Scientist: Blame Pre Industrialism for Climate Change

Editor’s Note: Where will they go next? Animal flatulence? Oh, no, wait! That has already been cited as a cause.

By STEPHANIE PAPPAS | LIVE SCIENCE | JULY 4, 2012

Humans started causing climate change long before the Industrial Revolution and the beginning of the fossil fuel era. A new study shows that the echoes of the earliest human-caused carbon emissions are still present in our atmosphere.

In fact, preindustrial carbon emissions, caused by deforestation as the world’s population grew, were responsible for 9 percent of the total warming the globe has seen to date, the researchers say.

“The earlier the emissions occur, the less the influence on today’s climate. But a part of the emissions stays in the atmosphere over a very long time scale of centuries to millennia,” study researcher Julia Pongratz of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany told LiveScience.

This rethinking about carbon emissions could alter the relative blame put on various nations by as much as 2 percent, the researchers said. The political ramifications are not yet clear, but most international negotiations on climate change have focused on a “Polluter pays” model in which the biggest emitters would take on the biggest role in mitigating global warming. Including developments as far back at the ninth century would place slightly more burden on China and South Asian nations, according to the researchers.

 Early emissions

Pongratz, who conducted the study with environmental scientist Ken Caldeira at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif., noted that estimates of various nations’ contributions to the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide have all focused on emissions after 1840. [10 Climate Myths Busted]

But between A.D. 800 and about 1850, the world population quintupled to more than a billion. With that population boom came an increasing need for agriculture, and thus deforestation.

Trees are what scientists call carbon sinks. They store carbon dioxide and keep it out of the atmosphere. Once they’re cut down, not only do they stop taking in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, they rot and release the stored greenhouse gas.

Using historical documentation, Pongratz and Caldeira created a virtual map of land use stretching back to 800. This reconstruction can be combined with climate computer models to determine just how much land-use changes influenced the climate.

Using these models, the researchers found that 5 percent of the total “extra” CO2 in the atmosphere — the emissions that wouldn’t be there if humans weren’t around to create them — date back to the preindustrial era before 1850. The percentage of preindustrial emissions for each region varies. For example, China and South Asia have only recently begun burning fossil fuels in earnest, Pongratz said, but historically these regions underwent massive amounts of deforestation. So those regions’ preindustrial emissions make up between 10 percent and 40 percent of their total carbon output.

Today, the researchers found, most deforestation-related carbon emissions are occurring in tropical regions of the world.

Assigning blame

Since the late 1800s, the globe has warmed by about 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit (0.74 degrees Celsius). About 9 percent of that warming is because of preindustrial emissions, Pongratz and Caldeira report Wednesday (July 4) in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

“This is a pure scientific study, and many things go into ‘Who is responsible for what’ that go outside the scope of science,” Pongratz said. “But when you attribute today’s climate change to regions of the world, then the picture indeed changes when you account for these preindustrialized regions.”

As Pongratz and her colleagues have previously reported, this historical look at carbon emissions reveals some of the major human events that shaped history. In particular, after the Mongols invaded Asia in 1200, the region’s carbon emissions dropped as forests were allowed to regrow in a time of war and population disruption. The Black Plague in Europe during the 1300s also appears to have created a carbon emissions blip, albeit a less dramatic one than the Mongol invasion.

“Independent of political implications for today, our study is quite interesting to look at how this attribution evolves over time,” Pongratz said.

Robber Barons, Revolution, and Social Control

The Century of Social Engineering, Part 1

By Andrew Gavin Marshall
March 10, 2011

Introduction

In Part 1 of this series, “The Century of Social Engineering,” I briefly document the economic, political and social background to the 20th century in America, by taking a brief look at the major social upheavals of the 19th century. For an excellent and detailed examination of this history, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States  (which provided much of the research for this article) is perhaps the most expansive and detailed examination. I am not attempting to serve it justice here, as there is much left out of this historically examination than there is included.

