Saturday, February 23, 2008

Was the recent British airliner crash the result of global cooling?

The plane's engines were OK and it was not short of fuel. But it had just flown through exceptionally cold temperatures right across the Northern hemisphere and part of the fuel may have frozen. Read here and here to decide for yourself. A small excerpt:

Another pilot commented that "the air temp over the UK at the time [of the accident] was some of the coldest I've ever experienced with OAT [outside air temperature] at higher levels down to -70 degrees Celsius."

There is an unconfirmed report that the BA038 pilots did not descend during cruise to lower altitude.

At very low temperatures, wax crystals form in the fuel and "flowability" may be impeded (akin to the way a blood clot or embolus can cause a stroke). The cold fuel approaches a semi rigid state. Jet fuel also contains some amount of water, and at very low temperatures it will freeze. Icing may not have been an immediate issue here, but rather a contributory one, like paraffin waxing, to the clogging of sensor points/connections. This is particularly relevant to the Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), which metered fuel to the airplane's Rolls Royce Trent engines. FADECs use reference air and fuel pressures to perform their function; loss of those due to ice obstruction or clogging from waxing can lead to the FADEC's logic becoming confused or unresponsive. Indeed, both FADECs could be affected almost simultaneously by dint of exposure to an identical environment.

Add in a second factor: Heathrow has adopted a new air traffic control procedure known as the Continuous Descent Approach (CDA). The procedure is more fuel efficient than the traditional step-down approach, and basically the engines are at idle power. During aircraft operation, fuel is withdrawn from the fuel tanks and passed to a filter at the inlet to the engine fuel system. To prevent blocking of the filter due to formation of wax or ice in the fuel, a heat exchanger warms the fuel upstream of the filter. Such heat exchangers use hot air bleed from the engine compressor or heat from engine or hydraulic oil. Of note, the times when the greatest heating is required are often those times when the engine is not operating at maximum, for example, during a lengthy descent at idle from high altitude.

With ultra-cold en route temperatures inducing clumps of paraffin or ice, and a cool engine during descent at flight idle, perhaps the stage was set. Any blockages occurring at different times during the descent, and the simultaneity of the thrust loss, would have been seen only when (and because) the auto-throttle called for a thrust increment on finals after gear and flap extension. There is an account that the aircraft did not hold during the approach, which would tend to support the low-power, low-temperature scenario.

Solar Cycle 24: Implications for the United States

By Geologist David Archibald. Excerpts:

I will demonstrate that the Sun drives climate, and use that demonstrated relationship to predict the Earth's climate to 2030. It is a prediction that differs from most in the public domain. It is a prediction of imminent cooling....

I will show that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is not even a little bit bad. It is wholly beneficial. The more carbon dioxide we can put into the atmosphere, the better the planet will be - for humans, and all other living things....

We have 29 years of satellite temperature data. It shows that the temperature of the Southern Hemisphere has been flat, with a slight increase in the Northern Hemisphere. Note the El Nino peak in 1998. Globally, we have had 10 years of temperature decline since that peak in 1998, with a rate of decline of 0.06 degrees per annum. I am expecting the rate of decline to accelerate to 0.2 degrees per annum from the end of this decade. That satellite record is corroborated by the record of Antarctic and Arctic sea ice extent over the same period. There is no long term trend evident. Most recently, there has been a 1 million square kilometre increase over the long term mean. This is a five per cent increase.....

The peak US temperature was in 1936, at much the same time that Total Solar Irradiance peaked. If you have wondered why US temperatures are still lower than what they were 70 years ago, the fact that Total Solar Irradiance is lower than what it was 70 years ago might provide an explanation.....

The peak of the Medieval Warm Period was 2ø warmer than today and the Little Ice Age 2ø colder at its worst. The total range is 4ø centigrade. The warming over the 20th century was 0.6 degrees by comparison. This recent warming has melted ice on some high passes in the Swiss Alps, uncovering artifacts from the Medieval Warm Period and the prior Roman Warm Period...

