Dennis Miller on Global Warming

 Posted by on 16 July 2008 at 12:09 pm  Environmentalism
Jul 162008

Dennis Miller scathingly attacks global-warming hysterics, those Al Gore groupies he aptly names “the world is flat and hot society.” The audience sounds a bit hestitant to laugh at times–maybe because any heretical comments against global warming is so politically incorrect. But there’s no mistaking his message.

An Inconvenient WHAT?

 Posted by on 5 June 2008 at 10:30 pm  Art, Environmentalism
Jun 052008

Well, it seems that Al Gore’s infamous book/movie is now slated to be an opera on one of the world’s most prestigious stages: La Scala. From an announcement I saw:

MILAN, Italy (AP) – First it was the film and the book. Now the next stop for Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” is opera.

La Scala officials say the Italian composer Giorgio Battistelli has been commissioned to produce an opera on the international multiformat hit for the 2011 season at the Milan opera house. The composer is currently artistic director of the Arena in Verona.

This is an embarrassment to the species. Assuming we survive, they are going to look back at this period and wonder what the hell went wrong.

Pure Environmentalist Evil

 Posted by on 2 June 2008 at 10:11 pm  Environmentalism
Jun 022008

This is pure evil: Planet Slayer’s Greenhouse Calculator. You answer a few questions, then click on an icon of a skull and crossbones to “find out at what age you should die at so you don’t so that you don’t use more than your fair share of earth’s resources.” In my case, I should have died 30 years ago, at the ripe old age of 3 years, based on very average consumption.

This delightful little application sits on the web site of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. And best of all, it’s aimed at kids. So little 7 year old Susie can find out that — due to nothing but the choices of her parents — she deserved to die years ago because she’s already used up more than her “fair share of earth’s resources.”

Via Flibby, who has more to say.

Climate Change

 Posted by on 29 May 2008 at 12:22 am  Environmentalism, Science
May 292008

Climate change on the planet Jupiter is causing it to develop another Red Spot:

In what’s beginning to look like a case of planetary measles, a third red spot has appeared alongside its cousins — the Great Red Spot and Red Spot Jr. — in the turbulent Jovian atmosphere.

This third red spot, which is a fraction of the size of the two other features, lies to the west of the Great Red Spot in the same latitude band of clouds.

…The Hubble and Keck images may support the idea that Jupiter is in the midst of global climate change, as first proposed in 2004 by Phil Marcus, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. The planet’s temperatures may be changing by 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The giant planet is getting warmer near the equator and cooler near the South Pole. He predicted that large changes would start in the southern hemisphere around 2006, causing the jet streams to become unstable and spawn new vortices.

I’m sure this must be mankind’s fault somehow…

Fuel Rations

 Posted by on 28 May 2008 at 6:37 am  Environmentalism
May 282008

I really love Gus Van Horn’s suggestion of calling “carbon credits” by their proper name: “fuel rations.” It’s just too perfect, particularly the wake of the recommendation of Britain’s influential Environmental Audit Committee that every person be forced to use a “carbon ration card” to purchase “petrol, airline tickets or household energy.”

Instead, I propose that the government dole out those cards to anyone who advocates or votes for such horrid legislation. Much better, no?

Turning Off the Lights of the World

 Posted by on 27 May 2008 at 12:40 am  Environmentalism, Law
May 272008

Ayn Rand’s masterpiece Atlas Shrugged ends when the lights go out in the world:

The plane was above the peaks of the skyscrapers when suddenly, with the abruptness of a shudder, as if the ground had parted to engulf it, the city disappeared from the face of the earth. It took them a moment to realize that the panic had reached the power stations—and that the lights of New York had gone out. . . .

She remembered the story Francisco had told her: “He had quit the Twentieth Century. He was living in a garret in a slum neighborhood. He stepped to the window and pointed at the skyscrapers of the city. He said that we had to extinguish the lights of the world, and when we would see the lights of New York go out, we would know that our job was done.”

In the novel, the lights go out as a result of willful evasion — the refusal of the world’s leaders to acknowledge that it is the power of the mind to reform nature in its own image that keeps the world alight. Evil enough, as far as it goes.

Now it’s worse. Now there are people actively looking for the world’s light switch and positively salivating at the prospect of flipping it off.

Many commentators, not just at NoodleFood, have identified the man-hating irrationality in the leadership of the environmental movement. (For example, see NoodleFood here; see The Ayn Rand Institute here and here.) But I speak of a new horror: the advent of lawsuits charging specific companies with responsibility for global warming and demanding compensation for damages. This phenomenon unites an unholy trinity of destructive factions: the acolytes of the environmental movement; fear-ridden and pandering lawmakers; and those prepared to cash in on the regulatory scheme resulting from the self-reinforcing lunacy of the first two — the plaintiff’s bar.

