Monday, July 27, 2015
"Salon" discusses using courts to punish climate deniers.
Bring it on! Skeptics should be looking forward to this. A court case would be a great opportunity to expose the hollowness of the global warming scare. You can see why "Salon" is very tentative about the idea. For political reasons, the Dutch government could not mount a defense on the basis of the science but other individuals and bodies would not be under that constraint. Al Gore's movie was declared inaccurate by a British court but it would have much more impact if the whole hoax was declared inconclusive by a court
Last month a court at The Hague ordered the Dutch government to cut its emissions by at least 25% compared to 1990 levels by 2020, the first ruling of its kind anywhere in the world. The victory was the result of a class action lawsuit brought by an NGO called the Urgenda Foundation (short for “Urgent Agenda”), which charged the Dutch government with “hazardous state negligence” in the face of climate change. Along with the rest of the EU, the Netherlands is taking a promise to cut 40% against 1990 by 2030 to the Paris climate talks in December, but they are off track, looking to achieve only a 17% cut by 2020. The court extracted a confession from the government’s lawyers that more could be done, and therefore ruled that not doing more was negligent.
The case has excited activists around the world. This week Marjan Minnesma, Urgenda’s co-founder and director, was in Australia, advising groups looking to emulate her success. “It’s the kind of action we’d love to run and we’re investigating”, environmental lawyer Sean Ryan told the Guardian. Australia is of course headed by the government of Tony Abbott, an aggressive climate change denier. In the face of such apathy, courts may be the best option. The speculative Australian attempt is one of five cases found by RTCC.org that might benefit from the Urgenda example, including one almost identical in its goal and reasoning brought (and recently won) by eight teenagers in Washington State.
Historically, courts seem to have backed away from climate change, preferring to leave it up to legislators and diplomats. In 2008, for example, the tiny Alaskan village of Kivalina sued several major oil corporations, including ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, for putting it under threat of rising sea levels and erosion. It’s handful of citizens wanted compensation to move the entire community to a different location. All courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the case as an issue for the executive and legislative branches. This refusal to play a role may be about to change. Ceri Warnock analyzing the Urgenda decision for the Journal of Environmental Law, believes that the case and a handful like it may indicate that courts are moving, in the face of an extreme danger such as climate change, to close a constitutional gap between the duty of governments to protect their citizens and their means of doing so. Climate change makes the unthinkable — that courts might be called upon to “re-balance” the constitution — thinkable. Such an internal conflict was on display as far back as 2007′s landmark Massachusetts vs Environmental Protection Agency, where the justices of the Supreme Court clashed over the threat posed by climate change and the causal link with emissions. Declaring that emissions caused climate change and climate change was a threat to the plaintiffs, the majority ordered the EPA to reconsider its refusal to treat carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions as pollutants.
With the nations of the world lining up to promise vague or inadequate emissions cuts, and with no mechanism yet in place to enforce them, is it time to call in the lawyers? Do courts have a duty to push governments to act on the threat of climate change, or is this better (and perhaps more legitimately) left to governments?
Have three climate change scientists been ASSASSINATED? The astonishing claim made by a Cambridge professor
Because they don't actually understand what is going on, Leftists are very prone to conspiracy theories. Climate skeptics can even control lightning, would you believe?
A Cambridge professor has claimed that three scientists investigating climate change in the Arctic may have been assassinated.
Professor Peter Wadhams insists Seymour Laxon, Katharine Giles and Tim Boyd could have been murdered by someone possibly working for the oil industry or within government forces.
The trio had been studying the polar ice caps - with a focus on sea ice - when they died within a few months of each other in 2013.
Professor Laxon, 49, a director of the Centre for Polar Observation at University College London, was at a New Year's Eve party in Essex when he fell down a flight of stairs and died.
Meanwhile oceanographer Dr Boyd, 54, was out walking his dogs near his home in Port Appin, Argyll, western Scotland, in January 2013 when he was struck by lightning and killed instantly.
Just months later in April, Dr Giles, 35, was cycling to work at UCL where she lectured when she was hit by a tipper truck in Victoria, central London, and died.
Professor Wadhams, Cambridge University's head of Polar Ocean Physics Group, claims that in the weeks after Professor Laxon's death, he was targeted by a lorry trying to force him off the road.
