Saturday, May 07, 2011

Will All Animals Shrink Under a Warmer Climate?

This is quite pathetic nonsense. The basic postulate that warm climates make birds smaller is plainly wrong. One of the biggest birds is the emu, which is found across a wide habitat range in Australia but mostly lives in the hot dry interior. And the cassowary, which lives in Australia's hot Northern rainforsts, is roughly the same size as an emu. A theory that fails to account for whole species is risible

An unusually friendly cassowary

Rising temperatures in Australia have caused birds on that continent to shrink–some by nearly 4 percent. The findings of a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B are the first to show that birds’ sizes are affected by global warming, although this phenomenon previously has been shown in fish and Soay sheep. Scientists postulate that the relationship between a warmer climate and smaller animals may be true for the animal kingdom as a whole.

Temperature has a clear impact on body size; it’s old news among scientists that birds closer to the equator evolved to be smaller than their peers near the poles. One possible explanation for this, called Bergmann’s Rule, is that larger animals conserve heat more efficiently, and this trait is naturally selected for in colder climates, but not in warmer climates. On this basis, scientists have predicted that climate change will affect the way animals vary in size at different latitudes [ABC Science]. The recent research on sheep and fish has corroborated this hypothesis by showing that these animals have become smaller as temperatures have risen.

By examining the skins of more than 500 southeastern Australian songbirds that were collected between 1860 and 2001, the research team found that wing length–a good measure of body size–decreased by between 1.8 to 3.6 percent, depending on the species. ”It is certainly a significant change,” said [co-author Janet] Gardner. ”Some declined in size more dramatically than others, but all the species were showing the same trend.” During the century Australia’s mean temperature rose by 0.7 degrees [The Sydney Morning Herald]. The scientists found no evidence that the decrease in size was due to nutritional changes among the birds.

Although there appears to be a short-term ability among certain animals to adapt to a warming climate, scientists aren’t sure how changing body size will affect animals, such as birds, in the future. “We don’t know how much a species can adapt to global warming and that of course is a very important question given the rate of warming is predicted to increase. How small can a bird go before its physiology is altered to the point where it can’t survive?” [ABC Science], says Gardner.


UPDATE: A reader comments ironically: "Of course, it has to be Global Warning. I'm sure that the the habitat in SE Australia in 2001 must have been exactly the same as in 1860 - nothing has changed in agriculture, population etc etc over that period."

Warming not global after all: Hardly visible in North America

Probably because U.S. and Canadian data is more extensive and harder to "fudge"

When your lawn scorches or the geraniums croak, it may be premature to blame global warming. One of the world's top science journals says climate hasn't changed in most of North America -yet. In fact, says a study in Science, temperatures in most of North America have resisted the global trend. Elsewhere, the warming has already affected agriculture significantly, reducing yields and causing food inflation.

Scientists from Stanford and Columbia Universities said Canadian and U.S. temperatures since 1980 have changed, but are still within the range of "natural variability" in weather. So in North America, the effects of climate change are practically invisible. A notable exception to the (world's) warming pattern is the United States," they write in a study published Friday. Co-author Wolfram Schlenker of Columbia University in New York City said in an interview that the record is "pretty much identical" in Canada. "Overall I would say it's pretty much the same story."

The study deals only with agricultural latitudes, not the Arctic, where scientists are in widespread agreement that warming has begun for real, melting glaciers and sea ice.

In a summary of the work, Science notes "there's a startling exception to the data (i.e. of global warming): the United States isn't getting hotter, nor are its crops decreasing. The rapid agricultural changes seen in the rest of the world have not been seen in the United States." Science concludes: "The results are a reminder that, while the relationship between crop production and climate change is obvious on a global scale, models that 'zoom in' and look at these relationships on a country-by-country basis won't necessarily see the same effects."

David Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist, says people tend to explain every change in the weather as climate change."We just seem to gravitate toward the climate change as an explanation for everything that happens."

