Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good news for polar bears

That ice jus keep on growin, say Watts up with that? Bad news for the WWF though.


Some progress on nukes

A great deal is heard about the need for more nuclear energy, but we hear very little about progress in the popular media about renewing the nuclear estate.

An indication of the timescale, however, comes in the regional newspaper, The Daily Post, with an update on plans to commission a new nuclear reactor at Wylfa in Anglesey, North Wales.

The existing plant, one of the original Magnox reactors, was in the news last year when it had been taken over by the state owned Nuclear Decommissioning Agency. This meant that EU rules on state aid prevented selling electricity at below market rates to the local aluminium smelter, thus forcing its closure.

With the plant itself now due for closure in December, the site has been acquired by a consortium of E.ON UK and RWE npower, calling itself Horizon Nuclear Power. It is saying that "given the right market conditions" it aims to apply for planning approval in 2012. All things then being equal, it will construct a nuclear facility with up to 3,300MW of generation capacity. The target for completion is 2020.

This is the first of what will be the new batch of up to ten new nuclear plants, and that gives some indication of where we stand. The 2020 date is undoubtedly optimistic, and some slippage is almost inevitable, more so as already the greenies are gathering (pictured) to express their disapproval.

On that basis, the very earliest we can expect new nuclear capacity it about 2020, but possibly a good few years later. That is progress, of a sort, but rather confounds Ed Miliband's hopes that some of the new plants could be producing energy by as early as 2018.

The energy gap, therefore, is there. It is real and it is going to take a lot of gas capacity to fill it. The wind fantasy is never going to deliver.


The land of perpetual crisis

Strangely, some might think, for a blog which was founded specifically to track EU affairs – with a view to fighting the referendum promised by Blair that never happened – I haven't covered the Greek financial crisis.

Partly, this was because another matter claimed my attention, the all-embracing issue of "climate change" which has within it the potential to damage the European Union when, as indeed it must, a core policy crashes and burns. Mainly though, the lack of attention stemmed from a combined sense of déjà vu and ennui - the EU was in yet another crisis.

The thing is that the EU is always in a crisis. It lives for crises. The very construct is a living embodiment of the doctrine of crisis, exploiting the most powerful and effective dynamic in politics, the "beneficial crisis" as a means of effecting its one and only policy – political integration.

Thus, the idea that, because of the financial incompetence of Greece, the corruption of its leaders and much else besides, the euro was under threat, was nothing new and nothing of very great interest. It was always meant to be that way.

The whole concept of a common currency was fraught from the very start. Without an economic government, it could not survive, yet it had been set up lacking that essential component. Those who predicted it must fail were right, of course. But only in the sense that if the currency continued without that government, it had to fall.

But that was the plan – the very core idea. Sooner or later, the members of the eurozone would have to confront the inevitable – something they were not ready to countenance when the currency was launched. There would eventually be an overwhelming crisis which would force a choice between collapse or taking the next major step towards full integration.

And so, it seems, it has come to pass. The crisis has reached the stage where the "colleagues" are having to confront that choice – as was always intended. I remember Prodi – a professor of economics – saying as much shortly after he had stood down as commission president. It is make or break time ... again.

This sense of perpetual crisis is admirably captured by Iain Martin today in The Wall Street Journal. With the weary sense of an old hand who has seen it all before, he tells us that it is easy to overcook the idea of the European Union being in crisis.

He observes of the EU that it is always said - by its supporters and its critics alike - to be approaching one sort of exciting denouement or another. But then, he says, it passes. The caravan moves on and in time another potential disaster that can be negotiated around swings into view.

And that is exactly what is happening all over again. As Martin says, this has long been the pattern. The EU is forever having supposed make or break moments that turn out to be no such thing.

To illustrate his point, he reminds us of the Nice summit in December 2000. And if he remembers it, because he was there, so do I. There was a sense of drama, the sense of make or break, the sense that another major step was in the offing and that there was no turning back.

It was, says Martin, presented in those terms. But it is also the case, he adds, that only denizens of the European Commission, civil servants in foreign ministries and journalists who make it their business to care can really remember what it was all about.

That is not entirely true – political nerds like myself remember it equally well, not least because I revisited the drama when researching for The Great Deception. With the historical perspective of a few years, it was evident what a close-run thing it had been yet, despite all that, pre-ordained.

That summit was about a new treaty to clear the decks for enlargement. That was the excuse. But he real objective was the same as it had always been – to take the next step in political integration. The commission, too unwieldy to govern on the original Monnet model, had to be slimmed down. More qualified majority voting was needed – as it always was – to prevent institutional seizure.

Martin draws a pen picture of the scene. He tells us that, in Nice, for several days "we journalists, many hundreds of us," were housed in the large conference center in town and fed rather agreeable French food and wine. We barely saw any real politicians or officials, he says, continuing thus:
Occasionally they appeared in the hall to give us briefings, which made it clear that this was a make or break moment. We nodded in sage fashion and wrote pieces explaining why this was make or break for the EU. And then - surprise, surprise - in the early hours of the last morning of the summit a deal was done. It was make, not break, as it was always going to be.
Leaping ahead in Martin's own account, which is all so dreadfully familiar, we come to a passage where he tells us that the Greek crisis has been the real deal, a proper emergency for the European project.

The architects of the euro, he says, were warned that, on its own, a currency union wouldn't magically encourage southern European states to start producing, saving and managing their nation's affairs in the manner of the Germans. Those offering warnings have been proved correct and the flaws in the euro's design are now apparent to even those who insisted at the time that there were none.

But that much is egregiously and wholly wrong. The architects of the euro always knew that there were fundamental flaws in the construct as it was implemented. But, politically, that was the only basis on which it could be implemented. It would need a beneficial crisis to take the next step. And now we have it.

Nevertheless, Martin has the next bit right. After much wrangling, he says, a deal to support stricken Greece is in place, but only with the Germans enforcing strict conditions. This is a sticking plaster solution, he adds. What must come, logically, is something close to a form of economic government by those states that want to stay as the inner core of the euro. It might be called by another name, but that is what it will be.

That, he tells us, leads to a full-blown political crisis for the EU itself. The choice for various countries then is between trying to be part of an inner core organised around the euro with coordinated fiscal policy, or standing outside it in a trading zone built on cooperation rather than coercion.

And here we go again ... again. The Eurosceptics, in countries such as Britain, are just starting to realize this, says Martin. But not this eurosceptic. I have known it all along, and have said so many times, boring even myself into insensibility.

The euro's problems will force its strongest members into much closer integration than even they currently envisage, says Martin. But no, that is wrong too. It was always "envisaged". For, as Martin correctly says, other than breaking up the euro they can do nothing else. Standing still isn't an option. And allowing the break-up of the euro isn't an option either.

