Friday, October 09, 2015

The latest "threat" from global warming: low birth weight

These "threats" seem to emerge almost daily.  There must be thousands by now.  There seems to be no bad thing that is not caused by global warming.

And the study below is typical.  The authors had in fact NO information on global warming at all. What they found   was that babies born in the hotter parts of Africa had lower birth weights than babies born in cooler parts of Africa. That's it! That's all they found. They tried to make it more complicated than that but that's what the report below boils down to.

So, boring though it is, I once again have to mention the first thing you learn in Statistics 101:  Correlation is not causation.

What else do we know about the hotter parts of Africa?  One thing could be greater parasite load.  It could be the greater parasite load rather than the temperature that produced the effect.  But it could be many things.  That's the point of the "Correlation is causation" fallacy.  Correlation can produce NO knowledge about causes.  The cause could always be somewhere outside the variables considered

In a first-of-a-kind study, scientists from the University of Utah spent two years examining the relationships between fetal development and pregnant women’s exposure to low precipitation and very hot days. The research, which looked at data from 19 African countries, found that reduced rainfall and high heat resulted in newborns who weighed less than 2,500 grams, or about 5.5 pounds.

“In the very early stages of intra-uterine development, climate change has the potential to significantly impact birth outcomes,” said Kathryn Grace, assistant professor of geography at the university and lead author of the study, which appeared in Global Environmental Change. “While the severity of that impact depends on where the pregnant woman lives, in this case the developing world, we can see the potential for similar outcomes everywhere,” including in the United States.

“Women who are pregnant are more sensitive to heat stress, dehydration, etc.,” although access to air conditioners in this country “would likely reduce the exposure and the stress,” she said.

Low birth weight already is a major global public health problem, associated with a number of both short- and long-term consequences, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO estimates that up to 20 percent of all births worldwide are low birth weight, representing more than 20 million births annually.

Low birth weight infants face the potential of multiple health issues, including infections, respiratory distress, heart problems, jaundice, anemia, and chronic lung conditions. Later in life, they are at increased risk for developmental and learning disorders, such as hyperactivity and cognitive deficits.
Because of this reliance on rainfall, this makes these communities particularly sensitive to climate change

As a result, the cost of caring for these infants can be considerable — newborn intensive care unit stays, for example — posing a significant financial burden in developing countries where such services are not always available, and where societies often stigmatize physical disabilities.

“For so long, scientists and researchers have not studied the uterine environment and the quality of life of pregnant women in detail, so thinking about these things in the developing world is a fairly new facet of maternal/child health studies,” Grace said.

The developing world, and many communities throughout Africa, are dependent on rainfall for agriculture, making them especially susceptible to the impacts of climate change, she said.

“People have to grow their own food a lot of the time, to sell or to eat, and they are often reliant on rainfall with only very limited access to irrigation technologies,” Grace said. “This dependence and vulnerability is especially important for poor people because they don’t have the food stores or financial savings to cope with a failed rainy season. Because of this reliance on rainfall, this makes these communities particularly sensitive to climate change.”

This also may have an influence on water quality.

“If there’s less precipitation and more dryness, are women reliant on less clean water sources?” Grace said. “Are they drinking enough if water is scarce? We don’t know the answer to these questions but staying hydrated during pregnancy is extremely important for the placenta and the developing neonate.”

The research team included Heidi Hanson, from the university’s family and preventative medicine department; Frank Davenport and Shraddhanand Shukla, of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s climate hazards group; and Christopher Funk of the U.S. Geological Survey and the climate hazards group.

In 2013, they merged health data from Demographic and Health Surveys, part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with growing season data, and with temperature and rainfall data from a variety of sources.

Also, they collected information on growing and livelihood from USAID’s Famine Early Warning System, and precipitation data from the climate hazards group, the first time scientists have used fine-resolution precipitation and temperature data with birth statistics to determine whether and how climate affects birth weight.

The researchers examined nearly 70,000 births between 1986 and 2010, and coordinated them with seasonal rainfall and air temperatures, factoring in information about the mother and her household, such as education and whether the dwelling had electricity.

The team then calculated the average rainfall for a given month within 10 kilometers of the infant’s birth location, gathering data for each month up to one year before the baby was born, summing the values over each trimester. They did the same with temperature records, including the number of days in each birth month when the temperature exceeded 105F and 100F as the maximum daily temperature, again summing up the values over trimesters.

The researchers found that an increase of hot days higher than 100F during any trimester corresponded to a decrease in birth weight; just one such extra day during the second trimester matched a 0.9g weight drop. This same result held with an even larger effect when the temperature rose to 105 F.

Conversely, higher rainfall during any trimester was associated with larger birth weights. On average, a 10 mm rise in rain during a particular trimester corresponded to an increase of about 0.3 to 0.5 grams.

The scientists did not specifically look at the effects of high precipitation. “Mostly we looked at average precipitation,” Grace said. “Future work could be to look at high precipitation after we identified a causal link — maybe water borne illnesses are spread or food production fails as a result of flooding?

“Another thing to consider is that our sickest and or most stressed women may not survive their pregnancies or their pregnancies may end in still birth or in miscarriage,” she added. “Unfortunately, given the type of data that we have here and the stigma associated with infant and pregnancy loss, we do not have great information on these outcomes. This is definitely an area of study that I plan to pursue in the future.”


Total ignorance from the Sierra club

Sierra Club President Aaron Mair has a deep voice but a remarkably empty head.  All he could do is deny the accepted evidence when Senator Ted Cruz tested his global warming certainties. It is astonishing how little he knows and how much help he needs from staff. Warmists really are not comfortable in debates, as we have often noticed.  Clearly, however, Mair is an affirmative action appointee.  I wonder if the Sierra Club are still happy about that in the light of the debacle below.  Do they stand behind his totally uninformed and wrong comments?  They invite ridicule if they do

Texas senator and Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz questioned Sierra Club President Aaron Mair in a contentious testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

But on one question in particular, Mair would not deviate from his rehearsed answer.

When asked about the 18 year pause in global warming, as documented by satellite data, Mr. Mair denied it exists. “So if the data are contrary to your testimony, would the Sierra Club issue a retraction?” Cruz asked.

“Sir, we concur with the 97 percent scientific consensus with regards to global warming,” Mair responded.

When Senator Cruz pressed the environmentalist on whether he would change his testimony should the Sierra Club obtain the publicly available data showing the “pause,” Mair would only respond, “We concur with 97 percent of the scientists that believe the anthropogenic impact of mankind with regards to global warming are true.”

Cruz then asked again if Mair was unwilling to answer the question. The Sierra Club chief replied, “We concur with the preponderance of the evidence — you’re asking me if we’ll take 3 percent over the 97 percent? Of course not.”

After a repeated back-and-forth, an exasperated Cruz concluded, “You know, Mr. Mair, I find it striking that for a policy organization that purports to focus exclusively on environmental issues, that you are not willing to tell this committee that you would issue a retraction if your testimony is objectively false under scientific data. That undermines the credibility of any organization.”


The IPCC’s Legion of Hacks and Dunces

As climateers turn their gaze toward Paris, what the warmist media won't be reporting is just how poorly qualified and error-prone many of them are. That's no mere sceptic's complaint, by the way, but the honest verdict of their fellow scientists

The basis for the Paris climate talks in December is “the science” produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The science must be good because it’s coming from the world’s top climate-type scientists,[1]  or so the story goes.

Well, the story is guff.

The IPCC scientists aren’t the best available, far from it. They’re a motley crew assembled via a typical United Nations boondoggle that stacks the scientific ranks with heavy quotas for Third Worlders, along with special consideration for females. The IPCC rules explain that the IPCC hierarchy “shall reflect balanced geographical representation with due consideration for scientific and technical requirements.”

The senior scientists draft the all-important Summaries for Policymakers (SPMs), as distinct from their thousands of back-up pages of science studies. Then politicians and bureaucrats, not the scientists, sculpt the wording on the final drafts, including the Synthesis Report.

In IPCC-Orwell speak: “The endorsement process is based on a dialogue between those who will use the report – the governments — and those who write it – the scientists.” The stenographers of the mainstream media ignore this, receiving the summary kits and chorusing, “The Science has spoken.”[2] The best example of  Summaries’ propaganda   is that, while their 2013 forecasting of CO2 doom is climate-model based, no Summary includes the all-important admission from Working Group 1’s body text: that 111 of 114 model runs had over-forecasted actual temperature rises from 1998-2012.

It’s a good time for some forensic work on the  IPCC processes. This very week (Oct 5-8) in Dubrovnik, IPCC members from 195 countries will vote for a new leadership cadre. The top man right now is Ismail El Gizouli, who has been serving in an acting capacity since the chair, Rajendra Pachauri, quit abruptly last February after police laid a fistful of sex-harassment charges against him. Gizouli hails from benighted Sudan, no exemplar of scientific advances but a classic outcome of the above-mentioned UN boondoggle intended to give Third Worlders a share of the climate spoils.

The five contenders[4] for Pachauri’s job have now been joined by a sixth, Ogunlade Davidson, from that citadel of climate-science expertise, Sierra Leone.[5]

My interest particularly is in the elections for the vice-chairs of Working Group 11 (WG2) — Impacts, Adaptation & Vulnerability. There’s now a retiring Australian vice-chair, Dr Neville Smith, and a  new Australian candidate, Dr Mark Howden.[6]

WG2, sadly,  does not have a good pedigree. The InterAcademy Council’s audit of the IPCC in 2010 singled out the WG2’s 2007  Summary  as containing

"many vague statements of ‘high confidence’ that are not supported sufficiently in the literature, not put into perspective, or are difficult to refute. The Committee believes that it is not appropriate to assign probabilities to such statements".

It also said many of 71 WG2 conclusions about “Future Impacts” of climate change were imprecise and unworthy of WG2’s purported “high confidence”.[7]

Looking closely at this WG2 election brings the guff elements of the IPCC into clearer focus.

Dr Smith is Deputy Director (Research and Systems) at the audit-free Bureau of Meteorology. Like all the other IPCC bigwigs, he is yet to get his head around the 18 years and 8 months halt to global warming measured by the satellites. He  also has   illusions about   the primacy of scientists within the IPCC, relative to politicians and apparatchiks. He told a warm-up meeting about the 5th report in 2012:

"In the IPCC  it is the science and the scientists that rule. I knew that before I got into it but it is certainly evident now, having been inside the bureau for four years."

