Sunday, January 14, 2007


New research suggests that climate change led to the collapse of the most splendid imperial dynasty in China's history and to the extinction of the Maya civilisation in Central America more than 1,000 years ago. There has never been a satisfactory explanation for the decline and fall of the Tang emperors, whose era is viewed as a highpoint of Chinese civilisation, while the disappearance of the Maya world perplexes scholars.

Now a team of scientists has found evidence that a shift in monsoons led to drought and famine in the final century of Tang power. The weather pattern may also have spelt doom for the Maya in faraway Mexico at about the same time, they say. Both ruling hierarchies at the start of the 10th century were victims of poor rainfall and starvation among their peoples when harvests failed.

The martial arts honed during the fall of the Tang still provide a staple of modern Chinese epic films and video games, while Mel Gibson, the actor-director, has just released Apocalypto, a blood-drenched film set in the last days of the Maya. The Maya practised human sacrifices to please the gods of rain and Chinese soothsayers were employed by the court to divine the seasons, yet neither could have predicted the slow-motion catastrophe resulting from the changing weather.

The cause was to be found in the migration of a band of heavy tropical rain, which moves in response to phenomena such as El Nino (a weather effect created by huge surface temperature fluctuations in tropical eastern Pacific waters), the scientists argued in an article in Nature last week. The effect was to end two golden ages which existed in ignorance of one another on opposite sides of the world. The scientific team, led by Gerald Haug of Germany's national geosciences research centre, found that a massive movement in tropical rainfall took place in early 900 both in China and in Central America. The scientists discovered that titanium sediment and deposits of magnetic minerals in a lake in southeast China indicate that the period was one of intense climate change that left northern China a desolate waste. They reported remarkable similarity between titanium deposits in the Huangyan Lake, in Guangdong province, and in the Cariaco basin, in Venezuela.

According to the scientists, the 8th and 9th centuries saw a worldwide drought in many regions. They conclude that it ruined entire societies. The scientists concede that there is little independent evidence to corroborate their theory as regards the Maya. It is known that they went into a steep decline in the 8th century and that their last stone calendars were carved in Mexico in about 903. By contrast, Chinese chroniclers recorded extensive descriptions of the decay which set in during the late Tang dynasty, which ended in 907.

These correlate well with the new scientific evidence. "On the basis of our new data, Chinese dynastic changes tended to occur when the summer monsoon was weak and rainfall was reduced," the scientists reported. Trade, literature and the arts flourished under enlightened rule by the Tang. However, Chao-tsung, the last Tang emperor of stature, was murdered by an upstart warlord in 904. His 12-year-old son was placed on the throne but the boy and the dynasty vanished from history just three years later amid chaos and peasant rebellions. As the weather changed, Tang mandarins had been forced to ship grain from south to north, while extorting ever heavier taxes and religious "offerings" from the suffering peasantry. Meanwhile, courtiers entertained one another lavishly with gifts of porcelain of the utmost refinement, such as the famed Tang horses, which command premium prices at auction houses today.



GLOBAL warming is one of the greatest threats to present day civilisation but work by a team of Scots scientists suggests the ancient Egyptians may have been earlier victims of climate change. The pharaohs ruled their empire for hundreds of years, spreading culture, architecture and the arts before it collapsed into economic ruin. Why that happened is one of the great mysteries of history.

Now a team of scientists from Scotland and Wales believe the answer lies beneath the waters of Lake Tana, high in the Ethiopian Highlands, and the source of the all-important Blue Nile. Samples taken over the past two years from sediments beneath Tana, which supplies the water which makes the lower Nile valley so fertile, reveal the lake may have almost dried up during the critical period around 4,200 years ago due to climate change. According to the team's theory, the flow of water on which the farm-based ancient Egyptian economy thrived would have slowed to a trickle, causing a devastating famine that lasted for 200 years. That would have been enough to destroy the Old Kingdom and its people, leaving only the pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza as their legacy to history.

