Monday, May 12, 2008

Polar bears OK without our help

Says the Boston Herald:

Thursday is the deadline set by a federal judge in Alaska for the Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether the polar bear is a threatened or endangered species. All the evidence shows the polar bear doesn't need his help. Environmental groups petitioned for such a listing and sued when a decision was not forthcoming by the deadline. They claimed that global warming had already diminished polar ice, would continue to do so and doom the estimated 23,000 or so bears to extinction by perhaps 2050.

If the bears were listed, the service would be obliged to designate "critical habitat." The Endangered Species Act provides that each federal agency would have to `insure that any action authorized, funded or carried out by such agency is not likely to jeopardize any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification (our italics) of (critical) habitat of such species."

The environmentalists, if not the service, could claim that any activity that emitted carbon dioxide, the chief gas causing the supposed warming, could not be authorized, financed or done by a federal agency. The agencies would have to bring the modern world to a crash as no fossil fuels could be burned in power plants, no highways built and so forth throughout the economy.

The plaintiffs' claims are highly dubious. Polar ice is shrinking, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in October that it was caused not by warming but a shift in wind patterns that pushed more ice out of the Arctic. Another report in January said surface warming in the Arctic was caused by unexplained atmospheric heat transfer from the tropics.

Polar bears have been around for 100,000 years, surviving much warmer temperatures before the last ice age. Population estimates are subject to huge and unknowable uncertainties. Native groups say there are more than there were several decades ago. Environmentalists are pursuing another petition to list a seal species as endangered - one eaten by bears, it seems. If there weren't so many bears, there'd be more seals. Canada, on whose territory about two-thirds of the bears live, has refused to classify them as threatened or endangered. The United States should follow suit.


More unscientific polar bear nonsense

A new study has claimed that the research done by the US Department of the Interior to determine if global warming threatens the polar bear population is so flawed that it cannot be used to justify listing the polar bear as an endangered species.

The research came about when on April 30, US District Judge Claudia Wilken ordered the Interior Department to decide by May 15 whether polar bears should be listed under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. But, after professor J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School and colleagues undertook an audit at the request of the state of Alaska , they found the Interior Department report to be flawed.

As part of the subsequent study, the authors examined nine US Geological Survey Administrative Reports. Professor Armstrong and his colleagues concluded that the most relevant study, properly applied only 15% of relevant forecasting principles and that the second study only 10%, while 46% were clearly contravened and 23% were apparently contravened. Further, according to them, the Geologic Survey reports do not adequately substantiate the authors' assumptions about changes to sea ice and polar bears' ability to adapt that are key to the recommendations.

Therefore, the authors write, a key feature of the US Geological Survey reports is not scientifically supported. The consequence, they maintain, is significant: The Interior Department cannot use the series of reports as a sound scientific basis for a decision about listing the polar bear as an endangered species.

According to Armstrong, to list a species that is currently in good health as an endangered species requires valid forecasts that its population would decline to levels that threaten its viability. In fact, the polar bear populations have been increasing rapidly in recent decades due to hunting restrictions. Assuming these restrictions remain, the most appropriate forecast is to assume that the upward trend would continue for a few years, then level off.

"These studies are meant to inform the US Fish and Wildlife Service about listing the polar bear as endangered," said Armstrong. "After careful examination, my co-authors and I were unable to find any references to works providing evidence that the forecasting methods used in the reports had been previously validated. In essence, they give no scientific basis for deciding one way or the other about the polar bear," he added.


Cold slows planting, crop progress in Idaho

Temperatures average 4 degrees below normal in Boise area

Cold temperatures have delayed planting and slowed crop growth across much of Idaho this spring. Temperatures in Boise during April averaged 4 degrees below normal, according to the National Weather Service. This month has gotten off to a cold start too, with low temperatures on May 1 dipping to 27 degrees in the Jerome area, covering sprinkler irrigation lines in ice.

Despite the cold temperatures, reported crop damage has been minor and mostly limited to orchards in Western Idaho. Planting of corn and small grain crops has lagged considerably behind last year's pace, according to a crop progress report released May 4 by National Agricultural Statistics Service's Idaho field office. Statewide, planting of field corn was only 19 percent completed at the end of last week, compared with 39 percent last year, the agency reported. Spring wheat and barley planting also lagged considerably behind last year's pace in some areas of the state....

