Commentary Magazine


Topic: climate change

Environmental Scientist Bashed for Rediscovering Science

Who would’ve thought the scientific community could be so hostile to dissent? Just like the reaction to attempts to debate climate change, the environmental community is up in arms over one scientist’s about-face on the dangers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in farming. Huffington Post reports on the controversy:

Last Thursday, Lynas gave a speech at a conference on farming at Oxford University. The response was immediate and overwhelming. Bloggers blogged, tweeters tweeted and Lynas’s own website crashed under the onslaught.

Had Lynas revealed some dramatic discovery, or unveiled a path-breaking new campaign? No, he simply stated, in measured and scientific terms, that he had changed his mind.

Lynas had been a leading voice against using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in farming. He was also sounding the alarm over climate change, and had immersed himself in climate science. When he belatedly did the same with GMOs, he found that a careful reading of the scientific evidence revealed that his previous opposition was untenable. At Oxford Lynas said he was, in a word, sorry.

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Who would’ve thought the scientific community could be so hostile to dissent? Just like the reaction to attempts to debate climate change, the environmental community is up in arms over one scientist’s about-face on the dangers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in farming. Huffington Post reports on the controversy:

Last Thursday, Lynas gave a speech at a conference on farming at Oxford University. The response was immediate and overwhelming. Bloggers blogged, tweeters tweeted and Lynas’s own website crashed under the onslaught.

Had Lynas revealed some dramatic discovery, or unveiled a path-breaking new campaign? No, he simply stated, in measured and scientific terms, that he had changed his mind.

Lynas had been a leading voice against using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in farming. He was also sounding the alarm over climate change, and had immersed himself in climate science. When he belatedly did the same with GMOs, he found that a careful reading of the scientific evidence revealed that his previous opposition was untenable. At Oxford Lynas said he was, in a word, sorry.

Somewhat surprisingly, I had the same reaction as the Huffington Post’s Mark Tercek, the CEO of the Nature Conservancy to the speech and the uproar surrounding it:

Let’s not allow our beliefs and values to divide us. Lynas’s talk and website were swamped with some embarrassingly vitriolic and harsh criticism — because he opened a debate. That should never be the case. We are all stronger if we embrace science even when it surprises us by overturning some of our beliefs, and we are all stronger if we respect one another’s views. 

The tone of Lynas’s speech is as important as its content. He is not picking fights or making attacks; instead, he lays out his thinking and the evidence on which it is based. This is a key lesson for the environmental community. Of course we want passionate debate and discussion about different strategies; this can only move us forward. We do not seek nor could ever achieve lock-step agreement, but when the debate loses all connection to science, the environmental movement suffers badly in the long run.

Lynas described his participation in the highly successful campaign to ban GMO foods, explaining that “These fears [over the safety of GMOs] spread like wildfire, and within a few years GM was essentially banned in Europe, and our worries were exported by NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to Africa, India and the rest of Asia, where GM is still banned today. This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with.” The most damaging effects of this campaign was felt in the developing world, Lynas explained:

The biggest risk of all is that we do not take advantage of all sorts of opportunities for innovation because of what is in reality little more than blind prejudice. Let me give you two examples, both regrettably involving Greenpeace.

Last year Greenpeace destroyed a GM wheat crop in Australia, for all the traditional reasons, which I am very familiar with having done it myself. This was publicly funded research carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific Research institute, but no matter. They were against it because it was GM and unnatural.

What few people have since heard is that one of the other trials being undertaken, which Greenpeace activists with their strimmers luckily did not manage to destroy, accidentally found a wheat yield increase of an extraordinary 30%. Just think. This knowledge might never have been produced at all, if Greenpeace had succeeded in destroying this innovation. As the president of the NFU Peter Kendall recently suggested, this is analogous to burning books in a library before anyone has been able to read them.

The second example comes from China, where Greenpeace managed to trigger a national media panic by claiming that two dozen children had been used as human guinea pigs in a trial of GM golden rice. They gave no consideration to the fact that this rice is healthier, and could save thousands of children from vitamin A deficiency-related blindness and death each year.

