Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Climate 'consensus': Is carbon dioxide the new cholesterol?
As some readers here know, I also follow the medical literature and what the writer below says is spot on. Moreover, that is not the only recent example of a reversed consensus in the medical literature. The wisdom on peanut allergy has also recently done a 180 degree turn, for instance -- JR
Imagine a public policy issue that could determine the course of millions of lives. Imagine the science concerning this issue was complex and confusing. Nonetheless, most scientists had reached agreement on certain aspects of it.
And imagine the Washington Post wrote an editorial stating, "Government agencies must constantly make recommendations on the basis of just this kind of incomplete but suggestive evidence, and there is a consensus on what to do."
That sounds like the current debate over climate change, doesn’t it? Nope. That editorial is from 1980. The issue was not levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere but levels of cholesterol in the diet.
In that case, the consensus was that the amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol in the diet are related to the levels of cholesterol in the blood and "that reducing the one will lower the other," the Post wrote.
That seemed to be the case at the time. But there were dissenters who claimed carbohydrates, particularly refined ones, were the more likely triggers for obesity and heart disease. That led the mainstream authorities to hold a "Consensus Conference" in 1984. The result was a national policy emphasizing low-fat diets as a means of combating obesity and heart disease.
Soon the market was inundated with low-fat foods. But they weren’t having the desired effect. By 2002, the cracks in the consensus were so evident that the New York Times Magazine ran a lengthy and well-researched article by noted science writer Gary Taubes headlined "What if it’s all been a big fat lie?"
"It used to be that even considering the possibility of the alternative hypothesis, let alone researching it, was tantamount to quackery by association," Taubes wrote. "Now a small but growing minority of establishment researchers have come to take seriously what the low-carb-diet doctors have been saying all along."
Last month, the prior consensus was turned on its head by a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. A meta-analysis of 76 studies and clinical trials showed no link between fat, even saturated fat, and increased heart-disease risk.
I discussed this yesterday with Meir Stampfer, who is a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Stampfer said the move to low-fat diets might have actually increased obesity and heart-disease risk. That’s because people tended to substitute refined carbohydrates for fat in their diets, Stampfer said.
"Basically what happens is the refined carbs are very rapidly absorbed," Stampfer said. "Blood sugar goes up very rapidly and insulin is secreted so it plummets again."
That rapid fluctuation leads to an increase in triglycerides, which in turn can lead to weight gain and atherosclerosis, he said. So is there a new consensus that "Butter is back" as one op-ed piece in the Times recently stated?
Nope, said Stampfer. He and his Harvard colleagues disagree with those who are promoting saturated fats from dairy and red meat. The Harvard crowd argues that people would be better off consuming more olive oil and seafood.
But that’s a healthy disagreement. As for that prior consensus, the consensus is that it did not hold up.
"This is complicated and the policymakers tried to make it simple," Stampfer concluded. "But it’s better to be complicated and right than simplified and wrong."
It is indeed, and I would encourage my fellow journalists to keep that in mind in light of the highly touted "consensus" on the role of carbon dioxide in promoting global warming.
Climate science is infinitely more complicated than human physiology. Once all of the data are in, we may find that atmospheric carbon dioxide actually has the effect predicted by physicist Freeman Dyson of the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton. The 90-year-old Dyson, whom many consider to be the smartest guy on Earth, argues that far from harming the planet, atmospheric CO-2 may have a positive effect by increasing plant growth.
Perhaps you disagree. Fine, but you’re disagreeing with a guy who calculated the number of atoms in the sun when he was 5 years old and who’s been at the institute since Einstein was walking the grounds.
Science requires taking the long view, said Dyson when I called him the other day. "Science of course is always correcting mistakes," he said. "That’s what it’s all about."
It is indeed. What it’s not about is consensus. That’s for editorial writers.
Academics admit that Warmists exaggerate damage caused by Climate Change
Some writers have excoriated the Chinese writers of this paper for being crooks. That entirely misses the point. The writers were simply describing what they saw as the norm. And the journal accepted that
Here is a link to the abstract of a peer-reviewed article in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. (You may be able to download the full article. I could, from my university computer.)
The abstract says, “It appears that news media and some pro-environmental organizations have the tendency to accentuate or even exaggerate the damage caused by climate change. ... We find that the information manipulation... induces more countries to participate in an IEA [International Environmental Agreement], which will eventually enhance global welfare.”