The purpose of this essay is to examine first of all the rise of class and labour struggle throughout the United States in the 19th century, the rise and dominance of the ‘Robber Baron’ industrialists like J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, their convergence of interests with the state, and finally to examine the radical new philosophies and theories that arose within the radicalized and activated populations, such as Marxism and Anarchism. I do not attempt to provide exhaustive or comprehensive analyses of these theoretical and philosophical movements, but rather provide a brief glimpse to some of the ideas (particularly those of anarchism), and place them in the historical context of the mass struggles of the 19th century.

Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan are three of a handful world lords who founded the current social state of affairs.

America’s Class Struggle

Unbeknownst to most Americans – and for that matter, most people in general – the United States in the 19th century was in enormous upheaval, following on the footsteps of the American Revolution, a revolution which was directed by the landed elite in the American colonies, a new revolutionary spirit arose in the working class populace. The 19th century, from roughly the 1830s onwards, was one great long labour struggle in America.

In the early decades of the 19th century, Eastern capitalists in America began to expand to the West, “and it became important to keep that new West, tumultuous and unpredictable, under control.”[1] The new capitalists favoured monopolization over competition as a method of achieving ‘stability’ and “security to your own property.” The state played its traditional role in securing business interests, as state legislatures gave charters to corporations, granting them legal charters, and “between 1790 and 1860, 2,300 corporations were chartered.”[2] However, as Howard Zinn wrote in A People’s History of the United States:

The attempts at political stability, at economic control, did not quite work. The new industrialism, the crowded cities, the long hours in the factories, the sudden economic crises leading to high prices and lost jobs, the lack of food and water, the freezing winters, the hot tenements in the summer, the epidemics of disease, the deaths of children – these led to sporadic reactions from the poor. Sometimes there were spontaneous, unorganized uprisings against the rich. Sometimes the anger was deflected into racial hatred for blacks, religious warfare against Catholics, nativist fury against immigrants. Sometimes it was organized into demonstrations and strikes.[3]

In the 1830s, “episodes of insurrection” were taking place amid the emergence of unions. Throughout the century, it was with each economic crisis that labour movements and rebellious sentiments would develop and accelerate. Such was the case with the 1837 economic crisis, caused by the banks and leading to rising prices. Rallies and meetings started taking place in several cities, with one rally numbering 20,000 people in Philadelphia. That same year, New York experienced the Flour Riot. With a third of the working class – 50,000 people – out of work in New York alone, and nearly half of New York’s 500,000 people living “in utter and hopeless distress,” thousands of protesters rioted, ultimately leading to police and troops being sent in to crush the protesters.[4]

In 1835 there had been a successful general strike in Philadelphia, where fifty trade unions had organized in favour of a ten-hour work day. In this context, political parties began creating divides between workers and lower class people, as antagonisms developed between many Protestants and Catholics. Thus, middle class politicians “led each group into a different political party (the nativists into the American Republican party, the Irish into the Democratic party), party politics and religion now substituting for class conflict.”[5]

Another economic crisis took place in 1857, and in 1860, a Mechanics Association was formed, demanding higher wages, and called for a strike. Within a week, strikes spread from Lynn, Massachusetts, to towns across the state and into New Hampshire and Maine, “with Mechanics Associations in twenty-five towns and twenty thousand shoe-workers on strike,” marking the largest strike prior to the Civil War.[6] Yet, “electoral politics drained the energies of the resisters into the channels of the system.” While European workers were struggling for economic justice and political democracy, American workers had already achieved political democracy, thus, “their economic battles could be taken over by political parties that blurred class lines.”[7]

