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February, 2012:

China orders more accurate air-quality measure

Bangkok Post – 29 Feb 2012

China’s cabinet ordered on Wednesday new air-quality standards to measure the most dangerous form of particulate matter, following a public outcry over worsening air pollution.

A couple look across the Hong Kong skyline shrouded by smog, 2011. China’s cabinet ordered new air-quality standards to measure the most dangerous form of particulate matter, following a public outcry over worsening air pollution.

The State Council told 31 major regional capitals including Beijing and Shanghai to begin monitoring PM2.5 particulate, or fine particles measuring 2.5 microns in diameter, this year, the cabinet said on its website.

The new measure — which had been demanded by environmental campaigners — would be compulsory for 113 more cities in 2013, it said.

Authorities came under huge pressure to change the system last year after local governments routinely reported “slight pollution” when thick smog blanketed whole regions.

The new system could give a more accurate reflection of the true nature of pollution in China, activists say.

But the cabinet did not publish the indices on how the readings of the new standards would be interpreted. It also did not say when this year Beijing and Shanghai would adopt the new measure.

The state-run China Daily reported that if PM2.5 were used as China’s main standard, only 20 percent of Chinese cities would be rated as having satisfactory air quality, against the current 80 percent.

Most Chinese cities now base their air-quality information on particles of 10 micrometers or larger, known as PM10, and do not take into account the smaller particulates that experts say are most harmful to human health.

“Our nation’s pollution emissions are rather large, the air pollution problem in some regions remains prominent and the state of air pollution serious,” the cabinet said when announcing the new standard.

“We need more determination, higher standards and stronger measures to fully strengthen overall air pollution prevention and advance continued improvements in air quality.”

The meeting also called for the removal of outdated and polluting industrial technology, as well as pollution control improvements in major industries such as energy, steel, building materials and chemicals.

A doubling of coal consumption over the last decade and booming auto sales that have made China the world’s biggest car market have made air quality in China among the worst in the world, according to international organisations such as the United Nations.

Wang Qiuxia, an air pollution expert with Chinese group GreenBeagle, said last month that adopting new air-quality standards would not have an immediate impact on pollution.

“According to some assessments it will take 20 years before we see an improvement in Beijing’s air quality, provided that proper measures are adopted,” Wang told AFP.

a message for Donald Tsang and Henry Tang

29 Feb 2012

Above suspicion

Grenville Cross says that, as a government minister and prosecutor, the secretary for justice must be open about his decisions to bring to court – or not – cases involving top officials. Otherwise, he risks damaging the system

Injustice anywhere,” said Martin Luther King, “is a threat to justice everywhere.” In Hong Kong, prosecutions are not controlled by an independent director of public prosecutions, as in many major common law jurisdictions, but by the secretary for justice, a government minister appointed by the central authorities on the recommendation of the chief executive.

When the secretary for justice, Wong Yan-lung, was urged last year to follow the example of the attorney general of England and Wales, and withdraw from involvement in public prosecutions, he declined to do so, a decision that has now come back to haunt him.

The allegations of impropriety currently swirling around Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, which some legislators have now referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, place the secretary for justice in an invidious position. Since he reports to the chief executive, and acts as his legal adviser, his ability to discharge his prosecutorial functions in relation to any ICAC investigation is wholly compromised. Real problems of perception have now arisen in a series of cases, fuelled by the insistence of the secretary on wearing two hats, one as minister and one as prosecutor.

Although it was revealed last year that at least two of the secretary’s fellow ministers had allegedly allowed illegal structures to exist on their properties, which is an offence punishable with imprisonment, no one was prosecuted. The education minister, Michael Suen Ming-yeung, even apologised for having failed to remove an unauthorised extension on the ground floor of his home in Happy Valley for five years, and for having ignored a demolition notice issued in 2006 by the department for which he himself was then responsible.

However, no clear reasons were ever provided to the public, by the secretary for justice or anyone else, as to why these ministers all escaped prosecution. This, inevitably, fanned suspicions of cronyism. Recent events have only compounded the situation, and demonstrated, yet again, the need for an independent director of public prosecutions.

