Friday, January 9, 2009

Journalistic Claptrap!

Over at the Dilly Telegraph (sorry Daily Telegraph) we're seeing a great example of piss poor journalism, it starts off like this:

NASA tells Barack Obama Australia is destroying earth with coal emissions

Now NASA never said anything of the sort, go a little further into the article you'll see:

AUSTRALIA'S use of coal and carbon emissions policies are guaranteeing the "destruction of much of the life on the planet", a leading NASA scientist has written in a letter to Barack Obama.

The head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Professor James Hansen, has written an open letter to Barack Obama calling for a moratorium on coal-fired power stations and the use of next-generation nuclear power.

In the letter he says: "Australia exports coal and sets atmospheric carbon dioxide goals so large as to guarantee destruction of much of the life on the planet."

So we've already seen a bullshit headline designed to stir up the masses and sell newspapers and now it looks like Hansen is using the letter to attack Australia (well if that doesn't stir people into a patriotic frenzy - and sell more fishwrappers - nothing will). But what did Hansen really say? Well with about 30 seconds on "the google" we can find Hansens letter. You'll need to scroll down a bit as there's various notes and other bits of correspondence there but when you do you'll eventually find:

The physics of the matter, together with empirical data, also define the need for a carbon tax. Alternatives such as emission reduction targets, cap and trade, cap and dividend, do not work, as proven by honest efforts of the ‘greenest’ countries to comply with the Kyoto Protocol:

(1) Japan: accepted the strongest emission reduction targets, appropriately prides itself on having the most energy-efficient industry, and yet its use of coal has sharply increased, as have its total CO2 emissions. Japan offset its increases with purchases of credits through the clean development mechanism in China, intended to reduce emissions there, but Chinese emissions increased rapidly.

(2) Germany: subsidizes renewable energies heavily and accepts strong emission reduction targets, yet plans to build a large number of coal-fired power plants. They assert that they will have cap-and-trade, with a cap that reduces emissions by whatever amount is needed. But the physics tells us that if they continue to burn coal, no cap can solve the problem, because of the long carbon dioxide lifetime.

(3) Other cases are described on my Columbia University web site, e.g., Switzerland finances construction of coal plants, Sweden builds them, and Australia exports coal and sets atmospheric carbon dioxide goals so large as to guarantee destruction of much of the life on the planet.

Indeed, ‘goals’ and ‘caps’ on carbon emissions are practically worthless, if coal emissions continue, because of the exceedingly long lifetime of carbon dioxide in the air. Nobody realistically expects that the large readily available pools of oil and gas will be left in the ground. Caps will not cause that to happen – caps only slow the rate at which the oil and gas are used. The only solution is to cut off the coal source (and unconventional fossil fuels).

So did you see it? (You should've I put it in bold for you) One line, hardly a letter bagging just Australia, it sticks the boot into many other countries. And as for our carbon dioxide goals well Kevin 05 has figured a 5% cut is good enough which will do nothing to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere so technically the statement is right.

And the letter is signed:

James and Anniek Hansen
United States of America

He and his (I'm presuming, I couldn't be bothered searching) wife have signed it as private citizens, not as the head of NASA's Goddard Institue nor as a Professor from Columbia University, so NASA hasn't told Barack that Australia is destroying the earth. More hard hitting factual journalism brought to you by the Dilly Telegraph.

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