CEOs On Climate Risks  

Posted by Big Gav

Crikey's newsletter today quotes an article on Henry Thornton that states the obvious about global warming - its getting worse, the insurance industry knows this, and the only way to deal with it is to tax the crap (if you'll excuse my language) out of carbon emissions. HT even disown's their own loonie "science" columnist Louis Hissink over his feeble attempts to deny what is clear to any half awake observer.

Well done to Michael Hawker and other industry leaders (including BP and Origin Energy) for calling for action to be taken. It must be tricky for the Rodent trying to balance the needs of coal companies against those of the rest of the country. Presumably the normal market based mechanism of political decision making will determine the outcome.

As reported in today's Oz the chief executive of Australia's largest insurance company, IAG, Michael Hawker has asserted that the extreme weather that has been sweeping the world will raise insurance costs in affected areas to a point where people will no longer be able to afford insurance coverage. Hawker drew a direct connection between extreme weather, like Cyclone Larry in Northern Queensland and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and global warming, stating that "there has been almost a linear increase in catastrophes occurring since global temperatures started rising in the early 1970s".

Also reported in the Oz, Hawker is part of an impressive group of worthies called the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change, including Westpac chief David Morgan, managing director of Origin Energy Grant King, BP Australasia chief Gerry Hueston, head of Visy Industries Harry Debney, and Keith Scott, Australian chief of reinsurance company Swiss Re.

The members of the group, which has been meeting for several years, released a report entitled the Business Case for Early Action, suggesting that the Australian government aim to reduce greenhouse gas by 60% by 2050. The proposals listed in the report, including the establishment of a carbon price signal (ie. tax), elicited a speedy response from the mining industry, with Macarthur Coal saying the industry has invested millions of dollars into the development of low-emission technologies on a voluntary basis.

In Henry's experience, and over 200 years of thinking by economists, pricing signals are required to change most habits. Relevant pricing signals are of course required to alter the polluting habits of industry. Voluntary actions are welcome, and will be rewarded in heaven, but are certainly unable to bring about significant change in the real world we inhabit.

If these CEO's were in the US they could well be feeling various the political heat along with the climate science research community at the NOAA, USGS, NASA etc etc. The Washington Post reports that experts commenting on their area of expertise is frowned upon when it doesn't toe the official propaganda line.
Scientists doing climate research for the federal government say the Bush administration has made it hard for them to speak forthrightly to the public about global warming. The result, the researchers say, is a danger that Americans are not getting the full story on how the climate is changing.

Employees and contractors working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with a U.S. Geological Survey scientist working at an NOAA lab, said in interviews that over the past year administration officials have chastised them for speaking on policy questions; removed references to global warming from their reports, news releases and conference Web sites; investigated news leaks; and sometimes urged them to stop speaking to the media altogether. Their accounts indicate that the ideological battle over climate-change research, which first came to light at NASA, is being fought in other federal science agencies as well.

These scientists -- working nationwide in research centers in such places as Princeton, N.J., and Boulder, Colo. -- say they are required to clear all media requests with administration officials, something they did not have to do until the summer of 2004. Before then, point climate researchers -- unlike staff members in the Justice or State departments, which have long-standing policies restricting access to reporters -- were relatively free to discuss their findings without strict agency oversight.

Its not all real journalism at the Post, unfortunately, with wingnut Robert Novak been given a platform to spin some global warming denial nonsense. RealClimate comments on some of the ridiculous conspiracy theories that the carbon defenders like to come up with:
The Washington Post has published a second op-ed in as many days about global warming ("Spinning Global Warming", By Robert D. Novak, Page A19, April 03, 2006--story is no longer available on the website, but the Chicago Sun Times version is available here). In this one, Novak claims that Hansen in 1988 over-predicted global warming by 400% (a story originated by Pat Michaels and subsequently propagated by Michael Crichton). This story is a fabrication that has already been set right by us in 2004.

Smearing Hansen, a leading climate scientist and member of the National Academy of Sciences, appears to have become sport among contrarian commentators (see our earlier discussions here and here). As ad hominem attacks and "shoot the messenger" strategies are often the last refuge for those losing the substantive debate, this might be viewed by some as a positive sign, indicative of just how intellectually bankrupt the contrarian movement has become.

We are Earth scientists. We are not part of a vast conspiracy to perpetrate a hoax, nor are we crowd-following herd animals. We are concerned about the world we are leaving to our children. We have not asked James Hansen, but we would venture a guess that his motives are similar. As scientists we have a duty to speak out when our findings strongly suggest that a dangerous and harmful development is underway - just like someone who sees smoke billowing out of a house has a duty to call the fire brigade.