The news that chief executive hopeful Henry Tang Yin-yen and his wife, Lisa Kuo Yu-chin, are being investigated by the Buildings Department over an allegedly illegal basement at their property in Kowloon Tong, once again places the spotlight on the secretary for justice. His department will, at some point, need to decide whether to prosecute or not.

If, once again, no prosecution is instituted despite the evidence, and no satisfactory reasons are given for the decision, some people might despair at the state of local justice. All, however, may not be lost, as the law provides the public with some means of redress.

An aggrieved citizen may bring a private prosecution against a criminal suspect. This is an ancient right in common law, and it provides a remedy for the individual who wishes to see the law enforced, as the legislature intended that it should be, save for good reason. This right was invoked, for example, by legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing in 1998, against the director of the Xinhua News Agency, for an alleged failure to comply with a data access request.

The English judge Lord Wilberforce has called the right of private prosecution “a valuable safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of authority”.

Although the secretary for justice may intervene to stop a private prosecution, he must be on firm ground. Reasons for stopping the case would have to be provided to the private prosecutor and the magistrate. If the grounds were not reasonable, the private prosecutor could challenge the secretary’s intervention in the higher courts by way of a judicial review.

A judicial review is also another means by which a decision of the secretary for justice not to prosecute could be challenged. Although this remedy is only rarely granted, it would be open to a citizen to argue that the decision contravened established prosecution policy, or that the decision was perverse. If the evidence assembled by the Buildings Department in the Kowloon Tong investigation turns out to be substantial, a court might not find it too difficult to conclude that the secretary for justice’s failure to enforce the law smacks of perversity.

In sensitive cases, involving members or former members of the government, the secretary for justice must be transparent with the public. If, in defiance of international trends, he insists on retaining the control of prosecutions, he must clearly explain his actions. If the public are to have faith in prosecution decisions, they must understand why important suspects are being let off.

As things stand, people with clout are seemingly able to flout the law with impunity, and this can no longer be tolerated.

If the secretary for justice does not account satisfactorily for prosecution decisions, this could gravely damage the image of the criminal justice system, which would be an unfortunate legacy for his successor.

Grenville Cross SC, an honorary professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, is the vice-chairman of the senate of the International Association of Prosecutors

Leak exposes how Heartland Institute works to undermine climate science Libertarian thinktank keeps prominent sceptics on its payroll and relies on millions in funding from carbon industry, papers suggest

Leak exposes how Heartland Institute works to undermine climate science

Libertarian thinktank keeps prominent sceptics on its payroll and relies on millions in funding from carbon industry, papers suggest

• Heartland claims fraud after leak of climate documents

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Wednesday 15 February 2012 03.30 GMT

The billionaire Charles Koch, a key financier of the Heartland Institute

The billionaire Charles Koch, a key financier of the Heartland Institute, which works to undermine the established science on climate change. Photograph: Koch Industries

The inner workings of a libertarian thinktank working to discredit the established science on climate change have been exposed by a leak of confidential documents detailing its strategy and fundraising networks.

DeSmogBlog, which broke the story, said it had received the confidential documents from an “insider” at the Heartland Institute, which is based in Chicago. The blog monitors industry efforts to discredit climate science.

The scheme includes spending $100,000 for spreading the message in K-12 schools that “the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science”, the documents said.

It was not possible to immediately verify the authenticity of the documents, although Heartland issued a statement on Wednesday claiming at least one document was fake, and that it was the victim of theft and forgery. However, Anthony Watts, a weathercaster who runs one of the most prominent anti-science blogs, Watts Up With That?, acknowledged Heartland was helping him with $90,000 for a new project. He added: “They do not regularly fund me nor (sic) my WUWT website, I take no salary from them of any kind.”

Watts, in an email, did not mention the entire cost of his temperature station initiative but said: “Heartland simply helped me find a donor for funding a special project.”

“There is nothing I can tell you,” Jim Lakely, Heartland’s communications director, said in a telephone interview. “We are investigating what we have seen on the internet and we will have more to say in the morning.” Lakely made no attempt to deny the veracity of information contained in the documents.

The Heartland Institute, founded in 1984, has built a reputation over the years for providing a forum for climate change sceptics. But it is especially known for hosting a series of lavish conferences of climate science doubters at expensive hotels in New York’s Times Square as well as in Washington DC.

