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Economy

Obama chief scientist cools on climate crisis news coverage

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Article originally published at CFACT.org

President Barack Obama’s Energy Department Chief Scientist Steven Koonin’s soon-to-be-published book will discuss information that the public really needs to have regarding grossly overheated “climate crisis” media hype.

Titled “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What it Doesn’t, and Why It Matters,” a preview of it’s contents is provided in an April 16 Wall Street Journal interview with the author posted by Holman Jenkins, Jr.

Jenkins’ piece is titled “How a Physicist Became a Climate Truth Teller,” and I recommend it to readers who are interested in a fuller book content and author background account.

Having followed the science over more than a decade — and written a couple of pretty good books and likely a hundred or so articles on the subject — I find Koonin’s descriptive accuracy and candor enormously refreshing.

Sadly, few — if any — others in the Obama-Biden White House really cared about facts, paid attention, or learned anything from him at all.

First, because this is particularly relevant to me, Steven Koonin’s background as a physicist combines his technical understanding of applications and limitations of computer modeling of complex systems and practical experience in dealing with real-world realities such as assessing how we can most effectively and efficiently apply fundamental energy principles to meet complex human conditions and requirements.

Koonin taught physics at Caltech for nearly three decades, where he also served as provost; was recruited by the non-profit Institute for Defense Analysis which provided advisory services to military and congressional leaders; worked at JASON, another private scientific organization where he conducted and supervised cold-fusion energy and human genome mapping research; and later worked as chief scientist for British Petroleum (BP) which was later rebranded as “Beyond Petroleum.”

While at BP, Koonin created the multidisciplinary Energy Biosciences Institute at Berkeley which studies a wide range of scientific issues ranging from the isotopic composition of micro-fossils in the sea floor through regulation of industrial power plants.

Steven Koonin’s research into the world’s energy system led him to become convinced that the only “real climate crisis was a crisis of political and scientific candor,” and that the world “isn’t going to be able to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions enough to make much difference.”

Koonin argues that while he supports responsible climate science, his issue is that what media and activist say about climate science has drifted so far out of touch with the actual science as to be absurdly, demonstrably false.

With reference to a 2019 report by presidents of the National Academy of Sciences which asserted that the “magnitude and frequency of certain extreme events are increasing,” for example, he notes that the “United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is deemed to compile the best science, advised that all such claims should be treated with “low confidence.”

The U.S. government’s 2017 Climate Science Special Report had claimed that, in the lower 48 states, the “number of high temperature records set in the past two decades far exceeds the number of low temperature records.” On closer inspection, Koonin points out, “that’s because there’s been no increase in the rate of new record highs since 1900, only a decline in the number of new lows.”

A 2018 U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment which relied on such “ovegged” worst-case emissions and temperature projections, Koonin concludes, “was written more to persuade than to inform.” He says, “It masquerades as objective science but was written — all right, I’ll use the word — propaganda.”

Koonin emphasizes the absurdity of basing climate change alarm on century-long forecasts claiming to know how 1% shifts in poorly understood variables will affect a future global climate that we don’t understand with anything even resembling that precision.

Nevertheless, the IPCC will issue a report next year that will purport to determine how much warming to expect by the end of this century based upon 40-plus computer model simulations which have been diverging in projections — not converging — coming together — as one would hope to enable determination of which one should be trusted.

Without tweaking, the modelers can’t even agree on a current simulated global average surface temperature — varying by 3 degrees Celsius – three times the observed change over the past century.

Koonin, both an experienced computer practitioner and modeling enthusiast, recognizes that they are wonderful where the simulation variables and their interactions being projected are well known and results can be empirically tested.

“But these are more controlled, engineered situations,” he adds, “whereas the climate is a natural phenomenon. It’s going to do whatever it’s going to do. And it’s hard to observe. You need long, precise observations to understand its natural variability and how it responds to external influences.”

Koonin, who has been building models and watching others do so over 45 years, cautions that climate models “are not to the standard you would trust your life or even trillions of dollars to.”

For the record, Koonin agrees — as many of my well-informed climate scientist friends also do — that the world has warmed by about 1 degree Celsius since 1900, and it will likely warm by another degree by the end of this century.

There is no dispute I’m aware of that temperatures began warming at the end of the last “Little Ice Age” in the mid-1800s — before the Industrial Revolution — and will likely continue to do so in fits-and-starts with little or no influence from us until Mother Nature once again changes her mind.

Neither Koonin nor any real-world scientific climate or economic studies, however, have seen anything in the offing which he says “would justify the rapid and wholesale abandoning of fossil fuels, even if China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and others could be dissuaded from pursuing prosperity.”

Even John Kerry, Joe Biden’s “climate czar,” recently admitted that the current administration’s “net-zero” climate plan will have zero effect if developing countries don’t go along, and as Koonin notes, “they have little incentive to do so.”

In any case, Koonin believes that any warming that occurs will emerge slowly and with modest effect — not a runaway crisis that alarmists such as Al Gore and John Kerry hype. To the extent that reduced CO2emissions will make any measurable difference, the solutions should let technology and markets work together at their own pace.

“The climate might to continue to change at a pace that’s hard to perceive, but society will adapt.”

Konnin adds, “As a species, we’re very good at adapting.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge will be to survive the current political climate crisis.

 

Author: CFACT Advisor Larry Bell heads the graduate program in space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded and directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. He is also the author of “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax.”

Article originally published at CFACT.org

In 1985, the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) was founded to promote a much-needed, positive alternative voice on issues of environment and development. Its co-founders, David Rothbard and Craig Rucker, strongly believed the power of the market combined with the applications of safe technologies could offer humanity practical solutions to many of the world’s most pressing concerns. A number of leading scientists, academics, and policy leaders soon joined them, along with thousands of citizens from around the U.S. and around the world.