Schlenker and David Lobell of Stanford didn't try to interpret short-terms events such as wildfires in Australia or drought in Russia. "There's always been variability, so it's really hard to attribute one single event to climate change," Schlenker explained. Instead they looked at crop production (wheat, corn, rice, soybeans) during a 29-year stretch through 2008, searching for trends. (They also looked at the 20 years from 1960 to 1980 for comparison, finding no change in that period.)

But from 1980 on, the trend is dramatic, and global -- except for North America. The big losers were global corn and wheat production, which fell during the 29-year study period by 3.8 and 5.5 per cent, respectively.

But the findings are not likely to persuade everyone right away.Ernie Small, a senior crop scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, notes that some plants flower earlier in spring than they used too, a likely sign of climate change. He also says winters in Ottawa when he was young were "longer, colder, snowier and grimmer" than today. [That anecdotal evidence sure is impressive!]


Climategate scientists 'too secretive and may have broken Freedom of Information laws'

The British establishment is still covering for Warmism

The scientists at the heart of the Climategate email scandal were too secretive but their research was sound, MPs said last night. The verdict follows three investigations into the world-leading global warming unit at the University of East Anglia accused of manipulating data to inflate the case of manmade climate change.

The Government’s response is designed to draw a line under the 18-month-long saga blamed for denting the credibility of the science. But critics said that the UEA had not learned its lesson and was still being unnecessarily secretive.

The Climategate row, which was first revealed by the Daily Mail in November 2009, was triggered when a hacker stole hundreds of emails from the UEA’s Climatic Research Unit, which tracks long-term changes in temperature and plays a leading role in compiling UN reports. It is thought that the theft was motivated by the CRU’s repeated refusals to provide detailed information about the data underlying its temperature records.

The files showed scientists plotting how to avoid Freedom of Information requests and appeared to show them discussing how to manipulate data.

Some of the most controversial contained personal attacks on climate change sceptics and one, by the unit’s Professor Phil Jones, mentioned using a ‘trick’ to massage years of temperature data to ‘hide the decline’.

Giving evidence to the Science and Technology Committee’s enquiry, the professor denied manipulating the figures but admitted writing ‘some pretty awful emails’. He also admitted withholding data about global temperatures but said the information was publicly available from American websites.

And he claimed it was not ‘standard practice’ to release data and computer models so that other scientists could check and challenge the research.

The enquiry went on to criticise the university for an ‘unacceptable’ culture of secrecy and added that it may have broken Freedom of Information laws.

But it cleared the researchers at the CRU of any wrongdoing and said there was no evidence they manipulated data to strengthen the case for manmade global warming.

The two further investigations also concluded that the scientists were honest but they were criticised for being disorganised, poor with figures [Climate statisticians poor with figures???] and naïve.

In its response to the Science and Technology Committee’s report today, the Government said that nothing done at the CRU undermines the scientific consensus on human-induced climate change’.

The response, drawn up by a range of departments, including the Government Office for Science, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Department of Energy and Climate Change concludes: ‘As the Committee notes, much rests on the accuracy and integrity of climate change science.

‘It is vital that the wider public and Government can take confidence in the evidence that underpins public policies. ‘Evidence from multiple disciplines and sources strongly indicates that climate change driven by human activities poses real risks for our future...

‘Important work remains to better understand the risks of climate change and how to manage them. ‘We welcome – and agree with – the finding of the Committee that it is time ‘with greater openness and transparency, to move on.'

The Information Commissioner’s office said that the researcher had breached the Freedom of Information acts when handling requests from climate change sceptics. But added that the scientists will escape prosecution because the case came to light outside the six month-time limit for cases to be brought.

The UEA has made an informal pledge to improve the way it handles FoI requests and new guidance on how the legislation applies to scientific research is expected later this year.

But Dr Benny Peiser, of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said that the university had already broken its promise by turning down a FoI request made in the last few weeks. He added: ‘The big problem is that the UEA is still reluctant to provide independent researchers with information and datasets. ‘It would appear that the expectation of transparency and openness is not really being applied. ‘Until they can be open and transparent, there will remain the questions of reliability and trust.

‘Checks and balances are at the very centre of scientific enterprise. Given the huge importance of what they are asking us to do, and the financial burdens, it is paramount that their conclusions can be checked.’


