Monday, August 18, 2008

Prominent climate alarmist concedes (ungraciously) defeat to climate realist in rare debate

A debate between the Right Honourable The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley and Richard Littlemore of alarmist blog Being intellectually outgunned by a senior member (A Viscount ranks above a Baron and below an Earl) of the hereditary British aristocracy must REALLY hurt. Note: DeSmogBlog's Littlemore is just the latest alarmist to get demolished like a tomato in a real debate. See U.S. Senate Report: Scientific Smackdown: Skeptics Voted The Clear Winners Against Global Warming Believers in Heated NYC Debate --March 16, 2007

See this website to listen to the August 17, 2008 full audio of debate of Monckton vs. Littlemore and read the comments confirming yet another stunning victory for those skeptical of a man-made claims catastrophe: Excerpt:
"I'd have to say that Monckton 'won' the debate. He came across as more prepared and had answers at his fingertips, whereas Richard appeared to verbally stumble on occasion."

In addition, this website sympathetic to Littlemore was brutal in it's view of the smackdown that Littlemore got from Monckton. Excerpt:
"I got the impression that Littlemore was engaging in the debate totally unprepared."

No wonder Al Gore has refused all challenges to debate global warming!

Excerpt from Littlemore's concession speech:
"In hindsight, I played perfectly into the hands of Monckton and his happy radio host, Roy Green, who share the same goal - not to win an argument about global warming science, but merely to show that there still IS an argument. Of course there's not. But while we danced angels around the head of a pin, I can imagine Green's listeners thinking, "Oh my. This is very confusing. No wonder the government says it's too early to take action." Score one for Monckton....

It was also a tactical error to start pointing people to helpful websites with clear graphs and reliable science that could support my position. It left open the possibility for Monckton to say, "I could produce 35 graphs" to the contrary - which fiction then drifted to the listeners as if it were, well, accurate in the real world.

Thanks (and my apologies) to those of you who volunteered some much-preferable debating strategies. Maybe next time.


Coral Calcification and Photosynthesis in a CO2-Enriched World of the Future

Many are the people who have predicted that rates of coral calcification, as well as the photosynthetic rates of their symbiotic algae, will dramatically decline in response to what they typically refer to as an acidification of the world's oceans, as the atmosphere's CO2 concentration continues to rise in the years, decades and centuries to come (see Calcification (Corals) in our Subject Index). As ever more pertinent evidence accumulates, however, the true story appears to be just the opposite of what these climate alarmists continue to tell us.

A case in point is the recent study of Herfort et al. (2008), who note that an increase in atmospheric CO2 will cause an increase in the abundance of HCO3- (bicarbonate) ions and dissolved CO2, and who report that several studies on marine plants have observed "increased photosynthesis with higher than ambient DIC [dissolved inorganic carbon] concentrations," citing the works of Gao et al. (1993), Weis (1993), Beer and Rehnberg (1997), Marubini and Thake (1998), Mercado et al. (2001, 2003), Herfort et al. (2002) and Zou et al. (2003).

To further explore this subject, and to see what it might imply for coral calcification, the three researchers employed a wide range of bicarbonate concentrations "to monitor the kinetics of bicarbonate use in both photosynthesis and calcification in two reef-building corals, Porites porites and Acropora sp." This work revealed that additions of HCO3- to synthetic seawater continued to increase the calcification rate of Porites porites until the bicarbonate concentration exceeded three times that of seawater, while photosynthetic rates of the coral's symbiotic algae were stimulated by HCO3- addition until they became saturated at twice the normal HCO3- concentration of seawater.

Similar experiments conducted on Indo-Pacific Acropora sp. showed that calcification and photosynthetic rates in these corals were enhanced to an even greater extent, with calcification continuing to increase above a quadrupling of the HCO3- concentration and photosynthesis saturating at triple the concentration of seawater. In addition, they monitored calcification rates of the Acropora sp. in the dark, and, in their words, "although these were lower than in the light for a given HCO3- concentration, they still increased dramatically with HCO3- addition, showing that calcification in this coral is light stimulated but not light dependent."

In discussing the significance of their findings, Herfort et al. suggest, as we have long contended (Idso et al., 2000), that "hermatypic corals incubated in the light achieve high rates of calcification by the synergistic action of photosynthesis [our italics]," which, as they have shown, is enhanced by elevated concentrations of HCO3- ions that come courtesy of the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content.

As for the real-world implications of their work, the three researchers note that over the next century the predicted increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration "will result in about a 15% increase in oceanic HCO3-," and they say that this development "could stimulate photosynthesis and calcification in a wide variety of hermatypic corals." This well-supported conclusion stands in stark contrast to the outworn contention of the world's climate alarmists that continued increases in the air's CO2 content will, as restated by Herfort et al., "cause a reduction in coral growth and planktonic calcification." This claim, as they and many others have now demonstrated, is about as far from the truth as it could possibly be.


