Monday, January 30, 2006


Wind turbines have caused the deaths of four white-tailed eagles on isolated islands off the Norwegian coast. Thirty other eagles have failed to return to their nesting sites within the wind farm area on Smola, 9.6km (six miles) northwest of Norway, according to wildlife campaigners. The dead birds were found between August and December last year. Two had been sliced in half, apparently by a turbine blade. Post-mortem examinations, however, attributed the birds' deaths to multiple trauma caused by a heavy blow.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is concerned that wind farms in Britain could exact a similar toll on native and migrating wild birds, especially as the white-tailed eagle, the largest eagle species in Europe, is beginning to thrive at last in the Western Isles of Scotland after a 30-year reintroduction project. This area has also been earmarked by developers as prime land for the construction of wind farms. Campaigners are already lobbying against a proposed 234-turbine project on peatlands on north Lewis because of the threat it poses to eagles.

The effect of the wind turbines on white-tailed eagles has been revealed after research by the RSPB in collaboration with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and the Norwegian Sea Eagle Project. Work concentrated on Smola because it is listed by BirdLife International as an important area and because it has one of the highest breeding figures for the bird in the world. It is possible that other deaths have gone undetected because much of the wind park is rarely visited. Mark Avery, conservation director at the RSPB, said: "These findings are shocking, yet may only be the tip of the iceberg. Research on Smola is being stepped up and, if more dead birds are found and even fewer are able to breed, we will be doubly determined to fight wind-farm plans that could cause similar destruction in the UK."

The 68-turbine wind farm on Smola was built by Norway between 2001 and 2005, despite an environmental assessment giving warning that it would pose a threat to the eagles. BirdLife International took the case to the Berne Convention, but the decision was upheld. Conservationists are to increase checks on the wind farm to determine the extent of the casualties and the numbers of birds being bred this spring. Researchers have not drawn up final conclusions on the impact on the birds because of a wide variation in their breeding numbers from year to year. There was also intensive construction work at the wind park during the past two years.

Arne Follestad, a research scientist at NINA, said: "Breeding results on Smola have been strikingly poor compared with the 30 years before the wind farm was built. We are only halfway through the research, yet, despite their site faithfulness, we are not confident that white-tailed eagles will adapt to the turbines. As older birds die, we do not know if new birds will occupy nest sites within the wind farm."

Stuart Housden, the director of RSPB Scotland, said: "The news from Norway is of great concern to us. If white-tailed eagles have died because of wind-turbine collisions, there are major implications for our own eagle populations here in Scotland. We are campaigning hard against the proposed 234- turbine wind farm on north Lewis partly because of the great danger it poses to Scotland's eagles." He said that the peatlands were an environmentally sensitive site protected under European law.

The Department of Trade and Industry said in a statement that it was aware of the Norway study but that there was no evidence that turbines in Britain have been responsible for any major adverse effect on birdlife. A spokesmann added: "Wind farms help to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate against climate change, which is an ever greater threat to birdlife."



The following phrases, frequently found in technical writings, are defined below for your enlightenment:

Phrase......................................... Translation

It has been long known............... I haven't bothered to check the references

It is known.................................... I believe

It is believed................................. I think

It is generally believed...................My colleagues and I think

There has been some discussion... Nobody agrees with me

It can be shown........................... Take my word for it

It is proven................................... It agrees with something mathematical

Of great theoretical importance...... I find it interesting

Of great practical importance........ This justifies my employment

Of great historical importance....... This ought to make me famous

Some samples were chosen for study... The others didn't make sense

Typical results are shown............ The best results are shown

Correct within order of magnitude.... Wrong

The values were obtained empirically. The values were obtained by accident

The results are inconclusive......... The results seem to disprove my hypothesis

Additional work is required.......... Someone else can work out the details

It might be argued that.............. I have a good answer to this objection

The investigations proved rewarding.. My grant has been renewed


Thanks to the Montreal talks, penalties have become discretionary and emissions reductions have become merely foreign aid

The worldwide press hailed the December negotiations in Montreal over the Kyoto Protocol for producing an "historic climate agreement." As the London Independent put it, "The fight against catastrophic global warming scored its greatest success to date yesterday, when negotiators from more than 180 nations unexpectedly agreed to develop far-reaching measures."

The agreement truly was historic as the greatest modification of Kyoto's terms since its inception in 1997 -- although not for the reasons The Independent and other hailers proclaimed. The agreement effectively guts Kyoto's claim to being "legally binding" and its potentially onerous provisions.

The touted achievements were, in fact, nothing more than already-agreed promises to meet again later. Less heralded, but the most substantively important development in Montreal, was adoption of the 2001 Marrakech Accord.

As drafted and originally agreed at the 2001 Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP-7), these sanctions, among other things, disqualify Kyoto parties that violate their 2008-12 quota from employing the mechanisms of "joint implementation" and trading emission credits in any subsequent round.

In Montreal, the Kyoto establishment, while congratulating itself for adopting Marrakech penalties, actually neutered them. They are now no more binding or enforceable than the voluntary United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or the nascent alternative to Kyoto, the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

Here is how, in brief detail. In the "Procedures" document (Section XIII), parties added an extra year, give or take, to avoid violation of their emission quota by purchasing or otherwise arranging for greenhouse-gas credits from others. This administrative ploy did not add another year to the period for mandatory reductions, but merely allowed the credits obtained after expiration of the five-year compliance period to be applied retroactively. Parties also established an intricate enforcement end-around neutering Marrakech's bold, plain language via a rhetorical web weaved in Sections V, VI, X and XV.

