Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Greenie nonsense killed people in big Australian fires

A Greenie council has blood on its hands

RESIDENTS in one of the areas devastated on Black Saturday were not allowed to clear highly flammable, noxious tea tree on their land because it was classified as native vegetation by the local council, the royal commission into the bushfire disaster has been told. Peter Wiltshire, who suffered serious burns and damaged airways trying unsuccessfully to save his home at St Andrews on February 7, said yesterday the tea tree, known as burgan, was "extremely flammable and lets off gases in heat". Wildfire from burning burgan on a neighbouring property created enough radiant heat to cause a horsefloat at one end of his house to instantaneously burst into flame.

But the local Nillumbik Shire Council stopped landowners clearing burgan without applying for permission, Mr Wiltshire said. "They call it native vegetation and we are not allowed to clear it without a permit. It is probably the most noxious and flammable material. It really is a pest and dangerous."

Mr Wiltshire, who is chairman of the St Andrews Country Fire Authority brigade, said a massive fireball that engulfed his house and caused window glass to melt was fuelled by "black gas" above tree-top level. He suffered serious burns to his face and both arms, had damaged airways from inhaling heated air and smoke and spent 24 hours in an induced coma in hospital after escaping with his wife and daughter from their blazing home.

Twelve of the 173 people who died on Black Saturday were killed in St Andrews.

Tasmanian Fire Service fire management planning officer Mark Chladil told the hearing that Victoria's decision to allow people to automatically rebuild on the sites of their former homes using only the new national bushfire building code was "somewhat risky". Sites needed to be fully assessed for bushfire threat using the full gamut of planning issues, said Mr Chladil, who is also a member of the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council. "To be blunt, rebuilding at the moment would be somewhat risky in each of these places without considering the range of siting, water supply, access, vegetation management options as well as building options," he said. "There are going to be sites where it will be seen as foolhardy to have rushed in and rebuilt in the same place without addressing these issues." The social welfare benefits of allowing survivors to rebuild as quickly as possible could be better met by providing each family with an individual building assessor to advise them on rebuilding, Mr Chladil said.

Earlier, the inquiry was told that an essential handbook vital in ensuring the effectiveness of the new national building standard would not be available until at least the end of the year. Barry Eadie, the head of the Standards Australia committee that developed the new bushfire building standard hastily introduced after February 7, said the new code would not save houses without the companion handbook, which gave crucial advice about such things as planning, water supply, access and maintenance of landscaping and vegetation. [It's common sense among the bureaucrats that is needed, not more unreadable official bumf]



The nation's largest business lobby wants to put the science of global warming on trial

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to ward off potentially sweeping federal emissions regulations, is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a rare public hearing on the scientific evidence for man-made climate change. Chamber officials say it would be "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century" -- complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect. "It would be evolution versus creationism," said William Kovacs, the chamber's senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. "It would be the science of climate change on trial."

The goal of the chamber, which represents 3 million large and small businesses, is to fend off potential emissions regulations by undercutting the scientific consensus over climate change. If the EPA denies the request, as expected, the chamber plans to take the fight to federal court.

The EPA is having none of it, calling a hearing a "waste of time" and saying that a threatened lawsuit by the chamber would be "frivolous." EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said the agency based its proposed finding that global warming is a danger to public health "on the soundest peer-reviewed science available, which overwhelmingly indicates that climate change presents a threat to human health and welfare."

Environmentalists say the chamber's strategy is an attempt to sow political discord by challenging settled science -- and note that in the famed 1925 Scopes trial, which pitted lawyers Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan in a courtroom battle over a Tennessee science teacher accused of teaching evolution illegally, the scientists won in the end. The chamber proposal "brings to mind for me the Salem witch trials, based on myth," said Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist for the environmental group Union of Concerned Scientists. "In this case, it would be ignoring decades of publicly accessible evidence."

In the coming weeks, the EPA is set to formally declare that the heat-trapping gases scientists blame for climate change endanger human health, and are thus subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. The so-called endangerment finding will be a cornerstone of the Obama administration's plan to set strict new emissions standards on cars and trucks.

The proposed finding has drawn more than 300,000 public comments. Many of them question scientists' projections that rising temperatures will lead to increased mortality rates, harmful pollution and extreme weather events such as hurricanes. In light of those comments, the chamber will tell the EPA in a filing today that a trial-style public hearing, which is allowed under the law but nearly unprecedented on this scale, is the only way to "make a fully informed, transparent decision with scientific integrity based on the actual record of the science."

Most climate scientists agree that greenhouse gas emissions, caused by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities, are warming the planet. Using computer models and historical temperature data, those scientists predict the warming will accelerate unless greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced. "The need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable," said a recent letter to world leaders by the heads of the top science agencies in 13 of the world's largest countries, including the head of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

The EPA’s endangerment finding for greenhouse gases, as proposed in April, warned that warmer temperatures would lead to "the increased likelihood of more frequent and intense heat waves, more wildfires, degraded air quality, more heavy downpours and flooding, increased drought, greater sea level rise, more intense storms, harm to water resources, harm to agriculture, and harm to wildlife and ecosystems."

Critics of the finding say it's far from certain that warming will cause any harm at all. The Chamber of Commerce cites studies that predict higher temperatures will reduce mortality rates in the United States.


