Agroforestry is Regreening the Sahel

The African Sahel is the arid belt of land that forms a buffer between the Sahara desert to the north and the more temperate savannahs to the south. From the coast of Mauritania and Senegal to the west, the Sahel stretches over 3,500 miles to Sudan and Eritrea’s Red Sea coast to the east. Over 500 miles wide, this vast area forms the biggest front line on earth in the relentless battle against desertification.

For decades there has been nothing but bad news. Population increase led to overgrazing and unsustainable harvests of fuelwood. Equally if not more harmful to the Sahel ecosystems were the imposition of western methods of agriculture and forestry, techniques that began under colonial administrations and have been perpetuated over the past 50 years by well-intentioned aid agencies. A fascinating article by Burkhard Bilger in the December 19th issue of The New Yorker, entitled “The Great Oasis (subscription required),” documents a new and hopeful trend in the Sahel that may reverse over a century of environmental decline.

Back in the 19th century and through the first half of the 20th century, French colonial administrators in the Sahel attempted to develop commercial agriculture according to Western techniques that worked well in temperate zones, where sunlight needed to be maximized, but were disastrous in the arid Sahel, where crops responded better if they were beneath a protective tree canopy that attenuated the sunlight. The areas designated as forest were considered state property and were [...] Read More

Redefining Environmentalism

The “Breakthrough Institute,” was founded in 2003 by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, authors of “The Death of Environmentalism” and Break Through, and aspires to be “a paradigm-shifting think tank committed to modernizing liberal thought for the 21st Century.” Last week Nordhaus and Shellenberger delivered a lecture at Yale University that provided myth-shattering explanations for recent failures of the environmental movement. Equally significant, and very encouraging, is that in their lecture, Shellenberger and Nordhaus also set forth principles for redefining and revitalizing environmentalism that are realistic and thoughtful. The full text of their remarks, entitled “The Long Death of Environmentalism” are posted on their website.

Here is the problem with environmentalism according to Nordhaus and Shellenberger:

“Today, environmental efforts to address climate change and build a green economy lie in ruins. The United States Congress this summer once again rejected climate legislation that even had it succeeded would have had virtually no impact upon U.S. carbon emissions over the coming decade. The magnitude and consequence of this defeat are poorly understood outside of Washington. Greens had the best opportunity in a generation — a Democratic White House and large Democratic majorities in Congress. But they banked everything on a single bill and walked away with nothing — or rather worse than nothing, since today environmental credibility with lawmakers of both parties is today at an all-time low. Meanwhile, green stimulus investments ended up creating very few jobs. Those that [...] Read More

California’s Green Godfathers

It is an article of faith among environmentalists, conventional wisdom in the media and academia, and a massive delusion afflicting California’s voters, that the climate skeptic community receives massive backing from oil companies and other corporate “polluters.” But when you start to look at who stands to gain from climate “mitigation” policies, and really examine the money trail behind legislative lobbying and political campaigns, the notion that the money is on the side of the deniers doesn’t hold up.

Where the money really is in the global warming debate, as well as reasons why anthropogenic CO2 may not be pollution after all, has been explored at length already here in previous posts including Investigating Climate Alarmism, Credible Climate Skeptics, The Hijacked Public Interest in California, Public Sector Deficits & Global Warming “Mitigation”, California’s Proposition 23, Who Are The Carbon Criminals?, Implementing California’s Global Warming Act, The Climate Money Trail, and The Climate Alarm Industry. In this post, the intent is to take a closer look at who was behind the annihilation of California’s Prop. 23 last November, a citizens initiative that would have suspended implementation of California’s “Global Warming Act,” tepidly backed by a handful of oil companies (most [...] Read More

Investigating Climate Alarmism

Prior to launching CIV FI, I edited EcoWorld, a website dedicated to “reporting on clean technology and the status of species and ecosystems.” My belief in the urgency of many environmental challenges; declining fisheries, deforestation, 3rd world development, depleting aquifers, endangered species, etc., is undiminished. But from 1995 until the spring of 2009, while writing or editing nearly 1,000 reports on these vast topics, I slowly changed from a person who believed in the urgency of reducing anthropogenic CO2 emissions, to someone who is a confirmed skeptic.