US CEO's are actually speaking out about global warming as well, with even a group of executives from large energy companies calling for carbon taxes and cuts in emissions (Past Peak has some comments too).
Tuesday saw a tectonic shift in the climate-change debate during an all-day Senate conference on global-warming policy. A group of high-powered energy and utility executives for the first time issued this directive to Washington: Bring on the carbon caps!

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard statements from leaders representing eight big energy companies, including General Electric, Shell, and the two largest owners of utilities in the U.S., Exelon and Duke Energy. Six of the eight said they would either welcome or accept mandatory caps on their greenhouse-gas emissions. Wal-Mart too spoke in favor of carbon caps. The two outliers from the energy sector, Southern Company and American Electric Power, delivered pro forma bids for a voluntary rather than mandatory program, but they, too, broke with tradition by implicitly acknowledging that regulations may be coming, and offering detailed advice on how they should be designed.

Many industry players are increasingly concerned about the inconsistent patchwork of climate regulations that are being proposed and adopted throughout the U.S., from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that seven Northeastern states put forward in December to plans for greenhouse-gas caps unveiled in California this week. Worried companies say federal regulations would bring stability and sureness to the market.

Of course, not all energy companies agree with this sort of thing - its against all the traditions of Exxon, for example. Which probably explains why "People Hate Exxon", and, as Bruce explains in his latest Viridian Note (463), they're going to make the perfect scapegoat when everyone realises the problems they are responsible for. Imagine Jabba sweating away a hot summers day on a chain gang in the hurricane ravaged gulf coast (not that I'm wishing any more misery on the coast of course - but I supect they are in for more hurricanes regardless of my wishes)...
It's not too surprising that these proletarian lefties and inveterate peaceniks should attack Exxon, for (by my modest count there) war profiteering, racism, overcrowded jails, civil liberties, human rights, HIV, hepatitis, mental illness, combat fatalities, the Pentagon's budget, the need for prosthetics, pollution, environmental illnesses, foreign adventurism and buying Congress wholesale. But wait till it starts dawning on conservatives and rich people that climate-change is Exxon's biggest product, and that climate disruption is causing horrific economic damage to their own pocketbooks. Somebody somewhere is gonna go down hard for that. There really isn't a better candidate for scapegoating and deliberate public punishment than the people of Exxon. And they're sure not gonna lack for fingerpointing. They're all over the world, and all over the world people hate them

Scrutiny Hooligans has a post on a recent speech by Al Gore (who is doing a good impression of someone thinking of running for President again), which quotes a New York newspaper reporting that Gore is running a different version of a commonly heard "conservative" meme (ie. not supporting the occupation of Iraq is a form of "appeasement").
"George W. Bush as Neville Chamberlain?

That's the comparison Al Gore makes in Vanity Fair's environmentally correct "Green Issue." The former veep — President Bush's 2000 election opponent — keeps insisting that he has no intention of running again for the White House.

But that hasn't stopped him from writing a gasket-blowing polemic arguing that by refusing to face up to the threat of global warming, Bush is just like the disgraced British prime minister who appeased the Nazis before World War II. "Where there is no vision, the people perish," Gore writes, quoting the Bible to bash Bush."

Elsewhere the Hooligans have posts on "Bush's Addictions", a power outage at the US Capitol (which prompted some conspiracy theories in some of the more unreliable quarters that were truly bizarre) and Paul Craig Roberts saying "Bush Is No Conservative" (stating the obvious, but someone needs to say it occasionally).
President Bush passes himself off as a conservative Republican and a born-again Christian. These are disguises behind which Bush hides. Would a Christian invade another country on false pretenses, kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians, and show no remorse or inclination to cease the aggression?

Longtime Republican policy wonk Bruce Bartlett recently published a book, Impostor, in which he proves that President Bush is no economic conservative, having broken all records in spending taxpayers' money and running up public debt.

Bush bears no resemblance to a political conservative. A political conservative does not confuse government with country. Patriotism means loyalty to country. Bush, however, demands allegiance to his government: "You are with us or against us!" Critics of the Bush administration are branded "unpatriotic" and even "treasonous."

