Greens Silent on Commie Planet-Wrecking … Again

During the Cold War, there was a predictable pattern to Eastern Bloc environmental concerns. The Communists would engage in some awful mind-boggling environment-destroying big project like draining the Aral Sea. Not because it made any economic sense to do so but because it glorified the state. Then the greens would say absolutely nothing about it.

How times haven’t changed:

Nicaragua’s plan to build an Interoceanic Canal that would rival the Panama Canal could be a major environmental disaster if it goes forward. That’s the assessment of Axel Meyer and Jorge Huete-Pérez, two scientists familiar with the project, in a recent article in Nature.

In their article, Meyer and Huete-Pérez explain how the $50-billion project (more than four times Nicaragua’s GDP), would require “The excavation of hundreds of kilometres from coast to coast, traversing Lake Nicaragua, the largest drinking-water reservoir in the region, [and] will destroy around 400,000 hectares of rainforests and wetlands.” So far, the Nicaraguan government has remained mum about the environmental impact of the project. Daniel Ortega, the country’s president, only said last year that “some trees have to be removed.”

Have you a word about this from Greenpeace? Or the Sierra Club? Or any of the organizations that are currently throwing a fit about Keystone XL, a far far less destructive project? That’s to say nothing of the unconstitutional way this project was approved, the fact that all proceeds from it for the next 50 years will go to the Chinese company building the project, the lack of experience for the team building, the extremely dubious economic case for the canal and the farmers being evicted off their land. If even one of those things were happening in the US, we’d be hearing about it on MSNBC every night.

I’m not usually one for the Balloon Juice Fallacy. But the study about the environmental devastation was published a year ago. And there’s a history here, as I noted above. Ortega is a former communist and Chavez-type socialist. The greens have been reluctant to criticize far-left politicians for their environmental destruction. And that’s a polite of saying the completely look the other way. Because environmental damage cause by industry is bad. Environmental damage done for “the people” even when the people are far-left politicians lining their pockets? That’s OK.

GoreSat Finally Orbits

One of my pet peeves is the contention that conservatives and Republicans are “anti-science” while liberals and Democrats are “pro-science”. Having been in the field for twenty years, I’ve observed little difference in how well science is funded under the two parties, with a slight bias in favor of Republicans. And while it’s true that Republicans are more dubious of science on the big topics du jour — global warming and evolution — that doesn’t mean they are more anti-science in general. When it comes to GMOs, vaccines or nuclear power, the Left is way more anti-science.

My dislike of this meme is embodied in the person of Algore, who has a reputation as this great scientific mind but has always crossed me as a poser: someone who pretends to be a friend of science because he wants to look smart (and, in his case, wants to advance a big government agenda). He wrote a well-praised book — Earth in the Balance — that was shredded in P.J. O’Rourke in All The Trouble in the World and proved to be massively wrong on many issues. He touted a plan to move the United States to alternative energy within ten years that was total science fiction. His advocacy on global warming — hypocritical advocacy — touted doomsday scenarios and marginal studies. It was ultimately a disservice to the climate debate.

But if you want Algore in a nutshell, I give you the Triana satellite, a version of which was launched today. Triana started with this crackpot idea of Gore’s to have a satellite launched which would sit in the L1 Lagrange point and take pictures of the Earth. That’s it. It would take pictures of the Earth to “raise awareness” of our climate. NASA devoted $100 million to this boondoggle, without any peer review, and desperately tried to get scientists to find some use for it. The best they could come up with measuring Earth’s albedo and cloud patterns, although Triana was not what you would have designed with that science program in mind. When the SOHO spacecraft was having trouble, they came up with a plan to put instruments on it to measure solar activity, since the L1 point is good for that.

Triana was mothballed after Bush won the White House but was resurrected by Obama. The satellite — now named DSCOVR — has been revamped so that its primary mission is to measure solar storms and provide and early warning of space weather. The Earth picture thing is an afterthought. Notice that’s NASA’s video doesn’t mention Algore’s original Triana mission at all.

If anyone other than Algore had proposed Triana, burned $100 million on it and had NASA scramble to find an actual scientific use for it, they would have been laughingstock. But today the press is filled with stories about how this is Algore’s “dream” even though his original proposal had nothing to do with DSCOVR’s primary mission.