What happened was that the three Chinese scientists named in the Greenpeace press release were publicly hounded and have since lost their jobs, and in an autocratic country like China they are at serious personal risk. Internationally because of over-regulation golden rice has already been on the shelf for over a decade, and thanks to the activities of groups like Greenpeace it may never become available to vitamin-deficient poor people.

This to my mind is immoral and inhumane, depriving the needy of something that would help them and their children because of the aesthetic preferences of rich people far away who are in no danger from Vitamin A shortage. Greenpeace is a $100-million a year multinational, and as such it has moral responsibilities just like any other large company.

The entire speech is worth a watch (the video is below), especially his comments on organic farming, a fad that has taken the green community by storm. Two years ago the Heritage Foundation’s James M. Roberts released a paper that discussed the left’s knee-jerk opposition to GMO foods and its role in world food crises:

In the 1990s, radical green NGOs launched a broad-based campaign, mainly in Europe, to block food imports from developing countries that were produced using GMO seeds. They used scare tactics and junk science to question the safety of GMOs in the global food supply chain. The inefficient and heavily taxpayer-subsidized European agricultural sector also saw GMOs as an economic threat, which led to a marriage of convenience between the green NGOs and agribusiness protectionists.

Through advances in biotechnology, some food crops can be produced from GMO seeds that are more resistant to herbicides. In some cases, the plants themselves produce proteins that can kill predatory pests. Nobel Peace Prize winner and famed scientific pioneer Norman E. Borlaug wrote that GMOs could be a “salvation” for the world’s poor countries, “freeing them from obsolete, low-yielding, and more costly production technology.”

The major thrust of the Roberts paper, however, was on similar resistance to DDT and other chemical anti-malarial solutions. He writes:

Decades ago, the use of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) was banned worldwide for what were generally seen as noble and unassailable environmental and public health reasons. Today, ample evidence shows that the ban on DDT spraying has been a tragic mistake. In developing countries, it is linked to millions of preventable deaths from malaria. Worse, some protectionist European business sectors and activist groups continue to exploit the fears of DDT in ways that increase the suffering of the poor around the world.

One might hope that the scientific community will take the Lynas speech, and the backlash attached to it, under consideration. The damaging effects of fad causes taken up by Western scientists have a very real and very deadly impact in the developing world. Even in the year 2013, children are dying from starvation despite technological advances that enable crops to be grown more efficiently and in more abundance. In the tropical world, children are daily dying from malaria, dengue fever and other mosquito-borne illnesses when chemical spraying has been proven safe and effective. There is no reason why so-called scientists dismissive of the scientific method should stand in the way of technological developments that have the ability to save an untold number of lives. 

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Crisis and Conservatism

On the morning of October 1, 1997, 16-year-old Luke Woodham of Pearl, Mississippi slit his mother’s throat, grabbed a rifle, loaded his pockets with ammo, and drove his dead mom’s car to Pearl High School. There he opened fire, killing two kids and injuring seven others. Woodham then got back in the car with the intention of heading to nearby Pearl Junior High, where he planned on becoming his own copycat. But he never got there. Woodham crashed his car when he saw another gun trained on him through the windshield. That gun belonged to Pearl High’s vice principal Joel Myrtle, who had got his Colt .45 out of his truck at the first sound of shots fired. Myrtle managed to subdue Woodham until police showed up. 

The similarities between the Pearl High School shooting and Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook are strong. Depraved minds are rarely original. But the central difference between the two tragedies is important. Woodham, unlike Adam Lanza, was stopped mid-rampage by a law-abiding citizen with a gun. We can’t know how many innocent young lives the quick-thinking vice principal saved. While this doesn’t constitute an air-tight case for the availability of guns as defense against gun violence, it does remind us that such a case exists. It is a thoughtful case for saving lives, not ending them. Its defenders can adduce mounds of supporting data. And it is a case grounded in constitutional rights.

