Thursday, September 30, 2010

Royal Society Bows (somewhat) To Climate Change Sceptics

Britain’s leading scientific institution has been forced to rewrite its guide to climate change and admit that there is greater uncertainty about future temperature increases than it had previously suggested.

The Royal Society is publishing a new document today after a rebellion by more than 40 of its fellows who questioned mankind’s contribution to rising temperatures.

"Climate change: a summary of the science" states that “some uncertainties are unlikely ever to be significantly reduced”. Unlike Climate change controversies, a simple guide — the document it replaces — it avoids making predictions about the impact of climate change and refrains from advising governments about how they should respond.

The new guide says: “The size of future temperature increases and other aspects of climate change, especially at the regional scale, are still subject to uncertainty.”

The Royal Society even appears to criticise scientists who have made predictions about heatwaves and rising sea levels. It now says: “There is little confidence in specific projections of future regional climate change, except at continental scales.”

It adds: “It is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future. “There remains the possibility that hitherto unknown aspects of the climate and climate change could emerge and lead to significant modifications in our understanding.”

The working group that produced the new guide took advice from two Royal Society fellows who have links to the climate-sceptic think-tank founded by Lord Lawson of Blaby.

Professor Anthony Kelly and Sir Alan Rudge are members of the academic advisory council of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. They were among 43 fellows who signed a petition sent to Lord Rees, the society’s president, asking for its statement on climate change to be rewritten to take more account of questions raised by sceptics.

Professor John Pethica, the society’s vice-president and chairman of the working group that wrote the document, said the guide stated clearly that there was “strong evidence” that the warming of the Earth over the past half-century had been caused largely by human activity.

Meanwhile, the Government is planning an exercise to test how England and Wales would cope with severe flooding caused by climate change. Exercise Watermark will take place in March and test emergency services and communities on a range of scenarios that could occur.


New Royal society document critiqued by astrophysicist

Piers Corbyn calls new Royal Society Climate Change document a "Continuing coverup & dereliction of duty" below

Curiously it has been suggested that the Royal Society is now somehow bowing to Climate Change Sceptics. Firstly the use of the word sceptics is inappropriate because no-one is sceptical of the fact that climate has been changing for millions of years. We who stand for the application of evidence-based science to the matter of climate change are better termed Climate Realists.

The Royal Society however do not appear to be bowing to anything. They may indeed be admitting the existence of Climate Realists a bit more but the new statement is a continuing cover for the failed science and fraudulent data of the ClimateChange lobby and a dereliction of the Royal Society's duty to uphold evidence-based science.

Professor John Pethica, the Royal Society’s vice-president and chairman of the working group that wrote the new document, said the guide stated clearly that there was “strong evidence” that the warming of the Earth over the past half-century had been caused largely by human activity. "The fact is", said Piers, "there is no such evidence. This is a false claim and if The Royal Society believe this they must show evidence. This is the founding principle of the scientific method.

"Rather than trying again to continue the cover-up of failed science and data fraud the Royal Society should support our call - from 'Climate-Sense' scientists -for an OPEN, HONEST EVIDENCE-BASED PUBLIC DEBATE ON CO2-Climate Change involving scientists and economists from all sides.".


Amping up the original eco-scare

The article below is rather amusing in the light of the article immediately following it

One-fifth of the world's plants - the foundation of life on Earth - are at risk of extinction, a study concludes. Researchers have sampled almost 4,000 species, and conclude that 22% should be classified as "threatened" - the same alarming rate as for mammals. A further 33% of species were too poorly understood to be assessed.

The analysis comes from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Natural History Museum and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

There are an estimated 380,000 plant species in all, and many are victims of habitat loss - typically the clearing of forests for agriculture. Species in tropical rainforests are found to be at greatest risk.

The study, known as the Sampled Red List Index for Plants, is an attempt to provide the most accurate assessment so far.

Previous studies have focused on the most threatened plants or particular regions. This one instead sampled species from each of the five main groups of plants, and its authors argue that as a result, their conclusions are more credible.

The report comes ahead of the UN Biodiversity Conference in Nagoya in Japan next month where ministers are due to discuss why conservation targets keep being missed.