"Our planting progress has been slower than most years," said Leonard Kerbs, agriculture manager for Amalgamated Sugar Company's Twin Falls district. Delayed beet planting is only partly because of the cold weather. Growers purposely held off planting beets early because they knew there might be a problem getting replacement seed in the event of frost damage, Kerbs said. This year for the first time nearly all of the Idaho sugar beet crop will be in Roundup Ready varieties.


The Cost and Futility of Trading Hot Air

The "Environmental Defence Fund" (EDF) has circulated a "Report " that says the cost of controlling the "pollution that causes `global warming'" is "only pennies a day . almost too small to measure." The conclusions, summarized by EDF, are -

* "We cannot afford to wait. Further delay will greatly increase the costs of making necessary emissions cuts and will risk locking in irreversible climate change." The "Report" says: "The scientific consensus is clear: Global `warming' is real, and it is already happening. While nobody can be certain about the exact timing or location of its consequences, the possible severity of those consequences is becoming increasingly clear. Allowing greenhouse gas emissions to increase unchecked is an invitation to catastrophe. The potential consequences of warming include widespread famine, triggered by extreme drought in the major grain-producing areas of the world; the wholesale disappearance of the world's coral reefs; and sea levels rising by several meters over the course of a few centuries." The "Report" concludes that we must act now to avoid "catastrophic climate change".

* "We can afford an aggressive cap-and-trade policy to tackle `global warming'. The cost to the economy will be minimal -- less than one percent of U.S. gross domestic product in 2030. The "Report" says that the US economy will grow to "$26 trillion by 2030, but, with a cap on the greenhouse gas emissions that cause `global warming', the economy will reach the same level two to seven months later. It adds that job losses would be minimal; the new carbon market would create new jobs; that the manufacturing sector will lose a few jobs; that household consumption will fall by only one percent at worst; that increases in energy costs would be modest; and that overall costs would be small enough to permit expansion of programs to offset the burden for low-income households. The "Report" says that strict limits on `global warming' pollution can harness the power and creativity of capital markets, and that cap-and-trade would work by "turning market failure into market success". It assumes that if fossil-fueled energy were artificially made more expensive other technologies would emerge to replace it.

The "Report" is based not on theoretical demonstration nor on empirical observation but on computer models - an expensive and unreliable form of guesswork. It claims to be the first of its kind, but there have been one or two others like it, such as the now universally-discredited Stern Report , which used the same unscientific rhetoric of "market failure" together with overstatements of the imagined consequences of anthropogenic "global warming" as a substitute for rigorous economic analysis. The conclusions of the "Report" are unsound, and computer models can be - and have been - deployed to demonstrate results diametrically opposite to those which the "Report" advances.

"We cannot afford to wait, or `catastrophic climate change' will occur"

Late in 2006 the "Institute for Public Policy Research", a grandly-titled and extravagantly-funded pressure group in the UK, first proposed that the international Left should from then on declare that the science of "global warming" was settled. This proposal was accepted with alacrity by bodies worldwide such as the "Natural Resources Defense Fund" and the "Environmental Defense Fund". Not a single scientific authority or reference is cited in the "Report" for any of the supposed catastrophes arising from "global warming" that it mentions. However, peer-reviewed papers throughout the scientific journals refute such conclusions:

Catastrophe? What catastrophe?

There is no scientific "consensus" in the peer-reviewed literature to the effect that "global warming" is an actual or potential "catastrophe", still less that "allowing greenhouse-gas emissions to increase unchecked is an invitation to catastrophe". A recently-published peer-reviewed paper (Schulte , 2008) that surveyed 539 papers in the scientific journals containing the words "global climate change" and published between January 2004 and mid-February 2007 found that not a single paper provided any evidence whatsoever that "global warming" might be even potentially "catastrophic". Only one of the 539 papers reviewed even mentioned the possibility of "catastrophe", but without offering any evidence.

"Climate Change Is Real." What reality?

Next, the "Report" says, "`Global warming is real". This point was well and bluntly addressed in the spring of 2006 in a letter from 61 leading scientists in climate and related fields to the Canadian Prime Minister : "`Climate change is real' is a meaningless phrase used repeatedly by activists to convince the public that a climate catastrophe is looming and humanity is the cause. Neither of these fears is justified. Global climate changes all the time due to natural causes and the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish from this natural `noise.'"

