Monday, March 31, 2008

Zebras endangered

This just in from Greenpeace UK media centre: 020 7865 8255 Fax 7865 8200

ALL THREE surviving species of African zebras could lose their stripes in as little as 50-70 years as global warming threatens their habitat and way of life, Greenpeace UK reveals. Zebras, horses and wild asses are all equids: long-lived animals that move quickly for their large size. Their teeth have evolved to crop and grind grass. Zebras have horse-like bodies, similar to stocky ponies. The most noticeable difference between zebras and horses -- for now -- is the zebras' distinctive striped coats, making them one of the most instantly-recognizable of Africa's ruminants, and a particular favourite with children.

The most numerous and widespread species in East Africa is the common or Burchell's zebra. Grevy's zebra, chiefly found in northern Kenya, was named for Jules Grevy, a president of France in the 1880s who received one from Ethiopia as a gift. The mountain zebra, Equus zebra, is, found in southern and southwestern Africa.

The zebra's coat can vary greatly in pattern, number and width of stripes. The stripes' disruptive coloration breaks up the outline of the body. At twilight, when their predators are most active, zebras appear indistinct.

Zebras' shiny coats dissipate over 70% of incoming heat. In one of the strange coincidences of science, the albedo or reflectance of a typical zebra's coat -- at around 31% - is identical to that of the entire planet Earth as seen from space. Sir John Houghton, the first chair of the IPCC's science working group, says albedo is a scientific measure of the percentage of radiant energy incident upon a surface that is reflected off that surface rather than transmitted through it or absorbed and emitted by it.

But this uncanny coincidence will not last long. As the Earth warms and polar or glacial ice melts, the planetary albedo is set to fall, causing a temperature feedback that will amplify global warming. Zebras, however, according to Dr. Ieuan ap Rhyl of the African Union's new International Zoological Survey Division, are responding to increasingly warmer ambient temperatures by a progressive reduction in the breadth of the black stripes on their coats. In each new generation, the mean thickness of each stripe is reduced by up to 6%, so that more of the zebra's coat will be able to reflect the sun's rays, helping to keep the zebra cool. In 50-70 years, says Dr. Ap Rhyl, the zebras' coats will appear very similar to grey horses' coats. The stripes will be gone.

Al Gore spoke up for the zebras on CBS 60 Minutes yesterday: "This is another wake-up call for the planet. How much more hard evidence do our leaders need before they act to protect the Earth's most precious creatures from the selfishness and greed of humankind? Political will, unlike zebra stripes, is a renewable resource."

Greenpeace stands for positive change through action. We defend the natural world and promote peace. We investigate, expose and confront environmental abuse by governments and corporations throughout the world. We champion environmentally responsible and socially just solutions, including scientific innovation. Our goal is to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity. We have been working with the Zoological Survey of the African Union on this and other projects to save the continent's threatened wildlife.

Yes. It's a spoof -- from the inimitable Christopher Monckton. It came out a couple of days ago and fooled even some knowledgeable people -- showing how hard it is to send up people as absurd as the Warmists are. They have made so many outlandish claims in the past that it is hard to think of something more absurd that what they have already said. See below for another instance of wild-eyed panic

Another heroic effort to save the world

More fighting in Iraq. Somalia in chaos. People in this country can't afford their mortgages and in some places now they can't even afford rice. None of this nor the rest of the grimness on the front page today will matter a bit, though, if two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii turn out to be right. They think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth - and maybe the universe.

Scientists say that is very unlikely - though they have done some checking just to make sure. The world's physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.

But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a "strangelet" that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called "strange matter." Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. Although it sounds bizarre, the case touches on a serious issue that has bothered scholars and scientists in recent years - namely how to estimate the risk of new groundbreaking experiments and who gets to decide whether or not to go ahead.

The lawsuit, filed March 21 in Federal District Court, in Honolulu, seeks a temporary restraining order prohibiting CERN from proceeding with the accelerator until it has produced a safety report and an environmental assessment. It names the federal Department of Energy, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the National Science Foundation and CERN as defendants. According to a spokesman for the Justice Department, which is representing the Department of Energy, a scheduling meeting has been set for June 16.

