Cornwall Alliance For the Stewardship of Creation Tue, 22 Aug 2017 23:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cornwall Alliance 32 32 On global warming, the American public gets it! Tue, 22 Aug 2017 23:59:03 +0000 This is simply amazing. After all the hype by media, politicians, entertainers, alarmist climate scientists, and even a Nobel Peace Prize-winning former Vice President, only 28% of Americans think climate scientists understand the causes of climate change “very well.”

That’s one finding of a Pew Research Study on which Scott Rasmussen reports in his #Number of the Day for August 21, 2017, which begins:

Twenty-eight percent (28%) of Americans think that climate scientists understand the causes of global climate change “very well.” A Pew Research study found that only 19% believe that the climate scientists have a very good understanding of the best ways to address the issue.

In general, the study found that Americans trust climate scientists more than politicians on the topic. Two-thirds (67%) believe scientists should play a major role in addressing policy issues on the matter. Most (56%) also believe that energy industry leaders (56%) and the general public (56%) should have a major say in such policy topics.

My goodness! The rumors of the death of common sense among Americans appear to have been premature!

Rasmussen goes on to report that the Pew study found that only 27% percent of Americans think there’s a consensus on global warming—despite years of their being told, over and over, even by former President Barack Obama, that “97% of all scientists agree” that global warming is real, mainly manmade, and dangerous enough to justify spending $Trillions to reduce it. Only 35% think over half of the scientists agree. Under a third say they think the scientists “rely on the best scientific evidence.” Just over a fourth believe scientists’ political views influence their work.

Finally, in stark contrast with the pessimism so nearly universal among climate alarmists and other environmentalists, “Most Americans (55%) believe that new technology will probably solve most of the problems from climate change.”

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Repairing, updating, and expanding infrastructure: The Trump infrastructure permitting order is a good start, but there’s room for strengthening Tue, 22 Aug 2017 16:26:35 +0000

One of the biggest barriers to investment in infrastructure all across the United States is the long, costly, and unpredictable permitting process. If you have any doubts, just consider the Keystone XL pipeline extension.

Proposed by TransCanada in 2008, approved by the Canadian government and the State of South Dakota in 2010, it floundered around in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Interior Department, and State Department for another five years before President Barack Obama rejected it on Nov. 6, 2015. A year and four months later, President Donald Trump reversed Mr. Obama’s decision and permitted Keystone XL.

Along the way, billions of dollars were put at risk, hundreds of millions lost, and Americans were whipped into furious conflict as supporters and opponents bickered.

With minor modifications, that story could be repeated for hundreds of infrastructure projects over the past decade and more.

Many of the delays and much of the waste could have been avoided with a more rational, more efficient, more transparent, and more rapid federal permitting process.

That’s what an executive order Mr. Trump released August 15 is intended to achieve.

Continue reading in The Washington Times.

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Got Some Expertise on Climate Change? Here’s Your Chance to Bring some Balance Thu, 17 Aug 2017 20:55:56 +0000

The U.S. Global Change Research Program is calling for nominations of review editors for the fourth edition of the National Climate Assessment. Qualified scientists, economists, and other experts who aren’t committed to global warming alarmism (a view pushed by past editions, as illustrated by the screen shot of the USGCRP’s NCA web page above—because everybody knows that anthropogenic climate change will bring more and stronger hurricanes???) should consider taking the opportunity to have some input before the NCA comes out. They just might succeed in making it more balanced and reasonable and less alarmist. Here’s info from GCRP’s page:

Call for Review Editors for Fourth National Climate Assessment

Submit Nomination

USGCRP is currently seeking individuals with pertinent, demonstrated expertise to serve as Review Editors for the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4).

Review Editors are responsible for ensuring that all substantive comments received during the public comment period and from the National Academy of Sciences review are appropriately addressed. They will also provide guidance to chapter leadership on contentious issues, and ensure that significant scientific uncertainties are adequately reflected in the text. Review Editors do not comment on the text itself.

Nominees for Review Editor should be accomplished experts with climate-related proficiency in one or more of the sectors or regions addressed in NCA4, such that the nominee can contribute to the development of a robust scientific assessment.