The Civil War (1861-1865) served several purposes. First of all, the immediate economic considerations: the Civil War sought to create a single economic system for America, driven by the Eastern capitalists in the midst of the Industrial Revolution, uniting with the West against the slave-labour South. The aim was not freedom for black slaves, but rather to end a system which had become antiquated and unprofitable. With the Industrial Revolution driving people into cities and mechanizing production, the notion of slavery lost its appeal: it was simply too expensive and time consuming to raise, feed, house, clothe and maintain slaves; it was thought more logical and profitable (in an era obsessed with efficiency) to simply pay people for the time they engage in labour. The Industrial Revolution brought with it the clock, and thus time itself became a commodity. As slavery was indicative of human beings being treated as commodities to be bought and sold, owned and used, the Industrial Revolution did not liberate people from servitude and slavery, it simply updated the notions and made more efficient the system of slavery: instead of purchasing people, they would lease them for the time they can be ‘productive’.

Living conditions for the workers and the vast majority, however, were not very different from the conditions of slavery itself. Thus, as the Civil War was sold to the public on the notion of liberating the slaves in the South, the workers of the North felt betrayed and hateful that they must be drafted and killed for a war to liberate others when they themselves were struggling for liberation. Here, we see the social control methods and reorganizing of society that can take place through war, a fact that has always existed and remains today, made to be even more prescient with the advances in technology. During the Civil War, the class conflict among the working people of the United States transformed into a system where they were divided against each other, as religious and racial divisions increasingly erupted in violence. With the Conscription Act of 1863, draft riots erupted in several Northern U.S. cities, the most infamous of which was the New York draft riots, when for three days mobs of rioters attacked recruiting stations, wealthy homes, destroying buildings and killing blacks. Roughly four hundred people were killed after Union troops were called into the city to repress the riots.[8] In the South, where the vast majority of people were not slave owners, but in fact poor white farmers “living in shacks or abandoned outhouses, cultivating land so bad the plantation owners had abandoned it,” making little more than blacks for the same work (30 cents a day for whites as opposed to 20 cents a day for blacks). When the Southern Confederate Conscription Law was implemented in 1863, anti-draft riots erupted in several Southern cities as well.[9]

When the Civil War ended in 1865, hundreds of thousands of soldiers returned to squalor conditions in the major cities of America. In New York alone, 100,000 people lived in slums. These conditions brought a surge in labour unrest and struggle, as 100,000 went on strike in New York, unions were formed, with blacks forming their own unions. However, the National Labour Union itself suppressed the struggle for rights as it focused on ‘reforming’ economic conditions (such as promoting the issuance of paper money), “it became less an organizer of labor struggles and more a lobbyist with Congress, concerned with voting, it lost its vitality.”[10]

The Robber Barons Against Americans

In 1873, another major economic crisis took place, setting off a great depression. Yet, economic crises, while being harmful to the vast majority of people, increasing prices and decreasing jobs and wages, had the effect of being very beneficial to the new industrialists and financiers, who use crisis as an opportunity to wipe out competition and consolidate their power. Howard Zinn elaborated:

The crisis was built into a system which was chaotic in its nature, in which only the very rich were secure. It was a system of periodic crisis – 1837, 1857, 1873 (and later: 1893, 1907, 1919, 1929) – that wiped out small businesses and brought cold, hunger, and death to working people while the fortunes of the Astors, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Morgans, kept growing through war and peace, crisis and recovery. During the 1873 crisis, Carnegie was capturing the steel market, Rockefeller was wiping out his competitors in oil.[11]

In 1877, a nation-wide railroad strike took place, infuriating the major railroad barons, particularly J.P. Morgan, offered to lend money to pay army officers to go in and crush the strikes and get the trains moving, which they managed to accomplish fairly well. Strikes took place and soldiers were sent in to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Indiana, with the whole city of Philadelphia in uproar, with a general strike emerging in Pittsburgh, leading to the deployment of the National Guard, who often shot and killed strikers. When all was said and done, a hundred people were dead, a thousand people had gone to jail, 100,000 workers had gone on strike, and the strikes had roused into action countless unemployed in the cities.[12] Following this period, America underwent its greatest spur of economic growth in its history, with elites from both North and South working together against workers and blacks and the majority of people:

