Tuesday, March 19, 2013

True believers

Back in the '50s, some psychologists led by Leon Festinger looked at believers in prophecies about the end of the world.  He was particularly interested in what would happen when the due date for the end  came and the world continued on as before.  He found that most believers were unshaken.  They modified their beliefs slightly but otherwise continued on as before.  Below is what Festinger said about such believers in prophecy.  We must expect believers in the prophecy of catastrophic global warming to be the same

A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point. We have all experienced the futility of trying to change a strong conviction, especially if the convinced person has some investment in his belief. We are familiar with the variety of ingenious defenses with which people protect their convictions, managing to keep them unscathed through the most devastating attacks. But man’s resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting other people to his view. --Leon Festinger, "When Prophecy Fails", 1956

We create resources by inventing the technology that does so

One of the things that is so difficult to get over to the "Arrrgh! We're running out of everything!" crowd is that we humans actually create resources by inventing the technology that does that creation. I've blathered about this with respect to minerals here often enough. Today's example is fresh water. Of course, we all know that there's a water cycle, that we don't destroy water by using it, we just dirty it. But it is true that there are areas of the world that are becoming short of potable water. We would obviously like there to be a solution for this and it looks like there is:

"The process, officials and engineers at Lockheed Martin Corp say, would enable filter manufacturers to produce thin carbon membranes with regular holes about a nanometer in size that are large enough to allow water to pass through but small enough to block the molecules of salt in seawater. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter. Because the sheets of pure carbon known as graphene are so thin - just one atom in thickness - it takes much less energy to push the seawater through the filter with the force required to separate the salt from the water, they said."

This is reverse osmosis which is nothing very new. But here's what the new part is:

"The energy that's required and the pressure that's required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less."

100 x less?

"If you can design a membrane that's completely different than what we use today, then there's a chance for more than two orders of magnitude (100 times) increase in the permeability of the membrane," Grossman said."

Well, yes, because the cost in reverse osmosis is indeed the cost of maintaining the pressure differential on either side of the membrane.

Just to put this into actual numbers. The average UK household uses some 100 cubic metres of water a year. (100,000 litres). At current desalination costs this is $50 a year for a rough guide is 50 cents per cubic metre. Reduce that cost by 100 and we're talking about a cost per household of 50 cents, or 25 pence. At which price it really doesn't matter whether we're putting rainwater, rivers, reservoirs or desalinated water into the pipes now, does it?

This also applies everywhere else too of course. Lagos, Lima, LA...potable water simply becomes a non-problem. Agreed, you'd probably still not use it to irrigate wheat but at these sorts of prices water for industrial or human consumption simply becomes something that isn't a problem.

This is entirely apart from the fact that such a water filter fine enough to seive out the sodium and chlorine ions is obviously going to be fine enough to dispose of all microbes and viri, all heavy metals and so on, any oestrogen or other molecule, thus making cleaning up polluted water vastly cheaper. Factory run off, heck, if you really wanted to, fertiliser run off from farming.

There is good news for the worrying crowd though. You can still worry about the fact that we're running out of scarce resources to worry about running out of.


Ocean plankton sponge up nearly twice the carbon currently assumed

Models of carbon dioxide in the world's oceans need to be revised, according to new work by UC Irvine and other scientists published online Sunday in Nature Geoscience. Trillions of plankton near the surface of warm waters are far more carbon-rich than has long been thought, they found. Global marine temperature fluctuations could mean that tiny Prochlorococcus and other microbes digest double the carbon previously calculated.

In making their findings, the researchers have upended a decades-old core principle of marine science known as the Redfield ratio, named for famed oceanographer Alfred Redfield. He concluded in 1934 that from the top of the world's oceans to their cool, dark depths, both plankton and the materials they excrete contain the same ratio (106:16:1) of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous.

But as any gardener who has done a soil test knows, amounts of those elements can vary widely. The new study's authors found dramatically different ratios at a variety of marine locations. What matters more than depth, they concluded, is latitude.

In particular, the researchers detected far higher levels of carbon in warm, nutrient-starved areas (195:28:1) near the equator than in cold, nutrient-rich polar zones (78:13:1).

"The Redfield concept remains a central tenet in ocean biology and chemistry. However, we clearly show that the nutrient content ratio in plankton is not constant and thus reject this longstanding central theory for ocean science," said lead author Adam Martiny, associate professor of Earth system science and ecology & evolutionary biology at UC Irvine.

"Instead, we show that plankton follow a strong latitudinal pattern." He and fellow investigators made seven expeditions to gather big jars of water from the frigid Bering Sea, the North Atlantic near Denmark, mild Caribbean waters and elsewhere.

