Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Sky Is Falling!! Again!! (Part 12,789)...........

.......Michael Chrichton has released a new novel, State Of Fear which takes a new angle on the Global Warming movement, and makes some relevant points that need to be heard louder. I have read a few reviews, and am looking forward to reading it.

Ronald Bailey, of Reason Magazine reviews it last week in the Wall Street Journal-

In "State of Fear" (HarperCollins, 603 pages, $27.95), Michael Crichton delivers a lightning-paced technopolitical thriller that turns on a controversial notion: All that talk we've been hearing about global warming -- you know, polar ice caps melting, weather systems sent into calamitous confusion, beach weather lingering well into January -- might be at best misguided, at worst dead wrong. Think "The Da Vinci Code" with real facts, violent storms and a different kind of faith altogether.

According to Mr. Bailey, the book weaves in and out of fact and fiction, combining stories of environmentalism gone amok using examples such as the DDT Ban (which ended up killing more people through malaria than it saved from DDT), and the New York Powerline Scare, which resulted in losses in the billions of dollars by requiring power companies to bury lines needlessly and by pushing down property values for no reason at all. From the recent history of the environmental movements, this book practically writes itself.

Mr Bailey also has been following the Kyoto Conferences, the latest installment being the (deep breath) "United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change's Tenth Conference of the Parties (COP10)." As many people know, the Kyoto plan consists of the following-

Mr Bailey at Tech Central Station-

Under the Kyoto Protocol developed countries agree to cut back their average emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide to 5.2 percent lower than their emissions in 1990 by 2012. The main greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide which is accumulating in the atmosphere as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide levels have increased from 280 parts per million in 1750 to 372 ppm today. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap heat as it is being radiated out into space and re-radiate back toward the surface. The chief greenhouse gas is water vapor. Without water vapor, the Earth's average surface temperature would be well below freezing. Computer climate models predict that extra greenhouse gases will heat the atmosphere and create a positive feedback loop increasing the amount of water vapor, thus boosting global temperatures even more.

The Senate initially laid out a proposal through the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98), which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States". According to Yale University economist William Nordhaus, the Kyoto proposal would cost $716 billion, and the United States would bear two-thirds of the global costs. Kyoto would have the overall effect of lowering the mean temperature average a whopping 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2050. One bad day at Mt. Saint Helens could set back over fifty years of C02 reductions, but we would not get the $700 billion back. President Bush has wisely withdrew the US from any consideration of the current proposals.

What I believe is missing from the attempts to lower emissions is cost efficiencies and incentives. There is little doubt that there are far more emissions-producing engines, factories, and power plants across the world than say, 100 years ago. The pollution currently smothering major cities across the world is obvious. For example, Mexico City, which has a driving system where you can only drive your car on certain days of the week. This system was implemented to fight the rising pollution that was literally choking its residents to death. Something had to be done. Unfortunately, like many other short-sighted environmental knee-jerk policies, the vehicle policy in Mexico ignored the principles of efficiency and in doing so overlooked the economic incentives it created. This created no incentives to cut back on driving and as a result the goal of decreased car use has not been attained. The end result has not lowered overall pollution levels in Mexico City.

Whenever industries look to cut costs, one of the biggest savings is cutting fuel consumption and minimizing utility costs. With smarter and more efficient technologies, industries can streamline their energy use, and cut down on the costs thereof. The same goes for automobiles. My new Ford Escape gets about 20 miles to the gallon, and emits barely any emissions as far as a gas burning engine is concerned. It makes sense for me to get a more fuel efficient vehicle (I save money), and the side effect is lowered emissions. Another example would be the Caterpillar Truck ACERT (Advanced Combustion Emissions Reduction Technology), integrated with the next generation HEUI fuel system for on-highway truck engines.
-David Semlow, marketing manager, Caterpillar Truck Engine Division-"This new technology is an environmentally sound solution that also offers excellent benefits to truck owners, ACERT is a customer-driven solution that is designed for the long-term." Again, technology that saves the customer money yet lowers emissions.

This principle of incentives needs to be applied throughout markets in order to truly get any lower emissions. By attempting to levy taxes and regulations on businesses and economies, we are stifling the natural evolution of innovations that make cleaner fossil fuel burning engines. By hindering countries such as the US that are on the cutting edge of producing these technologies, we are only slowing down the process of developing these systems.

Back to State of Fear- Mr Bailey continues-

""State of Fear" is, in a sense, the novelization of a speech that Mr. Crichton delivered in September 2003 at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club. He argued there that environmentalism is essentially a religion, a belief-system based on faith, not fact. To make this point, the novel weaves real scientific data and all too real political machinations into the twists and turns of its gripping story.

For example, the climate computer models relied upon by global-warming proponents like Drake -- or, in real life, by John Adams (NRDC), Carl Pope (Sierra Club), Kevin Knobloch (Union of Concerned Scientists) and John Passacantando (Greenpeace USA) -- predict that such warming will be strongest at the earth's poles, turning glaciers into floods and raising sea levels. In "State of Fear," Drake warns that Greenland's ice cap is melting and will push the sea level up by 20 feet. (As it happens, on Wednesday of this week Sir David King, Tony Blair's chief scientific adviser, testified with similar alarm before a British legislative committee, saying: "If the ice-sheets in Greenland melt, sea levels would rise 6.5 metres and London would be underwater.")

