days of missed work or school. They estimate the economic benefits of reduced exposure to particulates alone could reach as much as $281 billion annually. Those two add up to about $1.08 trillion. The calculations do not include all the environmental and health costs, but they do show about how much we are subsidizing the fossil fuel industries by ignoring the damage to people’s health and the environment.

Sen. Inhofe, in his Rachel Maddow interview, stated that the cost of cap and trade would be $30-$40 billion annually. That is about 1/30 of what the environmental and health costs might eventually be. Then, it is rather hard to put a value on those premature deaths or the added risk of environmental catastrophes. The number of billion-dollar weather disasters has increased fivefold over the last 30 years, and insurance giants such as Suisse Re now consider man-made global warming real, and a risk factor in setting insurance rates. Increased insurance rates will be an additional out of pocket cost, which could easily offset the $175 the CBO estimated that cap and trade would cost.

Scientists: To get around the strong consensus of scientists, the book claims there is a global conspiracy of liberal scientists bent on creating a world government, that climate science is a religion, that climate scientists are in it for the money, and that Climategate proves climate scientists are dishonest. None of those claims are supported by verifiable evidence. Most scientists are good citizens, conservative in their statements and actions. Most are religious, with stewardship and concern for their fellow man being part of their religion. The Presbyterian church, where Senator Inhofe claims membership, stated in 1989 and reaffirmed in 2008, its “serious concern that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems.”

 The book calls climate scientists “alarmists” in a derogatory sense, but many are becoming alarmed. Research shows that the Earth’s climate is changing because of our emissions of CO2, yet Congress has not acted to solve the problem. Scientists were criticized for considering the problem catastrophic, but they realize our carbon emissions will have an affect for 100 years or more into the future and inaction will threaten our food and water supply,increase the risk of severe weather events, and a possibly lead to an environmental catastrophe. Remember what happened at Pitcher, Oklahoma because lead mining was considered harmless.

Sen. Inhofe often calls those who disagree with him “liberals”, but the meaning of liberal and conservative seem to be flexible. During the American Revolution, it was the liberals who wanted to create a democracy and conservatives who thought that King George had a divine right to rule. Sen. Inhofe uses “liberals” to describe environmentalists and others who want to preserve the earth – and uses “conservatives” for those who want to conserve power and profits.

He describes Rachel Maddow as one of his favorite liberals, but that may change. In his book he said “Rachel’s segment was one of the last major efforts to go after me just days before I landed in Copenhagen and declared vindication.” However in his recent interview on Rachel’s show, she showed the clip. Nowhere in the clip does it mention Copenhagen or climate change. Rather than apologize, he said he couldn’t remember everything he said in the 350 pages of fine print in the book, raising questions about how much of the book he actually wrote. Apparently liberal can also mean “pesky”.

Big Oil: Sen. Inhofe tells some good stories of the old days in the Oklahoma oilfields, but back then Tulsa was the Oil Capital of the World and our domestic oil producers were a different breed from today’s multinational oil companies. They have little loyalty to the United States and little concern for our citizens or the environment. They have created some of the greatest man-made environmental disasters and resisted compensating their victims fairly. After the furor over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP’s CEO commented “I want my life back”, but he could not give back the 11 lives lost because of his decisions. Although he promised to compensate Americans damaged by the oil spill, BP appointed a lawyer to disperse the funds, who made many of the victims “take it or leave it” offers. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Exxon Mobil went all the way to the Supreme Court to avoid paying the $5 billion in damages owed the native Alaskans. Koch oil was charged in Oklahoma of cheating Native Americans and the government out $5 billion in oil royalties. They settled the case out of court for a 10th of the $5 billion, with no admission of wrongdoing. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Last year, the world’s 5 largest oil companies received $4 billion in tax break subsidies. Yet, they reported $171 billion in profits, while most US businesses and citizens struggled with financial losses, in part caused by the steep rise in fuel prices. Sen. Inhofe says his goal is “energy self-sufficiency” for the United States, yet last year the leading US export was fuels, so Big Oil companies are selling American oil abroad, creating a shortage in the United States that is driving up prices. Increasing their profits is their main goal, even though carbon emissions may cause a man-made environmental disaster much greater than oil spills. To defend their profits, these companies are now the major contributors to the science denial machine that Sen. Inhofe defends in his book.