As a result of the latter, Kyoto's penalties are now in fact discretionary. A board of insiders may choose simply not to proceed against a violator, or may invoke an escape hatch for undefined de minimis violators. Other waiver and reinstatement provisions all ensure that the vaunted penalties will never be seriously invoked against any of Kyoto's growing queue of likely scofflaws.

Marrakech had actually constituted Kyoto's long-missing element -- something resembling an enforcement mechanism and "teeth." In Montreal, in addition to gutting this, delegates openly ignored Kyoto's requirement that these penalty procedures and mechanisms be formally adopted, in the form of an amendment requiring ratification.

This explains why the decision ("Procedures and mechanisms relating to compliance under the Kyoto Protocol") received little fanfare as compared with the heralded vows to talk again. This effort, with one other adopted item detailing the nature and scope of Kyoto's key "mechanisms," quietly weakened Kyoto's annual emission-reduction promises by 20% and eviscerated the touted enforcement provisions. On their face, these appear mandatory and costly, while in reality they have become, at best, mere discretionary incentives.

The final chapter in this coup d'etat ensuring that Kyoto will never be the "legally binding" pact its supporters tout is that, by design, technically even these ersatz enforcement provisions do not exist. Kyoto's Article 18 requires that any binding consequences, such as the "procedures and mechanisms" agreed in Marrakech, be adopted at the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (MOP-1 in Montreal) and that in order to be binding they must be amendments to the protocol.

Noting this requirement, Saudi Arabia proffered such a plan. Canada hinted that this requirement threatened a two-track treaty; that is, ratification actually codifying lofty Kyoto rhetoric is no sure thing. In response, Europe cautioned that ratifying such enforcement provisions might take some time. Its curious solution, accepted by the MOP in the name of expediting things, was to put off consideration of whether to formally adopt these penalties for two more years until literally the eve of Kyoto taking effect.

The other much-ballyhooed accomplishment of the Montreal COP-MOP -- the humbling of the United States -- was also wildly off the mark. The United States did not, in fact, alter its long-standing position against seeking ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. It merely agreed with all other parties to the Rio UNFCCC treaty to continue discussing voluntary greenhouse-gas abatement. Kyoto parties agreed to agree later, as was previously agreed. This time, however, the parties expressly agreed that these talks could not lead to binding commitments.

Kyoto's ultimate truth is that after eight years, nine negotiations and scores of triumphalist press releases, the rest of the world remains wildly uninterested in joining its rationing scheme. Such a revealing fact is apparently not worthy of coverage, or concern. After all, the legacy of the Montreal COP-MOP is that no obstacle is too great to impede claims of victory in the Kyoto context.

Already, a proposal has been tabled to allow "voluntary" quotas for countries such as India and China, the exempt majority. The purpose would be to facilitate claims of Kyoto success by the covered few, who will, again, not need to actually reduce emissions, but can then, instead, buy the right of future growth from these dirtier states, in the form of emission credits. The progression is to merely redefine and merge Kyoto and foreign aid. This will prove Montreal's legacy as the beginning of the end for Kyoto, when its parties realized they could not and would not try to match rhetoric with action.

Financial Post, 26 January 2006


Readers might find the following correspondence interesting. The first email (one that I personally find most unconvincing) is from Oliver Morton ( of "Nature" and Benny Peiser's reply follows:

Dear Benny

In response to your idea that we sought deliberately to undermine a research letter in Nature by choosing to highlight one in GRL that said the opposite, it's worth bearing in mind how different the papers are, and how utterly they fail to contradict each other.

The Nature paper by Raper and Braithwaite deals specifically with contributions to sea level rise from two second-order sources, glaciers and icecaps, saying nothing about the rise that may be expected from the Greenland and Antarctic icesheets or from the thermal expansion of the oceans, which are likely to be the major sources of sea level rise.

The GRL paper which we wrote about on the News@Nature website looks not at the sources of sea level rise but at the historical trends, by using the period over which satellite data and tide gauge data can be compared to reassess the tide-gauge only era. The GRL paper was about new measurements of the global trend which seem to conform to model predictions that were made some time ago. We thought it was a pretty significant contribution to the debate.

The reality of constrained resources means that every week papers are published in Nature which, though excellent, we do not cover in the news pages or on our website. This time, as happens quite often, we chose to write about a paper elsewhere on a topic related to that of a paper in Nature that we weren't covering. To see this as a deliberate undermining suggests an overly cynical approach to life.

For what it's worth, I categorically deny it.

Best as ever,


Benny replies:


Thanks for your clarification. I accept your assurance that Nature did not deliberately try to undermine the paper by Raper and Braithwaite on their revised estimates for sea-level rise that you published on Jan 19. Nevertheless, by choosing to highlight the Church and White GRL paper instead, you did inadvertently prejudice the tenor in the coverage of the two papers. Just compare your Jan 19 headline ("Sea-level rise is quickening") with that of the MMU press release that Raper and Braithwaite issued on the same day ("Scientists play down rising seas").

Needless to say that, in spite of your rather alarmist news story, there remains a conspicuous lack of consensus about whether or not there is reliable evidence of accelerating global sea-levels. A more balanced and up-to-date summary of the current state of research and the lack of consensus on many sea-level-related research issues can be found here. I suggest it would have been wiser for Nature to provide unprejudiced coverage of the latest research papers in the context of these evident uncertainties.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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