They used a sophisticated $1 million cell sorter aboard the research vessel to analyze samples at the molecular level. They also compared their data to published results from 18 other marine voyages.

Martiny noted that since Redfield first announced his findings, "there have been people over time putting out a flag, saying, 'Hey, wait a minute.'" But for the most part, Redfield's ratio of constant elements is a staple of textbooks and research. In recent years, Martiny said, "a couple of models have suggested otherwise, but they were purely models. This is really the first time it's been shown with observation. That's why it's so important."


Hiding the slaughter                                                            

Big Wind hides evidence of turbine bird kills – and gets rewarded. Here’s how they do it

Jim Wiegand

In 1984 the California Energy Commission said “many institutional, engineering, environmental and economic issues must be resolved before the industry is secure and its growth can be assured.”  Though it was not clearly stated, the primary environmental issue alluded to was the extreme hazard that wind turbines posed to raptors.

Since the early 1980s, the industry has known there is no way its propeller-style turbines could ever be safe for raptors. With exposed blade tips spinning in open space at speeds up to 200 mph, it was impossible. Wind developers also knew they would have a public relations nightmare if people ever learned how many eagles are actually being cut in half – or left with a smashed wing, to stumble around for days before dying.

To hide this awful truth, strict wind farm operating guidelines were established – including high security, gag orders in leases and other agreements, and the prevention of accurate, meaningful mortality studies.                              

For the industry this business plan has succeeded quite well in keeping a lid on the mortality problem.  While the public has some understanding that birds are killed by wind turbines, it doesn’t have a clue about the real mortality numbers. And the industry gets rewarded with subsidies, and immunity from endangered species and other wildlife laws.

Early studies identified the extent of the problem

To fully grasp the wind turbine mortality problem, one needs to examine the 2004 report from the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA). The study lasted five years (1998-2003), and researchers did not have full access to all the Altamont turbines.

This careful, honest effort analyzed turbine characteristics in relation to mortality and estimated mortality from body counts compiled in careful searches. Researchers then adjusted mortality numbers by examining statistical data based on searcher efficiency and other factors, such as carcass removal by predators and scavengers. The report even suggested that the mortality estimates probably erred on the low side, due to missed carcasses and other human errors.                                            

This study stands in marked contrast to studies being conducted today, especially the Wildlife Reporting Response System that is currently the only analysis happening or permitted at most wind farms. The WRRS is the power companies’ own fatality reporting system, and allows paid personnel to collect and count carcasses. It explains why mortality numbers are always on the low side and why many high-profile species are disappearing near turbine installations.

Incredibly, the APWRA report actually admitted: “We found one raptor carcass buried under rocks and another stuffed in a ground squirrel burrow. One operator neglected to inform us when a golden eagle was removed as part of the WRRS. Based on these experiences, it is possible that we missed other carcasses that were removed.” (Chap. 3, pg. 52) It’s easy to see how human “errors” keep bird mortality low.

The APWRA study also documented that raptor food sources, turbine sizes and turbine placement all directly affect raptor mortality. It was thus able to identify many of the most dangerous turbines or groups of turbines – those with a history of killing golden eagles, kestrels, burrowing owls and red-tailed hawks.

Studies worsen as turbines proliferate and increase in size

The study also discussed how higher raptor mortality occurred when smaller towers were “upgraded” with larger turbines and proportionally longer blades. These wind turbines offered what raptors perceived as intermediate to very big windows of opportunity to fly through what looked like open spaces between towers, but were actually within the space occupied by much longer, rapidly moving rotor blades.

The result was significantly more fatalities of golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, burrowing owls, mallards, horned larks and western meadowlarks. Turbines with slower rotations per minute actually made it appear that there was more space and “greater windows of time.” This fooled birds, by giving them the illusion that they had open flight space between the rotating blades.

In fact, the illusion fools people, too. The newest turbines move their blades at 10-20 rotations per minute, which appears to be slow – but for their blade tips this translates into 100-200 mph!

All this was very important, because the industry was moving away from smaller turbines and installing much larger turbines, with much longer blades. However, the industry not only ignored the APWRA findings and rapidly installed thousands of these much larger turbines across America, despite their far greater dangers for birds and raptors. It also kept the APWRA out of the public’s awareness, and focused attention on new study results that reflected far less accurate (and honest) searches and surveys.                                                                                                                                                  

How the wind industry hides raptor mortality

The APWRA report also looked at the placement of carcasses in relation to turbine types. It documented that the distances carcasses were found from turbine towers increased significantly as turbine megawatt ratings and blade lengths increased. Based on sample of about 800 carcasses, the report revealed that birds were found an average of 94 feet (28.5) meters from 100Kw turbines on towers 81 feet (24.6 meters) high.    