They would do it with the aid of, and at the expense of, black labor, white labor, Chinese labor, European immigrant labor, female labor, rewarding them differently by race, sex, national origin, and social class, in such a way as to create separate levels of oppression – a skillful terracing to stabilize the pyramid of wealth.[13]

The bankers and industrialists, particularly Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Mellon and Harriman, saw enormous increases in wealth and power. At the turn of the century, as Rockefeller moved from exclusively interested in oil, and into iron, copper, coal, shipping, and banking (with Chase Manhattan Bank, now J.P. Morgan Chase), his fortune would equal $2 billion. The Morgan Group also had billions in assets.[14] In 1900, Andrew Carnegie agreed to sell his steel company to J.P. Morgan for $492 million.[15]

Public sentiment at this time, however, had never been so anti-Capitalist and spiteful of the great wealth amassed at the expense of all others. The major industrialists and bankers firmly established their control over the political system, firmly entrenching the two party system through which they would control both parties. Thus, “whether Democrats or Republicans won, national policy would not change in any important way.”[16] Labour struggles had continued and exacerbated throughout the decades following the Civil War. In 1893, another economic depression took place, and the country was again plunged into social upheaval.

The Supreme Court itself was firmly overtaken by the interests of the new elite. Shortly after the Fourteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution to protect newly freed blacks, the Supreme Court began “to develop it as a protection for corporations,” as corporate lawyers argued that corporations were defined as legal ‘persons’, and therefore they could not have their rights infringed upon as stipulated in the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court went along with this reasoning, and even intervened in state legislative decisions which instead promoted the rights of workers and farmers. Ultimately, “of the Fourteenth Amendment cases brought before thee Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, nineteen dealt with the Negro, 288 dealt with corporations.”[17]

It was in this context that increasing social unrest was taking place, and thus that new methods of social control were becoming increasingly necessary. Among the restless and disgruntled masses, were radical new social theories that had emerged to fill a void – a void which was created by the inherent injustice of living in a human social system in which there is a dehumanizing power structure.

Philosophies of Liberation and Social Dislocation

It was in this context that new theories and philosophies emerged to fill the void created by the hegemonic ideologies and the institutions which propagate them. While these various critical philosophies expanded human kind’s understanding of the world around them, they did not emerge in a vacuum – that is, separate from various hegemonic ideas, but rather, they were themselves products of and to varying degrees espoused certain biases inherent in the hegemonic ideologies. This arose in the context of increasing class conflict in both the United States and Europe, brought about as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Two of the pre-eminent ideologies and philosophies that emerged were Marxism and Anarchism.

Marxist theory, originating with German philosopher Karl Marx, expanded human kind’s understanding of the nature of capitalism and human society as a constant class struggle, in which the dominant class (the bourgeoisie), who own the means of production (industry) exploit the lower labour class (proletariat) for their own gain. Within Marxist theory, the state itself was seen as a conduit through which economic powers would protect their own interests. Marxist theory espoused the idea of a “proletarian revolution” in which the “workers of the world unite” and overthrow the bourgeoisie, creating a Communist system in which class is eliminated. However, Karl Marx articulated a concept of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” in which upon seizing power, the proletariat would become the new ruling class, and serve its own interests through the state to effect a transition to a Communist society and simultaneously prevent a counterrevolution from the bourgeoisie. Karl Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto (1848) also on the need for a central bank to manage the monetary system. These concepts led to significant conflict between Marxist and Anarchist theorists.