Federal Minister for the (destruction of the) Environment, Ian Campbell has just rejected the construction of a new wind farm in Gippsland. His reason - it would "threaten the endangered orange bellied parrot". Now, personally I'm all for protecting orange bellied (and other) parrots, but (as I'll note shortly, the risks posed by wind farms to birds are usually greatly exaggerated, often based on ancient data or PR that emanates from coal companies or coal fired power generators...
The Member for Mallee, John Forrest, says the blocking of plans for a Gippsland wind farm has boosted his confidence in the campaign against the Mallee toxic waste dump in north-west Victoria.

Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell rejected the wind farm, saying it could threaten the endangered orange bellied parrot, despite the development being approved by a atate planning panel.

Whats the betting that the waste dump gets the go ahead instead of the wind farm ?

TreeHugger has an excellent post on wind farms, and the myths propagated about them.
It's a given that anytime we post a story on wind power someone is going to comment that "turbines kill birds," suggesting that wind power may therefore be unacceptable. Compared to what? Hitting birds with automobiles (along with turtles, groundhogs, and deer)? Birds caught by feral cats? Birds colliding with buildings or phone towers? Quite possibly, a higher mortality will be attached to the transmission wires needed to get the wind power to market. Why, then, do many associate bird mortality only with wind turbines? We hope to get to the bottom of this "death by turbine" myth hole, and point to the factors that can actually be managed though public involvement.

Our hunch is that the Altamont Pass California wind turbines, reportedly the site of some of the highest bird mortalities associated with any US wind farm, and using what is now an antique turbine design, are at the root of the widespread association of bird mortality with wind turbines in general. Now might be a good time to have a glance at this site, to get some perspective on the hundreds of raptors killed per year by the Altamont turbines.

If extrapolating the "worst case” rate is a bad idea, what about the "average" wind farm bird mortality figures? Even average rates, which are much lower or course, need to be looked at carefully.

To help our understanding of turbine hazards to birds we'd like to make an analogy, to your bicycle. Turn your bike upside down or put it in a work rack, set it to the highest gear...the one you use to go fast on a level slope.... and now move the wheel slowly with your hand. The chain moves rapidly with only a few degrees of wheel rotation. This symbolizes today's cutting edge 1.5 mW turbines, which have a very large surface area of blade exposed to the wind and a gearbox that turns the dynamo quickly while the blades move slowly. Birds dodge these slow moving blades relatively easily.

Now put the bike in the lowest gear...the one you use to climb hills...and move the wheel with your hand fast enough to turn the chain as fast as before. That symbolizes the 20-year-old "bird-o-matic" wind turbine design. Small blades with small surface areas have to turn rapidly to overcome the magnetic force of the dynamos, which generate electricity.

Recapping: small blades, low surface area, lots of dead birds possible; very big blades, with large surface area exposed to wind, very few dead birds.

High capacity turbines are a relatively recent commercial product. Consequently, any field study of "avian mortality" done on a wind farm constructed prior to approximately the year 2000 (maybe a bit later in the US) is inappropriate for estimating bird mortality based on modern turbine designs.

It seems the nuclear arms race is off and running, nay, sprinting, again - the SMH reports that the US has launched a major new nuclear weapons construction program (part of their insane urge to achieve nuclear primacy).
The Bush Administration has unveiled a blueprint for rebuilding the US's decrepit nuclear weapons complex, including restoration of a large-scale bomb manufacturing facility.

The plan calls for the most sweeping realignment and modernisation of laboratories and factories involved in building nuclear bombs since the Cold War.

The US has depended on ageing bombs produced during that period. But now the Administration wants to be able to produce 125 new nuclear bombs per year by 2022, so the Pentagon can retire older bombs that it says are no longer reliable or safe.

Under the plan all the US's plutonium would be consolidated into a single facility that could be more effectively and cheaply defended against possible terrorist attacks.

WorldChanging has a report on a plan to reboot the Aral Sea (one of those glaring examples that demonstrates how socialists can be just as effective at environmental destruction as capitalists).
For years, the Aral Sea has been an object lesson in the adverse effect human actions can have on the environment. Once the fourth-largest lake on the planet, it shrank to a quarter of its former volume, breaking into two lakes separated by a land mass. The cause? Diversion of the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya rivers to feed thirsty cotton fields in Uzbekistan under the leadership of the Soviet Union. The resulting destruction left lakeside fishing villages marooned miles inland, the water polluted with a heavy concentration of minerals from fertilizer run-off, and citizens facing respiratory problems from toxic dust deposited by the receding waters.