The sheltered Dr Smith apparently has never heard of the protracted cleansing process that sees government delegates of the UN member states, in secret sessions,[8] go over the scientists’ draft Summaries for Policymakers line by line and word by word. A reasonable analogy would be a cloud of seagulls descending on the scientists’ packet of chips.   The cleansing, massaging and deleting continues   until every bureaucrat, diplomat  and politician is in agreement about things like the required apocalyptic tone.

Pachauri, IPCC chair for the 4th and 5th reports, even admitted that “we necessarily have to ensure that the underlying report conforms to the refinements.” In other words, they make the “science” fit the political summary, not the other way around.

Who better than Harvard’s Professor Robert Stavins, a coordinating lead author in Working Group 111’s 2013 Report, and by no stretch a sceptic, to debate Dr Smith’s claim is about “the rule of science” in the IPCC?

Stavins wrote that several coordinating lead authors told him the 33-page summary approved line by line by governments should be called “the Summary BY Policymakers” not “FOR Policymakers”. He complained formally to WG 111 co-chair Ottmar Edenhofer[9] (and he copied-in chair Pachauri), that governments had “fundamentally revised or rejected” parts of the Summary over a grueling five-day-and-night session:

"As the week progressed, I was surprised by the degree to which governments felt free to recommend and sometimes insist on detailed changes to the   [Summary]  text on purely political, as opposed to scientific bases…(G)overnment representatives worked to suppress text that might jeopardize their negotiating stances in international negotiations…

I fully understand that the government representatives were seeking to meet their own responsibilities toward their respective governments by upholding their countries’ interests, but in some cases this turned out to be problematic for the scientific integrity of the IPCC Summary for Policymakers.

To ask these experienced UNFCCC negotiators to approve text that critically assessed the scholarly literature on which they themselves are the interested parties, created an irreconcilable conflict of interest…"

Over the course of the two hours of the contact group deliberations, it became clear that the only way the assembled government representatives would approve text for SPM.5.2 was essentially to remove all ‘controversial’ text (that is, text that was uncomfortable for any one individual government), which meant deleting almost 75% of the text.

In more than one instance, specific examples or sentences were removed at the will of only one or two countries, because under IPCC rules, the dissent of one country is sufficient to grind the entire approval process to a halt unless and until that country can be appeased…

 The process the IPCC followed resulted in a process that built political credibility by sacrificing scientific integrity."

The IPCC fourth report (2007) was no different.   As one participant described it[10],

"This [approval process of the Summary] was an agonizing, frustrating process, as every sentence had to be wordsmithed on a screen in front of representatives of more than 100 governments, falling farther and farther beyond a realistic schedule by the hour."

Thus Dr Smith’s dictum about the “rule of science” at the IPCC is on a par with Pachauri’s past claims  that all IPCC material was peer-reviewed (In the 4th Report, DONNA Laframboise found 5,587  citations were to non-peer-reviewed items, ranging from government reports to Greenpeace tracts and even press releases). Dr Smith’s would-be replacement on WG11 is Dr Mark Howden, sponsored a month ago by Greg Hunt’s Ministry for the Environment. Howden’s day job is Interim Director at the ANU Climate Change Institute, run by climate hard man Will Steffen.

This sponsoring letter was signed by Environment assistant secretary Rob Sturgiss, who’s on the IPCC “inventories” task force and is himself standing for re-election. Sturgiss tells the 195-country voting community that he’s “passionate about promoting the role of the IPCC in the development of national greenhouse gas emissions inventory reporting frameworks.” This passion-creating   counting exercise  is a bit tricky – only last month,  a Yale study discovered there are 3 trillion CO2-sucking trees on the planet, eight times more than previously estimated. That’s some margin of error!

Getting back to Dr Howden, what are his chances in the election? As it happens, he’s designated as part of the SW Pacific region, comprising 22 countries (half of them hopelessly aid-dependent island states). Six of the eight vice-chairs[11] have to be from a different region — Africa, South America, Europe etc. The SW Pacific slot (including Australia) is being contested by only one other candidate, Professor Joy Jacqueline Pereira from Malaysia. The loser would struggle against global  competition to get one of the spare two slots.

Howden’s CV is stronger by a mile (about 400 publications vs Pereira’s 120), and he’s been milling around the IPCC circuit since 1992 (Pereira contributed only to 2014′s 5th report).  But Pereira is female and the IPCC likes a bit of affirmative action: “Consideration should also be given to promoting gender balance.”


New EPA Regulation Causes Concern Even Among Democrats

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week it was toughening the country’s rules for ground-level ozone—what’s commonly known as smog, which comes from sources such as tailpipes and smokestacks—it caught flak from environmental groups and business officials.

But when all is said and done, the people most affected financially figure to be everyday Americans, who will almost certainly pay higher prices in their utility bills and the products they buy.

“They’re going to pay more for everything that’s made in the United States, if those things continue to be made in the United States,” said Dan Kish, senior energy and regulatory policy expert at Institute for Energy Research.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy made the long awaited ozone announcement early Thursday afternoon, deciding to lower the amount of ozone in the air from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion.

“If someone tells you your life will change because of this, I will say it will only change for the better,” McCarthy said in a conference call with energy and environmental reporters.

Even though many came into Thursday’s announcement expecting the EPA to set a standard of 65 ppb, business groups still said the regulation will result in more burdensome and expensive changes.

On the opposite spectrum, environmental and health groups complained that the EPA should have strengthened the standard to 60 ppb.

“We know that this regulation could have been worse, but it still feels like a punch in the gut,” said Tom Riordan, CEO and president of a metals-manufacturing company based in Wisconsin that has about 2,100 employees. “Manufacturers are tough and resilient but when Washington puts politics above job creation, we still pay a price.”

“This weak-kneed action leaves children, seniors and asthmatics without the protection doctors say they need from this dangerous pollutant,” said David Baron, managing attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice.

How much will the new rule cost the average American? Business groups insist that the new regulation will be remarkably expensive.

The National Association of Manufacturers released a study in February claiming updated rules will cost the U.S. economy $1.7 trillion between 2017 and 2040. Another study compiled by NERA Economic Consulting at the request of the manufacturing group estimated that reducing ozone regulations to 65 ppb would cost the average household $830 a year.

McCarthy has dismissed those numbers as exaggerated and on Thursday said, “The National Association of Manufacturers has said a lot of things in the last 30 years … I am not looking at what other people are saying.”

The EPA has emphasized its own studies, which reported that ground-level ozone regulations at 70 ppb translate into numerous public health benefits—reducing the number of sick days and emergency room visits, for example—that would save $6.4 billion-$13 billion per year by 2025. But at the same time, when the rules were first proposed late last year, the EPA acknowledged a compliance cost of close to $3.9 billion a year by 2025.

“Obviously, this is going to cost a lot,” said Kish of IER, a group that looks to address energy and environmental issues with free-market solutions and opposed toughening the ozone standards. “If communities fail to be in compliance with this, EPA is in position to begin not allowing permits. If a factory wants to be built, they can say, ‘Sorry, we can’t give you any permits because you happen to be out of compliance.’”

A big reason for the expense? Stricter ozone regulations means factories and power plants have to install scrubbers and other technologies on smokestacks to reduce the chemicals put into the air. Scrubbers can cost tens of millions of dollars, and each degree that the ozone standard is lowered, the costs pile up.

But McCarthy said she’s confident the new rule will not be overly burdensome, and the agency “is giving states plenty of time” to meet the standard by 2025.

“The science clearly tells us that 75 ppb is not adequately protecting public health,” McCarthy said.

As for predictions that large numbers of counties across the country won’t be able to meet the goals, McCarthy said, “We can’t tell you the number exactly, but we’ve looked at modeling this issue.”

She added that EPA projections say just 14 counties outside of California will be out of attainment by 2025.

“Ultimately, the existing level of 75 [ppb] was adequate,” Kish said. “Some communities haven’t even met the 75 limit. One of the things elected officials around the country have said is, why not wait until we meet the existing limit, which we’ve been working hard on?”

George Heartwell, the mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan, appeared on the conference call with McCarthy in support of lowering the ozone level to 70 ppb.

“I’m confident in the time allowed in this new rule we’ll be able to meet the new standard,” Heartwell said. “I strongly believe the crisis of global warming and its effects on the environment provide us with moral imperatives. We must be good stewards.”

But other elected officials have pushed back at the EPA—even those who are usually supportive of the Obama administration.

Last month, Colorado’s top two Democrats—Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet—said they were “deeply concerned” whether the Rocky Mountain State could afford to make the changes needed and echoed complaints from other high-altitude states such as New Mexico that stricter ozone standards hurt them more than states closer to sea level.

“Because of pollution that’s coming in from other Western states, from across the globe, from across wildfires in the West, we have significant parts of our state that would be non-attainment zones from the very beginning of the law,” Bennet said. “That doesn’t make any sense, it’s not going to work.”

“These are always difficult decisions,” McCarthy said. “What the Clean Air Act tells me to do is to make my best judgment based on the science … It should be no less than what I need to do and no more. In the end it’s a judgment call by the (EPA) administrator … I realized how serious this decision is. I did not base it on a popularity contest.”

When will the new rule go into effect? The EPA will designate areas in 2017. Those that don’t attain 70 ppb will have from 2020 to 2037 to meet the standard, with the deadlines varying based on the severity of their ozone pollution.

“For me, what does this mean for foregone investment?” Kish said. “People who might invest in something or want to expand something. It’s going to limit opportunities that would have otherwise been there. The hidden costs of this is often what’s hardest to determine but … they’re real, they’re palpable. People make business decisions based on this.”


Rolling back the tide of environmental overreach

By Marita Noon

The reason most often cited for the success of the nonpolitical candidates is the frustration with Washington; the sense that the system is broken. Voters feel that we have no control and that government has gone wild. Even people who don’t watch the news or closely follow politics are aware of the “overreach.” It seems that, perhaps, the messages the outsiders have been heralding on the trail has caught on.

Washington’s overreach has been rolled back — by courts and commissioners and, even, in response, the government itself. In little more than 30 days, there have been five distinct cases that you may have missed — each, a victory for responsible land use.

* Waters of the U.S. rule

First was WOTUS, or the Waters of the U.S. rule — which was scheduled for full implementation on, Friday, August 28. WOTUS attempted to greatly expand the federal government’s authority over water and land and could apply to ditches, streams, wetlands and small isolated bodies of water. Late on Thursday, August 27, U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson issued a temporary injunction sought by North Dakota and 12 other states. In his decision, Erickson wrote: “Once the rule takes effect, the states will lose their sovereignty over interstate waters that will then be subject to the scope of the Clean Water Act.” Calling the rule “arbitrary and capricious,” he declared that the EPA “violated its congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the rule.”