The research is being carried out by a geological team from St Andrews University and the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Dr Mike Marshall, from the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth, said that when the project began in 2003, the drought was only a theory, but the pieces of the jigsaw are now being unearthed. "We have found evidence of drought events at several levels in the lake's sediments. That correlates with 4,200 years ago. Lake Tana at that time could have been at a very low level. "It wasn't completely dried out, but the lake became less extensive. Parts of the fringes of the lake bed could have been exposed completely and so the water flow may have been much less than normal for long periods. This could have had a severe effect on water flows further down the Nile."

The Old Kingdom flourished between 2575BC and 2150BC and bequeathed the world some of its most iconic stone monuments. But historians have argued over what was to blame for the Kingdom's demise. Theories include invasion from Asia or internal political conflict, but more likely are the consequences of repeated and damaging drops in the level of the Nile over decades. Although written archives from the era record famine resulting from drought, proof of what stopped the annual Nile floods from occurring has been hard to find.

Lake Tana feeds the Blue Nile, which joins the White Nile at Khartoum in Sudan. The Blue Nile provides two-thirds of the water in the Nile proper, which flows through Egypt to the Mediterranean. Annual monsoons in the Ethiopian Highlands have led to the yearly flooding of the Nile, which was so important to ancient civilisations in the area. But although 53 miles long and 41 miles wide, the lake's greatest depth is 50 feet, which scientists believe would make it highly vulnerable to climate change.

Working from fixed and moving barges, the academics, backed up by Ethiopian drillers, have taken core samples from bore holes in the lake bed sediments dating back at least 18,000 years. At that level, 79 ft down from the lake bed, they found strong evidence that Tana had completely dried out, suggesting a dramatic change in the Earth's climate. Seismic surveys carried out by Dr Richard Bates from St Andrews' School of Geography and Geosciences have revealed the sediments are much deeper than previously considered. "What we now know is that the lake dried out 18,000 years ago, which corresponds with the end of the last Ice Age. As we get better at what we are doing we should be able to detect the nuances of what went on in the lake after that time," Bates said.

The team returned to Ethiopia last month to continue their research. Bates said: "The opportunity to establish such a long and detailed record of climate change at the heart of Africa has important implications, not only for trying to understand past, present and future climate change, but as we delve back into the past, it will also have important implications for the study of human development and the migration of early man from the cradle of mankind."



Billions in costs make it more and more unlikely that the EU can continue to go it alone slashing carbon emissions

A political drama is unfolding in Europe over the future of its Kyoto strategy. Its outcome will shape the future of climate policy and international negotiations for years to come. At the heart of the escalating confrontation lies Europe's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and mounting concerns about its prospective failure. The crisis centres on a fundamental conflict between economic realism and environmental idealism, between national interest and green ideology. It has exposed the increasing tension between Europe's green enthusiasm and the realization that its unilateral framework comes at a hefty cost that is beginning to erode the economic stability of a waning continent.

Carbon trading is the EU's principal strategy for meeting its Kyoto target of reducing CO2 emissions by 8% by 2012. The scheme was launched two years ago in the hope that it would achieve what more than 10 years of political commandeering had failed: significant reductions in CO2 emissions. Instead, year after year, most EU countries continue to increase their greenhouse-gas emissions. Rather than proving its effectiveness, the trading system has pushed electricity prices even higher while energy-intensive companies are forced to close down, cut jobs, or pass on the costs to consumers.

As the reality of economic pain is felt all over Europe, deep cracks in its green foundations are beginning to become apparent. Guenter Verheugen, the EU's industry commissioner, has warned that by "going it alone" Europe is burdening its industries and consumers with soaring costs that are undermining Europe's international competitiveness. Instead of improving environmental conditions, Europe's policy threatens to redirect energy-intensive production to parts of the world that reject mandatory carbon cuts.

Verheugen's warning reaffirms what U.S. administrations have been saying for many years. It is aimed at the rapidly evolving challenges posed by Asian competitors such as China and India that are set to overtake Europe's sluggish economy within the next couple of decades. Indeed, Europe's imprudent unilateralism is not only constraining its trade and industry; worse still, it has led to a significant slowdown in European R&D budgets, a sliding trend that is hampering the development of low-carbon technologies.