Warming? What warming?

The "Report's" assertion that the "possible severity" of the consequences of "global warming" is becoming "increasingly clear" is not and cannot be based on any scientific view. "Global warming" began at the end of the Maunder Minimum in 1700 and continued at a near-uniform rate of 0.5-0.7 degrees C (0.9-1.2 F) per century until 1998, when it paused. There has been no statistically-significant increase in mean global surface temperature since 1998. In the past six and a half years global temperatures have been falling at an impressive rate equivalent to 0.4 degrees C (0.7 F) per decade:

Unpredicted trend: Since late 2001, the trend of global surface temperatures has been downward. "Global warming" paused in 1998; and, though it may resume in future years, the rate of warming is less than that which the models relied upon by the IPCC had projected. Source: Hadley Centre for Forecasting / Climate Research Unit, University of East Anglia.

Carbon dioxide causes some warming: therefore, the upward trend in temperatures over the past 300 years, for which steadily-increasing solar activity was chiefly but not solely responsible, may well resume in future. However, the rate at which foreseeable increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration will cause further warming is by no means "settled science"; and, as the above graph indicates, it is becoming increasingly clear with each passing year that the very high official estimates of climate sensitivity to anthropogenic CO2 enrichment are proving to be exaggerations.

For instance, Lindzen (2008) says that the failure of computer models accurately to predict the behavior of the tropical upper troposphere, a problem identified and quantified in Douglass et al. (2004, 2006, 2007), requires all of the IPCC's estimates of climate sensitivity to be divided by at least three. If Professor Lindzen is right, then there is no "climate crisis": a small, harmless, and beneficial warming rate will continue, and that is all. For a short account of the combined magnitude of this and other errors in the IPCC's official calculations of climate sensitivity, see the Technical Appendix.

Drought? What drought?

The "Report" says widespread famine may be caused by droughts arising from "global warming". However, the Clausius-Clapeyron relation mandates that, as the climate warms, the space occupied by the atmosphere is capable of carrying near-exponentially more water vapor. Therefore, in general, there will be fewer droughts. This effect has already been observed and reported. For instance, the Sahara has shrunk by 300,000 km2 in the past quarter of a century (Nicholson, 1998, 2001).

The shrinking Sahara: Throughout the period of strong "global warming", the Sahara's extent shrank by 300,000 km2. Source: Nicholson (1998, 2001). Nomadic tribes have been able to move back to areas of the Sahara that have not been settled within living memory. This is the very reverse of the pattern of "widespread drought" predicted by the "Report". Indeed, the fact that the carrying-capacity of the atmosphere for water vapor becomes greater as the climate warms has been cited by health authorities such as the World Health Organization and the Department of Health in the United Kingdom as a (false) pretext for statements that warmer and hence wetter weather will increase the world's standing water and will hence encourage the malaria mosquito to breed (though there is no scientific basis for this conclusion either).

Though the pattern of drought and flood has fluctuated in the past and will do so again in the future, there is no sound scientific reason to suppose that warmer weather will mean more droughts. The computerized guesswork of the models relied upon by the UN failed to predict the shrinking of the Sahara, and it provides no basis for concluding that drought will spread. There are fewer droughts in many parts of the world today than there was in the first half of the 20th century, when John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath, in which he graphically described the severe droughts of that era in the Great Plains - droughts that have not occurred in the warmer weather since.

Threat to corals? What threat?

The "Report's" assertion that all the world's coral reefs are imminently threatened by "global warming" is also without scientific foundation . Coral reefs are not threatened by warmer oceans : most of them prefer warmer water. Corals first came into existence by algal symbiosis some 175 million years ago, in the Triassic era, and some say they date back 500 million years. For most of that period, global temperatures are thought to have been 7 degrees Celsius (12.5 F) warmer than the present. The corals not merely survived but throve. To the extent that they are threatened at all, the threat is from pollution, and from dynamiting in aid of fishing.