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On the morning of October 1, 1997, 16-year-old Luke Woodham of Pearl, Mississippi slit his mother’s throat, grabbed a rifle, loaded his pockets with ammo, and drove his dead mom’s car to Pearl High School. There he opened fire, killing two kids and injuring seven others. Woodham then got back in the car with the intention of heading to nearby Pearl Junior High, where he planned on becoming his own copycat. But he never got there. Woodham crashed his car when he saw another gun trained on him through the windshield. That gun belonged to Pearl High’s vice principal Joel Myrtle, who had got his Colt .45 out of his truck at the first sound of shots fired. Myrtle managed to subdue Woodham until police showed up. 

The similarities between the Pearl High School shooting and Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook are strong. Depraved minds are rarely original. But the central difference between the two tragedies is important. Woodham, unlike Adam Lanza, was stopped mid-rampage by a law-abiding citizen with a gun. We can’t know how many innocent young lives the quick-thinking vice principal saved. While this doesn’t constitute an air-tight case for the availability of guns as defense against gun violence, it does remind us that such a case exists. It is a thoughtful case for saving lives, not ending them. Its defenders can adduce mounds of supporting data. And it is a case grounded in constitutional rights.

None of that means the “pro-gun” argument should prevail. But it should be heard and debated, and its adherents should be shown the same respect as gun-control advocates. Both groups, after all, want to see fewer Sandy Hooks.

And yet that’s not where we are. The current “debate” is mooted by its own terms: guns are the problem and fewer guns the solution. The only matters up for discussion are which guns to ban, how to enforce the ban, and are Second Amendment advocates cruel or just dumb. This is where we’ve been heading for a while. In March 2011, 48 hours after the post-earthquake explosion at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel reneged on extending the life of her country’s nuclear reactors. At the time, I wrote

Hysteria on the largest scale possible has become the default official response to all crises. A lay public furnished with near-instantaneous media coverage can be counted on to demand immediate and absolute measures so that the crisis can be scrubbed from consciousness, however crudely or illogically. And over-monitored leaders will be sure to comply. Today a politician can lose his job if he doesn’t swiftly change historical precedent to fit the frenzied misinterpretation of a still-breaking news story.

That’s where we are. Reactive, finger-snap solutionism. If a single nuclear plant explodes, immediately move to halt civilian nuclear energy. If a hurricane devastates the East Coast, demand climate-change legislation. If a spree-killer goes on a rampage, get rid of guns.

The problem is that weather is, scientifically speaking, a chaotic system. And so too is human interaction. There is no one solution for keeping the chaos at bay. But, believe it or not, conservatives have thoughtful proposals about mitigating chaos or reducing its negative impact on people. The very night that Hurricane Sandy hit, the New York Times published an editorial explaining that such events demonstrate the need for big government. But many conservatives believe that big government was itself partially to blame for the damage done—without federal flood insurance no one would have developed homes so dangerously close to the water in the first place. Scaling back big government is not a matter of short changing those who have it hard but of sparing them the negative effects of poorly executed government intervention. A similar idea informs pro-Second Amendment arguments. If the government takes guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, only determined law-breakers will be armed in the event of attack.

The fault for not having real debate does not rest exclusively with progressive solutionists. It’s time for conservatives to drop their embattled and antagonistic posture. If they don’t want every crisis to automatically affirm progressive ideas they must acquaint Americans with why their own—sometimes, counterintuitive—ideas actually work for the good of the country.

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Bloomberg Endorsement All About Mike

What to make of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to wait until there were five days left before the election before endorsing President Obama’s re-election? The ostensible motivation for the move, announced in an op-ed published today in Bloomberg’s own news website, is the mayor’s reaction to Hurricane Sandy, which he says he believes was the result of climate change. Since Obama buys into the same global warming agenda, which calls for major government interventions into the economy in order to stave off the perceived danger, Bloomberg says that is enough to convince him to back the president even though he disdains his economic agenda and thinks him a weak leader.

Fair enough. If Bloomberg really believes his climate agenda is the No. 1 issue facing the country, rather than the economy or even foreign policy, that is his choice. But it’s hard to see how Bloomberg’s decision will do the president much good. Had the billionaire mayor/mogul backed the president earlier in the process, his financial help via the super PAC he created might have done the president some real good. But even in an age when celebrity/political endorsements are seen as inconsequential, Bloomberg’s will carry even less weight than most. The unpopular mayor won’t impact the outcome in deep blue New York or anywhere else. Nor is it likely that independents who are flocking to Romney because of Obama’s economic failures will change their minds because the former Democrat/Republican wrote an equivocal endorsement on the website named after him. The move is strictly about Bloomberg’s desire for attention.

