Friday, August 19, 2016

Scotland's rare mountain plants disappearing as climate warms, botanists find

Let us assume that the fieldwork described below is entirely accurate and adequate.  Let us also assume that there has been some warming in Scotland and that the warming is having an adverse effect.  That still tells us nothing about WHY the warming is happening.  Is it local warming or is it anthropogenic global warming?  It is NOT anthropogenic global warming.  Why?  Because there has been none of that this century.

So could it be due to the recent warming caused by El Nino?  As it happens, no.  Why?  Because they tell us below that there has been unusually heavy snow in recent winters. El Nino missed Scotland, apparently. So what we are left with is that plants WERE retreating during a period of NO anthropogenic global warming but are not retreating now.  It would take the wisdom of Solomon to make something out of that

UPDATE: A reader comments as follows:

"Iceland purslane has a rather wide distribution, for such an endangered species. Also, it is edible and somewhat nutritious, so may serve as a forage plant for the local fauna? Highland saxifrage also appears to have a wide distribution. NOTE - that as with Iceland Purslane, none is shown in the British Isles, so it must indeed be very rare there. Snow pearlwort is also not shown in the UK, but is quite common in cold regions elsewhere in the world"

There is clear evidence that some of Britain’s rarest mountain plants are disappearing due to a steadily warming climate, botanists working in the Scottish Highlands have found.

The tiny but fragile Arctic plants, such as Iceland purslaine, snow pearlwort and Highland saxifrage, are found only in a handful of locations in the Highlands and islands, clustered in north-facing gullies, coires and crevices, frequently protected by the last pockets of late-lying winter snow.

A series of studies by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), the historic building and landscape charity, has found these plants – relics from the last period of glaciation, are retreating higher up the mountainside or disappearing entirely. In some cases they are being replaced by grasses previously found at lower, warmer altitudes.

Iceland purslane, an Arctic species which is extremely rare in the UK and found only on the Hebridean islands of Skye and Mull, nestles in protected spots on areas of volcanic basalt at heights above 400m.

Surveying on the Burg peninsula of Mull had found the tiny annual plant was being severely hit by increasingly warm springs, which had also led to increased growth by other plants competing for space.

On Bidean nam Bian next to Glencoe in Argyll, the latest field surveys found a 50% decline in Highland saxifrage at lower altitudes compared to the numbers detected in 1995.

Their surveys on Ben Lawers, a 1,214m high peak on Loch Tay in Perthshire which is regarded as a mecca for botanists, had found “a very worrying decline” in the numbers of snow pearlwort. An inconspicuous cushion-forming flowering plant, it which only survives in the UK on Ben Lawers and several places in the surrounding Breadalbane mountains at heights above 900m.

Sarah Watts, a seasonal ecologist for NTS, said the plant was at the southern limit of its natural range on Ben Lawers. Half of the sites found in 1981 had now become extinct, although heavy snow in the recent winters had helped halt the effects of climate change.


Heavily adjusted temperature dataset shows a warming trend, but can we trust it?

NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt, who has come under fire for being more activist than scientist, sent out a tweet yesterday predicting that 2016 would be the hottest year on record and said he was 99 percent sure of that claim.

According to land-and-sea-based temperature stations, July 2016 was 0.1 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1950 to 1980 timeframe. But when compared to the 1930s, July still is not a record breaker. But only if you don’t rely on an adjusted temperature dataset.

Schmidt, a director for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA GISS), is disseminating a chart on Twitter from a dataset that has been heavily adjusted to show a much larger warming trend than is actually occurring.

The adjustments have also come under heavy criticism because it uses a temperature dataset that wiped away the strong 1998 El Niño

Most of the world’s top meteorological organizations rely on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA for data prior to 1982. According to Tony Heller at Real Climate #Science, the 1930s will still go down as the hottest decade in U.S. history, long before carbon dioxide (CO2) levels started to rise. Temperatures across the country were over 100 degrees F across the country the week of July 25, 1936. And July 9, 1936, is still one of the hottest days in U.S. history.

Fact vs. fiction

Specifically, Heller illustrates in a recent presentation he gave to Doctors for Disaster Preparedness that July 9, 1936, in New York City was baking at a 106°F. Long beach, NJ, was cooking at 106°F as well. For one week in South Dakota, temperatures reached 120 degrees F, and Seymour, Indiana, saw 113 degrees F. In fact, more than 20 percent of all temperature records in the U.S. were set in one year alone: 1936.