Heartland Foundation: Sen. Inhofe was able to poke fun at himself when he said” Nature strikes back”, referring to a serious illness he contacted while swimming in a lake contaminated with toxic blue-green algae, whose growth was fueled by water pollution and the heat wave and Oklahoma. The illness caused him to miss the meeting of the Heartland Institute where he was to be a keynote speaker. His relation to the Heartland Institute is troubling. The Heartland Institute, once a major source of propaganda designed to prove there was no link between smoking, cancer, and lung disease, has now turned its considerable experience and resources into producing propaganda disputing the link between carbon emissions and global warming. Big Oil provides much of the funding for the Heartland Institute, and other similar “conservative” think tanks, who channel millions of dollars into the denial of science. The Heartland Institute is a gathering place for Big Oil’s lobbyists, loyal politicians, and paid skeptics. Many of those are the sources of information for Sen. Inhofe’s book. How accurate is that information likely to be?

Skeptics:  Science values its skeptics as they make science strong by pointing out areas that need more investigation, and they sometimes making valuable contributions to science. When Richard Muller questioned NASA’s temperature records, he evaluated all 6 billion pieces of weather station data, and came to the conclusion that the temperature record was accurate. When O’Donnell doubted Steig’s work showing Antarctica was warming, he re-analyzed the data and found that indeed Antarctica, the coldest place on Earth, was getting warmer.

Skeptics are expected to follow the methodologies and the ethics of science, to subject their work to review by their peers, and to divulge conflicts of interest. Many of those Sen. Inhofe praises as “climate skeptics” do not meet those criteria. They profit from being skeptical and, when research shows them wrong, they continue to repeat their skeptical arguments anyway. An example is Anthony Watts, who started the Surface Station Project to examine the data from weather stations, which he claimed had errors. The AGU took his skepticism seriously and did a thorough study on the weather stations, finding the data was reliable. They had offered Watts a chance to participate in the research, but he missed his chance to be a scientist when he refused. And though the question has been answered, Mr. Watts is still repeating the same criticisms – and collecting substantial donations to continue his Surface Station Project. There are many skeptics like Mr. Watts, who receives generous grants from think tanks, not for fundamental research, but to come up with ideas to cast doubt on the IPCC, climate research, and the work of legitimate scientists. Many of the paid skeptics appear in Sen. Inhofe’s book as his sources for information, quotes, and references.

Vindication: In this chapter of the book, Sen. Inhofe claims vindication, but it is hard to imagine sufficient vindication for displaying a picture of Al Gore naked. Sen. Inhofe does claim he is vindicated by the Climategate e-mails. Hackers broke into the computers of England’s Hadley Climatic Research Unit (CRU), and stole 10 years of e-mails exchanged between the scientists. Quotes from the stolen e-mails were taken out of context, distorted, and released to media sources with claims the CRU scientists engaged in illegal and unethical acts. As of today, eight independent formal investigations have been completed and none have found any scientific misconduct by the scientists involved. The incident was dubbed “Climategate” , but it was in no way like Watergate. In Wategate, the thieves were caught and punished and those who masterminded the plot were publicly disgraced. In Climategate, the thieves have been hailed by some skeptics as heroes – and the victims of the theft have been vilified.  It seems strange that Scotland Yard is searching for the hackers, while Sen. Inhofe is gleefully helping spread the misinformation. So, rather than being like Watergate, the e-mail scandal was actually more like Stargate, fictional fantasy. The accusations of wrongdoing by some of the skeptical scientists, made before the matter could be investigated, were particularly egregious as scientist’s ethical codes say that:” Public comments on scientific matters should be made with care and precision, without unsubstantiated, exaggerated, or premature statements.”

Winning: Sen. Inhofe claims he is winning, but he can’t be talking about the scientific debate. All the world’s major scientific organizations think he is losing, as do 97 – 98% of the climate scientists, and 83% of American voters.  A 2011 Stanford poll found that 83% of Americans say that global warming is happening with 88% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans saying it is the result of human action. Attacking scientists may prove to be contrary to the Republican party’s best interest. While polls find scientist’s trustworthiness is  highly rated , with 84% having a favorable view of scientists, Congress’ approval has now dropped to around 9%. This may be indicative of the public’s dissatisfaction with the partisanship and gridlock in Congress, occurring for reasons well on display in this book.

