Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Global Cooling on the way back

Around 1250 A.D., historical records show, ice packs began showing up farther south in the North Atlantic. Glaciers also began expanding on Greenland, soon to threaten Norse settlements on the island. From 1275 to 1300 A.D., glaciers began expanding more broadly, according to radiocarbon dating of plants killed by the glacier growth. The period known today as the Little Ice Age was just starting to poke through.

Summers began cooling in Northern Europe after 1300 A.D., negatively impacting growing seasons, as reflected in the Great Famine of 1315 to 1317. Expanding glaciers and ice cover spreading across Greenland began driving the Norse settlers out. The last, surviving, written records of the Norse Greenland settlements, which had persisted for centuries, concern a marriage in 1408 A.D. in the church of Hvalsey, today the best preserved Norse ruin.

Colder winters began regularly freezing rivers and canals in Great Britain, the Netherlands and Northern France, with both the Thames in London and the Seine in Paris frozen solid annually. The first River Thames Frost Fair was held in 1607. In 1607-1608, early European settlers in North America reported ice persisting on Lake Superior until June. In January, 1658, a Swedish army marched across the ice to invade Copenhagen. By the end of the 17th century, famines had spread from northern France, across Norway and Sweden, to Finland and Estonia.

Reflecting its global scope, evidence of the Little Ice Age appears in the Southern Hemisphere as well. Sediment cores from Lake Malawi in southern Africa show colder weather from 1570 to 1820. A 3,000 year temperature reconstruction based on varying rates of stalagmite growth in a cave in South Africa also indicates a colder period from 1500 to 1800. A 1997 study comparing West Antarctic ice cores with the results of the Greenland Ice Sheet Project Two (GISP2) indicate a global Little Ice Age affecting the two ice sheets in tandem.

The Siple Dome, an ice dome roughly 100 km long and 100 km wide, about 100 km east of the Siple Coast of Antartica, also reflects effects of the Little Ice Age synchronously with the GISP2 record, as do sediment cores from the Bransfield Basin of the Antarctic Peninsula. Oxygen/isotope analysis from the Pacific Islands indicates a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature decline between 1270 and 1475 A.D.

The Franz Josef glacier on the west side of the Southern Alps of New Zealand advanced sharply during the period of the Little Ice Age, actually invading a rain forest at its maximum extent in the early 1700s. The Mueller glacier on the east side of New Zealand’s Southern Alps expanded to its maximum extent at roughly the same time.

Ice cores from the Andeas mountains in South America show a colder period from 1600 to 1800. Tree ring data from Patagonia in South America show cold periods from 1270 to 1380 and from 1520 to 1670. Spanish explorers noted the expansion of the San Rafael Glacier in Chile from 1675 to 1766, which continued into the 19th century.

The height of the Little Ice Age is generally dated as 1650 to 1850 A.D. The American Revolutionary Army under General George Washington shivered at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78, and New York harbor was frozen in the winter of 1780. Historic snowstorms struck Lisbon, Portugal in 1665, 1744 and 1886. Glaciers in Glacier National Park in Montana advanced until the late 18th or early 19th centuries. The last River Thames Frost Fair was held in 1814. The Little Ice Age phased out during the middle to late 19th century.

The Little Ice Age, following the historically warm temperatures of the Medieval Warm Period, which lasted from about AD 950 to 1250, has been attributed to natural cycles in solar activity, particularly sunspots. A period of sharply lower sunspot activity known as the Wolf Minimum began in 1280 and persisted for 70 years until 1350. That was followed by a period of even lower sunspot activity that lasted 90 years from 1460 to 1550 known as the Sporer Minimum. During the period 1645 to 1715, the low point of the Little Ice Age, the number of sunspots declined to zero for the entire time. This is known as the Maunder Minimum, named after English astronomer Walter Maunder. That was followed by the Dalton Minimum from 1790 to 1830, another period of well below normal sunspot activity.

The increase in global temperatures since the late 19th century just reflects the end of the Little Ice Age. The global temperature trends since then have followed not rising CO2 trends but the ocean temperature cycles of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Every 20 to 30 years, the much colder water near the bottom of the oceans cycles up to the top, where it has a slight cooling effect on global temperatures until the sun warms that water. That warmed water then contributes to slightly warmer global temperatures, until the next churning cycle.

