December 26, 2019

An Image for Our Times

Amidst the Australian bushfires – an image too sad to seem real:  a firefigher and a koala, watching their forests burn next to a vineyard.

Apparently it is all too real. From a Guardian blog:

… the photo was taken at Lobethal on Friday while protecting homes. Two koalas wandered out of the bush seeking assistance.

“Up behind us there were a couple of houses under threat so we were working to protect them from ember attack and the firefront and they stepped out of the bush seeking help,” he said.

Adams said it was common for koalas to seek help from firefighters in these situations. The koalas were given water and moved to a safer location. Firefighters lost track of them and they were eventually forced to pull out of the property.

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  1. What is most appalling about the bush fires is the government’s response: underfunding actions that might have slowed or prevented some fires; selling groundwater to Nestlé during an extended drought; refusing to provide the best quality masks to protect the mostly volunteer firefighters, then prohibiting them from doing fund raising to buy them; and most terribly refusing to acknowledge that climate change is a significant factor in endless droughts.

    If you recall the 2006 fire season in BC multiply by ten and extend it for many more months. A lot of these fires are too large to extinguish, so they will keep growing until, hopefully, heavy rain arrives in February.

    The Guardian Australia has great coverage, the Murdoch papers significantly less.

  2. Fires, hurricanes or floods always make spectacular images for TV or newspapers.

    “The risk is that outsized fear will take us down the wrong path in tackling climate change. Concerned activists want the world to abandon fossil fuels as quickly as possible. But it will mean slowing the growth that has lifted billions out of poverty and transformed the planet. That has a very real cost.

    Rich, well-educated people in advanced economies often ignore or scoff at this cost. From the comfort of the World Economic Forum’s 2017 annual meeting in Davos, former U.S. vice-president Al Gore tut-tutted about plans to build coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh. But Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina slapped that down, pointing out: “If you cannot develop the economic conditions of your people, then how will you save our people? We have to insure the food security; we have to give them job opportunity.”

    Indeed, analysis for the Copenhagen Consensus Center shows that – even when accounting for global climate damage – developing coal power to drive economic growth in Bangladesh is an effective policy. The cost would be US$9.7-billion, including the global, long-term climate costs of US$570-million, but the benefits would be greater than US$250-billion – equivalent to more than an entire year of Bangladesh’s GDP.

    We need to solve climate change, but we also need to make sure that the cure isn’t more painful than the disease. A commensurate response would be to invest much more in researching and developing cheaper carbon-free energy sources that can eventually outcompete fossil fuels. That would ensure a smooth transition that doesn’t slow economies down and hurt the worst-off in society.”

    Climate doomsayers are a real problem as much progress is vastly understated

    1. Every time Bjorn Lomborg publishes an op-ed, it is roundly criticized by very knowledgable people. His latest piece, published in the Globe’s Opinion section on December 28, may have been different. It drew several critical letters to the editor by ordinary folks a week later saying that Lomborg’s singular drive seems to be to limit action on climate change in general, and ensure it is devoted to large-scale increases in funding for renewables at an unprecedented international scale “sometime in future.” This ignores the local progress made by cities and individuals that supersedes the pathetic efforts made by senior governments all over the world to date. And it certainly is disinformative with respect to genuine peer-reviewed science.

      The Globe and Mail is largely a good quality publication, but including soundly discredited non-scientist commenters like Lomborg makes one wonder if there is some carbon-funded editorial sleight of hand going on. The Globe really needs to deepen its editorial approval process on science-related topics, like climate change. One way would be to consult real climate scientists. As it happens, there is an organization called the Climate Science Rapid Response Team that has provided professional scientific review and rebuttal services for such publications as the New York Times, the Guardian, CNN, the London Times and so forth. Their input is provided from a pool of 160 genuine climate scientists affiliated with universities, NASA, NOAA and other pure research organizations.

      If you Google “Bjorn Lomborg funding” you’ll be linked to many articles that identifies many sources of money (invariably linked to fossil fuels) that float around this well-practiced Denial Doubt Delay practitioner.

      Some excerpts from Source Watch on Bjorn Lomborg — with 29 references:

      Bjorn Lomborg is associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus, Denmark; his books have been “hugely influential in providing cover to politicians, climate-change deniers, and corporations that don’t want any part of controls on greenhouse emissions”.[1]

      Lomborg is not a climate scientist or economist and has published little or no peer-reviewed research on environmental or climate policy. His extensive and extensively documented[2],[3] errors and misrepresentations, which are aimed at a lay audience, “follow a general pattern”[2] of minimizing the need to cut carbon emissions.

      Lomborg’s essential argument is that we should be directing our resources toward fighting poverty now, rather than acting now to lessen future climate change, since “[the future] larger economy will allow future generations to deal with an exacerbated climate problem”[4]. But this argument ignores the likelihood that “if climate change limits economic growth, there is no larger economy, and even if there is a larger economy, it may not be enough to deal with the chaos associated with climate disruption.