That means the U.S. had more hot days during the 1930s than any other decade during the entire temperature dataset. And these hot spells lasted longer and covered more area. But once NOAA and NASA started adjusting the temperature record and filling in temperatures for non-existent weather stations, a warming trend of a 1.5-degree per century appeared.

Closed for good

So where are the adjustments coming from? As more and more temperature recording stations are being dismantled, there are fewer places actually recording data. The missing rural stations (cooler temps) are now being mixed with city stations (hotter temps). Because of the adjustments and altered data, the temperature record has now magically correlated with rising atmospheric CO2. Heller calls this “confirmation bias.”

Now you see me

Current NASA graphs show a steady increase in temperatures since 1880 as seen in Schmidt’s tweet above. But in 1974, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) showed no net temperature increase between 1870 and 1970. Same for the National Academy of Sciences, which in 1975 showed no warming from 1900 to 1970. Every organization across the globe that collected and analyzed temperatures acknowledged the cooling period from 1940 to 1970.

It has now magically disappeared from NASA and NOAA's graphs. And the satellite record (and previous charts) also shows a distinctive pause in warming from 1998 (strong El Niño) to 2015 (another strong El Niño) but not in the chart posted by Schmidt.

Verify, then trust

Whether it’s sea level rise or temperatures, NASA and NOAA should realize that datasets don’t disappear simply because they don’t conform with warming dogma. Archives of these articles and journal reports still exist, and they should be a source of concern because they don’t fit the narrative of catastrophic #Climate Change.

As Heller adds, "climate data is being manipulated to increase climate alarm, using techniques that are unsupportable and would not be tolerated in the private sector."


CLIMATE CHANGE SHOCK: Global warming happened LONG before man started burning fossil fuels

THE debate over man-made climate change has been turned upside down following the discovery there was a catastrophic Antarctic sea ice shrinkage more than 100,000 years ago... when mankind was still in loin cloths.

The newly discovered naturally-caused warm spell 115,00 to 130,000 years ago has given support to the claim global warming can happen without man's interference, according to sceptics of human-caused climate change.

However, those campaigning for more to be done to limit carbon emissions to prevent future global warming are also using the new research in support of their case.

Winter sea ice around Antarctica shrank 65 per cent in a natural warm period between Ice Ages about 128,000 years ago, when temperatures were slightly warmer than now, according to the new report in the journal Nature Communications.

At the time, it is believed the first Eurasians were migrating from Africa to Europe and Asia as primitive men.

The conclusions were based on ancient ice cores drilled from deep in the Antarctic ice sheet.

The chemistry of snow indicates how far it blew from the ocean before it landed and got compressed into ice.

Climate change deniers argue the impact of human carbon emissions on the Earth's overall climate is not as significant as those campaigning to tackle global warming suggest.

But, they are often accused of being linked to the fossil fuel industry and therefore having a vested interest in carbon emissions continuing at their current rates.

Climate change sceptics counter claim many people campaigning for more action against man-made global warming have an interest in the renewable energy and green industries.

And climate change sceptics claim the new study backs their theory that it is more natural events and changes that affect the globe's climate, than the level of human emissions.

The argument being that something natural caused this newly discovered warm spell 128,000 years ago, but the planet was able to cool and recover and the extent of polar ice increase again.

Yet, the British scientists behind the report have warned their study highlights that human emissions only worsen natural events and their study confirming the ancient shrinking of the ice helps underpin forecasts by a panel of UN climate experts that global warming will mean a 58 per cent retreat in Antarctica's sea ice by around the year 2200.

Climate change sceptics have always pointed to the fact that there has been a paradoxical expansion of the extent of floating ice on the ocean around Antarctica in recent decades - apparently defying the trend of global warming blamed on greenhouse gases.

At the same time sea ice in the Arctic at the other end of the planet has been shrinking in recent decades.

But the scientists concluded that the fact sea ice around Antarctica shrank in a warm period more than 100,000 years ago, is an indication that man-made climate change could also trigger an abrupt retreat in the near future.

The thaw would reverse the paradoxical expansion of floating ice on the ocean around the frozen continent.

The study said: "A major reduction at 128,000 years ago could indicate a tipping point in the sea ice system."

Lead author Max Holloway, of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), said the ancient shrinking of sea ice may have preceded a collapse of an ice sheet in West Antarctica that spilled into the sea and pushed up sea levels.

He said: "With a major reduction in sea ice, you'd expect the ice sheets to be more sensitive."

Separately, in 2014 another study suggested that some glaciers in West Antarctica have already begun an irreversible thaw.