Those ocean temperature cycles, and the continued recovery from the Little Ice Age, are primarily why global temperatures rose from 1915 until 1945, when CO2 emissions were much lower than in recent years. The change to a cold ocean temperature cycle, primarily the PDO, is the main reason that global temperatures declined from 1945 until the late 1970s, despite the soaring CO2 emissions during that time from the postwar industrialization spreading across the globe.

The 20 to 30 year ocean temperature cycles turned back to warm from the late 1970s until the late 1990s, which is the primary reason that global temperatures warmed during this period. But that warming ended 15 years ago, and global temperatures have stopped increasing since then, if not actually cooled, even though global CO2 emissions have soared over this period. As The Economist magazine reported in March, “The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO2 put there by humanity since 1750.” Yet, still no warming during that time. That is because the CO2 greenhouse effect is weak and marginal compared to natural causes of global temperature changes.

At first the current stall out of global warming was due to the ocean cycles turning back to cold. But something much more ominous has developed over this period. Sunspots run in 11 year short term cycles, with longer cyclical trends of 90 and even 200 years. The number of sunspots declined substantially in the last 11 year cycle, after flattening out over the previous 20 years. But in the current cycle, sunspot activity has collapsed. NASA’s Science News report for January 8, 2013 states,

“Indeed, the sun could be on the threshold of a mini-Maunder event right now. Ongoing Solar Cycle 24 [the current short term 11 year cycle] is the weakest in more than 50 years. Moreover, there is (controversial) evidence of a long-term weakening trend in the magnetic field strength of sunspots. Matt Penn and William Livingston of the National Solar Observatory predict that by the time Solar Cycle 25 arrives, magnetic fields on the sun will be so weak that few if any sunspots will be formed. Independent lines of research involving helioseismology and surface polar fields tend to support their conclusion.”

That is even more significant because NASA’s climate science has been controlled for years by global warming hysteric James Hansen, who recently announced his retirement.

But this same concern is increasingly being echoed worldwide. The Voice of Russia reported on April 22, 2013:

“Global warming which has been the subject of so many discussions in recent years, may give way to global cooling. According to scientists from the Pulkovo Observatory in St.Petersburg, solar activity is waning, so the average yearly temperature will begin to decline as well. Scientists from Britain and the US chime in saying that forecasts for global cooling are far from groundless.”

That report quoted Yuri Nagovitsyn of the Pulkovo Observatory saying, “Evidently, solar activity is on the decrease. The 11-year cycle doesn’t bring about considerable climate change – only 1-2%. The impact of the 200-year cycle is greater – up to 50%. In this respect, we could be in for a cooling period that lasts 200-250 years.” In other words, another Little Ice Age.

The German Herald reported on March 31, 2013:

“German meteorologists say that the start of 2013 is now the coldest in 208 years – and now German media has quoted Russian scientist Dr Habibullo Abdussamatov from the St. Petersburg Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory [saying this] is proof as he said earlier that we are heading for a “Mini Ice Age.” Talking to German media the scientist who first made his prediction in 2005 said that after studying sunspots and their relationship with climate change on Earth, we are now on an ‘unavoidable advance towards a deep temperature drop.’”

Faith in Global Warming is collapsing in formerly staunch Europe following increasingly severe winters which have now started continuing into spring. Christopher Booker explained in The Sunday Telegraph on April 27, 2013:

“Here in Britain, where we had our fifth freezing winter in a row, the Central England Temperature record – according to an expert analysis on the US science blog Watts Up With That – shows that in this century, average winter temperatures have dropped by 1.45C, more than twice as much as their rise between 1850 and 1999, and twice as much as the entire net rise in global temperatures recorded in the 20th century.”

A news report from India (The Hindu April 22, 2013) stated, “March in Russia saw the harshest frosts in 50 years, with temperatures dropping to –25° Celsius in central parts of the country and –45° in the north. It was the coldest spring month in Moscow in half a century….Weathermen say spring is a full month behind schedule in Russia.” The news report summarized,

“Russia is famous for its biting frosts but this year, abnormally icy weather also hit much of Europe, the United States, China and India. Record snowfalls brought Kiev, capital of Ukraine, to a standstill for several days in late March, closed roads across many parts of Britain, buried thousands of sheep beneath six-metre deep snowdrifts in Northern Ireland, and left more than 1,000,000 homes without electricity in Poland. British authorities said March was the second coldest in its records dating back to 1910. China experienced the severest winter weather in 30 years and New Delhi in January recorded the lowest temperature in 44 years.”