Undaunted, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pushed back, stating that the rule only applied to the thirteen states that requested the injunction. For the remaining 37 states, the EPA is enforcing the regulation as planned. At least 10 lawsuits — including 29 states and 14 agricultural and industry organizations — have been filed in federal district court challenging the rule.

Constitutional and environmental law professor, Jonathan H. Adler, addressed WOTUS in the Washington Post, saying: “As a general matter (and as the Supreme Court has recognized) land-use control is generally beyond the scope of federal power. In this case, the district court concluded that the states were likely to succeed on the merits as the EPA had adopted an ‘exceptionally expansive’ view of its own jurisdiction under the CWA.”

Perhaps, as you’ll see, if the WOTUS deadline was a month later, the EPA may not have been so bold in its assertion that it would continue to enforce the rule. But, then again, this is the Obama EPA.

* Lesser Prairie Chicken

Once again, a federal agency has been acting “arbitrarily and capriciously.” This time, it is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). On September 2, U.S. District Judge Robert A. Junell overturned the Obama administration’s 2014 listing of the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) as a threatened species, which gave the bird protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and limited land use in five states.

Citing the “more than 180 oil and gas, pipeline, electric transmission and wind energy companies” that had enrolled in voluntary conservation plans, The Permian Basin Petroleum Association challenged the listing, as soon as it was finalized.

The FWS is required to consider the conservation plans. The court determined that FWS “did not properly consider active conservation efforts for the bird when listing it.” Junell wrote: “The Court finds FWS did conduct an analysis, however this analysis was neither ‘rigorous’ nor valid as FWS failed to consider important questions and material information necessary to make a proper evaluation.”

Addressing the LPC decision, The National Law Review, states: the “ruling raises important questions about the upcoming Service decision whether to list the greater sage-grouse under the ESA. A sage-grouse decision was due on September 30.

Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, sees that the FWS “has been illegally steam rolling states by their own secret rules.” He added: “The Obama administration has been merciless in its quest to list species — even when the science says otherwise.”

* Hydraulic Fracturing Rule

On September 30, another federal district court judge smacked down another federal agency — this time the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which, in March, issued federal fracking rules designed to spur states to follow suit (most energy-producing states already regulate fracking). BloombergBusiness states: “There are more than 100,000 wells on federal land making up 11 percent of the nation’s natural gas production and five percent of its oil.” The rule, if implemented and adopted by states, as hoped for by the administration, would magnify the impact, “potentially slowing development of oil and natural gas resources”     — which is likely the goal. As a result, BloombergBusiness adds, producers “would have faced higher costs at a time when profits already are strangled by low crude prices.”

In his 54-page decision, Wyoming’s U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl wrote: “Congress has not authorized or delegated the BLM authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing and, under our constitutional structure, it is only through congressional action that the BLM can acquire this authority.” He issued a preliminary injunction barring implementation of the rules, “finding that those suing had a good chance of winning their case and getting a permanent order barring enforcement.”

Different from the EPA’s arrogant decision to move forward with implementing WOTUS, a BLM spokeswoman, according to the Wall Street Journal, said: “While the matter is being resolved, the BLM will follow the Court’s order and will continue to process applications for permit to drill and inspect wells sites under its pre-existing regulations.”

Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at Western Energy Alliance, a party to the lawsuit against the government, is overjoyed to finally be “getting relief from the courts regarding the regulatory overreach of the Obama administration.” She added: “We hope the BLM, EPA and other agencies that are rushing to implement even more regulations on the very businesses that create jobs will pause and actually follow the law and regulatory procedure.”

“The case will proceed to a final resolution,” BloombergBusiness reports, “probably early next year.”

* Wolf Reintroduction

Ranchers in and around New Mexico’s Gila Forest have been fighting the federal government’s plan to release “another dozen or so Mexican grey wolves.” Already, in the region, wolves since their introduction in 1998 have killed livestock, and children waiting for the school bus often do so in cages for protection. I’ve written on the sad tale several times.

On September 29, in a 7-0 vote, concerned about the impact to ranchers and elk hunters, the New Mexico Game Commission upheld an earlier decision denying the FWS permits to release Mexican wolves into federal land in southwestern New Mexico.

“Federal policy requires FWS to consult state agencies and comply with their permitting processes when releasing endangered animals from captivity,” Science Magazine reports, “even when releases are made on federal land.”

In June, according the Santa Fe New Mexican, “New Mexico Game and Fish Department Director Alexandra Sandoval rejected a federal permit for the Mexican wolf program because she said the FWS lacked a detailed plan to release up to ten captive wolves in the Gila National Forest, leaving her without enough information on what effects the predators would have on deer and elk populations.”

In response to the decision, Game Commissioner Elizabeth Ryan of Roswell, NM, said she and her colleagues could only overturn the director’s decision on the wolf permit if they found it “arbitrary and capricious.”

* Sage Grouse

This string of recent decisions may have been noticed by the Obama administration. On September 22, after years of debate, and after the LPC listing was overturned, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the sage grouse would not be listed under ESA. The Washington Post reports that “the chicken-like grouse does not meet the required standard because a collaboration of federal agencies, states, ranchers, industry and environmental groups has already begun to restore areas where it breeds.” “According to state fish and game agencies,” Kent Holsinger, a Colorado attorney specializing in lands, wildlife and water law, told me: “sage grouse populations have risen 63 percent over the past two springs.”

An ESA listing would “significantly limit future development.”

The ESA, Brian Seasholes, director of the endangered species program at the Reason Foundation, states: “has a well-deserved reputation for putting severe restrictions on otherwise normal and legal forms of land and resource use, such as farming and energy development.” In an op-ed in The Hill, he adds: “When a species is listed under ESA, landowners can face steep fines, penalties and land use controls that can devalue their property.”

While environmental groups see the decision as a victory for “industry and its supporters,” others, such as Utah Governor Gary Herbert — who estimated Utah would lose more than $40 billion in economic production from oil and gas if the sage grouse were listed — are still not happy.

Rather than listing the sage grouse — which would likely be overturned in court — the DOI’s BLM has released a plan to implement more than 90 land use strategies. Herbert sees that the federal government rejected the successful sage-grouse conservation plan and says the land use plans that govern use of over 60 million acres of federal land “constitute the equivalent of a listing decision outside the normal process.” He calls the plans “a significant overreach by the federal government.” Bishop agrees: “Do not be fooled. The announcement not to list the sage-grouse is a cynical ploy… With the stroke of a pen, the Obama Administration’s oppressive land management plan is the same as a listing.” The land-use restrictions have been decried as “every bit as rigid as could be expected under ESA.”

While “the West’s sage-grouse worries are far from over,” I see that, when combined with the aforementioned stories, the unwarranted decision is still welcome news. Land-use plans will be easier to revise under a new administration than removing an ESA listing. But, more importantly, I view it as a recognition that big government overreach has reached its limits.

The good news about having so many reform-minded outsiders running for president is that they are like a band of crusaders spreading the message of big government overreach far and wide. That message is, apparently, being heard. Voters are, hopefully, ready for responsible land use. The tide is being rolled back.


Science-free regulation

Montgomery County became the country’s first major locality Tuesday to ban the use of cosmetic pesticides on private lawns, concluding that the time-honored right of suburbanites to maintain pristine green, weed-free yards was superseded by a body of scientific evidence linking the widely-used products to cancer.

After three hours of sometimes emotional debate, which included members recounting their own personal and family experiences with cancer, the County Council voted 6-to-3 to impose the ban on the chemicals--all deemed safe by the EPA when used appropriately--effective at the beginning of 2018. The measure excludes agricultural land, gardens and golf courses and does not prohibit the sale of lawn pesticides within the county.

Nor is there a specific enforcement provision in the law that empowers county inspectors to scrutinize homeowners’ lawns for pesticide content. Like many county regulations, it will depend on citizen complaints. But advocates discounted the lack of regulatory teeth and said the bill will serve as a valuable tool to educate residents on organic alternatives.

The council’s action puts the county on a very short list of jurisdictions that have passed similar bills: Takoma Park, Md. and Ogunquit, Maine, an oceanside community with a year-round population of about 1,300.

“I believe we are acting in the interests of public health today,” said Council President George Leventhal (D-At-Large), the bill’s chief sponsor, who introduced the measure nearly a year ago.

Opponents of the bill, including homeowners and the lawn care and chemical industries, protested what they called an unwarranted government intrusion into a traditional homeowner right.

“I think this is a case of politics trumping science and fact,” said Karen Reardon, vice president of public affairs for RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) a national trade association for pesticide manufacturers and distributors.

Leventhal had to make a major concession to achieve a winning margin, agreeing to exempt the county’s nearly 300 athletic playing fields after opposition from the soccer community and other sports enthusiasts. The bill does, however, establish a five-field pilot program using organic products. It tasks the county’s parks department to develop a plan to make all playing fields pesticide free by 2020.

The council’s two-thirds majority vote shields the measure from veto by County Executive Isiah Leggett. He voiced concerns Tuesday about several aspects of the bill, including language that appears to mandate pesticide-free playing fields by 2020 no matter what the pilot program shows.  “To me that’s troubling,” Leggett said.

The bill is a vivid example of the geographic divide in county politics, pitting a progressive, left-leaning south against more moderate areas in the center and north. Not coincidentally, three of the six votes in support of the bill came from council members who reside in Takoma Park: Marc Elrich (D-At-Large), Hans Riemer (D-At Large) and Leventhal. The southeastern Montgomery community was the center of a grassroots campaign to pass a countywide version of the bill.

Two of the bill’s three “no” votes come from the central and northern parts of the county, where many homeowners oppose the bill: Craig Rice (D-Germantown) and Sidney Katz (D-Gaithersburg).

Pesticide regulation is usually a federal and state responsibility. Earlier this year the council heard testimony from the Maryland and the federal EPA officials, who said pesticides are rigorously tested and safe when used appropriately.

But proponents argued that the government can’t be relied upon to protect citizens from toxins in the environment. They cited, among studies, a 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office and the Natural Resources Defense Council, that said thousands of pesticides were approved for use without being fully tested for hazards to human health.

Advocates said it was irresponsible to wait for scientists to establish a complete causal link between pesticides and cancer, contending that the record was clear enough. They pointed to a 2012 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics that said the data “demonstrates associations” between childhood pesticide exposure and cancer, along with decreased cognitive skills and other disorders. Yet the study stopped short of favoring a sweeping ban, saying that more research is needed.

That was the principal argument of Council member Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda) who unsuccessfully offered a substitute bill that exempted private land from the ban.

