Wednesday, July 06, 2016

African agriculture and CO2

Below is a bit of total brainlessness.  Newsweek channelling Mother Jones in fact! Both warming and increased CO2 levels are GOOD for plants.  And warming also brings rain, which is best of all.  No doubt Africa is hungry in many places but climate is not the cause of that.  Climate change is one of the few things that could help Africa

Agriculture in Africa is one of the most important yet underreported stories about climate change today. It's a fascinating intersection of science, politics, technology, culture, and all the other things that make climate such a rich vein of reporting. At that intersection, the scale of the challenge posed by global warming is matched only by the scale of opportunity to innovate and adapt. There are countless stories waiting to be told, featuring a brilliant and diverse cast of scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians, farmers, families, and more.

East Africa is already the hungriest place on Earth: One in every three people live without sufficient access to nutritious food, according to the United Nations. Crop yields in the region are the lowest on the planet. African farms have one-tenth the productivity of Western farms on average, and sub-Saharan Africa is the only placeon the planet where per capita food production is actually falling.

Now, climate change threatens to compound those problems by raising temperatures and disrupting the seasonal rains on which many farmers depend. An index produced by the University of Notre Dame ranks 180 of the world's countries based on their vulnerability to climate change impacts (No. 1, New Zealand, is the least vulnerable; the United State is ranked No. 11). The best-ranked mainland African country is South Africa, down at No. 84; Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda rank at No. 147, No. 154, and No. 160, respectively. In other words, these are among the places that will be hit hardest by climate change. More often than not, the agricultural sector will experience some of the worst impacts. Emerging research indicates that climate change could drive down yields of staples such as rice, wheat, and maize 20 percent by 2050. Worsening and widespread drought could shorten the growing season in some places by up to 40 percent.

This isn't just a matter of putting food on the table. Agricultural productivity also lies at the root of broader economic development, since farming is Africa's No. 1 form of employment. So, even when hunger isn't an issue, per se, lost agricultural productivity can stymie rural communities' efforts to get the money they need for roads, schools, clinics, and other necessities. "We only produce enough to eat," lamented Amelia Tonito, a farmer I met recently in Mozambique. "We'd like to produce enough to eat and to sell." More food means more money in more pockets; the process of alleviating poverty starts on farms.

"We only produce enough to eat," lamented Amelia Tonito, a farmer I met recently in Mozambique. "We'd like to produce enough to eat and to sell."


New paper finds extreme storms "seem to coincide with the COLDEST periods in Europe"

Extreme storms during the last 6500 years from lagoonal sedimentary archives in the Mar Menor (SE Spain)

Laurent Dezileau et al.


Storms and tsunamis, which may seriously endanger human society, are amongst the most devastating marine catastrophes that can occur in coastal areas. Many such events are known and have been reported for the Mediterranean, a region where high-frequency occurrences of these extreme events coincides with some of the most densely populated coastal areas in the world. In a sediment core from the Mar Menor (SE Spain), we discovered eight coarse-grained layers which document marine incursions during periods of intense storm activity or tsunami events. Based on radiocarbon dating, these extreme events occurred around 5250, 4000, 3600, 3010, 2300, 1350, 650, and 80 years cal BP. No comparable events have been observed during the 20th and 21st centuries.

The results indicate little likelihood of a tsunami origin for these coarse-grained layers, although historical tsunami events are recorded in this region. These periods of surge events seem to coincide with the coldest periods in Europe during the late Holocene, suggesting a control by a climatic mechanism for periods of increased storm activity. Spectral analyses performed on the sand percentage revealed four major periodicities of 1228 ± 327, 732 ± 80, 562 ± 58, and 319 ± 16 years. Amongst the well-known proxies that have revealed a millennial-scale climate variability during the Holocene, the ice-rafted debris (IRD) indices in the North Atlantic developed by Bond et al. (1997, 2001) present a cyclicity of 1470 ± 500 years, which matches the 1228 ± 327-year periodicity evidenced in the Mar Menor, considering the respective uncertainties in the periodicities.

Thus, an in-phase storm activity in the western Mediterranean is found with the coldest periods in Europe and with the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation. However, further investigations, such as additional coring and high-resolution coastal imagery, are needed to better constrain the main cause of these multiple events.