One reason I began to question the conventional wisdom on climate change was because whenever researching a particularly horrendous claim, I would inevitably discover the reality was far less significant than the headline. The alleged melting of the ice caps is a good example of this, because all you need is basic competence in high school algebra in order to realize the supposedly ominous quantities of ice-melt being parroted by alarmist journalists are utterly trivial. Here are some posts from several years ago where I ran the numbers and realized the amount of melting being reported in Antarctica and Greenland was actually so minute it was below the level of detectability:

The Real Facts on Increasing Antarctic Ice, 30 April 2009 Pessimistic Reporting, Optimistic Data, 26 December 2008 Antarctica’s Ice Mass, 17 April 2008 Greenland’s Ice [...] Read More

Entrepreneurial vs. Casino Capitalism

This week’s New Yorker editorial “Puppetry” by Hendrik Hertzberg properly takes Fox Commentator Glenn Beck to task for distorting the life-story of financier George Soros. There are plenty of reasons to criticize George Soros, but how he survived the Holocaust as a pre-teen in wartime Hungary is not one of them. What bears mention is the fact that Glenn Beck may have overplayed the “holocaust” card, but Glenn Beck is one man, a frothy, overwrought pundit who offers a lot of useful insights to his viewers, but isn’t always right. Beck may be condoned by his network, but he hardly represents a movement.

It is indeed appropriate for the New Yorker to condemn Glenn Beck for demonizing George Soros, but the New Yorker is being hypocritical. New Yorker writers routinely participate in character assassination when they criticize climate change skeptics, and they too devalue the holocaust, every time they taint anyone who may disagree with the theory that anthropogenic CO2 is going to destroy our planet as a “denier.”

In last week’s New Yorker editorial, for example, entitled “Uncomfortable Climate,” author Elizabeth Kolbert leads off by calling attention to the behavior of Congressman Darryl Issa, who as a teenager was accused of car theft. This, along with the fact that Issa is “one of the richest men in Congress,” precedes Kolbert’s discussion of Issa’s intention to reopen investigations regarding whether or not it is justifiable to regulate CO2 emissions. In [...] Read More

Credible Climate Skeptics

An article entitled “The Danger of Cosmic Genius” appearing in the December 2010 edition of The Atlantic, authored by Kenneth Brower, refers to the brilliant physicist Freeman Dyson, and his “dangerous” skepticism regarding climate change. As Brower puts it, “Among intelligent nonexperts who have weighed in on climate change, Freeman Dyson has become, now that Michael Crichton is dead, perhaps our most prominent global-warming skeptic.”

In an article that exceeds 6,000 words, Brower repeatedly launches scathing attacks on Dyson’s credibility, stating at one point “how could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so dumb,” or “many of Dyson’s facts on global warming are wrong… but more disconcerting is the selective way he gathers his information or the peculiar conceptual framework into which he inserts it,” or “how is it possible to misapprehend so profoundly how the real world works,” or “he is emotionally incapable of seeing the true colors of the rampant ingenuity of our species…”

Not content with merely attributing the dangerously delusional nature of Freeman Dyson’s climate skepticism to the apparent failings of his personal emotional and intellectual architecture, Brower then applies what quite likely is a template used to discredit any climate skeptic – especially since some of them, such as Dyson, are too widely respected to be simply demonized. Brower shares these theories, suggesting Dyson may be a “contrarian,” since “physicists, astronomers, scholars of every stripe, have always been charmed by the counterintuitive – and why not, as [...] Read More

The Hijacked Public Interest in California

If you consider yourself an environmentalist, and someone who – unlike libertarians – believes in a strong role for government in our lives, it’s hard to watch what has been done to environmentalism and government in California. Environmentalists have been hijacked by the global warming lobby, and our state and local governments have been hijacked by labor unions. And if you don’t accept the premises of California’s environmentalists today – that reducing CO2 emissions is going to address an urgent environmental crisis at the same time as it helps the economy, or the premises of California’s public employee unions – that public employees are NOT over-compensated and therefore we must raise taxes so we can afford to pay them, you may logically conclude that California is akin to an occupied nation.