Although some members of Congress and some of the public may listen to Sen. Inhofe, nature doesn’t. No matter how much he claims “hoax”, research shows the climate is changing in response to man’s activities. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing, the temperature of the Earth is rising, the oceans are becoming more acidic, glaciers and polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, the probability of severe weather events is increasing, and weather-related natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more costly. It’s time we examine more closely who is actually winning by ignoring science.

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

Who Wants to Kill the Electric Car?*

Fri ,13/01/2012

 Who wants to kill the electric car? Apparently, a lot of people do. During the 1920’s, the Milburn electric cars were popular, particularly with the ladies who didn’t like cranking gasoline engines to start them.  In 1928, General Motors bought the Milburn out and it disappeared. In 1996, the EV1 electric cars appeared on roads in California. They were quiet and fast and produced no exhaust fumes. They were manufactured by GM under a mandate to reduce vehicle emissions. Ten years later, these futuristic cars were almost completely gone. A documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car , determined that the batteries were not the problem but that the culprits were mainly oil companies who stood to lose enormous profits if EV sales took off and GM, who didn’t think they would make enough profit from the car. If GM had developed and improved the EV1, they might not have gone bankrupt.

House Of Cards: Much of the damage to the EV1 was done by misinformation directed at politicians, regulatory agencies, and the consumer. The same campaign is being used against the new crop of electric cars. In a Seeking Alpha article, Why The Electric Vehicle House Of Cards Must Fall, John Petersen continues the tactic. First, Mr. Petersen determines the value of an electric car by using an “analysis that starts with a $19,000 gasoline powered vehicle, deducts the costs of unnecessary internal combustion drivetrain components and then adds the incremental costs of necessary electric drivetrain components.” This analysis found a $38,800 cost for an electric vehicle. That cost is not unreasonable but the analysis is something like taking a conventional oven, stripping it, and adding parts to convert it to a microwave. There are many hybrids and electric cars on the market that have an MSRP much less than $38,800, such as the 4 passenger Mitsubishi MiEV which is rated at 112 MPGe and listed at $21,625. The price of the vehicles will certainly come down, as Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu said at the Detroit Auto Show he expects the cost for electric car batteries to drop from a whopping $12,000 in 2008, to $3500 by 2015 and $1500 by 2020. Currently there are waiting lists to purchase many electric cars and hybrids because of high demand, so there is little chance for price negotiations.

The article goes on, “Electric drive proponents are selling a house of cards based on fundamentally flawed assumptions and glittering generalities that have nothing to do with real world economics. Their elegant theories and justifications cannot withstand paper, pencil and a four function calculator.” However, Mr. Petersen bases his economic analysis on his $38,800 cost and a list of subsidies from what he calls an “extraordinary article”, The Real Costs of Alternative Energy by Alex Planes . Fortunately for the future of electric cars, Mr. Planes’ real costs are extraordinarily misleading.

Subsidies: Mr. Planes says, “a clear-headed look at the true costs of energy is something many — including our political leaders — sorely need.” He goes on,“Subsidies are just one of the costs of supporting alternative energy, but are they worth it?” Using U.S. Energy Information Administration data, Mr. Planes calculates the subsidies to energy sources in terms of the dollars per barrel of oil equivalencies. The subsidies he comes up with are coal: $0.39, oil and gas: $0.28, solar: $63, and wind $32.59. Based on his values, he says renewable energy’s costs to the government are “in some cases so high, and the actual energy returns so low, that it hardly seems worth the investment. Solar’s pitiful slice of American power use — less than a single day’s worth of oil consumption — is underwritten by enough taxpayer money to simply buy most of the power outright and provide it to taxpayers for free.” Subsidies are a poor way to estimate “true costs” as they are more indicative of the perceived future value of the resource to society.

True Cost? The reason Mr. Planes article is extraordinarily wrong is that he does not really give you the “true cost” of the use of fossil fuels. The true cost  of a resource includes not only the price but also the cost of cleaning up the environment and disposing of the waste. Fossil fuels dispose of their waste by releasing it into the air which causes damage to the environment and health problems for many Americans. We are in effect subsidizing the fossil fuel industry by the cost of allowing them to freely discharge their wastes into the environment. Any effort to determine the “real cost” of subsidies should include health and environmental costs. Mr. Planes says in the comments section of his article that he perhaps should rewrite his article to include what he calls the external costs. In the meantime, many people are using his incomplete analysis to disparage sustainable energy sources.