The deadline for submission is September 8, 2017. For more information on this call for nominees, please see the Federal Register Notice.

If you would like to nominate yourself or others, please visit our Contribute site.

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What Happens to Water Quality When Communities Get Poorer? Thu, 17 Aug 2017 20:20:58 +0000

(Photo courtesy of Gabriele Diwald, Flickr Creative Commons.)

Nearly universal access to safe drinking water is one of the great miracles of modern society. Americans have taken it for granted for over half a century, though mostly unjustified fears of municipal water supplies have led to increased resort to much more expensive and usually no safer bottled water.

The growth of environmentalism has stimulated fears that various pollutants—mostly from industrial and agricultural sources—threaten to subject millions of Americans to unsafe drinking water. That’s a shame, since the treatment methods used by good municipal water systems are capable of removing those so completely that they pose little to no risk.

What isn’t adequately appreciated, however, is the expense of running public water supply systems. They require expensive, technical equipment that must be maintained and repaired or replaced from time to time. They also require skilled operators. Both of those cost money—lots of it.

The federal EPA recently reported that millions of Americans have consumed, or are at risk of consuming, unsafe drinking water through local water supply systems, and in most cases the cause is the difficulty of paying the cost of maintaining and operating those systems properly. And it’s a growing problem as more and more water systems reach the end of their useful lives and will need major overhauls.

Abandoned water treatment plant (Photo courtesy of “,” Flickr Creative Commons.)

In the twenty years from 2011 to 2031, the District of Columbia, for instance, is projected to need to spend about $1.6 billion, or $2,700 per capita ($135 per person per year), to keep its water safe—the highest per capita cost in the nation. Arkansas will need to spend about $2,100 per capita ($105 per person per year), the highest of any state. The lowest per capita cost is expected for Rhode Island, at about $141 per capita (an amazingly low $7 per person per year). A rough average around the nation would be about $1,300 per capita ($65 per person per year).

Even the highest of those per capita costs seem amazingly low for something as essential to life as safe drinking water. But one thing’s clear: the richer a community is, the more easily it can afford pure drinking water—and the poorer it is, the more difficulty it will have.

That’s what lies behind one particular part of the story: the declining water quality of communities impoverished by the collapse of the coal industry, driven partly by Obama-era federal policy (the “war on coal”) and partly by the declining price of natural gas, which has led to less demand by energy utilities for coal as an electricity source. The Texas Tribune reports:

The crash of the coal mining industry in southern West Virginia has left hundreds of residents in charge of their own small water systems—some of which date to the Civil War. Residents in the mountains of Wyoming and Fayette counties say they are getting too old to maintain water treatment plants and pipes, and they lack funding to carry out proper treatment on the water, which comes from springs in old coal mines.

Ironically, the very next paragraph in the Tribune‘s report quotes Natural Resources Defense Council health program director Erik Olson as saying,

What is pretty clear is that a lot of these small communities, especially in lower-income areas, have a real problem ensuring compliance or even treating the water. A lot of these smaller communities, they don’t even have the wherewithal to apply for available funding.

The irony stems from the fact that NRDC was one of the leading voices for closing down coal mines and coal-fired electric generating plants. Its own policies helped create the poverty that threatens to subject millions of people in what was once economically vibrant coal country to unsafe drinking water.

Pure water, like everything else in life, including a clean, healthful, beautiful environment, is a costly good. Wealthier people can afford more of it than poorer people. Environmental policies that impoverish people will impoverish the environment as well. Preventing both of those kinds of impoverishment is one of the Cornwall Alliance’s main tasks.

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Should America Subsidize the Coal Industry? Wed, 16 Aug 2017 16:08:52 +0000 For the record: The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation opposes all subsidies—corporate and individual, at federal, state, and local levels, regardless of their rationale. Not even national security justifies subsidies. If the nation needs bombers or computers or fuel for its security, let it buy them, plain and simple. But let it not say, “We’re going to subsidize this industry because its health is important to national security.” No, its health isn’t important to national security, the bombers or computers or fuel it makes are important—so pay for them as end products that the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, NSA, or TSA then owns and puts to use.

Effects of coal mining. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Woodard Madera, Flickr Creative Commons.)