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What to make of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to wait until there were five days left before the election before endorsing President Obama’s re-election? The ostensible motivation for the move, announced in an op-ed published today in Bloomberg’s own news website, is the mayor’s reaction to Hurricane Sandy, which he says he believes was the result of climate change. Since Obama buys into the same global warming agenda, which calls for major government interventions into the economy in order to stave off the perceived danger, Bloomberg says that is enough to convince him to back the president even though he disdains his economic agenda and thinks him a weak leader.

Fair enough. If Bloomberg really believes his climate agenda is the No. 1 issue facing the country, rather than the economy or even foreign policy, that is his choice. But it’s hard to see how Bloomberg’s decision will do the president much good. Had the billionaire mayor/mogul backed the president earlier in the process, his financial help via the super PAC he created might have done the president some real good. But even in an age when celebrity/political endorsements are seen as inconsequential, Bloomberg’s will carry even less weight than most. The unpopular mayor won’t impact the outcome in deep blue New York or anywhere else. Nor is it likely that independents who are flocking to Romney because of Obama’s economic failures will change their minds because the former Democrat/Republican wrote an equivocal endorsement on the website named after him. The move is strictly about Bloomberg’s desire for attention.

Whether Bloomberg’s views on climate change are correct is a debate for another day. But the notion that President Obama’s “leadership” on the issue has been a major factor in his administration, or that it will accomplish much to further the “green” agenda in the next four years if he should be re-elected, doesn’t hold water. Obama’s ideas about green energy amount to feckless kowtowing to the green lobby on necessary economic projects like the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada and funneling billions to Democratic fundraisers to support boondoggles like Solyndra. None of that will do much to affect the climate one way or the other. Moreover, Bloomberg knows very well that Congress won’t support cap and trade in the foreseeable future. If he really wanted to do something to protect New York from future disasters like Sandy, he might call for the construction of a sea barrier that could, at least in theory, shield the harbor from flooding, as this NPR report details.

Bloomberg also mentions issues like gay marriage and abortion, on which he sides with Obama. But, again, it’s not as if he pulls much weight with voters who prioritize those issues who were, no doubt, already on the president’s side.

The whole point of such a last-minute message for Obama is to maximize the publicity attached to it during a week in which political news rivets the country. Though many around the nation may not be aware of it, Bloomberg’s third mayoral term has been widely seen as a disaster, as this COMMENTARY article by Fred Siegel makes clear. Bloomberg’s tactics of buying off his critics with mammoth charitable donations has worn thin over the years, and all that’s left is a plutocrat/media mogul mayor attempting to impose his idea of a nanny state on the city with soda bans and impractical traffic plans for midtown Manhattan. In that sense, President Obama is the perfect candidate for Bloomberg, as he exemplifies the same big government vision in which individual rights and the market are pushed aside for the sake of elitist rule. Bloomberg is looking for another perch from which he can push ordinary Americans around after he leaves the mayor’s office, and kissing up to Obama and garnering attention for his pet causes is just the way to maximize his hopes of being something more than the name of a cable business network and various publications.

There’s one more point to be made about Bloomberg’s endorsement. The mayor was not the least bit shy about using the hurricane as the justification for his decision. But even if you buy into the unproven theories in which any kind of weather — hot or cold, windy or calm, wet or dry — can be seen as proof of global warming caused by humanity, is there any doubt that what he did was a blatant effort to politicize a tragedy that ought to be above politics? But, as with so much else, when you’re a liberal billionaire posing as an independent, you can ignore the same rules that would sink another mortal.

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Warren’s Mistake: Nationalizing the Race

A poll of Massachusetts voters gave Scott Brown the win over Elizabeth Warren in last night’s Senate debate by ten points. Though I think Brown probably did win the debate, I thought Warren kept it very close—much closer than that poll suggests—and helped herself in a few ways. But I think two exchanges make up for the difference in perception between the poll results and the way it looked to those outside Massachusetts.