He reported the incident to the police but did not express his concerns about the scientists over fears he would be labelled a 'looney', he told The Telegraph.
'It's just very odd coincidence that something like that should happen in such a brief period of time,' he said.
'They [the deaths] were accidents as far as anybody was able to tell but the fact they were clustered like that looked so weird.'
He added: 'I thought if it was somebody assassinating them could it be one of our people doing it and that would be even more frightening. I thought it would be better not to touch this with a barge pole.'
But his comments have left Professor Laxon's partner, Fiona Strawbridge - also a close friend of Dr Giles - furious and she has labelled it 'outrageous and very distressing'.
Petroleum power: an eco-revolution
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s "The Long Winter" is generally regarded as the most historically accurate book of her semi-autobiographical "Little House on the Prairie" series. The Long Winter tells the story of how the inhabitants of De Smet (present-day South Dakota) narrowly avoided starvation during the severe winter of 1880-81, when a series of blizzards dumped nearly three and a half metres of snow on the northern plains – immobilising trains and cutting off the settlers from the rest of the world. Faced with an imminent food shortage, Laura and her neighbours learned that a sizeable amount of wheat was available within 20 miles of their snow-covered houses. Her future husband, Almanzo Wilder, and a friend of his risked their lives in order to bring back enough food to sustain the townspeople through the rest of the winter. With the spring thaw, the railroad service was re-established and the Ingalls family enjoyed a long-delayed Christmas celebration in May.
The Long Winter is a valuable reminder of how lethal crop failures and geographical isolation could be before the advent of modern farming and transportation technologies. Not too long ago, subsistence farmers across the West had to cope with the ‘lean season’ – the period of greatest scarcity before the first availability of new crops. As some readers may know, in England the late spring (and especially the month of May) was once referred to as the ‘hungry gap’ and the ‘starving time’. One problem was the cost and difficulty of moving heavy things over often muddy and impracticable dirt roads; three centuries ago, moving a ton of goods over 50 kilometres on land between, say, Liverpool and Manchester was as expensive as shipping them across the north Atlantic.
The development of coal-powered railroads and steamships revolutionised the lives of our ancestors. Among other positive developments, landlocked farmers could now specialise in what they did best and rely on other farmers and producers for their remaining needs. The result was not only more abundant food at ever-cheaper prices, but the end of widespread famine and starvation, as the surplus from regions with good harvests could now be shipped to those that had experienced mediocre ones. (Of course, a region that experienced a bumper crop one year might have a mediocre one the next.)
In time, petroleum-derived products such as diesel, gasoline, kerosene (jet fuel) and bunker fuels (used in container ships) displaced coal because of their higher energy density, cleaner combustion and greater ease of extraction, handling, transport and storage. Nearly two thirds of the world’s refined petroleum products are now used in land, water and air transportation, accounting for nearly 95 per cent of all energy consumed in this sector. Despite much wishful thinking, there are simply no better alternatives to petroleum-powered transport at the moment. For instance, despite very generous governmental subsidies, battery electric, hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles have repeatedly failed to gain any meaningful market shares against gasoline-powered cars. This is because of their limited range and power, long charging time, bad performance in cold weather, security concerns (especially in collisions), and inadequate electricity production and delivery infrastructure.
While the convenience of cars is obvious, few people grasp their historical significance in terms of public health and environmental benefits. The best historical anecdote on the topic goes something like this. In 1898, delegates from across the globe gathered in New York City for the world’s first international urban-planning conference. The topic that dominated discussions was not infrastructure, housing or even land use, but horse manure. The problem was that just as a large number of people had moved to cities from the countryside, so had powerful workhorses, each one of them producing between 15 and 30 pounds of manure and one quart of urine every day. For New York, this meant well over four million pounds of manure each day, prompting claims that by 1930 it would rise to Manhattan’s third storey. At about the same time, a contributor to The Times in London estimated that by 1950 every street in London would be buried nine-feet deep in horse manure. Unable to think of any solution, the New York delegates called it quits after three days, as they concluded that urban living was inherently unsustainable.
Paradoxically, much of the urban-manure problem had been created by the advent of the railroad, and other technologies such as canning and refrigeration. On the one hand, it had cut into the profitability of manure-consuming farms, located near cities, by delivering cheaper perishable goods (fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products) from locations that benefited from better soil and climate. On the other, because rail transport was not flexible enough to handle final deliveries, railroad companies often owned the largest fleets of urban horses.