Booker adds, “Last week it was reported that 3,318 places in the USA had recorded their lowest temperatures for this time of year since records began. Similar record cold was experienced by places in every province of Canada. So cold has the Russian winter been that Moscow had its deepest snowfall in 134 years of observations.”

Britain’s Met Office, an international cheerleading headquarters for global warming hysteria, did concede last December that there would be no further warming at least through 2017, which would make 20 years with no global warming. That reflects grudging recognition of the newly developing trends. But that reflects as well growing divergence between the reality of real world temperatures and the projections of the climate models at the foundation of the global warming alarmism of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Since those models have never been validated, they are not science at this point, but just made up fantasies. That is why, “In the 12 years to 2011, 11 out of 12 [global temperature]forecasts [of the Met Office] were too high — and… none were colder than [resulted],” as BBC climate correspondent Paul Hudson wrote in January.

Global warming was never going to be the problem that the Lysenkoists who have brought down western science made it out to be. Human emissions of CO2 are only 4 to 5% of total global emissions, counting natural causes. Much was made of the total atmospheric concentration of CO2 exceeding 400 parts per million. But if you asked the daffy NBC correspondent who hysterically reported on that what portion of the atmosphere 400 parts per million is, she transparently wouldn’t be able to tell you. One percent of the atmosphere would be 10,000 parts per million. The atmospheric concentrations of CO2 deep in the geologic past were much, much greater than today, yet life survived, and we have no record of any of the catastrophes the hysterics have claimed. Maybe that is because the temperature impact of increased concentrations of CO2 declines logarithmically. That means there is a natural limit to how much increased CO2 can effectively warm the planet, which would be well before any of the supposed climate catastrophes the warming hysterics have tried to use to shut down capitalist prosperity.

Yet, just last week, there was Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson telling us, by way of attempting to tutor Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, “For the record, and for the umpteenth time, there is no ‘great amount of uncertainty’ about whether the planet is warming and why.” If you can read, and you have gotten this far in my column, you know why Robinson’s ignorance is just another Washington Post abuse of the First Amendment. Mr. Robinson, let me introduce you to the British Met Office, stalwart of Global Warming “science,” such as it is, which has already publicly confessed that we are already three quarters through 20 years of No Global Warming!

Booker could have been writing about Robinson when he concluded his Sunday Telegraph commentary by writing, “Has there ever in history been such an almighty disconnect between observable reality and the delusions of a political class that is quite impervious to any rational discussion?”

But there is a fundamental problem with the temperature records from this contentious period, when climate science crashed into political science. The land based records, which have been under the control of global warming alarmists at the British Met Office and the Hadley Centre Climate Research Unit, and at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the U.S., show much more warming during this period than the incorruptible satellite atmosphere temperature records. Those satellite records have been further confirmed by atmospheric weather balloons. But the land based records can be subject to tampering and falsification.



Italy is furious with Britain after UK blocks its bid to ban plastic shopping bags across Europe

Britain's decision not to back a European law banning plastic bags has caused friction with Italy and stunned environmental campaigners.

Italy's Environment Minister has criticised Britain's lack of support for the law, describing it as 'astounding' particularly for a seafaring nation.

Environmental campaigners have also been left flabbergasted by Britain's move earlier this month, especially given the Coalition government's support for reducing the environmental impact of bags on the landscape and wildlife.

However, a Government spokesperson said in a statement to the Mail Online: 'While we are determined to tackle the blight caused by discarded carrier bags, the proposed Italian scheme is illegal under EU packaging law.'

Andrea Orlando, Italy's environment minister, pointed out the risks to the environment of adopting Britain's position.

Quoted in The Daily Telegraph, he said: 'The bags are a serious problem, above all at sea, and it is astounding that Britain, which is serious about the environment and has a seafaring tradition going back centuries, does not want to defend the seas from plastic pollution which suffocates and kills many marine animals.'

Three years ago, Italy's coastline had one of the worst records for plastic bag pollution; Italians consumed one quarter of all Europe’s single-use plastic shopping bags. A study showed that plastic bags accounted for 72 per cent of the waste washed up on its coasts.

But since 2011, Italy has introduced a ban on supply of the carrier bags; supermarkets and shops are only allowed to provide biodegradable plastic bags or thicker reusable ones.

The Mediterranean country now wants to go one step further; to be able to impose fines on shops that fail to comply with the rules. To do this, it needs an EU law to rubber stamp the ban.