The article argues that by exaggerating the harmful effects of climate change, advocates can gain more support for government climate change policies.
The article says, “Linking climate change to extreme weather may be a powerful way to motivate people.” Referring to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it says, “The IPCC has tended to over-generalize its research results and accentuate the negative side of climate change. Following its lead, the mainstream media has gone even further.”
Later, “...it may be better for the countries to hold a pessimistic view of the climate problem, as it will induce more countries to participate in the IEA...” The paper then goes on to develop a mathematical model to demonstrate why this is the case.
The paper’s conclusion begins, “This article offers a rationale for the phenomenon of climate damage accentuation or exaggeration on the part of the international mainstream media or other pro-environmental organizations.” And then to show the bias of the authors, “Forming a binding IEA to curb climate change is a matter of urgency... When the media or pro-environmental organizations have private information on the damage caused by climate change, in equilibrium they may manipulate the information to increase pessimism regarding climate damage, even though the damage may not be that great. Consequently, more countries (with overpessimistic beliefs about climate damage) will be induced to participate in an IEA in this state, thereby leading to greater global welfare...”
The paper concludes, “This article further explores how the mass media may manipulate the information it privately has to influence behavior related to the environment ... this article introduces a novel mechanism, ‘information manipulation.’”
This article is noteworthy because it is published in a peer-reviewed academic journal. This is not right-wing political propaganda, and it is apparent from reading the article that the authors are sympathetic to the idea that more global action needs to be taken to combat what they believe are the negative effects of climate change.
The article is written by advocates of international environmental agreements who plainly state that climate scientists and the media exaggerate the negative effects of climate change, and explain why doing so helps further their goals.
New Report Reveals Green Brainwashing In UK Schools
Call For Inquiry Into Disturbing Teaching Materials
A new report published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation is calling for Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, to institute an official inquiry into the way environmentalism and in particular climate change are being taught in schools.
In the report, authors Andrew Montford and John Shade describe how environmentalism has come to permeate school curricula across the UK, featuring in an astonishing variety of subjects, from geography to religious education to modern languages. Passing examinations will now usually involve the ability to recite green mantras rather than understanding the subtle questions of science and economics involved.
The authors review in detail the climate change teaching materials currently used in British schools, with disturbing results. There is ample evidence of unscientific statements, manipulated graphs, and activist materials used in class and even found in textbooks.
The report also describes how activist teachers try to make children become the footsoldiers of the green movement, encouraging them to harass their schoolmates and pester their parents to bring about “behaviour change”.
The use of fear of climate change to alter children’s behaviour is also highlighted. This is undoubtedly having harmful consequences on children’s development and surveys indicate that fear of the future is widespread. The report quotes one child as saying:
“I worry about [global warming] because I don’t want to die.”
Author Andrew Montford says: “The brainwashing of our children for political ends is shameful. Those responsible for education in the UK need to take action and take it quickly”
by Professor Terence Kealy, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham
Politicians and political activists have always wanted to control the schools, for obvious reasons. St Francis Xavier of the Jesuits may or may not have said 'give me the child until he is seven and I'll give you the man' but too many politicians have wanted the child until he or she is seventeen, just to make sure.
In this impressive paper Andrew Montford and John Shade have shown how effectively eco-activism appears to have captured our schools' curriculums. It is of course true that the greenhouse effect is based on good physics, but even better physics recognises that the globe is a complex system and that many different effects - not just the greenhouse effect - will influence the climate. And since we cannot yet model the world's climate with confidence, we must be suspicious of the certainty with which eco-activists seek to influence the schools' curriculums.
Eco-activism is, as Montford and Shade have shown, only the most recent example of attempted curriculum-capture by political activists, so we need to construct institutions to protect the schools from such capture. Montford and Shade have invoked the horrible examples of education under the communist regimes of Eastern Europe or China, and in so doing they point the way to the only solid future - democracy.
Educational researchers such as EG West (Education and the State, 1965) and James Tooley (The Beautiful Tree, 2009) have shown how the nationalisation of the schools in England and Wales during the 19th century was a mistake, which neither increased the expenditure per pupil nor fostered social justice - it only handed the schools over to John Stuart Mill's 'dominant power in government.'
But the nationalisation of the schools is now effectively irreversible, so how can we protect the curriculum within it? One harbinger is provided by the UK Statistics Authority, which is funded by government but which reports not to a minister but directly to Parliament. Thus its independence is optimised. Perhaps we now need a Curriculum Authority, reporting to Parliament via a select committee, because by its nature a legislature can foster a wider range of views than can the executive branch of government.