Apart from their stench, urban stables and the manure piles that filled practically every vacant lot were prime breeding grounds for house flies, perhaps three billion of which hatched each day in American cities at the turn of the twentieth century. With flies came outbreaks of deadly infectious diseases, such as typhoid and yellow fever, cholera and diphtheria. Workhorses’ skittishness in heavy traffic also meant that they stampeded, kicked, bit and trampled a number of bystanders. According to one estimate, the fatality rate per capita in urban traffic was roughly 75 per cent higher in the horse era than today. The clatter of horseshoes and wagon wheels on cobblestone pavement was also incredibly noisy. They also created significant traffic congestion, because a horse and wagon occupied more street space than a modern truck, while a badly injured horse would typically be shot on the spot or abandoned to die on the road, creating a major obstruction that was difficult to remove in an age without tow trucks. (Indeed, street cleaners often waited for the corpses to putrefy so they could be sawed into pieces and carted off with greater ease.)
The impact of urban workhorses was also felt in the countryside. First, workhorses ate a lot of oats and hay. One contemporary British farmer calculated that one workhorse would consume the produce of five acres of land, which could have fed six to eight human beings. In the words of transportation historian Eric Morris, ‘directly or indirectly, feeding the horse meant placing new land under cultivation, clearing it of its natural animal life and vegetation, and sometimes diverting water to irrigate it, with considerable negative effects on the natural ecosystem’.
So, while early twentieth-century cars were noisy and polluting by today’s standards, they were a significant improvement on the alternatives. In later decades, advances such as the removal of lead from gasoline and the development of catalytic converters would essentially eliminate their more problematic features. Although not completely green, today’s petroleum-powered cars remain one of humanity’s most underappreciated environmental successes.
Railroads, ships and trucks also delivered significant environmental benefits. One longstanding problem, as the Marxist theorist Karl Kautsky observed in his 1899 classic The Agrarian Question, was that as ‘long as any rural economy is self-sufficient it has to produce everything which it needs, irrespective of whether the soil is suitable or not. Grain has to be cultivated on infertile, stony and steeply sloping ground as well as on rich soils.’ (1) In many locations without much prime agricultural land, primitive technologies ensured not only that at least 40 acres and a mule were required to sustain a household, but also that much environmental damage, primarily in the form of soil erosion, was done in the process. Fortunately, Kautsky observed, modern transportation had made possible the development of regions like the Canadian prairies and brought much relief to poorer soils in Europe, where more suitable forms of food production, such as cultivating orchards, rearing beef cattle and dairy farming, could now be practiced sustainably.
Over time, the concentration of food production in the world’s best locations allowed a lot of marginal agricultural land to revert to a wild state. For instance, France saw its forest area expand by one third between 1830 and 1960, and by a further quarter since 1960. This so-called ‘forest transition’ occurred in the context of a doubling of the French population and a dramatic increase in standards of living. Reforestation – or an improvement in the quality of the forest cover in countries such as Japan where it has no room to grow – has similarly occurred in all major temperate and boreal forests. Every country with a per-capita GDP now exceeding $4,600 – roughly equal to that of Chile – has experienced this, as well as some developing economies ranging from China and India to Bangladesh and Vietnam. (Of course, the replacement of firewood and charcoal with coal, kerosene, heavy oil and natural gas was also significant.)