Arctic Council unimpressed by Warmist prophecies

When the eight nations of the "Arctic Council" meet next week, climate change won't be on their agenda—despite a frightening new report on climate change by the council's own task force.

Members of the council are those nations bordering the Arctic Ocean—the United States, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Denmark and Iceland.

The council deals with crucial Arctic issues such as climate change, black carbon, oil exploration and drilling, and arctic shipping. Their report, released this week, details how global sea levels will rise at least five feet within the century in large part because of melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Nonetheless, climate change isn't an agenda item.

Black carbon, doesn’t make the cut either, even though the report outlines immediate measures that could be taken to reduce black carbon emissions, protect health (black carbon is a component of soot, a toxic air pollutant), and reduce warming and melting in the Arctic in the near term.

Here's what the council will discuss—search and rescue in the Arctic, as in who is responsible for missing ships or people. An important subject—especially as more and more ships are able to travel the Arctic waters. However, should search and rescue be the first “international binding agreement” that the council signs? It is set to be. And you can be sure that oil and gas development likewise will be considered a priority.

“Rapidly increasing warming and melting in the Arctic and the resulting catastrophic sea level rise apparently doesn’t qualify as a ‘challenge’ for the Arctic Council, but access to hydrocarbon resources apparently does,” said Earthjustice attorney Erika Rosenthal, who will be attending the meeting as a consultant with the Circumpolar Conservation Union.


Population, fertility, and liberty

People have been fretting about the “population problem” for at least fifty years. But over those five decades, the perceived problem has practically reversed. From the sixties to the eighties, the problems on people’s minds were overpopulation and the “population explosion.” The proposed solutions were usually government programs ranging from mild nudges (like free condoms and sex education) to horrific coercion (like India’s involuntary sterilizations and China’s one-child policy and forced abortions).[1]

During this period, libertarians were predictably quick to oppose government action and defend individuals’ right to have as many children as they wished.[2] But they also developed a more intellectually creative response. Under the seminal influence of Julian Simon, libertarians embraced the view that high and growing population is good. The title of Simon’s most famous book became a leading libertarian slogan: People are the ultimate resource.[3]

Over the last two decades, the perceived population problem has radically changed. Fertility has sharply fallen all over the world. It fell in less-developed nations, deflating long-standing Malthusian fears. But it fell in developed nations as well. Except for the United States and Israel, every modern economy now has fertility below the replacement rate.[4] Without high levels of immigration, most will see their populations fall in coming decades.[5] In Germany, Japan, and Russia, with total fertility rates around 1.3, population decline has already arrived.

Libertarians could celebrate these changes as proof that the problem of overpopulation solves itself whether or not governments do anything about it. But if Julian Simon and the intellectual tradition he inspired were right, libertarians should be experiencing severe cognitive dissonance. People with zero appreciation of Simon now worry about low birth rates and falling populations. How can those of us who long maintained that “people are the ultimate resource” fail to see anything amiss?

The easiest out for libertarians is to toss Simon’s pro-population arguments down the memory hole. We could hail economic growth and modernization for slaying the genuine dragon of overpopulation, and move on. The main problem with this easy out is that Simon’s arguments were correct. Indeed, population has benefits that Julian Simon himself undersold. My goal in this essay is two-fold. First, it is to recap and refine the case for population. Second, it is to find libertarian solutions for the world’s genuinely disappointing demographic trends.

Much more here

Diesel cars 'better than hybrids' for fuel efficiency in British tests

Some diesel cars are giving the much-hyped hybrids a run for their money when it comes to fuel efficiency. Toyota's petrol-electric Prius, which kick-started the fashion for hybrids a decade ago, achieved fewer miles to the gallon than a sporty BMW 3-series diesel, according to consumer watchdogs. Many more diesel cars are running neck and neck and giving the hybrids a run for their money, the Which? research shows.

And with customers generally paying a premium to buy a hybrid, which is generally a few thousand pounds more expensive than a standard petrol or diesel model, the extra cost of the car may outweigh the fuel saving. The news comes despite the price of diesel yesterday hitting a new record £6.50 a gallon.

