"The first time in three decades". Times before that do not count, apparently. The inference that it was just as warm 30 years ago apparently escapes him
The Arctic Ocean will be partially ice-free this summer for the first time in three decades, which scientists say will have some positive impacts on the region.
Measurements show the arctic had the least sea ice coverage in July ever [Where "ever" is defined as "since 1979"] recorded, CNN reported Saturday.
“This is just part and parcel of the decline that we’ve seen in the overall ice extent because the Arctic is warming up,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Ice in the arctic has been declining more each summer, and even the oldest ice in the arctic, which is the thickest and most resistant to melting, has begun to dwindle.
“This is man-made; there seems to be little doubt in that,” Serreze said. “It would be reversible if we were to do something about our carbon dioxide emissions, [but] I don’t see much of a fat chance in hell we’re going to see any change here. We’re going to have to adapt.”
Studying the climate? Then get out of the lab
CLIMATE researchers should spend less time in front of computer screens building predictive models and more time in the field observing and interpreting "hard or real data", an internationally recognised coastal science expert and publisher has warned.
Charles Finkl, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Coastal Research, which published a peer-reviewed study by NSW researcher Phil Watson that rekindled a fierce debate about sea level rises, said modelling was necessary but should be taken with a grain of salt.
He accused the CSIRO of refusing to consider questions raised by Mr Watson's research for its modelling, predicting a worst-case scenario sea level rise of up to 1.1m by 2100.
"The CSIRO more or less agrees with Watson but does not want to admit they have have not got it quite right previously," said Professor Finkl, geosciences professor emeritus at Florida Atlantic University.
"I am not in favour of models for many reasons. They get better over time, and we need to use them, but with a grain of salt. We should instead use our brains and hard or real data to make interpretations. Many researchers do not even go into the field any more because they think the world exists on their computers. Big mistake."
The CSIRO agrees with Mr Watson's findings showing a deceleration of sea-level rises in Australasian coastal waters in the second half of the 20th century but argues they have no bearing on IPCC projections of global sea rise this century.
This is despite the IPCC projections - and subsequent CSIRO projections - assuming a dramatic acceleration in sea-level rises this century because of the impact of global warming.
CSIRO sea level expert Kathleen McInnes, asked by the ABC's Media Watch program to respond to a front page story about Mr Watson's research published last month by The Australian, said the IPCC projections were "based on computer models of the earth system, and not on a simple extrapolation of observed regional trends".
"The study by Phil Watson does not call into question the projections of the IPCC nor CSIRO," Dr McInnes said.
Mr Watson, the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change's coastal unit team leader, analysed data taken over 100 years by tidal gauges at Fremantle, Auckland, Fort Denison in Sydney and Newcastle, and found a weak deceleration of sea-level rises between 1940 and 2000.
He made no prediction on what future rises would be, telling The Australian sea levels had risen more quickly since 1990 than the 20th-century average. "What remains unknown is whether or not these rates are going to persist into the future and indeed increase."
US researcher James Houston, whose work with Bob Dean on sea-level rises has been published by the Journal of Coastal Research, told The Australian Mr Watson's findings were consistent with his own and nearly all studies of 20th-century sea-level rises. "It is ironic that the sceptics and believers do not understand that the different papers on sea-level acceleration or deceleration are basically saying the same thing," Dr Houston said.
Professor Finkl does not believe global warming and sea-level rises are caused by human activity but publishes the peer-reviewed work of researchers who do. He said the debate - and implications for coastal planning laws - was not whether sea levels were rising, but how quickly. "The real problem with the models is they show an exponential rise in the rate of sea-level rise, the so-called hockey stick approach," he said.
British government ministers go to war with green charities over planning shake-up "smears"
Ministers have launched an unprecedented attack on two of Britain's leading environmental charities for opposing the government's planned shake-up of the planning system.
The National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) came under fire as they mobilised against new planning rules that they say put the Green Belt in peril.
The planning reforms are supposed to streamline complicated rules on new buildings, reducing 1,300 pages of national planning policy to just 52 pages. In a highly controversial change councils will be told there should be a "presumption for development".
Conservation groups say the reforms could allow un-checked development in the countryside and lead to parts of the Green Belt being concreted over.
For the first time in its history, the National Trust is to mobilise its 3.6 million members against the Coalition's proposals and urge every visitor to its sites to sign a petition opposing the framework.
The 60,000-member CPRE is preparing to take the attack directly to David Cameron, citing a speech he made to the group in 2008 in which he promised to "cherish" the "beauty of our landscape [and] the particular cultures and traditions that rural life sustains".
But both organisations were heavily criticised by Bob Neill, the Local Government Minister. He accused them of being "vested interests" that were peddling "deeply misleading and simply untrue" claims.
He insisted that Green Belt land, as well as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Parks would continue to be fully protected. "This is a carefully choreographed smear campaign by Left-wingers based within the national headquarters of pressure groups," he said. "This is more about a small number of interest groups trying to justify their own existence, going out of their way by picking a fight with Government."
His attack came amid mounting opposition to changes to the National Planning Policy Framework that were announced last month. Tories were among MPs raising serious concerns as a three-month public consultation period got under way.