Launching the findings, Kew's director, Professor Stephen Hopper, said the study would provide a baseline from which to judge future losses. "We cannot sit back and watch plant species disappear - plants are the basis of all life on Earth, providing clean air, water, food and fuel. "Every breath we take involves interacting with plants. They're what we all depend on."

The study investigated the key types of plants, including mosses, ferns, orchids and legumes like peas and beans.

The fear among botanists is that species are being wiped out before they can be researched, potentially losing valuable medicinal properties. Plant-based remedies are the only source of healthcare in the world's poorest countries, and have proved essential in combating conditions including malaria and leukaemia.

Another concern is that we have become dependent on a narrow range of plants with a limited genetic base. The report estimates that 80% of the calories consumed worldwide are derived from just 12 different species.

The findings add urgency to the work of Kew's Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst in Sussex, which has now gathered some 1.8 billion seeds from around the world. The samples are catalogued and stored in underground cold rooms as a safeguard against future losses. The collection includes seeds from plants that have already been judged extinct, including a species of tree from Pakistan and an orchid from Ecuador.

Another victim is a species of olive tree from the South Atlantic island of St Helena. The only traces of its existence are a few dried pressings of its leaves, and a tiny sample of DNA kept in a plastic test-tube in a freezer.


Back from the dead: One third of 'extinct' animals turn up again

And plants too, no doubt, perhaps even more so

Conservationists are overestimating the number of species that have been driven to extinction, scientists have said. A study has found that a third of all mammal species declared extinct in the past few centuries have turned up alive and well.

Some of the more reclusive creatures managed to hide from sight for 80 years only to reappear within four years of being officially named extinct in the wild.

The shy okapi – which resembles a cross between a zebra and a giraffe – was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1901. After increasingly rarer sightings, it vanished from the wildlife radar for decades from 1959, prompting fears that it had died out. But five years ago researchers working for the WWF found okapi tracks in the wild.

Other mammals ‘back from the dead’ include the rat-like Cuban solenodon, the Christmas Island shrew, the Vanikoro Flying Fox of the Solomon Islands, the Australian central rock rat and the Talaud Flying Fox of Indonesia.

The revelations come as the world’s leading conservationists prepare for a major United Nations summit on biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan, next month.

Many scientists believe the world is going through a new ‘mass extinction’ fuelled by mankind – and that more species are disappearing now than at any time since the dinosaurs vanished 65million years ago.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 22 per cent of the world’s mammals are at risk of extinction. In Britain, more than two plant and animal species are being wiped out each year.

But while the report does not play down the threat from deforestation, overfishing or habitat destruction, it raises questions about the way species are classified as extinct.

Dr Diana Fisher, of the University of Queensland, Australia, compiled a list of all mammals declared extinct since the 16th century or which were flagged up as missing in scientific papers. ‘We identified 187 mammal species that have been missing since 1500,’ she wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. ‘In the complete data-set, 67 species that were once missing have been rediscovered. More than a third of mammal species that have been classified as extinct or possibly extinct, or flagged as missing, have been rediscovered.’

Mammals that suffered from loss of habitat were the most likely to have been declared extinct and then rediscovered, she said. Species spread out over larger areas were also more likely to be wrongly classified as extinct.

The mistakes cannot be blamed on primitive technology or old fashioned scientific methods. ‘Mammals missing in the 20th century were nearly three times as likely to be rediscovered as those that disappeared in the 19th century,’ Dr Fisher added.


News from the Southern hemisphere: Global cooling hits Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide

After their coldest winter in 13 years Sydney residents have just experienced their coldest September in five years, says.

However, the heat is on its way. "September was an unusual month in terms of the lack of warm days across much of south-eastern Australia," weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said.

"A high pressure system over the Great Australian Bight acted as a blocking mechanism, keeping noticeably cool southerly winds blowing over South Australia, Victoria and NSW. "Significant warming will occur in the coming weeks as heat builds over the interior. All we will need is a day or two of westerly winds and we could exceed 30 degrees," Mr Dutschke said.

When both daytime and overnight temperatures were combined, Sydney's average temperature this month came in at just under 17 degrees. This made it the coldest September in five years, despite being one degree above the long-term norm. It was also the coldest September in terms of daytime temperatures in three years.