Scientists say the contradictory trends between the two poles may partly be because Antarctica is a continent surrounded by an open ocean, while the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land - mainly Russia, Canada, Greenland and Alaska.

Louise Sime, of BAS and the report co-author, said: "By uncovering, for the first time, a huge retreat around Antarctica, we have established that sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere is also susceptible to major climate changes."


Obama imposes new fuel regs on trucks

Big rigs and other heavy vehicles will have to cut their carbon emissions and fuel consumption 25 percent from current models under new rules announced Tuesday by the Obama administration.

The rules are the last in a suite of regulations that have been issued under President Obama's climate change agenda.

The tractors used in tractor-trailer vehicles, delivery trucks, school buses and other vocational vehicles by 2027 are expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions emissions by 1.1 billion tons and reduce oil consumption by 84 billion gallons, compared to the first round of standards that expire in 2018. The Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the California Air Resource Board jointly announced the regulations.

In addition, heavy-duty pick up trucks and vans must become 2.5 percent more efficient annually between model years 2021 and 2027.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called the new standards "ambitious and achievable," and said it's up to the automobile sector to develop new technologies to meet the standards.

"We expect these will drive innovation as well as protect the air we breathe," she said.

The government did not immediately release the expected costs of the standards, but said the expected $170 billion in fuel cost savings would more than outstrip the costs.

According to a White House fact sheet, the new standards will have the pollution reducing effect of removing all the cars in the United States off the road for one year. The vehicles covered by the new regulation account for about 20 percent of carbon emissions from the U.S. transportation sector, which is the second-largest carbon pollution producing sector in the country next to power generation. Many scientists blame greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels for driving manmade climate change.

The new rules also come with more spending plans from the federal government.

As a part of the package, the Department of Energy will spend $137 million to improve vehicle and truck efficiency — $80 million to develop technology to make trucks more fuel efficient and $57 million on developing new light-duty vehicle technologies.

Department of Transportation Director Anthony Foxx added that the agency will help local transportation authorities upgrade their buses to include more hybrid vehicles.

"We are at a pivotal point in our fight against climate change and its catastrophic consequences," he said.

The new standards will affect a huge amount of trucks bringing consumer goods to market. About 70 percent of the freight in the country is moved by truck, McCarthy said.

While there would be costs associated with the new regulations initially, McCarthy sought to reassure truckers and consumers alike that over time the new standards will result in a cost savings to vehicle owners and the public alike.

"These standards are ambitious and achievable and they'll help ensure the American trucking industry continues to drive our economy and also protect our planet," she said.

The rule was immediately slammed as anti-business by the Institute for Energy Research, a conservative think tank.

Thomas Pyle, president of the group, said the rule was an example of regulators thinking they know what's good for business instead of listening to the industry. He added that the new rules are unlikely to have a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change.

"These sorts of heavy-duty trucks are owned and operated by companies that have every incentive to save money on fuel," Pyle said. "This regulation only serves to increase the cost of owning and operating these truck fleets — making it more expensive to do business in the U.S."


Dem Attorney General Global Warming Investigation Likely Illegal, Says Law Expert

A legal expert in financial law said the Democrat-lead probe targeting ExxonMobil is likely illegal and a ruse to paint those investigating the company as champions "in the fight against global warming."

The Exxon subpoena into the company's knowledge about internal climate change reports is an abuse of extraordinary powers. It allowed attorneys general (AGs) to subpoena private documents without either obtaining a court order or filing a complaint, Merritt Fox, a professor of law at Columbia Law School, wrote Monday at National Law Journal.

Fox was referencing New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's investigation into Exxon, which, according to a New York Times report, demanded "extensive financial records, emails and other documents" from the oil producer dating all the way back to the 1970s. The New York attorney general also demanded information on global warming skeptic groups Exxon had once helped fund.

Schneiderman argued the oil company hid internal knowledge about the effects climate change has on oil production from investors to justify his investigation. He used a little-known financial and securities law to justify his investigation.

Fox argued that the Martin Act, which allows the AG to investigate and eventually prosecute companies for committing fraud, requires the likelihood that a reasonable investor would consider the omitted important information and decided "not to vote or buy, sell, or hold, and that it has to significantly alter a total mix of information available to this reasonable man or reasonable investor."

Exxon had only a smattering of scientists working on climate change, most of which shared similar views as climate scientists already in the public realm. Exxon's climate scientists published their findings in peer-reviewed journals.