So, Martin concludes – and I concur - in this way that old discussion about there being two distinct Europes inside the EU is coming back rapidly into fashion. Sounds like it has the makings of a proper crisis, he says. He could have said a "beneficial crisis". That's what this is, and always had to be.


Global warming

We have had heavy global warming here, in deepest West Yorkshire, starting about an hour before midnight and lying on the ground. It continueth, even unto the darkest hour ...

I just thought you would like to know that.


The universal politician

It is a common complaint, voiced by an increasingly disenfranchised electorate, that all the main political parties are the same.

While denying it on the one hand, however, we find that the two main parties are only too anxious to agree with that proposition – at least as far as "green" issues are concerned.

Thus we learn that, "with the recent release of the Treasury's Strategy for National Infrastructure and the Tory Energy Policy, spending on renewable energy and modernizing UK energy infrastructure has emerged as unique common ground between the major parties."

The "common ground" is, of course, far from unique – virtually every aspect of this policy area is shared by the two main parties, with only marginal differences on matters of detail.

But this particular bit of "common ground" concerns the £2 billion Green Investment Bank, announced by chancellor Alistair Darling in the budget speech, "which will focus on investing in green transport and sustainable energy, in particular offshore wind power."

Any sensible opposition would, of course, be howling with derision at the prospect of investing heavily in offshore wind power, to say nothing of the wholly unrealistic sum allocated, barely one percent of what might be needed overall.

But the response of Conservative shadow energy and climate change minister Greg Clark is simply to declare: "The announcement in the Budget of a Green Investment Bank is welcome - it is an idea that the Conservatives first proposed last year".

So, we learn, with agreement on the scale of low carbon energy and transportation infrastructure needed in the UK, renewable energy looks set to grow significantly. What remains to be seen is who will be in government.

To deal with the increasingly likely possibility of a hung parliament, unprecedented contingency plans are being drawn up by the most senior civil servant to avoid any economic crisis.

Officials under the direction of Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, are finalising details to ensure a coalition government can be agreed swiftly. For the first time, opposition parties will be able to call on civil servants to analyse policies that may be part of a deal.

Thus, win, lose or draw, whichever parties get to be in government will not make the slightest whit of difference, across a vast range of policies. We have come to the age of the universal – and interchangeable – politician.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It was never going to be any different

The parliamentary science and technology select committee has done its job on the East Anglia CRU "inquiry", finding that, "There was no evidence to challenge the 'scientific consensus' that global warming is induced by human activities."

It was not set up to do that, it was not competent to accomplish such a task, and the timescale afforded would have, in any case, rendered it impossible. But, despite that, the committee has found precisely that. It will be quoted endlessly by the "warmists" – all the rest is detail. And, in due course, that is what all the other CRU inquiries will find.

Thus, the establishment looks after its own. There are far too many with their fingers in the till for it to have been any different.


How government corrupts science

You can read it here, with a commentary from Jo Nova here.

Actually, I should not be saying merely, you can read it. What I really mean to say is, you will read it. This is compulsory. You need to know this – if you don't already.


Apples and oranges

It isn't the done thing to criticise other worthy toilers in the field, especially when they do a reasonably good job – although that hasn't stopped us in the past.

But, having written with Christopher Booker, way back, a book called The Mad Officials, we pride ourselves on knowing a thing or two about regulation and its enforcement. Thus, we could not let the latest offering by Open Europe go by without some sort of comment.

Reviewed by the redoubtable Bruno Waterfield in The Daily Telegraph today, we are told that "EU laws cost twice as much as British ones to enforce," an assertion based on a report by the said Open Europe.

Its study finds that Brussels legislation has cost the British economy £124 billion, accounting for 71 percent of the total cost of all red tape, both national and European, implemented in Britain since 1998. And all this comes from looking at thousands of official impact assessments, thus finding that EU regulation is 2.5 times less cost-effective than domestic laws.

On that basis, we are earnestly advised by Sarah Gaskell, author of the study, that: "Our research clearly shows that it's far more cost-effective to regulate domestically than is it is to legislate through the EU. This means that passing laws as close as possible to the citizen is not only more democratic, but also vastly cheaper."

So far so good, but while we are entirely happy with the idea that EU legislation does cost more than equivalent British law, Sarah Gaskell has a little difficulty proving this. The way she comes to her conclusion is by assessing the national cost-benefit ratios of EU-derived laws, compared with the same ratios derived from dissimilar British laws.

Since the notional cost-benefit of EU laws yields – according to estimate – a ratio of 1.02, while the UK law delivers 2.35, this allows the assertion that EU law is 2.5 less cost-effective. Unfortunately though, Ms Gaskell is not comparing like with like. She is comparing apples with oranges.

For instance, she cites the cost of EU environmental regulation coming into force since 1998, which she asserts is 18 percent of the entire cost of regulation over the same period, or £31.7 billion. But, to make a valid comparison, she would have to compare the cost of current regulations with what might have been our environmental legislation had we not been in the EU.

Here, a "what might have been" assessment is somewhat imponderable, as who knows what an independent British government might have done, given its propensity for making all sorts of draconian laws without EU intervention. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that we could have even worse legislation than we have how.

This is certainly feasible with our raft of food safety laws. Before even EU law was introduced, our "Mad Officials" were storming through the country, making insane and expensive demands which had nothing to do with EU requirements – or even the then current law of the land.

And the EU laws that were eventually introduced were based largely on a British initiative. But for the restraining effect of other member states, they could have been even more rigorous than they actually are.

Therein lies a central flaw in trying to assess the impact of our membership of the EU. Shortly, on 1 April, the British government is to introduce the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, stage two of the "cap and trade" programme brought in by the ETS. It is estimated that the first full year of operation will cost £1.4 billion, but the scheme is entirely home grown. It has nothing to do with the EU.

The problem, we concluded, when it comes to regulation, is not primarily with the EU. It is with our own government, which embraces EU laws, asks for more and then creates its own. Departure from the EU could bring us even more – notwithstanding that much of current EU law is actually of international law, implemented via the EU, that we would implement anyway, whether we were in or out of the EU.

If we had a government interested in good governance, a government that was capable of producing good law and enforcing it wisely, like as not it would find EU membership abhorrent. We would never have joined and, even now, we would be on our way out.

Thus, fashionable and entertaining though it is to mount a spurious case against "Brussels", the real enemy is in our own back yard - our own government and our own legislators. In tactical terms, what we need to do is work out what sort of government we want, and how we want to be governed. Demanding that model, one then hopes, would necessarily put us in the EU departure lounge.

But simply longing for our departure is also to countenance putting us in a situation where we are outside the EU, with not very much else changed. In which case, the question is: why bother?