      Lomborg’s only published work is in “game theory and computer simulations”, according to the Skeptical Environmentalist frontispiece. Australian National University academic John Quiggin, writing in the Australian Financial Review in March 2002, pointed out the number of refereed publications Lomborg has produced on statistical or other scientific analysis of environmental issues “is zero”.


      Lomborg’s argument has shifted over time, from:[21],[22]

      1) There is no problem.
      2) If there is a problem, it is only minor.
      3) If it is not minor, it will pay better to remedy other problems that are even larger.
      4) If it pays to resolve the climate change problem, this should not be done by reducing CO2 emissions, but rather by adaptation and by applying geo-engineering.
      5) If adaptation and geo-engineering is not enough, then [mandated] reductions in CO2 emissions should be very modest, and the main emphasis should be on research to find better alternative energy sources, rather than those that could be implemented right now.

      These shifting arguments over the years look like a tactical retreat. In every case, the conclusion is …the best that the fossil fuel industry could obtain…”[21]


      The late Dr. Stephen Schneider, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Senior Fellow at the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, criticised Lomborg for inaccurately portraying the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and misrepresenting the Kyoto Protocol. (Schneider is also editor of Climate Change and lead author of several of the IPCC chapters and the IPCC guidance paper on uncertainties).

      The IPCC produced a range of six equally ranked paths of climate change spanning an increase in carbon dioxide concentrations from doubling in 2100 to well beyond a tripling in the 22nd century. “Lomborg, however, dismisses all but the lowest of the scenarios,” he wrote. [2]

      Dr. Schneider also writes “most scientists I know working on these problems are outraged by Lomborg’s work and consider it to be faulty and misrepresentative of their published views. In addition to referencing a biased sample of literature that wasn’t nearly broad enough, Lomborg used quotes out of context and proved numerous times that he did not fully understand the science behind climate change”[26]


      Dr Peter Raven, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002 said of Lomborg:

      “…he’s not an environmental scientist and he doesn’t understand the fields that he’s talking about so in that case, if you have a point to make and you want to get to that point, which is: everything’s fine, everybody’s wrong, there is no environmental problem, you just keep making that point. It’s like a school exercise or a debating society, which really doesn’t take into account the facts”. [3]

      “Raven said that the success of Lomborg’s book ‘demonstrates the vulnerability of the scientific process — which is deliberative and hypothesis driven — to outright misrepresentation and distortion.'” [4]


      A review was critical of the book’s assumptions and conclusions: [12]

      “Lomborg presents scientific and economic debates as much more settled than they are….

      “The glaring error in “Cool It,” and the one that disqualifies the book from making a serious contribution, is that Lomborg ignores the main concern driving the debate. Incredibly, he never mentions even the possibility that the world might heat up more than 4.7 degrees. Although he claims IPCC science as gospel, in fact the scientific body gives no single “standard” estimate as its official forecast for this century’s warming. Instead, the IPCC provides a range of up to 10.5 degrees — more than double the number on which Lomborg bases his entire argument.”


      In 2010, a Lomborg-edited book titled “Smart Solutions to Climate Change: Comparing Costs and Benefits” was published. Howard Friel said that in this book,

      [Lomborg] writes: “The risks of unchecked global warming are now widely acknowledged” and “we have long moved on from any mainstream disagreements about the science of climate change”. …[Yet] Lomborg still argues in this book, as he did in the others, that cost-benefit economics analysis shows that it is prohibitively expensive for the world to sharply reduce CO2 emissions to the extent required by the scientific evidence: “Drastic carbon cuts would be the poorest way to respond to global warming.”

      …Lomborg does not seriously address the fundamental problem of rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the absence of global greenhouse reductions: what will happen to the earth and human civilisation when atmospheric CO2 concentrations rise – essentially unchecked, if we followed Lomborg’s recommendations – to 450 parts per million, 550ppm, 700ppm, 800ppm; and when the average global temperature rises by 2C, 3C, and 4C to 7C?

      Climate scientists have set 350ppm and a 2C average temperature rise (from 1750 to 2100) as the upper range targets to prevent a global climate disaster[citation needed]. Since we are already at 390ppm [in 2019 it arrived at 408 ppm] and since a 2C plus rise is a near certainty, how does Lomborg’s appeal to forgo sharp reductions in CO2 emissions reflect climate science? He argues that there are “smarter solutions to climate change” than a focus on reducing CO2. This is hardly smart: it’s insanity.[28]


      Climate scientist Gavin Schmidt of RealClimate says

      “… there is very little that is ‘heretical’ in any of these voices [that include Lomborg’s]. Only someone with no experience with the way science is actually done…would think that scientists being upfront about uncertainty and following the data where it leads is any kind of radical notion. The self-declared heretics do get criticised a lot, but not generally because of the revolutionary nature of their ideas, but rather because they often indulge in sloppy thinking or are far too quick to allege misconduct against scientists (or the IPCC) without justification, perhaps in order to bolster their outsider status. That does not go down well, but to conflate ‘mainstream’ expressions of distaste [regarding] this sort of behavior with the belief that the actual ideas of ‘heretics’ (about policy or uncertainty) are in some way special or threatening, is to confuse the box with the cereal.”


      Enough said.