Despite ministerial assurances, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the Green Belt could come under threat. A government "impact assessment" of the planned changes states that it "could lead to greater development on the Green Belt".
It is under threat from new powers to develop "community build schemes" and "a wider range of local transport infrastructure".
The Planning Inspectorate, which rules on appeals and is an arm of the Department for Communities and Local Government, says it will be using new guidance on presumption in favour of developers with immediate effect despite the consultation period having three months to run.
Major changes are also likely in town centres and industrial areas, where ministers will create "business zones" allowing local businesses to approve their own schemes and bypass council planning altogether. The West End of London, home to thousands of listed buildings and 36,000 residents, has been made one of the first zones.
Barbara Keeley, the shadow local government minister, voiced her concern at the proposals. "The Government is allowing financial considerations to become key determinants in how councils decide on planning applications," she said. "Labour shares the concern that this might lead to inappropriate development and loss of greenfield land."
Potentially more worrying for ministers were growing concerns expressed by backbenchers from both Coalition parties. Andrea Leadsom, the Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, said she had "real concerns" over the policy. "I am a big fan of localism and letting areas decide for themselves what is appropriate for the community and yet a presumption in favour of development takes that power away," she said.
Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP for Newark, where greenfield land has been earmarked for 7,100 new houses, said it was important that “local voices are properly heard”.
Andrew George, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives and vice-chairman of the all-party Commons parliamentary housing and planning group, said the Government had “got it very wrong”.
“It will not go down well in constituencies,” he said. “This 'let rip' approach to development will not help the housing situation in Cornwall, it will simply drive up the value of undeveloped land and therefore make it even harder to find affordable homes.”
The all-party communities and local government committee will be carrying out an inquiry into the planned changes in the autumn. “One of the key concerns is how the presumption in favour of sustainable development fits in with the localism agenda,” said Clive Betts, its Labour chairman. “Could there be a conflict of interest here? Might, in some cases, it be carte blanche for developers to come in?”
Residents fear that housing schemes previously rejected by planners, including new towns proposed under the previous Labour government, could be revived. Peter Nixon, the director of conservation at the National Trust, said local people would not get enough say in developments. “The Government is making warm noises about local communities, but in practice the dice are heavily loaded to favour development,” he said.
“Ministers have put short-term financial gain ahead of everything else. It fails to protect the everyday places that communities love. Power in planning goes to the powerful.”
Shaun Spiers, a former Labour MEP who is chief executive of the CPRE, described his group as “an organisation of Middle England”. “CPRE’s branches are up in arms about the Government’s proposals and our opposition to them is coming from people in the shire countries who deal with planning issues every day, are committed to the countryside and are deeply worried about what the Government is proposing,” he said.
Greg Clark, the Planning Minister, said it was a priority of the Coalition to sort out planning policy. “The Localism Bill got rid of regional bodies and took back planning decisions for local people, who are the best judges,” he said. “It is absolutely clear that the Green Belt continues to be protected. It is clear and explicit in the document.
“There is no change in the status of the countryside. Everything that was previously protected — Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Parks — continue to be protected. “It is simply scaremongering to trump up any particular site and say the status changes as a result of this.”
Alaska Native Rebuts Environmentalists’ Claims
(Pebble Mine is the common name of an advanced mineral exploration project investigating a very large porphyry copper, gold, and molybdenum mineral deposit in the Bristol Bay region of Southwest Alaska, near Lake Iliamna and Lake Clark. The proposal to mine the ore deposit, using large-scale operations and infrastructure, is opposed by Greenies. Proponents argue that the mine will create jobs, provide tax revenue to the state of Alaska, and reduce American dependence on foreign sources of raw materials)
Environmental groups have been arguing for months that Alaska Natives don’t want the new Pebble Mine. They have also latched onto fishery groups with a bogus argument about crippling the salmon runs in the Bristol Bay area. The truth is, there are no facts to the environmentalists’ claims. Finally, we have heard from an Alaska Native who wants the public to know that we do not have to choose one or the other. In a Letter to the Editor of the Oregonian, Greg Anelon, says we can have both:
Too many Alaska natives are unemployed. Too many Alaska natives live without a year-round economy. Too many Alaska natives face significant social challenges. Visit us in the middle of winter and see for yourself. The Pebble project represents too many benefits for the people of Southwest Alaska to simply say “no” before having all the information.
Anelon takes a common-sense approach to the issues raised by the environmental activists who would prevent the mine and jobs attached to it before it even grows legs. His perspective needs to be heard.
'Energy independence' is a pipe dream
by Jeff Jacoby
LATE LAST MONTH, President Obama announced new automobile fuel-efficiency standards that will require cars to achieve an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Vehicle fleets currently average 27 miles per gallon, so the new target would boost fuel efficiency by an unprecedented 100 percent within 14 years. But barring an engineering miracle, that's probably pie in the sky. After all, from 1975, when the first federal mileage rules for new cars were enacted, it took more than 30 years to improve automobile efficiency by just 60 percent. And the easy gains were achieved early on; since 1980, fuel economy has climbed by only about 1 percent a year.
