Sunday, June 05, 2016

The Arctic is now greener than it was in 1984

This was entirely predictable from the higher levels of CO2 now in the atmosphere.  We have seen the same in the Sahel, a near-equatorial desert region.  The whole world is benefiting from the fertilizing effects of more CO2 in the atmosphere.  Its negative effects are just an unsupported theory.

Note that a whopping 30 per cent cut in man-made CO2 emissions during the Great Depression didn't even cause a 1 ppm drop in the atmosphere's CO2. You will see here that there was in fact a steady rise in atmospheric CO2 during that period --from 1930 to 1940. Thus it is impossible to assert that the increase in atmospheric CO2 stems from human burning of fossil fuels.

High CO2 is a GOOD thing.   The positive effects are visible and the negative effects cannot be found

What was once Arctic tundra in the cold plains of North America is now blooming, new Nasa images have revealed.

Researchers analysed 87,000 images taken between 1984 and 2012 by Landsat satellites in the most detailed look yet at plant life across Alaska and Canada.

It found the northern reaches of North America are getting greener, and almost a third of the land cover – much of it Arctic tundra – is looking more like landscapes found in warmer ecosystems.

The images is created from an analysis of 87,000 images taken between 1984 and 2012 by Landsat satellites.

It shows the greening trend of the region, with areas that have become green shown in green, and the diminishing brown tunda in brown.

Scientists have observed grassy tundras changing to scrublands, and shrub growing bigger and denser

The new Landsat study further supports previous work that has shown changing vegetation in Arctic and boreal North America.

Landsat is a joint NASA/U.S. Geological Survey program that provides the longest continuous space-based record of Earth's land vegetation in existence.

'It shows the climate impact on vegetation in the high latitudes,' said Jeffrey Masek, a researcher who worked on the study and the Landsat 9 project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Temperatures are warming faster in the Arctic than elsewhere, which has led to longer seasons for plants to grow in and changes to the soils.

Scientists have observed grassy tundras changing to shrublands, and shrubs growing bigger and denser – changes that could have impacts on regional water, energy and carbon cycles.

With Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 data, Masek and his colleague Junchang Ju, a remote sensing scientist at Goddard, found that there was extensive greening in the tundra of western Alaska, the northern coast of Canada, and the tundra of Quebec and Labrador.

While northern forests greened in Canada, they tended to decline in Alaska.

Overall, the scientists found that 29.4 percent of the region greened up, especially in shrublands and sparsely vegetated areas, while 2.9 percent showed vegetation decline.

'The greening trend was unmistakable,' the researchers wrote in an April 2016 paper in Remote Sensing of Environment.

Previous surveys of the vegetation had taken a big-picture view of the region using coarse-resolution satellite sensors.

To get a more detailed picture of the 4.1 million square-mile area, scientists used the Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 satellites.

Landsat, like other satellite missions, can use the amount of visible and near-infrared light reflected by the green, leafy vegetation of grasses, shrubs and trees to characterize the vegetation.

Then, with computer programs that track each individual pixel of data over time, researchers can see if an area is greening – if more vegetation is growing, or if individual plants are getting larger and leafier.

If, however, the vegetation becomes sparser, the scientists would classify that area as browning.

Researchers have used similar techniques to study Arctic and northern vegetation with other satellite instruments, such as the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR).

But Landsat can see smaller differences across a landscape – it takes one measurement for each 30-by-30 meter (98-by-98 foot) parcel of land, which is about the size of a baseball diamond. AVHRR collected one measurement for each 4-by-4 kilometer (2.5-by-2.5 mile) area.

'We can see more detail with Landsat, and we can see the trend more reliably,' Ju said.

With finer-resolution and better calibrated data from Landsat, the researchers were able to mask out areas that burned, or are covered in water, to focus on vegetation changes.

The more detailed look – now available to other researchers as well – will also let scientists see if a correlation exists between habitat characteristics and greening or browning trends.