I’m prompted to say this by the fact that President Trump—whose decision to leave the Paris climate agreement, and whose executive order reducing the environmental impact permitting burden for infrastructure projects, and whose executive orders setting aside most of Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” and other excesses, we support—is mulling over a request from West Virginia Republican Governor Jim Justice for $4 or $5 billion in federal subsidies to his state’s ailing coal industry.

We opposed the Obama Administration’s war on coal as anti-liberty, anti-market, and anti-poor. But that doesn’t mean we support subsidizing an industry that is dwindling for far more reasons than that past war on coal. West Virginia coal is of comparatively low quality (because high in sulfur) and comparatively expensive to mine, compared with that in Indiana, Wyoming, Colorado, and elsewhere. And the main reason for coal’s decline in share of electric utility consumption isn’t regulations but the declining price of natural gas, its natural competitor.

Reclaimed strip mines in southwestern Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy of Nyttend via Wikimedia Commons.)

Mr. President, thank you for making America’s energy market more free by undoing Obama-era excessive regulations and subsidies that advantaged “renewables” over conventional and nuclear. Now, resist the urge to play to your base in West Virginia by making America’s energy market less free by imposing a new subsidy for coal. Let coal compete with everything else on a level playing field, without government policies that advantage one energy source over another. It won’t disappear—at least not soon—but where it gets used, for what, by whom, will be determined by free decisions by free people, not by politicians.



Featured image “Reclaimed strip mines in southwestern Pennsylvania” courtesy of Nyttend via Wikimedia Commons.

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Did We Run Out of Planet Last Week? Mon, 07 Aug 2017 08:00:38 +0000

Today, 2nd August, we have collectively consumed all of the planet’s renewable resources.

So said Nicolas Hulot, France’s Minister of State for Ecological Transition, in a YouTube video published August 2 by Transition ecologique et solidaire.

Sometimes people we assume are intelligent say things that are so blindingly obviously stupid we can’t persuade ourselves to treat them that way, so we think, “Maybe I’m the blindingly obviously stupid one,” and we dig hard to try to figure out the brilliance of what we thought stupid. That’s the case here.

Hulot’s judgment is based on a formula developed by the Global Footprint Network that supposedly shows how much of the earth’s resources people are using versus how rapidly they can be renewed. Click that link and you can calculate, supposedly, how many planets it would take to support everyone if the whole human population lived the way you do. (I did. There are a bunch of judgment calls involved, but mine worked out to a personal Earth Overshoot Day of February 16, i.e., if everyone lived like me, we’d need 7.9 Earths. Supposedly!)

Hulot goes on to say what we need to do “to give nature the time to regenerate the resources that are essential for us (air, water, fish stocks, high quality agricultural soil):

  • “We must work together for renewable energy, because fossil energies pollute and are in limited quantity, but the wind and the sun will not be gone in a year.” He doesn’t mention that the sun’s gone, on average, at least half of every day—plus whatever time it’s obscured by clouds—and the wind is gone whenever it’s not blowing. But, hey, we don’t want to get technical here, do we?
  • “We must also work together for agriculture,” encouraging “local distribution networks where children … eat vegetables and meat produced next door on a farm that respects the environment.” Got it. We all need to become locavores.

Those are the only concrete steps. Oh, yes, he says we must “go from a cowboy economy to a cosmonaut economy.” Cowboy = wasteful, cosmonaut = almost no waste.

And then there’s the politics of it all:

But we must all act, and we must all act together. If we all choose to be cosmonauts rather than cowboys, the future can be a happy place. [I wasn’t aware that the future was a place. I thought it was a time. A little confusion of the dimensions? But Hulot is a government minister; we should cut him some slack.]

With climate plans, the general review of food and nutrition, and with the law for the recovery of biodiversity, France has all the tools necessary to create an ecological and social transition that serves everyone equally.

Of course, it must be not only France but the whole world. France can’t carry the whole planet on its shoulders.

“We must all act, and we must all act together.” Is there a clearer definition of collectivism? A surer recipe for tyranny? In fact, a closer equation to fascism? You know, the political/economic doctrine of the fasces, the sticks all bound together?