This month a report by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) revealed that for every mile of Britain's coastline, there are on average 72 disposable shopping bags washed up. The problem is also getting worse.

To tackle the growing problem, Scotland has pledged to introduce charges and Wales and Northern Ireland have already imposed fees resulting in bag use dropping by up to 96 per cent in some supermarkets.

But England has fallen short of imposing a ban.

Environmental charity Friends of the Earth has campaigned for years for plastic bags to be banned as long as alternatives are adequately highlighted, people and shopkeepers have enough time to prepare, and it does not have a 'disproportionate impact on the poor'.

British ex-pat and waste expert David Newman, who lives in Rome called the British position 'astonishing'.  Mr Newman, head of the Italian Composting Association, told the Telegraph: 'The UK has been called to order on this at home yet it is opposing it in Brussels – it’s paradoxical.'


EPA's back-room 'sue and settle' deals require reform

Imagine the outcry if the nation woke up this morning to New York Times and Washington Post headlines reporting that in order to settle a lawsuit against Charles and David Koch, officials with the Environmental Protection Agency had met behind closed doors with them to iron out a deal that effectively allowed the brothers to rewrite regulations as they pleased. Imagine, also, that the EPA and the Kochs then got a federal court to issue a decree ratifying the deal and giving it the force of law? The sun would not likely set on a peaceful America until the EPA/Koch deal was utterly repudiated and those in government responsible for it frog-marched to jail after being charged with multiple violations of the Administrative Procedures Act.

So where were the outraged headlines for any of the 34 times since 2009 that the EPA did similar closed-door deals, but with the Sierra Club rather than the Kochs? Or the 20 times the agency accepted closed-door deals with another environmental activist group, the WildEarth Guardians? Why no headlines for the nine deals EPA accepted with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the six with the Center for Biologial Diversity or the five with the Environmental Defense Fund? In fact, none of the 71 closed-door deals EPA has accepted since 2009 with private parties involved in environmental advocacy and activism got front-page headlines.

All of these deals are unintended consequences of the "sue and settle" process included in major environmental laws adopted since 1970. Here's how the process works: First, the private environmental group sues the EPA in federal court seeking to force it to issue new regulations by a date certain. Then agency and group officials meet behind closed doors to hammer out a deal. Typically in the deal, the government agrees to do whatever the activists want. The last step occurs when the judge issues a consent decree that makes the deal the law of the land. No messy congressional hearings. No public comment period. No opportunity for anybody outside the privileged few to know how government regulatory policy is being shaped until it's too late.

That's how sue and settle works, so it's understandable that, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce notes in a comprehensive new report on the process, "several environmental advocacy groups have made the Sue and Settle process a significant part of their legal strategy." It's also a significant funding tool for them because in most of the cases (65 percent, or 49 of the 71 cases involving the EPA) the suing group's legal fees are paid by taxpayers. (Incredibly, the Government Accountability Office found two years ago that it could not determine how much the government spent on such legal fees).

There are multiple reasons to repeal sue and settle but the two most important are its inherently anti-democratic character and the mockery it makes of transparency and accountability in government. Congress passed the Administrative Procedures Act in 1946 to ensure public participation in the rule-making process. In the decades since, there have been countless occasions in which public comments forced agencies to modify or withdraw deeply flawed regulatory proposals. But sue and settle cuts the public entirely out of the rule-making process. That must be changed and necessary reforms will be the focus tomorrow in this space.


Bureaucratic honesty for a change

On Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a draft document called a "biological opinion" — more powerful than the nice name implies — that commercial fishing posed "no jeopardy" to the endangered sturgeon in seven key Atlantic Coast areas.

Why is that worth headlines? Because it's extraordinary: Ultrapoliticized NOAA officials rarely fail to bludgeon commercial fishermen out of business with "jeopardy" findings based on virtually no information.

In that way, they are like discredited and departed Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator Al Armendariz, whose philosophy was to groundlessly "crucify" resource companies "as an example to others."

It's really extraordinary: Big Green's Natural Resources Defense Council and others filed petitions in 2009 to list the sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act, claiming the iconic fish's population was critically low.

So, when the biological study was proposed to conduct a scientific count (in a "Section 7 Consultation" required under the act), NRDC lobbyists bristled at the idea of meddling researchers possibly finding abundant sturgeon to upset their fundraising cart.