Ludicrous EU war on airlines

The European Union has taken a stand against large global airlines by publishing a list of nearly 4,000 companies that must reduce their impact on the atmosphere or face a European airport ban.

A new EU target, adopted this year, requires that airline emissions in Europe drop by three percent by 2012, and five percent by 2013. In order to meet the target, airlines named on the new list published on Saturday in the Official Journal of the European Union must reduce their emissions or face penalties.

The list includes transportation giants such as Lufthansa, Alitalia, Quantas, KLM, Emirates, US Airways and United as well as manufacturers Airbus and Dassault, hundreds of private business jet operators, the US Navy and the air forces of Israel and Russia. Aircraft emissions currently represent three percent of Europe's CO2 output.

The EU adopted its new policy in January despite coming under fierce pressure from the majority of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) member countries and companies belonging to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

A new European law is to come into force on Jan. 1, 2012, under which all airlines - both European and non-European - operating within Europe would have to limit CO2 emissions or face being barred from European airports.



Warm ice cream is the holy grail for scientists at Unilever, owner of the Magnum and Ben & Jerry’s brands, which is developing a “low-carbon” product to be sold at room temperature and frozen at home.

Unilever hopes that a product sold at room temperature will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ice cream is one of the company’s more energy-intensive products because of the need to keep it frozen during transport and storage.

The company, the world’s largest producer of ice cream, sells €5 billion (£4.3 billion) a year worldwide of brands that also include Wall’s, Cornetto, Feast, Viennetta and Solero. The UK ice cream market is worth £789 million a year, it says.

A spokesman for Unilever said that warm, or so-called ambient, ice cream was a “very interesting idea” but one that posed tough challenges that its scientists were trying to solve. “The key question which has yet to be fully answered is: how do you ensure that, when the ambient ice cream is frozen at home it will have the right microstructure to produce a fantastic consumer experience?”

The research programme is being undertaken in Unilever’s own laboratories with help from academics at Cambridge University. Gavin Neath, Unilever’s senior vice-president for sustainability, said: “We have to look at a really radical solution.”


Another blow for the British Met office

But the Met office thinks it can predict what will be happening in 2050!

British holidaymakers are not the only people upset that Met Office predictions of a barbecue summer have proved woefully inaccurate. Tesco is so fed up with the unreliability of forecasters that it has set up its own six-strong “supermarket weather team” to help plan more accurately which types of food it will need to stock.

The UK’s biggest retailer has pulled together a dedicated team of data experts who collate weather forecasts from a wide range of sources that are then analysed using unique software. The computer program includes detailed regional weather reports for the whole of the UK going back five years and, crucially, what each Tesco store sold as a result of that weather. A rise of 10C, for example, led to a 300% uplift in sales of barbecue meat and a 50% increase in sales of lettuce.

A spokesman for Tesco said: “In recent years, the unpredictability of the British summer — not to mention the unreliability of British weather forecasters — has caused a massive headache for those in the retail food business deciding exactly which foods to put out on shelves. “The present summer is a perfect example, with the weather changing almost daily and shoppers wanting barbecue and salad foods one day and winter food the next.”

Tesco said the system has already predicted temperature drops during July that led to a big increase in demand for soup and hot puddings. The company believes that as well as boosting profits, its weather system will also help to cut food waste.


Birdwatching 'not environmentally friendly'

Once again, there's no such thing as a happy Greenie. They basically disapprove of EVERYBODY

An academic study suggests competitions to spot as many species of bird in a day, along with thousands of enthusiasts visiting a garden when a rare bird is spotted, means a heavy use of transport. Many twitchers will travel hundreds, potentially thousands, of miles just to see a bird, according to Professor Spencer Schaffner, who admits being a birdwatcher himself.

Prof Schaffner's research on "Environmental Sport" also found that many sites where new breeding grounds are being set up are often former landfill or other sites which still leak pollution. As they have been covered with grass to make a park or wildlife area, many of the environmental hazards are still present but being ignored, particularly by birdwatchers, he said.

Prof Schaffner, from the University of Illinois, said he had noticed a big increase in competitive events for the twitchers. It often involves having to spot as many different kinds of bird in a set period and can involve driving hundreds of miles a day to find another breed to tick off the list. There are even some who spend their whole lives, full time, trying to spot every one of the 10,000 breeds in the world but only a handful have got as far as 8,000. More than 5,000 people travelled to Kent recently to see a Golden-winged warbler which had been blown off course to land in Britain.

Writing in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Prof Schaffner said: "Birding is... an ostensibly green category of sport relying on both environmental protection and degradation. "Competitive birders log many hours in their cars. Some even fully to spot a single species of bird. "We tend to think getting out there in the outdoors and doing things that I'm calling environmental sport is part of saving the planet. "It's considered part of being green and caring about nature. But a lot of the environments we do that in are altered, manufactured, human-modified places. "And a lot of the stuff we do isn't necessarily in the best interest of those ideas of conservation."

Former landfill sites converted into 'natural areas' still pose "significant dangers to the environment" because of toxic chemicals just beneath the surface, he said. Twitchers ignore the problems because the bird species seem to be thriving although many may simply be moving through the area as part of a migration path, said the professor.



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