Now, just in case you’re getting a little worried that Hulot and the Global Footprint Network are really onto something, let me reassure you: the calculator is a bunch of nonsense.

Bjorn Lomborg, an intelligent human being, a good economist, and President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, explains why. He’s looked under the hood, so to speak.

For more than a decade, the World Wildlife Fund and other conservation organizations have performed complicated calculations to determine our total “ecological footprint” on the planet. In their narrative, population growth and higher standards of living mean that we are now using 1.7 planets and are depleting resources so quickly that by 2030, we would need two planets to sustain us. If everyone were to suddenly rise to American living standards, we would need almost five planets. …

But this scare is almost completely fallacious. The ecological footprint tries to assess all our usage of area and compare it with how much is available. At heart, this is a useful exercise, and like any measure that tries to aggregate many different aspects of human behavior, it tends to simplify its inputs.

Some of these simplifications are valid. It is clear that roads, housing development and food production all take up valuable space on our planet. This part of the ecological footprint is a convenient measure of our literal footprint on earth. But roads and housing only takes up about 3.8% in their latest numbers. And even food production only uses about a third of all productive land [emphasis added]. Moreover, as better technology achieves ever higher yields, it is likely that this total area will not increase much and may even decrease over time.

He goes on to consider forest and grasslands, 25% of the world’s area, and fisheries, perhaps around 5%.

In total, all of the somewhat problematically defined areas sum to 67% of the world’s biologically productive area. There seems to be little problem here – one earth is clearly enough.

But here’s where the formula gets really creative.

What makes the ecological footprint exceed the available land is CO₂ emissions. Clearly it is not obvious how to translate CO₂ into land area. So the ecological footprint decided to get around this by defining the area of emissions as the area of forest needed to soak up the extra CO2. This single factor makes up 101% of the planetary land area and is the only reason why we suddenly need more than one planet. … Not only is it dubious that we would have to reduce CO₂ to zero (though we definitely have to reduce it significantly in the long run). But much more important, choosing forests to soak up CO₂ is the absolutely most inefficient way to cut CO₂. The standard assessment finds that every year we emit one tonne of CO₂, we should plant 2000m2 of forests to soak it up. But if we planted wind turbines or solar panels instead, we would need only about 30m2 or less to avoid a ton of CO₂ emitted.

I.e., the formula assumes we choose a CO2 reduction method that’s 1/66th as efficient as we could.

And we wouldn’t even need to place them on biologically active land (we could place the solar panels on rooftops or in the desert, and wind turbines in the ocean). Suddenly the 101% drops to less than 2% — or possibly zero.

Which is just part of why, as Lomborg cites  from “a recent review,” “ecological footprint measurements, as currently constructed and presented, are so misleading as to preclude their use in any serious science or policy context.”

You can get more details by reading the whole of Lomborg’s article.

The low-down? The scare about “Earth Overshoot Day” is one more bogus apocalypticism.



Featured image courtesy of NASA.

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Why Should America Expand its Nuclear Energy Sector? Sat, 05 Aug 2017 08:00:24 +0000 I’ve long thought the primary obstacle to the great expansion of nuclear power’s contribution to America’s energy needs is excessive regulation imposing safety standards that go far beyond what’s necessary and thus pushing costs prohibitively high. I still think so, and one of the challenges Republicans in Congress should take on is revising bringing those rules into conformity with the reality: that nuclear energy generation as practiced in the United States, in both military and civilian spheres, is safer both theoretically and historically than both fossil fuel and renewables like wind, solar, and biofuels.

What I hadn’t thought through much before now was the importance of continuing, modernizing, and even enlarging our nuclear energy sector for reasons of national security.

The Hoover Institution’s Jeremy Carl discusses that in today’s National Review. Here’s the core (pardon the pun) of his case:

Without a course correction we will see the future of nuclear power determined by China and Russia, who continue to move aggressively in this arena. China will complete five new nuclear power plants in this year alone.

The dangers of this approach should be obvious: While nuclear power plants are in many ways quite distinct technologically from nuclear weapons, the capabilities used in domestic enrichment for civilian nuclear power plants can also be used to create nuclear weapons. This fact has been at the core of much of our conflict with Iran and North Korea over their “civilian” nuclear programs.