Kivalina is an Inupiat Eskimo village in Alaska. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, over one-quarter of Kivalina’s residents lived below the poverty line. In 2006 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers described Kivalina as follows:

Kivalina is home to 402 residents, who live in very overcrowded conditions in just over 70 homes. The community is predominately Alaska Native, and residents depend on subsistence activities for a majority of their caloric intake. The community does not have a piped water or sewer system, except for running/piped water in its school and washeteria. Residents rely on self-haul water and on honey buckets for human waste.

The village is experiencing catastrophic coastal erosion; ice which used to prevent shore damage from fall and winter storms has been melting. Unsurprising, given its location, shown above (New Orleans, anyone?). To continue its existence, the village must relocate. The U.S. Army Corps of engineers estimates it will cost anywhere between $150 – $250 million.

Kivalina is suing energy companies for $400 million.

Two non-profits, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and The Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment have filed suit on behalf of Kivalina against 24 energy companies. The nonprofits have teamed up with — wait for it — attorneys who successfully sued big tobacco companies. If the suit is succesful, the attorneys’ fees will be about 30% to 40% of the recovery. Meaning that what’s left for the plaintiffs will be pretty much the amount the U.S. Army thinks it will cost to relocate the village. Pretty neat how that works out, eh?

The Atlantic Monthly writes:

[T]he suit also accuses eight of the firms (American Electric Power, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and Southern Company) of conspiring to cover up the threat of man-made climate change, in much the same way the tobacco industry tried to conceal the risks of smoking—by using a series of think tanks and other organizations to falsely sow public doubt in an emerging scientific consensus.

In other words, attorneys plan to throw the tobacco playbook at rich energy companies. The message the case wishes to convey is that energy companies knowingly caused global warming and must pay for the damage they’ve wrought by selling the fossil fuels that provide the world with energy.

There is no scientific consensus on the extent or causation of global warming (putting it charitably). But that is not the biggest problem with the lawsuit. The real problem is that to the extent the lawsuit is successful, it brings mankind closer to the squalid standard of living of the population of Kivalina.

The ability to use fossil fuels for our own benefit is the predominant reason humans enjoy the standard of living that we do. And it’s not like this is a big secret: witness developing nations’ persistent objections to global emissions policies on the grounds that their priority is economic development.

So here we have the spectacle of million-dollar attorneys . . .

. . . driving their fossil-fueled cars to work

. . . where they’ll work well into the night in offices brightly lit using energy provided by the companies they’re suing

. . . after which they’ll go home to luxurious houses made comfortable through the use of energy to warm and cool their environment

. . . and enjoy a quality of life that would not exist but for the energy companies their lawsuits could put out of business.

There is a terrific irony here. The residents of Kivalina have a subsistence economy. The difference between a subsistence economy and the standard of living most Americans take for granted is based on the use and technology of energy. It takes energy to create factories that manufacture plumbing pipes and pre-packaged food, and it would take energy to transport these conveniences of modern life all the way up to Alaska by air, sea and land. But after lawsuits like this one have destroyed energy companies by wringing billions of dollars out of them on the grounds they’ve covered up evidence that does not exist, we may all end up living like the residents of Kivalina.

McCain: Carbon Dictator

 Posted by on 15 May 2008 at 2:02 am  Environmentalism, Politics
May 152008

Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain recently made a number of alarming statements about his approach to the “global warming” issue. In particular, on May 12, 2008 he stated that, “he would pursue mandatory U.S. curbs on greenhouse gas emissions if he wins the White House in November”. This is not the first time that he has expressed such views. During the Republican candidates’ debate of May 2007, he defended his policy along lines similar to Pascal’s Wager:

Now, suppose that [California Governor Schwarzenneger] and I are wrong, and there’s no such thing as climate change. And we adopt these green technologies, of which America and the innovative skills we have and the entrepreneurship and the free market, which is embodied by Senator Lieberman’s and my cap-and-trade proposal, is enacted, and there’s no such thing as climate change. Then all we’ve done is give our kids a cleaner world.

But suppose we do nothing. Suppose we do nothing and we don’t eliminate this $400 billion dependence we have on foreign oil. Some of that money goes to terrorist organizations and also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Then what kind of a world have we given our children?

Of course, McCain’s argument omits the hundreds of billions of dollars of economic harm caused by implementing draconian policies that limit industry and commerce, as well as the countless harms done to individuals by prohibiting then from engaging in productive free enterprise.

McCain’s statements put him squarely in the camp of the “global warming authoritarians” as described by Keith Lockitch of the Ayn Rand Institute. Although he poses as a defender of “entrepreneurship and the free market”, he clearly has no objection to an environmentalist agenda that is fundamentally inimical to human life. Those who support McCain over one of the Democrats on the grounds that he is somehow “better” than either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama may need to look more closely at what McCain really stands for.