The new mileage requirements, says President Obama, are the "most important step we've ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil." Which is what presidents always say.
In truth, there is less to the new standards (known as CAFE, for corporate average fuel economy) than meets the eye. Writing for The Hill, John German of the International Council on Clean Transportation, a former Chrysler powertrain engineer, points out that "automakers will be graded on a curve." That means "an automaker that builds mostly larger cars, SUVs, and trucks will have lower mileage goals than a competitor that builds mostly compact and subcompact cars."
A mandate of 54.5 mpg may generate arresting headlines, but down in the fine print, the numbers aren't nearly as striking. "Even if the auto industry manages to meet the new standards," reports The New York Times, "it is unlikely car buyers will see many fuel-economy stickers with such high mileage." Thanks to an array of "credits," discounts, and testing procedures built into the CAFE system, 54.5 mpg will really be more like 40., "it is unlikely car buyers will see many fuel-economy stickers with such high mileage
But the fuzzy mileage numbers aren't nearly as dubious as the endlessly repeated claim that greater fuel efficiency will mean lower fuel consumption, and in turn reduce American dependence on foreign oil.
"This agreement on fuel standards," declared the president at his CAFE press conference, "represents the single most important step we've ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Think about that."
It is getting hard to remember a time when US presidents didn't tout "energy independence" -- meaning freedom from imported oil -- as an urgent and achievable American objective.
"Let this be our national goal," said Richard Nixon in his 1974 State of the Union address: "At the end of this decade, in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need."
A year later, Gerald Ford foresaw a reduction in oil imports "by 1 million barrels a day by the end of this year" and complete energy independence by 1985.
In 1979, Jimmy Carter blasted America's "intolerable dependence on foreign oil" and swore: "Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never."
Year in, year out, the quest for energy independence is one presidents never tire of invoking. What Nixon, Ford, and Carter were pushing in the 1970s, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama have continued to push in the 2000s. And while the 2012 presidential candidates are sure to clash on many things, the desirability of reducing oil imports from abroad is not likely to be one of them.
But energy independence is a delusion. Greater efficiency may be a splendid thing -- all other things being equal, who wouldn't rather get more miles to the gallon? -- but far from reducing the nation's demand for oil, it increases it. Thirty-five years of CAFE mandates have not reversed the rising US demand for petroleum. In 1975, highway fuel consumption totaled 109 billion gallons, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The total in 2008: 175 billion gallons.
"Beginning this moment," President Jimmy Carter vowed in 1979, "this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never." Since then, US imports of oil have climbed 57 percent.
What is true of automobile transportation is true of the economy generally: Americans use energy far more efficiently than in decades past, and for that reason the more energy they consume. Paradoxical? Not really. "Efficiency fails to curb demand because it lets more people do more, and do it faster," write Peter Huber and Mark Mills in The Bottomless Well , their intriguing 2005 book on energy policy, "and more/more/faster invariably swamps all the efficiency gains." More energy-efficient generally means more affordable -- and the more affordable something becomes, the more of it society tends to use.
Whatever else might be said of the new CAFE rules, they aren't going to reduce our dependence on oil, imported or otherwise. Americans have been using foreign oil for a long time, and we use a lot more of it now than we used to. When Nixon was in the White House, the United States imported 6 million barrels of petroleum per day. The daily average so far this year is 11.4 million barrels. It would be even higher if the economy were stronger.
Someday -- maybe -- motor vehicles really will get 54.5 mpg. But "energy independence?" You should live so long.
A starving man will always eat the last dodo
Thus wrote the late John Grover in his book on the anti-nuclear power movement.
Real conservation is only possible because of the intensive production by miners, farmers and foresters…We must maximise the intensity with which some of the land is used so that other areas may be preserved. This calls for both high capital and high technology, for this is what allows conservation. Low, labour-intensive technology does not. A starving man will always eat the last dodo.
Alan Oxley made much the same point in his chapter in The Greens which is subtitled ‘How to lower living standards and perpetuate poverty’. He wrote “Subordinating economic development to ecological sustainability would retard both economic growth and improvement of environmental protection”. Of course the “ecological sustainability” which is opposed to development is only the boneheaded kind which insists that any kind of human modification of a wilderness is retrograde.
The “development in order to achieve conservation” argument follows a line that is similar to the logic of the “demographic transition”. People who were concerned about world hunger and over-population mostly advocated family planning programs, advice and resources to lower the birth rate. People like Lord Peter Bauer pointed out that high birth rates were often a response to high child mortality rates and they identified the “demographic transition” when people reach a level of health and wealth where the infant mortality rate falls (so they need less conceptions to have a family) and they have other resources to cope with illness and old age in addition to their children. Hence their birth rates fell, and at present we are looking at a world poplation which could plateau with only a billion or so more people.
The same applies to conservation of the environment. The policies of the Greens would attempt to stop people from clearing forests (both at home and abroaad), and at the same time their antipathy to free trade and economic development would prejudice the economic progress of western and third world nations alike. Thus the poor nations of the world would be delayed in reaching the point of “environmental transition” from traditional slash and burn subsistence farming and other sub-optimal uses of resources to more productive methods.
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