The latest edition of Which? Car looked at the actual fuel efficiency achieved in 'real world' driving rather than the claims made by the manufacturers. This showed that in its tests a BMW 320Ed small executive saloon managed 64.2 miles to the gallon - ahead of the Prius's 61.4mpg. Over a year's driving of 12,000 miles, the BMW will cost £1,120 - or £51 less than the Prius at £1,171.

The Prius and other hybrids rely on one major leap forward in technology. The BMW relies for its fuel efficiency on what it terms 'efficient dynamics' - that is making lots of small efficiency gains across the length and breadth of the vehicle - from lighter seats or chassis to more frugal engines - which, when put together add up to one major gain.

The Prius is called a 'hybrid' because it combines a conventional 1.8 litre petrol engine with an electric motor which work seamlessly together.

The electric motor operates as a generator to help recover surplus energy, including from decelerating and braking, that would otherwise be wasted. This energy restores the charge of the high-power battery, which in turn can be used to power the car's wheels.

To cut fuel consumption and reduce harmful emissions, the car's electric motor takes the vehicle from rest, and lets the engine cut in when it is in motion. The two engines then dove-tail to maximise fuel efficiency and minimise emission levels. As a result, emissions of carbon-dioxide (CO2), the so-called 'greenhouse gas' blamed by scientists for global warming, are slashed. And fuel economy is boosted massively.

But Which? Car notes:'In most cases you'll save money with a hybrid. Fuel costs are low and they save drivers on tax, not to mention lower emissions. 'However, they're not always more fuel-efficient than advanced diesel engines. Which? Cart has found that a diesel BMW 320Ed (fuel costs for 1 year or 12,000 miles: £1,120) would cost you less at the pumps than a Toyota Prius (£1,171).'

Of the BMW, the report noted:'BMW may have a reputation for making aggressive, sporty saloons, but the 320Ed (Efficient Dynamics) makes an impressive statement about BMW's clever fuel-saving technology.'

It noted:'At first glance it's a standard 320d saloon, but the detail improvements lift claimed average fuel economy from 60.1 to 68.9mpg. We didn't quite match this, but the BMW did beat the Prius in our mpg tests.'

However, the report notes that hybrids do have some advantages:'It's important to look beyond just the headline economy stats. 'The difference in pump prices - with diesel around 6p a litre more than petrol - and the potential tax liabilities of each car, could also sway your decision.'

The Prius has CO2 emissions of 89g/km which mean it is free of car tax, compared to just £20 for the 109g/km BMW (though zero tax in the first year). Which? notes:'The Prius's lower CO2 emissions could also save company car drivers nearly £400 a year over the BMW.'

Among other models, the hybrid Honda Insight SE has an annual fuel bill of £1,171 - just £25 ahead of the diesel Skoda Octavia Greenline II at £1,196.

Among off-roaders, the Lexus RX 450h hybrid costs £2,115 a year for fuel, £78 cheaper than the diesel Volkswagen Touareg 3,0 litre TDi at £2,192.

Toyota' Auris Hybrid T4 costs £1,120 a year to fuel - £129 less than the diesel Vauxhall Astra 1.3 CDTi SRi.

The cost of diesel has reached the equivalent of £6.50 a gallon, according to AA figures. On average, motorists are paying 142.99p a litre (or £6.50 a gallon) for diesel, with petrol now at 137.24p a litre (or £6.24 a gallon).

A year ago, average petrol prices were 121.43p a litre, with diesel at 122.83p. Compared with a year ago, it is now costing nearly £8 more to fill a typical 50-litre tank with petrol, while filling up with diesel is now more than £10 more expensive, the AA said.

It added that a two-car family was now paying £33.57 more a month for petrol than a year ago, while the extra cost of filling an 80-litre diesel tank in a commercial van was £16.13.



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Larger elongated birds like emus and cassowaries have a larger surface area to volume than small fat birds like sparrows. It is not just 'size'. It makes sense that tiny perching birds will get smaller because then their surface area will increase relative to body volume, allowing more heat to be lost.