Where the Media Go Wrong on Climate Change

No one has ever been killed by human-caused climate change.

 

Roy Spencer is a meteorologist, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer on NASA’s Aqua satellite. He recently discussed misinformation in the media.

On Amazon fires:

The rainforest itself does not burn in response to global warming, and in fact warming in the tropics has been so slow that it is unlikely that any tropical resident would perceive it in their lifetime. This is not a climate change issue; it’s a farming and land use issue.

On Greenland melting:

During the summer months of June, July, and August there is more melting of the surface than snow accumulation. The recent (weather-related) episode of a Saharan air mass traveling through western Europe and reaching Greenland led to a few days of exceptional melt. This was widely reported as having grave consequences.Forbes decided to push the limits of responsible journalism with a story title, Greenland’s Massive Ice Melt Wasn’t Supposed to Happen Until 2070. But the actual data show that after this very brief period (a few days) of strong melt, conditions then returned to normal.

On weather-related deaths:

As far as we know, no one has ever been killed by human-caused climate change. Weather-related deaths have fallen dramatically — by over 90% — in the last 100 years.”

On climate models:

There is an increasing trend toward passing off climate model projections as actual observations in news reports. This came up just a few days ago when I was alerted to a news story that claimed Tuscaloosa, Alabama is experiencing twice as many 100+ deg. F days as it used to. To his credit, the reporter corrected the story when it was pointed out to him that no such thing has happened, and it was a climate model projection that (erroneously) made such a “prediction.”

On the media generally:

An old mantra of the news business is, “if it bleeds, it leads.” If someone was murdered, it is news. That virtually no one gets murdered is not news. That, by itself, should tell you that the mainstream media cannot be relied upon as an unbiased source of climate change information.

Photo by Florian GIORGIO on Unsplash

Protecting Our Natural Surroundings

“I divide environmental topics into two sometimes overlapping groups, ‘romance’ and ‘sludge.’ The romance sector includes parks, forests, wildlands, wilderness, wildlife, and scenic vistas.”

By John Baden

I divide environmental topics into two sometimes overlapping groups, “romance” and “sludge.” The romance sector includes parks, forests, wildlands, wilderness, wildlife, and scenic vistas. These treasures grace calendars and coffee table books. Most educated and comfortable adults, even committed urbanites, are attracted to and want to protect this sector.

The second division is sludge. This term refers to nasty stuff that is often the necessary byproduct of legitimate productive activities such as food processing, mining, and manufacturing. These are spillovers from legitimate and useful activities.Economists call this category negative externalities. They ask: How might we efficiently reduce them—or even better, convert them into useful products?

That’s exactly what environmental entrepreneurs did when they converted the wood waste and scrap from lumber mills into valuable wood panels. Those panels replaced plywood—which had replaced boards formerly cut from old growth trees. Lesson here? In a market process economy, superior substitutes naturally evolve.

We can’t live without some sludge; it’s inherent in living and using products from the earth. While recognizing this, I choose to work in the romance arena. Had I elected to focus on sludge, I’d live in Boston and study its harbor. Instead, I live on a ranch between Bozeman and Yellowstone Park and study my surrounding habitat. Thus, I work in the tradition of America’s first conservationists.

America’s old-line conservation organizations were primarily concerned with the romance sector of their environment, largely with protecting wildlife. A common target was market hunters, people who overexploited the wildlife commons. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918, one of the oldest wildlife protection laws, was among the National Audubon Society’s first major victories.

The 1857 book Wild Northern Scenes; Sporting Adventures with the Rifle and the Rod is an example of the connection between outdoor recreation and preservation of environmental romance. In this book, S.H. Hammond writes: “We are here alone with nature, surrounded by old primeval things. Tall forest trees, mountain and valley are on the right hand and on the left. Before us, stretching away for miles, is a beautiful lake, its waters calm and placid, giving back the bright heavens, the old woods, the fleecy clouds that drift across the sky, from away down in its quiet depths.”

My columns and posts build on a lifelong interest in conservation. It began by creating the Concord Conservation Club while in the fifth grade of the small, high-quality and quite rural Concord School  in Miami County, Ohio.