What happened next is really extraordinary: NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service meddled anyway (although it took a little prodding from key congressmen to ensure that NOAA and NMFS didn't cave in to Big Green lobbyists).

So they incorporated the new research data into NOAA's policymaking process on the sturgeon issue. It showed vastly more sturgeon alive and well than the doomsayers claimed, and that produced the "no jeopardy" finding.

It's miraculous: This "no jeopardy" finding shifts Atlantic fisheries out of Endangered Species Act crisis mode and confirms that the four-year cooperative research program designed as a team effort in that Section 7 Consultation was worth the time and money.

Much more, it gave us hope that collaboration, real scientific understanding, and mutual respect can prevail among commercial fishermen, biological researchers and involved resource managers. Better miracles are considerably above the government's pay grade.

Kevin Wark, captain of the Dana Christine, a 42-foot gillnetter out of Barnegat Light in New Jersey, has been working on the project since it began.

He and crewman Mike Lohr took 4,000 yards of mesh nets and temporarily relocated to Dewey Beach, Del., never running more than 10 miles from the Indian River Inlet.

Three years into the project, over a total of 68 days of sampling, Wark and Lohr caught and released 324 Atlantic sturgeon, some more than 7 feet long, and recaptured not a single fish from the previous year. That was nearly as many as the whole previously estimated population.

The researchers on board implanted the captured sturgeon with long-life tracking radios to identify individuals and locate migratory and spawning areas, and collected DNA samples to identify subspecies correctly.

Wark said, "Professor Dewayne Fox and grad student Matt Breece from Delaware State University, Jim Armstrong from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, and the other researchers handled themselves on board like fishermen. They pitched in and were more than willing to get their hands dirty helping out."

The scientists acknowledge that the capture and release of so many large sturgeon would not have been possible without the knowledge and skill of Wark and Lohr designing and building the gear, finding and catching the sturgeon, then getting the fish back in the water in good shape.

I spoke with Greg DiDomenico, executive director of Garden State Seafood Association, who has worked this issue since the 2009 petitions. He spreads the credit around to the fishermen who realized the importance of sturgeon conservation, and the fisheries agencies and managers of most of the East Coast states who backed the study.

This little headline is for all these people seeking scientific truth rather than giving in to Big Green ideology: Thank you for the human decency.


Mindless “Green” Indoctrination of Children

Paul Driessen

“We’re from the Earth Guardians group, and we’re working on fracking and how it’s going to affect our future and our health. So we wrote this song for all the gas companies that are putting their profits ahead of our future.”

With that prelude, 12-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and his 9-year-old brother Itzcuauhtli launched into an anti-fracking rap song for Evergreen Middle School students whose teacher had invited them to journey 40 miles from their home in “the People’s Republic of Boulder,” Colorado. The song was well rehearsed, spirited, clever – and no doubt assisted by their mother, the founder and executive director of Earth Guardians, and maybe even by Boulder’s former mayor, an EG advisor.

The boys have been inculcated in Aztec and Hard Green ideology from birth. As EG members, they’re dedicated to “educating” other children about “sustainability,” “dangerous climate change” and “earth-friendly” renewable energy. In an era when too many babies are having babies, it’s not surprising that children are indoctrinating children. Not surprising, but not beneficial either.

Moreover, the teacher had failed to follow school policy, get permission to bring in outside propagandists, or present other perspectives. Unhappy parents raised a stink with Principal Kris Schuh, and the school district promised to distribute “pro-oil and gas literature” to secure some balance.

Fracking, of course, is horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, a revolutionary technology that definitely will affect our future and our health – for the better.

Although fracking has been used for 60 years, in combination with deep horizontal drilling it has sent US oil and gas production sharply upward for the first time in decades, turned “imminent depletion” into another century of affordable petroleum, generated millions of jobs and billions of dollars in government revenues, kept home heating and electricity prices from skyrocketing in the face of EPA’s war on coal, brought a resurgence in US petrochemical and other industries, and (in conjunction with our still weak economy and high unemployment) helped reduce CO2 emissions. It’s meant fewer oil imports, improved balance of trade, and more opportunities to lift more people out of poverty worldwide.

In fact, a recent IHS Global Insight report concludes that, in the United States alone, fracking has already created 1.7 million new direct and indirect jobs, with the total likely to rise to 3 million jobs over the next eight years. It’s added $62 billion to federal and state treasuries, with that total expected to rise to $111 billion by 2020. And by 2035, it could inject over $5 trillion in cumulative capital expenditures into the economy, while generating over $2.5 trillion in cumulative additional government revenues.