The coral bleaching that was observed in 1998 was the consequence of the exceptional and sudden El Nino Southern Oscillation of that year, whose intensity had only two precedents in the previous 300 years. Both of the previous intense El Ninos also produced coral bleaching, and the corals readily survived it (Hendy et al., 2004). Going back further, Precht and Aronson (2004) concluded that between 10,000 to 6,000 years ago extratropical North Atlantic sea surface temperatures were 2-3 degrees C (3.5-5.5 F) warmer than at present and coral reefs flourished. They reported that the fossil record clearly demonstrates the ability of corals to expand their ranges poleward in response to global warming and to "reconstitute reef communities in the face of rapid environmental change." They also report that corals are expanding their territories: "There is mounting evidence that coral species are responding to recent patterns of increased SSTs by expanding their latitudinal ranges."

Sea-level rise? What sea-level rise?

Finally, the "Report" mentions the possibility of "sea levels rising by several meters over the course of a few centuries". This is true, but the implication that it arises chiefly from manmade "global warming" is entirely false. In the 10,000 years since the end of the last Ice Age, sea level has risen by 130 meters (400 feet): an average of 1.3 m (4 ft) per century. However, most of the world's land-based ice has long since melted, and nine-tenths of what remains - on the high plateaux of Greenland and Antarctica - is not at risk unless temperatures are sustained at least 2 degrees C (3.5 F) above today's for several millennia (IPCC, 2007). Indeed, in each of the past four interglacial periods neither Greenland nor Antarctica lost their ice sheets. Greenland, but not Antarctica, lost its ice sheet in the interglacial period 850,000 years ago: but temperatures in each of the interglacials of the past million years were at least 5 degrees C (9 F) higher than today's, entirely through natural causes.

There is, therefore, no scientific basis for the oft-repeated suggestion that "global warming" will melt so much ice that sea levels will imminently rise by Al Gore's imagined 20 ft. The IPCC has now reduced its estimate of the maximum sea-level rise to the year 2100 by one-third, from 0.88 m (3ft) to 0.59 m (<2ft), and nearly all of this projected increase, if it arises, will come not from melting ice but from thermosteric expansion - if the oceans continue to warm.

However, recent detailed surveys, such as Lyman et al (2006, revised 2007) show no statistically-significant warming at all. The oceans are 1100 times denser than the surface atmosphere, and they are as deep in some places as the troposphere is high: their thermal inertia, therefore, is immense. Moerner (2004), who has studied sea level throughout his distinguished, 30-year professional career and is recognized as the world's foremost expert, says there is no basis even for the UN's best estimate of a 0.43 m (17 in) rise in sea level to 2100. His own best estimate is that there will be little increase above that which was observed in the 20th century - just 8 inches.

The published literature - all of the papers cited above are peer-reviewed except the documents of the IPCC - demonstrates that there is no scientific basis for any of the alarmist propositions in the cited paragraph of the "Report" to the effect that there is a danger of imminent "catastrophe" arising from man-made "global warming".

There is no long-term danger of catastrophe either: on the evidence of past interglacial records, inferred from temperature proxies derived from ratios of oxygen isotopes in samples of air trapped in Antarctic ice-cores (Petit et al., 1999), the world is already overdue for the next Ice Age, so that after several further millennia, if not sooner, it is global cooling, not "global warming", that will be the primary concern of humankind.

In short, none of the imagined disasters is at all likely to occur before the onset of the next Ice Age, even by natural causes - still less as a result of humankind's activities. "Global warming" is not a global crisis. It requires no economic intervention by national governments, still less by supranational entities. Cap-and-trade is, therefore, unnecessary.

More here

Corn on the Cob, NOT Corn on the Car

So, here is the rub, you think you're saving the planet and, therefore the human race, by proposing that we grow our gasoline in our corn crops instead of using those eeeevil fossil fuel, right? You say let's make ethanol from our corn and all will be in balance? You feel really, really good about yourself - after all "feelings" are what counts, not results.

But, the next thing you know, they are starving in Haiti and rioting over the 40% rise in basic food costs because of you and your neato ethanol idea. Now how do you feel? Are you saving people now?

Well Representatives Jeff Flake (R, Arizona James Sensenbrenner (R, Wisconsin) have introduced HR 5911, the Remove Incentives to Produce Ethanol Act of 2008 (RIPE Act) to curb this foolish over indulgence in ethanol production. Flake laments the unintended consequences that the do-gooders in the envirowacko extreme caused with this absurd emphasis on ethanol production.
"This is a classic case of the law of unintended consequences. Congress surely did not intend to raise food prices by incentivizing ethanol, but that's precisely what's happened. A jump in food prices is the last thing our economy needs right now."