Our club focused on wildlife, both fish and game. For example, I recall Field and Stream articles on the importance of fence rows in providing habitat. In those years family farms fields were small by today’s standards; forty acres was a large one. Most farms were fenced to keep farm animals, mainly beef and dairy cows and flocks of sheep, in for grazing. Various types of grasses and small bushes grew on both sides of each fence. I learned that fence rows provided good habitat for small animals nesting, hiding from predators, and gaining protection from weather. I maintained  my interest through high school and college and expressed it through hunting and fishing.

My columns with the Goodman Institute will be written while enjoying life in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. My goal is to explain how responsible liberty, sustainable ecology, and modest prosperity can complement one another while fostering wholesome communities. Communities flourish within this trinity. Eliminate any one and life becomes problematic, unpleasant over the long term—even unsafe.

Of the three elements of this trinity, modest prosperity is often underrated. Especially by Greens with a “woke” philosophy. Socialists and other authoritarians fail to understand the linkages among liberty, prosperity, and sustainable ecological systems.

They see economics as a subset of engineering rather than of evolutionary biology. Hence, they believe that prosperity can be designed and administered by the governmental bureaucracies via regulations and directives. This command approach never has and never will succeed. Why?

Bureaucratic knowledge is incomplete, and errors are common. Further, incentives often yield perverse outcomes. For example, federal programs to subsidize draining prairie potholes, America’s “duck factories,” destroy habitat for migratory water fowl and terrestrial wildlife dependent on pools of water. Reclamation irrigation dams destroy salmon runs. Here as elsewhere, political forces trump ecology and economics.

Prosperity, as contrasted to windfall gains from winning a lottery or finding gold, evolves as individuals discover ways to move resources to higher value. I will be discussing that in the future with the example I know best, our ranch.

John A. Baden is founder and chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), located in Bozeman, Montana.

What If a Tax on Carbon Emissions Isn’t the Right Goal?

Perhaps planting one trillion trees through a tree-planting program would be equally or more effective…

 

Economists favor a carbon tax as the most efficient way to forestall global warming because they assume that the goal should be to reduce the amount of carbon. But what if that assumption is wrong?

David Henderson gives three reasons why it may be wrong: (1) controlling methane emissions appears to be far more important than controlling carbon, (2) geo-engineering (e.g., emitting sulfur dioxide to counteract the effects of warming) may be more economical than reducing carbon and (3) it may be more cost effective to remove carbon from the atmosphere by planting trees.

According to a July 4, 2019, article in The Guardian, planting one trillion trees would be much cheaper than a carbon tax and much more effective. At an estimated cost of 30 cents per additional tree, the overall cost would be $300 billion. That’s large, but it’s a one-time cost. Moreover, writes the Guardian’s environment editor Damian Carrington, such a tree-planting program “could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as ‘mind-blowing’.”

A carbon tax, by contrast, would simply slow the rate of emissions into the atmosphere.

Three Reasons Why the New Endangered Species Rules Make Sense

The new regulations reflect the goals of the 1973 law, not the preferences of bureaucrats.

 

Daren Bakst of the Heritage Foundation lists three benefits of the Trump administration’s new regulations:

No longer treating threatened species as if they were endangered.

The Endangered Species Act applies its most significant protections to species classified as “endangered,” including very stringent prohibitions against activities that would harm species or their habitats. This includes severe restrictions on how private property owners can use their land.

But for threatened species, the Endangered Species Act’s general rule is that these stringent prohibitions don’t apply.

Unfortunately, the Fish and Wildlife Service has implemented the law in the exact opposite fashion: The general rule is that these prohibitions do apply to threatened species.

This misguided approach hurts conservation efforts by diverting time and resources away from where they are most needed. . . .

Promoting much-needed transparency.

The Endangered Species Act requires that science alone should determine whether to list a species. The costs of protecting a species has nothing to do with whether it is endangered or threatened.

However, the federal government has used this science-only requirement as an excuse to prohibit the identification of the benefits and costs of listing a species.

Based on the final regulations, the federal government would still make listing decisions without considering costs, but would start to identify and communicate the impacts of these listing decisions. . . .

Stopping critical habitat designations that don’t help to conserve species.