As I wrote on Wednesday, one major advantage Brown has over Warren is the fact that voters consider him to have a much stronger connection to the state than Warren, who is from Oklahoma. That discrepancy is magnified in a debate, where Brown’s accent, and Warren’s lack of one, drive the point home. But there are other ways to reinforce the local-vs.-outsider dynamic, and I think the two candidates did so clearly during their answers to a question about whether climate change is real and what can be done about it. Here is how Brown ended his answer:

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A poll of Massachusetts voters gave Scott Brown the win over Elizabeth Warren in last night’s Senate debate by ten points. Though I think Brown probably did win the debate, I thought Warren kept it very close—much closer than that poll suggests—and helped herself in a few ways. But I think two exchanges make up for the difference in perception between the poll results and the way it looked to those outside Massachusetts.

As I wrote on Wednesday, one major advantage Brown has over Warren is the fact that voters consider him to have a much stronger connection to the state than Warren, who is from Oklahoma. That discrepancy is magnified in a debate, where Brown’s accent, and Warren’s lack of one, drive the point home. But there are other ways to reinforce the local-vs.-outsider dynamic, and I think the two candidates did so clearly during their answers to a question about whether climate change is real and what can be done about it. Here is how Brown ended his answer:

[Warren is] in favor of putting wind turbines in the middle of our greatest treasure–down in the Nantucket Sound. I, like Senator Kennedy before me, believe that’s not right.

And here’s how Warren closed her answer on the same question:

This race really may be for the control of the Senate. But what that would mean is, if the Republicans take over the Senate, [Oklahoma Senator] Jim Inhofe would become the person who would be in charge of the committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency. He’s a man who has called global warming a hoax. In fact, that’s the title of his book. A man like that should not be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency, overseeing their work. And I just don’t understand how we could talk about going in that direction.

Brown’s rebuttal was a layup: “You’re not running against Jim Inhofe, you’re running against me, professor.”

And that was really Warren’s mistake, in a nutshell, because the other exchange I had in mind ended with Warren saying: “This really is about who you want as commander in chief,” explaining her support for President Obama over Mitt Romney as something the voters should consider.

The truth is, neither of Warren’s answers was bad, in and of itself. It’s that the responses explicitly nationalized a statewide election. And it only underlined the fact that Warren is, at heart, truly a national candidate. The Senate seat would be a consolation prize for her, since she really wanted to lead a new consumer protection bureaucracy in Washington. She has been focused on attacking Wall Street, and throughout the debate kept complaining about oil companies and a “rigged playing field.”

Her talking points are well rehearsed, but they’re mostly vague references worded for the Beltway press more than blue-collar Massachusetts voters. She seemed to be talking over her state, not to it–past the voters to the journalists who love catchy expressions of their own narratives.

Has Warren’s campaign even tested Jim Inhofe’s name recognition in Massachusetts? I’ll bet not—and I’d guess it wouldn’t be very high. That’s not because Massachusetts voters are disconnected from national issues. It’s just that name recognition of even high-ranking politicians is usually fairly low—lower, at least, than most people would think. So Warren’s decision to use her time in that answer to tie Brown to Inhofe may have been making a point her supporters would agree with, but it was probably a poor choice anyway.

It’s a bit of a vicious cycle for Warren: she is less familiar with Massachusetts issues than Brown, so she nationalizes the race, further seeming less familiar with Massachusetts issues. To break that cycle, she’d have to ditch Oklahoma politics for the Nantucket Sound.

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RE: The Free Market is Crushing CO2 Emissions

As an addendum to Abe’s excellent post, it would be interesting  to see a poll that asked people where American CO2 emissions are today relative to where they were when Bill Clinton was elected president. I’m confident that most people would think they are higher or much higher, when in fact they are about the same, thanks to a steep fall beginning in 2007. Good environmental news, especially if it’s due to the free market instead of bureaucrats, just doesn’t fit the narrative. The New York Times, for instance, did not see fit to print this story.