Anarchism is one of the most misunderstood philosophies in modern historical thought, and with good reason: it’s revolutionary potential was boundless, as it was an area of thought that was not as rigid, doctrinaire or divisive as other theories, both hegemonic and critical. No other philosophy or political theory had the potential to unite both socialists and libertarians, two seemingly opposed concepts that found a home within the wide spectrum of anarchist thought, leading to a situation in which many anarchists refer to themselves as ‘libertarian socialists.’ As Nathan Jun has pointed out:

[A]narchism has never been and has never aspired to be a fixed, comprehensive, self-contained, and internally consistent system of ideas, set of doctrines, or body of theory. On the contrary, anarchism from its earliest days has been an evolving set of attitudes and ideas that can apply to a wide range of social, economic, and political theories, practices, movements, and traditions.[18]

Susan Brown noted that within Anarchist philosophy, “there are mutualists, collectivists, communists, federalists, individualists, socialists, syndicalists, [and] feminists,” and thus, “Anarchist political philosophy is by no means a unified movement.”[19] The word “anarchy” is derived from the Greek word anarkhos, which means “without authority.” Thus, anarchy “is committed first and foremost to the universal rejection of coercive authority,” and that:

[C]oercive authority includes all centralized and hierarchical forms of government (e.g., monarchy, representative democracy, state socialism, etc.), economic class systems (e.g., capitalism, Bolshevism, feudalism, slavery, etc.), autocratic religions (e.g., fundamentalist Islam, Roman Catholicism, etc.), patriarchy, heterosexism, white supremacy, and imperialism.[20]

The first theorist to describe himself as anarchist was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, a French philosopher and socialist who understood “equality not just as an abstract feature of human nature but as an ideal state of affairs that is both desirable and realizable.”[21] While this was a common concept among socialists, anarchist conceptions of equality emphasized that, “true anarchist equality implies freedom, not quantity. It does not mean that every one must eat, drink, or wear the same things, do the same work, or live in the same manner. Far from it: the very reverse in fact,” as “individual needs and tastes differ, as appetites differ. It is equal opportunity to satisfy them that constitutes true equality.”[22]

Mikhail Bakunin, one of the most prominent anarchist theorists in history, who was also Karl Marx’s greatest intellectual challenger and opposition, explained that individual freedom depends upon not only recognizing, but “cooperating in [the] realization of others’ freedom,” as, he wrote:

My freedom… is the freedom of all since I am not truly free in thought and in fact, except when my freedom and my rights are confirmed and approved in the freedom and rights of all men and women who are my equals.[23]

Anarchists view representative forms of government, such as Parliamentary democracies, with the same disdain as they view overtly totalitarian structures of government. The reasoning is that:

In the political realm, representation involves divesting individuals and groups of their vitality—their power to create, transform, and change themselves. To be sure, domination often involves the literal destruction of vitality through violence and other forms of physical coercion. As a social-physical phenomenon, however, domination is not reducible to aggression of this sort. On the contrary, domination operates chiefly by “speaking for others” or “representing others to themselves”—that is, by manufacturing images of, or constructing identities for, individuals and groups.[24]

Mikhail Bakunin wrote that, “Only individuals, united through mutual aid and voluntary association, are entitled to decide who they are, what they shall be, how they shall live.” Thus, with any hierarchical or coercive institutions, the natural result is oppression and domination, or in other words, spiritual death.[25]

Anarchism emerged indigenously and organically in America, separate from its European counterparts. The first anarchists in America could be said to be “the Antinomians, Quakers, and other left-wing religious groups who found the authority, dogma, and formalism of the conventional churches intolerable.” These various religious groups came to develop “a political outlook which emphasized the anti-libertarian nature of the state and government.” One of the leaders of these religious groups, Adin Ballou, declared that “the essence of Christian morality is the rejection of force, compromise, and the very institution of government itself.” Thus, a Christian “is not merely to refrain from committing personal acts of violence but is to take positive steps to prevent the state from carrying out its warlike ambitions.”[26] This development occurred within the first decades of the 19th century in America.