A Truer Cost: It is difficult to come up with an exact value for the “real subsidies” to the fossil fuel industry, but it is possible to estimate their magnitude. Top economists such as Britain’s Nicholas Stern, using the results from formal economic models, estimates that if we don’t limit our carbon emissions, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more in the future, and we would run the additional risk of an environmental catastrophe.

Using 5% of the US GDP for 2010 would give an environmental cost of $727 billion. The American Lung Association estimates that the EPA’s proposed guidelines for particulates could prevent 38,000 heart attacks and premature deaths, 1.5 million cases of acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma, and 2.7 million days of missed work or school. They estimate the economic benefits associated with reduced exposure to soot to reach as much as $281 billion annually. Those two add up to about $1.01 trillion, and when divided by the 13541 million barrels of oil equivalent given in Mr. Planes article for coal, gas and oil together amounts to an additional subsidy of $73.9 per barrel of oil equivalent. The subsidies to wind and solar electric energy do not look so bad if you actually use fossil fuels: $74, solar: $63, and wind: $32.59. The calculations do not include all the environmental and health costs, but they do give an idea of how much we are subsidizing the fossil fuel industries by ignoring the damage to people’s health and the environment. Then there is the added risk of an environmental catastrophe.

 Disclosures: In an apparent effort to be evenhanded, as required by Motley Fool, Mr. Planes then concludes, “Wind and solar power have their drawbacks, but continue to make notable improvements year after year. However, neither option can yet provide the clean, constant, and convenient power the world demands. Natural gas offers the best opportunity for the near term. It’s plentiful, well-developed, and efficient, and will take on greater importance as dirtier hydrocarbons lose market share. ” Mr. Planes then offers you a free analysis of an “exciting opportunity to play the natural gas boom, by investing in a small company turning our oil-guzzling vehicle fleet into clean-burning natural gas machines.” He disclosed that he holds no stock in natural gas vehicles, but he may not be disclosing a bias against renewable energy. He refers to one of Robert Bryce’s books in his paper and his analysis sounds much like those in Mr. Bryce’s “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green Energy’ and the Real Fuels of the Future”. In Mr. Bryce’s  5 Myths about Green Energy, he attacks green energy using false comparisons, misquotes, scientific inaccuracies, and the omission of pertinent facts. It is not surprising that  Mr. Bryce is not a fan of green energy as he is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, which receives large donations from the Koch Foundation and Exxon/Mobile.

 Mr. Petersen, using Mr. Plane’s analysis, finds, “The law of economic gravity cannot be ignored and will not be mocked. Shiny new electric vehicles from General Motors, Ford Nissan, Toyota, Tesla Motors and a host of privately held wannabe’s like Fisker Motors and Koda are doomed to catastrophic failure. Their component suppliers will fare no better. There is no amount of political or wishful thinking that can change the inevitable outcome.” When Mr. Petersen was asked about the omission of health and environmental costs in a comment on his article, he replied he was only interested in “hard authoritative numbers.”

 Obscenity? Mr. Petersen goes on, “The ultimate obscenity is that a conversion from gasoline drive to electric drive will not reduce the total amount of energy used in transportation. It merely shifts the energy burden from lightly subsidized oil and gas to more heavily subsidized energy from coal, nuclear and renewables.”  Not really. The amount of energy used would be reduced even if using electricity from traditional coal fired power plants to charge the electric vehicle. Coal-fired power plants have a thermodynamic efficiency of about 30%. Electric motors are now about 90% efficient in converting electric energy to work and when considering friction, power line transmission losses, energy lost when the batteries are charged, and the energy gained by regenerative braking, the overall efficiency of using coal to run electric cars comes out around 20%. Internal combustion engines have a thermodynamic efficiency of about 15% but drive train losses reduce that to an overall efficiency around 10%. These efficiencies are reasonable as a  paper by Stanford University  comparing “source to wheel efficiencies” rated the electric Tesla at 1.145 km/MJ of and the gasoline powered Honda Civic at 0.515 km/MJ. At current prices, that figures out to about 5 cents/mile for the Tesla and about 12 cents/mile for the Honda.