Berliner’s version of the legislation banned pesticides on county property, near daycare centers, playgrounds and waterways. But he contended that most county residents were unprepared for a sweeping ban.

“It would be like going from zero to sixty in a nanosecond,” said Berliner, a legislator with a strong environmental record who added that he “hated” voting against the bill.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


Thursday, October 08, 2015

Global warming can alter shape of the planet, as melting glaciers erode the land (?)

Howzat for a big and dramatic heading? The article is however almost entirely speculation.  It is allegedly based on a recent research report about glacier-caused erosion but what did the research report actually find?  I quote:  

"We find that basin-averaged erosion rates vary by three orders of magnitude over this latitudinal transect"

That's it! All the rest is speculation.  Jo Nova also had some laughs at these drama queens.  See her comments at the link below

Climate change is causing more than just warmer oceans and erratic weather. According to scientists, it also has the capacity to alter the shape of the planet.

In a five-year study published today in Nature, lead author Michele Koppes, assistant professor in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia, compared glaciers in Patagonia and in the Antarctic Peninsula. She and her team found that glaciers in warmer Patagonia moved faster and caused more erosion than those in Antarctica, as warmer temperatures and melting ice helped lubricate the bed of the glaciers.

“We found that glaciers erode 100 to 1,000 times faster in Patagonia than they do in Antarctica,” said Koppes. “Antarctica is warming up, and as it moves to temperatures above 0 degrees Celsius, the glaciers are all going to start moving faster. We are already seeing that the ice sheets are starting to move faster and should become more erosive, digging deeper valleys and shedding more sediment into the oceans.”

The repercussions of this erosion add to the already complex effects of climate change in the polar regions. Faster moving glaciers deposit more sediment in downstream basins and on the continental shelves, potentially impacting fisheries, dams and access to clean freshwater in mountain communities. “The polar continental margins in particular are hotspots of biodiversity,” notes Koppes. “If you’re pumping out that much more sediment into the water, you’re changing the aquatic habitat.”

The Canadian Arctic, one of the most rapidly warming regions of the world, will feel these effects acutely. With more than four degrees Celsius of warming over the last 50 years, the glaciers are on the brink of a major shift that will see them flowing up to 100 times faster if the climate shifts above zero degrees Celsius.

The findings by Koppes and coauthors also settle a scientific debate about when glaciers have the greatest impact on shaping landscapes and creating relief, suggesting that they do the most erosive work near the end of each cycle of glaciation, rather than at the peak of ice cover. The last major glacial cycles in the Vancouver region ended approximately 12,500 years ago.


BBC apologises for letting the truth slip out

The BBC has apologised for airing a half-hour radio show earlier this year in which a series of high-profile climate sceptics lined up to disparage the science behind global warming.

What’s the point of the Met Office, aired in August, did not make clear sceptics are a “minority voice, out of step with scientific consensus,” the corporation said in an email to climate scientist Andy Smedley.

“This was an unfortunate lapse for which we apologise and we would like to assure you we remain committed to covering all aspects of the subject in the most accurate and responsible way possible.”

Presented by Daily Mail columnist Quentin Letts, the show featured Peter Lilley MP, Graham Stringer MP, forecaster Piers Corbyn and Andy Silvester from the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

All had previously questioned the veracity of climate science. They took the opportunity to mock the Met Office over its weather forecasting and climate modelling work.

In reply, the show featured a brief clip of Met Office head of communications Helen Chivers, which did not address the show’s critique of recent climate research.

The BBC said it had carried out an internal review and emphasised that the programme emerged from “an unusual combination of circumstances which we have now rectified”.


Joaquin Veers Offshore, Leaving Major Hurricane Drought Record Intact at 3,633 Days

Hurricane Joaquin, which reached Category 4 over the Bahamas on Thursday with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour, was downgraded to Category 1 on Monday after failing to make landfall in the U.S., leaving intact an historic record of 3,633 days without a major hurricane striking the U.S. mainland.

Hundreds of people had to be rescued after torrential rains lashed the Carolinas and caused major flooding over the weekend, but a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Columbia, S.C. told that “a nearly stationary low” pressure system was mostly responsible for funneling up to 20 inches of precipitation generated by Joaquin into the area as the hurricane veered offshore.

Joaquin’s failure to make landfall means that President Obama is still the longest-serving president to have no major hurricanes strike the U.S. during his term of office. The previous record was an eight-year hurricane drought in the 1860s, when Benjamin Harrison was president.

The last major hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. mainland was Hurricane Wilma, which came ashore on October 24, 2005 during one of the most active hurricane seasons in recorded history, according to NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which categorizes cyclones on a scale of 1 to 5, Category 1 and 2 hurricanes have wind speeds between 74 and 110 miles per hour.

Major storms are classified as Category 3 or above if they have sustained wind speeds of more than 111 mph and are capable of causing “devastating” or “catastrophic” damage.

Four hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S. since Obama assumed the presidency in 2009, none of them classified as a Category 3 or above: Irene in 2011 (Category 1); Isaac and Sandy in 2012 (both Category 1); and Arthur in 2014 (Category 2).

However, meteorologists at NOAA point out that even Category 1 and 2 hurricanes are capable of causing death and widespread destruction.

Although Hurricane Sandy was downgraded to a Category 1 before it hit heavily populated coastal areas in New York and New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012, it generated widespread flooding, causing the second highest property damage ($68 billion) in U.S. history after Katrina, according to AccuWeather.

Sandy was also responsible for 117 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “Drowning was the most common cause of death, and 45% of drowning deaths occurred in flooded homes in Evacuation Zone A,” a CDC report stated.

Katrina, which reached Category 5 strength with peak sustained winds of 175 mph, weakened to a Category 3 storm before making its second landfall in southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005.

“Hurricane Katrina was responsible for 1,833 fatalities and approximately $108 billion in damage,” making it the costliest and one of the five deadliest hurricanes to ever hit the United States, according to NOAA.


For Sustainable Energy, Choose Nuclear

By S. Fred Singer

Many believe that wind and solar energy are essential, when the world “runs out” of non-renewable fossil fuels. They also believe that wind and solar are unique in providing energy that’s carbon-free, inexhaustible, and essentially without cost. However, a closer look shows that all three special features are based on illusions and wishful thinking. Nuclear may be the preferred energy source for the long-range future, but it is being downgraded politically.

Fossil fuels, coal, oil, and natural gas, are really solar energy stored up over millions of years of geologic history. Discovery and exploitation of these fuels has made possible the Industrial Revolution of the past three centuries, with huge advances in the living standard of an exploding global population, and advances in science that have led to the development of sustainable, non-fossil-based sources of energy—assuring availability of vital energy supplies far into the future.

Energy based on nuclear fission has many of the same advantages and none of the disadvantages of solar and wind: it emits no carbon dioxide (CO2) and is practically inexhaustible. Nuclear does have special problems; but these are mostly based on irrational fears.

A major problem for solar/wind is intermittency—while nuclear reactors operate best supplying reliable, steady base-load power. Intermittency can be partially overcome by providing costly “stand-by” power, at least partly from fossil fuels. But nuclear also has special problems (like the care and disposal of spent fuel) that raise its cost—and inevitably lead to more emission of CO2. Such special problems make any cost comparison with solar/wind rather difficult and also somewhat arbitrary.

At first glance, neither solar/wind or nuclear generate electric power without emitting the greenhouse (GH) gas carbon dioxide. But this simple argument is misleading. All three sources of energy require the manufacture of equipment, and that usually involves some CO2 emission; a rough measure is given by comparing the relative capital costs of site preparation and construction, as well as of operation and maintenance (O&M). Caution must be exercised here: a nuclear plant has a much longer useful life (up to 60 years, and beyond). We don’t have much experience yet with corresponding lifetimes and O&M costs for solar and wind, but they are likely to be higher than for nuclear reactors—excepting for the preparation cost of nuclear reactor fuel.

There is general agreement that both solar and wind energy are truly inexhaustible and satisfy the principle of sustainability. However, both are very dilute and require large land areas—as well as special favorable locations—and subsequent transmission of electric power. On the other hand, nuclear power plants have only a tiny footprint and can be placed at many more locations, provided there is cooling water nearby.

Nuclear Energy is Sustainable

Surprisingly, nuclear energy is also inexhaustible—for all practical purposes. Uranium is not in short supply, as many assume; this is true only for high-grade ores, the only ones considered worth mining these days. Beyond lower–grade ores, there is uranium in granites—and an essentially infinite but currently uneconomic amount in the world’s oceans.

Only 0.7% of natural uranium is in the form of the fissionable U-235 isotope; the remainder is inert U-238. For use in power reactors, the uranium fuel must be enriched in U-235 to at least to the 2%-level; for weapons, the required level rises to about 80%.

Currently, uranium is cheap enough to justify “once-through” use in light-water power reactors; the fuel rods are replaced after a fraction of the U-235 is “burnt up;” actually, some fissionable plutonium (Pu) is also created (from U-238) and generates heat—and electric power. The spent fuel is mostly U-238, plus radioactive fission products with lifetimes measured in centuries, and small amounts of long-lived radio-active Pu isotopes and other nasty heavy elements.

But as every nuclear engineer knows, the spent fuel is not “waste” but constitutes an important potential resource. The inert U-238 can be transformed into valuable fissionable reactor fuel in “breeder” reactors—enlarging the useful uranium resource by a factor of about 100. And beyond uranium ores, there are vast quantities of thorium ores that can also yield fissionable material for reactor fuel. It is mainly a matter of reactor design—not wasting any neutrons used for “breeding.”

And we haven’t even mentioned nuclear fusion, the energy source that powers our Sun. Fusion has been the holy grail of plasma physicists, who after decades of research have not yet been successful in building a stable fusion reactor; the hydrogen bomb is a version of unstable fusion. I hate to admit this: We may not need fusion reactors at all; uranium fission works just fine. However, a hybrid fusion-fission design might make sense; it would use pulsed fusion as a source of neutrons for breeding inert uranium or thorium into fissionable material for reactor fuel.

So why are we not moving full speed ahead with all forms of nuclear, destined to become our ultimate source of energy for generating heat and electricity? Are we wasting precious time and dollars on marginal improvements to solar photovoltaic and wind technology? What seems to be holding back nuclear is public concern about safety, proliferation, and disposal of spent fuel.

Safety: It should be noted that there have never been lives lost in commercial nuclear accidents; Chernobyl was a reactor type not commercially used in the West. Proper design is constantly improving safety by reducing the number of valves and pipes, by relying on gravity in inherently safe designs, and by properly training human operators.