Note: My favourite Pilsener, Lubos Motl, also has a good demolition of the "ocean acidification" scare.

Prince Charles wrong on GM, says British government minister

A senior minister has accused Prince Charles of "ignoring" the needs of starving people in the developing world by attacking genetically modified crops. Phil Woolas, the environment minister, said it was "easy for those with plentiful food" to ignore Third World hunger. He told The Sunday Telegraph that the Government would press ahead with GM crop trials and look at moving to a more "liberal" regime in Britain, unless scientific evidence showed that the crops had done harm.

The defiant stance came days after the Prince called GM a "gigantic experiment with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong". The Prince told The Daily Telegraph last week that future reliance on corporations to mass-produce food would drive millions of farmers off their land.

Ministers were privately furious about the attack, which they believe risks becoming a constitutional crisis. One Labour source said the Prince had "overstepped the mark". Mr Woolas said: "I'm grateful to Prince Charles for raising the issue. He raises some very important doubts that are held by many people. But government ministers have a responsibility to base policy on science and I do strongly believe that we have a moral responsibility to the developing world to ask the question: can GM crops help? "It's easy for those of us with plentiful food supplies to ignore the issue, but we have a responsibility to use science to help the less well off where we can. I'm asking to see the evidence. If it has been a disaster, then please provide the evidence."

Mr Woolas disputed the Prince's claim that the crops had caused climate change, adding: "I don't understand the reasoning behind the assertion that this is dangerous for climate change."

While Mr Woolas chose his words carefully, privately ministers are furious. Gordon Brown is said to be determined that anti-GM campaigners will not dictate his policy. The destruction of a GM trial in North Yorkshire two months ago is said to have hardened his stance. A Labour source said: "Usually we welcome Prince Charles's contributions to various debates, but on this issue he seems to have overstepped the mark."

Mr Woolas said the Government will base its future strategy on a number of tests, the crucial one being: "Should the UK change our policy on GM to one that is more liberal?" He added: "The Government has not got a predetermined decision."

Sources close to the Prince stressed that he had not been trying to cause a political row. "This was in no way an attempt to lay down a challenge to Government policy. The Prince's considerable interests in the environment are non-political: he simply cares for the future."

Prof John Wibberley, of the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, has offered support to the Prince. "The Prince of Wales is a very welcome champion of farmers not only nationally but internationally. As a farmer himself, he is all too aware of the brilliance that most possess in cherishing the countryside and their farms," he said.


Student isolates microbe that lunches on plastic bags

Even a kid was able to falsify the frequent Greenie claim that plastic bags are not biodegradable. Will it influence the plastic bag hysteria? Probably not. Fantasies of heroism trump reality any day

Getting ordinary plastic bags to rot away like banana peels would be an environmental dream come true. After all, we produce 500 billion a year worldwide and they take up to 1,000 years to decompose. They take up space in landfills, litter our streets and parks, pollute the oceans and kill the animals that eat them. Now a Waterloo teenager has found a way to make plastic bags degrade faster -- in three months, he figures.

Daniel Burd's project won the top prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa. He came back with a long list of awards, including a $10,000 prize, a $20,000 scholarship, and recognition that he has found a practical way to help the environment.

Daniel, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, got the idea for his project from everyday life. "Almost every week I have to do chores and when I open the closet door, I have this avalanche of plastic bags falling on top of me," he said. "One day, I got tired of it and I wanted to know what other people are doing with these plastic bags." The answer: not much. So he decided to do something himself.

He knew plastic does eventually degrade, and figured microorganisms must be behind it. His goal was to isolate the microorganisms that can break down plastic -- not an easy task because they don't exist in high numbers in nature. First, he ground plastic bags into a powder. Next, he used ordinary household chemicals, yeast and tap water to create a solution that would encourage microbe growth. To that, he added the plastic powder and dirt. Then the solution sat in a shaker at 30 degrees.

After three months of upping the concentration of plastic-eating microbes, Burd filtered out the remaining plastic powder and put his bacterial culture into three flasks with strips of plastic cut from grocery bags. As a control, he also added plastic to flasks containing boiled and therefore dead bacterial culture. Six weeks later, he weighed the strips of plastic. The control strips were the same. But the ones that had been in the live bacterial culture weighed an average of 17 per cent less.

That wasn't good enough for Burd. To identify the bacteria in his culture, he let them grow on agar plates and found he had four types of microbes. He tested those on more plastic strips and found only the second was capable of significant plastic degradation. Next, Burd tried mixing his most effective strain with the others. He found strains one and two together produced a 32 per cent weight loss in his plastic strips. His theory is strain one helps strain two reproduce. Tests to identify the strains found strain two was Sphingomonas bacteria and the helper was Pseudomonas.