And Sensenbrenner reminds us that all the supposed benefits of ethanol were never really proved out in reality.
"I have always been opposed to reformulated gasoline (RFG) because it doesn't reduce the pollution it was supposed to, and in fact, increases other kinds of pollution," said Sensenbrenner.

"Fuel mixed with ethanol is less efficient, and results in fewer miles per gallon for consumers," Sensenbrenner continued. "Moreover, it's extremely expensive, even in the Midwest, where although corn is abundant, the cost of converting it to ethanol, and the difficulties associated with transporting it, has made it more expensive than traditional gasoline. As a result, we are seeing dramatic price increases in corn, which is hitting families hard considering the prevalence of corn in food production and in animal feed."

"The fact is, the ethanol industry has been subsidized for twenty-seven years and claims to still need the subsidies to survive," Sensenbrenner added. "If an industry cannot survive without government support after twenty-seven years, there are more serious problems in place."

With 25% of our corn crop suddenly going to ethanol production, the cost of foodstuff has seen a big inflation in costs, not just here in the US but all across the world. After all, if corn is to be subsidized by the government, farmers will gravitate to the crop that pays them the most. And since the US really does feed the world, less (corn) is not more (food) in this case.


There's no such thing as a happy Greenie

Imagine a concept for the perfect "green", safe, sustainable, zero-emissions, invisible (literally) energy technology with potential for limitless power. Radical environmentalists will still object!

This is what I learned when I perused the website of Florida Atlantic University's (FAU) Center of Excellence for Ocean Energy Technology, which is pursuing R&D on innovative technology to anchor buoys 500 meters deep in the gulf stream equipped with turbines to harness the slow but powerful, steady, ocean-current for generation of electricity. At the depth proposed, the turbines will be insulated from damaging surface waves and storms; they will also be deeper than almost all marine life, except whales. As a practicing engineer, I personally think that the idea has tremendous potential. My own assessment is that the most difficult problem to overcome will be protection of the moving parts and high-voltage power transmission cables from the notoriously corrosive effects of salt-water. Nonetheless, here are the practical and green attributes of this proposed concept:
Sustainable -- no fuel whatsoever

Zero emissions

Invisible (literally submerged far off-shore) so it overcomes "not in my back yard" ((NIMBY)

Safe - no radiation or spent fuel rods to store for millennia

An environmentalist's dream right? Wrong! Check out the comments from this environmental website in an article that reports on FAU's project, where they compete with each other to devise objections, such as:
- I'm glad they're investigating the impact on sea life. I strongly suspect they'll find this doesn't work out with the creatures who were there first.

- In my humble opinion it looks like that the installation of these underwater turbine will create an ecological disaster! Based on the 3D rendering above it looks like one would have to destroy the ocean floor to build and erect these

- Actually, the Army Corp of Engineers studied this in the 50s and 60s and found that if you slow down the gulf stream, you not only disturb marine life but the entire climate! The gulf stream brings warmer weather all the way to Europe. Sorry guys, this is not our solution for energy

And my favorite:
- If we adopt too many of these systems to supply our electricity, won't we eventually stop the Earth from rotating?

How about the "NIMBY" benefit? Wrong again:
- One final point, when we hide the means of production of energy, we allow ourselves the luxury of ignoring its impact. Since we cannot, as a species, trust ourselves to act in the best interests of the planet upon which we depend, we should be designing systems that are absolutely "in our faces", NOT hidden away. Perhaps, then, we would resort to the ultimate (albeit non-"design") solution: drastically reducing consumption of power, and limiting our own numbers.

Now it may be unfair to judge a website by its commenters -- and in truth there were also many very positive comments, as well as corrections to the inanities in the comments reproduced above -- but I believe that the sheer ignorance revealed about the enormous expanse of the ocean, the miniscule effect that any man-made activity can have on the gulf-stream -- never mind the earth's rotation -- is very indicative of eco-activists in general. They betray their radical urban roots in this regard with little knowledge of the outdoors, the ocean, the atmosphere, the solar system and science in general. Yet they have no fear of pronouncing on and denouncing subjects that are beyond their ken. Rather than seek meaningful solutions, they always resort to "object! object! object!" to whatever is proposed even on the flimsiest of grounds, even if it contradicts their previous objections. Keep this in mind the next time radical environmentalists protest an industrial project in your region.



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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