2008 is the tenth anniversary of the recent peak on global temperature in 1998. The world has been cooling at 0.06 degrees per annum since then. My prediction is that this rate of cooling will accelerate to 0.2 degrees per annum following the month of solar minimum sometime in 2009. Dr Hansen's statement that the maximum safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 350 ppm begs the question of what the actual ideal level is.

I have taken the 1,000 ppm figure from the level that commercial greenhouse operators prefer to run their greenhouses at. The ability to grow food is going to be the overriding concern next decade. Regarding that 1,000 ppm level, we will never get there. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have been much higher in the geological past. But most of that carbon is now bound up in the Earth's sediments where we can't get to it.

Half of the carbon dioxide we are producing now is being gobbled up by the oceans, in soils and in the Russian tundra. At best, we might get to about 600 ppm. What I have shown in this presentation is that carbon dioxide is largely irrelevant to the Earth's climate.

The carbon dioxide that Mankind will put into the atmosphere over the next few hundred years will offset a couple of millenia of post-Holocene Optimum cooling before we plunge into the next ice age. There are no deleterious consequences of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are wholly beneficial.


Prof. Stott explains his dissent

I am often challenged as follows: "Philip, I know you are critical of the science and politics of `global warming'. But why don't you just play along with it all, because it will be good for energy policy and for the world in general? And, like Pascal's wager, it means you won't lose out either way."

My reply is identical to that reported by James Boswell in his magisterial Life of Johnson (1791) on asking the great man why he wasn't a Papist [just replace the relevant words with `Global Warming', or `Global Warmers']:

"On the Roman Catholick religion he said, `If you join the Papists externally, they will not interrogate you strictly as to your belief in their tenets. No reasoning Papist believes every article of their faith. There is one side on which a good man might be persuaded to embrace it. A good man, of a timorous disposition, in great doubt of his acceptance with God, and pretty credulous, might be glad to be of a church where there are so many helps to get to Heaven. I would be a Papist if I could. I have fear enough; but an obstinate rationality prevents me.'"

Likewise, whenever I hear politicians and activists talking about "stopping climate change", or "saving the planet"; when I see the rich buying indulgences in the form of carbon credits, or carbon offsets; when I hear politicians talking about "zero-carbon houses", when no such thing exists; when I hear scientists declaring that we can manage the most complex, coupled, non-linear, semi-chaotic system known to humans by fiddling at the margins with one factor - and to a degree Celsius; when I see the blatant hypocrisy of newspapers like The Independent and The Guardian, which lecture us all, while selling foreign holidays, page after page; when I hear academics planning to fly to another world conference on climate change; when I watch one more hyped-up report,with shelving ice and doleful polar bears, on the tele; when I see yet another celebrity flying in to yet another world gig to tell us how to live the `Green' life; when I hear claims that wind turbines will save the world; ..... I could go on and on ..... but,

..... an obstinate rationality prevents me from having anything to do with the carbon claptrap of the Global Warming Religion and the trivial pieties of our shallow Age.

And, though I have many faults, I cannot cant. The witch hunters, and the McCarthyists, will thus always find me unrepentant. Above all, we must hold on to our reason, and to our honest understanding of things.

Moreover, I fear that it will be `global warming' hysteria which will ultimately prove to be the witchcraft and the devil of the Age. I refuse to acknowledge its familiar spirits, and I trust, like John Proctor in Arthur Miller's 1953 masterpiece, The Crucible, I shall, to the last, stand firm.


Barefaced Greenie lies about GM crops

Last week, the ideological environmentalist group Friends of the Earth (FOE) launched another attack in its misinformation campaign against biotech crops. FOE's latest salvo is its report "Who Benefits from GM Crops?," issued explicitly to counter the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications' (ISAAA) annual global assessment of biotech crops. FOE claims biotech crops yield less than conventional crops, harm the environment, are technologically stagnant, have done nothing to help poor farmers, and are monopolized by a few giant corporations.