Clim. Past, 12, 1389-1400, 2016. doi:10.5194/cp-12-1389-2016

Arctic Update

Two months ago, climate "experts" told us that the Arctic would be ice-free this summer

Arctic sea ice volume is exactly normal, and close to 15 feet thick near the North Pole.

Temperatures near the pole have been persistently below normal for the entire melt season, which almost half over.

Robert Scribbler is the same fraudster who started the “jet stream crossing the equator” scam last week.

Democrats say that it is illegal to lie about the climate, which is their own standard operating procedure.


Foolish Climate power play by the AAAS et al.

Judith Curry

The AAAS and affiliated professional societies just shot themselves in the foot with the letter to U.S. policy makers.

Last week, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) issued a press release entitled Thirty-One Top Scientific Societies Speak With One Voice on Global Climate Change.  Punchline:

In a consensus letter to U.S. policymakers, a partnership of 31 leading nonpartisan scientific societies today reaffirmed the reality of human-caused climate change, noting that greenhouse gas emissions “must be substantially reduced” to minimize negative impacts on the global economy, natural resources, and human health.

This statement is a blatant misuse of scientific authority to advocate for specific socioeconomic policies.  National security and economics (specifically called out in the letter) is well outside the wheelhouse of all of these organizations.   Note the American Economics Association is not among the signatories; according to an email from Ross McKitrick, the constitution of the AEA forbids issuing such statements. In fact, climate science is well outside the wheelhouse of most of these organizations (what the heck is with the statisticians and mathematicians in signing this?)

The link between adverse impacts such as more wildfires, ecosystem changes, extreme weather events etc. and their mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions hinges on detecting unusual events for at least the past century and then actually attributing them to human caused warming.  This is highly uncertain territory – even within the overconfident world of the IPCC.  And the majority of the signatories to this letter have no expertise in the detection and attribution of human caused climate change.

‘Scientists speaking with one voice’ on an issue as complex and poorly understood as climate change, its impacts and solutions is something that I find rather frightening.  Well, I am somewhat reassured that this is not the population of scientists speaking, but rather the leadership of the professional societies speaking.  How many members of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists have an educated opinion, or even care very much, about climate change?  And many of these society leaders (who were responsible for signing on behalf of their organization) are not scientists themselves, e.g. Chris McEntee, Executive Director of the AGU, whose background is in nursing (Masters in Health Administration).  She is quoted in the AAAS press release:

“Climate change is one of the most profound challenges facing our society. Consensus on this matter is evident in the diversity of organizations that have signed this letter. Science can be a powerful tool in our efforts to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, and we stand ready to work with policymakers as they deliberate various options for action.”


So, is this letter going to change the minds of ~50% of Congressional members who do not support President Obama’s climate change plan, either because they don’t like the proposed solutions, or don’t think climate change is dangerous, or don’t think humans are the dominant cause of recent climate change?

Those in Congress that disagree with Obama’s plan have clearly shown themselves not to be susceptible to pressures from scientist/advocates and their consensus enforcement.  Further, by broadening the list of signatories to include societies that have little or no expertise in the physics of climate, this whole exercise reinforces the public distrust of these scientific organizations.

It seems that the primary motivation of this is for the leaders of these professional societies to be called to the big table to engage in the Congressional policy deliberations about climate change.  So, if you are Lamar Smith or Ted Cruz, would you be calling any of these people to participate in Congressional hearings?

The AAAS and the affiliated professional societies blew it with that letter.  They claim the science is settled; in that case, they are no longer needed at the table. If they had written a letter instead that emphasized the complexities and uncertainties of both the problem and the solutions, they might have made a case for their participation in the deliberations.

Instead, by their dogmatic statements about climate change and their policy advocacy, they have become just another group of lobbyists, having ceded the privilege traditionally afforded to dispassionate scientific reasoning to political activists in the scientific professional societies.  With a major side effect of damaging the process and institutions of science, along with the public trust in science.

The AAAS et al. have shot themselves in the foot with this one.


The idea that we are edging up to a mass extinction is not just wrong – it’s a recipe for panic and paralysis

by Stewart Brand

The way the public hears about conservation issues is nearly always in the mode of ‘[Beloved Animal] Threatened With Extinction’. That makes for electrifying headlines, but it misdirects concern. The loss of whole species is not the leading problem in conservation. The leading problem is the decline in wild animal populations, sometimes to a radical degree, often diminishing the health of whole ecosystems.