Then, Open Europe is not in the business of seeking our withdrawal from the EU. Much of the report is devoted to improving EU law – a forlorn endeavour, not least when the British government is a major cheerleader in demanding more. Thus, mixing metaphors horribly, the cart is before the horse. Fill the cart with good old English apples, bugger the oranges and sort out where to put the horse.


Perpetual motion

Let's see now, we have a bunch of bureaucrats officiously developing schemes to make energy more expensive, all in a bid to force us to use less in the interests of saving the planet.

That, inevitably, means that an increasing number of people in low income groups cannot afford energy at all, or are forced to pay such a high proportion of their incomes on basic energy costs that they fall into the category defined as "fuel poverty".

To deal with that, we have another bunch of bureaucrats officiously developing schemes to compensate those people, in an attempt to ensure that these people are able to maintain at least a basic level of warmth and comfort.

Being bureaucrats, whose only real talents are in making thing more complicated and expensive, they fail dismally in their endeavours. We thus learn that the number of households in "fuel poverty" – or spending more than 10 per cent of their income on heating – has doubled to around 4.6 million this year.

Confronted with this predictable failure, what do our gifted MPs do? Ah! They suggest an even more complex and expensive scheme, better able to target the people who are missing out – one which will require even more bureaucrats and which will, in the scheme of things, prove no better than the system it replaces ... if indeed it is implemented.

But do they even consider the root cause of much of this "fuel poverty" – the fact that we have another part of the government making energy more expensive? Er ... Nooooooo. So the bureaucratic machine grinds on, the nearest thing to perpetual motion every invented, extracting more and more money from us while we get poorer and poorer – and not just "fuel poverty".

When we have a set of MPs who can put two and two together – or, more to the point, abolish two sets of bureaucrats instead of creating more – then we will have representatives worth voting for. Until then, we can only shake our heads in sorrow and wonderment, and wait for the unseasonable snow in what is, officially, British Summer Time.


Exactly right

People do not want Gordon Brown as their prime minister for another five years but have no enthusiasm for the Conservative Party, according to an opinion poll for The Independent.

You can both go hang, they say: 50 percent say choosing Brown is unthinkable ... 51 percent claim they have no enthusiasm for Tories ... 38 percent would like a hung parliament.

The ComRes survey suggests the mood of the nation is one of "a plague on both your houses". The Tories are on 37 percent (no change), Labour on 30 percent (down two points), the Lib-Dims on 20 (up one point) and other parties on 13 (up one).

Although the Tories have halted a recent slip in their fortunes and now enjoy a seven-point lead, this result, if replicated at the general election, would deliver a hung parliament in which Cameron would be 31 seats short of an overall majority.

"The mood is sullen; people have turned against the political class generally," one Tory source said.


Absolutely tickety-boo*

Yvo De Boer, one of the world's leading authorities on climate change and sustainability, is leaving his international role with the United Nations to join KPMG, the global network of professional service firms, reports the KPMG website.

"Our global sustainability and climate change services network has more than 15 years experience in providing services to a wide range of clients from global to national businesses and government agencies. We offer business focused advice on a wide range of issues in the climate change sphere, from carbon foot printing and greenhouse gas inventories to carbon trading and corporate finance", says KPMG India.

The embattled head of the United Nations' scientific panel on climate change has been cleared of allegations of financial irregularity by an independently conducted review, reports The Financial Times. KPMG, the professional services company, examined the personal finances of Rajendra Pachauri ... after media suggested late last year that he received money for advising several private sector companies, including Toyota and Credit Suisse. The review found these were all paid to Mr Pachauri's non-profit organisation TERI, which commissioned KPMG.

All absolutely tickety boo chaps. Conflict of interest? What conflict of interest?

* Meaning: "Going smoothly, doing all right". May have originated in the British military. Possibly related to the Hindi expression "tickee babu", meaning "everything's alright, sir".


Monday, March 29, 2010

A choice

Either the EU commission has gone barking mad or somebody in Brussels has a sense of humour.


Dishonesty multiplied

Coincidentally, following on from my review of the first part of the Woods Hole letter yesterday, Bishop Hill follows the scent, looking at the underlying evidence cited in support of the IPCC claim of 40 percent of the Amazon forest being at risk from a slight reduction in rainfall.

This impacts directly on the second part of the letter, which I was planning to review today and forms the substance of this post. It is there, in that second part, that we see William Y Brown, president and CEO of the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), assert that:
Mr Booker's criticism of the IPCC's claim that 40 percent of the Amazonian forest is threatened by global warming, on the grounds that it was based on a WWF claim, misses the fact that the WWF's statement was supported by several peer-reviewed science articles, including four published by the WHRC.
Bishop Hill does a tolerable job of tracking down some of this "support", but the point that would elude most readers is the very close connections between the WWF and WHRC. They share a common agenda and work closely together. Daniel Nepstad, the "senior scientist" on the staff of WHRC specialising in the Amazon, has worked for WWF. Some of his studies, notably this one, were part-funded by the WWF.

This highlights the difficulty anyone has in following the various claims and counter-claims on this issue. Many of the papers produced purport to be scientific explorations but they are in fact disguised advocacy directed at pursing a wholly political agenda.

That applies to WHRC and especially Daniel Nepstad. Nothing he writes or is associated with can be taken at face value. To ignore the political dimension is to afford advocacy the same status as genuine science. Nepstad is an advocate, using the guise of science to make his case, his medium the "peer reviewed" paper, giving his work entirely spurious authority.

Part of the strategy is to place such papers and then use them as a basis for self-citation and campaigning, locking in the arguments without reference to the wider issues and other views. By keeping focused on the very narrow issues, the agenda is thus set.

The classic example is precisely the paper linked immediately above, which is entitled: "Interactions among Amazon land use, forests and climate: prospects for a near-term forest tipping point". The lead author is Nepstad. Appearing in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in May 2008, it offers this dire prediction:
If sea surface temperature anomalies (such as El Nino episodes) and associated Amazon droughts of the last decade continue into the future, approximately 55 percent of the forests of the Amazon will be cleared, logged, damaged by drought or burned over the next 20 years ...
This is one of the papers published post-IPCC which supposedly supports the IPCC claim (which also originated from Nepstad), so we thus have a situation where the WHRC is citing Nepstad of the WHRC ... supporting Nepstad.

Even on its own merits, the paper (or this statement) can be dismissed. Firstly, it offers outrageous non-sequiturs - linking clearance and logging with "sea surface temperature anomalies". All three are entirely independent variables. Either clearance or logging could account for substantial loss of the forest, entirely unrelated to temperatures.

Secondly, the prediction relies on the presumption that "sea surface temperature anomalies (such as El Nino episodes) and associated Amazon droughts of the last decade continue into the future". Yet there is no observational evidence that either will continue into the future. Since the once-in-a-hundred-years drought of 2005, there has been – as we have reported elsewhere - above-average rainfall in large parts of the Amazon basin.