If authentic the documents provide an intriguing glimpse at the fundraising and political priorities of one of the most powerful and vocal groups working to discredit the established science on climate change and so block any chance of policies to reduce global warming pollution.

“It’s a rare glimpse behind the wall of a key climate denial organisation,” Kert Davies, director of research for Greenpeace, said in a telephone interview. “It’s more than just a gotcha to have these documents. It shows there is a co-ordinated effort to have an alternative reality on the climate science in order to have an impact on the policy.”

The Valentine’s Day exposé of Heartland is reminscent to a certain extent of the hacking of emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit in 2009. Those documents helped sink the UN’s climate summit later that year.

In this instance, however, the Heartland documents are policy statements – not private email correspondence. Desmogblog said they came from an insider at Heartland and were not the result of a hack.

The documents posted on Desmog’s website include confidential memos of Heartland’s climate science denial strategy, its 2012 budget and fundraising plan, and minutes from a recent board meeting.

The fundraising plan suggests Heartland is hoping for a banner year, projecting it will raise $7.7m in 2012, up 70% from last year.

The papers indicate that discrediting established climate science remains a core mission of the organisation, which has received support from a network of wealthy individuals – including the Koch oil billionaires as well as corporations such as Microsoft and RJR Tobacco.

The documents confirm what environmental groups such as Greenpeace have long suspected: that Heartland itself is a major source of funding to a network of experts and bloggers who have been prominent in the campaign to discredit established science.

Heartland is anxious to retain its hold over mainstream media outlets, fretting in the documents about how Forbes magazine is publishing prominent climate scientists such as Peter Gleick. “This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out,” Heartland documents warn.

But the cache raises an equal number of questions – such as the identity of an anonymous donor that has been a mainstay of Heartland. The unnamed donor, who contributed $4.6m in 2008, has since scaled back contributions. Even so, the donor’s $979,000 contribution in 2011 accounted for 20% of Heartland’s overall budget, the fundraising plan says

According to the fundraising document Heartland hopes to bump that up to $1.25m in 2012 [click for PDF].

The importance of one or two wealthy individuals to Heartland’s operations is underscored by a line in the fundraising document noting that a foundation connected to the oil billionaire Charles Koch had returned as a donor after a lengthy hiatus with a gift of $200,000 in 2011. “We expect to ramp up their level of support in 2012 and gain access to the network of philanthropists they work with,” the document said.

Heartland hopes to cash in on its vocal support for the controversial mining method known as fracking, the document suggests.

Heartland operates on a range of issues besides the environment. But discrediting the science of climate change remains a key mission. The group spends $300,000 on salaries for a team of experts working to undermine the findings of the UN climate body, the IPCC.

It plans to expand that this year by paying a former US department of energy employee to write an alternative curriculum for schoolchildren that will cast doubt on global warming. The fundraising plan notes the anonymous donor has set aside $100,000 for the project.

The plan also notes the difficulty of injecting non-scientific topics in schools. “Heartland has tried to make material available to teachers, but has had only limited success. Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. Moreover, material for classroom use must be carefully written to meet curriculum guidelines, and the amount of time teachers have for supplemental material is steadily shrinking due to the spread of standardized tests in K-12 education,” the fundraising plan said.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

28 February 12

Bogus climate course “a source of embarrassment to the institution”

An energy industry public relations man and lobbyist with no background in climate science has infiltrated Carleton University in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, teaching a course on climate change denial that other Carleton professors describe as “a source of embarrassment to the institution.”

Tom Harris, who originally trained as a mechanical engineer, has been a strategist for the climate change denial industry for at least a decade. A favourite presenter misrepresented as a PhD at the Heartland Institute’s regular climate change denial conferences, Harris has worked directly for companies like the international PR giant APCOWorldwide or for energy industry lobby firms such as Toronto’s High Park Group. More recently, he has launched or led at least three phony “grassroots organizations” – energy industry front groups that promote confusion or denial in climate science.

Now, Harris is teaching at Carleton, passing on a mix of climate denial mythology and flat out fiction, telling students that the planet isn’t really warming, that (if it is), humans aren’t to blame, that (if they are) if might be a good thing and that, regardless, it’s just too complicated for mere scientists to figure out. (“The climate problem is so difficult that we might never solve it.”)