The ETS's malfunctioning is partly due to an inherent flaw that allowed member states to allocate more emission permits than European industrial plants actually needed. Although Europe's energy utilities receive carbon permits free of charge, they have passed on the market price to industry and private consumers. In consequence, Germany's energy costs rose by almost EU6-billion ($9.2-billion) in 2005, a price tag that is expected to double in the next couple of years. The cunning strategy ensured that power companies reaped billions in windfall profits. And yet without the massive sweetener, Brussels could not have gained the support of industry for this risky scheme.

The dodgy bargain ended in political fiasco: Last year, the trading scheme nearly collapsed as carbon prices crashed. In a desperate attempt to salvage an increasingly volatile system, Brussels has now slashed 7% from the National Allocation Plans recently submitted by EU member states from the second phase (2008-12). The decision has been greeted with irritation and sheer anger in many European capitals as the damaging consequences become apparent. Germany's Economy Minister has called the cuts "totally unacceptable" and Berlin is threatening to challenge the decision in court.

As far as the imminent future is concerned, one thing is patently clear: After years of inflated promises that the Kyoto process would not upset their economy, European governments are beginning to realize that the era of cost-free climate hype is coming to an end. In its place, concern is growing that key industries and entire countries will pay a devastating price for Europe's reckless Kyoto craze.

The stakes are particularly high for Germany. Despite its customary role as environmental cheerleader, it has been hit hardest. Brussels bureaucrats have slashed more than 30 million tonnes from its annual carbon permit. It faces up to ?3.5-billion in fines if it cannot bring down emissions by 2008.

Germany is extremely vulnerable to imposed energy caps. It is strongly opposed to plans for replacing its coal-fired power plants with gas-fired facilities, as such a move would only increase its already precarious dependency on Russian gas imports. Furthermore, successive governments have agreed to shut down all nuclear power plants, which account for a third of Germany's electricity generation. The Greens' anti-nuclear achievement has thus turned ideological triumph into an energy nightmare.

To make matters worse, Germany's industry bosses have warned that they will not proceed with billions in intended energy investments should the government lose the bitter dispute with the European Commission over slashed emission credits. The EU has made clear that it will not yield to German demands, as this would destabilize its fragile trading scheme. However, should German companies be forced to buy carbon credits at higher prices, it will simply remove funds and economic incentives that the government had hoped would be invested in alternative technologies.

As the price for electricity, goods and services continue to rise and Asian competitors catch up with Europe's lethargic economy, the public is beginning to question Brussel's unilateral climate policy. According to a recent EU poll, more than 60% of Europeans are unwilling to sacrifice their standard of living in the name of green causes. As long as advocates of Kyoto got away with claims that their policies would not inflict any significant costs, many people were tempted to believe in improbable promises. Now that the true cost of Kyoto is starting to hurt European pockets, the erstwhile green consensus is unravelling.

Oblivious to its deepening isolation, Europe is trying frantically to salvage the political capital it has invested in the Kyoto process. China and India have consistently ruled out participating in a global emissions trading scheme. It is unlikely that their booming economies and growing consumer demands would cope with energy restrictions on their development. Just the thought of allocating carbon credits for up to two billion potential middle-class consumers makes the mind boggle.

In recent weeks, even U.S. Democrats have cautiously started to lower expectations. They now concede that even under a Democratic administration, the United States is unlikely to join any international climate regime that would exclude Asia's looming superpowers and burden its economy with unilateral obligations.

Political realists have absorbed these sobering developments. There are signs that they are preparing the public for the EU's ultimate exit from Kyoto-type treaties. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Chancellor Angela Merkel's climate advisor during Germany's EU and G8 presidencies, has suggested that G8 countries as well as China and India should adopt their own, national climate goals and policies, a loose road map that could replace the fading Kyoto treaty after it runs out in 2012.