  Using sustainable energy sources to charge the batteries would be the ideal case as the “energy source to wheel” efficiency would be 60 to 80% and the carbon emissions would be greatly reduced.  There would be a substantial savings in energy and carbon emissions even if using electric cars charged using coal-fired power plants. Electric vehicles have the added advantage that the infrastructure to charge the batteries is already in place. The electric car does not seem to be built on such a house of cards as Mr. Petersen’s article suggests.

An article titled Investors See Climate Opportunity to Make Money, Create Jobs, reports 450 large institutional investors who control more than $20 trillion worldwide, agree “climate change is a risk to avoid and also an opportunity to make a good return on investments.” It reports “Global clean-energy investments reached $260 billion in 2011, some five times more than the $50 billion in 2005.” Our energy needs will best be served by a mixture of traditional and alternate energy sources and we should not let pessimistic analyses keep us from investing in and developing the alternate sources.

* Revised to include a more recent Stern Report on 01/22/2012.

 (c) 2012 J.C. Moore

 

Have Republicans Abandoned Conservative Values?

Wed ,01/09/2010

The truth is that conservation and environmental stewardship are core conservative values.

It is hard to imagine how someone can be considered a Conservative if they don’t want to conserve the most important thing we have, the environment. They claim that they actually do, but not just now, not in that way, or not if it might cost a little. They also try to perpetuate the myth that conservation and environmental protection are liberal causes to justify their opposition. The truth is that conservation and environmental stewardship are core conservative values. (1)

It is even harder to imagine why the Republican Party would embrace the ideals and arguments of those non-conservationists. Our past Republican leaders have been strong advocates for environmental stewardship and they were responsible for enacting some of our most significant environmental legislation. (2)

Theodore Roosevelt believed that conservation was essential for keeping America strong and he was responsible for the permanent preservation of many of the unique natural resources of the United States. As he said,

“To waste, to destroy, our natural resources … will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity

Dwight Eisenhower was the first President to be so taken by the beauty of the arctic wilderness that he set aside 9 million acres as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be protected  for future generations. The Refuge remains as one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the United States.
Richard Nixon enacted many of the nation’s landmark environmental laws, which he saw as a means of unifying the nation. The EPA was created under Nixon’s leadership. According to Nixon:

“Clean air, clean water, open spaces — these should once again be the birthright of every American.” “…we must strike a balance so that the protection of our irreplaceable heritage becomes as important as its use. The price of economic growth need not and will not be deterioration in the quality of our lives and our surroundings.”

Barry Goldwater, dubbed “Mr. Conservative”, was a gifted photographer who produced beautiful pictures illustrating his beloved Arizona landscape. He put his finger on it when he said :

“While I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment.”

Ronald Reagan signed 43 bills preserving a total of 10.6 million acres of wilderness. He was instrumental in U.S. ratification of the Montreal Protocol — which dramatically reduced depletion of the upper atmosphere’s protective ozone layer. He developed a cap-and–trade system that prevented our acid rain form blowing into Canada that cost much less than even the government estimated. As he communicated:

“If we’ve learned any lessons during the past few decades, perhaps the most important is that preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense. Our physical health, our social happiness, and our economic well-being will be sustained only by all of us working in partnership as thoughtful, effective stewards of our natural resources.” “I’m proud of having been one of the first to recognize that states and the federal government have a duty to protect our natural resources from the damaging effects of pollution that can accompany industrial development.”

John McCain during his 2008 presidential campaign, proposed a pragmatic national energy policy based upon good stewardship, good science, and reasonableness. He cosponsored cap-and-trade bills in the Senate in 2003, 2005, and 2007 and, as he said then,

“A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy. And the highest rewards will go to those who make the smartest, safest, most responsible choices.” And he was right. Having to pay the true cost of fossil fuel use is fair and would create incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Cap-and-trade was once considered to be the market solution to reducing carbon emissions. When popular, a number of key Republicans, such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) went on record as endorsing the policy. Even Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), only two years ago, while supporting a version of a cap-and-trade bill in the Massachusetts legislature said:

“Reducing carbon dioxide emission in Massachusetts has long been a priority of mine. Passing this legislation is an important step … towards improving our environment.” (3)

Costs: But somewhere amid lobbying, big donations from power companies, and criticisms from so called conservatives who don’t really want to conserve much, the Republicans have backed off the cap-and-trade concept. They are now claiming it would cost each U.S. household $3,100 a year, a cost that has great sticker shock but is totally inaccurate. Dr. John Reilly, the MIT economist whose work was used to get that number, has criticized Republicans for distorting his work. (4) The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would average about $175 per household (5) and estimates are that associated savings would reduce the federal deficit by about $19 billion over the next decade. (6). A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences details the high economic costs of inadequate environmental legislation, such as reduced streamflow, rainfall, and crop yields (7). Estimates by the World’s top economists such as Britain’s Nicholas Stern (8) are that right now it would cost about 2% of the worlds GDP to mitigate environmental damage – but if delayed, that amount could rise to 20% or more of the world’s GDP by 2050 and put us at risk of an environmental catastrophe.