Harris’s ridiculous claims have been laid bare in a new report by the Canadian Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism (CASS), which has gone through videotapes of lectures from Climate Change: An Earth Sciences Perspective (ERTH2402), identifying 142 errors, exaggerations or outright prevarications.
Read more: Fake Heartland “Scientist” Infiltrates Canadian University

Richard Littlemore’s blog1 comment

Tsang faces impeachment motion, ICAC probe

Emily Tsang, Tanna Chong and Simpson Cheung 
7:30pm, Feb 28, 2012

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is set to become the first Hong Kong chief executive to face an impeachment motion and a corruption investigation, following allegations of collusion and corruption.

Lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun said on Tuesday he was confident of securing the 15 Legislative Council votes – or one-quarter of the body’s members – needed to put an unprecedented motion for impeachment to Legco, a move many see as a serious humiliation for the city’s leader.

It was not certain what the next step would be after a motion was submitted because this would be the first case of its kind.

At the same time, the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583announcementsnews) has learned that the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has started investigating whether Tsang’s favours from his tycoon friends – trips on a private luxury jet and boat and a penthouse lease – could have breached the anti-corruption law.

“Although the ICAC has started a probe, the legislature should still reflect popular opinion and see if Tsang has breached any rules,” Tse said. “I am confident I can secure the support of not fewer than another 14 lawmakers.”

He claimed there was sufficient prima facie evidence for the conflict-of-interest allegations.

Legislator Wong Yuk-man, whose People’s Power group has two votes, said the party would back whoever initiates the motion. Wong also urged other pan-democrats to support the move.

Legco will not meet again until late March so the motion will be tabled in two weeks’ time – at the earliest.

Tsang has said that the recent events have taught him a “painful lesson”, but the effort to allay public anger has been to no avail, with another poll showing a further decline in his approval rating.

According to a University of Hong Kong poll, Tsang’s popularity rating dropped to 46.6 per cent in a survey carried out between February 20 and February 22, when the tycoons’ favours were first reported. The result was 1.7 percentage points below the figure two weeks earlier and the lowest level since December.

But, analysts said the effect of Tsang’s conflict-of-interest issues might not have fully surfaced by the time the survey was done

500 children latest victims of pollution

SCMP – 27 Feb 2012

Cases of lead poisoning in Guangxi, Guangdong and Henan raise concerns among residents and environmentalists over toll of heavy-metal mining

A flurry of lead-poisoning cases has hit several industrial hubs on the mainland, raising concerns over widespread heavy-metal pollution and its unsettling human toll.

Environmentalists warn that the recent revelation by mainland media – which reported that more than 500 children are suffering from lead poisoning in Guangxi , Guangdong and Henan – is only the tip of the iceberg. They say the reports again test Beijing’s commitments to tackling metal pollution troubles.

Hechi , a booming mining city in northwestern Guangxi, has been hit by another heavy-metal pollution scandal just weeks after one of the country’s worst cadmium spills.

At least 103 children, from one month to 15 years old, in Nandan county have excessive concentrations of lead in their blood, The Economic Observer reported over the weekend.

In several blood tests at local hospitals, lead levels ranged from 100 to 256 milligrams per litre in the past few months; five blood samples exceeded 200mg per litre, compared with normal levels of zero to 100mg.

A level over 200mg is considered hazardous, and medical studies indicate it can impair children’s mental health and affect their growth.

According to the news report, all of the children with lead poisoning live near as many as nine heavy-metal smelters in Chehe township.

Nandan and Hechi are famous for non-ferrous metal mines. But years of excessive mining and authorities’ lax control have wreaked havoc on the environment and public health.

Locals have for years complained about the filthy air, dirty river and other pollution problems, but they say the county has simply ignored their grievances. Seventeen residents in Tanghan village, Chehe township, were even sentenced to jail 10 years ago for participating in a protest against the smelters.

Residents contended that the actual number of lead-poisoning cases could be as many as 200, because dozens of families had moved in the past year and were not included in the newspaper’s calculation.

But Nandan said only 31 children had been found to have excessive lead concentrations, and the figure hadn’t been updated since August.

Guangdong was also hit by an outbreak of lead poisoning this month, with 96 children in Renhua county, Shaoguan city, found with excessive lead concentrations in their blood, China News Service reported on Saturday.