But as John Hinderaker over at Powerline points out,  at least as big a problem is lousy data and the dishonest used of it by climateers and politicians.  Governor Jerry Brown of California recently said that, “Global warming’s impact on Lake Tahoe is well documented.” But it turns out that the data supporting that claim comes from just one weather station, which has measured an increase beginning about 1980. No other weather station in the area shows any increase in average temperatures, so why does this one? Because a local janitor was for years burning refuse in a barrel located only a few feet from the station and a tennis court was built not much further away in about 1980. The tennis court, of course, absorbs heat all day long and then slowly emits it all night. You can find pictures and charts here.

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As an addendum to Abe’s excellent post, it would be interesting  to see a poll that asked people where American CO2 emissions are today relative to where they were when Bill Clinton was elected president. I’m confident that most people would think they are higher or much higher, when in fact they are about the same, thanks to a steep fall beginning in 2007. Good environmental news, especially if it’s due to the free market instead of bureaucrats, just doesn’t fit the narrative. The New York Times, for instance, did not see fit to print this story.

But as John Hinderaker over at Powerline points out,  at least as big a problem is lousy data and the dishonest used of it by climateers and politicians.  Governor Jerry Brown of California recently said that, “Global warming’s impact on Lake Tahoe is well documented.” But it turns out that the data supporting that claim comes from just one weather station, which has measured an increase beginning about 1980. No other weather station in the area shows any increase in average temperatures, so why does this one? Because a local janitor was for years burning refuse in a barrel located only a few feet from the station and a tennis court was built not much further away in about 1980. The tennis court, of course, absorbs heat all day long and then slowly emits it all night. You can find pictures and charts here.

As American cities have grown, they have often engulfed weather stations, subjecting them in the urban heat island effect in the process. What was a potato field in 1925 is today a parking lot outside a strip mall. This is not taken into account. Also, hundreds of the weather stations no longer conform to NOAA standards, such as avoiding local conditions that might affect the data they collect, such as nearby asphalt surfaces and air conditioning exhaust fans.

If the Republicans win in November, they would do the country a big favor by requiring NOAA to bring its vast network of weather stations into conformity with its own standards for collecting good data.

 

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The Free Market Is Crushing CO2 Emissions

Anti-CO2 activists may have to find something else to give their lives meaning. The AP reports that “the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.”

So if you’ve been championing government action as the last best hope to save humankind from the big broil, you too should find a hobby: “Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide.”

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Anti-CO2 activists may have to find something else to give their lives meaning. The AP reports that “the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.”

So if you’ve been championing government action as the last best hope to save humankind from the big broil, you too should find a hobby: “Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide.”

Finally, if you think the problem has been America’s uncooperative attitude regarding international treaties, you’re wrong: “the shift from coal to gas has helped bring the U.S. closer to meeting some of the greenhouse gas targets in the 1997 Kyoto treaty on global warming, which the United States never ratified.”

It’s an amazing story, really. How did it happen? Shale gas and fracking: “A frenzy of shale gas drilling in the Northeast’s Marcellus Shale and in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana has caused the wholesale price of natural gas to plummet from $7 or $8 per unit to about $3 over the past four years, making it cheaper to burn than coal for a given amount of energy produced.”

Whether or not you think anthropogenic global warming is a real problem, it’s hard to overstate the significance of this. For years, the Inconvenient Truthers have been telling us the sky will fall unless Big Government comes in to regulate emissions on a global scale. Federally backed “green-energy” companies like Solyndra have gone bust on the taxpayer’s dime trying to combat CO2. The free market is now under perpetual attack, as a human-killing, planet-destroying profit monster that can only be fought back by a new regulatory regime. Hydraulic fracturing (the practice of freeing underground natural gas by using a mix of pressurized fluid containing water, sand, and chemicals) has come under fire from environmentalists as the energy-evil du jour. And, of course, in the supposedly “post-American” world, we are told the United States can no longer afford to look down on international agreements that would hold the behavior of Americans to the standard of some mediating body like the UN. All of it, nonsense.

No government or bureaucracy can centrally plan to accomplish what the self-interested nodes of a free-market system can. The U.S. brought down CO2 emissions without help from Washington or the United Nations. We can always raise them again by killing free-market innovation on the advice of environmentalists.

