I keep a weblog like it's still the 90s. For commentary and dissent please visit jontaylor.ca, or various other purveyors of thought online.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Time to Focus

C'mon Kids!

Are the Quebecois people their own nation? Boring
Is America suing the Environment? Sexy
Former finance minister supports Rae? Boring
Former Russian Spy Murdered using Polonium Poisoning? Sexy
Pope remains un-dead (but not a zombie) in Turkey? Boring
Sheila Fraser? Sexy

Let's focus on the sexy news.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Let's ask Stephane Dion?

Stephane Dion: How do you feel about Kyoto?

A startling admission recently by Canada's former Liberal environment minister regarding the Kyoto accord hasn't received anywhere near the attention it deserves.

That was a candid acknowledgment by federal Liberal leadership contender Stephane Dion -- literally the "Mr. Environment" of the federal Liberal party -- that Canada cannot meet the targets to lower greenhouse gas emissions the Liberals committed us to when they signed the Kyoto treaty.

The story appeared on July 1 in the National Post, one reason it largely slipped under the public's radar, since everyone was out celebrating Canada's 139th birthday at the time.

Dion conceded even a future Liberal government with him as prime minister, should he win the Liberal leadership and defeat Stephen Harper, would not succeed in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels, as the Liberals always insisted was possible, and as was required under Kyoto.

Mr. Dion, that was in July, how do you feel now?
From StephaneDion.ca:

The world is now facing a global environmental threat worse than any we have previously seen. Climate change is no academic issue. This is not about some future generation, it is about our children’s lives and our lives. It is about increasingly angry weather and much more dramatic storms - much longer heat waves. It is about the threat of droughts to already over-stretched farmers. It is about coming together as a world to deeply cut the climate pollution that humans are putting into the air.

That is why I believe so strongly that we need to show international leadership on dealing with climate change, and take the necessary actions here at home to do the right thing for us all. That is why as Minister of the Environment, I was proud last December to Chair for two weeks the Montreal conference on climate change negotiations, despite the unfortunate reality that it took place during a difficult federal election campaign. We achieved great things, strengthening Kyoto and how it works as well as kick-starting negotiations to broaden the treaty.

There were questions as to whether or not Mr. Dion had deliberately obfuscated his position on the environment in July. I don't see why these questions should stop, especially because he could be the next Federal Liberal Leader.

Fighting Climate Change: Punchline

"I can't believe that the extra thick layer of pollution that I've actually picketed against is what burned up the comet." - Lisa Simpson

Lisa's hilarious words come after the Simpsonian world is saved from destruction. This was the very first thing I thought of when I read this article at CNN.com. For those who do not use tabbed browsing, the article states that air pollution may be the key to keeping the world cool during global warming.

The idea was put forward at the conference in Nairobi by "prominent scientists" including a Nobel Prize winner who is "not enthusiastic about it".

The article points out the period of cooling which the earth experienced after the eruption of Pinatubo in the Philippines. This page (at the bottom) lists a number of volcanoes which have had startling "haze effects", the same very effects that polluting the sky would have.

The article also brought to mind the song that Ned Flanders sang while waiting for death by the comet:

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here's what she said to me.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Fighting Climate Change: Put up your dukes.

I read on the New Scientist, that Sand Dams are weapons against climate change. I like to point out something that sand dams may be a better weapon against: Thirst.
Sand dams, which are in fact made of concrete, are low walls placed across small rivers that cease to flow in the dry season. During the first two wet seasons of their existence, the space behind them fills up with sand, dragged down from the banks by erosion.

The sand retains 40% of its volume in water, protecting that water from evaporation. Wells are then dug into it, supplying local villagers during the subsequent dry season.

The idea of the dams goes back more than 2000 years, to the Babylonian era, Aerts explains. It was later picked up by the English who built sand dams in India and Kenya.

I'm not entire sure how this is actually a weapon against climate change. Would changing the natural flow pattern in a river not also eventually change the climate? The idea of a sand dam is brilliant from a thirst reduction point of view. It addresses part of one of the most important problems facing humanity, thirst. It's sad to see a scientifically minded magazine focus on the far less applicable aspect of this retro technology.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Erik's Waterfall

The best photographer I've ever met beside the most beautiful waterfall I've ever climbed.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Simpsons and the Green Movement

George Meyer may be one of the greatest writers in the history of the world (no hyperbole intended). He's written for the Simpsons for as long as I can remember, writing the first Simpsons episode I ever watched (Crepes of Wrath - When Bart is an exchange student in France), but I disagree with the thesis of his article for the BBC Green Room: Whether you are a hypocrite, a poseur or a plain bozo, the environmental movement needs you.