Nuclear proliferation: Over past decades, many things have changed. There is no longer a nuclear duopoly of US and USSR. The horses have left the stable: If terrorist North Korea and Iran can build weapons—and delivery systems—it may be time to rethink international proliferation policy.

Disposal of spent reactor fuel: I am assured there are no real technical problems; there are even reactor designs (like IFR –Integral Fast Reactor) that can eliminate all waste. Reprocessing of spent reactor fuel works just fine, but has been discouraged because of historic concerns with proliferation based on plutonium; but power reactors don’t produce plutonium suitable for weapons.

Relative Costs

It is doubtful that future generations will ever enjoy the truly low cost of fossil fuels. In a rational world, low-cost deposits are exploited first and costs rise gradually; this has not been the case for petroleum, mainly for geopolitical reasons, but it is more or less happening with coal, where many low-cost deposits around the world compete with each other.

For wind and solar, technical limits may soon be reached for conversion devices (wind turbines and photovoltaic cells), and a lower cost limit may then be set by O&M costs, by the opportunity cost of the land occupied, and/or by transmission costs of electric power.

For nuclear, there are still many ways to lower cost, widely discussed in technical journals: construction of modular, low-power (~100 megawatt) reactors in factory mass production rather than costly on-site construction of gigawatt reactors. The biggest savings would come from more rapid construction and less delay, involving pre-approval of reactor sites and blanket approval of standardized, mass-produced reactor designs.

Energy Policy

In spite of its obvious advantages, why then is nuclear being downgraded compared to wind and solar? Call me a cynic if you want; but I think the main reason is money. Another reason is the ingrained hatred by Green groups of all things nuclear.

A classic example by now is Solyndra, which managed to waste more than half-a-billion dollars of federal money. In addition to innumerable small projects (that add up to an impressive total), one can cite some major boondoggles: How about the government’s third (!) attempt to build a solar power tower? [The first one failed during the Nixon-Carter administration’s Project Independence some 40 years ago.]

None of these projects can survive without generous subsidies, “feed-in tariffs,” and tax breaks. The costs are borne by ordinary ratepayers; for example, electric energy costs in Denmark and Germany, leaders in wind power, are 3-4 times US costs. In the US, the policy disaster has been strictly bi­partisan. While George W. Bush disavowed the Kyoto Protocol, he missed the opportunity to phase out and kill subsidies for solar and wind. We are currently witnessing the consequences of this failure.


Kerry: 'We Have Climate Refugees Today'


 Speaking Monday in Valparaiso, Chile, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked why the term "climate refugees" does not exist in international law.

Kerry said the question was "right on point," and although the term is a new one, he expects it's "just a matter of time" before it is incorporated into international policy.

"We have climate refugees today," Kerry told a town hall meeting on the sidelines of an Oceans conference.

"There are people who have to leave where they were living because the drought is so significant they can't grow food, or they've lost their water, or there are fights over wells in certain places and so they have to move in order to find a place. There are climate refugees in the world today -- people who've had to move because of the rise of sea level or the changes in the thawing of the permafrost and so forth.

"Now, it hasn't reached a crescendo. It's not at a level where the international community has yet codified, put it into law," he explained.

"But the day could come, if we don't respond rapidly, you could have millions of climate refugees. You could have people moving from whole areas where today you can grow things and tomorrow you can't.

"So I'd just say to you very quickly I think there is an increasing awareness -- I hear this in all our international meetings now -- people are talking about climate refugees. So I think it's just a matter of time before it fits in under a category and countries have -- and the refugee process has legitimately incorporated it into our policy."

Kerry -- from the former fishing state of Massachusetts -- was in Chile to discuss illegal fishing, ocean pollution, and climate change, which he blames for acidification and the warming of the ocean.

On the same day Kerry spoke about climate refugees, António Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said there are now more than 60 million political refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people in the world -- and he said that number is rising.

Ten years ago, Guterres noted, the number was 38 million and falling.

"The number of people globally displaced by conflict every single day has nearly quadrupled in that time – from almost 11,000 in 2010 to 42,500 last year," he told the U.N. refugee agency in Geneva.

Guterres said that 15 new conflicts have broken out or flared up again in the last five years, without any of the old ones getting resolved.


Warmist attack on Free Speech

By Walter E. Williams

I receive loads of mail in response to my weekly nationally syndicated column. Some recent mail has been quite disturbing. Here's a sample: "Given your support of freedom on a great many issues, I wish to bring to your attention the following George Mason University staff who have formally called on the President to use RICO statutes to punish organizations and individuals who dispute the 'consensus' of the" Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The writer goes on to say, "I am appalled that anyone associated with George Mason would so misuse the power of the Federal government." The writer names 20 signatories, six of whom are GMU faculty members (

This letter writer's problem, like that of many others, is a misperception of George Mason University, where I am an economics professor. We have a distinguished economics department that can boast of having had two homegrown Nobel Prize winners on our faculty. Plus, we have a worldwide reputation as a free market economics department. The university can also boast of a distinguished law school with professors who, in contrast with many other law schools, have respect for the United States Constitution and the rule of law. We can boast of the excellent Law & Economics Center, too.

With this kind of intellectual firepower at George Mason University, most people assume that it is like its namesake, a libertarian or free market university. Little could be further from the truth. My university, at which I've toiled for 35 years, has a political makeup like that of most other universities — middle of the road to liberal/progressive. What distinguishes my liberal/progressive colleagues is that they are courteous and civilized, unlike many of those at universities such as the University of Massachusetts and the University of California, Berkeley.

So I investigated this call for the use of RICO, or the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It turns out that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has called for the criminal investigation of people and organizations who are seen as global warming deniers.

This would include lawsuits against the coal and oil industries, certain think tanks, and other organizations that question the global warming religion. By the way, so that Whitehouse and his gang don't appear silly, they've changed their concern from global warming to climate change. That's stupid in and of itself, for when has the climate not been changing, even before mankind arrived?

It turns out that George Mason University meteorologist Jagadish Shukla is the lead signatory of the letter sent to the president and attorney general asking them to use RICO laws to prosecute "corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change." This GMU professor calling for the prosecution of climate skeptics has been recently revealed as "climate profiteer." From 2012 to 2014, this leader of the RICO 20 climate scientists paid himself and his wife $1.5 million from government climate grants for part-time work (

The effort to suppress global warming dissidents is not new. Grist Magazine writer David Roberts said, "When we've finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we're in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg." Professor Richard Parncutt has called for the execution of prominent "GW deniers." Climate Progress Editor Joe Romm called for deniers to be strangled in their beds. James Hansen, who has headed NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has likewise called for trials of global warming deniers.

The global warming agenda is a desperate effort to gain greater control over our lives. Political commentator Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956) explained that "the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." That's the political goal of the global warmers.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

That evil radiation again

To the Green/Left any level of ionizing radiation is reason for panic.  A level of radiation that is perfectly normal and untroublesome in some places on earth (e.g. Aberdeen, Scotland) will evoke shrieks if human activity can somehow be invoked as causing it.

The huge body of evidence about hormesis shows that low to medium levels of radiation are in fact beneficial rather than harmful but that is totally ignored by the panic merchants.  The findings below are therefore just more evidence that ionizing radiation has to reach much higher levels than is conventionally understood before it becomes harmful.  Zero tolerance of radiation is absurd.

Not mentioned below is that some older people have returned to their original homes in the area.  They remembered how well their gardens fed them in the Soviet era (yummy potatoes and onions!) and they have found that their gardens can still do that.  And they too remain alive and kicking

Wildlife including wolves, elk and wild boar are thriving around Chernobyl since the area was deserted by humans after the world's worst nuclear accident, a study shows.

Populations of large mammals show no evidence of being affected by the continuing radiation in the exclusion zone around the nuclear power plant in Ukraine, close to the Belarus border, which was hit by an explosion and fire in 1986.

Around 116,000 people were permanently evacuated from the 1,600 square miles (4,200 sq km) exclusion zone around the power plant, with villages and towns left to go to ruin.

Three decades on, a scientific study published in the journal Current Biology has found abundant populations of mammals - the most sensitive creatures to the impacts of radiation - in the area.

Using helicopter surveys, researchers in Belarus found that elk, roe deer, red deer and wild boar populations within the exclusion zone are similar to those in four uncontaminated nature reserves in the region, while wolf numbers are seven times higher.

And studies involving assessing tracks in new-fallen snow of roe deer, fox, wild boar and other animals including lynx, pine marten and European hare, found numbers were not reduced in areas with higher radiation.

The study found said while the extremely high dose rates of radiation in the immediate aftermath of the accident significantly hit animal health and reproduction, they recovered quickly and there was no evidence of long term effects on mammal populations.

While individual animals may be affected by radiation, overall populations have benefitted from the absence of people and hunting, forestry and farming which are likely to have kept wildlife numbers low before the accident, the researchers said.

Lynx have returned to the area, having previously been absent, while wild boar are taking advantage of abandoned farm buildings and orchards for shelter and food.

One of the study's authors, Professor Jim Smith of Portsmouth University, said that the nuclear accident had very severe social, psychological and economic consequences for the local communities which had to be evacuated.

But he said: 'In purely environmental terms, if you take the terrible things that happened to the human population out of the equation, as far as we can see at this stage, the accident hasn't done serious environmental damage.

'Indeed by accident it's created this kind of nature reserve.'


Saving the Environment from Environmentalism

When Jonathan Franzen wrote a provocative piece in The New Yorker earlier this year, “Climate Capture”, Chris Clarke, an influential environmental blogger in California, described it as having “walked up to a hornet’s nest and hit it with a baseball bat.”[1] Franzen had asked the question no one has wanted to face: “Has climate change made it harder for people to care about the environment?” After identifying what he called a few “winces” Clarke concluded, “Finally. Finally, someone prominent is saying this.” By “this” Clark was referring to the growing concern that today’s environmental policies are causing unanticipated impacts that are being ignored in the name of a supposed higher good – reducing carbon emissions. As one speaks to grassroots environmentalists across the country, there is a growing sense that perhaps we are getting it wrong, perhaps we are living with an inherited environmental dogma that reflects old thinking and flawed premises.

Most would agree on the major goals of environmentalism: first, reduce carbon emissions, and second, minimize our environmental footprint as we pursue growing human needs. Current thinking on how to achieve these goals is informed by two basic premises: first, environmental solutions must “harmonize with nature”, hence the emphasis on so-called “green” renewable resources; and second, nuclear power must be opposed at all costs. Fossil fuels are to be displaced over the long term, but they take a back seat to nuclear power, like way back. There is now good reason to believe those premises are fundamentally flawed.