The U.S. has traditionally used its leadership in the supply of nuclear technologies to make it very difficult for nuclear-power-plant operators to proliferate the technology. Do you think the Chinese and Russians are likely to share our interests in this? Look to Pyongyang and Pakistan to find out.

… the reactors that power our nuclear navy — over 140 ships ranging from submarines to aircraft carriers — run off technology virtually identical to that powering our civilian reactors. In fact, domestic nuclear power originally grew from these naval programs. Losing the technology and operating experience through the atrophy of our domestic nuclear-power sector would mean a profound loss of capability in our military…. the expertise needed to build passively safe reactors — reactors that by their very design would make a serious nuclear accident almost impossible — will not be cultivated if our next generation of power plants is not developed.

… more than any other form of electricity generation, nuclear has substantial strategic dimensions. Before we decide whether the U.S. wants to have nuclear power in its future, it is essential that our policymakers understand everything that is at stake. And even if we exit the civilian nuclear business, the rest of the world is not likely to follow suit. The nuclear genie is out of the bottle for good. The only question is whether we want the genie to obey our commands — or those of Beijing and Moscow.

Carl and co-author David Fedor have a new book out, Keeping the Lights on at America’s Nuclear Power Plants, that looks promising. People who care about providing abundant, affordable, reliable electricity to the American people for generations to come might want to read it.

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If You Can’t Out-argue Your Opponent, You Can Always Attack a Straw Man Instead Fri, 04 Aug 2017 18:23:05 +0000

A blogger with the pen name “Erasmus” at The Economist‘s “Religion and Public Policy” blog celebrates the activity of various religious supporters of the Paris Agreement and other things climatically correct in “Faith grows greener in the era of Donald Trump.” He starts off:

Americans working at the interface between religion and care for the global environment have a new spring in their step these days. The reason is a paradoxical one. Donald Trump’s decision to pull the country out of the Paris accord on climate change has galvanised green-minded congregations, and even those who have not hitherto been especially green, to think harder about what they can do for the planet. The effect is especially noticeable on America’s West Coast, a bastion both of environmentalism and of unconventional forms of religion.

He focuses then on Episcopal priestess Sally Bingham, “the point-person for the environment in the diocese of California” and “founder of Interfaith Power and Light[,] an association which groups congregations and faith communities in at least 38 American states.” Afterward he names some others.

“Erasmus” then offers the obligatory journalistic “balance” by nodding the head to, and misrepresenting, “America’s evangelical leadership” who disagree:

Such activities would be anathema to the hard core of white conservative evangelicals who were a significant part of Mr Trump’s electoral base. In one version or another, they broadly affirm the president’s argument that the Paris accords are unfair to America and will compromise its economic growth, boosting the country’s competitors. The picture is mixed: about a decade ago, a segment of America’s evangelical leadership became converts to the idea that global warming was an urgent problem. But Willis Jenkins, a religious-studies professor at the University of Virginia, has argued that the persistence of an eco-sceptical evangelical lobby may have emboldened the president to walk away from Paris.

Albert Mohler, a powerful figure in the evangelical world, has asserted that much environmental discourse runs counter to Christian thinking because it regards homo sapiens as a problem rather than as a species with a divine calling to exercise dominion over the earth. A particularly vitriolic form of anti-environmental religious thinking, a series of videos entitled “Resisting the green dragon”, warns that concern about the planet is a smokescreen for an effort to take over and control the lives of Americans.

And he concludes by citing Bingham in response, first paraphrasing, “Such people may still find terms like ‘climate action’ a turnoff, but they are open to persuasion that care for God’s creation is a religious duty,” then quoting her directly:

If you believe in loving your neighbour, you don’t pollute your neighbour’s air …. And there is almost nobody who thinks that as a religious duty, we are supposed to wreck Creation.

The implication, of course, is that “climate action” = “care for God’s creation”; carbon dioxide—the colorless, odorless gas essential to all life on earth and nontoxic except at levels far above anything that could possibly be reached by burning fossil fuels—is pollution; and failing to engage in “climate action” means wrecking creation. Each of those, of course, begs the question.