Experts from the Ministry of Environmental Protection have been assigned to investigate the outbreak. Guangdong authorities promised to aid affected families and shut down polluters after the investigation.

According to The Southern Metropolis News, several metal smelters have sprung up in the Dongtang township of Guangdong since the 1990s. Villagers said they have often been choked awake at night by smoke from the smelters, and their crop yields have dropped significantly over the years.

But they did not realise the health problems associated with pollution until last year when several children began showing symptoms of metal poisoning, such as hair loss and eating disorders.

Both outbreaks were revealed just days after more than 300 children in Lingbao city, Henan, were found with excessive lead concentrations in their blood.

Scientist in global warming scandal

Climate research group leader admits he posed as someone else to obtain internal memos from a think tank that supports the arguments of sceptics

Reuters in Oakland
Feb 25, 2012 in SCMP

The California-based Pacific Institute climate research group has launched an investigation of its president and founder, Dr Peter Gleick, after he admitted fraudulently obtaining documents from global warming sceptics challenging his work.

The institute in Oakland revealed its inquiry into a widening controversy in a terse statement posted on its website, hours after the San Francisco Chronicle said it was discontinuing an online blog that Gleick had been writing for the newspaper.

“The board of directors of the Pacific Institute is deeply concerned and is actively reviewing information about the recent events involving its president … and documents pertaining to the Heartland Institute,” the statement said.

Gleick went public about the matter on Monday with a statement confessing that he posed as someone else to obtain internal memos from the Heartland Institute, a think tank that argues the sceptics’ positions, among them that climate change is not caused by human activity and that health hazards from tobacco have been exaggerated.

“My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts – often anonymous, well-funded, and co-ordinated – to attack climate science and scientists … and by the lack of transparency of the organisations involved,” Gleick wrote in the statement, carried on The Huffington Post website.

Even before his mea culpa, Gleick, an authority on global freshwater issues and winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant, had resigned last Thursday as chairman of the American Geophysical Union’s Task Force on Scientific Ethics.

The scandal illustrates the increasingly harsh tone in the public and political debate over global warming, despite the consensus among mainstream scientists that rising levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, primarily caused by human activity, are altering the earth’s climate.

Heartland is among a group of sceptic organisations that have written extensively about the so-called Climategate case in which thousands of the climate scientists’ e-mails were hacked via the University of East Anglia in Britain.

The initial batch of those e-mails was made public in 2009 and a second set last December as a major climate conference was getting under way in Durban, South Africa.

Heartland cited those e-mails in claiming that the scientists who wrote them were trying to cover up evidence that cast doubt on human-caused climate change. Five separate investigations later found no wrongdoing on the part of the scientists. The source of the hacking was never identified.

Gleick admitted that he obtained various internal Heartland documents – including a fund-raising plan, a meeting agenda and a budget – by soliciting them under someone else’s name, then forwarding them anonymously to members of the media and other climate scientists.

One of those lists dozens of major US corporations from a wide range of industries as donors to the Heartland Institute, among them tobacco and energy companies. Another lists consultants Heartland has paid, one of them hired to devise a “climate education project” for schoolchildren.

On Monday, Heartland Institute president Joseph Bast acknowledged that all of the documents Gleick circulated were authentic except one, titled “2012 Heartland climate strategy”, which Bast called a forged memo.

Gleick said he did not alter any Heartland document and said he received this document anonymously in the mail.

It provided the impetus for him to use a false identity in requesting additional records from Heartland in a bid to verify its source.

Bast said release of the allegedly forged document had damaged Heartland’s reputation and he threatened legal action. “Gleick’s crime was a serious one,” he wrote.

“The documents he admits stealing contained personal information about Heartland staff members, donors and allies, the release of which has violated their privacy and endangered their personal safety,” Bast said.

The incident has raised concern among climatologists that scientific credibility might be tarnished.

“We think it unfortunate that this has the potential to deflect the conversation away from the scientific consensus that climate change is taking place,” said Christine McEntee, executive director of the American Geophysical Union.