This is where it gets really interesting, and we have to follow several parallel themes to get to the bottom of Brown's assertion. Firstly, one of the papers on which Brown apparently relies is one to which Nepstad himself draws attention in arguing that the IPCC statement is "correct".

This is published in 1994 in Nature, where the authors (including Nepstad) estimate that half of the closed forests of Brazilian Amazonia depend on deep root systems to maintain green canopies during the dry season. The finding is based on work in northeastern Pará, itself a northeastern state of Brazil, outside the equatorial zone where there is a defined dry season.

Therein lies a singular problem. It is by no means clear how that helps in supporting a claim that slight reductions in rainfall could flip 40 percent of the entire Amazonian forest into savannah (especially when the Brazilian forest is less than half of the total area). But that is the measure of dealing with Nepstad. He sprays out citations like a tomcat marking his territory, but trying to pin down exact numbers in them is like trying to bottle smoke.

At the heart of it all though - as we see from Huntingford et al (2003) - the likes of Nepstad rely on Cox et al. (2000, 2001). They are using a Hadley Centre "coupled climate model" for their predictions.

The Huntingford paper, currently, is particularly relied upon by Simon Lewis, who is complaining against Jonathon Leake's rendition of "Amazongate", claiming that the IPCC statement was "scientifically defensible and correct".

What neither Nepstad nor Lewis admit to though is the fallibility of their model. That models generally are fallible is startlingly demonstrated by Oyama and Nobre (2003), who ran different versions of an atmospheric general circulation model. In one, they found no change from the current situation. In other, savannahs replaced eastern Amazonian forests and a semi-desert area appeared in the driest portion of Northeast Brazil.

Thus, the results are entirely dependent on the input, something admirably illustrated by Merengo 2006, who draws attention to the major uncertainties in modelling Amazonian climate, and the substantial errors and divergences in datasets.

Any serious student of the situation, however, should be aware that some of the uncertainly was resolved in a paper published by Malhi et al on 13 February 2009 (online) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Entitled, "Exploring the likelihood and mechanism of a climate-change-induced dieback of the Amazon rainforest", this revisited the models on which Nepstad and Lewis rely, finding that "most tend to underestimate current rainfall."

Taking into account the differences between model-simulated and observed rainfall regimes in the 20th century, the authors concluded that dry-season water stress was likely to increase in eastern Amazonia over the 21st century. But, they found, the region still "tends toward a climate more appropriate to seasonal forest than to savannah."

Eastern Amazonia is one of the more vulnerable areas, where there is a defined dry season – as opposed to the equatorial areas where rainfall is more or less constant throughout the year, and it is there that problems will be particularly acute. The finding directly contradicts the second Oyama and Nobre model and the Nepstad/Lewis Armageddon scenario. It definitely contradicts the IPCC's 40 percent claim. If eastern Amazonia survives, so does most of the rest of the forest.

Despite that, Lewis - in his complaint to the Press Complaints Commission – still asserts that: "It is very well known that in Amazonia tropical forests exist when there is more than about 1.5 meters of rain a year, below that the system tends to 'flip' to savanna (sic), so reductions in rainfall towards this threshold could lead to rapid shifts in vegetation."

This, though, is not based on observation but on the very climate modelling that Malhi et al have essentially discredited. Amongst other findings, they suggest that there are no sharp vegetation thresholds in areas of different rainfall.

Some savannah is found in predominantly forest climates, and some evergreen forests are found in dry climates. Other factors, such as local surface hydrology and soil properties, e.g., seasonal flooding, can favour savannah in dry forest climates. Shallow water tables can allow gallery or riverine forest to persist in dry savannah climates, or more fertile soil may favour trees over grasses.

Crucially, what makes an important difference is the length of the dry season and the amount of water retained on the soil and, if this falls below a broad transition zone, there is "a gradual shift in the relative abundance of savannah relative to forest."

Furthermore, and of vital importance to the whole argument, they see evidence of what they call "demographic inertia" - inertia caused by long lifespans and slow community turnover. In the forest system, they assert, this may delay any forest dieback.

Moreover, they say, the presence of forest may modify local microclimate (evapotranspiration, rainfall generation, exclusion of invading grasses, shading of soil surface, and seedlings) sufficiently to favour the persistence of forest ("microclimatic inertia"). Once established, closed-canopy, deep-rooted forest may persist even if the local climate has shifted to savannah conditions

In other words, here is a reasoned argument which suggests that any transition, far from being rapid, may be gradual and in many cases will not happen at all.

This though, is only one strand of the wider argument. Alongside Nepstad's paper which appeared in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in May 2008 (cited earlier), were 26 others in an edition dedicated to the Amazon. One was a paper by Mayle and Power which explored the "Impact of a drier Early–Mid-Holocene climate upon Amazonian forests".

Their paper used a palaeoecological approach to examine the impact of drier climatic conditions of the Early–Mid-Holocene (ca 8000–4000 years ago) upon Amazonia's forests and their fire regimes. During the Early–Mid-Holocene, Andean cloud forest taxa were replaced by lowland tree taxa as the cloud base rose while lowland ecotonal (i.e., transitional) areas, which are presently covered by evergreen rainforest, were instead dominated by savannahs and/or semideciduous dry forests.

Elsewhere in the Amazon basin, though, they found "considerable spatial and temporal variation in patterns of vegetation disturbance and fire," which probably reflected "the complex heterogeneous patterns in precipitation and seasonality across the basin, and the interactions between climate change, drought- and fire susceptibility of the forests - and Palaeo-Indian land use."

Their analysis thus showed that the forest biome in most parts of Amazonia appeared to have been "remarkably resilient to climatic conditions significantly drier than those of today, despite widespread evidence of forest burning." Only in ecotonal areas was there evidence of biome replacement in the Holocene. From this palaeoecological perspective, therefore, Mayle and Power argued against the Amazon forest "dieback" scenario simulated for the future.

So far, then, we have two papers – variously suggesting only gradual and limited dieback, greater forest resilience and encroachment of savannah in transitional areas. But there is more.

Lewis makes great play of the claim that the: "most extreme die-back model predicted that a new type of drought should begin to impact Amazonia". He asserts that, in 2005, it happened for the first time: "a drought associated with Atlantic, not Pacific sea-surface temperatures." And it is this 2005 drought which underpins many of the alarmist claims.

Needless to say, Lewis is wrong. This was not the first time, by any means, the Amazon had experienced such a drought. This is evident from a paper by Marengo (2009) which looks at: "Long-term trends and cycles in the hydrometeorology of the Amazon basin since the late 1920". It reports (relying on an earlier paper by the same author) that the drought of 1963–1964, like the drought of 2005, occurred during non El Nino years.