The ISAAA 2007 report on the global status paints a far different picture. The ISAAA notes that farmers around the world continue their rapid adoption of biotech crop varieties. In 2007 the global planting of biotech crops rose to an all time high of 282 million acres, a 12 percent increase over 2006. In addition, the number of farmers choosing to grow biotech crops rose from 10.3 million in 2006 to over 12 million in 2007. The ISAAA report notes that 11 million of the biotech growers are resource poor farmers in developing countries, the majority of whom cultivate insect-resistant cotton. Biotech crops are now planted in 23 countries, and 29 others have approved the import of biotech food and feed.

Let's look at FOE's claims about the alleged faults of biotech crops.

Do biotech crops yield less than conventional crops? FOE is artful in its use of data. Some biotech varieties did initially impose slight yield penalties when compared to conventional varieties. This occurred because breeders improved conventional varieties during the years it took biotech crops to be approved by regulatory agencies. Even so, farmers adopted slightly lower yielding biotech crops because they were cheaper to grow. Biotech crops need fewer pesticide applications and require less plowing. A 2006 study by the British agricutural and food economics consultancy, PG Economics, found no impact from biotech on soy yields while cotton and corn enjoyed higher yields. Even though biotech seeds cost more, overall lower production costs more than make up for the initial expense. The PG Economics report estimates that biotech crops have increased farm incomes by $27 billion since 1996.

Do biotech crops harm the environment? FOE claims that biotech crops use more pesticides than conventional varieties and it identifies crops resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (aka Roundup) as the chief offenders. Farmers kill weeds without harming their biotech crops by spraying with glyphosate. The PG Economics study found that the adoption of biotech crops reduced the use of pesticides since 1996 by 224 million kilograms (493 million pounds), or just about 7 percent.

In addition, herbicide resistant crops enable farmers to switch to no-till farming which dramatically reduces soil erosion. In fact, an August 2007 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that "no-till farming can build soil fertility even with intensive farming methods." However, some regions experienced an increased use of glyphosate as farmers shifted to no-till agriculture. So if glyphosate applications are going up, is it harmful to the environment or human health? Not even the hyper-cautious Pesticide Action Network puts glyphosate on its list of "bad actors." Nor does glyphosate linger in the environment-it is rapidly degraded by soil microbes with a half-life of a week to several months, which is shorter than many of the herbicides that it replaces.

FOE also claims that spraying biotech crops with herbicides is forcing the faster evolution of herbicide resistant superweeds. Just as bacteria eventually evolve to resist antibiotics, so too do weeds evolve to resist herbicides. This process started with the introduction of modern herbicides after World War II, well before the advent of modern biotech varieties. Fortunately, biotechnology is a fine tool for developing new ways to control weeds.

FOE argues that crop biotechnology has stagnated and correctly points out that the vast majority of biotech crop varieties incorporate just two traits: insect resistance and herbicide tolerance. These traits are valuable to farmers though they don't not offer obvious benefits to consumers. If few new biotech crops have yet to make it to the tables of consumers, FOE can take a good bit of the credit. FOE and other ideological environmentalists have campaigned tirelessly to block the development and spread of new beneficial biotech crop traits. FOE does its best to stop biotech in its tracks and then turns around to assert that researchers have developed nothing new.

However, FOE will soon not be able to make that hypocritical claim. Biotech researchers are now incorporating traits for drought resistance, salt tolerance, and one which enables plants to thrive on half a dose of nitrogen fertilizer. Crops with these traits will be particularly valuable for poor farmers in developing countries. Despite FOE's opposition, "Golden Rice," which has been genetically improved to help prevent vitamin A deficiency, which blinds 300,000 to 500,000 poor children each year, should become available by 2011. In addition, researchers are creating crops that provide enhanced nutrition such as tomatoes with increased folate.