One way to get people not to consider someone’s views with an open mind is to cherry-pick what, to a given audience, would be the most objectionable reasons and present them as if they were the only ones. That’s what this article does in its references to Albert Mohler and the Resisting the Green Dragon video series. A fair treatment would have recognized that both Mohler and the lecturers in the video series offer other reasons as well.

In the video series, in particular, veteran climatologist David Legates offers an empirical scientific case for what some have since come to call the “lukewarmer” position: human contribution to global warming is almost certainly real, but it’s likely considerably smaller than the computer models on which the IPCC and others who warn of dangerous to catastrophic warming rely predict—a point supported if not proven (which hardly anything is in empirical science) by the fact that CMIP5 models on average predict 2 to 3 times the warming actually observed over the relevant period.

Another way to turn people away from listening to someone’s reasoning is simply to misrepresent it entirely, and that’s what Willis Jenkins does in the essay  “Trump, climate change, and white US Evangelicalism” that “Erasmus” linked. After explicitly saying that he’s going to ignore such people’s “offered rationales”—the reasons they themselves give for their positions–Jenkins offers the following hypotheses, all speculative, for why white American evangelicals are more skeptical than others about dangerous human-induced warming:

  • “beliefs about providence and eschatology,”
  • “a way of avoiding accountability for polluting the atmosphere,”
  • “allying themselves with spiritual contempt for earth,”
  • seeing the sky as “the symbolic province of deities,”
  • letting “white societies remain unaccountable for climate change,”
  • licensing “settler sovereignty over resources in the remaining indigenous territories,”
  • “petro-manichaeism (recoiling from the demonic earth, it takes spiritual satisfaction in energy ripped from dark material and transformed into light and air”); and
  • seeing themselves “as an embattled minority contending with conformist demands of a pluralist secular culture.”

Jenkins completely ignores the extensive scientific, engineering, and economic arguments they offer in a variety of papers, like climatologist David Legates and environmental economist G. Cornelis van Kooten’s paper A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor 2014), books like climatologist Roy W. Spencer’s The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled the World’s Top Climate Scientists), and other resources.

It is also helpful, if you want to prevent people’s considering a given point of view, to describe those who hold it as exclusively people without any relevant expertise. But the organization that produced the cited video series—the Cornwall Alliance—comprises over 65 scholars, including natural scientists (including Ph.D.’d meteorologists, climatologists, and other climate scientists) and economists (especially those specializing in environmental and developmental economics) as well as those qualified to address the ethical aspects of climate and energy policy (such as theologians, philosophers, and ethicists).

“Erasmus” and Jenkins might not find our scientific arguments convincing. They at least have a responsibility not to misrepresent them and us.

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Will Sun-Controlled Global Climate Cool for Next 50 Years? Fri, 04 Aug 2017 08:00:41 +0000 One of the most hotly debated questions about modern global warming (roughly 1960–present) is how much credit (or blame) for it goes to the Sun, and how much to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The U.N Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and “mainstream” climate scientists tend to discount the former and pin all or almost all on the latter. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change tends to discount the latter and pin all or almost all on the former.

Studies pro and con appear from time to time. The most recent is “Harmonic Analysis of Worldwide Temperature Proxies for 2000 Years,” by Horst-Joachim Lüdecke, of the University of Applied Sciences, Saarbrücken, Germany, and Carl-Otto Weiss, of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute.


The gist: A complex analysis of two millennia of local and regional temperature data from around the globe indicates that temperature rises and falls in cycles of roughly 1,000, 460, and 190 years, and when those cycles coincide, we get the markedly warmer (Roman, ~0 AD; Medieval, and Present, ~1980–present) or cooler (particularly, the Little Ice Age, ~1500) periods.

Further, as Pierre Gosselin notes in his blog post about the study, “the sum of the three cycles shows the temperature increase from 1850 to 1995 as a result of the three natural cycles,” from which the authors infer that “CO2 plays only a minor role (if any) for the global climate.”

Gosselin concludes his post:

Lüdecke and Weiss note that the present maximum of the cycle sum corresponds well with the world temperature stagnation since 1995 AD, the stagnation unexplained by current climate models. As the dominant cycles have persisted for an extended time, one can assume that they will persist for the near future. They write: “This allows to predict cooling until 2070 AD.” [Emphasis Gosselin’s.]