Under the Endangered Species Act, the federal government designates critical habitat for listed species, which may include areas that are not occupied by the species. These unoccupied areas, however, must be essential to the conservation of the species.

The new final regulations would help to ensure any unoccupied areas are truly essential, and therefore help to prevent extreme situations.

 

Photo by Florian GIORGIO on Unsplash

Are We Getting More Severe Weather Events?

No, severe weather events have not become more frequent or more extreme.

From my latest at Town Hall:

Hard data, collected over decades, show no increase in the frequency or severity of hurricanes over the past century. Additionally, droughts are not more common, severe, or of greater length . . .

In recent decades, flooding has become more common in some places, while it has declined in other regions. Yet evidence indicates manmade land alterations, such as channelizing streams and rivers and filling areas with impervious surfaces (concrete, buildings, and parking lots) are mostly responsible for the flooding, not modestly warmer temperatures or increased rainfall.

Although severe weather events have not become more extreme, the mainstream media and environmental zealots have resorted to endless fearmongering campaigns to make the public believe this is happening because of climate change.

 

Photo by Florian GIORGIO on Unsplash

Is Recycling Useful or Just Garbage?

Michael Munger answers.

Photo by Alexas Photos from Pixabay

 

From Michael Munger’s paper for AIER.

I have sometimes suggested a test for whether something is garbage or a valuable commodity. Hold it in your hand, or hold a cup of it, or tank, or however you can handle it. Consider: Will someone pay me for this? If the answer is yes, it’s a commodity, a valuable resource. If the answer is no, meaning you have to pay them to take it, then it’s garbage.

Should we recycle aluminum cans? Probably, because the price of recycling aluminum compares very favorably to using virgin materials, the mining and smelting of which are expensive in terms of energy and harmful to the environment.

Should we recycle toilet paper? We could, at some price. But it’s likely not worth it, because it can be composted, it would be awfully hard to clean and sort, and in any case paper products are actually a renewable resource, rather like wheat. You rarely hear someone saying, “Save the wheat! Give up bread!”

 

So why do people recycle?

As in any religious ceremony, the whole point is sacrifice: Abraham was ready to slay Isaac; Catholics give up meat during Lent; Muslims fast all day during Ramadan. And a young woman in Chile with two two-liter bottles sits in her car in line, knowing she is publicly visible and that her green moral virtue is apparent to everyone.

But lately the cost of the symbolic act of recycling, particularly for glass, has simply gotten too large. Cities and other local units were willing for a long time to sell their “customers” the chance to feel good about themselves, as long as the costs were reasonable. Recently however there has been a general decline in recycled commodity prices, and glass recycling in particular has crashed.

The recycling-industrial complex has been reduced to arguing that recycling “creates jobs,” though of course that’s only useful if the jobs produce something useful for consumers or improve the environment.

New Rules on Endangered Species: Did the NYT Get it Wrong?

Do the new regulations weaken protections or make them more likely to work?

Photo by Alexas Photos from Pixabay

On August 12, the Trump administration announced changes to the way the Endangered Species Act will be implemented. Some reactions:

New York Times: Trump Administration Weakens Protections for Endangered Species.”

The new rules would make it easier to remove a species from the endangered list and weaken protections for threatened species, the classification one step below endangered. And, for the first time, regulators would be allowed to conduct economic assessments — for instance, estimating lost revenue from a prohibition on logging in a critical habitat — when deciding whether a species warrants protection.

No, says PERC. “The New Endangered Species Act Rules Explained.”

This rule-change does not allow economic impacts to affect whether a species is listed as endangered or threatened. Indeed, the rule explicitly “acknowledge[s] that the statute and its legislative history are clear that listing determinations must be made solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available” according to five statutory factors. Thus, the rule gives the agency no authority to decline to list a species based on the economic impacts of such decision. If the agency attempted to do so, it would violate the statute and the rule.

What the Trump administration said:

An effectively administered Act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation.

“The revisions finalized with this rulemaking fit squarely within the President’s mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public, without sacrificing our species’ protection and recovery goals,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “These changes were subject to a robust, transparent public process, during which we received significant public input that helped us finalize these rules.”

For more information about the “extinction crisis,” see: “Is There an Extinction Crisis?” on this site.