Notwithstanding the spectacular failure of the Meg Whitman campaign – more on that later – the problem in California politics is simple. The environmentalists get their backing from Wall Street plutocrats, who have correctly identified the opportunity to trade CO2 “emissions credits” and “offset credits” as the biggest opportunity for them to rob from the poor and give to the rich they’ve ever seen. Public sector unions get their backing directly from California’s taxpayers, since these unions pretty much compel California’s public employees to join and pay dues. Estimates of California’s public sector union total political spending reach a half-billion dollars on politics every two year election cycle (ref. Public Sector [...] Read More

Fighting Bad Policy With Facts

A couple of months ago in a post entitled “Inflation, Population & Government,” I criticized California Senator Denham for making the following assertion in a press release: “between 1970 and 2010, for every 1 percent increase in population, our [California's state government] spending has increased 20 percent.” In reality, if you adjust for inflation, that statement should read as follows: “between 1970 and 2010, for every 1 percent increase in population, our [California's state government] spending has increased 3.4 percent.”

This is still a shocking statistic. California’s state government grew over the past 30 years at 3.4x the rate of population growth. Why make an unbelievable comment – 20x – when the inflation-adjusted indisputable truth is so dramatic?

Here’s another one, just for the record. In today’s Wall Street Journal, one of my favorite writers, George Gilder, has a guest column entitled “California’s Destructive Green Jobs Lobby.” In this column he makes some fundamental points about California’s failure on Nov. 2nd to pass Prop. 23, which would have slowed down implementation of AB32, the “Global Warming Act” passed by their legislature in 2006, and set to take effect in 2012. To paraphrase Gilder:

CO2 is not pollution. Fossil fuel is cheaper and in many respects far cleaner than “alternative energy,” and there is plenty of it available within the borders of the United States. Economic growth depends on basic resources such as energy costing consumers and businesses [...] Read More

Public Sector Deficits & Global Warming “Mitigation”

About the same time one might belatedly realize that reducing anthropogenic CO2 emissions will do absolutely nothing to alter or avert whatever climate “change” nature may have in store for us, might also be the time to realize the real reason we have chronic government deficits is because we not only have too many government employees, but we pay them too much. Connecting the dots, on July 2nd, 2008 in a post entitled “Breaking Down California’s AB32 Global Warming Act,” I wrote the following:

“Based on the potential of offset sales, carbon fees, and sales of emissions allowances, one may dismiss claims that AB32 will cost California’s government more than it will bring in revenues. AB32 will potentially cause tens of billions of dollars of net cash per year to flow into California’s public sector. Qualifying municipalities that enforce high density may earn carbon offset fees from polluters, based on how many vehicle miles they can calculate they eliminated through high density zoning. AB 2596 sets the stage for this. Redefining public sector jobs to address global warming mitigation may encompass a huge percentage of the public sector workforce, including construction, infrastructure, education, as well as explicitly environmentally focused agencies. Already California’s 400+ cities, 58 counties, and 32 air quality management districts are imposing new global warming related fees. Since global warming mitigation is a specific program – no vote is required to assess these fees. Auctions of emissions allowances to [...] Read More

California’s Proposition 23

Back in 2006 California’s Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 32, the “Global Warming Act,” which set the goal of reducing California’s “greenhouse gas emissions” to 1990 levels by 2020. The bill was set to become implemented in 2012, and for the past few years, the bureaucrats at the California Air Resources Board have been working feverishly to come up with specific regulations. What they have produced is a monstrosity.

To start to come to grips with what AB 32 is going to do to California, read CARB’s own material, their “Climate Change Scoping Plan,” their “Updated Economic Analysis of California’s Climate Change Scoping Plan,” and their “ENERGY 2020 Model Inputs and Assumptions.” You can get an attempt at a summary if you read the post “Implementing California’s Global Warming Act.”

Since the most recent publicized polling results indicate that voters are split roughly 50/50 on Prop. 23 (ref. the Sept. 24th LA Times article “Proposition 23 poll shows a dead heat among California voters“), it is worthwhile to examine the arguments against Prop. 23 that are currently bombarding voters. A good place to review these arguments would be on the “fact sheet” put forward by the group “Californians [...] Read More