Viewing every conservation issue through the lens of extinction threat is simplistic and usually irrelevant. Worse, it introduces an emotional charge that makes the problem seem cosmic and overwhelming rather than local and solvable. It’s as if the entire field of human medicine were treated solely as a matter of death prevention. Every session with a doctor would begin: ‘Well, you’re dying. Let’s see if we can do anything to slow that down a little.’

Medicine is about health. So is conservation. And as with medicine, the trends for conservation in this century are looking bright. We are re-enriching some ecosystems we once depleted and slowing the depletion of others. Before I explain how we are doing that, let me spell out how exaggerated the focus on extinction has become and how it distorts the public perception of conservation.

Many now assume that we are in the midst of a human-caused ‘Sixth Mass Extinction’ to rival the one that killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. But we’re not. The five historic mass extinctions eliminated 70 per cent or more of all species in a relatively short time. That is not going on now. ‘If all currently threatened species were to go extinct in a few centuries and that rate continued,’ began a recent Nature magazine introduction to a survey of wildlife losses, ‘the sixth mass extinction could come in a couple of centuries or a few millennia.’

The range of dates in that statement reflects profound uncertainty about the current rate of extinction. Estimates vary a hundred-fold – from 0.01 per cent to 1 per cent of species being lost per decade. The phrase ‘all currently threatened species’ comes from the indispensable IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), which maintains the Red List of endangered species. Its most recent report shows that of the 1.5 million identified species, and 76,199 studied by IUCN scientists, some 23,214 are deemed threatened with extinction. So, if all of those went extinct in the next few centuries, and the rate of extinction that killed them kept right on for hundreds or thousands of years more, then we might be at the beginning of a human-caused Sixth Mass Extinction.

An all-too-standard case of extinction mislabeling occurred this January on the front page of The New York Times Magazine. ‘Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Shows,’ read the headline. But the article by Carl Zimmer described no such thing. Instead it was a relatively good-news piece pointing out that while much of sea life is in trouble, it is far less so than continental wildlife, and there is time to avoid the mistakes made on land. The article noted that, in the centuries since 1500, some 514 species have gone extinct on land but only 15 in the oceans, and none at all in the past 50 years. The Science paper on which Zimmer was reporting was titled ‘Marine Defaunation: Animal Loss in the Global Ocean’ by Douglas McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and colleagues. It stated: ‘Though humans have caused few global marine extinctions, we have profoundly affected marine wildlife, altering the functioning and provisioning of services in every ocean,’ and it went on to chronicle the causes of ‘the proliferation of ‘empty reefs’, ‘empty estuaries’, and ‘empty bays’, with an overall decline of marine fishes by 38 per cent.

Extinction is not a helpful way to think about threats to ocean animals because few go extinct there. The animals are highly mobile in a totally connected vast environment where there is almost always somewhere to hide, even from industrial-scale hunting. Atlantic cod used to be one of the world’s great fisheries before it collapsed in 1992 from decades of overfishing. According to Jesse Ausubel, one of the organisers of the recent international Census of Marine Life: ‘The total estimated kilos of cod off Cape Cod today probably weigh only about 3 per cent of all the cod in 1815.’ (Across the Atlantic in the North Sea, however, cod fishery is recovering, thanks to effective regulation.) No one really expects cod to go extinct, and yet the Red List describes them as threatened with extinction.

The best summation I have seen of the current situation comes from John C Briggs, biogeographer at the University of South Florida, in a letter to Science magazine last November:

"Most extinctions have occurred on oceanic islands or in restricted freshwater locations, with very few occurring on Earth’s continents or in the oceans. The world’s greatest conservation problem is not species extinction, but rather the precarious state of thousands of populations that are the remnants of once widespread and productive species"

Briggs’s point about oceanic islands is worth examining in detail. Compared with continents, the ecosystems of remote islands are so simple and restricted, a great deal of what we understand about ecology and evolution has come from studying them. (Australia is considered such an island despite its size, thanks to its long isolation.) Darwin’s revelation about the origins of speciation was inspired by his travels to Pacific islands such as the Galapagos. One of the core texts of ecology and conservation biology is The Theory of Island Biogeography (1967) by Edward O Wilson and Robert MacArthur.