Why should CERN, an organization of European nations based in Switzerland, even show up in a Hawaiian courtroom? In an interview, Mr. Wagner said, "I don't know if they're going to show up." CERN would have to voluntarily submit to the court's jurisdiction, he said, adding that he and Mr. Sancho could have sued in France or Switzerland, but to save expenses they had added CERN to the docket here. He claimed that a restraining order on Fermilab and the Energy Department, which helps to supply and maintain the accelerator's massive superconducting magnets, would shut down the project anyway.

James Gillies, head of communications at CERN, said the laboratory as of yet had no comment on the suit. "It's hard to see how a district court in Hawaii has jurisdiction over an intergovernmental organization in Europe," Mr. Gillies said. "There is nothing new to suggest that the L.H.C. is unsafe," he said, adding that its safety had been confirmed by two reports, with a third on the way, and would be the subject of a discussion during an open house at the lab on April 6. "Scientifically, we're not hiding away," he said.

But Mr. Wagner is not mollified. "They've got a lot of propaganda saying it's safe," he said in an interview, "but basically it's propaganda." In an e-mail message, Mr. Wagner called the CERN safety review "fundamentally flawed" and said it had been initiated too late. The review process violates the European Commission's standards for adhering to the "Precautionary Principle," he wrote, "and has not been done by `arms length' scientists."

Physicists in and out of CERN say a variety of studies, including an official CERN report in 2003, have concluded there is no problem. But just to be sure, last year the anonymous Safety Assessment Group was set up to do the review again. "The possibility that a black hole eats up the Earth is too serious a threat to leave it as a matter of argument among crackpots," said Michelangelo Mangano, a CERN theorist who said he was part of the group. The others prefer to remain anonymous, Mr. Mangano said, for various reasons. Their report was due in January.

This is not the first time around for Mr. Wagner. He filed similar suits in 1999 and 2000 to prevent the Brookhaven National Laboratory from operating the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. That suit was dismissed in 2001. The collider, which smashes together gold ions in the hopes of creating what is called a "quark-gluon plasma," has been operating without incident since 2000.



Now for some real science: A recent paper showing that clouds and the sun have important climate effects and that disentangling the various sources of warming is problematic. From Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 9, 09636, 2007

Solar- and greenhouse radiative forcings and the rapid temperature rise in Europe during the last two decades

By R. Philipona et al.


During the last two decades, surface temperature rise over mainland Europe is twice as large than over the northern hemisphere, and considerably larger than expected from anthropogenic greenhouse warming. Solar radiative forcing, also termed solar brightening, and water vapor feedback, apparently added to the temperature rise. Recent aerosol optical depth (AOD) analyses from six measurement sites from the North Sea to the central Alps show aerosols decreasing by about 60 percent from 1986 to 2000, followed by reduced decline and a present stabilization of AOD. Concurrent, solar radiation measured under cloud-free skies and averaged over 30 Swiss radiation stations, shows significant increase of 1.3 ~0.7 Wm-2dec-1 between 1981 and 2005, which reduces to 0.6 ~1.0 Wm-2dec-1 after 1995. Also, from 1995 to 2005 measurements show high correlation between cloud-free longwave downward radiation and increasing temperature and absolute humidity, demonstrating greenhouse forcing with strong water vapor feedback. The strong AOD decline and consequent solar brightening apparently led to the steep temperature rise at the end of the century, whereas, the observed aerosol stabilization after 2000, which ends solar brightening, suggests reduced temperature rise in the new century that is just due to greenhouse warming.

Atmospheric chemical explosions celebrate opening of Earth Hour?

The enemies of carbon show their typical confusion of mind. They celebrate the opening of Earth Hour by exploding carbon-based ordnance in the atmosphere -- no doubt giving off lots of that condemned CO2 in the process!

From the Sydney Opera House to Rome's Colosseum to the Sears Tower's famous antennas in Chicago, floodlit icons of civilization went dark Saturday for Earth Hour, a worldwide campaign to highlight the threat of climate change.

The environmental group WWF urged governments, businesses and households to turn back to candle power for at least 60 minutes starting at 8 p.m. wherever they were.

The campaign began last year in Australia, and traveled this year from the South Pacific to Europe to North America in cadence with the setting of the sun.