  3. I’m still waiting for someone to show me a concrete example of any impact ‘doom-saying’ is having on our economy or reducing our response to climate issues.

    I think I might be waiting a long time.

      1. But your friend Thomas is always so quick to point out that things have never been better globally speaking, and that progress will always have winners and losers. It seems a disconnect to me, to claim things are one way and then another, to suit your argument du jour. I think you are doom-saying the economy and under-selling the creativity and capability of Canadian workers to respond the localized economy soon become the norm as we move away from shipping goods hither and yon because of far-flung factories and race to the bottom labour practices.

        1. Oil demand is growing and expected to peak only in the late 2030s or 2040s, 20+ years from now, then very slow decline.

          Gas is an excellent low CO2 emitting replacement for coal whose use is growing rapidly in SE Asia specifically India and China.

          If Canada ceased to exist tomorrow or stopped producing oil & gas the worldwide demand of oil & gas would not change.

          As such it behooves Canada and it’s political and economic leadership to promote Canadian oil and gas production, shipment and export (and not hinder it as today) as it is far cleaner or ethically produced than in most other nations. More dirty oil from elsewhere or dictator oil is better why?

          Think globally and act locally – by promoting Canadian and B.C. oil and gas.

          Poorer nations pollute more, as we see in Africa and SE Asia where most garbage in oceans (or coal use) comes from.

          Only once they get richer will they pollute less. To get richer they need cheap energy. Help them with that with cheap (fairly clean) natural gas as opposed to coal.

          Reducing Canadian (and BC’s) oil and gas exports will make the world a far FAR dirtier place. That is better why?

          1. Canada should sell more addictive drugs. There’s big money in it.

            If you don’t agree with that then your argument fails. There is more to a country’s values than money.

            Should people with high emissions cut the most, or people with low emissions? Does the climate care where humans draw lines on maps to define what we call countries? Canadians are among the world’s highest polluters. Poor people in poor nations don’t even come close. Canada has among the dirtiest oil so we should be the first to be winding it down. And we should put pressure on others to do the same. But we can’t do that if we keep profiting off of a dangerous substance. Lead by example.

            Your final paragraph goes form flawed reasoning to outright bullocks.

          2. Oil or gas supply by Canada is irrelevant from a demand perspective. Oil and gas DEMAND matters. If we don’t supply our clean, ethically produced and safely shipped gas or oil some other nation with far lower environmental or human rights standards will.

            That’s good for the planet or Canada why?

            Promoting Canadian oil & gas vs that of other nations is good for the planet and for Canada.

            Work on the demand side first and foremost, please. Send Greta to China or India, or protest there, as that’s where demand is growing the most and where the dirtiest electric power is produced today, namely by coal. Replacing that with anything but coal, for example B.C. LNG makes total sense to me. So far Australia and US ship that while we stifle our industry with needless consultations, lawsuits and obstacles.

          3. Addictive drug demand is growing. If Canada supplies them the demand will not change. If we don’t supply them other counties will benefit from the huge profits. This is good for Canada? Why?

            The time to switch from coal to NG is coming to an end. Switching to another fossil fuel merely delays the required switch to renewables.

          4. “Oil demand is growing and expected to peak only in the late 2030s or 2040s, 20+ years from now, then very slow decline.”

            Source please. If it’s the IEA then they have been proven wrong or inaccurate many times before. The IEA’s latest report estimates oil demand to peak by 2030, not the late 2030s.

            EU and Chinese policies governing about 1.7 billion consumers are distinctly anti-internal combustion engine. As the result, the world’s largest car makers have spent over US$300 billion so far to retool for electrics. VW is leading the pack, perhaps as an overreation to Dieselgate. Obviously their CEO and board ignored the IEA, as did Toyota’s, Volvo’s, Renault’s ……..

            Somebody should advise Alberta to prepare.

  4. The vineyard image is apropos.
    Australians exported 850 million litres of wine in 2018.
    It takes 872 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of wine.
    And what is the carbon footprint to manufacture a glass bottle and ship it around the world?
    “Image of our time”?
    Or inanity.
    Rome burned; Nero fiddled. The Irish starved to death while rich foods were exported to England.
    Oenophiles sucked wine.

    1. Water always get recycled. It never disappears. It becomes clouds, a river, rain or an ocean.

      Not sure if the 1000 Lott’s or litre of wine is accurate if one looks at BC’s Okanagan wine industry for example.

      The far bigger water issues are aquifer draining like in California, overfishing, too much garbage dumped in rivers or oceans and river pollution of water from ag runoffs!!

      Btw: more data fudging on alleged “ocean water level is rising” to promote questionable policy decision and more “science” funding

  5. The human chimera haunting these pages with chameleon behavior is in fact programed by AI-bots spreading disruptive propaganda. It does not learn new things, that’s how one can tell that it is a brainless accumulator of disruptive bot propaganda. It is a functionary in a cyber war against truth, it does not want us to believe in ourselves. Its goal is enslavement to stupidity.

    1. I know what you mean. But the above D3 (Deny Doubt Delay) commentary is all too human in syntax and composition. And comedy.

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