DSCOVR is a good mission and I’m glad it launched today. I’m even gladder that it was launched by SpaceX. Space weather is a serious issue and we desperately need to address the impact that a severe solar storm could have on our planet (think about a world-wide power grid meltdown to get the picture). But let’s not pretend this has anything to do with Algore. This is NASA making some very good lemonade from a $100 million lemon.

I Would Do Anything for the Planet, But I Won’t Do That

Reason writer Ronald Bailey hung out with some of the recent climate protesters at the People’s Climate March. I’ve written about their convenient embrace of science when it suits their biases before, but Bailey really gets into the awful thinking that underpins much of the modern environmental movement:

Among the chief capitalist villains: Monsanto. The assembled marchers fervently damned the crop biotechnology company despite the fact that modern high yield biotech crops cut CO2 emissions by 13 million tons in 2012-the equivalent of taking 11.8 million cars off the road for one year. By making it possible to grow more calories on less land, biotech crops helped conserve 123 million hectares from 1996 to 2012. Many of the protesters oddly believe that eating locally grown organic crops-which require more labor and land to produce less food- will somehow help stop global warming. Vegans are right that eating less meat would mean that more land could be returned to forests that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. On the other hand, researchers estimate that lab-grown meat could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 96 percent relative to farmed meat.

Fracking aggravated a lot of the demonstrators. Artful placards alluded to another f-word as a way of indicating displeasure. Many asserted that fracking taints drinking water. Yet just the week before the parade, new studies published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by research teams led by the Ohio State University’s Thomas Darrah and the U.S. Department of Energy found that the controversial technique to produce natural gas does not contaminate groundwater. And never mind that burning natural gas produces about half of the carbon dioxide that burning coal does.

Another low-carbon energy source was also a cause of stress for the demonstrators: nuclear power. Some demanded that the Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River be closed down. This particular petition is just perverse, since nuclear power is a big part of why New Yorkers emit a relatively low average of 8 tons of carbon dioxide per person each year, compared with the U.S. average of 16.4 tons per capita.

There is no such thing as perfect energy technology. Even solar and wind involve massive land use, enormous rare earth metal consumption and, at present, fossil fuel backup. Moreover, wind and solar are limited in the absence of a revolution in battery technology. You can’t run airplanes or big cargo ships on alternative energy. You can barely run cars on them.

Until a revolutionary technology is developed, the best way to fight global warming is to delay it as long as possible. GMO crops delay it by decreasing land and fertilizer use. Fracking delays it by cutting carbon emissions in half compared to coal. Nuclear delays it by replacing fossil fuels completely. All of these things have contributed to the US and Europe cutting their carbon emissions without sacrificing economic progress and have bought years, possibly decades, for us to come with a breakthrough technology that can replace fossil fuels.

The problem is that these technologies exist in the real world and the environmentalists want to live in fantasyland, where you can solve complex scientific, technical, social, political and engineering issues with wishcasting and marches; where there are no tradeoffs; where completely revamping our society is something you can do through legislative fiat.

Thankfully, enough people live in the real world that we’re making real progress … without putting capitalism on the funeral pyre.

Nazca Attack

Dear Greenpeace: I accept the reality of climate change. I think environmental protection is important. So understand where I’m coming from when I tell you to fuck off:

Peru says it will sue activists from the environmental pressure group Greenpeace after they placed a banner next to the Nazca Lines heritage site.

The activists entered a restricted area next to the ancient ground markings depicting a hummingbird and laid down letters advocating renewable energy.

Peru is currently hosting the UN climate summit in its capital, Lima.

A Greenpeace spokeswoman said the group was investigating but its activists had been “absolutely careful”.

Like hell they were. First of all, Greenpeace and other environmental radicals have made it abundantly clear that they have no regard for anything created by humans. If they thought it would save an endangered snail, they’d raze the Pyramids tomorrow. Second, you can check out video of Greenpeace activists bumbling around the Nazca site. Their smug self-satisfaction will radiate through your computer. And the Nazca lines are the sort of thing you have to be careful about:

[Peruvian Deputy Cultural Minister] said the Nazca Lines, which are an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 years old, were “absolutely fragile”.

“You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years,” he said.

The Nazca lines are delicate, created by the removal of pebbles to expose the lighter soil beneath. Simply walking around the site can destroy a 1500 year old monument. If radical Muslims did this — as they did Bamiyan or in Timbuktu — we’d call it an act of terrorism.