"What's amazing is that it's transcending political boundaries and happening in places like China, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea," said Andy Ridley, executive director of Earth Hour. "It really seems to have resonated with anybody and everybody."

Earth Hour officials hoped 100 million people would turn off their nonessential lights and electronic goods for the hour. Electricity plants produce greenhouse gases that fuel climate change.


It is Gore who is the denier of science

Al Gore says that those of us who are skeptical that man is warming the planet have a flat-Earth mind-set. But if Gore would open his mind, he'd learn that more than likely the opposite is true.

In Sunday's appearance on CBS' "60 Minutes," Gore tells reporter Lesley Stahl that the skeptics of man-made global warming are "almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the world is flat.""That demeans them a little bit," he says, "but it's not that far off."

In addition to being gratingly sanctimonious, Gore is wrong. A study conducted by Texas A&M professors found that the more Americans know about global warming, the more likely they are to dismiss it."More informed respondents both feel less personally responsible for global warming, and also show less concern for global warming," the researchers write in "Personal Efficacy, the Information Environment, and Attitudes toward Global Warming and Climate Change in the USA," an article published in the peer-reviewed journal Risk Analysis.

The authors of the study and the accompanying article believe that Americans' strong confidence in scientists has made them less concerned about global warming. It seems the public believes science can solve any problems that might arise. Just as plausible, though, is the probability that when Americans learn about the facts, they understand that the anthropogenic global warming theory is filled with holes. That would explain why the "more informed respondents . . . feel less personally responsible for global warming."

The study was no put-up job by oil interests. It was conducted by Paul M. Kellstedt, a Texas A&M associate professor of political science, who said the findings that were "just the opposite" of what they were expected out to be. Co-authors were Arnold Vedlitz, the Bob Bullock chair in government and public policy at A&M's George Bush School of Government and Public Service, and Sammy Zahran, now an assistant professor of sociology at Colorado State University.

That sociologists tend to back candidates from the Democratic Party, such as Gore, is no secret. But the Nobel Prize/Oscar winner isn't running this time. He has, however, been nominated by columnist Joe Klein, who wrote in Time magazine last week that Gore would be "the answer to the Democratic Party's dilemma" that has been created by the Clinton-Obama brawl.

To Klein's suggestion we say: Run, Al, run. His candidacy would let us get this global warming issue aired out so we can finally be done with it. Maybe then the country will think back to this weekend's asinine Earth Hour, when we were all expected to turn off our lights, and realize it was a metaphor for the darkness that global warming alarmists have been operating under.



Canadians and the citizens of other Western industrialized countries are growing increasingly worried about the losses of high-paying manufacturing jobs to low-wage developing countries, particularly China and India. Yet, as these jobs go up in smoke in the West, the jobs replacing them in Asia are themselves creating a lot of real smoke with all its attendant pollutants and carbon emissions.

As CIBC economist Jeff Rubin put it this week: "It becomes absurdly quixotic to ban coal plants in North America while at the same time China's got 570 coal plants slated to go into production between now and 2012, 30 plants between now and the Olympics."

With the growing realization in the West that the economy and the environment are but two sides of the same coin, a consensus is emerging that the only sure way to halt climate change is to put a realistic price on carbon that captures the environmental damage it is doing. This view, however, is being fiercely resisted on the other side of the planet, where carbon emissions are surpassing those of the West.

But putting a carbon price on goods produced in the West, through either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, will raise the price of those goods and thus lead to the export of even more jobs to countries that refuse to impose a price on the carbon that goes into the goods they produce. The net effect would be an economic loss in the West without any gain on the global climate change front.

When the link between trade and climate change are viewed from that perspective, the solutions become obvious. If developing countries are not willing to incorporate the price of carbon into the prices of the goods they produce, the industrialized world will have no choice but to impose a carbon tariff on imports from those countries.

By levelling the playing field in that way, the West would not only give these other countries a real incentive to start cutting their own carbon emissions, but it could also win back some of the jobs in industries where the reduction or elimination of carbon content more than offsets the developing world's low-wage advantage.

The time has come to recognize that globalization doesn't simply mean mutual dependence in trade and investment; it has to be reinterpreted to mean interdependence on a far broader scale.



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