For the details, read the original paper. For fuller summary, read Gosselin’s blog post.

This study adds new evidence for the thesis of S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery’s book Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years.

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Why do Bootleggers and Baptists Love Paris? Thu, 03 Aug 2017 19:27:54 +0000


Does it even make sense to ask “Why?” if we don’t know “if”? Do bootleggers and Baptists both love Paris?

Well, yes—if “Paris” is the Paris climate accord, the “bootleggers” are industrial giants with a lot to gain from policies needed to implement the accord, and the “Baptists” are the environmentalists who support the accord because they think it’ll save the planet.

As I explained here and here:

Corporations that stand to benefit from mandates and subsidies to renewable energy—wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels (and best of all, hydro, but greens oppose new dams)—would naturally object. Exiting Paris puts those mandates and subsidies at risk. For example, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, resigned from the president’s council of business advisers after Trump’s announcement. Duh. He stands to lose big.

Large corporations that see Paris as protection against smaller competition that can’t afford the technologies needed to reduce CO2 emissions (e.g., ExxonMobil and Conoco Phillips) would object. It’s standard practice for big firms that can stand the cost of regulations to champion regulations that will strangle small competitors.

Bruce Yandle, one of the country’s leading environmental economists, puts the whole case really well in a new blog piece, “When Industries Love Regulation: Trump’s Paris exit and the Bootlegger-Baptist disarray,” over at the Property & Environment Research Center. A little excerpt:

As always, there are multiple motivations at play. Microsoft and Apple, for example, are deeply engaged in software development for electric cars. Siemens and ABB are global providers of efficiency-improving electrical machinery, which they argue can reduce total energy consumption, operating costs, and carbon emissions. Getting a strong Paris nudge to the market for their favorite products could help the bottom line.

This unlikely coalition is evidence of yet another version of the age-old alliance between bootleggers and Baptists. The story goes like this: While the churchgoers normally wouldn’t deign to associate with moonshiners, the two groups share a common interest and political end. They both want to shut down liquor stores on Sunday. But they have very different reasons for doing so. Baptists provide moral support for the policy, while bootleggers receive bottom-line benefits. When combined, the two groups tend to form winning coalitions in a variety of contexts.

Consider how these forces play out in the climate-policy debate. Environmentalists play the role of the Baptists, who for moral reasons support Sunday closing laws. Today, instead of closing liquor stores, these environmental “Baptists” want to shut down carbon emitters. In recent years, environmentalists have supported restrictions that, assisted by market forces, have shuttered coal mines, closed or penalized power plants, limited fossil-fuel emissions, and regulated automobiles. Since the 1970s, the environmental Baptists have preferred central government command-and-control regulation and have often argued successfully against the use of decentralized common law, prices, and fees for accomplishing their goals. Command-and-control policies, of course, call for larger bureaucracies to design and enforce the rules and empower politicians who, in solemn support, deliver on environmental promises.

But another group, the opportunistic industrialists, also often prefer the same command-and-control approach as environmentalists. These environmental “bootleggers” are like the characters in the original story who love seeing the liquor stores—their economic rivals—closed on Sundays. Competition is eliminated for one day a week. These environmental bootleggers love command-and-control regulations that raise rivals’ costs and limit the entry of new competition. They welcome taxpayer subsidies and government-guaranteed loans for developing new solar cells, improved batteries, emission-free automobiles, and other forms of clean energy, and they perhaps smile at the prospect of cartelizing world markets with coordinated rules and higher prices that may result from global emission-reduction agreements that they help design.

With firm-specific government subsidies for the development of clean technologies and a seat at the regulators’ table, the environmental bootleggers, like their earlier counterparts, can laugh all the way to the bank. Meanwhile, millions of widely dispersed consumers of their products may each face slightly higher power bills from older energy sources while enjoying the benefits of zero-emission cars and improved solar systems. (It is also possible, of course, that new technologies can bring cleaner outcomes as well as lower-cost energy, offering benefits to consumers as well as comfort to those who worry about sustainability and the long-term well being of the planet.) [Read the rest.]

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