The misinformation, the damage to the environment, and waste that would be caused by not acting should alarm traditional Republicans. However, according to the Republicans for Environmental Protection, the GOP establishment has lost sight of its

“core conservative values, largely due to the influence of corporate lobbies and political leaders beholden to them for campaign support, and in opposition of the willingness of populist Democrats to embrace environmental protection. The result has been a polarizing battle that is not at all about the advance of conservative principles, but rather the advance of special interest political agendas.” (1)

(1) http://www.rep.org/index.html Republicans concerned about the environment may wish to check out this Republicans for Environmental Protection website.
(2) The quotes below came from http://www.conservamerica.org/quotes.html
(3) http://www.grist.org/article/2010-06-29-remember-when-republicans-liked-cap-and-trade/
(4) http://flavcountry.blogspot.com/2009/05/mit-economist-john-reilly-calls.html
(5) http://cboblog.cbo.gov/?p=300
(6) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38130006/ns/politics-capitol_hill/
(7) http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_15536630
(8) http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTINDONESIA/Resources/226271-1170911056314/3428109-1174614780539/SternReviewEng.pdf

The Republican Flip/Flop on Cap-and-Trade

Thu ,22/07/2010

A Winning Flip: I can remember when Republicans liked Cap-and-trade. (1) For instance, John McCain cosponsored cap-and-trade bills in the Senate in 2003, 2005, and 2007 and, during his 2008 presidential campaign, proposed a pragmatic national energy policy based upon good stewardship, good science, and reasonableness. As he said then,

“A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy. And the highest rewards will go to those who make the smartest, safest, most responsible choices.”

And he was right. Having to pay the true cost of fossil fuel use is fair and would create incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Cap-and-trade was once considered to be the market solution to reducing carbon emissions. While popular, a number of key Republicans, such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) went on record as endorsing the policy. Even Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), only two years ago, while supporting a version of a cap-and-trade bill in the Massachusetts legislature said:

”Reducing carbon dioxide emission in Massachusetts has long been a priority of mine. Passing this legislation is an important step … towards improving our environment.”

But somewhere amid lobbying, big donations from power companies, and criticisms from so called conservatives who don’t really want to conserve much, the Republicans are now calling it cap-and-tax, essentially making fun of what was once their own idea.

The Sticker Shock Distortion Flop: In an effort to kill the bill, Republicans such as Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) are now claiming cap-and-trade would cost each U.S. households about $3,100 a year, a cost that has considerable sticker shock. However, that number was fabricated by doing some misleading  additional math on a MIT study. Dr. John Reilly, the economist who authored the study, has criticized Republicans for distorting his work. In his words,

“It’s just wrong, It’s wrong in so many ways it’s hard to begin.” Not only is it wrong, but he said he told the House Republicans it was wrong when they asked him. “That’s just not how economists calculate the cost of a tax proposal”, Reilly said. “The tax might push the price of carbon-based fuels up a bit, but other results of a cap-and-trade program, such as increased conservation and more competition from other fuel sources, would put downward pressure on prices.” Moreover, he said, consumers would get some of the tax back from the government in some form. (2)

What Is the Uninflated Cost? The report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the entity responsible for providing Congress with nonpartisan analyses of economic and budget issues, estimates that the net annual economywide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion—or an average of about $175 per household. That figure includes the cost of restructuring the production and use of energy but it does not include the economic benefits and other benefits of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the associated slowing of climate change. Households in the lowest income bracket would see an average net benefit of about $40 in 2020 while those in the highest bracket would see a net cost of $245. Overall, net costs would average 0.2 percent of households’ after-tax income. (3) That doesn’t seem so bad, particularly as the CBO experts also estimate the climate and energy bill now stalled in the Senate would reduce the federal deficit by about $19 billion over the next decade. (4)

The High Cost of Doing Nothing: The cost of doing nothing may be unacceptably high in the long run because of resource scarcity, environmental damage, and the risk of reachng catastrophic tipping points. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences details the high economic costs of reduced streamflow, rainfall, and crop yields (5). Estimates by the World’s top economists such as Britain’s Nicholas Stern (6) or the US’s Paul Krugman (7) are that right now it would cost about 2% of the worlds GDP to mitigate environmental damage – but if delayed, that amount could rise to 20% or more of the world’s GDP and put us at risk of an environmental catastrophe.