In a fascinating paper, Marengo offers detailed evidence of significant climate variability in the Amazon basin, of differences in rainfall patterns between north and south, and of a "succession of relatively wet and dry periods (cycles) of approximately 20–30 years, suggesting indicators of long-term variability on multi-decadal time scales."

Furthermore, the cyclical variations are different, north and south, and climatic changes affect the two regions in different ways – while one area can get drier, the other can become wetter (which is exactly what happened in the 2005 drought, ruling out any idea that conditions observed in any one area can be used to predict what might happen across the entire basin).

Marengo offers several papers on this "cyclical variation" theme, one from 2006 where he refers to inter-annual variability and also to the paucity of data. But in this and his later paper, reference is made to decadal changes in climate being "more due to natural climate variability". And particularly damning for the Nepstad/Lewis axis is this observation:
From a statistical analysis of the hydrometeorological series, it is concluded that no systematic unidirectional long-term trends towards drier or wetter conditions have been identified since the 1920s. The rainfall and river series showing variability at inter-annual scales linked to El Niño Southern Oscillation was detected in rainfall in the northern Amazon. It has a low-frequency variability with a peak at - 30 years identified in both rainfall and river series in the Amazon. The presence of cycles rather than a trend is characteristic of rainfall in the Amazon.
Similar observations are found in Zeng et al (2006) and Coe et al (2002), all leading inexorably to the conclusion that Nepstad and his fellow climate activists are over-interpreting short-term phenomena, superimposing a trend when longer-term data suggest climate variability.

Thus, addressing William Y Brown and his assertion that there is support for the IPPC claim, not only does that seem not to exist – as Bishop Hill adequately demonstrates – the protestations of support (Brown included) come from a very limited band of activists who cross-refer to each other. Outside that clique, the wider scientific community suggests a different and variable picture, one which is largely at odds with that suggested by climate activists.

As it stands, therefore, the IPCC statement is an orphan – entirely unsupported. Brown is throwing up a smokescreen which, like his assertion that Woods Hole Research Institute is a "scientific institution", is thoroughly dishonest.


Huge parallels

How ironic it is that The Guardian, of all newspapers, should be picking up on the "flu pandemic" scare which afflicted the nation last year.

We touched on this in late January but now this newspaper is reporting the findings of a draft report to the Council of Europe. It asserts that the World Health Organisation and other public health bodies have "gambled away" public confidence by overstating the dangers.

Says Labour MP Paul Flynn, vice chair of the council's health committee, the loss of credibility could endanger lives.

As to the report, it declares that, "This decline in confidence could be risky in the future. When the next pandemic arises many persons may not give full credibility to recommendations put forward by WHO and other bodies. They may refuse to be vaccinated and may put their own health and lives at risk."

As we now know, the discrepancy between the estimate of the numbers of people who would die from flu and the reality was dramatic. In the United Kingdom, the Department of Health initially announced that around 65,000 deaths were to be expected.

By the start of 2010, this estimate was downgraded to only 1,000 fatalities. By January 2010, fewer than 5,000 persons had been registered as having caught the disease and about 360 deaths had been noted.

It cannot be stated often enough, or with sufficient emphasis, that we have been there before. This is exactly a parallel with the salmonella and BSE scares – the latter with the 500,000 deaths a year forecast, with senior medical officers and "scientists" solemnly pronouncing that we were all in mortal peril.

And, of course, the media lapped it up, giving short-shrift to the "sceptics" like myself, who said it wasn't happening, wasn't going to happen and that the "experts" were talking out of their backsides.

Here we are again with global warming – the same "consensus", the same certainty from a gang of so-called experts, the strident calls from the politicians and the media, all piling in to pronounce that we are all in mortal peril. But, with the lack of joined-up thinking that so profoundly affects papers like The Guardian, they cannot see the connections.

But all these experts can't be wrong, the experts bleat. Yet, history and recent experience tells us that experts are quite frequently wrong. When a madness such as the salmonella scare, BSE, swine flu and the rest, take hold, most likely the prevailing orthodoxy will always be wrong.

So it is with global warming – but this time the scaremongers have picked an unfalsifiable theory, and falsified the evidence, so that their dishonesty is concealed. Despite that, the dynamics are the same – there are huge parallels, and only the retarded and the self-interested can fail to see them.


"We will not prevail in Afghanistan"

The sooner Canada gets its troops out of Afghanistan the better because the mission is a waste of lives and money in a doomed cause, one of Canada's most eminent diplomats told a Montreal conference Sunday.

That is Robert Fowler, who has told the Liberal party's Canada 150 conference: "The bottom line is that we will not prevail in Afghanistan." He adds: "Once we understand and accept that reality it is time to leave, not a moment, not a life and not a dollar later."

Fowler is not a man to be dismissed easily. He has been a foreign policy adviser to three Canadian prime ministers, deputy minister of national defence and Canada's longest-serving ambassador to the United Nations. More recently, as special UN envoy to Niger he was kidnapped by al Qaeda in December 2008 and held captive in the Sahara for 130 days.

On Afghanistan, he said that it is difficult to rationalise or understand what the Canadian mission can accomplish, what with the Taleban gaining in strength and reach day by day.

"They say look at the number of little girls we have put in school – at a cost of 146 Canadian lives and an incremental cost of $11.3 billion. My, think of the number of little girls we could put in school throughout the Third World – particularly in Africa – with that kind of money. And without having to kill and be killed to get that worthy job done."

He said it appears that our goal in Afghanistan is to colonize the country and replace its culture with ours, a mission impossible for which the Taliban know Canada lacks the resources and dedication to accomplish.

But the money quote is this: "They understand," says Fowler, "enough about our attention-deficit addled politics to know that we simply do not have the heart for a long-haul casualty-heavy, intense, brutal, no-holds-barred struggle in which none of our vital interests are engaged."

What applies to the Canadians applies to us in spades. The "Afghanisation" process is a charade and, for once, The Independent is right.

Crucially, though, there is a more pressing reason why we should depart. Simply, it is this: by common consent, this conflict cannot be resolved by military means. For there to be long-term peace and security, there has to be a political solution. But we are not even attempting to search for, much less broker a political solution. The complexities are being ignored as the conflict is presented in "goodies" versus "baddies" terms.

But there is not one conflict, but several – and many "players" – internal and international. And at the top of the heap is India, allied with Iran, in a proxy war against Pakistan, supporting a tribal Afghan leader who would rather be fighting Pakistan, the traditional enemy, than his own peoples. Yet we pretend that, somehow, Afghanistan and Pakistan - these ancient enemies - are "allies", with common cause against the "Taliban" and the Global War on Terror.

Left to itself, the Afghan government would have its Army ranged on the border with Pakistan, seeking resolution of the Century-old border dispute, centred on the British-defined Durand Line.