During the month, the city had an average maximum temperature of 21 degrees, which is still warmer than the long-term norm of 20. It took until the 27th to warm up to 27 degrees, the longest in 17 years. There was a 23-day period that stayed colder than 25 degrees, the longest in September in 10 years.

The nights were not particularly cold overall, averaging a minimum of 12.3 degrees, one above the long-term average. This made it the coldest in terms of overnight minimums in two years. There were only six nights that cooled below 10 degrees; typically there are 11.

The cold was pronounced across southern and central NSW with several centres including Hay and Forbes having their coldest September in at least 15 years in terms of daytime temperatures.

Melbourne, Adelaide also cold

Residents of Melbourne have just experienced their coldest September days in 16 years, Mr Dutschke said. The city had an average maximum temperature of 16.6 degrees, about a half a degree below the long-term normal of 17.2. This made it the coldest September in terms of daytime temperatures since 1994.

When both daytime and overnight temperatures were combined, Melbourne's average temperature came in at just under 13 degrees. This made it the coldest September in at least seven years, despite being about a half a degree above the the long term norm.

Warmer days ahead will provide Adelaide residents with a good thawing out after enduring their coldest September in 18 years, Mr Dutschke said. The city had an average maximum of just 17 degrees, two degrees colder than the long-term norm, making it the coldest September since 1992 in terms of daytime temperatures. In fact, there was only one day that warmed to 20 degrees, on Monday 13th, the fewest 20-degree days in September in 18 years.


Why I don’t recycle

The environmental benefits are outweighed by the costs

In several cities, Stimulus funds are being used to put RFID chips on trash cans and recycle bins to better monitor who is throwing stuff away "properly" and to impose heavy fines on violators.

Thankfully, I don't live in one of those towns. I am in fact completely liberated from recycling. I just moved to a remote village. For a flat monthly fee, a waste disposal service gives each customer one large bin, and there is weekly trash pickup.

There is no recycling that I know of. What I mean is the company may sort recyclables and sell any reusable material such as aluminum cans. I don't know if it does. But I do know I don't have to sort it myself.

Aluminum cans and glass bottles go into the same bin with all my regular garbage. My assumption is that if the garbage company believes it's worth it to sort the recyclables, it will.

I suppose I could sort recyclables myself and drive once a month to some recycling facility - if there is one nearby. But the closest town that even might possibly have such a facility is forty minutes away. Is making a special trip worth it? Wouldn't my conservation efforts be at least partially offset by the gasoline consumed on the drive?

Also, if the garbage company finds value in having its customers recycle in exchange for lower pickup fees, it will do that. I'm glad that it doesn't.

Recycling can be tedious, particularly if one has to wash recyclables before putting them in the proper bin. With water becoming a more scarce resource, it seems to me the benefits of recycling are partly offset by the water consumption. Recycling also takes up house space. Not only must one have two or more outside bins, but inside one must keep special bags or boxes: one for paper, one for aluminum and glass, one for regular garbage, etc.

I believe cities and towns across America are making a big mistake. If recycled aluminum, glass, paper, plastics, etc. was of any value, individuals would be able to sell their recyclables on their own.

Moreover, if it was cheaper to recycle than to, for instance, mine new aluminum and produce new glass, companies would, on their own, start their own deposit programs. They would charge $1.10 for a $1.0 bottle of pop, and then give back ten cents when the empty bottle is returned.

As Floy Lilley points out, "recycling itself uses three times more resources than does depositing waste in landfills" and we are NOT running out of landfill space. In fact, landfills are a source of natural gas and many sites are converting to become energy facilities. Lilley goes on to say, "The US Office of Technology Assessment says that it is 'usually not clear whether secondary manufacturing such as recycling produces less pollution per ton of material processed than primary manufacturing processes.'"

Indeed, "Manufacturing paper, glass, and plastic from recycled materials uses appreciably more energy and water, and produces as much or more air pollution, as manufacturing from raw materials does. Resources are not saved and the environment is not protected."

Not only am I guilt-free about not recycling, I'd probably feel guilty if I started recycling again. And I would resent living in any town that forced me to.



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