During the past decade, a number of leading environmentalists have already challenged the historical opposition to nuclear power, five of them being featured in a 2013 documentary by Robert Stone called “Pandora’s Promise”. Their issue was carbon and the belief we won’t achieve the kinds of reductions we need without nuclear power. We can get a sense of that challenge from The International Energy Agency, a Paris-based affiliation of 29 countries founded in 1973 to coordinated global energy policies. They have developed what they call a 450 scenario, aimed at keeping atmospheric concentrations of CO2 below 450 ppm, a level viewed by many as a tipping point for climate change.[2]

Their rather startling conclusion, evident in the above figure, is just how radically current policies need to be changed. To turn the curve over we must both cut coal and hold natural gas emissions constant at present levels. Current policies are harsh on coal but they encourage more gas generation. The simple reality is that nuclear power will need to be part of the mix if we are to achieve these reductions.

And yet carbon is only one piece of the picture. In late 2014 an “Open Letter to Environmentalists”, signed by fifty-six environmental and conservation scientists from throughout the world argued the exclusive commitment to renewable resources is threatening biodiversity. They too agreed “the full gamut of electricity generation resources – including nuclear power – must be deployed if we are to have any chance of mitigating severe climate change.” But it wasn’t just carbon that disturbed them. Based upon a study by two Australian scientists at The Environmental Institute and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, they concluded the exclusive reliance on renewable resources is doing unnecessary damage to habitat. “As conservation scientists concerned with global depletion of biodiversity,” they wrote, “proponents of (non-nuclear alternatives) typically to not admit to the difficulties of large scale use of these technologies.” In effect, the ideological impulse to “harmonize with nature” is propelling us toward resources that are unduly threatening biodiversity. Here too nuclear power, a resource they described as “by far the most compact and energy dense of sources,” needs to be part of the mix. [3]

For many grass-roots environmentalists, it is the biodiversity issue that rankles most. Yet the emotional, financial and political investment in the current dogma is so strong there is a collective beat down for anyone who tries to raise it. Witness the reaction to Franzen’s article. The opening salvo came from Mark Jannot, writing for the Audubon Society. Franzen had opened with an inference that, facing the global threat of climate change, we were trivializing a few thousand bird deaths in the present, with an oblique reference to the Audubon Society. It was one of Clark’s “winces”. After understandably defending the Audubon Society, Jannot charges that Franzen’s analysis is “half-baked”, “intellectually dishonest” and “based on intellectual sleight of hand,” eventually claiming the underlying concern – that climate change has raised some difficult questions — is not supported by a “shred of evidence.” Standing by with pom poms, Joanna Rothkopf, writing at, elegantly cheered him on: “Audubon doesn’t take that kind of shit-talking from anyone”. The Guardian weighing in as well, calls Franzen’s charges “absurd”, charging that “Franzen’s claim about a conflict between conservation and climate activism” is a form a lunacy – “psychologically-driven, a product of his private prejudices, irritations and resentments.”

Ok, so let’s take a deep breath and chill. This sort of stridency misses the point, though it highlights the hair-trigger sensitivity of the issue. No one is questioning the authenticity of the Audubon Society or anyone else who has devoted themselves to environmental causes, their genuine concern for the environment, or for birds or for habitat – I don’t, and I certainly did not read Franzen that way. But they are trying to engage a reasoned dialogue about a growing angst among grassroots environmentalists over impacts they are seeing and the reluctance of major environmental groups to take them seriously, all in the name of “saving the planet”. It’s a simple question: are we really saving the planet? Are these the right steps to reduce carbon? And have we allowed ideology to blind us to a most basic environmental issue – minimizing our footprint on the ecology?
Environmentalists versus environmentalism

Laura Jackson, raised on a wooded 300-acre farm in southwestern Pennsylvania, gained a respect and appreciation for nature at a very early age. She eventually served as a high school teacher in environmental science for 38 years, joined the Audubon Society in the 1970’s, the Sierra Club a little later, and other environmentally focused groups such as the Nature Conservancy. “I’ve developed an environmental ethic, a concern for habitat and species,” she says, “which I’ve tried to instill in my students, especially in the environmental science classes I’ve taught.”

Her curriculum included an emphasis on renewable energy, the importance of wind and solar and “how great they are”, as she puts in now in a moment of reflection. Today she has become a skeptic. Her earlier teachings on wind and solar, she says, were “basically just superficial reading that I had done and not gone into much depth.” She was doing what every good environmentalist was supposed to do, what every major national environmental group had insisted we must do to assure sustainable, environmentally friendly sources of energy for the future while combating climate change. She was, she thought, embracing a “clean” and “green” future.

All of that began to change when she learned in 2005 that major wind projects were being planned for a local mountain range “about 20 miles north of where I live – not in my backyard but in the county where I live. I got his sick feeling in my stomach because I knew that was not an appropriate site for any type of energy development – very steep slopes, very rocky soil, and there would have to be a lot of damage to the habitat.” It prompted her to dig deeper and as she did, she describes herself as “blown away … I had never seen pictures of wind projects built on mountains and what had to be done to move the earth, to remove the natural vegetation and to change the whole topography to put in a project.” Eventually she mobilized local opposition, including local chapters of the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club and was able to limit the damage, blocking some of the worst of them.

But the stress here is on the word “local”. The National Audubon Society and the National Sierra Club are both strong supporters of industrial wind development. While both claim they only support projects on “proper sites,” as Jackson would say, “when I ask where is it properly sited, nobody answers that question – it is very frustrating. We have these huge powerful conservation organizations that are pro-wind, and they are not being helpful at the local level.”

In the national push to pursue wind generation, ridgetop areas in the mountainous Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions have been caught in crossfire.[4] The names are familiar – the Appalachians, Green Mountains, Catskills, Adirondacks, Blue Ridges, and Great Smokies, all evoking images of scenic areas environmentalists have historically sought to protect. Unfortunately they also have ideal wind speeds making them attractive sites for wind generators.

While the rhetoric claims this growth is being carefully managed to protect wildlife and habitat, the facts on the ground say otherwise. In Maryland, where wind projects were planned for major bird corridors along the Appalachian Mountains, legislation was passed in 2007 exempting wind projects under 70 MW from environmental reviews, hoping to nullify “a vocal minority of anti-wind extremists” and giving developers an environmental free pass. [5],[6] A few years later, Governor O’Malley overrode legislation blocking a project to build 24 windmills across Chesapeake Bay, stating: “I am committed to protecting (the) Pax River because I know how critically important it is to Maryland”, but, he continued, “the real threat to the Pax River is not an array of wind turbines on the lower Eastern Shore, but rising sea levels caused by climate change.”[7]

Farther to the north in Vermont wind turbines may ultimately be installed on as many as 200 miles of mountain ridgetops.[8] It is all part of Vermont’s vision “to lead the nation to an energy future that relies on renewable resources.” As spelled out in their 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP), Vermont is committed to producing 90% of their energy from renewable resources by 2050.[9]

Why this push for renewables? When the plan was produced in 2011, Vermont had the lowest carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation in the 50 states, relying primarily on hydro power from Canada and electricity from Vermont Yankee, a 620 MW nuclear plant. Therein lies the answer.

Facing a flawed wholesale market, a hostile political climate, and with the encouragement of state political leaders, the owners of Vermont Yankee made a decision in 2013 to permanently close the plant, even though its operating license had recently been extended through 2032.[10] While the ostensible reason was economics, writing of the decision at the time Amy Goodman stated, “it was years of people’s protests and state legislative action that forced its closure.”[11] Yet while the political leadership cheered, the regional administrator of the wholesale electric market, ISO-New England, was not so sanguine: “The retirement of this large nuclear station will result in less fuel diversity and greater dependence on natural gas”, he said, observing that the growing dependence on natural gas had been identified as a key strategic risk for the region.[12] As Vermont’s plan unapologetically states, natural gas is now embraced as a preferred resource with plans to increase its use.[13]

High-minded rhetoric aside, Vermont’s energy ambitions are driven by the need to fill the hole left by the closure of Vermont Yankee, even if it means a massive development of wind generation along mountain ridgetops and greater dependence on natural gas to provide electricity when intermittent wind is not operating.

For the “Green Mountain State”, a state that has banned billboards and prides itself on its natural beauty, this aggressive shift to renewables is a non-trivial undertaking. Annette Smith, founder and current head of Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE) puts it this way: “That’s what we’re doing here in Vermont. Let’s carpet everything with solar and every ridge line with wind turbines and it’s a moral imperative in order to save the planet.” She too has become a skeptic. Having been completely off-grid since 1988 and relying almost totally on solar, her initial instincts were favorable. It was only after locals raised concerns and she visited the Cohocton Wind project in nearby New York that, alarmed by the size, noise and visual impacts – VCE became active in efforts to challenge the unconstrained wind development in Vermont.

Others have stepped in as well. Nationally respected wildlife ecologist Susan Morse puts it this way: ”… it’s not so much that my aesthetic life would be ruined,” she says, but it’s the “whole manner of damage to wildlife habitat.” From the effects of erosion, to the clearing of mountain tops areas for construction, to the roads required both for initial construction and on-going maintenance, the result is “irreparable damage to core habitat and healthy ecological functions.” She continues, “This is being presented as a green alternative but it’s not green if it’s not done well, and that’s where, as a scientist, I really beg to differ with the proponents of wind energy on our ridge lines. It’s not well researched, (and) we don’t have all the answers.”[14]


The Big Sunshiny Lie

As Florida enviros push for their solar amendment, solar’s undesirability goes unmentioned

The important thing to know about solar and wind power, and other so-called “renewable” sources of energy, is that they aren’t necessary. Au contraire, their dominance of the energy mix would be a disaster for the republic. Solar and wind create trifling amounts of power at a multiple of the cost of power made available by fossil fuels.

Increased reliance on pricy power from wind and solar would drive up the overall cost of energy, which in turn would drive up the cost of everything. EVERYTHING! Not just individual power bills, which would be bad enough. It takes energy to produce, transport, and market all the goods Americans take for granted. Even our service economy is a heavy user of energy.

Wind and solar power are also unreliable. The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. This isn’t going to change.

In a dystopian wind and solar economy, say goodbye to the supermarket, to pain-free dentistry, to air-conditioning, to the modern hospital, to night baseball. While you’re up, take the hood off your car and make it into a planter because you’ll no longer afford to drive it. A fossil-fuel-free America would become, in short order, a third-world country. Life would once again become nasty, brutish, and short. Or at least a damn sight more straitened than the prosperity contemporary Americans are used to and take as a given.