A Flip is Needed: What is it worth to have clean air, clean water, a more sustainable economy, and a less risky future? Can we risk doing nothing? We need a flip by our Republican leaders.

(1) http://www.grist.org/article/2010-06-29-remember-when-republicans-liked-cap-and-trade/

(2) http://flavcountry.blogspot.com/2009/05/mit-economist-john-reilly-calls.html

(3) http://cboblog.cbo.gov/?p=300

(4) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38130006/ns/politics-capitol_hill/

(5) http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_15536630

(6)   http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTINDONESIA/Resources/226271-1170911056314/3428109-1174614780539/SternReviewEng.pdf

(7)  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/magazine/11Economy-t.html

Bits and Pieces

Fri ,16/07/2010

This article contains bits and pieces, usually short comments on recent science  articles and issues. Other bits and pieces will be added with the newest at the top.

The High Cost of Doing Nothing: A  report by the National Academy of Sciences details the high economic cost of inaction on environmental legislation (2). It’s relatively easy to figure the cost of regulations to protect the environment, but relatively hard to keep from inflating the cost for political purposes.  As a Republican, I am a little ashamed that Republicans have adopted the grossly inflated annual figure of $3200 per  household. That is useful for sticker shock and propaganda, but totally inaccurate. The CBO has estimated that it would cost around $300 and that there would be added savings that would reduce the deficit.

The cost of regulations  should  be compared to the cost of doing nothing. Estimates by the World’s top economists such as Britain’s Nicholas Stern or the US’s Paul Krugman are that right now it would cost about 2% of the worlds GDP to mitigate environmental damage – but if delayed, that amount could rise to 20% or more. That also doesn’t take into account intangibles such as clean air,  clean water, and a more sustainable economy.

Ocean Acidification is Serious: Since preindustrial times, the concentration of CO2 in the air has risen from 280 ppm to 385 ppm, a 38% increase.   As the amount of CO2 in the air increases, the amount that  dissolves in the ocean increases proportionately.  When the CO2 dissolves in seawater, it makes it more acidic, just as adding CO2 to soda makes it acidic. The pH of sea water has  been measured to be  more acidic by 0.1 pH unit than a century ago. Since the  pH scale  is logarithmic, the decrease of 0.1 unit means the oceans are now over 20% more acidic than a century ago and the cause is most certainly CO2.

To put that in perspective, human blood has a  carbonate buffer system similar to that of the oceans.  Normal blood pH is from 7.45 to 7.35 , and a blood pH less than 7.1 would require emergency treatment. Increasing the carbon dioxide in the blood by 38% will decreased the blood pH to about 7.25, not critical, but surely a sign that something is wrong. If the oceans get much more acidic, the coral, the fisheries, the shellfish, and the oxygen-producing plankton that give life to the oceans are threatened.

Complaints about the “scientific secrecy” are disingenuous: There is very little secrecy in science. Scientific papers are presented and openly debated at meetings where anyone can attend. The peer reviewed papers include the data, the results, and the reasoning and are available at public libraries and many are now online. Also:

Researchers are required to keep records of their research so that any other scientist with comparable training and skills could reproduce the research. The “reproducibility” of the research is an important factor in the reviewer’s evaluation of the research. The public has a right to information produced by publicly funded research and that may be requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Usually a “Gatekeeper”, such as the project’s director, is designated to handle FOIA requests. That Gatekeeper has a responsibility to see not only that the public’s rights are upheld, but also to see that the FOIA process is not abused and that the scientists are protected. (1)

Only a few things are kept confidential to preserve the integrity of the peer review process.  The main barriers preventing a better understanding of science by the public is not “secrecy”, but poor science education, the lack of responsible and informative reporting by the media, and an ongoing campaign to spread misinformation by those who find the conclusions of science inconvenient to their ideological or financial interests.