Thursday, July 17, 2008

Climate-related decrease in the snappability of snapping turtles in the United States

By Tom H. Brikowski and Alfred Gore

Author Affiliations:

Geosciences Department, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX 75080-3021; and

Department of Erectile Dysfunction, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, TX 75390


An unanticipated result of global warming is the likely decrease of snappability in snapping turtles in a northward expansion of the present-day southeastern U.S. snapping turtle "belt." The fraction of the U.S. population of snapping turtles living in high-risk zones for snapper losses will grow from 40% in 2000 to 56% by 2050, and to 70% by 2095. Predictions based on a climate model of intermediate severity warming (SRESa1b) indicate a climate-related increase of 1.6-2.2 million lifetime cases of snapper defect by 2050, representing up to a 30% increase in some climate divisions. Nationwide, the cost increase associated with this rise in desnappability would be $0.9-1.3 billion annually (year-2000 dollars), representing a 25% increase over current expenditures. The impact of these changes will be geographically concentrated, depending on the precise relationship between temperature and snapping risk. Snapping-loss risk may abruptly increase at a threshold temperature (nonlinear model) or increase steadily with temperature change (linear model) or some combination thereof. The linear model predicts increases by 2050 that are concentrated in California, Texas, Florida, and the Eastern Seaboard; the nonlinear model predicts concentration in a geographic band stretching from Kansas to Kentucky and Bangladesh, immediately south of the threshold isotherm.

Jim Peden borrowed the model of the kidney-stone man to produce the skit above. He comments:

It seems Brikowski down in Texas has a "model" into which he can plug just about anything and get yet another hysterical global warming prediction. I'm now trying to predict what his next "scientific paper" will cover - the above was the result of borrowing his model and simply changing the inputs. It's his model, so I have to give him the credit, of course. I assume Al Gore was a co-researcher. I find his recent papers to be consistent with the previously discussed relationship between lower I.Q.s in the southern states as compared to northern states. You might like to try your hand with a variety of subjects, such as tooth decay in Alligators or toe fungus in Water Moccasins. This is a clear solution to the "publish or perish" challenge... with a model like this, you can complete a half dozen research projects before lunch every day.


Three current articles below:

"Into the Deep Green Yonder"

A response to the Rudd government's Green Paper on Climate Change by Viv Forbes, Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition:

The Government Green Paper completely ignores the main question - should Canberra try to control the weather, or is it better to foster a strong Australia able to cope with whatever climate change brings us? The Government also justifies the need for action on completely worthless long term forecasts of Australia's weather.

Not even the IPCC claims an ability to forecast the weather beyond a few days, but the CSIRO has sullied its reputation by pretending they can project temperature and rainfall 30 years into the future. Why have they not revealed the calculations for these predictions? In the corporate world, anyone making such wild unsubstantiated claims would be quickly disciplined by the regulators. Public figures who repeat and embellish these scaremongering prophecies lack common sense and should also be called to account. The only credible weather forecast for such a long period is "It will Fluctuate".

Minister Wong obviously believes that if we give her enough powers to tax and regulate, she can change the world's weather. This belief is as silly as the CSIRO weather forecasts out to 2040. Man has never been able to control the weather and there is no credible evidence that his activities have caused unusual weather. In fact, despite all the hot air about carbon emissions, the world has not warmed since 1998 and has been cooling for the last 6 years. Moreover, we have had extreme droughts, floods, ice ages and global warming long before man started using coal and oil.

Minister Wong should make sure Australia has the industrial ability and economic strength to cope with any adverse weather that occurs, be it floods, fires, droughts, snow, heat, cyclones or tsunamis. Poor people cannot cope with Climate Change and the Rudd/Garnaut/Wong carbon taxes will make every Australian poorer.

This Deep Green Paper should be recycled and replaced by an enlightened White Paper outlining how to make Australia strong and prosperous. This will provide the best insurance for our children against any climate change.


Global warming not such a moral dilemma after all, it seems

One Wong doesn't make it right

HERE'S a question: what happened to the great moral dilemma of our time?

Scientists have been imploring us to take immediate action to mitigate the effects of climate change caused by human behaviour. Economists such as Ross Garnaut say the same. So does the Prime Minister. He has said any number of times that this is the great moral issue of our time. If that's right, then surely we have to change our behaviour, emit less carbon, and save the planet from global warming. Simple, really. Now, it turns out that when an emissions trading system is introduced, petrol excise will be cut on a cent for cent basis to spare drivers the indignity of higher petrol prices. In other words, we can keep driving our cars, pumping the carbon into the atmosphere that is warming the planet.

Surely a politician who genuinely believes that climate change is the great moral issue will have the honesty to say: we are so committed to the science of climate change that you, the people of Australia, including the working families, must change your driving habits and wear the costs of mitigating climate change? But no. Not yet. Political expediency trumps all.

The problem with collecting buckets of dollars from an emissions trading system and showering that cash over consumers and businesses (to spare consumers higher costs) is that it kind of defeats the purpose of an ETS. An ETS is meant to alter behaviour through price signals. There is every indication that the ETS proposed by the Rudd Government will blunt the signals to the point where we don't change our behaviour.