Many new species readily emerge on ocean islands because of the isolation, but there are few other species to co-evolve with and thus they have no defence against invasive competitors and predators. The threat can be total. An endemic species under attack has nowhere to escape to. The island conservationist Josh Donlan estimates that islands, which are just 3 per cent of the Earth’s surface, have been the site of 95 per cent of all bird extinctions since 1600, 90 per cent of reptile extinctions, and 60 per cent of mammal extinctions. Those are horrifying numbers, but the losses are extremely local. They have no effect on the biodiversity and ecological health of the continents and oceans that make up 97 per cent of the Earth.

The frightening extinction statistics that we hear are largely an island story, and largely a story of the past, because most island species that were especially vulnerable to extinction are already gone.

The island ecosystems have not collapsed in their absence. Life becomes different, and it carries on. Since the majority of invasive species are relatively benign, they add to an island’s overall biodiversity. The ecologist Dov Sax at Brown University in Rhode Island points out that non-native plants have doubled the botanical biodiversity of New Zealand – there are 2,104 native plants in the wild, and 2,065 non-native plants. Ascension Island in the south Atlantic, once a barren rock deplored by Charles Darwin for its ‘naked hideousness’, now has a fully functioning cloud forest made entirely of plants and animals brought by humans in the past 200 years. (The Ascension Island story opens a new book by environmental journalist Fred Pearce, titled The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature’s Salvation.)

But the main news from ocean islands is that new methods have been found to protect the vulnerable endemic species from their worst threat, the invasive predators, thus dramatically lowering the extinction rate for the future. New Zealanders are the heroes of this story, beautifully told in Rat Island: Predators in Paradise and the World’s Greatest Wildlife Rescue (2011) by William Stolzenburg. Every ocean island in the world has been afflicted with intensely destructive alien predators brought by us – rats, mice, goats, pigs, burros, tree snakes (Guam), foxes (Aleutians), and many more. In the 1980s, New Zealand conservationists were driven to desperation by the vulnerability of beloved unique creatures such as a ground-dwelling parrot called the kakapo. They decided to do whatever it took to eliminate every single rat on the kakapo’s island refuge. It took many seasons of relentless poisoning and trapping, but when it was done, it was really done. The kakapos could finally reproduce in safety, and did. The technique was tried on other islands with other endangered species and other problem predators, and it worked there too.

More than 800 islands worldwide have now been cleansed of their worst extinction threat, with more coming. Some are pretty spectacular. Donlan, quoted above, was in the thick of the battle to get rid of all the goats that were destroying Santiago, Pinta and Isabela islands in the Galapagos archipelago. It took years of work with high-powered rifles, hunting dogs, helicopters and ‘Judas goats’ to kill every single one of the 160,000 goats on the islands, but when it was done, the cure was permanent. And now, according to Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker this December, New Zealanders are stepping up to a much larger scale. An organisation called Predator Free New Zealand is co‑ordinating a massive nationwide effort to eradicate every single invasive rat, stoat, weasel and cat, and thus make the whole country a refuge for its native kiwis, wetas (giant insect), kakapos, saddlebacks (bird), tuataras (bizarre lizard), and more.


Australia: The Green/Left panicked by new independent senator

Chronically angry Liz Conor is anyway.  And her elitism pops out quickly too.  She says below of Pauline Hanson:  "And why does Hanson even have an opinion on climate science?".  The obvious riposte:  "And why does Liz Conor have an opinion on climate science?"

The rest of her rant is just one wild accusation after another.  I have noted some in the body of her text.  I actually wonder if she is serious.  I think she just enjoys being a dramatist.  But is she right in thinking that Pauline is bad for the Greenies?

Her offsider in Queensland, Malcolm Roberts, is a ferociously well-informed climate skeptic so she will have real intellectual firepower behind her.  Nobody will be able to bluff her with phony statistics etc.  So it is highly probable that Greenie policies will come under heavy challenge from her.  And she is not alone in climate skepticism.  About half the Liberal party are closet climate skeptics so if she demands anti-Warmist measures as her price for supporting the conservatives in crucial votes, there will be a real willingness to give that to her

Fellow Austraiyans. If you are reading me now it means that I have become murderous. Murderously, apoplectically incensed.