What then are the chances that Europe's flagging climate policy will survive? The prospects are rather bleak. It remains unclear, however, whether the disarray over Kyoto and its rickety emissions-trading scheme will discourage others from getting their own fingers burnt.



All Greenies should be made to commute on British trains before they condemn cars

Tony Ambrose finally lost patience with a rail company's excuses when he was forced to stand in a two-carriage train's only lavatory with two other people on the way to work. Mr Ambrose and other angry passengers have set up a protest group, More Trains Less Strain, and are planning a fares strike over the decision by First Great Western (FGW) to withdraw 20 carriages. The company, which has by far the worst punctuality record in the country, with more than a quarter of trains late, is saving 100,000 pounds per carriage in annual leasing and maintenance costs by sending them into so-called warm storage at Eastleigh in Hampshire.

It has cut trains in half, leaving dozens of stations in Somerset and Wiltshire with services made up of only one or two carriages even though people had been struggling to find seats on the old four-carriage services. FGW has also cancelled more than 700 services in the past four weeks, mainly because of a shortage of trains. Hundreds of passengers at Bath, Trowbridge, Keynsham, Bradford-upon-Avon and Salisbury are being left stranded on platforms, unable to squeeze on to trains that arrive already dangerously overcrowded. A fortnight ago a passenger fell into the gap between the train and platform at Bath Spa station as people surged towards the doors. Several other passengers have fainted on packed trains.

Train guards are frequently demanding that people get off and wait for the train behind, which turns out to be equally overcrowded. Commuters from Maidenhead, Twyford and other stations in the Thames Valley are also enduring severe overcrowding, with many having to abandon their journeys, because FGW has introduced a new timetable that favours more profitable long-distance trains. This week FGW tried to pacify passengers around Bristol by borrowing all the carriages from the St Ives and Looe branch lines in Cornwall. But this has created a separate outcry from Cornish passengers, who have had to travel on buses. The RMT union, which represents train and station staff, has complained that its members are being abused by frustrated passengers.

FGW is one of a growing number of rail companies struggling to reconcile sharp cuts in subsidy from the Government with a record growth in demand. More than 1.1 billion rail journeys were made in Britain last year, the highest number for 50 years. Last year FGW signed a new ten-year franchise deal under which it not only agreed to cease receiving a subsidy but committed itself to paying the Government a premium of 1.1 billion pounds.

More Trains Less Strain is holding a meeting on Tuesday in Bath at which it will announce a campaign of direct action, including a day when passengers will refuse to buy tickets or show passes. Mr Ambrose, a charity worker from Bath, said: "Why should people pay for such appalling treatment? The service has collapsed in recent weeks and it has become a lottery whether you will be able to get on a train. "Even First's staff are on our side - they can see the madness of storing trains in sidings when record numbers of people want to travel by rail." Caroline Copeland, a teacher from Oldfield Park near Bath, said that she had been late for a work three times in a week because the trains had been too crowded when they arrived. "Unless you are standing right beside the door when it stops, you have no chance of squeezing on."

Theresa May, the Shadow Leader of the House and MP for Maidenhead, called for FGW to be stripped of its franchise. "They are making a shambles of the service, with people abandoning trains and going by car and even talking of moving house to avoid the nightmare of rail travel," she said. "It is partly the Government's fault because it specified a reduced service to the bidders for the contract."

FGW said that the shortage of trains was being exacerbated by mechanical problems with the remaining fleet. A spokesman said that the company had agreed the reduction in carriages with the Department for Transport as part of its contract. The department denied that it was to blame and said that it had been up to FGW to decide how many carriages it needed.



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 generally 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

Comments? Email me here. My Home Pages are here or here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


1 comment:

Dan Epp said...

You will always lose in choosing a political side.You can never become more ignorant with sound reasoned challengeable scientific information.For an excellent illumination of some of the science,and much of the nonsense accepted by many as science muddling around the global warming issue please read TAKEN BY STORM by two Canadian scientists ,Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick. Calm voices of reason.