It's easy enough changing a carbon emitting light globe to a friendlier version. No one needs a price signal to do that. Just a clean, green conscience. But changing behaviour? Steady on. That's a different thing, it seems. Yet, if we are serious about climate change, isn't it about time the Rudd Government came clean on the need for people to bear the real cost burden so that they do start to alter their carbon emitting actions?

Of course, the reason you won't hear a politician tell us that we need higher fuel prices to convince us to drive less, or drive smarter cars, is that climate change is not the big moral dilemma of our generation. It's more like the great political dilemma as the Rudd Government tries to look serious about climate change without hurting voters too much before the next election. That was pretty obvious when the Government leaked some details before the official release of the Green Paper so that the first thing people would read in newspapers across the nation was the plan to cut petrol excise tax.

It's all in the timing, you'll notice. Even more importantly, a deliberately feeble version of an ETS will be up and running by 2010. July 2010, in reality. And even that start date is now carefully framed as an "aspiration". With many predicting that the Rudd Government will go to an early election - some are predicting as early as late 2009 - consumers won't feel the heat of an ETS until well into the next election. If carbon is priced at a nice low price - say $10 a tonne - consumers won't notice much at all. Come then next election, they will be lulled into thinking this ETS thing is not such a big deal. And Climate Change Minister Penny Wong is saying there is no unlimited promise on cutting fuel excise - but heck, the petrol cut will extend to 2013. Is that yet another election before an ETS is given any real teeth to change our behaviour?

If so, then Wong and Rudd will have exposed the con of their great moral dilemma. Explaining their hypocrisy to voters is their real moral dilemma.


Eco-protest is powered by hypocrisy

Comment on a recent Greenpeace stunt at Swanbank power station in the State of Queensland, Australia

GREEN is the new black. If you're not totally environmentally cuddly by now, you may as well check your re-usable grocery bags at the door. You know the ones we're talking about: those thick plastic bags that allegedly replace the thin plastic bags, which is why every second bugger at the checkout queue has a box of plastic bin-liners secreted in the trolley among the dunny paper, cat food and instant noodles.

The sky is, after all, falling. We're running out of oil. But how did the Greenpeace "go solar" protesters get out to Swanbank? Did all 15 catch the train (which in Queensland runs on electricity generated by burning coal from places like Swanbank)? Maybe they drove in a car-share arrangement, consuming numerous litres of highly processed fossil fuel in the process. Or maybe the proverbial pushbikes the three Sydney protesters rode up on were taken for a canter.

If that were the case, then what a shame that those bikes are probably made of metal extracted from Australian iron-ore mines, plastics sourced from Bass Strait oil, and manufactured using coal-fired electrical power.

Another question for the go solar protesters: How many photo-voltaic cells (produced, by the way, in factories using coal-fired power and petrochemicals) do you have on the roofs of your homes? Or is that all a bit expensive?

Maybe that's a bit unfair. But given your passion to go solar perhaps you wouldn't even have electricity hooked up, just in case some fossil fuels might have suffered in the course of its production. After all, candles are perfectly good illumination in the lounge room while you sit on the treadle to power the dynamo that powers the television (produced with yet more dirty power and petrochemicals) so you can watch yourselves on the 6pm news.

And where do these galahs who were scaling the chimneys last week think the steel and hi-tech apparatus for their climbing equipment came from? It didn't grow on avocado trees. And, of course, being true believers in the cause, none of them would use computers (that requires electrical power and the bastards are made with nasty stuff like plastic) or mobile phones, would they? Mobile phones (more petrochemicals and metals and requiring transmission towers) are the devil's own tool.

Don't fear climate change, don't fear pollution, just retain a healthy cynicism when it comes to the crusaders. Hypocrisy and self-righteousness are the enemy.


Malthus, the false prophet

AMID an astonishing surge in food prices, which has sparked riots and unrest in many countries and is making even the relatively affluent citizens of America and Europe feel the pinch, faith in the ability of global markets to fill nearly 7 billion bellies is dwindling. Given the fear that a new era of chronic shortages may have begun, it is perhaps understandable that the name of Thomas Malthus is in the air. Yet if his views were indeed now correct, that would defy the experience of the past two centuries.

Malthus first set out his ideas in 1798 in "An Essay on the Principle of Population". This expounded a tragic twin trajectory for the growth of human populations and the increase of food supply. Whereas the natural tendency was for populations to grow without end, food supply would run up against the limit of finite land. As a result, the "positive checks" of higher mortality caused by famine, disease and war were necessary to bring the number of people back in line with the capacity to feed them.

In a second edition published in 1803, Malthus softened his original harsh message by introducing the idea of moral restraint. Such a "preventive check", operating through the birth rather than the death rate, could provide a way to counter the otherwise inexorable logic of too many mouths chasing too little food. If couples married late and had fewer children, population growth could be sufficiently arrested for agriculture to cope.