In the next phase of American philosophical anarchism, inspiration was drawn from the idea of individualism. Josiah Warren, known as the “first American anarchist,” had published the first anarchist periodical in 1833, the Peaceful Revolutionist. Many others joined Warren in identifying the state as “the enemy” and “maintaining that the only legitimate form of social control is self-discipline which the individual must impose upon himself without the aid of government.” Philosophical anarchism grew in popularity, and in the 1860s, two loose federations of anarchists were formed in the New England Labor Reform League and the American Labor Reform League, which “were the source of radical vitality in America for several decades.” American anarchists were simultaneously developing similar outlooks and ideas as Proudhon was developing in Europe. One of the most prominent American anarchists, Benjamin Tucker, translated Proudhon’s work in 1875, and started his own anarchist journals and publications, becoming “the chief political theorist of philosophical anarchism in America.”[27]

Tucker viewed anarchism as “a rejection of all formalism, authority, and force in the interest of liberating the creative capacities of the individual,” and that, “the anarchist must remove himself from the arena of politics, refusing to implicate himself in groups or associations which have as their end the control or manipulation of political power.” Thus, Tucker, like other anarchists, “ruled out the concepts of parliamentary and constitutional government and in general placed himself and the anarchist movement outside the tradition of democracy as it had developed in America.” Anarchism has widely been viewed as a violent philosophy, and while that may be the case for some theorists and adherents, many anarchist theorists and philosophies rejected the notion of violence altogether. After all, its first adherents in America were driven to anarchist theory simply as a result of their uncompromising pacifism. For the likes of Tucker and other influential anarchist theorists, “the state, rather than being a real structure or entity, is nothing more than a conception. To destroy the state then, is to remove this conception from the mind of the individual.” Thus, the act of revolution “has nothing whatever to do with the actual overthrow of the existing governmental machinery,” and Proudhon opined that, “a true revolution can only take place as mankind becomes enlightened.” Revolution, to anarchists, was not an imminent reality, even though it may be an inevitable outcome:

The one thing that is certain is that revolution takes place not by a concerted uprising of the masses but through a process of individual social reformation or awakening. Proudhon, like Tucker and the native American anarchists, believed that the function of anarchism is essentially educational… The state will be abolished at the point at which people in general have become convinced of its un-social nature… When enough people resist it to the point of ignoring it altogether, the state will have been destroyed as completely as a scrap of paper is when it is tossed into a roaring fire.[28]

In the 1880s, anarchism was taken up by many of the radical immigrants coming into America from Europe, such as Johann Most and Emma Goldman, a Jewish Russian feminist anarchist. The press portrayed Goldman “as a vile and unsavory devotee of revolutionary violence.” Goldman partook in an attempted assassination of Henry C. Frick, an American industrialist and financier, historically known as one of the most ruthless businessmen and referred to as “the most hated man in America.” This was saying something in the era of J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Emma Goldman later regretted the attempted assassination and denounced violence as an anarchist methodology. However, she came to acknowledge a view similar to Kropotkin’s (another principle anarchist philosopher), “that violence is the natural consequence of repression and force”:

The state, in her opinion, sows the seeds of violence when it lends it authority and force to the retardation of social change, thereby creating deep-seated feelings of injustice and desperation in the collective unconscious. “I do not advocate violence, government does this, and force begets force.”[29]

The general belief was that “social violence is never arbitrary and meaningless. There is always a deep-seated cause standing behind every deed.” Thus:

Social violence, she argued, will naturally disappear at the point at which men have learned to understand and accommodate themselves to one another within a dynamic society which truly values human freedom. Until then we can expect to see pent up hostility and frustration of certain individuals and groups explode from time to time with the spontaneity and violence of a volcano.[30]

Thus we have come to take a brief glimpse of the social upheaval and philosophies gripping and spreading across the American (and indeed the European) landscape in the 19th century. As a radical reaction to the revolutionizing changed brought by the Industrial Revolution, class struggle, labor unrest, Marxism and Anarchism arose within a populace deeply unsatisfied, horrifically exploited, living in desperation and squalor, and lighting within them a spark – a desire – for freedom and equality. They were not ideologically or methodologically unified, specifically in terms of the objectives and ends; yet, their enemies were the same. It as a struggle among the people against the prevailing and growing sources of power: the state and Capitalist industrialization. The emergence of corporations in America after the Civil War (themselves a creation of the state), created new manifestations of exploitation, greed and power. The Robber Barons were the personification of ‘evil’ and in fact were quite openly and brazenly ruthless. The notion of ‘public relations’ had not yet been invented, and so the industrialists would openly and violently repress and crush struggles, strikes and protests. The state was, after all, firmly within their grip.