Big guns line up for Tang

An analysis of the nominations pledged in support of the embattled front runner shows that the rich are – mostly – sticking by their man, despite the growing scandals

Tanna Chong 
Feb 23, 2012

Three of the city’s leading tycoon families have thrown their full support behind embattled chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen, although many have hedged their bets should his arch rival, Leung Chun-ying, win the Election Committee’s vote next month.

Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, has pledged his nomination as well as the four held by his Cheung Kong (Holdings) (SEHK: 0001) and Hutchison Whampoa (SEHK: 0013) companies on Tang, the former chief secretary who won 378 nominations on Monday.

British Jardine Matheson Holdings and Sino Group also backed Tang to the hilt, contributing five and three votes by it chiefs and various subsidiaries respectively, including the chiefs of both groups, Jardine’s Anthony Nightingale and Sino’s Robert Ng Chee-siong.

An analysis of 12 major property conglomerates – which account for at least 64 seats on the 1,200-member Election Committee – by the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583announcementsnews) also found that three groups had given more than half of their nominations to Tang, while four gave only half.

Analysts said these crucial votes represented the interests who were backing Tang, and could be the reason the former chief secretary insisted on signing up early amid the growing scandals and the candidate’s slumping popularity figures.

These preferences seem at odds with the popular mood. The latest University of Hong Kong poll, commissioned by the South China Morning Post, found only 16 per cent of over 500 respondents preferred Tang, compared with 64 per cent for Leung; 66 per cent of respondents called on Tang to withdraw from the race.

While the 12 conglomerates analysed gave a total of 38 nominations for Tang, political scientist Ma Ngok said the tycoons’ support for Tang could have been greater, but for the scandals. “I believe some of the tycoons were committed before the outbreak of the illegal structure row surrounding Tang’s properties,” said Ma, of Chinese University. “That was why Tang signed up early, so that the tycoons cannot pull out.”

Despite the various proportions of nominations these conglomerates have designated for Tang, the chiefs of most of them were present in the list of nominators, including Sun Hung Kai Properties (SEHK: 0016)’ Raymond Kwok Ping-luen and Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, Henderson Land (SEHK: 0012)’s Lee Shau-kee and Peter Lee Ka-kit, New World Development’s Henry Cheng Kar-shun, and KWah Group’s Lui Che-woo.

Wharf Holdings (SEHK: 0004) chairman Peter Woo Kwong-ching was not included in the list of 378, but according to legislator Lam Tai-fai, a hardcore Tang supporter, Woo gave a belated nomination yesterday. That was the only one out of nine tickets from the Wharf group that went to Tang.

Ma added that these crucial tickets would have offered enough backing for Tang to seize the top job in March, but the situation had changed with the backlash over the scandal.

“These heavyweights are important voices that Beijing needs to value. But it is not like they have the biggest say,” said Ma. “Beijing has been assessing the various possibilities now, one of which is allowing [the Legco president], Tsang Yok-sing, to replace Tang. But if Beijing insists on having a particular person – even Leung – I cannot see how the tycoons can resist it.”

Only a couple of property developers have so far pledged support for Leung, the former Executive Council convenor, including Shui On Group chairman Vincent Lo Hong-sui and Hang Lung Properties (SEHK: 0101)’ Ronnie Chan Chichung.

Brain drain a no-brainer

SCMP – Laisee

The government is apparently puzzled by signs of a new brain drain. Provisional figures from the Census and Statistics Department show net emigration of 12,400 last year. Figures from the Security Bureau show that 8,300 permanent residents left last year, a 15 per cent increase over 2010. One university professor said many of those who left were professionals and members of the middle class. Various reasons have been mooted, such as changes in the exam structure and the departure of mainland mothers. We have one thought on this: Intelligent people with young families are not keen on paying high property prices and bringing their children up in Hong Kong’s dangerously filthy air.

No Need to Panic About Global Warming

There’s no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonize’ the world’s economy.


Editor’s Note: The following has been signed by the 16 scientists listed at the end of the article:

A candidate for public office in any contemporary democracy may have to consider what, if anything, to do about “global warming.” Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.

In September, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever, a supporter of President Obama in the last election, publicly resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) with a letter that begins: “I did not renew [my membership] because I cannot live with the [APS policy] statement: ‘The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.’ In the APS it is OK to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?”