A researcher in Ireland has found Pseudomonas is capable of degrading polystyrene, but as far as Burd and his teacher Mark Menhennet know -- and they've looked -- Burd's research on polyethelene plastic bags is a first.

Next, Burd tested his strains' effectiveness at different temperatures, concentrations and with the addition of sodium acetate as a ready source of carbon to help bacteria grow. At 37 degrees and optimal bacterial concentration, with a bit of sodium acetate thrown in, Burd achieved 43 per cent degradation within six weeks. The plastic he fished out then was visibly clearer and more brittle, and Burd guesses after six more weeks, it would be gone. He hasn't tried that yet.

To see if his process would work on a larger scale, he tried it with five or six whole bags in a bucket with the bacterial culture. That worked too. Industrial application should be easy, said Burd. "All you need is a fermenter . . . your growth medium, your microbes and your plastic bags." The inputs are cheap, maintaining the required temperature takes little energy because microbes produce heat as they work, and the only outputs are water and tiny levels of carbon dioxide -- each microbe produces only 0.01 per cent of its own infinitesimal weight in carbon dioxide, said Burd. "This is a huge, huge step forward . . . We're using nature to solve a man-made problem."


Free trade would deliver the benefits that Warmism cannot

If just a fraction of the energies devoted to promoting Warmism were diverted into promoting free trade, there would be real and very large benefits -- but the world mostly chases after the illusion rather than the reality. As T.S. Eliot said in "Four Quartets", "humankind cannot stand very much reality"

By Bjorn Lomborg

Last month, the Doha negotiations, broke down, ostensibly over a technicality. In reality, the talks collapsed because nobody was willing to take the political short-term hit by offending inefficient farmers and coddled domestic industries in order to create greater long-term benefits for virtually everyone.

And they broke down because we really don't care. After a few exasperated editorials, the world has pretty much dropped the subject and gone back to its usual concerns. This is foolish. Establishing significantly freer trade would help the world combat almost all of its biggest problems. For an astonishingly low cost, we could improve education and health conditions, make the poorest people richer, and help everybody become better able to tackle the future.

We have known for centuries that free trade almost always benefits both parties. The economist David Ricardo pointed out in 1817 that both Britain and Portugal would benefit if they exploited their comparative advantages. Portugal could produce wine cheaply, whereas Britain could produce cloth much more cheaply than wine. By selling cloth and buying wine, Great Britain obtains more of both, as does Portugal. The same holds true today, when countries, doing what they do best, produce more and exchange it for more of all other goods.

Yet today, with international trade talks stalled and protectionist rhetoric rising, we are instead moving towards building bigger trade barriers. These barriers are supported by deep-pocketed corporations and lobby groups, and defended by politicians who are scared that the redistribution of jobs, income and wealth resulting from freer trade will reduce their chances of remaining in power.

When the Doha trade round was launched shortly after September 11, 2001, there was plenty of international goodwill. But a recent poll in the US and Europe found people nearly three times more likely to say that globalisation is negative rather than positive. Recently, the Copenhagen Consensus project gathered some of the world's leading economists to decide how to do the most good for the planet in a world of finite resources. The panel - including five Nobel laureates - found that one of the single best actions the planet could take would be completing the Doha negotiations. They based their conclusions on new research for the Copenhagen Consensus project by Australian economist Kym Anderson. Anderson showed that if developing countries cut their tariffs by the same proportion as high-income countries, and services and investment were also liberalised, the annual global gains could climb to $US120 billion ($137 billion), with $US17 billion going to the world's poorest countries by 2015.

This is a respectable sum, and certainly a benefit that the international community should try to achieve. But what we often fail to realise is that the story only starts here. As economies open up, as countries do what they do best, competition and innovation drive up rates of growth.

More competition means that previously sheltered companies must shape up and become more productive, innovating simply to survive. Having more open economies allows more trade in innovation, so that new companies can almost instantly use smart ideas from around the globe. Instead of every closed market having to reinvent the wheel, once is enough to get everyone's economy going. This means that over time, the advantage of moving towards freer trade grows dramatically bigger: the $US120 billion benefit in 2015 grows to many trillions of dollars of annual benefits by the end of the century. And the benefits would increasingly accrue to the developing world, which would achieve the biggest boosts to growth rates.

We have seen three very visible cases of such growth boosts in three different decades. South Korea liberalised trade in 1965, Chile in 1974, and India in 1991; all saw annual growth rates increase by several percentage points thereafter.