It was this revolutionary fervour that permeated the conniving minds of the rich and powerful within America, that stimulated the concepts of social control, and laid the foundations for the emergence of the 20th century as the ‘century of social engineering.’

In Part 2 of “The Century of Social Engineering,” I will identify new ideas of domination, oppression and social control that arose in response to the rise of new ideas of liberation and resistance in the 19th century. This process will take us through the emergence of the major universities and a new educational system, structure and curriculum, the rise of the major philanthropic foundations, and the emergence of public relations. The combination of these three major areas: education, philanthropy, and public relations (all of which interact and are heavily interdependent), merged and implemented powerful systems of social control, repressing the revolutionary upheaval of the 19th century and creating the conditions to transform American, and in fact, global society in the 20th century.

The Weather Isn’t Getting Weirder

The latest research belies the idea that storms are getting more extreme.

WSJ

By Anne Jolis

Last week a severe storm froze Dallas under a sheet of ice, just in time to disrupt the plans of the tens of thousands of (American) football fans descending on the city for the Super Bowl. On the other side of the globe, Cyclone Yasi slammed northeastern Australia, destroying homes and crops and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

No evidence in this study suggests that larger storms, tropical or otherwise are caused by human activity and the emissions that come with it.

 

Some climate alarmists would have us believe that these storms are yet another baleful consequence of man-made CO2 emissions. In addition to the latest weather events, they also point to recent cyclones in Burma, last winter’s fatal chills in Nepal and Bangladesh, December’s blizzards in Britain, and every other drought, typhoon and unseasonable heat wave around the world.

But is it true? To answer that question, you need to understand whether recent weather trends are extreme by historical standards. The Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project is the latest attempt to find out, using super-computers to generate a dataset of global atmospheric circulation from 1871 to the present.

As it happens, the project’s initial findings, published last month, show no evidence of an intensifying weather trend. “In the climate models, the extremes get more extreme as we move into a doubled CO2 world in 100 years,” atmospheric scientist Gilbert Compo, one of the researchers on the project, tells me from his office at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “So we were surprised that none of the three major indices of climate variability that we used show a trend of increased circulation going back to 1871.”

In other words, researchers have yet to find evidence of more-extreme weather patterns over the period, contrary to what the models predict. “There’s no data-driven answer yet to the question of how human activity has affected extreme weather,” adds Roger Pielke Jr., another University of Colorado climate researcher.

We do know that carbon dioxide and other gases trap and re-radiate heat. We also know that humans have emitted ever-more of these gases since the Industrial Revolution. What we don’t know is exactly how sensitive the climate is to increases in these gases versus other possible factors—solar variability, oceanic currents, Pacific heating and cooling cycles, planets’ gravitational and magnetic oscillations, and so on.

Given the unknowns, it’s possible that even if we spend trillions of dollars, and forgo trillions more in future economic growth, to cut carbon emissions to pre-industrial levels, the climate will continue to change—as it always has.

That’s not to say we’re helpless. There is at least one climate lesson that we can draw from the recent weather: Whatever happens, prosperity and preparedness help. North Texas’s ice storm wreaked havoc and left hundreds of football fans stranded, cold, and angry. But thanks to modern infrastructure, 21st century health care, and stockpiles of magnesium chloride and snow plows, the storm caused no reported deaths and Dallas managed to host the big game on Sunday.

