Monday, December 12, 2016

An amusing exercise in guilt by association

Graham Readfearn is a freelance writer of Northern English origin who now lives in Australia. The Northerners tend to be a grumbly lot -- sometimes with reason -- and Readfearn seems to find grumbles about climate to be profitable

He clearly believes in global warming but offers not one single climate fact in his rant below. In quite an amazing exercise in haughtiness, he offers no evidence or argument for his beliefs whatever.

His entire offering is a logically invalid charge of guilt by association.  He seems particularly disturbed by anyone inclined to take seriously Alex Jones and David Icke.  Trump has agreed with Jones on some things so therefore Trump agrees with Jones on everything, seems to be the loony allegation.

Icke is clearly off the planet and Jones does get carried away at times -- but nothing depends on their being right. Both doubt global warming but it is the scientific facts -- such as the 21st century warming "hiatus" -- that create doubt, not the views of a few heterodox media personalities

What comrade Readfern has not asked himself is WHY such sites have a big following.  And there is a clear answer to that:  The mainstream media are so biased and selective in their reporting that they have destroyed any independent criterion of truth.  When the mainstream media is visibly loaded with Green/Left propaganda it is an understandable reaction for people to say, "I don't like this propaganda so I will seek out propaganda that suits me".

The mainstream media have destroyed trust in themselves and that opens the door for other sources of news and commentary.  That he can't distinguish propaganda from fact is not the fault of the average Joe.  The Left-media have systematically kept the truth from him.  Leftist fake news has encouraged conservative fake news.

The Left are chronically incapable of thinking long term so it appears not to have occurred to them that by their lack of balance they might ultimately discredit themselves.

It reminds me of Harry Reid "going nuclear" on the filibuster. In destroying it, it seems not to have occurred to him that he might need it some day.  That day has now come -- with Democrats in the Senate having no weapon to oppose Trump appointments to the courts.  For momentary advantage Reid did his cause great harm.  He may have guaranteed a permanent conservative majority on SCOTUS

Back in December 2015, Donald Trump gave a 30-minute live interview to the website and its combustible leader, Alex Jones. “Your reputation is amazing and I will not let you down,” said Trump, who, at the time, was leading in most polls for the Republican presidential nomination.

Jones, a fervent Trump supporter, is a conspiracy theorist writ large. He insists there is “iron clad” evidence that the 11 September terrorist attacks in the US were an “inside job”.

Jones has also said that in 1996 governments deployed a worldwide program to secretly put chemicals into the fuel of aircraft to poison people. These “chemtrails” don’t hurt the “globalists” though, because Jones says they have a “special detox”.

Oh, and Jones also thinks climate change is a hoax.

Climate change is an issue he covers regularly on his shows, where he has interviewed climate science deniers such as Christopher Monckton (a familiar name to Australians given his multiple speaking tours here), Marc Morano and James Delingpole.

While it’s easy to dismiss the conspiracy culture pushed by Jones as pseudoscientific rubbish, it is not so easy to dismiss the size of the audience he has been building. Jones’s website gets 57m page views per month – double where it was six months ago.

According to analytics site Social Blade, the Alex Jones YouTube channel has 1.8m subscribers and just racked up its one billionth (that’s not a typo) video view. (For comparison, the BBC News YouTube channel has 992,000 subscribers.)

Jones’s Infowars site is part of an ecosystem of hyperpartisan media outlets that insist climate change is a hoax. Like Jones, that ecosystem is rapidly building a receptive online audience.

Those sites can now reach hundreds of millions of people with headlines insisting that human-caused climate change is a hoax, that global warming has stopped or that adding CO2 to the atmosphere is good.

One example. The most popular climate change story across social media in the past six months was not some diligently researched piece from one of the many very good science journalists writing for major news organisations around the world.

Rather, the story claimed that thousands of scientists had come forward to declare that climate change was a hoax. The writer was a guy running a website in Los Angeles who worked for eight years for the UK conspiracy theorist David Icke.

Icke thinks the moon might be some sort of spaceship, that the world is controlled by a globalist illuminati and, yes, that climate change is a hoax. Icke is a regular guest on Infowars.

Infowars will often source material from Breitbart – the website that used to be run by Trump’s campaign chairman and soon-to-be chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

Many of Breitbart’s most popular climate change items are written by Delingpole, a British polemicist. Guess what he thinks of climate change?

Given that climate science denial has become a part of the Republican party’s identity, it was hardly surprising that the GOP-led House of Representatives committee on science should tweet a link to a Breitbart climate story written by Delingpole (a story based on a deeply misleading article in the UK’s Daily Mail). [The "Mail" story was NOT misleading.  See here]

Breitbart is also building its audience. According to data from SimilarWeb, the site now gets 168m page views per month, doubling its reach in the past six months.