The modern-logistics industry further allowed the production and export of food from locations where water is abundant to consumers living in regions where it isn’t, thus preventing the depletion of surface waters and aquifers in drier parts of the world. It also made possible a drastic increase in the size of our cities. In the words of economist Ed Glaeser: ‘Residing in a forest might seem to be a good way of showing one’s love of nature, but living in a concrete jungle is actually far more ecologically friendly… If you love nature, stay away from it.’ (2) To put things in perspective, cities now occupy between two and three per cent of the Earth’s surface, an area that is expected to double in the next half century. And in roughly half of the world today, far more agricultural land has been reverting to wilderness than has been converted to suburbia. (3)
Unfortunately, activists are often blind to the environmental benefits of petroleum-powered transportation. Countless local-food activists have embraced the notion of ‘food miles’ – the distance food items travel from farms to consumers – as the be all and end all of sustainable development. However, as has been repeatedly and rigorously documented in numerous studies, the distance travelled by food is unimportant. For one thing, producing food typically requires much more energy than moving it around, especially when significant amounts of heating and/or cold-protection technologies, irrigation water, fertilisers, pesticides and other inputs are required to grow things in one region, but not in another. Reducing food miles in such circumstances actually means a greater environmental impact. The distance travelled by food also matters less than the mode of transportation used. For instance, shipping food halfway around the world on a container ship often has a smaller footprint per item carried than a short trip by car to a grocery store to buy a small quantity of these items. (4)
To most of us, the notion that we can have our cake and eat it too is mind-boggling. Yet, in many respects, this is what petroleum products in general and modern transportation technologies in particular have actually delivered. Until something truly better comes along, they remain essential for the creation of a wealthier, cleaner and more sustainable world.
Green energy policies are costing us the future
When it comes to energy prices, UK homeowners are being seriously ripped off. But it’s not the much demonised energy providers who are to blame. The real culprit, according to a report from think-tank Policy Exchange, is the spiralling cost of green subsidies, which has led to a £60 increase for the average energy bill over the past five years. The report suggests that energy suppliers are only responsible for approximately 19 per cent of the total cost of household energy; meanwhile, the government has direct control over more than a third of your energy bill, meaning that the cost of the UK’s drive towards renewables is footed by energy customers.
This green revolution – demanded by the quinoa-munching class and paid for by everyone else – has cost the UK more than enough already, with far too little to show for it. People are quick to forget that coal – much maligned by green-energy fanatics – was the fuel on which modern Britain was built. As the fossil fuels burned, families were lifted out of poverty, and life expectancy rose. Now, as developing nations emulate us, burning their own abundant fuel reserves in the process, the developed West has the nerve to condemn them for it.
In doing this, we are cruelly pulling up the drawbridge to cheap industrialisation, from the warmth and comfort of our own developed countries. Are we so blinded by green politics that we ignore how much we owe to our own, environmentally unfriendly, Industrial Revolution? The millions of people in China lifted out of poverty over the past decade were helped on their way by vast quantities of coal. When have wind turbines or solar panels ever lifted anyone out of poverty? As the global energy mix is forced towards a greater reliance on renewables, the opportunities for development in the poorest parts of the world are stifled.
In Britain, it’s time to rethink our own energy mix, follow America’s lead and turn to shale gas for our energy needs. Fracking would increase our available supply substantially, and bolster our energy security with it. Nuclear power presents another opportunity. Uranium is as clean as it is plentiful, and is a tried-and-tested winner in the countries that have embraced it.
If we don’t abandon unreliable wind and expensive solar, we’ll end up paying even more for our energy – with a smaller output to show for it. Britain’s misguided and expensive green adventure has served only to run up an enormous subsidy bill. As the taxpayer forks out, UK politicians pat themselves on the back for their efforts in mitigating the supposed threat of global warming, when, in reality, politicians’ impact on global emissions is negligible.
It’s time we put the wellbeing of fellow humans before green dogma. If more lives can be improved by burning fossil fuels, fracking or pursuing nuclear power, then surely it’s time to tear down the turbines and fire up the power plants.
Mr. President: The 1970s Called, They Want Their Crude Oil Export Ban Back
Not long ago, during a presidential campaign debate with Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama suggested Romney had, at one point, stated Russia was the number one geopolitical threat to the United States. The president then quipped—with his usual glibness—“The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”
Well, Mr. President, you have a phone call, too. It’s the 1970s calling, and they want their crude oil export ban back.
The crude oil export ban was signed into law in 1975 in the wake of the Arab oil embargo that brought long lines for gasoline and high oil prices. Today, by contrast, hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has made the United States the world’s largest producer of crude oil. The outdated export ban puts U.S. oil producers at a competitive disadvantage with other countries, and may actually serve to increase gas prices at the pump.
Imagine what would happen if we didn’t allow our farmers to export their crops. A farmer has just harvested a bumper crop but he doesn’t have enough room to store it all, so he decides to sell it. But there is a problem: All of his neighbors have bumper crops too, and that has driven domestic prices so low the farmer will lose money if he sells his crop because the export ban prevents him from selling it to other countries for a higher price to make a profit.