'The resolution with Landsat is drastically improved, it lets you look at the local effects of things like topography, such as in areas where you might have small woodlands or open areas,' Masek said.

'You can do detailed studies of how climate impacts vary with geography.'

Adding the Landsat study to previous studies using the AVHRR sensor also adds to the certainty of what's going on, Masek said.

While the two tools to measure the northern vegetation did produce different results in some places, overall the trend was the similar – more plants, or bigger plants, in the Arctic reaches of North America.

With the higher resolution Landsat data, the researchers also found a lot of differences within areas – one pixel would be brown, and its neighbors green, noted Ju.

'It's very localized,' he said.

'The vegetation is responding to the microclimates. That's the benefit of using Landsat data, is that we can reveal this spatial variation over very short distances.'

With the large map complete, researchers will focus on these short distances – looking at the smaller scale to see what might control the greening patterns, whether it's local topography, nearby water sources, or particular types of habitat.

They also plan to investigate forested areas, particularly in the greening Quebec.

'One of the big questions is, 'Will forest biomes migrate with warming climate?' There hasn't been much evidence of it to date,' Masek said.   'But we can zoom in and see if it's changing.'


California Senate sidelines bill to prosecute climate change skeptics

A landmark bill allowing for the prosecution of climate change dissent effectively died Thursday after the California Senate failed to take it up before the deadline.

Senate Bill 1161, or the California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016, would have authorized prosecutors to sue fossil fuel companies, think tanks and others that have “deceived or misled the public on the risks of climate change.”

The measure, which cleared two Senate committees, provided a four-year window in the statute of limitations on violations of the state’s Unfair Competition Law, allowing legal action to be brought until Jan. 1 on charges of climate change “fraud” extending back indefinitely.

“This bill explicitly authorizes district attorneys and the Attorney General to pursue UCL claims alleging that a business or organization has directly or indirectly engaged in unfair competition with respect to scientific evidence regarding the existence, extent, or current or future impacts of anthropogenic induced climate change,” said the state Senate Rules Committee’s floor analysis of the bill.

Leading the fight against the measure was the Civil Justice Association of California, joined by pro-business groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Business Roundtable.

Justice association President Kim Stone said she was pleased that the state Senate “realized this bill was extreme.”

“Our concern about the bill is that by eliminating the statute of limitations and reviving claims from forever in the past, it’s fundamentally unfair,” said Ms. Stone.

The statute of limitations under the Unfair Competition Law is now four years. As originally introduced, the bill would have allowed climate “fraud” lawsuits extending back 30 years, but later was amended to provide no time limit, she said.

“This bill would be as if the IRS now said that we could audit you for the first year you filed your taxes, or your parents’ taxes, or even for your grandparents’ taxes. Would you have the documentation required to defend yourself if you were accused of having done something wrong?” Ms. Stone said. “No, nobody would have saved their papers because everyone knows the IRS has three years to audit you.”

The measure was introduced amid a national push by Democrats and activist groups to use the legal system to prosecute climate change “fraud,” prompting a backlash from skeptics who have denounced the campaign as an assault on free speech.

A coalition of 17 state attorneys general, including California Attorney General Kamala Harris, have joined forces to pursue climate change skeptics. At least four prosecutors reportedly have launched investigations into Exxon Mobil for climate change “fraud.”

Introduced by state Sen. Ben Allen, Santa Monica Democrat, S.B. 1161 had strong support from environmental groups, led by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The group, which had no immediate comment on the bill’s failure, had argued that the measure was needed to challenge efforts to “confuse consumers and fend off competition from lower-carbon energy sources.”

“To be clear, S.B. 1161 does not presume that any fossil fuel company has violated the law. But should the evidence support legal action, S.B. 1161 will give public prosecutors a more powerful tool to pursue it,” Jason Barbose, Western states policy manager of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a May 16 post.