The Indians would be supporting the Afghan government, primarily as a means of destabilising Pakistan. The Chinese would be moving in (as they are now) to buy up the mineral assets of the nation, bribing officals to keep them sweet. Pakistan would be paying the tribes (aka "Taliban") to subvert the Kabul government and to damage India. India, for its part, would be paying the same and different tribes, to damage Pakistan. Iran would be working with India, as long as the money (our money, the money we pay in aid to India) was there, but subtly subverting Kabul.

The Pashtun tribes, as always, would be butchering each other, fighting against the government, for the government, some for Pakistan, some for India, and some for whoever paid better or last, including Saudi Arabian paymasters if the mood took them and the money was right. The Baluchi would be fighting everybody, including themselves.

To resolve the issue would require sitting down at a table with Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Iran, the northern "stans", China and also Russia, and banging heads together.

But even getting the Indians and Pakistanis in the same room, much less round a negotiating table, is almost an impossibility. And we are not even trying to achieve that. We need to keep India sweet, to support our global agenda on climate change, and it is not going to play ball if we start confronting its government with things it does not want to hear.

We could help the Afghan peoples (some of them) – by brokering a political solution. If that was on the table, it might be worthwhile having the military there to support the process. Since we are not prepared to do that, we are not helping. We are just postponing the inevitable.

Short of that political solution, we are left with an irresolvable, low-grade conflict that our military cannot win. It can temporarily prevail where it has enough resource to saturate an area. But, in the longer term, it can only endure, taking casualties in an endless war of attrition until patience and the money runs out. Then we will have to leave. We would be better doing it sooner, rather than leave it until then.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

A thoroughly dishonest letter

In response to Booker's piece last week on the £60 billion WWF "REDD" scam - amplified in my parallel post - we have today a thoroughly dishonest letter from William Y Brown, president and CEO of the Woods Hole Research Center.

There are two parts to the letter and in the first – which we deal with in this post – Brown complains of Booker describing the Center as a "global warming advocacy group". We are, he responds, "a widely respected scientific institution whose scientists publish dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles annually in the world's most prestigious scientific journals, including Science and Nature, with much of the work supported by the National Science Foundation and NASA."

The dishonesty of this claim is transparent, evident from the center's own website where it tells us that it is an "independent, non-profit institute focused on environmental science, education, and public policy." As to its "mission", it seeks to "conserve and sustain the planet's vegetation, soils, water, and climate by clarifying and communicating their interacting functions in support of human well-being and by promoting practical approaches to their management in the human interest."

Even the most dispassionate analysis cannot find in the center's own text any support for its proposition that it is a "scientific institution". It seeks to "conserve and sustain", thence by "clarifying and communicating". It does so "in support" of an objective, and it is concerned with "promoting" practical approaches. It is also focused on "public policy".

Laudable though these activities might be, they are not science. This is advocacy, where, effectively, scientific method and personnel described as "scientists" are used as tools to promote a "mission". And, even without that, the background of its founder, George M Woodwell and his links with other advocacy groups tell you exactly where it stands.

Woodwell is an ecologist "with broad interests in global environmental issues and policies." He was also a founding trustee and continues to serve on the board of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He is a former chairman of the board of trustees and currently a member of the National Council of the WWF, a founding trustee of the World Resources Institute, and a founder and currently an honorary member of the board of trustees of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Then, as regards its advocacy operation, it tells us:
The Center's Program on Science in Public Affairs focuses on the importance of bringing science to bear on policy formulation and on the adoption of international agreements governing these topics. As a result, our staff has been intensely active in scientific and policy research surrounding both global climate change issues, and issues concerning world forest resources. Our efforts emphasize the importance of participation by developing countries in international legal discussions, the resolution of north-south conflicts, and the role of nongovernmental organizations in international processes.
This confirms, in their own words, the role of their "science". They are using it "to bear on policy formulation and on the adoption of international agreements governing these topics". In other words, it is not "science" as such, but the use of scientific method as an advocacy tool, the end being, as the center clearly states, the attainment of political objectives.

Richard Lindzen had them sussed many years ago, when he wrote:
It is, of course, possible to corrupt science without specifically corrupting institutions. For example, the environmental movement often cloaks its propaganda in scientific garb without the aid of any existing scientific body. One technique is simply to give a name to an environmental advocacy group that will suggest to the public, that the group is a scientific rather than an environmental group. Two obvious examples are the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Woods Hole Research Center.
To set up an advocacy organisation with all the tools and appearances of being a scientific institute is a clever technique, but it is essentially dishonest. To then pretend that its output is "science" is also dishonest. And that is precisely what the second part of the letter does, which we will deal with in a separate post.


Like rabbits in headlights

The anti-EU party UKIP is often accused of being a "single issue" party, and indeed it is – and that issue is "who governs us", Westminster or the European Union.

But in exactly the same sense, the Westminster rabble have become single issue parties. The no longer have any distinguishing policies so their only issue is which party should have the dubious privilege of sending its leader to live in No 10 Downing Street.

The lack of policy – at least on the "big issues" such as public debt - is highlighted by Booker today, in his column, which takes a break from leading on global warming.

He sets out the stall, recording that the eventual self-destruction of Britain was sealed on 14 July 1998, the day when Gordon Brown first indicated that he was going to take the brakes off public spending.

In 1997, the annual bill was £322 billion and after Mr Brown's 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review, it was projected that it might almost double, over 10 years, to more than £600 billion. And so it turned out, with current spending at £661 billion.

Such is the dire state of the economy though that more than a quarter of it is having to be borrowed, giving us a larger public sector deficit than Greece, an overspend so colossal that the Government itself predicts that in just four years' time our national debt will have doubled, to £1.4 trillion – equal to our present annual national output.

And if our international credit rating is downgraded, as seems very possible, we will have to pay even more to borrow the money. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, we may soon be shelling out some £74 billion a year – £60 a week from every household in the land – not to reduce our debt, but simply to pay the interest.

Therein lies the background, and therein lies our dilemma. Not only does the current government seem unwilling or unable to do anything about this spiralling debt, neither does the leather-jacketed Mr Cameron. As we step out from the cliff edge over 5,000 feet of nothingness, neither of the parties seem to have the slightest idea what to do.

Yet, even on the back of an envelope, Booker and I could (and have) sketched ideas that could easily save more than £100 billion a year and, with a little more effort, we would have no difficulty in reining in public expenditure, bringing it back to well under the £300 billion annual mark.

That is the great tragedy of it all. As Booker writes, like rabbits in headlights, our politicians wait paralysed for the crunch that must inevitably come, totally devoid of plans, devoid of any sense of urgency, devoid of anything approaching leadership or intelligence.