Compare that outcome to the 55 people who reportedly died of pneumonia, respiratory problems and other cold-related illnesses in Bangladesh and Nepal when temperatures dropped to just above freezing last winter. Even rich countries can be caught off guard: Witness the thousands stranded when Heathrow skimped on de-icing supplies and let five inches of snow ground flights for two days before Christmas. Britain’s GDP shrank by 0.5% in the fourth quarter of 2010, for which the Office of National Statistics mostly blames “the bad weather.”

Arguably, global warming was a factor in that case. Or at least the idea of global warming was. The London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation charges that British authorities are so committed to the notion that Britain’s future will be warmer that they have failed to plan for winter storms that have hit the country three years running.

A sliver of the billions that British taxpayers spend on trying to control their climes could have bought them more of the supplies that helped Dallas recover more quickly. And, with a fraction of that sliver of prosperity, more Bangladeshis and Nepalis could have acquired the antibiotics and respirators to survive their cold spell.

A comparison of cyclones Yasi and Nargis tells a similar story: As devastating as Yasi has been, Australia’s infrastructure, medicine, and emergency protocols meant the Category 5 storm has killed only one person so far. Australians are now mulling all the ways they could have better protected their property and economy.

But if they feel like counting their blessings, they need only look to the similar cyclone that hit the Irrawaddy Delta in 2008. Burma’s military regime hadn’t allowed for much of an economy before the cyclone, but Nargis destroyed nearly all the Delta had. Afterwards, the junta blocked foreign aid workers from delivering needed water purification and medical supplies. In the end, the government let Nargis kill more than 130,000 people.

Global-warming alarmists insist that economic activity is the problem, when the available evidence show it to be part of the solution. We may not be able to do anything about the weather, extreme or otherwise. But we can make sure we have the resources to deal with it when it comes.

China to be the new largest manufacturer, shortly

FT

The US remained the world’s biggest manufacturing nation by output last year, but is poised to relinquish this slot in 2011 to China– thus ending a 110-year run as the number one country in factory production.

Chinese workers

The influx of cheaply made goods is imminent as China becomes the largest producer for a global consumer market.

The figures are revealed in a league table being published on Monday by IHS Global Insight, a US-based economics consultancy.

Last year, the US created 19.9 per cent of world manufacturing output, compared with 18.6 per cent for China, with the US staying ahead despite a steep fall in factory production due to the global recession.

That the US is still top comes as a surprise, since in 2008 – before the slump of the past two years took hold – IHS predicted it would lose pole position in 2009.

However, a relatively resilient US performance kept China in second place, says IHS, which predicts that faster growth in China will deny the US the top spot next year.

The US became the world’s biggest manufacturer in the late 1890s, edging the then-incumbent – Britain – into the number two position.

Hal Sirkin, head of the global operations practice at Chicago-based Boston Consulting Group, said the US should not despair too much at the likelihood that it would lose the global crown in manufacturing to China.

“If you have a country with four times the population of the US and a tenth of the wages, it is fairly obvious they will pull ahead at some time in productive capabilities,“ he said.

Last year, according to IHS, goods output by the US totalled $1,717bn, ahead of China at $1,608bn.

However in 2011, on the basis of IHS’s estimates, China’s factory output will come to $1,870bn, a fraction ahead of the projected US figure for the year.

If China does become the world’s biggest manufacturer, it will be a return to the top slot for a nation which – according to economic historians – was the world’s leading country for goods production for more than 1,500 years up until the 1850s, when Britain took over for a brief spell, mainly due to the impetus of the industrial revolution.

The IHS figures are worked out on the basis of current-year output numbers, translated into dollars, with no adjustments for inflation. If the figures are calculated in inflation-adjusted, constant price terms, then I HS believes that the US will keep its top role in manufacturing for a little longer.

On an inflation-adjusted basis, which is based on a forecast that US inflation will be lower than that in China over the next few years, China is forecast to take over the number one position in manufacturing in 2013-14.

According to the IHS numbers, world manufacturing output last year came to $8,638bn (€6,979bn, £5,825bn) or 16.7 per cent of global gross domestic product.