Obviously, taller turbines with longer blades and faster blade tip speeds will catapult stricken birds much further. Figure 1 shows how a turbine 2.5 times larger will result in an average carcass distance of 372 feet (113.5 meters) from the tower. The wind industry is acutely aware of this.

That is why it has restricted search areas to 165 feet (50 meters) around its bigger turbines. This ensures that far fewer bodies will be found – and turbine operators will not need to explain away as many carcasses.

Recent mortality studies like those conducted at the Wolfe Island wind project (2.3 MW turbines) and Criterion project in Maryland (2.5 MW turbines) should have used searches 655 feet (200 meters) from turbines, just to find the bulk (75-85%) of the fatalities. Of course, they did not do so. Instead, they restricted their searches to 165 feet – ensuring that they missed most raptor carcasses, and could issue statements claiming that their turbines were having minimal or “acceptable” effects on bird populations.

Other methods and biased formulas allow the industry to exclude or explain away carcasses. The latest Altamont Pass studies found far more bird carcasses, but Altamont operators still claim mortality declines by using new adjustment formulas and other exclusionary factors. (Figure 2) For example, industry analysts:

·         Exclude certain carcasses. The 2005-2010 WRRS data show that 347 carcasses (primarily raptors) – plus 21 golden eagle carcasses – were excluded from mortality estimates, because industry personnel claimed they were found outside standard search procedures, said the “cause of death was unknown” (even when the birds’ heads had been sliced off), or removed carcasses ahead of a scheduled search.

·         Exclude mortally wounded or crippled birds found during searches, even if they display turbine-related injuries. Even though many birds hit by turbine blades die within days, if they are still breathing when found, they are considered mobile – and thus not fatalities.

·         Simply avoid searching near some of the most dangerous and lethal turbines. The industry justifies this exclusion by claiming that “the number of turbines monitored was reduced and spatially balanced for a randomized rolling panel design.” That this “reduction and balancing” excluded the most deadly portion of the Altamont facility was presented as coincidental or part of a proper scientific methodology.

The cold reality is that honest, scientific, accurate mortality studies in the Altamont Pass area would result in death tolls that would shock Americans. They would also raise serious questions about wind turbines throughout the United States, especially in major bird habitats like Oregon’s Shepherds Flat wind facility and the whooping cranes’ migratory corridor from Alberta, Canada to Texas.

The techniques discussed here help ensure that “monitoring” studies match the facility operators’ desired conclusions, and mortality figures are kept at “acceptable” levels.

The bird mortality disaster must no longer be hidden

Not only has the wind industry never solved its environmental problem. It has been hiding at least 90% of this slaughter for decades. In fact, the universal problem of hiding bird (and bat) mortality goes from bad to intolerable beyond the Altamont Pass boundaries, because studies in other areas across North America are far less rigorous, or even nonexistent, and many new turbines are sited in prime bird and bat habitats.

The real death toll, as reported by Paul Driessen and others, is thousands of raptors a year – and up to 39 million birds and bats of all species annually in the United States alone, year after year! This is intolerable, and unsustainable. It is leading to the inevitable extinction of many species, at least in many habitats, and perhaps in the entire Lower 48 States.

Meanwhile, assorted “experts” continue to insist that the greatest threats to golden eagles are other factors like hikers getting too close to their nests, even when most abandoned nests in Southern California are nowhere near any hiking trails and wind turbines continue to slaughter eagles.

It is essential that people realize that no energy source comes anywhere close to killing as many raptors as wind energy does. No other energy companies are allowed to pick up bodies of rare and protected species from around their production sites on a day-to-day basis, year-in and year-out. No other energy producer has a several thousand mile mortality foot print (the highly endangered whooping cranes’ migratory corridor), like what wind energy has.

Once people understand all of this, they will rightfully demand that the wind industry obey the same environmental rules that all other industries must follow. This will require that wind turbines be sited only where the risk of bird deaths is minimal to zero; that turbines be replaced with new designs that birds recognize as obstacles and thus avoid; that fines be levied for every bird death, as is done with other industries; and that industrial wind facilities not be permitted where these requirements cannot be met.

America’s wildlife, and proper application of our environmental laws, require nothing less.

Via email

The Mini-Ice Age has Arrived

By Alan Caruba

Climatologists and meteorologists are familiar with the last Mini Ice Age (MIA) that occurred between 1350 and 1850 AD. It is also referred to as the Little Ice Age. Suffice to say it was cold and, as such weather cycles tend to do, it altered history in a variety of ways.