“It would be an unfortunate contortion of our justice system for a fossil fuel company to escape prosecution for unlawful acts simply because it successfully hid the evidence from public view. S.B. 1161 protects the public from such a risk,” he said.


Gov’t Pays $8.8M ‘To Spur Biofuel Production’

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it is paying $8,833,211 of taxpayer funds to boost the production of biofuels and sustain jobs at renewable energy facilities.

"Advanced biofuels expand America's energy options and increase our sources of homegrown, renewable energy," Secretary Tom Vilsack says in a USDA press release. "These payments not only help to spur biofuel production, but also protect the environment and help create jobs by building a renewable energy economy in rural areas."

The USDA claims that under the Obama administration $332 million has been spent for renewable energy research and cost/benefit estimates of renewable energy production.

“Investments in renewable energy and the biobased economy are a leading part of USDA's commitment to mitigating climate change and promoting a clean-energy economy,” the press release says.


Mark Levin: The EPA Is Destroying the Middle Class

On Tuesday, nationally syndicated radio show host Mark Levin criticized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), saying it is destroying the American economy and the middle class.

“The EPA is destroying ‘the middle class,’” said Levin. “It’s destroying working people in this country; it’s destroying coal miners; it’s destroying oil jobs; it’s destroying trucking jobs. The EPA is destroying our smokestack industries. The EPA is doing more damage to our economy and hardworking men and women in this country than any country in the world! ”

Below is a transcript of what Mark Levin said on his show:

“The Environmental Protection Agency chased Carrier out of this country -- or will. How do we know this? Carrier said so.

“So, why are none of these mouthpieces talking about the EPA? Why are none of these frauds talking about the EPA?

“The EPA is destroying ‘the middle class;’ it’s destroying working people in this country; it’s destroying coal miners; it’s destroying oil jobs; it’s destroying trucking jobs. The EPA is destroying our smokestack industries. The EPA is doing more damage to our economy and hardworking men and women in this country than any country in the world!

“And yet they won’t talk about it. You know why? Because it doesn’t rile people up as much. And you know why else? Because it’s harder to deal with.

“The environmental movement is a communist movement in many respects. It’s a red movement. It’s secreted itself into the Environmental Protection Agency.

“How do I know? Why, did I read it in a fortune cookie? No! Because they tell us. If you’ve read Plunder and Deceit you understand. It’s a movement that’s been imported from Europe. That’s what ought to be taxed -- stupid ideas from Europe.

“And so, we have this de-growth, no-growth movement, this anti-capitalist movement, this anti-American lifestyle movement, from their own mouths, from their own declarations and proclamations, from their own meeting notes, trying to destroy us from within.

“It has nothing to do with trade. Nothing. It has everything to do with what’s going on within our country, to ourselves.”


Banning GM Salmon Is a Terrible Idea

The breed is already threatened – by politicians

The FDA has finally verified the safety and environmental sustainability of AquaBounty Technologies Inc.’s genetically modified (GM) salmon, after a wait of nearly 20 years. This means that the company’s product, called AquAdvantage Salmon, could soon be available to consumers.

Even after the drawn-out FDA review process, many people remain opposed to what they term “Frankenfish” and are demanding legislative action to ban GM animal products or mandate labeling. These misguided efforts stand in the way of benefits to both consumers and the environment.

The enhanced variety of salmon can grow to the same market size as their wild counterparts twice as fast and with 75 percent less feed. This efficiency, driven by a growth gene that remains turned on, could lower AquaBounty’s carbon footprint 25 times over and result in lower costs for consumers.

Companies such as Kroger, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s, anticipating the unfounded fears of consumers, have already responded to the hysteria surrounding AquAdvantage Salmon by stating that they will not carry the product. Additionally, several policymakers in both state and federal government have considered mandated labeling.

If consumers want to avoid eating GM food, they can choose brands that proudly label themselves as GMO free, which are often more expensive. Some value wild-caught salmon and are willing to pay more for it. However, others may not be able to afford wild-caught salmon (or grass-fed beef or organic apples), and equally safe, more affordable options should be available to them.