The single and only issue that dominates their foetid little brains is that we should vote one or other of their parties into what is laughingly called "power", thus allowing the victorious leader to disport himself as prime minister. Unsurprisingly, in response to their increasingly strident calls of "vote for me", the electorate only has a single question: "Why?"

And to that question, none of them have an answer either.


Is this what politics has come to?

With our dismal crew of politicians no longer able to deal with real politics, we asserted recently, the election campaign becomes a beauty contest.

How true that turns out to be, with The Sunday Telegraph news pages devoted to a fashion commentary on the garb of our would-be leader.

This is the sort of sterile, vapid content that you used to see in middle-order women's magazines, as they trilled about the latest outfits of persons in the news, but such trivia is now elevated to the main pages of a national newspaper.

It says almost all you need to know about contemporary politics that, on the one hand, Cameron felt he needed to make a "fashion statement" and, on the other, that a once-serious newspaper felt the need to report on it, other than to point out that the wearer has completely lost the plot.

A Conservative leader addressing a public meeting wears conservative clothes – full stop. A slightly over-weight, middle-aged article who feels the need to make a ludicrous "fashion statement" is neither a Conservative, a man, nor a leader.


No discernible difference

The hour before ...

"Earth Hour" itself ...

And the hour after.

There is absolutely no discernible difference ... World Wildlife Failure (WWF) and its pointless gesture of turning off the lights for an hour. But at least is was a success in North Korea.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Germany cooling!

The Germans are cooling to global warming, according to an Infratest survey commissioned by Spiegel.

Only a minority of 42 percent are now worried about the planet frying, compared with a clear majority of 62 percent in November 2006. Furthermore, one in three believes scientific predictions to be unreliable and one in four thinks that Germany will benefit from climate change.

The shift in public sentiment, in a country which has a strong tradition of greenery, is attributed to the recent errors and exaggerations in the IPCC AR 4 report, provoking a sharp reaction from German climate scientists.

Joseph Howe, president of the German Leibniz Association, which pulls together a number of climate research institutes, sees the IPCC has having created "an open flank" for sceptics – for which he blames Pachauri. He "should take responsibility and resign," says Howe, citing also the allegations of conflict of interest.

For the warmists generally, this is extremely bad news. Scepticism has hitherto been most prevalent in the English-speaking countries, and particularly in the US. To have the contagion spread to the heart of Europe is a sign that the grip of the fantasy is breaking.

And tasteless though it might be, I just could not resist the pun. I will say five Hail Marys before I go to bed.


An international epidemic

"Look around you and all you see is pure and unadulterated hypocrisy. It is everywhere — omnipresent, omnipotent, even omniscient," writes Sudhansu Mohanty.

No, I am not picking on India. What is so remarkable about this piece – apart from being superbly written – is that you could change the names and it would apply equally to the UK, and practically every other country in the world. The corruption of politics is an international epidemic. We are not alone.


Environmentalism has been hijacked by the warmists

John Michael Wallace, professor and former chairman of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington, writes of the growing and serious environmental crisis in India.

We have allowed, he says, the IPCC assessment reports to become the dominant vehicle for representing the views of the scientific community on a widening range of environmental issues.

In the IPCC terminology, he adds, "symptoms of environmental degradation, regardless of their cause, are labelled as impacts of climate change, and the societal response to them is framed in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change."

Thus, while scientists still write papers and speak to the media about environmental concerns outside of the purview of the IPCC, Wallace tells us that, "with so much of the world's attention riveted on climate change there is a lack of institutional infrastructure for calling attention to other issues."

The problem though is that labelling issues such as reduced agricultural productivity, loss of biodiversity, pollution and the looming shortage of fresh water as "impacts of global warming" leaves the public confused and susceptible to propaganda by groups who oppose environmental regulation of any kind.

The "denialists" can then trivialise the entire environmental crisis, says Wallace, simply by casting doubt on the scientific consensus on global warming.

However, this is more than, and not even, a question of "denialists". There is a strong constituency in India – not least the industrial complex – which does not want attention focused on broader environmental issues. It is quite content to see "climate change" in the frame, if only because this can be blamed on the white man, thereby providing absolution for local sins - and a source of income.

We touched on this in a piece earlier this month, arguing that India (and many other developing countries) have far more important things to concern themselves about than global warming.

Wallace does not go quite that far, but he does say that the current stalemate on seeking environmental improvement is likely to persist as long as scientists allow climate change to dominate the environmental policy agenda. The discussion of adaptation and mitigation options in the policy arena, he maintains, needs to be reframed so that it addresses environmental degradation and sustainability in the broad sense, not just the impacts of climate change.

That much alone is refreshing – but it is not enough. Wallace is touching on a massive problem. Warmism has hijacked the entire environmental agenda, setting the cause of real environmental improvement back decades.

So it is not a question of "reframing". The two agendas cannot live side-by-side. True environmentalists need to reclaim their ground from the warmists, who are the enemy of the environment, distorting and perverting a worthy cause for their own ends.


Green waste

American Thinker tells a tale of woe about the costs of "green" energy ... but then look at the advert:
Wind energy is an especially good choice when investing in green power because it is one of the cheapest and cleanest renewable energy sources available and it does not produce air pollution. The world continues to watch to see how successful these "wind farms" are going to be when put to the test of powering larger grids. If early indications are any hint, wind will literally take the world by storm and be one of the premier energy sources for the entire world.
For a minimum of $10,000, you too can have a slice of the action (results not guaranteed).


A co-ordinated counter-offensive

"One regrettable mistake about glaciers doesn't alter the vast evidence there is of climate change," says Rajendra Pachauri in an authored piece in The Guardian, in what is obviously part of a concerted charm offensive, with The Times and The Independent carrying long, self-serving interviews.

In The Guardian though, Pachauri tells us that, "To dismiss the implications of climate change based on an error about the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are melting is an act of astonishing intellectual legerdemain."

If true, that would be the case. But it isn't. The errors are multiple and grievous, which collectively completely undermine the authority of the IPCC and thus the case made for climate change. But it is part of the damage limitation strategy adopted by Pachauri and the warmists in general to admit to "Galciergate" but then to contain it, sticking firmly to the "one small mistake" fiction.

The other parts of the strategy are to attack the more dangerous criticism, launch a series of stitched-up inquiries on "climategate", which will find that there was nothing wrong at all, to smear the "deniers" by characterising them as Big Oil shills and to set the lawyers to work.

A certain newspaper, which shall have to remain nameless, got a very long letter from a firm that is known in the trade as "Carter-Fuck", from a certain Rajendra Pachauri, complaining about a campaign against him that is "damaging his reputation" (which, of course, was the intention).

As a spoiler, it will prevent any interventions in the ongoing charm offensive, while the likes of The Times ("Quality journalism has never mattered as much as it does today") can be relied upon to swallow the spin.