In the short term, this might sound like a great deal for people in this country who want to buy the farmers’ crops, because they will get lower prices. But that effect is only temporary, because the low prices cause some farmers to go out of business. Other farmers are forced to plant fewer crops the next year because they can’t afford to buy the seeds or fertilizer to grow more. As a result, we produce less food in this country, and we are forced to import food from other countries, making us more reliant on other countries to meet our most basic needs, often at a higher price than before. This is exactly what our crude oil export ban does to American energy producers and consumers.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is the price paid for American oil, and last month the WTI price was about eight dollars lower than the price for Brent oil, the price the rest of the world pays for oil, putting U.S. energy companies at a distinct disadvantage vis-à-vis countries such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. The price of oil produced in North Dakota is even lower than WTI, because oil refineries in the United States are not set up to process the light, sweet, crude oil produced in this area.
Oil refineries in the United States are geared to run on heavy, sour crude oil, not the light, sweet crude that comes from North Dakota. A report by IHS, an energy consulting firm, states the “United States is nearing a “gridlock” with the mismatch between the rapid growth of light sweet oil and the inability of the U.S. refining system to economically process these growing volumes.”
Additionally, the report suggested the assumption that allowing crude oil exports would result in higher gasoline prices is not accurate because oil refineries are already allowed to export gasoline, meaning the price of gas at the pump already reflect global prices. The report also estimates lifting the ban could lower gas prices by an annual average of 8 cents per gallon, adding to the $675 dollars the average American household is already saving on lower gas prices.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released its long-awaited report on hydraulic fracturing and found it has “not led to widespread, systemic pollution of drinking water.” This is great news for our energy future. Now, Mr. President, let’s lift that export ban. It’s time to get frackin’.
The 'Hour of Power': Hybrid Motors come to ships
Ships to run off batteries for one hour -- enough to get them out of port and out from under local regulations
In 2015 two significant developments are going to make many operators, owners and builders of professional vessels consider hybrid marine power. Firstly the new emissions laws in ports and secondly there is now an incentive for high technology manufacturers to invest in developing highly efficient batteries.
Hybrid is ‘here and now’ technology that is being used by many industries globally. The marine industry is now recognizing the potential of utilizing hybrid power and innovative propulsion systems for vessels in the sub IMO / sub 24 meter professional sector.
‘The Hour Of Power’ has been well received by the marine industry worldwide. This simple concept enables vessels to run in and out of port for an hour on electric with battery power - then carry out their open sea work on diesel power. The aim of this innovative hybrid solution is to enhance conventional propulsion systems. Vessels can reduce emissions and improve fuel consumption whilst extending engine maintenance periods and engine life.
This is not just green energy for the sake of it - ‘The Hour Of Power’ focuses on hybrid solutions linked to viable business cases. For commercial and professional organisations the concept of running vessels with zero emissions at up to 10 knots for one hour will shape decisions that lead to improvements of in-service systems and procurement of next generation vessels. The overall objective is fuel saving and improved efficiency by all means.
For the marine industry to move forward it needs to use expertise from aviation and other sectors to drive this innovation and support relevant safety standards. Automotive manufacturers in Europe, the Far East and the U.S. have recognised that hybrid technologies such as PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) using lithium ion batteries will be dominant for the next decade. Reducing emissions from busses and trucks in the world’s major cities has been a major driver for lithium ion battery power storage. The need for self sufficient land based grid applications has further extended the capabilities of next generation battery and hybrid technology.
There are two main types of hybrid system. A serial hybrid is where the engine only powers a generator, and is not mechanically connected to the propeller shaft. A parallel hybrid is where the engine is mechanically connected along with an electric ‘machine’ that can operate as both propulsion motor and generator.
Certain sectors are potentially well suited to hybrid diesel / electric systems. These include wind farm service vessels and pilot boats that have relatively consistent duty cycles. We are entering a period of rapid change and commercial opportunity in the hybrid marine market. End-user organizations, boat builders, engine manufacturers and naval architects are now investigating systems for survey vessels, superyacht tenders, patrol vessels and unmanned craft.
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Preserving the graphics: Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere. But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases. After that they no longer come up. 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 or here
Posted by JR at 12:34 AM