If GM products are better or equal in quality to traditional options, some argue that companies should not object to mandatory GM labels. However, most Americans are not scientists — through no fault of their own — and do not fully understand the science behind genetically modified food. A recent ABC poll revealed that a slight majority of Americans believe genetically modified organisms are unsafe, despite near-unanimous scientific consensus to the contrary. Government should not require the labeling of products that have not been shown to endanger consumers.

Hundreds of junk-science websites, many of which also wage campaigns against vaccination, have manufactured fears over GM food and created a stigma against agricultural innovation. Dr. Cindy Tian, a professor at the University of Connecticut’s Animal Science Department, has emphasized labeling will undoubtedly mislead the general public into avoiding GM food over groundless food safety concerns.

In Alaska, State Senators Gary Stevens and Kim Elton have won support for a labeling bill with the expressed purpose of stigmatizing non-Alaskan fish. Since over 90 percent of the wild salmon caught in the United States comes from Alaska, it is not surprising that the state will do all it can to limit competition.

Stevens even remarked that "The message that Alaska seafood is more natural than seafood that has been engineered in a lab is a highly important marketing tool." Rather than stifling innovation, Alaskan salmon fisherman and their representatives should welcome a product that could make salmon more accessible to consumers.

By lowering costs and increasing competition, GM salmon will make fish a more attractive option relative to beef and pork. This offers the potential to lower heart disease and colon cancer rates, while reducing the extensive environmental costs of meat production.

Many people across the globe enjoy eating salmon for its taste and health benefits. If GM salmon raised on land can help to minimize the problem of overfishing, this should be embraced by those concerned about restoring robust natural salmon populations, especially where they are an endangered species in parts of the North Atlantic.

Some critics are worried that GM salmon could escape fisheries and disrupt natural ecosystems. To alleviate this concern over wild inter-breeding, AquaBounty has provided additional levels of security. Their all-female stock is contained in land-based enclosures and born sterile. New eggs are created by AquaBounty Technologies, rather than through reproduction.

Even if a salmon were to escape, the AquAdvantage Salmon would not be able to outcompete wild salmon because they are physically incapable of procreating. Evidence also shows that even if they were to escape and somehow breed, GM salmon would likely have no negative effect on native salmon populations.

Barring any regulatory or legislative setbacks, GM salmon will be available at restaurants and grocers in about two years. At that time, AquAdvantage Salmon will only make up less than one tenth of one percent of the total amount of salmon Americans consume annually. With such a small initial effect on the market, why are some groups lobbying against AquAdvantage Salmon so heavily? The answer is that if GM salmon proves to be a success, other innovative GM animal products will likely enter the market, providing affordable, superior alternatives to existing options.

The delay over government approval of GM salmon has undoubtedly led to a chilling effect on the development of other GM animals. Future advances that have the potential to create positive — even lifesaving — effects should not have to face the same level of prolonged scrutiny that GM salmon experienced. Whether the next GM animals are malaria-resistant mosquitoes, pigs with lower phosphorus levels in their waste, or chickens that cannot transmit bird flu, the potential positive effects are countless.

Based on the clear scientific evidence, extensive safety precautions, and notable positive effects on consumers and the environment, allowing GM salmon sales is a clear decision. One can only hope that future agricultural innovations are able to reach consumers much faster than GM salmon.


Great Barrier Reef: scientists ‘exaggerated’ coral bleaching

Activist scientists and lobby groups have distorted surveys, maps and data to misrepresent the extent and impact of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, ­according to the chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Russell Reichelt.

A full survey of the reef ­released yesterday by the author­ity and the Australian Institute of Marine ­Science said 75 per cent of the reef would escape unscathed.