Yet as Mr. Crichton has his scientist Kenner correctly note, Greenland's ice cap is in no imminent danger of melting away. It is well established scientifically that average temperatures in Greenland and Iceland have been falling at the rather steep rate of 2.2 degrees Celsius per decade since 1987. As for temperatures in most of Antarctica, they have been falling for nearly 50 years, and ice there has been accumulating rather than melting. And those sea levels? Nils-Axel Mörner, a professor of geodynamics at Stockholm University, has been studying the low-lying atolls of the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean. He has found "a total absence of any recent sea level rise" and has instead found evidence of a fall in sea level in the past 20 years -- a fact that Mr. Crichton has the good instinct to report in the course of pushing his plot forward."

The simple reality that much of the environmental movements are having to deal with today is that the low-hanging fruit of emission reductions have all but been picked. Skies in most major cities in the US are cleaner than they were in the 70's and 80's. Now these groups are attempting to push socialist agendas under the guise of environmentalism. And as more books like Mr. Chrichtons are released, more people are beginning to realize that no, in fact the sky is not falling, and frankly, we don't want to try socialism again thankyouverymuch.

Stephen den Beste describes the phenomena adequately when commenting on Kyoto here-

"The real issue goes under a code-phrase: "sustainable development", which means "The US is using too damned much of everything and won't stop."

It's somewhat more general than that, actually: the first world and especially the US is using too much; we (?) need to throttle back the First World and let the Third World catch up.

All of this is based on a fundamental assumption that it's a zero-sum game. If the industrialized nations are wealthy then the Third World cannot be. If we slow down the First World then we get more equality in the world. Well, we would. But not by helping those living in the Third World in any important way. We'd make everyone equally poor, not equally rich.

Energy is the key. Nothing happens without expenditure of energy. There's lots of rhetoric about "clean energy" but that's all it is; there are only two substantial alternate sources of energy which don't involve burning things. The others are all fantasies.

You got nuclear and you got hydro. That's it. It's possible to generate power intermittently with wind, but not very much. It's possible to generate power with tides. You can get some power from geothermal. You can get some from solar. But none of them can generate power in terawatt quantities, which is what we need for a modern industrial economy. The US overall generates about 4 terawatts of electricity, and a lot more energy is consumed in cars and trucks and trains and ships and other ways.

So if we want to keep increasing the amount of power we'll generate, we'll have to burn coal or oil. It's as simple as that. And if we can't do so, then our economy will stop growing.

Yes, conservation. Yes, yes, yes; more rhetoric. But there are limits to that, and we've already wrung a lot of those savings out. Conservation isn't an infinitely deep well. Eventually you reach a point where restricted energy production puts the screws on everything else, and the kind of economic growth we've enjoyed ceases. Conservation reaches a point of diminishing returns. Thereafter, if the population grows and energy production doesn't, then everyone has to live on less. Not just less energy, less of everything, because everything else depends on energy consumption.

Which is the whole point. That is what those who've proposed this treaty are actually after. That is their real agenda. And the proof of that? Kyoto will force the industrialized nations to cut energy production, but permit developing countries to increase theirs.

And the cuts will fall disproportionately on the US. Not just because we're the largest consumer of energy, but also because the cuts are constant unrelated to expected population growth. France, whose population is falling, will have to cut energy production under the treaty the same amount as the US, whose population is rising rapidly. So the per-capita energy generation rate will fall much more rapidly in the US than in France, and the US economy will finally be reined in and cease to embarrass hell out of everyone else who can't keep up.

Updated Addition: (via QandO)Coincidentally, Michael Chrichton himself pens an article for Parade Magazine, highlighting the many points raised in the preceeding post. (And one more thing about Michael Chrichton. Jurassic Park. I simply cannot get me enough of them movies where humans get eaten by Dinosaurs. Never. Especially those humans who ya' know, really had it coming, like that lawyer in the first Jurassic Park. I'm saying, he needs to write one where T-Rex invades France and gets so fat from eating that Halliburton puts him on a diet, making him some huge T-Rex stairmaster or something. Pure gold I tellsya..)

From the article-"Fittingly, the century ended with one final, magnificent false fear: Y2K. For years, computer experts predicted a smorgasbord of horrors, ranging from the collapse of the stock market to the crash of airplanes. Some people withdrew their savings, sold their houses and moved to higher ground. In the end, nobody seemed to notice much of anything at all.

“I’ve seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it never came to pass,” Mark Twain is supposed to have said. At this point in my life, I can only agree. So many fears have turned out to be untrue or wildly exaggerated that I no longer get so excited about the latest one. Keeping fears in perspective leads me to ignore most of the frightening things I read and hear—or at least to take them with a pillar of salt.

For a time I wondered how it would feel to be without these fears and the frantic nagging concerns at the back of my mind. Actually, it feels just fine.

I recommend it."

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