Greenpeace has issued one of the standard garbage “we’re sorry you were offended” non-apologies and are saying they will “take responsibility” for any damage. Good. I can think of no better way of taking responsibility than going to prison.

And just a reminder that Greenpeace is not some impoverished grassroots org:

Did this embattled scrappy activist group have no other means to get their message out other than casual vandalism of a historical site and the accompanying “earned media”? Guess not with their meager total assets, according to their financial reports for 2013, of just 54 million euros.

Organizations like Greenpeace are, by far, the biggest impediment in environmental policy. For all the “evil oil money” out there, nothing turns people off of climate policy faster than the rabid anti-capitalism and mindless destructive stunts of organizations like Greenpeace. Forty years ago, when Lake Erie was almost dead and the Cuyahoga caught fire, there was a need for environmentalist organizations. There isn’t any more. Everyone supports a clean environment, with their actions and with their votes. The Western world is cleaner and healthier than it has been in centuries. So what we’re left with is “evaporative cooling” where mainstream sensible environmentalists like Patrick Moore have left the environmental orgs and they’re left with radical watermelons who pull stupid stunts like marring a world treasure.

Go away, guys. We’ve got this.

The Climate Treaty That Isn’t

The liberal blogosphere is all aflutter because the US and China have agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions:

China and the United States made common cause on Wednesday against the threat of climate change, staking out an ambitious joint plan to curb carbon emissions as a way to spur nations around the world to make their own cuts in greenhouse gases.

The landmark agreement, jointly announced here by President Obama and President Xi Jinping, includes new targets for carbon emissions reductions by the United States and a first-ever commitment by China to stop its emissions from growing by 2030.

Administration officials said the agreement, which was worked out quietly between the United States and China over nine months and included a letter from Mr. Obama to Mr. Xi proposing a joint approach, could galvanize efforts to negotiate a new global climate agreement by 2015.

A climate deal between China and the United States, the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 carbon polluters, is viewed as essential to concluding a new global accord. Unless Beijing and Washington can resolve their differences, climate experts say, few other countries will agree to mandatory cuts in emissions, and any meaningful worldwide pact will be likely to founder.

Here’s the thing. This agreement means nothing. It’s not a binding treaty (which is why Obama doesn’t have to send it to Congress). Nor does it lock us into any policies. It’s a statement of goals to achieve things that may or may not happen long after both men are out of power. It’s symbolism, plain and simple. And such agreements will always be symbolism because the only way greenhouse gas emissions will ever fall — as they have in the United States — is when the right technology comes along.


China’s 2030 emissions target is set in terms of a date but says nothing about the level at which emissions will peak.

China’s target for primary energy consumption is expressed in terms of “non-fossil fuels”, which means a big increase in nuclear power as well as wind, solar and hydro.

And of course, US has seen its emissions drop 10% below 2005, but this is mainly because of a recession and fracking. The next reduction will be much harder, and likely not coming, as 2013 showed an *increase*, not further decrease

Normally, I would let this sort of stuff slide. But there was a very illuminating statement from Friends of the Earth that came out after this:

“The cuts pledged by President Obama are nowhere near what the US needs to cut if it was serious about preventing runaway climate change. These US voluntary pledges are not legally binding and are not based on science or equity,” said Sara Shaw, Friends of the Earth International Climate Justice and Energy coordinator.

“This agreement deliberately ignores the issue of equity. Industrialised nations, and first of all the world’s largest historical polluter, the US, must urgently make the deepest emission cuts and provide the bulk of the money if countries are to share fairly the responsibility of preventing catastrophic climate change,” she added.

“The good news is that China is taking the fight against climate change ever more seriously and intends to peak its emissions in next 15 years. We urge China and all nations to urgently switch from emissions-causing dirty energy to community-based renewable energy.”

You catch that? Friends of the Earth bashes Obama for pledging a 25% cut in CO2 emissions while praising China — which currently emits 50% more CO2 than the United States — for promising, maybe, to start curbing their emissions in 15 years.

I’m convinced that global warming is real. I’m also convinced that the so-called green organizations see this danger as a vehicle for anti-corporatism, anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism. How else do you explain a green organization praising the world’s biggest polluter?

Ignore the greens. And ignore this agreement. Concentrate on the technology. That’s the real battle.