Hypocrites, poseurs and bozos weaken any point of view which they profess. A decent and obvious example of a hypocritical bozo discrediting a movement is Cindy Sheehan. She took the reasonable opinion that the USA shouldn't be involved in Iraq then destroyed it by visiting Hugo Chavez and being arrested this week. Her stupid and ridiculous antics only strengthening the resolve of warhawks. The last think that a NeoCon wants is to have Cindy Sheehan claiming victory on the Iraq war. Similarly, having Cedric the Entertainer embarrass the environmental movement during Earth To America, does nothing to promote environmentalism.

Check out Kevin Smith's article, the newest at the Green Room.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

I don't think the state can/should fight climate change...

... nor should it.

Wow! That’s a great weight lifted of my chest. Now here’s a list of reasons and arguments about why you too should not be encouraging the state to fight climate change.

Climate Change will lead to increased biomass (read: food, trees and fuel).

Olivier DeschĂȘnes of the University of California at Santa Barbara and Michael Greenstone of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have written a pair of papers that assess some effects of climate change. In the first, they use long-run climatological models — year-by-year temperature and precipitation predictions from 2070 to 2099 — to examine the future of agriculture in the United States. Their findings? The expected rises in temperature and precipitation would actually increase annual agricultural production, and therefore agricultural profits, by about 4 percent, or $1.3 billion.

Climate Change affects the world’s poor most (but so would a Static Climate).
We have to come to grips with the fact that poor people will always get the shit end of the stick, always. More rainfall will hurt the poor but so will less. Acting on precautionary (i.e. non scientifically based) policy based on computer models will divert funding away from trade liberalization, food production, water sanitation and disease control. There are more projects that deserve more funding than “Fighting Climate Change” at the Copenhagen Consensus website.

Climate Change cannot be fought by taxation.

As Dubner and Levitt point out the environment does not respond to tax incentives. The beauty of weather is that it does its own thing, and whether the weather is good or bad, you can be pretty sure that it didn’t come about in response to some human desire to fix a problem. Preventing people from using industrial means to support their family could (arguably) help “Fight Climate Change”, but it would also starve or kill a number of people in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, human induced changes to the environment are usually bad. They have in the past increased our risk of skin cancer, the spread of malaria and poisoned our drinking water. But, human induced changes will occur so long as there are humans.

Here’s a quick suggestion to anyone who wants to personally make a difference: STOP EATING MEAT.

Until people (collectively) are willing to make a small personal sacrifice (like giving up meat), the state should not be willing to make a large misguided economical sacrifice (like Kyoto).

Wednesday, November 8, 2006


When I hear something like this it makes me cringe:

A report launched at the [UN climate conference in Nairobi, Kenya] today complains that discussion on climate change has been dominated by science and economics, with vital ethical dimensions being left out by governments and scientists alike.

Firstly, ethics is the study of value and quality. I’m interested to know how one debates the ethics of climate change when they have contempt for economics and science.

The ethics report argues that, whatever the economics, “cost is not an ethically acceptable excuse for failing to take action to prevent harmful levels of pollution when that pollution threatens basic human rights.”

Again, cost is always an ethical excuse, especially in the absence of scientific consensus, because, once again, ethics is the study of value… and cost is an important part of value.

What value does the world earn from betting on computer models of a problem that we have no idea if we can fix? Are there any definitive studies which show that a Kyoto or Post-Kyoto deal would actually improve or change anything?

I would argue that it is unethical to cause a global economic slowdown using the precautionary principle.

The report also attacks those who use scientific uncertainty as an excuse to postpone action. “In law, wilful ignorance cannot be used as justification for continuing harmful behaviour,” it says.

Wilful (sic) ignorance is a loaded phrase and I’d like to turn it back on the report using the same Open Letter to PMSH that I used yesterday.

We believe the Canadian public and government decision-makers need and deserve to hear the whole story concerning this very complex issue. ... the science continued to evolve, and still does, even though so many choose to ignore it when it does not fit with predetermined political agendas.

Willful ignorance goes both ways. People who support Kyoto willfully ignore the small fact that Kyoto is a wealth transfer scheme with very very weak scientific grounding. How does Canada transferring money (in the form of credits) to Mozambique for “overpolluting” actually help fix the environment?

As an aside: What Human Rights have the UN guaranteed to anyone? If you're born into poverty in the developing world the only Human Rights you have are birth (questionable) and death.

Status of the Earth: Still There

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Who Said Anything about PMSH?

Maclean's Article: "Internet revolution YouTube enlivens Liberal leadership race" is a clear example of how the Prime Minister of Canada can't get a fair deal in the media. After a lengthy article about how YouTube has made it really easy to champion or smear a candidate, they throw in some negative comments about PMSH.