Mar 142008

Graig Janssen asks:

I’m a regular reader of Noodlefood, and have a question about environmentalism. I understand and agree with the idea that human beings should not hold nature as an end in itself nor sacrifice themselves for its benefit. However, does Objectivism differentiate between environmentalism of this kind and the kind that would seek to preserve the planet for humanity’s own sake? For example, many Objectivists seem to be of the mind that the global warming issue is nothing but hysterical propaganda aimed at subjugating mankind to nature. However, isn’t it in our self interest to avoid a future catastrophe that could be disastrous for people as well as the planet? If there are scientific papers claiming that global warming poses no threat to humans, I’d very much like to read them. Do you think Objectivists are too quick in dismissing pro-environment ideas as “anti-man” when there are clearly cases in which both environment and mankind benefit?

That’s a good question. Due to constraints of time and ignorance, I will limit myself to a few brief comments, plus recommended reading.

An environment conductive to human life is definitely a genuine value to be sought and kept: it’s necessary for life! That requires a broad concern for all living organisms and their environs, as well as for the future effects of present actions — but within limits. In other words, we shouldn’t adopt any precautionary principle, nor just extrapolate from current trends to 50 generations hence, nor protect dangerous-right-now species based on claims of intrinsic value or on arbitrary speculation about future benefits. Today’s environmentalists do that in spades — with predictably absurd results. Without exception, environmental philosophy is seriously, deeply corrupt.

None of the above implies that environmental questions can be resolved from a comfy philosophic armchair. Sure, philosophy must identify the proper standards of proof in science, the ultimate value of human life, and the absolute requirement of respect for rights in public policy. Yet the particular details of environmental problems and solutions must be left to the experts, i.e. the biologists, geologists, chemists, etc. I’m certainly skeptical of the claims of impending doom from global warming, but I have only laymen’s questions, not proof. I can say that whatever the environmental problem, the proper solution is more reason, more egoism, and more freedom, particularly more respect for the rights to life, liberty, and property — not less. That’s easy to assert in the abstract, but likely more difficult to implement, as the proper legal remedies for collectively-caused environmental torts are not obvious. Working out those problems would require not just good philosophy in general, but also expertise in philosophy of law, particularly tort law.

As for further readings, I’d recommend a few items off the beaten track from two Objectivists I respect:

While I don’t agree with all that is said in those essays, they do thoughtfully challenge the sweeping disdain for environmental concerns sometimes espoused by Objectivists.

More Cool Nuclear Technology

 Posted by on 11 January 2008 at 11:17 am  Environmentalism, Technology
Jan 112008

Who wouldn’t want one of these?

A Battery That Can Power a Whole Town

Nuclear “batteries” are nothing new. Energy from a fist-size lump of plutonium has powered the Voyager spacecraft for 25 years. And tiny specks of the stuff kept pacemakers ticking for decades. Now, Hyperion Power Generation (HPG) is developing a nuclear battery capable of powering a town. The size of a hot tub, it can put out more than 25 megawatts for five years, enough to run 25,000 homes.

Building on technology developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Santa Fe (N.M.) startup’s battery runs on uranium hydride, which acts as fuel and also regulates power output, making it virtually impossible for the battery to suffer a meltdown. With no moving parts to break or corrode, HPG’s batteries can be buried in the earth for added security and safety. Their small size makes them easy to install and, later, to remove and refuel, cutting out the need to handle radioactive materials on site.

HPG plans to sell its first units to towns and industrial operations not connected to the grid. The company estimates lifetime costs for its battery will be a fraction of the price to build and run a natural gas plant with the same capacity. Backed by venture capital from Altira, HPG could have its batteries ready in six years.

(Via Transterrestrial Musings.)

Cold Weather? I Blame Global Warming

 Posted by on 10 January 2008 at 7:10 am  Environmentalism, Science
Jan 102008

There’s been a fair amount of extreme cold weather recently around the world. Of course, many environmentalists are attributing this to global warming. Geophysicist David Deming notes:

Extreme cold weather is occurring worldwide. On Dec. 4, in Seoul, Korea, the temperature was a record minus 5 degrees Celsius. Nov. 24, in Meacham, Ore., the minimum temperature was 12 degrees Fahrenheit colder than the previous record low set in 1952. The Canadian government warns that this winter is likely to be the coldest in 15 years.

Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri are just emerging from a destructive ice storm that left at least 36 people dead and a million without electric power. People worldwide are being reminded of what used to be common sense: Cold temperatures are inimical to human welfare and warm weather is beneficial. Left in the dark and cold, Oklahomans rushed out to buy electric generators powered by gasoline, not solar cells. No one seemed particularly concerned about the welfare of polar bears, penguins or walruses. Fossil fuels don’t seem so awful when you’re in the cold and dark.

If you think any of the preceding facts can falsify global warming, you’re hopelessly naive. Nothing creates cognitive dissonance in the mind of a true believer. In 2005, a Canadian Greenpeace representative explained “global warming can mean colder, it can mean drier, it can mean wetter.” In other words, all weather variations are evidence for global warming. I can’t make this stuff up.

Global warming has long since passed from scientific hypothesis to the realm of pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo.

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