There is enough oil and gas underground in America to supply energy needs for centuries, if the Sierra Club and other Lexus Luddites would allow us to use it. The problems associated with the burning of fossil fuels have been grossly exaggerated by the political Left for ideological reasons. Those who identify themselves as environmentalists slander fossil fuels — about which most enviros I’ve encountered know bugger all — in order to make themselves feel morally superior to others. To demonstrate how much more they LUV the planet than you do.

Most leftist politicians are another matter, less ignorant, more cynical and conniving. They cater to enviros and whoop us such frauds as global warming in order to increase their political power. The solution to global warming, and other environmental “problems,” is to tax and regulate, i.e. turn more political power over to government. Turn the decisions individuals and businesses have been making for centuries in the land of the free over to politicians and bureaucrats. Just what the Left has always wanted. Obama and his EPA are pushing this agenda at every level now, with very little resistance from Republicans, who, as usual, find themselves confused and cowed. In this instance by junk science that has proved popular with voters.

Right now, against all the available evidence and the urgings of good sense, the lefty alarmists hold the upper hand. A frightening number of Americans have been convinced that fossil fuels — the single thing most responsible for their long, healthy, prosperous, and easeful lives — are dirty, downright evil, and a danger to their very existence. (Review the theory of The Big Lie here.)

Which brings us to a superfluous campaign going on in Florida just now, in which solar boosters are attempting to make the state government a solar crusader. (Similar crack-pot campaigns are going on in other states — I write about this one because it’s in my front yard.) An outfit called Floridians for Solar Choice, largely funded by the usual left-enviro outfits, is pushing a state constitutional amendment that would make Florida a shill for solar with the following meat-axe language: “It shall be the policy of the state to encourage and promote local small-scale solar-generated electricity production and to enhance the availability of solar power to customers.”

Wow. This is clearer than a sunshiny day. This kind of mandate in the state’s governing document would doubtless lead to more solar-mandates and more subsidies, of which there are too many already. I can see solar industry grant-writers salivating now. With this language in the Florida constitution, the Florida Legislature might consider changing the legend on Florida’s automobile license plates from “The Sunshine State” to “The Solyndra State.”

This group’s published rationalization for this additional carve-out for the solar industry is that they wish to put solar on the free market with other power sources and allow power consumers to choose. They say this would drive down the cost of electric power, though they never get around to saying how. They say this would create a level-playing field for solar, when in fact it would oblige the state to discriminate against all other forms of power in favor of solar. Out-of-state solar companies would profit from this solar favoritism. Floridians would be handed the bill.

It’s hard to imagine anyone paying the slightest attention falling for this laughable line. Solar wouldn’t last an hour on the open market. It’s only the massive subsidies and tax breaks that solar receives that disguise the fact that electricity generated by solar costs three times that of power generated with fossil fuels. No amount of new math will make it anything but a disaster to force more of this costly power on an already weak economy.

It would take industrial strength naïveté to believe that Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and Tom Steyer really wish to promote free markets. Still, many columnists and editorial writers among Florida’s mainstream media have been charmed. This is not difficult to do, and only those with an agenda would stoop to it.

The agenda is pretty clear. In addition to obliging Florida to whoop up and facilitate solar, the amendment would allow solar companies to install solar panels free of charge on homes and businesses and sell the power these panels generate to the property owners. And there is meat-axe language in the amendment that would prohibit the state from regulating solar companies. No one would benefit from this amendment other than the already politically charmed solar industry.

As it stands now, only utilities can sell electric power in Florida. One doesn’t have to be a fan of everything utilities do to see the reason for utility monopolies. If the corner drugstore goes belly-up, this can be inconvenient. If the power company goes belly up…

Floridians For Solar treats all opposition to its proposed amendment as nothing more than propaganda from rich utilities trying to protect their privileges and their ability to gouge the little guy on power. Floridians For spokesmen used this argument and more last Tuesday when arguing before the Florida Supreme Court that their amendment is both clear and only treats of one subject, requirements for constitutional amendments in Florida. Attorneys for utility companies and the Florida Attorney General’s office argued that the language does deal with more than one subject and is misleading in that it does not inform voters that the Florida Public Service Commission would not regulate solar companies as to service, territory, or rates.

The court will rule on the wording in due course, and should that be a legal thumbs up, Floridians For Solar will have to get 683,149 valid signatures of Florida voters on their petition before next summer in order for the amendment to appear on the November, 2016 ballot. If the language is turned down, it will likely be 2020 before another attempt is made, according to Steve Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the biggest financial backer of Floridians for Solar.

“I always think you want to run one of these things in a presidential year because you have a larger turnout and a whole different demographic,” Smith told the Jacksonville Business Journal.

A second constitutional amendment, called Consumers for Smart Solar, backed mostly by utilities and which largely maintains the status quo on solar, has recently begun to circulate. Press attention and public discussion on both amendments has been minimal. There’s no predicting what 2016 will bring. But for now solar power and these two amendments don’t seem to be on the radar of many voters, which is just as well because both of them are unnecessary. Floridians may need sun block when they go outside, especially in summer (11 months of the year hereabouts). But they don’t need solar power


Appeals court blasts Obama admin's view of key bird law

A decision last week by a federal appeals court to overturn an oil company's convictions under a century-old bird law could hinder the Obama administration's ability to prosecute companies that kill migratory birds and calls into question a potentially sweeping rulemaking.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling cleared Citgo Petroleum Corp. of violations under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It's the latest appeals court to weigh in on what some argue is the government's expansive interpretation of the 1918 law.

Energy company attorneys say the ruling confirms that Congress only intended the law to apply to the intentional killing of migratory birds through activities like unpermitted hunting.

But an attorney for the American Bird Conservancy disagreed, calling the 5th Circuit's ruling a "minority view" among federal courts that severely undermines the law's purpose to conserve migratory birds.

One thing's for sure: This is likely not the last time courts and the federal government will wrestle over the scope of MBTA. The 5th Circuit's opinion is a break from other circuit courts, which increases the chances the issue could find its way to the Supreme Court.

Moreover, the 5th Circuit's ruling could boost efforts among some Republicans in Congress to shield wind farms, oil companies and chemical manufacturers from MBTA's reach (E&E Daily, June 12).

The 1918 migratory bird law makes it illegal to "pursue, hunt, take, capture [or] kill" any of more than 1,000 covered bird species, but courts have disagreed over whether such actions need to be intentional.

Over the past few years, the Obama administration has taken a more expansive view by prosecuting two energy companies whose Wyoming wind farms had unintentionally killed migratory birds and several oil and gas firms in North Dakota whose wastewater pits became deathtraps for ducks.

But in the 5th Circuit case, a three-judge panel unanimously ruled that a district court was wrong to convict Citgo of violating MBTA when it unintentionally killed 10 ducks that ingested or were coated with oil at a Texas refinery.

The company argued that MBTA does not cover unintentional bird kills, and the court agreed.

"Taking" under MBTA, the court found, "is limited to deliberate acts done directly and intentionally to migratory birds."

The government's expansive interpretation of MBTA would make a host of other bird-killing businesses and individuals liable for violations, including the owners of telecommunications towers, power lines, wind farms, skyscrapers and even domestic cats, the court ruled.

"This scope of strict criminal liability would enable the government to prosecute at will and even capriciously," the court said, yielding "absurd results."

The Justice Department has asked the court for additional time to decide whether to ask for a rehearing.

"All we can say at this point is that we are reviewing the court's decision," said Laury Parramore, a spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees MBTA and works with DOJ to prosecute violators.

The 5th Circuit aligned itself with similar rulings by the 8th and 9th circuits that also found "taking" under MBTA to be limited to deliberate kills.

But the 10th Circuit has taken an opposing view, ruling in 2010 to uphold the misdemeanor MBTA convictions of two Kansas oil rig operators after dead birds were found trapped in heater treaters. That court concluded that MBTA is a "strict liability" statute that covers all deaths of migratory birds.

Svend Brandt-Erichsen, an attorney at Marten Law who represents energy firms, said the 5th Circuit's ruling was among the least ambiguous of the circuit courts. If it stands, it would force FWS to think twice before prosecuting wind farms or other energy facilities for incidental bird kills within the court's Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi territory, he said.

The court drew a sharp distinction between the limited meaning of "take" under MBTA and a more expansive definition under the Endangered Species Act, he said.

Andrew Bell, another attorney at Marten Law, said the court was right to point out larger sources of incidental bird kills that could be liable under the government's view of MBTA. It noted that Fish and Wildlife estimates between 97 million and 976 million birds are killed annually by running into windows and that communication towers kill an additional 4 million to 5 million each year.

Energy producers, who have recently borne the brunt of MBTA enforcements, are estimated to kill far fewer.

"This has been the refrain of the wind industry for over a decade, and it's nice to see that someone has heard it," Bell said.

For its part, FWS has so far exercised prosecutorial discretion in enforcing the law, going after only the companies it feels are the most negligent.

Eric Glitzenstein, of Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP, which represents the American Bird Conservancy, said the 5th Circuit adopted "an extraordinarily narrow and, in ABC's view, legally bankrupt view of the MBTA's scope that severely undercuts the act's -- and the underlying treaties' -- broad bird protection purposes."

He argued that it was also a minority view.

"Most courts have correctly concluded that the MBTA's prohibition on taking birds without an MBTA permit encompasses bird deaths resulting from inherently hazardous activities -- such as maintaining uncovered oil tanks and operating wind turbines in the habitat of migratory birds," he said.

Glitzenstein said the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has also held that MBTA applies to "inherently hazardous activities," as have district courts, including the one in Washington, D.C.

The 5th Circuit decision could also affect Fish and Wildlife Service plans to establish a permitting regime to more tightly regulate incidental take of birds under MBTA.

The agency in May said it will study the potential issuance of take permits for owners of drilling pits, gas flares, power lines and communications towers. The aim is to give companies legal cover under MBTA while securing commitments from them to offset their take with habitat restoration and protection (Greenwire, May 22).

But that rulemaking, if FWS were to pursue it, assumes MBTA applies to incidental take, which the 5th Circuit explicitly denied.

The American Bird Conservancy supports a permitting regime, arguing that the government must take better stock of impacts to ecologically important migratory bird species, many of which are in decline.

Glitzenstein helped ABC petition FWS to develop MBTA incidental take regulations.

"This ruling makes it all the more important that the FWS continue with its rulemaking establishing a system for regulating incidental take from industrial activities that are inherently harmful to migratory bird populations," he said.