Dr Reichelt said the vast bulk of bleaching damage was confined to the far northern section off Cape York, which had the best prospect of recovery due to the lack of ­onshore development and high water quality. [i.e. There are virtually NO farms along that part of the coast  -- which gives the lie to the constant  Greenie claim that farm runoff is what is damaging the reef]

Activist groups last week seized on reports that a UN ­assessment of the impacts of climate change on iconic Australian World Heritage sites, including the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Tasmanian Wilderness was censored by Australia. It later emerged that the report the government was accused of censoring was complimentary of the Turnbull government’s actions to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

The political debate and the ­release of the authority’s survey results highlights a growing conflict between the lead Barrier Reef agency and the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce headed by Terry Hughes.

Dr Reichelt said the authority had withdrawn from a joint ­announcement on coral bleaching with Professor Hughes this week “because we didn’t think it told the whole story”. The taskforce said mass bleaching had killed 35 per cent of corals on the northern and central Great Barrier Reef.

Dr Reichelt said maps accompanying the research had been misleading, exaggerating the ­impact. “I don’t know whether it was a deliberate sleight of hand or lack of geographic knowledge but it certainly suits the purpose of the people who sent it out,” he said.

“This is a frightening enough story with the facts, you don’t need to dress them up. We don’t want to be seen as saying there is no ­problem out there but we do want people to understand there is a lot of the reef that is unscathed.”

Dr Reichelt said there had been widespread misinterpretation of how much of the reef had died. “We’ve seen headlines stating that 93 per cent of the reef is prac­tic­ally dead,” he said. “We’ve also seen reports that 35 per cent, or even 50 per cent, of the entire reef is now gone.

“However, based on our ­combined results so far, the overall mortality rate is 22 per cent — and about 85 per cent of that die-off has occurred in the far north ­between the tip of Cape York and just north of Lizard Island, 250km north of Cairns. Seventy-five per cent of the reef will come out in a few months time as recovered.”

Former climate change commissioner Tim Flannery described diving on the Great Barrier Reef near Port Douglas recently as “one of the saddest days of my life”.

“This great organism, the size of Germany and arguably the most diverse place on earth, is dying ­before our eyes,’’ Dr Flannery wrote for Fairfax Media. “Having watched my father dying two years ago, I know what the signs of slipping away are. This is death, which ever-rising temperatures will allow no recovery from. Unless we act now.”

Dr Reichelt said Dr Flannery’s language had been “dramatic” and “theatrical” and his prognosis, ­although of concern, was “specul­ative”. Dr Reichelt also rejected ­reports, based on leaked draft docu­ments, that improving water quality would cost $16 billion.

He said the interim report had been rejected by a board of which he was member and “taken totally out of context” in media reports.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society said the leaked information demonstrated the legacy of years of poor farming practices and government inaction, and highlighted the scale of ambition needed for political leaders to protect the reef.

The society’s reef campaign ­director, Imogen Zethoven, said Australia’s plans to protect the reef’s water quality were “shockingly underfunded”.

Meanwhile, tourism operators have stepped up a campaign to fight back against the onslaught of negative publicity. “It seems some marine scientists have decided to use the bleaching event to highlight their personal political beliefs and lobby for increased funding in an election year,” said Association of Marine Park Tour Operators executive director Col McKenzie.


Some Corroboration from the Cairns Post: (Cairns is the port through which the reef is most often accessed)

The Cairns-based Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC) has also released findings from 133 underwater survey dives carried out between Port Douglas and Cairns by a combined taskforce last week.

It showed key reef tourism sites escaped mass bleaching with only 13.7 per cent showing signs of coral mortality.

The findings seemingly contradict an estimate by the Townsville-based ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies earlier this week that mass bleaching killed 35 per cent of corals on the northern and central part of the Reef.

AMPTO [tour operators -- who see the reef daily] executive director Col McKenzie said this claim was “utter rubbish.”

“It seems that some marine scientists have decided to use the bleaching event for their personal political beliefs and lobby for increased funding in an election year,’’ he said.


For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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


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