In the meantime, let us echo the call from Montford and Shade for an independent review of our current climate curriculum, because if - as the title of their paper suggests - schools are indoctrinating rather than educating, we have a problem.
Perils of commercial beekeeping
Honeybees pollinate crops but endure stress, parasites and disease. Solutions are coming
One of America’s earliest food crops – almonds – is also one of the most important for commercial beekeepers. Almonds depend on bees for pollination, but the explosive growth of this bumper crop taxes the very honeybees the industry needs to thrive.
California’s Central Valley produces over 80% of the world’s almonds, valued at over $4 billion in 2012. The boom is poised to continue, with new food products and expanding overseas markets increasing demand to the point that no young almond trees are available for purchase until 2016.
Demand for almonds translates into demand for pollination. So every year commercial beekeepers transport some 60% of all US honeybees to California’s almond groves in February and March, when it’s still winter in most other states. It’s one of their biggest challenges.
For one thing, bee colonies, especially those from northern states, lack sufficient time to emerge from their heat-conserving winter clusters. Some beekeepers thus maintain 20,000 to 30,000 hives. Each one requires careful inspection for diseases and parasites – a meticulous, Herculean task on such a scale.
Complicating the situation, beekeepers are trying to work within a large-scale agricultural system, using an insect whose husbandry practices have changed little since the nineteenth century. The larger the commercial beekeeper’s stock, the harder it can be to tend them and recover from financial setbacks in the form of lost bees.
Almond growers will need 1.5 million hives this year, estimates Colorado beekeeper Lyle Johnston. “It takes almost all the commercial bees in the United States,” to pollinate the almond crop, he says. The payoff can amount to half an individual keeper’s yearly profit.
However, bees can come back from California “loaded with mites and every other disease you can think of,” beekeeper Ed Colby explains. That can often mean bee colony deaths. Last year, US beekeepers experienced an average 30% overwinter bee loss; some lost 10% to 15% of their hives, while others lost much more. It’s a normal cost of doing business, but it can be painful.
Last year’s rate was higher than normal, and higher than any keeper would want. But it was not the “bee-pocalypse” that some news stories claimed. The real story is that efforts to identify a single unifying cause for higher-than-usual losses have failed. Scientists are discovering that multiple issues affect bee health.
Urban, suburban and agricultural “development has reduced natural habitats, clearing out thousands of acres of clover and natural flowers,” a 60 Minutes investigative report observed. “Instead, bees are spending week after week on the road, feeding on a single crop, undernourished and overworked.”
The migration itself is stressful, notes Glenwood Springs, Colorado Post-Independent reporter Marilyn Gleason. “First, there’s the road trip, which isn’t exactly natural for bees, and may include freezing cold or scorching heat. Bees ship out of Colorado before the coldest weather, and drivers may drench hot, thirsty bees with water at the truck wash.”
The convergence in almond groves of so many commercial bees from all over the country creates a hotbed of viruses and pathogens that can spread to many hives. The varroa destructor mite carries at least 19 different bee viruses and diseases, causing major impacts on bee colonies. Parasitic phorid flies are another problem, and highly contagious infections also pose significant threats. The intestinal fungus nosema ceranae, for example, prevents bees from absorbing nutrition, resulting in starvation.
The tobacco ringspot virus was likewise linked recently to the highly publicized problem known as “colony collapse disorder.” CCD occurs when bees in a colony disappear, leaving behind only a queen and a few workers. The term originally lumped together a variety of such “disappearing” disorders recorded in different locales across hundreds of years, as far back as 950 AD in Ireland. Thankfully, as during past episodes, these unexplained incidents have declined in recent years and, despite all these challenges, overall US honeybee populations and the number of managed colonies have held steady for nearly 20 years.
These days, perhaps the biggest existential threat to bees is campaigns purporting to save them. Extreme-green groups like the Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network of North America are blaming an innovative new class of pesticides called neonicotinoids for both over-winter bee losses and CCD.
Allied with several outspoken beekeepers, the activists are pressuring the Environmental Protection Agency, Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency and government regulatory agencies to follow Europe’s lead – and ban neonics. Instead of protecting bees and beekeepers, however, their campaigns will likely cause greater harm – because they ignore the multiple threats that scientists have identified, and because a neonic ban will result in farmers using pesticides that are more toxic to bees.