The article highlights the positive uses that have been used during the campaign, then moves onto the negative side (at this point, still hadn't mentioned anything other than YouTube and the Liberal Leadership Race):

On the negative side, one video shows a series of unflattering pictures of Ignatieff coupled with alleged policy flip-flops - like his recent musing on Israeli "war crimes," and his announcement that he would absolutely run in the next election after saying he might not.
There's also a video that compiles some of Dion's mistakes in English and challenges his command of his second language.
The level of debate is not always very high.
There's a comments section underneath each video posting, and some of the witticisms could find an appropriate home on the wall of a public restroom between the scribbled phone numbers and gangsta graffiti.

Then all of a sudden...

Take the video, for instance, that shows Prime Minister Stephen Harper promising in the last election not to tax income trusts. He reversed his policy last week out of stated concern for public finances and the country's economic competitiveness.
"Lyin scumbag," was the reaction from one Harper critic.
One fan said: "For those of you who thought that Harper was all about sucking up to the corporate world . . . what do you have to say now?"
The full potential of YouTube may only become clear at election time.

... a jab at the PM. As if the income trust fallout had anything to do the leadership race. A question for the author:

Why didn't you use comments from a video about THE LIBERAL LEADERSHIP RACE?

Interestingly enough, when you search Liberal Leadership Race on YouTube the first comment is:
What a sad collection of candidates... They will truely ensure Harper's majority!
Find out the story on the author Alexander Panetta at smalldeadanimals.

Enviromotionalism and Kyoto

I stumbled onto this today after checking out GayandRight...
The study of global climate change is, as you have said, an "emerging science," one that is perhaps the most complex ever tackled. It may be many years yet before we properly understand the Earth's climate system. Nevertheless, significant advances have been made since the protocol was created, many of which are taking us away from a concern about increasing greenhouse gases. If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded it was not necessary.
I enjoyed the whole letter, not so much because it takes a lot of the wind out of Enviromotionalism, but because it has a significant scientific backing.

"Climate change is real" is a meaningless phrase used repeatedly by activists to convince the public that a climate catastrophe is looming and humanity is the cause. Neither of these fears is justified. Global climate changes all the time due to natural causes and the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish from this natural "noise." The new Canadian government's commitment to reducing air, land and water pollution is commendable, but allocating funds to "stopping climate change" would be irrational. We need to continue intensive research into the real causes of climate change and help our most vulnerable citizens adapt to whatever nature throws at us next.

We believe the Canadian public and government decision-makers need and deserve to hear the whole story concerning this very complex issue. It was only 30 years ago that many of today's global-warming alarmists were telling us that the world was in the midst of a global-cooling catastrophe. But the science continued to evolve, and still does, even though so many choose to ignore it when it does not fit with predetermined political agendas.

This letter and the list of 60 scientists can be found at The National Post.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Night Sky with Trees

Hyperbole of the Day

The science of climate change is the Moon landing of our day.

Tony Blair

Quote of the Day

The anti-science brigade threatens our progress and our prosperity. We need political and science leadership that stands up to them.

Same Speech

World Watch: Still There

Thursday, November 2, 2006

The one armed economist

One of the most famous quotes about economists comes from Fmr. POTUS Truman: “Give me a one-armed economist”. He started using this as a joke in his meeting with his economic council, frustrated that most economists would finish a recommendation with “…but on the other hand…”.

Former Chief Economist of the world bank Sir Nicholas Stern would have been Truman’s dream. The report prepared for Dr. Stern is incredibly one sided as Bjorn Lomborg points out in today’s Wall Street Journal.

The most well-recognized climate economist in the world is probably Yale University's William Nordhaus, whose "approach is perhaps closest in spirit to ours," according to the Stern review. Mr. Nordhaus finds that the social cost of CO2 is $2.50 per ton. Mr. Stern, however, uses a figure of $85 per ton. Picking a rate even higher than the official U.K. estimates--that have themselves been criticized for being over the top--speaks volumes.

Faced with such alarmist suggestions, spending just 1% of GDP or $450 billion each year to cut carbon emissions seems on the surface like a sound investment. In fact, it is one of the least attractive options. Spending just a fraction of this figure--$75 billion--the U.N. estimates that we could solve all the world's major basic problems. We could give everyone clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care and education right now. Is that not better?

Lomborg sums it up beautifully:

We all want a better world. But we must not let ourselves be swept up in making a bad investment, simply because we have been scared by sensationalist headlines.

It’s bad advice like this that add stink to those of us who actually want to make a difference. By providing the British PM (and the world) with an academically dishonest report, the argument for the mitigation of climate change is weakened. This is akin to the way that watching Jim Bakker will drive rational people away from Christianity.