"Consequently, even if all the internal statements of the Exxon scientists had been added to the public mix, it is extremely unlikely that a reasonable investor would have changed her mind about whether to buy or sell Exxon shares," Fox added.

Fox noted similar concerns in May, telling a Columbia Law School panel he believes Schneiderman's investigation into Exxon is unlikely to bear fruit, as the oil company does not appear to have broken the law.

But since, "the market was well supplied with information about climate change," he said. "It's not, I don't know what the documents would discover, but I'd be kind of amazed if what the Exxon scientists knew was so different from what other scientists outside Exxon knew and were publicly available that it would change that total mix in a significant way."

He doubled down on those criticisms in Monday's National Law Journal piece.

Fox, who is also the NASDAQ professor for the Law and Economics of Capital Markets at Columbia University, suggested that from his vantage point, the inquisition looks more like an AG attempting to convince people he is a warrior in the battle against global warming.

"It is really about the attorney general acting as a champion in the fight against global warming," Fox said, referencing a press release announcing the probe by Schneiderman in which the AG describes storm damage to his state as one of the reasons for the investigation.

"That's why I am committed to the fight to combat climate change," Schneiderman said at the time.

"At the extreme," Fox warned. "The Martin Act subpoena power could be used to bully corporations into any kind of desired reform under the guise of a securities investigation."


With New Navajo Nation Lawsuit, EPA Faces More Pressure Over Gold King Mine Spill

One year has passed since the Environmental Protection Agency caused a discharge of 3 million gallons of toxic water into the Animas River, and no one has been held accountable, although private parties have been criminally prosecuted under similar circumstances in the past.

Now, three entities’ actions might change the resulting narrative that there are two sets of rules, one for people in the private sector, and another for employees of the federal government.

In May, the state of New Mexico sued the agency in federal court, along with an EPA contractor and several mining companies, seeking “full and just compensation” for environmental and economic damages in the wake of the EPA’s spill.

In July, the Office of the Inspector General for the EPA confirmed that it is conducting a criminal investigation into the Gold King Mine spill due to high “public interest” and inquiry from Congress.

On Tuesday, the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit against the EPA, which states, “After one of the most significant environmental catastrophes in history, the Nation and the Navajo people have yet to have their waterways cleaned, their losses compensated, their health protected or their way of life restored.”

The EPA’s spill has been disastrous for millions of people in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Southern California, who rely on affected waters—contaminated with arsenic, lead mercury, and other toxic metals—for drinking, irrigation, recreation, and employment.  It was reported that at a public comment session shortly after the spill, David Moler, owner of a river-rafting company, asked EPA Regional Director Shaun McGrath, “When can my business be open again?” and “What should I tell my employees?”

The attorney general of the Navajo Nation, Ethel Branch, told CNN that the affected San Juan River “has always been a source of life, of purification, and of healing” for the Navajo, but “now it’s been transformed into something that’s a threat. It’s been pretty traumatic in changing the role of the river in the lives of the people who rely on it.”

Branch says that the full extent of the health concerns caused by the spill may be unclear “for five to 10 years—maybe more,” but people are concerned today about the potential harms from direct exposure, “eating food that’s been watered with contaminated water, or eating livestock that has consumed the water.” As a result, some irrigation ditches were closed, “leaving farmers with bone-dry land and dead crops,” according to The Denver Post

A year ago, Jonathan Nez, vice president of the Navajo Nation, asked, per The Denver Post, “What’s going to happen when people find out that the cattle they’re being sold is from this region? It could really devastate ranchers here.” Timothy Coleman, whose family has farmed land along the river for years, said, also according to the Post, “I guess I’ll do something else.”

The Navajo Nation’s lawsuit claims that the EPA “failed to prepare for known risks of a mine blowout;” that workers for the EPA “‘recklessly’ burrowed into the Gold King Mine;” and that the agency has responded to the nation’s requests to provide compensation for the economic and environmental harms of the spill “with resistance, delays, and second-guessing.”

The EPA commissioned a report on the spill from the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, which was released last October. That report stated that an EPA backhoe operator hit a spring, causing the spill, but the report did not say who was responsible or why that happened.

The EPA later issued a second report, which claims that after some “careful scraping and excavation” with a backhoe, workers “noticed a water spout a couple of feet high in the air near where they had been excavating.”

Whether EPA employees “noticed” a “water spout” or they violated federal law by causing a 3,000,000 gallon discharge into surrounding waters is now the subject of three separate legal actions. Hopefully, we will soon learn whether the EPA violated the law in its handling of the Gold King Mine.



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