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Obama’s Campaign Strategy Conundrum

In just the latest indication of the direction his campaign will take, President Obama used a fawning interview in Rolling Stone to make it clear that he thinks his re-election will depend on mobilizing his liberal base. Because he must try to find a way to motivate erstwhile supporters who lack the enthusiasm for him that they showed during his 2008 victory, the president is counting on a twin strategy of demonizing Republicans and tilting to the left on domestic issues.

The starkest illustration of this came in his answers to questions about climate change in which he promised to make this article of faith for the left a central issue in the coming campaign. This may play well for the readers of Rolling Stone. But given the growing skepticism among ordinary Americans about the ideological cant on the issue that has spewed forth from the mainstream media and the White House, it may not help Obama with independents and the working class voters he needs as badly in November as the educated elites who bludgeoned him into halting the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. This conflict illustrates the contradiction at the core of the president’s campaign.

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In just the latest indication of the direction his campaign will take, President Obama used a fawning interview in Rolling Stone to make it clear that he thinks his re-election will depend on mobilizing his liberal base. Because he must try to find a way to motivate erstwhile supporters who lack the enthusiasm for him that they showed during his 2008 victory, the president is counting on a twin strategy of demonizing Republicans and tilting to the left on domestic issues.

The starkest illustration of this came in his answers to questions about climate change in which he promised to make this article of faith for the left a central issue in the coming campaign. This may play well for the readers of Rolling Stone. But given the growing skepticism among ordinary Americans about the ideological cant on the issue that has spewed forth from the mainstream media and the White House, it may not help Obama with independents and the working class voters he needs as badly in November as the educated elites who bludgeoned him into halting the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. This conflict illustrates the contradiction at the core of the president’s campaign.

The president’s campaign staff is correct in their estimation that he cannot be re-elected without energizing the liberal base and generating better than average turnout rates among the young voters and minorities who put him in the White House. These voters are understandably disillusioned with a presidency that has had few achievements and disappointed with the fact that Obama kept in place many of the Bush administration security policies. Convincing them that the “hope and change” they expected in the last four years will come to life in the next term is no easy task. Because he cannot run on his record, the president’s only hope of bringing out his supporters is by making the election a referendum on the Republicans, who must be portrayed as ideological extremists while Obama gives indications that although Guantanamo is still operating, he’s still the same liberal they voted for in 2008.

That’s where the climate change issue comes in. By promising to make it a central part of his campaign and saying “I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way,” the president is seeking to show his base that he can be trusted — as he proved when he blocked the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline — to bow to their ideological prejudices even when doing so may negatively impact the economy and fuel prices.

But doing so places him in jeopardy on the main issue for the rest of the electorate: the economy. At a time of rising gas prices and with even his liberal cheerleaders in the press acknowledging that the recovery the administration touted as being an indication that his policies worked has more or less collapsed, tilting to the left on climate change may alienate more voters than it will secure. President Obama believes he can exploit Mitt Romney’s contradictions on the issue. But deriding his opponent as a member of the Flat Earth Society doesn’t address his main problem: how to explain a stagnant economy that has grown worse on his watch and which most people believe will be damaged further by policies dictated by environmental extremists.

Though he needs to wave the green flag for the left, doing so reminds centrist voters that their jobs and rising fuel prices are being held hostage by a president indebted to the left. Obama may need those liberals to turn out, but the price of securing their renewed enthusiasm could cost him the election.

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Obama and the Rise of the Ocean Tides

The New York Times published a story earlier this week with the headline, “Sea Level Rise Seen as Threat to 3.7 Million.”

According to reporter Justin Gillis, “About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research. If the pace of the rise accelerates as much as expected, researchers found, coastal flooding at levels that were once exceedingly rare could become an every-few-years occurrence by the middle of this century.”

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The New York Times published a story earlier this week with the headline, “Sea Level Rise Seen as Threat to 3.7 Million.”

According to reporter Justin Gillis, “About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research. If the pace of the rise accelerates as much as expected, researchers found, coastal flooding at levels that were once exceedingly rare could become an every-few-years occurrence by the middle of this century.”