In spite of a multidecade international campaign to enforce the message that increasing amounts of the “pollutant” carbon dioxide will destroy civilization, large numbers of scientists, many very prominent, share the opinions of Dr. Giaever. And the number of scientific “heretics” is growing with each passing year. The reason is a collection of stubborn scientific facts.

Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now. This is known to the warming establishment, as one can see from the 2009 “Climategate” email of climate scientist Kevin Trenberth: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” But the warming is only missing if one believes computer models where so-called feedbacks involving water vapor and clouds greatly amplify the small effect of CO2.

The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause. Faced with this embarrassment, those promoting alarm have shifted their drumbeat from warming to weather extremes, to enable anything unusual that happens in our chaotic climate to be ascribed to CO2.

The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere’s life cycle. Plants do so much better with more CO2 that greenhouse operators often increase the CO2 concentrations by factors of three or four to get better growth. This is no surprise since plants and animals evolved when CO2 concentrations were about 10 times larger than they are today. Better plant varieties, chemical fertilizers and agricultural management contributed to the great increase in agricultural yields of the past century, but part of the increase almost certainly came from additional CO2 in the atmosphere.

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Although the number of publicly dissenting scientists is growing, many young scientists furtively say that while they also have serious doubts about the global-warming message, they are afraid to speak up for fear of not being promoted—or worse. They have good reason to worry. In 2003, Dr. Chris de Freitas, the editor of the journal Climate Research, dared to publish a peer-reviewed article with the politically incorrect (but factually correct) conclusion that the recent warming is not unusual in the context of climate changes over the past thousand years. The international warming establishment quickly mounted a determined campaign to have Dr. de Freitas removed from his editorial job and fired from his university position. Fortunately, Dr. de Freitas was able to keep his university job.

This is not the way science is supposed to work, but we have seen it before—for example, in the frightening period when Trofim Lysenko hijacked biology in the Soviet Union. Soviet biologists who revealed that they believed in genes, which Lysenko maintained were a bourgeois fiction, were fired from their jobs. Many were sent to the gulag and some were condemned to death.

Why is there so much passion about global warming, and why has the issue become so vexing that the American Physical Society, from which Dr. Giaever resigned a few months ago, refused the seemingly reasonable request by many of its members to remove the word “incontrovertible” from its description of a scientific issue? There are several reasons, but a good place to start is the old question “cui bono?” Or the modern update, “Follow the money.”

Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow. Alarmism also offers an excuse for governments to raise taxes, taxpayer-funded subsidies for businesses that understand how to work the political system, and a lure for big donations to charitable foundations promising to save the planet. Lysenko and his team lived very well, and they fiercely defended their dogma and the privileges it brought them.

Speaking for many scientists and engineers who have looked carefully and independently at the science of climate, we have a message to any candidate for public office: There is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to “decarbonize” the world’s economy. Even if one accepts the inflated climate forecasts of the IPCC, aggressive greenhouse-gas control policies are not justified economically.

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Princeton physics professor William Happer on why a large number of scientists don’t believe that carbon dioxide is causing global warming.

A recent study of a wide variety of policy options by Yale economist William Nordhaus showed that nearly the highest benefit-to-cost ratio is achieved for a policy that allows 50 more years of economic growth unimpeded by greenhouse gas controls. This would be especially beneficial to the less-developed parts of the world that would like to share some of the same advantages of material well-being, health and life expectancy that the fully developed parts of the world enjoy now. Many other policy responses would have a negative return on investment. And it is likely that more CO2 and the modest warming that may come with it will be an overall benefit to the planet.

If elected officials feel compelled to “do something” about climate, we recommend supporting the excellent scientists who are increasing our understanding of climate with well-designed instruments on satellites, in the oceans and on land, and in the analysis of observational data. The better we understand climate, the better we can cope with its ever-changing nature, which has complicated human life throughout history. However, much of the huge private and government investment in climate is badly in need of critical review.

Every candidate should support rational measures to protect and improve our environment, but it makes no sense at all to back expensive programs that divert resources from real needs and are based on alarming but untenable claims of “incontrovertible” evidence.

Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris; J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting; Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University; Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society; Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences; William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton; Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K.; William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology; Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT; James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University; Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences; Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne; Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator; Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service; Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva.