Pauline Hanson appears to have picked up a spot in our Senate at the time of writing, possibly even two or more. She will represent Queensland in our House of Review, where our nation’s proposed laws are rejected or amended. And it’s not a three-year term. Unless Turnbull (potentially newly rolled into Prime Minister Morrison out of revenge for the LNP’s slashed majority) finds some other spurious reason to call a double dissolution, Hanson’s term is Six. Six. Six.

Hanson will make extravagant use of the Senate’s committee system, already proposing royal commissions into Islam and climate science. How in chrissname do you conduct an inquiry into one of the three major world religions? Imagine the terms of reference. Are there too many believers? Should they perform the pilgrimage to Mecca? Are Humans superior to Angels? Will the Australian Royal commission into erm, Islam require the seventh-century originals of its foundational documents be tendered – the Qur’an, hadith and tafsir?

And why does Hanson even have an opinion on climate science? Why are racists climate deniers? Does Hanson have doubts about enlightenment empiricism? Logical positivism? The verification of Authentic Knowledge? Or has she, like most climate deniers and obstructers, featherbedded her campaign with undeclared funds from fossil fuel conglomerates?

And this from the state where a few short weeks ago 69,000 jobs were unceremoniously scuppered from tourism on our ghostly white Great Barrier Reef. 5.2 billion in revenue sank without trace with the ‘jobs and growth’ shipwreck of LNP sloganeering. [That job loss was a Greenie prediction -- amid actual thriving of reef tourism]

The reef grief and reef rage many of us felt was bad enough. I mean it’s nice to banner hope for the unbleached 7 per cent and ‘recovering’ 65 per cent with a donate button but let’s be honest, the waters aren’t going to get cooler in the long-term, there will be more frequent El Niño events, worsening storms and Crown of Thorn starfish outbreaks. ["frequent El Niño events"?  They are reasonably predictable but they are not frequent]

The reef is terminal. [The head of the GBRMPA doesn't think so and it's his job to know] We have five years to save what little remains but instead the two parties that oversaw this catastrophe now hang in the balance, continuing to accept party donations of $3.7 million from the corporations responsible. While still in unfettered power the Libs demanded UNESCO whitewash any mention of the reef from its report into risks to world heritage sites and tourism.

So. Once you’ve taken out the largest living organism on the planet how precisely do you top that? It seems their ecocidal mania knows no bounds. Both parties can lay claim to the dubious distinction of perpetrating the only environmental catastrophe visible from space.

These people are not in jail where they belong. Instead they spent the last eight weeks fronting up to Australians asking to be entrusted again. We are not in safe hands.

As the Nemo who intercepted Turnbull might reasonably protest to humans, ‘I’m fed up with being told, this is our reef. Well, where the hell do I go? I draw the line when told I must pay and continue paying for something that happened over 20 years ago,’ namely early and credible warnings of global warming.

What kind of electoral dissonance are One Nation Voters suffering? As we of the Greens voting variety have been instructed, the workers of Australia have been so cowed by threats to Medicare they simply cannot spare a thought for refugees. Apparently the capacity for workers to run more than one thought process in their heads at any time is somewhat limited. Only the left commentariat can multitask, it seems.

But how can we fathom the thinking of One Nation voters, many of them jumping ship from the Palmer United Party.

I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Caucasians, tax evasions and Australasians. They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos, and do not assimilate.

We are bringing in people from Oxley at the moment. There was a huge amount coming to our polling booths, and they’ve got diseases, they’ve got BIAS.

Either Blind Freddy or Rip Van Winkel would have to vote for a candidate who did time for electoral fraud. Even if her conviction was overturned it shows a hair-raising lack of judgement in whom she entrusts the basics of organisational governance.

Where will Hanson-voters’ intolerance for Halal snackpacks take us? What other food allergies are they intending to force on the rest of us? Battered Islamophobia? Deep-fried homophobia? Queue-jumping dimsims?

Hanson will find a way to jumble racism with climate obstruction. As Naomi Klein presciently argues they already go hand in glove. She writes, “there is no way to confront the climate crisis as a technocratic problem, in isolation. It must be seen in the context of austerity and privatisation, of colonialism and militarism, and of the various systems of othering needed to sustain them all.”

But let’s give Pauline the last word on facing imminent destruction: “Do not let my passing distract you for even a moment … For the sake of our children and our children’s children, you must fight on.”

Thanks for the tip Pauline. You can bet we will.



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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