The European Union’s political decision to suspend neonic use came because France’s new agriculture minister banned their use. That meant French farmers would be at a distinct disadvantage with the rest of Europe, if they were the only ones unable to use the pesticide, noted British environmental commentator Richard North. They could lose $278 million per season in lost yields and extra pesticide spraying.
So the French agricultural ministry sought an EU-wide ban on all neonicotinoids. After several votes and a misleading report on the science, the European Commission imposed a ban, over the objections of many other EU members, who note that the evidence clearly demonstrates the new pesticides are safe for bees.
Years-long field tests have found that real-world exposures have no observable effects on bee colonies. Other studies have highlighted other significant insect, fungal, human and other issues that, singly or collectively, could explain CCD. Having analyzed scores of 2007-2012 bee death incidents, Canadian bee experts concluded that “…very few of the serious bee kills involve neonicotinoid pesticides. Five times as many ‘major’ or ‘moderate’ pesticide-related bee kills were sourced to non-neonic chemicals.”
In Canada’s western provinces, almost 20 million acres of 100% neonic-treated canola is pollinated annually by honeybees and tiny alfalfa leaf-cutter bees. Both species thrive on the crop, demonstrating that neonics are not a problem. Large-scale field studies of honeybees at Canadian universities and a bumblebee field study by a UK government agency found no adverse effects on bees.
Last October, a team of industry scientists published a four-year study of the effects of repeated honeybee exposure to neonic-treated corn and rapeseed (canola) pollen and nectar under field conditions in several French provinces. The study found similar mortality, foraging behavior, colony strength and weight, brood development and food storage in colonies exposed to seed-treated crops and in unexposed control colonies. This also indicates low risk to bees.
At least two more major, recently completed university-run field research projects conducted under complex, costly scientific laboratory guidelines (“good lab practices”) are awaiting publication. All indications to date suggest that they too will find no observable adverse effects on bees at field-realistic exposures to neonicotinoids.
Meanwhile Project ApisM., a partnership of agro-businesses and beekeepers, has invested $2.5 million in research to enhance the health of honeybee colonies. Switzerland-based Syngenta has spent millions expanding bee habitats in Europe and North America, through Project Pollinator. Bayer has built bee health centers in Europe and the United States, and Monsanto’s Beeologics subsidiary is developing technology to fight varroa mites.
None of that matters to the anti-pesticide activists. They are using pressure tactics to make Canada and the United States copy the EU. That would be a huge mistake. Science, not politics, should prevail.
Doubts raised over IPCC draft backing carbon extraction
Many nations want a draft UN report to tone down prospects for sucking greenhouse gases from the air to help fix global warming, reckoning the technologies are risky, documents seen by Reuters show.
Government officials and scientists are meeting in Berlin this week to edit the report, which says time is running out to keep warming below an agreed ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times.
The study, focused on solutions to climate change, is meant to guide almost 200 governments in preparing a U.N. pact due by the end of 2015 to curb rising emissions and help limit heat waves, floods, droughts and rising seas.
China, the European Union, Japan and Russia were among nations saying the draft, to be published on Sunday, should do more to stress uncertainties about technologies that the report says could be used to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and bury it below ground to limit warming.
Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) "technologies are currently not available and would be associated with high risks and adverse side-effects," the German government said in a comment on the draft by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
"There are no CDR technologies by now," Russia said. The technologies would go far beyond the traditional focus on cutting emissions from burning coal, oil or natural gas.
Several nations were especially sceptical about the draft's mention of stripping greenhouse gases from electricity-generating facilities burning biomass - wood or other plants - to bury them underground as a way to extract carbon from nature.
Plants soak up carbon as they grow and release it when they rot or burn. Chemicals can extract carbon from the exhaust fumes from burning crop waste, for instance, or from fermentation of corn to make ethanol.
Among projects, Archer Daniels Midland has a facility in Illinois to inject 333,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year into the ground from a factory producing ethanol from corn. Husky Energy in Canada produces carbon dioxide from ethanol for injection into oil wells.
Many nations said that the draft should do more to mention drawbacks of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), such as the amount of land needed to grow plants and risks that it would compete with food production.
Internal IPCC documents show that China said BECCS "bears great uncertainties". Japan said that "considerations of trade-offs with water, land and biodiversity are crucial to avoid adverse effects" with CDR technologies.
A sub-chapter of the report says that BECCS has the theoretical potential to extract as much as 10 billion tonnes a year of carbon dioxide from nature - roughly equivalent to China's carbon emissions - but would cost between $US60 ($64) and $US250 a tonne.