The Drudge Report – the wildly popular conservative-leaning news aggregator site with 1.7bn page views a month – also helps drive traffic to sites such as Infowars and Breitbart. Its founder, Matt Drudge, was another recent guest of Jones.

Since Trump won the US election, there has been much talk of the influence of “fake news”, with Facebook in particular identified as a key conduit. That encompasses news that is blatantly fabricated but also lounge room content farms that pass themselves off as news. Then there are the hyperpartisan opinion sites.

I’m happy to admit the online growth and reach of climate science denialists and conspiracy theorists terrifies me. Why?

The problem is not that these sites exist but that not enough people seem to know the difference between actual news, fake news, partisan opinion and conspiratorial bullshit. One of those people is the president-elect of the United States.

Either that, or people don’t even care to differentiate between fake and real, especially if what they read taps into their own prejudices.

There is a concerted attempt to cut sensible climate policy off at the knees by building a popular online movement against the science itself.

For decades, the fossil fuel industry and so-called “free market” ideologues at conservative thinktanks have misled the public on the science and the risks of climate change.

Now, the decades of material produced by that climate science denial machinery is finding a new audience. Those talking points are being reheated and screamed, in FULL CAPS.

So what’s the answer? No one seems to know but much appears to be in the hands of Google and Facebook.

Other than that, a crash course in critical thinking and recognising climate science denial brought to you by the illuminati might be the order of the day.


Stop buying organic food if you really want to save the planet

An article that pits the Warmists and the food freaks against one-another.  Delightful!  The food freaks do get a well-deserved blast below, though

WANDER around the local supermarket and you will struggle to find any clues to the environmental impact of the food you eat. If you are lucky, some of the seafood might bear the mark of the Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies fish caught in a sustainable way, but that’s about it.

Yet farming is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, only slightly behind heating and electricity. And while it’s relatively easy to cut emissions from electricity by switching to solar, reducing emissions from farming is a tougher nut to crack.

You might think buying local food is always preferable to imported food when it comes to carbon emissions, but even this is not a reliable guide. Food flown thousands of miles can still have a much lower carbon footprint than, say, local produce grown in heated greenhouses.

The one label you’re likely to find on many food items is the “organic” one. But if you care about the environment, don’t buy it (it’s not healthier either, but that’s another story).

For starters, you are not helping wildlife. Yes, organic farms host a greater diversity of wildlife than conventional ones. But because the yields are lower, organic farms require more land, which in the tropics often means cutting down more rainforests.

And organic food also results in higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional farming.

The trouble is, there is no way to tell whether that basic loaf of bread is better in terms of greenhouse emissions than the organic one sitting next to it on the supermarket shelf.

This divide will become ever greater in the future, because the organisations that set the rather arbitrary standards for what counts as “organic” have firmly rejected the technology showing the greatest promise for reducing farming emissions: genetic modification.

“Food flown thousands of miles can have a much lower carbon footprint than local produce”
Existing GM crops may already be reducing carbon emissions even though they were not designed to do so. Next up: crops that can capture more of the sun’s energy, require less fertiliser and tolerate drought or salt.

But the organic movement will have none of it. There was a faint hope that some might at least accept gene editing, given that gene-edited crops can be genetically indistinguishable from conventional crops. But no, on 18 November the US organic standards board voted unanimously against this.

What we really need are climate labels on foods, so consumers can see whether, say, gene-edited bread is far better in climate terms than organic bread. This isn’t going to be easy. Measuring all the emissions associated with producing food and getting it onto a supermarket shelf is extremely complex, not to say expensive. Most schemes so far have foundered. Tesco tried introducing its own carbon labelling in 2007, for instance, but eventually abandoned the idea.

And it’s pointless unless the labels are easy to follow. One promising proposal is to describe the greenhouse emissions associated with particular food items in terms of what percentage of a person’s typical daily carbon footprint they represent.

Climate labelling is definitely worth pursuing despite the challenges. The only alternative is to allow consumers to continue being hoodwinked by feel-good mumbo jumbo – and the stakes are far too high to let this happen.


Sea level rise – or land subsidence?

Alarmist claims about rising seas inundating coastal areas blame the wrong culprit

Paul Driessen and Roger Bezdek

In his 2006 Inconvenient Truth mockumentary, Al Gore infamously predicted melting ice caps would cause oceans to rise “up to 20 feet” (6.1 meters) “in the near future.” Kevin Costner’s 1995 “action thriller” Water World presumed totally melting planetary ice would almost submerge the continents.

However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated in 2007 that seas might rise up to only 2 feet by 2107. By comparison, oceans have risen nearly 400 feet since the last ice age ended, reflecting how much water was trapped in mile-thick glaciers that buried much of North America, Europe and Asia. In recent decades, though, global sea level rise has averaged just 7 inches per century – which may explain why Mr. Gore bought an $8.5-million mansion on the California coast in 2010.