The failure of crops was one aspect of the cold spell and in France the revolution that overthrew the monarchy is attributed to the unhappiness of its citizens, but famine in the northern hemisphere was widespread. In the United States, it is best recalled for the horrid winter our revolutionary war soldiers spent at Valley Forge. At one point during the cycle Americans spent what they called “a year without summer” when the weather remained too cold to plant crops.

Since climate is cyclical, it is not surprising that the MIA followed the Medieval Warm Period, also known as a climate optimum. Crops flourished, empires rose and declined, and neither cycle had a thing to do with so-called greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and everything to do with what was happening on the sun.

As spring arrives in the U.S., there was also a broad band of snow storms that comes with it.

One of the world’s most respected long-term climate forecasters is Piers Corbyn, an astrophysicist whose expertise is relied upon by corporations and others who need to know what the weather will really be as opposed to the criminally false claims about global warming. His website, WeatherAction, is well worth visiting.

In his own words, “WeatherAction is involved in the Global Warming/Climate Change debate where we point out that the world is now cooling not warming and there is no observational evidence in the thousands and millions of years of data that changes in CO2 have any effect on weather or climate. There are no scientists in the world who can produce such observational data. There is only effect the other way, namely that ocean temperatures control average CO2 levels.”

Recently Corbyn announced that “The CO2 story is over. It has been pointing the world in the wrong direction for too long. The serious implications of the developing mini ice age to agriculture and the world economy through the next 25 to 35 years must be addressed.” World cooling is now locked in says Corbyn, citing the decrease in average solar activity and a jet stream that is often further south than normal, resulting in extreme weather events.

Following in the heels of Corbyn’s forecast was the release of a new report by Dr. David Whitehouse, published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and what makes it fairly extraordinary after decades of global warming propaganda is that he concludes that there has been no statistically significant increase in annual global temperatures since 1997. That’s seventeen years of atrocious lies about a warming earth.

The irony that Dr. Whitehouse includes in his report is that the atmospheric composition of carbon dioxide has increased during that time from 370 ppm to 390 ppm. So, everything you have been told about carbon dioxide emissions and those of other so-called greenhouse gases “causing” a warming earth is just lies, lies, and lies.

“If the standstill (lower temperatures) continues for a few more years,” wrote Dr. Whitehouse, “it will mean that no one who has just reached adulthood, or younger, will have witnessed the earth get warmer during their lifetime.”

Now here’s the kicker. The President of the United States, according to a recent Business Week article, “is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving projects, from pipelines to highways.” The result “could be significant delays for natural gas export facilities, ports for coal sales to Asia, and even new forest roads, industry lobbyists say.”

“In taking the step,” said Business Week reporter Mark Drajem, “Obama would be fulfilling a vow to act alone in the face of a Republican-run House of Representatives unwilling to pass measures limiting greenhouse gases.”

The President, as usual, is lying through his teeth. There is no global warming or, as it is more frequently called these days, climate change unless you include a colder earth in that change.

The result will be four years of a second term in office during which Obama and his minions will do everything they can to slow what little is left of the U.S. economy, currently growing at a rate that requires a microscope to detect.

For the rest of us, the Mini Ice Age has arrived.


Sierra Club: Thy Name is Hypocrisy (natural gas for and against)

What’s the Sierra Club’s position on the development and use of natural gas from shale? Depends on whom you ask . . . within the actual organization.

By now, of course, we’re all well aware of the Sierra Club’s newly staked-out position in opposition to natural gas, notwithstanding the fact that the Club used to support it.

With its “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign, the Sierra Club now proclaims (without even a shred of irony) that natural gas is “environmentally damaging and harms public health.” Yet empirical evidence–even studies commissioned by none other than the Sierra Club itself–shows the opposite is true (also see here, here, and here).

But no one ever accused the Sierra Club of being constrained by novelties such as consistency, accuracy, or metaphysics.

The shift toward ideological opposition to an energy source they once pragmatically supported was in some ways predictable. The Club couldn’t sit on the sidelines as American oil and natural gas production soared to record highs due to the development of shale and other tight resources. The activist uprising around “fracking” posed too great a fundraising opportunity for them to ignore.

But that rapid 180-degree turn on natural gas has also put the Sierra Club in an uncomfortable position. With the near-daily news stories explaining the air quality and climate benefits of natural gas, the Sierra Club’s opposition to natural gas undermines its stated goal of protecting the environment.

In response, the Sierra Club has come up with a bold and fascinating strategy: Say whatever the heck they want, regardless of whether it contradicts their statements elsewhere.




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


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