New book: Doubt and Certainty in Climate Science

The Preface provides some interesting history, here are some excerpts:

"But more recently, I became troubled by what seemed to be a preference to view the climate as a global stable state, unless perturbed by anthropogenic effects, rather than as a highly complex system having several dominant states, each having a characteristic return period imposed on gradual change at millennial scale. The research of H.H. Lamb and others on the natural changes of regional and global climate of the Holocene appeared to be no longer of interest, and the evidence for anthropogenic climate change was being discussed as if it was reducible to change in a single value that represented global surface temperature.

The complex relationship between solar cycles and regional climate states on Earth that was central to classical climatology (and is still being discussed in the peer-­‐reviewed literature) had been replaced with a reductionist assumption concerning radiative balance, and the effective dismissal of any significant solar influence. I found this rejection of an entire body of scientific literature troubling, and looked for a disinterested discussion of the balance between natural and anthropogenic effects, but could not find what I wanted -­‐ a book that covered the whole field in an accessible and unprejudiced manner, and that was based solely on the scientific literature: I found text-­‐books on individual topics aplenty, together with a flood of others, either supporting or attacking the standard climate change model, but none that was based wholly on studies certified by peer-­‐review -­‐ and whose author was inquisitive rather than opinionated.

One thing led to another and this text is the result. My intention has been to examine the scientific literature that both supports – and also contradicts -­‐ the standard description of anthropogenic climate change, and its effects on Earth systems: I undertook the task with an open mind concerning the interpretation of the evidence presented in individual research reports, and collectively by those who have been tasked to report to governments on the progress of climate change and to predict future states.

Because of my experience, this review leans very heavily on discussion of the role of the oceans in controlling climate states, but I make no apology for this: their role is central and critical and too often ignored.

Anthropogenic modification of climate, especially of micro-­‐climates, is undoubtedly occurring but I have been unable to convince myself that the radiative contribution of carbon dioxide can be observed in the data, although modellers have no trouble in demonstrating the effect.

Because there will certainly be some who will question my motive in undertaking this task, I assure them that I have been impelled by nothing other than curiosity and have neither sought nor received financial support from any person or organisation in the preparation and distribution of this eBook."

The conclusions from Longhurst’s analysis are presented in section 11.2:

"While I am aware that the general opinion of the relevent scientific community is that no further debate is necessary after five successive assessments by the IPCC, I suggest that this is premature because these conclusions concern topics that have not yet been properly addressed by that body, and so should be accorded status in a continuing debate concerning the influence of anthropogenic effects on regional climates.

If the peer-­‐reviewed scientific literature, with all the levels of uncertainty associated with individual contributions, has anything to say collectively in assessing the standard climate model, then a small number of conclusions may be drawn from the 600 peer-­‐reviewed papers that I have consulted:

 *  the global archives of surface air temperature measurements are unreliable estimators of the consequences of atmospheric CO2 contamination, because they are already themselves contaminated by the effects of deforestation, land use change, urbanisation and the release of industrial particulates into the lower atmosphere (Sections 6.3, 6.4, 6.5).

 *  users of these data are not able to judge the consequences of the adjustments that have been made to the original observations of surface air temperature ashore, although the limited investigations now possible show that the adjustments have changed the long-­‐term trends that had been recorded by some reputable national meteorological services (Sections 4.1, 4.2).

 *  sea surface temperature is not a substitute for air temperature over the oceans because it responds to changes in vertical motion in the ocean associated with coastal and open-­‐ocean upwelling; the resultant change in surface temperature is independent of any changes in atmospheric temperature caused by CO2, yet these changes are integrated into the GMST record which is used to estimate the effects of CO2 (Section 4.3)

 *  surface air temperatures respond to cyclical changes within the Sun, and to the effect of changing orbital configurations in the solar system: the changes in the resultant strength of received irradiance (and of tidal stress in the oceans, which also has consequences for SAT) are both predictable and observable (Sections 3.2, 3.3, and 3.4),

 *  our description of the evolution of the global heat budget and its distribution in multiple sinks is inadequate for an understanding of the present state of the Earth’s surface temperature, or to serve as the initial state for complex modelling of climate dynamics. Future states are therefore unpredictable, cannot be modelled, and will certainly surprise people living through the next century (Sections 4.1, 4.2, 4.4, 4.5),

 *  the planetary heat budget is poorly constrained, perhaps principally by our inability to quantify the mechanisms that control the accumulation and loss of heat in the ocean, where most solar heat accumulates; the quantification of changes in cloud cover is so insecure that we cannot confidently describe its variability -­‐ yet clouds are the most important control on the rate of heat input at the sea surface (Sections 5.1-­‐ 5.4),

 *  the evidence for an intensification of extreme weather events and, in particular, tropical cyclones is very weak and is largely due to the progressively-­‐ increasing reliability and coverage of weather monitoring: todays frequency of cyclones and other phenomena does not appear to be anomalous when longer data sets can be examined (Sections 9.1, 9.2),

 *  global climate in the present configuration of the continents falls naturally into a limited number of patterns that are forced externally and patterned by internal dynamics. Some of these climate patterns will tend to conserve global heat, some will tend to permit its dissipation to space, while all move heat from one region to another. Two dominate the whole: the North Atlantic Oscillation that describes the flux of tropical heat through the North Atlantic Current into Arctic regions, and the Southern Oscillation that describes the strength of trade winds, especially in the Pacific, and thus the relative area of cold, upwelled water that is exposed to the atmosphere (Sections 7.1, 7.2),

 *  the recent melting of arctic ice cover over larger areas than 20 years ago in summer is not a unique event, but is a recurrence of past episodes and is the result of cyclically-­‐variable transport of heat in warm North Atlantic water into the Arctic basin through the Norwegian Sea; the present episode will likely evolve in the same way as earlier episodes (Sections 8.1-­‐8.3),

 *  sea level is indeed rising as described by the IPCC and others, but the causes -­‐ especially at regional scale -­‐ are more complex than suggested by that agency and involve many processes other than expansion due to warming. Had the human population of some very small islands remained within carrying capacity, their occupation could have been permanent, but this is not the case (Sections 10.1, 10.2),

 *  the consequences of acidification of seawater is one of the most enigmatic questions, and may bring serious biological problems, although it seems now that (i) marine organisms are more resilient to changing pH than was originally feared, because of the genetic diversity of their populations and (ii) the history of pH of seawater during geological time suggests that resilience through selection of genomes has emerged when appropriate in the past (Sections 10.3, 10.4).

Unfortunately, the essential debate on these issues will not take place, at least not openly and without prejudice, because so many voices are today saying – nay, shouting -­‐ ‘enough, the science is settled, it is time for remediation’. In fact, many have been saying this for almost 20 years, even as fewer voices have been heard in the opposite sense. As discussed in Chapter 1, the science of climate change -­‐ like many other complex fields in the earth sciences -­‐ does not function so that at some point in time one can say “now, the science is settled”: there are always uncertainties and alternative explanations for observations."


Reproducibility will not cure what ails science

Leaders of the scientific community, nudged by the media (including Nature ), are acknowledging that a culture of science focused on rewarding eye-catching and positive findings may have resulted in major bodies of knowledge that cannot be reproduced.

Private-sector, academic and non-profit groups are leading multiple efforts to replicate selected published findings, and so far the results do not make happy reading. Several high-profile endeavours have been unable to reproduce the large majority of peer-reviewed studies that they examined.

Meanwhile, the US National Academies is preparing to publish a high-profile report on scientific integrity that will flag irreproducibility as a key concern for the research enterprise. As the spotlight shines on reproducibility, uncomfortable issues will emerge at the interface of research and ‘evidence-based’ policy.

Consider, for example, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015, a US bill that would “prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible”.

Passed in March by the House of Representatives essentially along party lines (Republicans in favour, Democrats opposed) and now awaiting action by the Senate, the bill has been vigorously opposed by many scientific and environmental organizations. They argue, probably correctly, that the bill’s intent is to block and even roll back environmental regulations by requiring that all data on which the rules are based be made publicly available for independent replication.

One of the main objections is that a lot of the scientific research that informs regulatory decisions is not of the sort that can be replicated. For example, a statement of opposition from numerous scientific societies and universities explains that:

“With respect to reproducibility of research, some scientific research, especially in areas of public health, involves longitudinal studies that are so large and of great duration that they could not realistically be reproduced. Rather, these studies are replicated utilizing statistical modeling.”

Precisely. Replication of the sort that can be done with tightly controlled laboratory experiments is indeed often impossible when you are studying the behaviour of dynamic, complex systems, for example at the intersection of human health, the natural environment and technological risks.

But it is hard to see how this amounts to an argument against mandating open access to the data from these studies.

Growing concerns about the quality of published scientific results have often singled out bad statistical practices and modelling assumptions, and have typically focused on the very types of science that often underlie regulations, such as efforts to quantify the population-wide health effects of a single chemical.

Although concerns about the bill’s consequences are reasonable, the idea that it would be bad to make public the data underlying environmental regulations seems to contradict science’s fundamental claims to objectivity and legitimacy.

In June, a commentary in Science by an array of leading voices, including the current and future heads of the National Academies, flagged “increased transparency” and “increased data disclosure” as crucial elements of science’s “self-correcting norm” that can help to address “the disconcerting rise in irreproducible find - ings” (B. Alberts et al . Science 348, 1420–1422; 2015).

This is more or less the position taken by the Secret Science bill’s sponsor, Representative Lamar Smith (Republican, Texas):

“The bill requires the EPA to use data that is available to the public when the Agency writes its regulations. This allows independent researchers to evaluate the studies that the EPA uses to justify its regulations. This is the scientific method.”

This battle for the soul of science is almost surreal in its avoidance of the true issue, which is ideological. One side believes that the government should introduce stricter environmental regulations; the other wants fewer restrictions on the marketplace.

Science is the battleground, but it cannot adjudicate this dispute. At its core, the disagreement is about values, not facts.

But just as importantly, the facts themselves are inevitably incomplete, uncertain, contested and, as we have been learning, often unreliable. Like a divorced couple bitterly fighting over the custody of their child, both sides in the Secret Science debate insist that they have only the interests of science at heart. Republicans are using a narrow, idealized portrayal of science — that it produces clear and reproducible findings — as a weapon to undercut environmental and public-health regulation of the private sector.

But many scientists, environmentalists and Democrats have long used similar portrayals to justify the same regulations, and to bash Republicans as anti-scientific when they did not agree.

More and more, science is tackling questions that are relevant to society and politics. The reliability of such science is often not testable with textbook methods of replication. This means that quality assurance will increasingly become a matter of political interpretation.

It also means that the ‘self-correcting norm’ that has served science well for the past 500 years is no longer enough to protect science’s special place in society. Scientists must have the self-awareness to recognize and openly acknowledge the relationship between their political convictions and how they assess scientific evidence.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here