Other methods for extracting greenhouse gases from the atmosphere include simply planting trees or fertilising the oceans to promote the growth of algae, hoping that the tiny carbon-rich plants would fall to the seabed when they die.
Among other debates in Berlin on Tuesday, delegates said that Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, objected to a line in the report pointing out that fossil fuels were the overwhelming cause of rising emissions in the past decade.
The Methane Hoax Cranks Up
by ALAN CARUBA
Having spent decades trying to convince everyone that carbon dioxide (CO2) was a "greenhouse gas" that was going to cause the Earth to heat up, the same environmental charlatans are now embarking on a campaign to do the same with methane. In the U.S. the first move was announced by the White House in late March.
The carbon dioxide hoax fell apart in the wake of a cooling cycle affecting the Earth that began around 1997 and continues to this day. Warming and cooling cycles are natural events and both are tied to the activity or lack of it of the Sun. Humans have nothing to do with the climate other to enjoy or endure it.
Why methane? It has a lot to do with the development of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called "fracking", and the way it unlocks natural gas, aka methane, all of which portends an America that is energy independent, along with its huge reserves of coal and oil. If, of course, the government permits this to occur.
As we know, the Obama administration does not want that. It would mean more jobs, greater prosperity, and the ability to pay down the national debt, not to mention drive down the cost of electricity, gasoline, and everything else that depends on energy.
Despite the cooling cycle that is likely to last for many more years, Steve Hamburg, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, was quoted by the Washington Post saying that "ounce for ounce, methane is 84 times as potent as a greenhouse gas over 20 years" compared to carbon dioxide. "More than a third of the warming that we'll see as a result of today's emissions over the next couple of decades comes from, essentially, methane. We need to remain focused on carbon dioxide emissions, but doing so is not enough."
Excuse me, but the Environmental Defense Fund and countless other Green advocacy groups have been focused on carbon dioxide for decades and the Earth is cooling, not warming. What part of this does Hamburg not understand?
James M. Taylor, the managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly published by The Heartland Institute, reported in January that "Natural gas fracking is not causing a spike in the U.S. methane emissions", citing Environmental Protection Agency data. "Methane emissions specific to natural gas are in a long-term decline, down ten percent since 1990 and down seven percent since 2007 when the fracking boom began."
The Washington Post, however, asserted that emission levels "are set to rise by 2030 as shale oil and shale gas production expands in the United States." Do you remember all those predictions about the increase of carbon dioxide emissions and how, in ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred years, the Earth would heat up?
This is not about methane, it is about finding a way to shut down fracking and the extraction of natural gas and oil in the same way the Obama administration's "war on coal" has caused the loss of over 150 coal-fired plants that until it began, were providing electricity. Reducing sources of electricity drives up its cost to everyone. As more natural gas came on line by 2013 it had become the second greatest source of U.S. electricity, but overall the amount of electricity produced was less than in 2007 before the war on coal began.
A natural component of the Earth, it has a number of sources, but one that has also caught the eye of government regulators involves cow flatulence and belching.
The White House has proposed cutting methane emissions from the dairy industry by 25% by 2020. The Environmental Protection Agency has been tracking cow farts since 2012 and now the dairy industry has to worry along with the oil and gas industry. In addition to the EPA, the Bureau of Land Management will be announcing "new standards this fall to reduce venting and flaring from oil and gas production on public lands."
It's often best just to let the Greens speak for themselves, revealing their never-ending efforts to attack the energy industry that keeps our lights on, heats and cools our homes, and fuels our cars and trucks. "President Obama's plan to reduce climate-disrupting methane pollution is an important step in reining in an out of control industry exempt from too many public health protections," said Deborah Nardone, the director of the Sierra Club's Keeping Dirty Fuels in the Ground campaign.
"However," said Ms. Nardone, "even with the most rigorous methane controls in place, we will still fall short of what is needed to fight climate disruption if we do not reduce our reliance on these dirty fossil fuels."
What the heck is a climate disruption? A blizzard, a hurricane, a flood, tornadoes? None of these phenomena have anything to do with using fossil fuels. This is the kind of utter drivel we have all been hearing for decades.
It has nothing to do with the climate and everything to do with denying access and use of the greatest reserves of coal, oil and natural gas that exist in the greatest nation on Earth, the United States of America.
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Posted by JR at 7:19 PM