By contrast, $26 billion taken from taxpayers and given to wind, solar and biofuel energy projects via Department of Energy subsidies and loan guarantees since 2009 created only 2,298 permanent jobs, at a cost of $11.45 million per job, the Institute for Energy Research calculates, using DOE data.

If more of this new natural gas were devoted to generating electricity – instead of just backing up 40,000 US wind turbines – millions of birds and bats would not be slaughtered every year, and vital species would not be driven to the brink of extinction in wildlife habitats that have been blanketed by turbines.

The Earth Guardians ignore all of this, and claim hydraulic fracturing is poisoning our air and water.

The facts say otherwise. As the film FrackNation and numerous articles and reports have documented, there has never been a confirmed case of groundwater contamination due to fracking, despite numerous investigations by state agencies and the US Environmental Protection Agency. There is no evidence of air or people being poisoned, and companies continue to improve their technologies, to reduce methane leakage and employ more biodegradable and “kitchen cabinet” chemicals.

And still the Earth Guardians deliver outright falsehoods about fracking, by children to children, in public schools funded by taxpayer dollars. Perhaps this goes on because teachers and school administrators fail to recognize the potential harm, or are themselves devoted to promoting extreme environmentalist ideologies. Certainly they failed to exercise their responsibility and authority as educators to provide a balanced curriculum. They failed to see how they were being used by groups with political agendas, to inculcate a distorted dogma into a new generation of Americans.

Why is it that the Earth Guardians, Sierra Club and similar groups detest fracking? Maybe because this technology demolishes their Club of Rome claims that mankind is about to run out of petroleum – or because it means fossil fuels are again on the ascendency, making wind and solar even less viable and further demonstrating that wind energy is a far less sustainable energy resource that petroleum.

How vulnerable are America’s youth to this brainwashing? With young people spending 7.5 hours a day viewing television, music and social media like Facebook, they’re almost ready-made targets for political groups that use these communications trends to promote narrow views. Without facts and data to counter the often entertaining messages – especially when they are delivered in schools – children tend to accept what authority figures put in front of them.

Even older students are vulnerable to being spoon-fed incorrect information. And student voters who are reluctant or too disinterested to seek truthful information can have a profound impact on U.S. elections and national policy.

In 2011 college professors Josipa Roksa and Richard Arum surveyed 925 college students two years after graduation about their transitions into the labor force. In addition to discovering that only slightly more than half had found full-time jobs, Roska and Arum found that the students’ “lack of awareness of current events … was startling.” Thirty-two percent reported “that they read a newspaper only monthly or never.” It makes you wonder whether colleges are doing their most fundamental job: teaching students to think, rather than merely to parrot politically correct mantras – whether they are preparing students to become intelligent, informed, active members in a functioning democratic society.

Roska and Arum wrote, “This lack of engagement is as troubling as their financial difficulties – it can hardly be a good sign for a democratic society when many of its citizens, including highly educated ones, are not aware of or engaged with what is going on in the nation and world.”

Yet, as we learned in the 2008 election, young voters have the power to select a president. If their political choices are based on a lack of knowledge – or even worse, on propaganda – the nation will suffer.

It’s time for all our schools, K through graduate school, to make sure our students are presented with and taught to ponder and debate all sides of these important and complex questions. Our future depends on it.



Four current articles below

Greenie regulations on Qld. coal mines eased

A LOSS of about $750 million in royalties through the flooding of central Queensland coal mines over the past three years has pushed the Government into allowing more mines in the Fitzroy River basin to release water.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the plan will be put in place next wet season after a trial among four mines found no long-term impacts on water quality.

"The pilot program carried out over the last wet season shows that this legacy mine water can be released when there are sufficient river flows, while maintaining water quality," Mr Seeney said.

Mr Seeney said Central Queensland coal mines still have an estimated 250 billion litres of excess water as a result of the recent wet seasons.

"The government will undertake detailed discussions with coal mine operators in coming months to identify the optimal solutions that may be available for each mine," he said.

"Any amendments will need to be finalised well before the next wet season, to allow coal mines to be well prepared and for the supporting monitoring programs to be up and running.

More than 30 mines in central Queensland have been flooded in the past three years and unable to release that water until heavy rains can dilute the pollutants like salt.