Today, CFACT is a respected Washington D.C.-based organization whose voice can be heard relentlessly infusing the public-interest debate with a balanced perspective on environmental stewardship and other important issues.  With an influential and impressive scientific advisory board, effective collegiate program on U.S. college campuses, CFACT Europe, official United Nations’ NGO representation, Adopt-A-Village project, Global Social Responsibility program, and “Just the Facts” daily national radio commentary, CFACT continues to offer genuine solutions to today’s most important global challenges.

CFACT has been termed “invaluable” by the Arizona Republic, it has been lauded for its “effort to bring sound science to the environmental debate” by a former president of the National Academy of Sciences, and has been praised by a respected Boston Herald columnist for “a record of supplying absolutely solid information.”

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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conflict

Indonesian leader calls for unity, braces for global crises

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By Niniek Karmini in Jakarta

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s president called on all citizens to remain united, vigilant and alert as they face crises fueled by the war in Ukraine and coronavirus pandemic in his State of the Nation address Tuesday.

After two years of remote meetings amid pandemic restrictions, more than half of Indonesia’s Parliament was in attendance as President Joko Widodo told them and top officials on the eve of Independence Day that regional tensions are threatening security.

“We must always remain vigilant, cautious and alert,” Widodo said. “Crisis after crisis still haunts the world.”

He noted that when war broke out in Ukraine causing energy and food crises, the world was still grappling with the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Some countries are predicted to go bankrupt, while over 550 million people face extreme poverty and 345 million others face food shortages and famine, Widodo said.

“The challenges are not easy for the world and for Indonesia. We must face those challenges with prudence and vigilance,” he said.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has exacerbated rising prices in Indonesia amid ongoing supply chain disruptions from the pandemic, causing cooking oil prices to soar while the interruptions in wheat, soybeans and corn have affected the cost of several foods.

In April, Indonesia banned all exports of crude palm oil, a key ingredient in cooking oils, for a month amid a series of student protests against skyrocketing food prices. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s largest exporters of palm oil, accounting for 85% of global production.

As the host of the Group of 20 richest and biggest economies this year, Indonesia has sought to bridge divisions between members over Russia’s invasion. Widodo has been guarded in his comments about the war in Ukraine in an attempt to remain neutral.

Widodo was the first Asian leader to visit the warring countries. Ukraine is not a G-20 member, but Widodo has invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the November summit along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, hoping to appease all sides and limit any distractions from the forum’s agenda. Zelenskyy has said he won’t attend if the war is continuing then and has opted to follow the discussions by video link.

The inflation rate in Indonesia has been relatively modest with the shock being mostly absorbed through a budget bolstered by energy subsidies.

Widodo said the state budget recorded a surplus of 106 trillion rupiah ($7.2 billion), allowing the government to provide fuel, gas and electricity subsidies of 502 trillion rupiah ($34 billion) this year to cushion fuel prices.

However, he said the administration must recalculate its energy subsidies to reduce the burden on the budget.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy served as a key exporter of coal, palm oil and minerals amid a global shortage in commodities after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Coal exports increased to record levels in March after a brief ban on its shipments early this year to secure domestic supplies.

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Economy

Luxury goods tax on super-rich could hit electric vehicles: expert

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By Marie Woolf in Ottawa

A new tax on yachts, luxury cars and private aircraft designed to hit the super-rich could also cover vehicles meant to help the environment, a tax expert warns.

The luxury goods tax, which will come into force on Sept. 1, will cover cars and SUVs, as well as private planes and helicopters, worth more than $100,000.

The federal tax will also cover yachts and boats — including motorboats — worth more than $250,000.

But senior tax lawyer Héléna Gagné says the new tax could also hit some electric and hybrid vehicles, including Tesla and BMW models, which cost more than $100,000.

The federal government has been encouraging Canadians to invest in clean technology and zero-emission vehicles, which can carry a higher price tag than cars that run on fossil fuels.

Gagné said the thresholds for the tax could also affect people who would not be regarded as wealthy, but have saved up to buy a private plane for a hobby.

“It seems to be assumed that it is only the wealthiest who will be impacted by the luxury tax but it is not necessarily the case,” said Gagné, a partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. “It can also impact indirectly taxpayers who may not consider themselves as being among the wealthiest but who may decide to purchase an electric vehicle with a retail sales price that happens to be over the $100,000 threshold.”

Adrienne Vaupshas, a spokeswoman for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, said the measures, originally proposed in the 2021 budget, are not designed to hit the middle class.

She said the threshold for the tax for boats was deliberately set at $250,000 so it would cover superyachts and not middle-class families buying boats.

Vaupshas said it was “only right and fair that the very wealthiest are asked to pay their fair share.”

“The government was re-elected on a platform that included a commitment to bring forward a luxury tax on yachts, private jets, and luxury cars and implementing this measure is a priority,” she said.

The tax was originally proposed in the 2021 budget. It will cover luxury cars, planes, and boats bought for personal use and leisure. Commercial vehicles, including small planes selling seats, and emergency vehicles are among the classes of vehicle exempt from the new tax.

The tax amounts to either 10 per cent of the taxable amount of the item or 20 per cent of the amount over the price threshold — whichever is less.

The NDP has been putting pressure on the federal government to do more to tax the super-rich. Measures to increase taxes on the wealthiest people in Canada, however, were not included in the Liberal-NDP confidence and supply pact.

NDP critic for tax fairness and inequality, Niki Ashton, said at a news conference last month that she wants the federal government to close loopholes she says are being used by the super-rich and corporations to avoid paying billions in taxes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.

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