Tuesday, March 27, 2012

WSJ.com - Global Warming Models Are Wrong Again


WSJ.com - Opinion: Global Warming Models Are Wrong Again


What is happening to global temperatures in reality? The answer is: almost nothing for more than 10 years.

The lack of any statistically significant warming for over a decade has made it more difficult for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its supporters to demonize the atmospheric gas CO2 which is released when fossil fuels are burned.

CO2 is not a pollutant. Life on earth flourished for hundreds of millions of years at much higher CO2 levels than we see today. Increasing CO2 levels will be a net benefit because cultivated plants grow better and are more resistant to drought at higher CO2 levels, and because warming and other supposedly harmful effects of CO2 have been greatly exaggerated. Nations with affordable energy from fossil fuels are more prosperous and healthy than those without.

The direct warming due to doubling CO2 levels in the atmosphere can be calculated to cause a warming of about one degree Celsius. The IPCC computer models predict a much larger warming, three degrees Celsius or even more, because they assume changes in water vapor or clouds that supposedly amplify the direct warming from CO2. Many lines of observational evidence suggest that this "positive feedback" also has been greatly exaggerated.

There has indeed been some warming, perhaps about 0.8 degrees Celsius, since the end of the so-called Little Ice Age in the early 1800s. Some of that warming has probably come from increased amounts of CO2, but the timing of the warming—much of it before CO2 levels had increased appreciably—suggests that a substantial fraction of the warming is from natural causes that have nothing to do with mankind.

It is easy to be confused about climate, because we are constantly being warned about the horrible things that will happen or are already happening as a result of mankind's use of fossil fuels. But these ominous predictions are based on computer models. It is important to distinguish between what the climate is actually doing and what computer models predict. The observed response of the climate to more CO2 is not in good agreement with model predictions.

The most important component of climate science is careful, long-term observations of climate-related phenomena, from space, from land, and in the oceans. If observations do not support code predictions—like more extreme weather, or rapidly rising global temperatures—Feynman has told us what conclusions to draw about the theory - it is wrong.



Monday, March 12, 2012

WSJ.com - Coffee Is an Essential Benefit Too


WSJ.com - Opinion: Coffee Is an Essential Benefit Too


Dear President Obama,


Can you believe the nerve of employers? Many of them still seem to think that they should be allowed to determine the benefits they offer. I guess they haven't read your 2,000-page health law. It's the government's job now.


That's a good thing, too. Employers for too long have been able to restrict our access to essential health services like contraception by making us pay some of the bill. Really, it's amazing that we aren't all dead. Now, thanks to you, we'll enjoy free and universal access to preventative care just like workers do in Cuba. Even so, there are still many essential benefits that the government must mandate to make the U.S. the freest country in the world.


• Fitness club memberships. Most doctors agree that exercising is one of the best ways to prevent disease. However, gym memberships can run between $240 and $1,800 per year. Such high prices force us to choose between exercising and buying groceries. While we could walk or jog outside, many of us prefer not to. Therefore, employers should be required to pay for workers' gym memberships. Doing so might even reduce employers' health costs, which is why many companies already subsidize memberships. Those that don't are limiting our freedom to exercise.


• Massages. Stress raises the risk of heart disease, obesity, depression and a host of other maladies. About one half of Americans say they're stressed, and studies show that health costs for stressed-out workers are nearly 50% higher than those for their chilled-out counterparts. According to the Mayo Clinic, a great way to reduce stress is to get a massage. However, since few of us can afford massages, it is imperative that employers be required to cover weekly massage treatments or hire in-office masseuses. Think of the millions of new jobs this mandate will create in the therapeutic field, too.


• Yoga classes. Like exercise and massage, yoga reduces stress and can relieve back pain, osteoarthritis and even menopausal symptoms. Yoga is also one of the best exercises for pregnant women since stress raises the risk of birth defects, which in turn increase health costs. While we could practice yoga with the aid of a DVD or Web video, classes offer social benefits that enhance our psychological well-being.


• Coffee. Studies show that coffee can ward off depression, Alzheimer's disease, type 2 diabetes and sleepiness—which makes it one of the most powerful preventive treatments. Workers who drink java are also more productive and pleasant. While many offices have coffee makers, some employers—most notably those affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—continue to deny workers this essential benefit. All employers should have to provide workers with freshly brewed coffee. Oh, and workers must also be able to choose the kind of coffee regardless of the price.


Republicans might argue that requiring Mormon charities to serve coffee is a violation of "religious liberty" since the Mormon church's doctrine proscribes coffee, but this argument is a red herring. Leading medical experts recommend drinking coffee. Moreover, 99% of adults have drunk coffee at one point in their lives (including most Mormons).


• Salad bar. Studies also show that eating a lot of salad helps people maintain a healthy weight, which is key to preventing diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Admittedly, mandating that employers include a free salad bar in their cafeterias would primarily benefit healthy eaters (women like myself) and raise prices for workers who subsist on junk (most men). However, such a mandate is necessary to expand our access to healthy food. Nanny-state conservatives who oppose this mandate merely want to ban salad and control what we eat.


Republicans may complain that these suggested mandates represent an unconstitutional expansion of federal government power. However, I'm sure Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and your political adviser David Axelrod could produce a legal memorandum explaining why they are necessary and proper to promote our general welfare (and of course, your re-election).


Besides, if you can justify a mandate on individuals to buy health insurance, this should be a piece of cake.


Friday, March 2, 2012

WSJ.com - What's Right With Gas Prices


WSJ.com - Opinion: What's Right With Gas Prices


Pundits insist America must finally get an energy policy. But we have one. It's called the price mechanism, and unless drastically interfered with, it has always given us a price at which we can buy all the gasoline we want.

Mr. Obama this week mocked Republicans who say, "Drill, baby, drill." But it's only right that America should produce, not just consume, the world's energy. It would be foolish to deny ourselves a share of the jobs and profits that flow from producing what America, realistically, will continue to consume in great gobs for decades to come despite any Obama fantasies about alternative energy.

Mr. Obama is right about one thing, however. Developing our reserves won't eliminate price volatility. That's because price volatility is a feature, not a bug, helping to elicit and ration the energy supplies without which global society would collapse into chaos.

But perhaps we should have said the price mechanism is the major motif in U.S. energy policy; an insistent minor motif has been subsidies for alternative energy, auto milage regulation, even occasional attempts to manipulate gasoline prices directly. These gestures give politicians something to say when the public is riled by pump prices; that's their function, along with creating opportunities to deliver handouts to grateful campaign donors. But the net effect surely has been to waste the country's resources. Where is the evidence, four decades after Nixon inaugurated these rituals, that the path of the global energy economy has been altered in any meaningful way?

Gasoline is the most visible price in the economy, and its gyrations cause the juju men in Washington and elsewhere to do crazy things, if not so crazy when understood that their real goal is to receive praise and ward off blame for the behavior of energy prices. But the price mechanism itself is still America's real energy policy, thank God.

One last thing: In the past 100 years, the real price of gasoline, in current dollars, has spent almost all its time between $2 and $4. So today's price is hardly the end of the world.