Only two have been able to reduce any significant amount of water hampering production at most mines.

Only about 26 billion litres was released into creek and river systems during heavy rain in January.

He said the Government would look for more options to release the water, but any amendments will need to be finalised well before the next wet season, to allow coal mines to be well prepared and for the supporting monitoring programs to be up and running.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell said an independent assessment of the pilot had proved that the measures put in place ensured water quality for drinking, agriculture and the environment was protected.

"The data shows that adequate measures are in place to ensure water quality standards have been met and I am confident that we will continue to see that in the future," Mr Powell said.


Green funding rush fires loans row as $800M push defies Tony Abbott

THE Clean Energy Finance Corporation is planning to write up to $800 million in green loans before the election, defying the Coalition's call for the agency not to sign contracts before September 14 because Tony Abbott has vowed to scrap it.

The CEFC has revealed it is in "active discussions" with 50 projects seeking $2 billion and that an additional 119 project proponents have presented proposals that are seeking finance worth $3.3bn. The figures are contained in an email from the CEFC to the opposition pleading its case not to be scrapped if the Coalition wins the election.

The CEFC was established as part of the Gillard government's Clean Energy Future package to provide finance to clean energy projects that might not otherwise be able to raise funds through the commercial banking system. It receives an allocation of $2bn a year for five years which has been locked into the government's budget through legislation.

The scale of discussions under way between the CEFC and clean energy project proponents puts it on a collision course with the Coalition, which in February wrote to the CEFC asking it not to write any loans between July 1 and the election.

Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb said the Coalition was "deeply troubled by the indecent haste to start risking many billions of dollars of borrowed money".

"There is simply no valid reason for agreements to be struck, contracts to be signed or for funds to be meted out this side of the election," Mr Robb said. "It is unconscionable. We have been crystal clear in our opposition to the CEFC and in our resolve to abolish it. We will do whatever we can to prevent $10bn of borrowed money from being wasted."

CEFC chief executive Oliver Yates last night said the agency, which can begin writing loans from July 1, would do so in an orderly way and was planning to write about $1bn worth of loans every six months.

Asked what the CEFC could write between its start date of July 1 and August 12, when the pre-election caretaker period begins, Mr Yates said he would be happy if the CEFC could write between $600m and $800m. However, all agreements would be subject to extensive due diligence.

The CEFC has revealed the full value of the 50 projects in "active discussions" is put at $4.6bn and the 119 extra projects for which submissions have been received are worth more than $6bn.

In the email to the opposition, Mr Yates said there had been a "resounding positive response to date from the market, demonstrating the significant role which the CEFC can play".

He revealed the CEFC was working on a dozen projects in Victoria that would deliver jobs and growth "but all are now in question". "These projects have a total expected size of nearly $2.5bn," he said.

The letter also revealed the CEFC had tightened its lending criteria and it had removed an assumption that it would grant or lose 7.5 per cent of the investment portfolio.

"We determined that to operate commercially the CEFC would not make grants or what was termed 'immediately impaired loans'," Mr Yates wrote. "The making of such are inconsistent with the approach of being self-sustaining and commercial."

Mr Yates argued that the difference between the CEFC and a traditional financial institution was that "we don't seek maximum profits but seek to cover operating and funding costs, and use the potential to make higher profits to secure public policy benefits and reduce the cost of moving to a lower-carbon economy".

"We will participate alongside traditional financiers and may from time to time rub shoulders as we build our market presence and financial self-sufficiency," he said. "That said, the net effect of our participation in the market will be to increase available funding opportunities for the private sector, not reduce them."

Mr Yates said the CEFC was focused on being a sustainable institution and, where a loan was written below the bond rate for a public policy purpose, another might be written at a commercial rate to ensure the business was sustainable.

In his budget reply speech this month, the Opposition Leader repeated his vow to "scrap Labor's green-loans scheme for projects that the banks won't touch".

The corporation's chairwoman and Reserve Bank board member Jillian Broadbent has previously said there was "significant appetite" for funds and has signalled that the CEFC would seek to act according to its mandate to write loans, despite the opposition's request not to do so.


Mining industry releases report stating resistance to coal seam gas projects will end expansion and sacrifice many jobs

COMMUNITY activists fighting CSG projects with "myths" are putting at risk a potential $150 billion investment bonanza, a mining industry report to be released this week warns.