Time for a spring clean

Philip Bowring says the integrity of the next chief executive needs to be beyond doubt, given the current scandals and not-so-subtle political games being perpetrated by a clique of insiders

Feb 19, 2012

Would you buy a used car from this man?” The barbed slogan used in the 1972 campaign against the re-election of US president Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon seemed all too exact two years later with his resignation as a result of the Watergate scandal, a tale of illegal activities and cover-ups.

It is a reminder of the importance of trust in politics. The public recognises that politics is often a contest of half-truths and personal ambitions but it can also usually draw a distinction between political gamesmanship, competence and issues of personal integrity. Thus, Tung Chee-hwa’s political position became untenable because of his apparent lack of competence in handling the economy, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome and Basic Law Article 23. But these never touched his integrity or undermined the public’s generally positive view of him as a person.

Even before the latest revelations about his illegal underground palace, Henry Tang Ying-yen’s trust deficit had reached such proportions that it is hard to see how a public which already favoured his opponent by a large margin would welcome his selection, let alone how it would respond were Hong Kong to face the crises such as those that confronted Tung.

Recent events have given the impression of the wider malaise that the public knows exists: the gap between the tycoons and their allies in the bureaucracy, and the increasingly un-silent majority. The former are accustomed to getting away with exceptional treatment, whether it relates to minor infractions such as parking offences or large-scale ones such as the failure to enforce land laws. They make observers wonder whose interests were being served when, for example, against a barrage of informed advice, the government pushed through such things as a multibillion-dollar incinerator using out-of-date technology. What is in the basement of such projects?

Tang is seen to represent not just inherited wealth but a sense of invulnerability. Thus, his most prominent backer is banker and legislative councillor David Li Kwok-po, the man who had to resign from the Executive Council after paying US$8million to settle US Securities and Exchange Commission allegations of insider trading in shares of Dow Jones & Co, of which he was a director. It was no minor matter that Hong Kong’s best-known banker and head of its largest locally owned bank appeared not to appreciate the standards expected of directors of major international companies.

Tang may well have played no part in the none-too-veiled attempt to smear Leung Chun-ying with allegations of not revealing a possible conflict of interest in the West Kowloon design competition. But it is clear that his allies in the bureaucracy, which he headed until very recently, had no qualms about using the machinery of government on his behalf. Again, it shows the way in which an insider clique abuses its position to undermine the selection process and hence the modest amount of democracy involved. It appears that, having expected Tang to be a shoo-in, the insiders panicked at Leung’s persistent big lead in opinion polls, which was raising worries among pro-Beijing groups.

Tang’s attempt to blame his wife for the basement made millions cringe. But it would have come as little surprise to those who recall his role in the HarbourFest fiasco in 2003. Blame for this was dumped on Mike Rowse, the head of InvestHK, which had rather incongruously been given a vague supervisory role in a project promoted by a government committee headed by the financial secretary (first Antony Leung Kam-chung, then Tang), run by the American Chamber of Commerce and sponsored with public money. The rough-hewn outsider Rowse was publicly castigated and fined HK$156,000 under civil service disciplinary proceedings. He took the government to court and won in a case which revealed a tawdry litany of blame-passing by his superiors. He was in effect stitched up by a ministerial clique, including Tang.

Of course, trust, once lost, can be redeemed, but that takes a long time, and evidence that a person’s qualities outweigh the flaws. So, do we trust Leung more than Tang? The evidence against Leung in the West Kowloon case is so far very vague and will remain that way unless and until the government releases all the documents. In any event, it was a decade ago and did not involve any actual expenditure. If that is the worst that can be dredged up against him, there is scant reason to worry about integrity.

The bigger problem with Leung is that no one knows what he stands for. Tang, or a replacement from the business-related group, is the devil we know. Leung is earnest, articulate and had a successful, self-made career in the private sector. His election manifesto says most of the right things in general terms – the need to address pollution, waste, housing, population issues and the like. It is not difficult to seem to be an agent of change given the immobility of the government over the past five years. But what they would mean in practice is less clear.

With or without Tang’s scandals, opinion polls indicate that people want change, new faces and less collusion. A new broom is needed to sweep away not just a discredited Tang but the attitudes that he and his allies represent. This is proving a cathartic experience, and a Hong Kong spring may be at hand.

Philip Bowring is a Hong Kong-based journalist and commentator