And yet “rising seas due to dangerous manmade climate change” remains a contentious issue, with profound land use, wildlife, economic, insurance and policy implications – especially for certain regions, like the Atlantic Coast’s Chesapeake Bay region. Some say “seas could rise” 2.5 to 7 feet (2.1 meters) or more by the end of the century around Norfolk, Virginia, a huge population and agricultural center and home to America’s largest Navy base. Even if that happens, the prediction combines multiple causes.

Saltwater intrusion clearly has been an increasing problem across much of this region for several decades, and storms have sent tides and waves further inland than in the past, flooding and battering homes, croplands and wildlife habitats. Climate alarmists attribute this danger to human fossil fuel use.

As a new report by Dr. Bezdek explains, reality is much different. (His report awaits publication in a scientific journal.) At least for the Chesapeake region, Houston-Galveston, Texas area, Santa Clara Valley, California and other places around the globe, the primary cause of seawater intrusions is not rising oceans – but land subsidence due to groundwater withdrawal from subsurface shale and sandstone formations, and to “glacial isostatic adjustments” that have been ongoing since the last glaciers melted.

The solution therefore is not to continue trying to control Earth’s climate – an impossible, economy-busting task that would further impede fossil fuel use, economic development, job creation, and human health and welfare. The solution requires reducing groundwater removal in these coastal areas.

Ice age glaciers buried continental land masses under trillions of tons of ice. Land under the ice was pushed downward, while areas somewhat beyond the glaciers were forced up. Once the ice was gone, the compressed areas began to rise, while lands that had bulged upward began to sink. Isostatic subsidence is still occurring, at about 1 millimeter a year (4.4 inches per century) in the Chesapeake region.

While Chesapeake farms and cities have been utilizing groundwater for centuries, withdrawal rates from Virginia Coastal Plain aquifers skyrocketed between 1950 and 1970, as modern pumps took over. The rates have remained high ever since, causing significant land subsidence.

The aquifer systems involve layers of porous sandstone with water in the interstices between sand grains. These layers are sandwiched between layers (lenses) of impermeable but wet shale and clay. As water is pumped from the sandy layers, the shale-clay layers are squeezed like a sponge by hundreds of feet of overlying rock and sediment, forcing their water into less compressible sands, and then into pumps.

The amount of water in a system, its recharge rates (from rain, snowmelt and other sources), and the degree of compaction depend on how much water is being withdrawn, the thickness of sand and clay layers, and how compressible the layers are. Most of the pumped water ultimately comes from the clays, as they are squeezed dry. Analysts have estimated that 95% of water removed from Virginia Coastal Plain aquifers between 1891 and 1980 came from their clay layers, which have steadily compressed as a result.

Compression means subsidence, at 1.1-4.8 mm/yr – for an average rate of 11 inches per century, on top of the 4.4 in. per century in isostatic subsidence, and compared to the average sea level rise of 7 in. a century.

The net effect in Virginia’s Coastal Plain can thus be nearly 2 feet of subsidence per century. The impacts on land, habitat and property loss, saltwater intrusions, inland storm surges, farming, homes and other buildings, regional economics, wharves, piers and naval bases, and insurance rates is easy to discern.

Confusion arises because discussions often involve “relative sea level rise” – which combines glacial isostatic and groundwater subsidence, along with actual sea level rise – just as we just did with our 2 feet per century total. However, the term obscures what is really going on and lends itself to climate alarmism, by leaving the false impression that the entire problem is melting icecaps and rising seas.

It clearly is not. Focusing attention on alleged “manmade climate cataclysms,” supposedly driven by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, will result in our spending hundreds of billions of dollars to replace oil, gas and coal with expensive, subsidized, land-intensive renewable energy systems – while foregoing hundreds of billions of dollars in jobs and economic growth. Meanwhile, China, India, Indonesia and other developing nations will continue doing what they must to lift billions out of abject poverty and disease: burn more fossil fuels, thereby emitting more CO2.

Those nations are not about to succumb to the Obama EPA “social cost of carbon” con game. This is the fraudulent scheme under which bureaucrats blame US oil, gas and coal for every climate and weather event, habitat and species loss, and other problem that they can possibly conjure up anywhere in the world – while completely ignoring the phenomenal and undeniable benefits of using those fuels, and the equally important benefits of having more plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

President-Elect Trump’s nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA underscores his intent to end climate-obsessed government by junk science and Executive Branch decree.

What can be done about the real-world problems of “relative sea level rise”? Sea levels will continue to rise (or fall) in response to ice growth and melting, caused by powerful natural forces over which humans have no control. Glacial isostatic subsidence will continue – albeit at a glacial or geologic pace – unless another ice age buries continents under more miles of ice, again lowering sea levels hundreds of feet, and wiping out arable land, growing seasons and agricultural productivity.