Reporting in the New York Times, Ilan Greenberg offers some hope for the recovery of the Aral Sea... part of it, at least. A World Bank-sponsored project - the Kok-Aral Dam - has been helpind desalinate the smaller Northern Aral Sea, raising the water level from 125 feet from 98 feet. The rise in sea levels has allowed fish stocks to (partially) return, and future projects are underway to return native fish to the sea. Fishermen are working the Northern Aral again for the first time in a generation.

While the Kok-Aral project is successful beyond its designers' expectations, the larger South Aral Sea is still in dire straits. The government of Uzbekistan - widely known for its human rights violations and secrecy - has been uncooperative with the Kazakhstan government on the projects to save the sea. The reasons may be, in part, economic: while the economy of Kazakhstan is thriving thanks to huge oil reserves, the cotton industry is still the largest employer in Uzbekistan.

Tonight's tinfoil decoration comes from Wayne Madsen, who annoyingly doesn't have permalinks in his reports, but his April 6 writings contained this note on Venezuela (which does contain some interesting pattern matching).
...while the Bush administration and its Dutch lackeys charge Chavez with having territorial designs on the ABC islands, the military-industrial oilgarchy in Washington and Houston may be fomenting a separatist movement in western Venezuela's oil-rich Zulia state. Chavez has accused Zulia's right-wing governor, Manuel Rosales, of working with the United States and American oil interests to promote independence for the state. A recently-formed right-wing and pro-business group called "Own Road" is pushing for an independence referendum for the state. There is evidence that the group has received support from intelligence elements operating from within the U.S. embassy in Caracas. In addition, U.S.-backed mercenaries and Florida-based missionaries have attacked the villages of pro-Chavez indigenous tribes in Zulia.

Bush administration would have Venezuela's oil-rich Zulia state declare independence as a U.S. client state. Other Latin American nations with populist governments can expect similar Bush/neocon-supported secessionist movements. Already, there are U.S.-supported secessionist stirrings in the hydrocarbon-rich Chaco region of Bolivia aimed against President Evo Morales, a Chavez ally.

The parallels between Own Road ("Rumbo Propio") and southwestern Iran's Ahwaz independence movement, which is backed British and U.S. intelligence, are striking. Both Zulia and Ahwaz are oil-rich regions. U.S. intelligence now backs independence movements in both regions designed to pry oil-rich resources away from anti-Bush central governments. Conversely, in regions where independence movements threaten U.S. oil interests, the Bush administration provides the central governments with military hardware and special counter-insurgency training. This is the case with oil-rich Aceh in northwestern Sumatra in Indonesia, the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, and the Delta region of Nigeria.

At the risk of this becoming a peak oil and surf report blog, it seems we're in for our third round of massive waves in 2 weeks this weekend. Up until last summer I hadn't seen anything like this here.
She's arrived...early in fact...and she's real pruuuddy. She's a perfect height; she's got nice lines, very consistent, smooth and she's packing some heat. 4 foot sets, SW offshores and sunshine make for a good day out in the water. 1 important ingredient missing down at Bondi - sand banks - it's straight as. Bake it out of town.

This swell will crank. Tomorrow afternoon will show a massive increase in size; whilst Sunday should provide joy for hell men tow maniacs. The big question - is it going to bigger than BIG TUESDAY. My call, nup, but close. Expect 10 -12 foot solid, south winds. Not a good weekend to see if you can climb the cliffs of Ben Buckler...

I'll close with Crooket Timber's Kieran Healy on "The Irish Person Thing", which has nothing to do with any of my usual topics but tickled my fancy.
For some reason someone thought this clip from Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes was something Henry and I should read. I can’t imagine why.
And although we didn’t want to … we traipsed over behind him. Where we had to do the Irish person meets other Irish person abroad thing. Which involved first of all pretending that we hadn’t realized the other was Irish. Then we had to discover that we had been brought up two minutes’ walk from each other, or that we’d gone to the same school, or that we’d met on our summer holidays in Tramore when we were eleven, or that our mothers were each other’s bridesmaids, or that his older brother had gone our with my older sister, or that when our dog got lost his family found it and brought it back.

I’m sorry to say this sort of thing happens all the time. For some reason—possibly due to the combination of a small base population, large extended families, general nosiness, and the propensity to talk the leg off a donkey—Irish people are appallingly good at uncovering the normally invisible web of latent network connections that surround us. Out at Langley, teams of NSA analysts are using the most sophisticated computing technology to dredge through terabytes of data using fast homomorphic reductions, Markov graph regressions and Galois lattices in an effort to do what your typical Irish Mammy accomplishes by asking you two or three questions, taking a sip of tea and saying something like “Oh are you related to [your Aunt or Uncle’s name here] then?”


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