If we recast these benefits as annual instalments, a realistic Doha outcome could increase global income by more than $US3 trillion every year throughout this century. And about $US2.5 trillion annually would go to today's developing countries every year, or $US500 a year on average for each individual in the Third World, almost half of whom now survive on less than $US2 a day. There would, of course, be costs. Freer trade would force some industries to downsize or close, although more industries would expand, and for some people and communities, the transition would be difficult. Yet the overall benefits of a successful Doha Round would likely be hundreds of times greater than these costs.

It is interesting to contrast global scepticism about free trade with support for expensive, inefficient methods to combat global warming. Many argue that we should act, even if such action will have no benefit for the next decades, because it will help lessen the impact of global warming by the century's end. But free trade also promises few benefits now and huge benefits in the future. Moreover, if we could stop global warming (which we can't), the benefit for future generations would be one-tenth or less of the benefit of freer trade (which we certainly can achieve). Still, there are few celebrity campaigners calling on politicians to sort out the Doha Round. Fear about free trade leaves the planet at risk of missing out on the benefits that it offers.

Free trade is good not only for big corporations, or for job growth. It is simply good.


Australia: 'Carbon tax bad governance,' says agricultural scientist

The Rudd government's carbon pollution tax is based on non-scientific and theoretical computer modeling and does not make good governance at a time of rising inflation, global food shortages and increasing export uncompetitiveness due to rising cost and freight pressures. That's the view of agricultural scientist John Williams - a researcher, author and educator who is studying for a PhD at the University of Melbourne.

Mr Williams said there are `strong and powerful counter-arguments' to the theories on global warming and carbon trading that are not being fully considered. Drawing on a chorus of disbelief from a growing number of scientists, Mr Williams said "there is no proof that carbon dioxide is causing or precedes global warming". "All indications are that the minor warming cycle finished in 2001 and that Arctic ice melting is related to cyclical orbit-tilt-axis changes in earth's angle to the sun."

Yet in the government's pursuit of a carbon trading scheme, Mr Williams said there was likely to be economic distortion, higher costs, investment disincentives and taxpayer-funded subsidies. He says any carbon trading scheme is likely to have a heavy impact on agriculture by:

Causing economic distortions, such as favouring imports over export industries (despite huge government subsidies to exporters which will attract World Trade Organisation [WTO] attention).

Penalising resource industries (and Australia's comparative advantage).

Compensating road transport, thereby discriminating against less-polluting rail transport.

Replacing highly productive cropping farmland in high-rainfall zones with tree plantations, reducing cropping agriculture and confining it to the less fertile lower-rainfall areas at a time of global food shortages and rising food prices.

Discriminating against animal industries which comprise one of the most successful Australian export industries.

Discriminating between farmers based on soil type.

Discriminating against consumers, who will bear the brunt of the costs through higher energy and food costs.

Mr Williams says the likely outcome of these economic distortions will be:

Increasing export uncompetitiveness at a time of record global shipping freight rates.

A worsening trade deficit which will necessitate persistent high interest rates to attract balancing foreign capital inflows.

Reduced investment in energy and rail industries.

Coal demand decreasing, which will lower prices and provide signals to buyers that the resource boom may be over;

Depressing rural communities even further, as long-term tree investment cannot replace short-term crop revenue cash-flows; and

Increasing cost pressures boosting prices and inflation for consumers already encountering economic difficulties.

He says shifting animals from pasture to higher protein feeds will exacerbate food shortages and higher prices. "As more than 80pc of Australian exports are price-taking commodities, any carbon emissions cost is going to be borne by the domestic producer and exporter, and require large compensation under any carbon trading scheme," Mr Williams said. "This compensation will be seen as a producer subsidy under WTO guidelines at a time when Australia is supposed to be leading by good example in freer trade for the rest of the world."

He said governments worldwide had spent $50 billion on global warming research since 1990, with no evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming. "All this cost is borne by taxpayers yet where exactly are the benefits beyond normal pollution control regulations?"

He also questioned what incentive there was for farmers to increase organic carbon in the soil, only to sell it off as carbon credits and become managers of it for someone else. And he asked what would happen if soil carbon levels dropped due to drought, fire, flood or crop rotations. "Farmers could be forced into bankruptcy by having to refund money they do not have."

He said increased rural land values caused by demand from industries seeking carbon credits through forestation programs was only going to distract farmers from producing food, cause uncertainty in investment decisions and entice them to seek short-term property sale benefits.

Rural towns would also struggle from a lack of money (from reduced production revenues) and decreased investment at a time when farms are being replaced by long-term forests. "To introduce a new high-cost system based on fear and feeding off superstition does not make good fiscal governance when there are serious economic distortions, measurement difficulties, investment disincentives, potential carbon market liquidity problems and a low probability of achieving any benefits in energy reduction or environment improvement," Mr Williams said. "Without a similar cost scheme for Australia's major export competitors, the outcome could be economic suicide for exporters in terms of loss of international competitiveness."



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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