The Times goes on to inform us that the ocean has been rising slowly and relentlessly since the late 19th century, but “the rise appears to have accelerated lately and many scientists expect a further acceleration … One estimate that communities are starting to use for planning purposes suggests the ocean could rise a foot over the next 40 years, though that calculation is not universally accepted among climate scientists.”

In reading this story I was reminded of one of Barack Obama’s more extravagant claims in 2008. You can watch a clip of it here – a speech in which Obama said future generations would look back to his election and declare, “This was the moment when … the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

Many on the left will blame Republicans for opposing Obama’s policies to curb global warming (even though Democrats, even when they had overwhelming control of the House and Senate, failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation). Many on the right, on the other hand, argue that global warming is a hoax and even if Obama’s wish list had become law, it would have zero effect on rising sea levels. Whatever the case, Obama’s claim was made without caveats. Like King Canute, the tides will not recede at the command of the Great and Mighty Obama. Future generations will render a verdict on the Obama presidency — but one thing they will not say is this was the moment when Obama reversed the rise of the oceans and healed the planet.

Oh, and one other thing. According to legend, as the water rose around Canute’s throne, he told his flattering courtiers, “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings. For there is none worthy of the name but God, whom heaven, earth and sea obey.” Which leads me to believe King Canute was considerably more self-aware than President Obama.

 

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A Sad Day for Science

When internal fundraising and strategy documents from the Heartland Institute, a conservative group skeptical of man-made climate change, were leaked online last week, global warming activists were ecstatic. That excitement ended today when a prominent climate scientist, Peter Gleick, admitted to using a fake identity to obtain donor and budget records from Heartland, supposedly in order to “confirm” an explosive internal memo on the group’s 2012 Climate Strategy, which he claims was sent to him anonymously.

Heartland has disputed the veracity of the memo, which was leaked to the press along with the other documents.

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When internal fundraising and strategy documents from the Heartland Institute, a conservative group skeptical of man-made climate change, were leaked online last week, global warming activists were ecstatic. That excitement ended today when a prominent climate scientist, Peter Gleick, admitted to using a fake identity to obtain donor and budget records from Heartland, supposedly in order to “confirm” an explosive internal memo on the group’s 2012 Climate Strategy, which he claims was sent to him anonymously.

Heartland has disputed the veracity of the memo, which was leaked to the press along with the other documents.

Here’s an excerpt of Gleick’s confession, which he posted in full at the Huffington Post:

At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute’s apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.

Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name.

Gleick says he sent the documents to reporters before the story blew up last week. In a statement today, the Heartland Institute confirmed the legitimacy of the budget and fundraising documents, but maintained – as it has since the beginning – that the climate strategy memo that Gleick says was sent to him anonymously was falsified. Heartland also seemed to imply it would be taking legal action on the matter:

An additional document Gleick represented as coming from The Heartland Institute, a forged memo purporting to set out our strategies on global warming, has been extensively cited by newspapers and in news releases and articles posted on Web sites and blogs around the world. It has caused major and permanent damage to the reputations of The Heartland Institute and many of the scientists, policy experts, and organizations we work with.

A mere apology is not enough to undo the damage. …We hope Gleick will make a more complete confession in the next few days.

We are consulting with legal counsel to determine our next steps and plan to release a more complete statement about the situation tomorrow. In the meantime, we ask again that publishers, bloggers, and Web site hosts take the stolen and fraudulent documents off their sites, remove defamatory commentary based on them, and issue retractions.

Needless to say, Gleick’s confession will only fuel suspicions that the initial memo was a fake – and that the scientist may personally have been the one who fabricated it.

But even the staunchest climate change skeptics should have a hard time feeling good about the latest development. Gleick not only disgraced himself, he disgraced his profession, too – and during a time when Americans are increasingly distrustful of climate science. The good news is that Heartland caught onto Gleick’s identity fraud quickly, and may be able to repair the damage done to its image. Unfortunately, the damage that Gleick and the scientists involved in ClimateGate have done to the image of climate science may be permanent.

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