And the industry is pressing the Coalition to pledge tougher workplace laws and slashed regulation before the September 14 election.

Mining company executives are pointing to an opportunity to capitalise on growing liquified natural gas (LNG) markets which could be lost to gas producers in Africa and North America.

Seven of the 13 LNG plants being built around the world are under construction in Australia but further expansion opportunities could be lost. LNG now supplies nine per cent of the world's energy and this could rise to 15 per cent by 2020, with lower carbon emissions than from coal power.

LNG demand in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to rise from 160 million tonnes a year now to 320 million tonnes by 2025, the McKinsey study found.

"The window of opportunity for LNG projects is open for about 18 months. We have momentum on projects, and want to get through that window," the outgoing Australian chair of Shell Ann Pickard told reporters in Brisbane Sunday.

Liquified Natural Gas producers increasingly are turning to coal seam gas as conventional supplies run down or prove too expensive to mine.

But in some parts of Queensland and in NSW they are being fought by an unusual combination of Greens, farmers, and broadcaster Alan Jones, a group Mr Byers said was well organised and very well funded.

The Lock the Gates Alliance representing the resistance has accused mining companies of "riding roughshod over our governments and local communities".

Mr Byers said: "Call it for what it is: it is a campaign which is based on some ideological objections to having kore gas into our energy supply system as distinct to going for more renewables."

He said the research presented on CSG was being rejected by groups claiming it would harm water supplies and wreck productive pastures.

The miners also are pointing in particular to the significantly lower labour costs in North America.

Another industry executive said Australian labor costs were not only high against those of developing nations, they were greater than those of the US and Canada in similar work.

State and federal governments both Liberal and Labor are threatening mine expansions which could see an extra $13 billion in taxes and royalties paid by 2020, according to the report commissioned the the Australian Petroleum Production Exploration Association (APPEA).

"We do have some very big hurdles in front of us in order to keep this investment wave going," said the APPEA's chief executive David Byers on Sunday.

Mr Byers said in an election year there was "a lot of people who are looking to win friends and votes by raising the hurdles that we face even higher".

"And here I'm not just talking about the Greens," Mr Byers told reporters in Brisbane.

"In recent time we've seen government of both political persuasions at both federal and state levels prone to flip flopping on gas regulation."


Brisbane City Council to relax tree and vegetation protection laws

RESIDENTS will be able to trim street trees for the first time in almost 20 years and protected growths will become easier to remove from properties under sweeping changes to Brisbane's vegetation protection rules.

In a move likely to anger some community and environmental groups, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk will today announce the proposed amendments aimed at "ensuring people's lives and homes aren't put in unnecessary danger".

The changes to the Natural Assets Local Law will affect more than 60,000 Brisbane properties housing protected trees and could have implications for about 600,000 city street trees, including Moreton Bay figs, jacarandas, red gums and hoop pines.

Anybody wishing to trim or remove protected trees from their land will still have to apply to Brisbane City Council.

However, rather than just consider the tree's health, council will place more emphasis on risks to life or property and "nuisance issues".

Residents will also no longer have to commission an arborist report before starting work.

The council is also planning to lift a 20-year ban on residents pruning street trees affecting their properties.

Currently residents must call on council to request officers carry out even the most minor trimming of street trees.

Property owners will still have to flag the pruning work with council before getting to work but can gain approval on grounds including "safety, nuisance or presentation". Cr Quirk said the changes were a "reaction to growing community concern" about protected trees being put before the rights of residents.

"There will undoubtedly be opponents to these changes, but the January storms reminded us all how easily seemingly healthy trees can cause serious harm and common sense needs to prevail," he said.

Cr Quirk said the council would continue to maintain park and street trees and carry out major work but did not want to stand in the way of residents wishing to carry out minor work on public trees affecting their properties.

On-the-spot fines of up to $550 will also be introduced for offences including unauthorised interference with a protected tree.

Key tree species covered by the Natural Assets Local Law:

* Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii). Attains heights over 25m.

* Forest Red Gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis). Attains heights over 25m. Known for dropping large branches without warning.

* Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia). Grows to 15m high x 12m wide.

* Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla). Grows, on average, 30 to 35 metres tall and 40 metres wide. The same species that famously fell over in New Farm Park.

* Leopard Tree (a common council street tree). Leopard Trees drop seed pods causing a slip hazard to pedestrians, aren't native and council no longer actively plants them.




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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