And, in a bid for victimhood, Rajendra tells his Guardian audience that he "sincerely" hopes "the world is not witnessing a new form of persecution of those who defy conventional ignorance and pay a terrible price for their scientifically valid beliefs."

"The IPCC will continue to learn from experience, including criticism of its work," he then says. And indeed it has. Having discovered that the sceptics are far more dangerous than they realised, and that its work can be so easily taken apart, they have devised a co-ordinated counter-offensive, part of which we are seeing today.


The US goes down the European road

The celebration at the apparent demise of US plans to introduce cap and trade, as heralded by The New York Times, looks to be a tad premature.

In that context, the NYT headline, "'Cap and Trade' Loses Its Standing as Energy Policy of Choice", is more than a little misleading.

Although it certainly seems to be the case that the "big bang" scheme, covering all major economic enterprises, has been put on hold, the concept most certainly has not been abandoned by the Obama administration. Rather, it seems – and perhaps learning from the European experience – that the current plan is to phase in the system, starting with the utilities.

The huge political reaction to the original plans, in fact, mirrors the European experience, where it was intended that the European Trading Scheme (ETS) would apply to utilities and to the major energy-using manufacturing sector.

The response of industrial leaders, however, was to threaten to offshore their plants. The EU commission backed off from forcing them to buy "credits" (or EUAs), instead giving them free allowances. Since this coincided with the recession, the carbon dioxide quotas more than covered the emissions. Many enterprises were able to sell surplus credits, giving them an unintended financial boost, and thereby neutralising political opposition.

The European scheme, therefore, has ended up appling only to the utilities – the electricity generators. This is one sector which cannot move offshore and is less concerned about cost impositions. It has a large consumer base and can spread the costs thinly, so that no one really notices.

But, where the Europeans have arrived by accident, the US seems to be aiming as a matter of deliberate policy. That plan, still being written – we are told by the NYT - "will include a cap on greenhouse gas emissions only for utilities, at least at first, with other industries phased in perhaps years later."

The paper follows this with the rhetorical, "Why did cap and trade die?" But the fact is that cap and trade is not dead. European-style, it is just being phased in more slowly than originally intended. In due course, the EU will also bring the other industries fully into the ETS.

Furthermore, if UK experience is any guide, it will not stop there. This April, a heavily-disguised "phase two" of cap and trade is to start. Misleadingly labelled the "CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme", this – as we pointed out in an earlier post - moves cap and trade downstream, into the light manufacturing, retail and service sectors, still by-passing the major manufacturers.

This UK scheme is ahead of the core ETS scheme, but borrows from its structures. It could very well turn out to be a test-best for the next stage of the ETS, to be introduced by the EU commission in all member states when the glitches have been ironed out.

There are also further developments in the wind. The Conservative Party recently floated the idea of a floor price for "carbon" with a levy imposed on credits when the market price dropped below a pre-set level. This is another ratchet, which brings cap and trade closer to its original intentions – and we could see more of this idea.

If then Obama and his advisors are shadowing European experience – as seems to be the case – US cap and trade is very far from dead. The president instead is adopting European strategies, namely policy by stealth and engrenage, loosely translated as "salami slicing".

The really big, immediate danger is the current low prices of gas in the US, and an intention by the utilities to increase the use of gas for electricity generation. In this environment, the imposition of a cap and trade scheme on them, with the current low price of carbon, might encounter little opposition. The end costs to individual consumers would be slight and hidden by the drop in gas prices.

However, it will have enabled Obama to set a precedent. Using the engrenage strategy, cap and trade can then be rolled out to cover other sectors, going deeper and wider until the original objective is achieved. The plan, therefore, survives. All that has changed is a recognition that it will take a little longer.

And that this is the case should not come as a surprise. US cap and trade is a glittering, trillion-dollar prize on which all the warmists' long-term plans rely. They are not going to give it up without a struggle.


Friday, March 26, 2010

A new blog on the block

Rarely does one use the words "an exciting new venture" – they don't come easy from a jaundiced old cynic such as this writer. But to have Norman "Polecat" Tebitt front a new venture which aims to be a right-wing UK version of Huffington Post does have a certain attraction, and it could be quite fun.

Called Critical Reaction, it launched quietly last Wednesday, and will build up over term as it recruits a galaxy of writers and commentators, including this jaundiced old cynic.

The plan is also to have a group blog, which could be very interesting, especially if it does the sort of job that Conservative Home set out to do, but does no longer – offer a commentary on conservative (rather than the not-the-Conservative-Party) affairs.

Anyhow, a publication that lets yours truly loose on its pages has to be all good – or bad, depending on your point of view - so we'll keep an eye on it and report what it has to say from time to time.


Slowly deflating

"European Union leaders are cooling on their ambition to fight global warming, leaving a key greenhouse-gas emissions reduction target out of a draft statement prepared for a summit on Friday, internal documents show."

So said Earth Times - typically referring to this weekend's European Council as a "summit", unable like so many to come to grips with the basic institutional structure of the EU.

That aside, it noted that the EU had already pledged to cut emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and to deepen the cut to 30 percent if other rich nations made "comparable" efforts.

But, we were told, a draft "summit" declaration on long-term economic planning seen by the German Press Agency dpa set as the EU's goal for 2020 "reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent compared to 1990 levels," but had no reference to the 30 percent goal.

Then we learned that, "at the eleventh hour", our brave leaders have agreed to reinstate this "key goal". The blockage had come from the Italians and Cypriots, who somehow had residual objections to committing economic suicide.

However, all this is a far cry from the heady days of 2007 when Rajendra Pachauri was sweeping all before him, and the green agenda was conquering the world. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, it is dawning on the political élites that their global warming scam is no longer a runner.

It is struggling to get on the agenda and, if past experience is any guide, the tactic will be to talk about it less and less, until the issue is parked and forgotten.

And what is happening on the international stage is being replicated at local level. In an important but much neglected survey highlighted by the left-wing blog Left Foot Forward, it is clear that UK political parties are failing to convince the electorate that any of them have a distinctive voice on the environment.

Lib-Dims apart, who still have ambitions of making climate change an electoral issue, the Tories and Labour will be doing their best to avoid green issues during the election campaign – paying lip-service to the theme while avoiding anything that will upset the voters.

For, while the science is no longer "settled" – not that it ever was – in the popular mind the issue certainly is. The overwhelming sentiment is that it is a tax-raising "scam", part of the continuum of dishonesty perpetrated by self-serving politicians who are concerned only to line their own pockets. Interest is evaporating - it is just another political scam to add to the rest.

No wonder the greenies are beginning to panic, pouring out reports about how to deal with the "sceptics". They have lost it. They don't know how or why, and have yet to come to terms with the fact that they are not going to get back to the good old days. The bubble has not burst - it's not going to be like that. It is slowly deflating.