Anti-biotech campaigns by activist groups like FOE have succeeded in frightening the governments of many developing countries into banning biotech crops. Nevertheless, biotech crops have been embraced by poor farmers around the world-whenever their governments will let them. The World Banks's World Development Report 2008 (WDR) notes that second-generation biotech crops are now making their way to the market. The WDR reports, "Transgenic rice, eggplant, mustard, cassava, banana, potato, sweet potato, lentil, and lupin have been approved for field testing in one or more countries. Many of those technologies promise substantial benefits to poor producers and consumers."

And finally, FOE complains that biotech seeds are monopolized by a few large companies. Again, FOE activists should look in the mirror to find the culprits behind this industry consolidation. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the number of startup and well-established seed companies that aimed to develop agricultural biotech exploded. But, as we've seen, crop biotech ran into a buzz saw of environmentalist opposition, especially in Europe. Consequently, since biotech seeds are relatively low in value compared to biomedical treatments, small crop biotech companies withered and the industry consolidated into fairly large companies, chiefly Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta and Bayer. St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto dominates the market for biotech seed. Some 60 percent of all biotech improved seeds contain traits developed by Monsanto. FOE is certainly responsible, in part, for Monsanto's exploding profits.

Finally, let's revisit the title of FOE's new report: "Who Benefits from GM Crops?" As the ISAAA report clearly shows, millions of farmers around the world think that they benefit from biotech crops. Since this is so, FOE can only conclude that these farmers are either stupid or deluded or both. If biotech crops did not deliver their promised benefits, farmers around the world would not be adopting them at exponential rates. Not even FOE's most determined efforts to spread anti-biotech misinformation can obscure this plain fact.


Australia's new center-Left government cool on extremist climate report

The Federal Government has tried to play down its chief climate change adviser's call for even deeper cuts to dangerous greenhouse gases. Economist Ross Garnaut, in his interim report on climate change policy released yesterday, said the Government should set a 2020 greenhouse target this year and consider setting a tougher 2050 target. "Australia should be ready to go beyond its stated 60 per cent reduction target by 2050 in an effective global agreement that includes developing nations," Professor Garnaut said. The report said such an approach would mean Australia played a positive role in global talks for a post-Kyoto regime. [Sounds like a very political economist -- which he is. He has been a Labor party adviser for many years]

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said Professor Garnaut's report would be an "important input" to Government policy. "We welcome Professor Garnaut's input . . . of course we will also be looking at other inputs, such as modelling from the Australian Treasury," she said. "We are conscious of the impact on the Australian economy and we will ensure the scheme addresses the impacts on households and also on industry."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has championed the issue of climate change and one of his first acts was to ratify the Kyoto agreement. He also pledged to put an emissions trading scheme in place by 2010. Senator Wong called yesterday's report - the final document is due in September - "early thinking" on the policy response to climate change.

But Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said the Government was trying to minimise the importance of Professor Garnaut because he had followed the science. "Penny Wong has reduced Ross Garnaut to input," Senator Brown said. "There are huge vested interests at play here; the coal industry, the aluminium industry, the forest logging industry and it's up to the Rudd Government to put this country ahead of those vested interests."

Professor Garnaut also cast doubt on the Government's renewable energy target, saying it might not be needed once the emissions trading scheme (ETS) was established. He said it was inevitable there would be extra costs on households but income from selling ETS permits could help ease the burden on low-income earners. "This is a hard reform but get it right and the transition to a low-emissions economy will be manageable . . . get it wrong and this is going to be a painful adjustment," he said. "We're only going to solve this problem if we find a way of keeping economic growth going and prosperity going but breaking the link between economic growth and emissions."

The Garnaut Review was commissioned last year by federal Labor while in opposition, in co-operation with state governments. State premiers, including Queensland's Anna Bligh, yesterday vowed to act quickly on the report's recommendations.

Speaking from Adelaide, where the report was released, Ms Bligh said the report was "very sobering". "There's no doubt it's one of the biggest issues to face Australia and the planet," she said. Leading environmental groups admitted they were surprised by the strength of the report.



For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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