It was the misfortune of Malthus-but the good luck of generations born after him-that he wrote at an historical turning point. His ideas, especially his later ones, were arguably an accurate description of pre-industrial societies, which teetered on a precarious balance between empty and full stomachs. But the industrial revolution, which had already begun in Britain, was transforming the long-term outlook for economic growth. Economies were starting to expand faster than their populations, bringing about a sustained improvement in living standards.

Far from food running out, as Malthus had feared, it became abundant as trade expanded and low-cost agricultural producers like Argentina and Australia joined the world economy. Reforms based on sound political economy played a vital role, too. In particular, the abolition of the Corn Laws in 1846 paved the way for British workers to gain from cheap food imports.

Malthus got his demographic as well as his economic predictions wrong. His assumption that populations would carry on growing in times of plenty turned out to be false. Starting in Europe, one country after another underwent a "demographic transformation" as economic development brought greater prosperity. Both birth and death rates dropped and population growth eventually started to slow.

The Malthusian heresy re-emerged in the early 1970s, the last time food prices shot up. Then, at least, there appeared to be some cause for demographic alarm. Global-population growth had picked up sharply after the second world war because it took time for high birth rates in developing countries to follow down the plunge in infant-mortality rates brought about by modern medicine. But once again the worries about overpopulation proved mistaken as the "green revolution" and further advances in agricultural efficiency boosted food supply.

If the world's population growth was a false concern four decades ago, when it peaked at 2% a year, it is even less so now that it has slowed to 1.2%. But even though crude demography is not to blame, changing lifestyles arising from rapid economic growth especially in Asia are a new worry. As the Chinese have become more affluent, they have started to consume more meat, raising the underlying demand for basic food since cattle need more grain to feed than humans. Neo-Malthusians question whether the world can provide 6.7 billion people (rising to 9.2 billion by 2050) with a Western-style diet.

Once again the gloom is overdone. There may no longer be virgin lands to be settled and cultivated, as in the 19th century, but there is no reason to believe that agricultural productivity has hit a buffer. Indeed, one of the main barriers to another "green revolution" is unwarranted popular worries about genetically modified foods, which is holding back farm output not just in Europe, but in the developing countries that could use them to boost their exports.

Political folly increases in a geometrical ratio

As so often, governments are making matters worse. Food-export bans are proliferating. Although these may produce temporary relief for any one country, the more they spread the tighter global markets become. Another wrongheaded policy has been America's subsidy to domestic ethanol production in a bid to reduce dependence on imported oil. This misconceived attempt to grow more fuel rather than to curb demand is expected to gobble up a third of this year's maize (corn) crop.

Although neo-Malthusianism naturally has much to say about food scarcity, the doctrine emerges more generally as the idea of absolute limits on resources and energy, such as the notion of "peak oil". Following the earlier scares of the 1970s, oil companies defied the pessimists by finding extra fields, not least since higher prices had spurred new exploration. But even if oil wells were to run dry, economies can still adapt by finding and exploiting other energy sources.

A new form of Malthusian limit has more recently emerged through the need to constrain greenhouse-gas emissions in order to tackle global warming. But this too can be overcome by shifting to a low-carbon economy. As with agriculture, the main difficulty in making the necessary adjustment comes from poor policies, such as governments' reluctance to impose a carbon tax. There may be curbs on traditional forms of growth, but there is no limit to human ingenuity. That is why Malthus remains as wrong today as he was two centuries ago.



The European Union's plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions doesn't sufficiently take business needs into account, said Germany's finance ministry. At a meeting of government and industry officials on Tuesday, July 15, Germany's Deputy Finance Minister Jochen Homann and all other speakers said that the EU plan was not business-friendly. "The conclusion of the conference is that there is only limited scope for reducing "emissions" in the industrial sector and the EU climate package needs improvement in key areas," said the ministry in a statement.

The ministry was particularly critical of the EU's goal to cut the quota of emissions trading permits by 21 percent, compared to 2005 levels, saying this would cost Germany both jobs and growth. As a major burner of fossil-fuels, which cause unwanted CO2 emissions, Germany would be especially hard hit by the plan, added the ministry.

The statement also pointed out that an emissions trading program would result in a price hike for products that are useful in reaching climate goals, such as insulation glass and insulating construction materials. "Due to exploding oil and gas prices, further measures to achieve climate goals should be considered only with great caution," read the statement. "Rising energy prices are already a strong incentive to investment in renewable energies, energy savings and energy efficiency." Germany's industry has already contributed extensively to reducing greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, despite economic growth, but has little leeway to do more, it added.

Earlier this month, the EU proposed a legally-binding bloc-wide initiative to slash energy consumption by 20 percent by the year 2020. EU environment ministers have suggested the use of biofuels as a way to cut carbon emissions by 35 percent in the short-term and by 50 percent by the year 2015. EU legislators this month also approved an emissions trading plan for the aviation industry, which airlines say will drive up the price of flights.

But as long a key polluters like the United States, China and India don't implement similar strategies to reduce emissions, the EU's efforts won't have a significant impact on global climate change, concluded the finance ministry.



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What? What's this I read? The Age has a new editor who doesn't believe in global warming gospel? Really? Wow, now I'm impressed!!

Must have been some lightning bolt that hit the AGe offices!!