Moreover, once water has been squeezed out of the clay and shale, it cannot easily be replenished. That means the subsidence process cannot be reversed. However, we can nevertheless reduce or even halt subsidence due to groundwater extraction.

Rates and locations of land subsidence and relative sea level rise change over time. Accurate predictive tools and measurements are thus needed to improve our understanding of subsidence in particular areas. Although subsidence rates are not as high on the Atlantic Coast as they have been in the Houston-Galveston area or Santa Clara Valley, the problem is nonetheless serious because of the southern Chesapeake Bay region’s low-lying topography and consequent susceptibility to ocean water intrusion.

In the Houston-Galveston area and Santa Clara Valley, resource managers have moved groundwater pumping away from the coast, reduced groundwater withdrawal rates, increased aquifer recharge and substitut­ed surface water for groundwater supplies. These actions have successfully stopped subsidence in the Santa Clara Valley and slowed the process in the Houston-Galveston area.

Similar steps could be taken in Virginia’s Tidewater or Coastal Plain region. In addition, pipelines could bring fresh water from nearby lakes and rivers, replacing at least some of what is now provided by wells. Yet another option might be to construct one or more desalination plants (in California and Texas, as well), utilizing nuclear or natural gas power to operate facilities that utilize new [(In%20the%20Houston-Galveston%20area,%20glacial%20factors%20play%20no%20role,%20but%20groundwater%20removal%20effects%20are%20compounded%20by%20the%20additional%20removal%20of%20liquid%20hydrocarbons%20from%20subsurface%20formations.)%20DROP?]Israeli technologies that employ a chemical-free reverse osmosis process that converts seawater into freshwater for pennies per gallon.

The new Congress and Executive Branch need to focus our limited money and resources on real problems and viable solutions – not on their false, politically correct, anti-development alter egos.

Via email

Pew: Only 27% of Americans Believe There is Consensus That Human Activity Causes Climate Change

A recent survey by the non-partisan Pew Research Center found that a large majority of Americans are skeptical about the prevailing scientific understanding of climate change, with only 27 percent saying they believe there is a consensus that human activity is its main cause.

That belief is at odds with the scientific community, Pew noted, citing a 2013 report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that concluded “with 95% certainty that human activity is the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

The Pew survey was conducted between May 10 and June 6 as a part of an examination of  public attitudes about scientific research related to climate change and genetically modified foods.

The survey found that only 28% of Americans surveyed believe that climate scientists understand the causes of climate change “very well’- compared to 32% who said that scientists had a "not at all well" understanding of the causes of climate change

It also suggested that despite their skepticism over the cause of climate change, Americans still tend to trust information on it provided by climate scientists over other sources, including the energy industry, the news media, and elected officials.

Pew reported that 39% of those surveyed said that they trust climate scientists “a lot to give full and accurate information”, while only 7% answered that they trust energy industry leaders and the news media to do so.

Only 4% of survey respondents said they trusted elected officials to provide accurate information on climate change.

The study also found a deep divide between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, with 54% of liberal Democrats saying they believe that climate scientists understand the causes of climate change “very well” -  a view supported by only 11% of conservative Republicans.

Moderate- to- liberal Republicans and moderate- to- conservative Democrats fell somewhere in between that wide 43% gap.

However, roughly two-thirds of those surveyed (67 percent), believe climate scientists should have a major role in making policy decisions about climate change, compared to 56% of Americans who believe that the general public should have a major role.


Reining in the EPA

By now it should come as no surprise that Donald Trump is making good on his campaign promises. Yesterday, Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. Pruitt has a record of waging legal battles with Barack Obama’s over-regulating EPA. In fact, he’s currently one of the leaders suing the EPA over its Clean Power Plan, which would create significant price increases for Americans' power bills while having negligible impact on the environment. Pruitt is a big proponent of states' rights over and against the unconstitutionally powerful EPA. Trump’s transition team stated in its announcement that Pruitt is “an expert in Constitutional law [who] brings a deep understanding of the impact of regulations on both the environment and the economy.”

Maybe the best endorsement for Pruitt has come from those ecofascist groups who, with an almost religious fervor, shout their opposition. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said, “Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires. He is a climate science denier who, as attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections.” And Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resourced Defense Council, lamented, “The mission of the EPA and its administrator requires an absolute commitment to safeguard public health and protect our air, land, water and planet. If confirmed, Pruitt seems destined for the environmental hall of shame.”

Pruitt responded to his critics: “It should come as no surprise that I am working diligently with Oklahoma energy companies, the people of Oklahoma, and the majority of attorneys general to fight the unlawful overreach of the EPA and other federal agencies.”

This is indeed good, because, especially over the last eight years, two of the most abusive and unaccountable federal agencies have been the IRS and the EPA. Now it appears that needed change will be coming in a big way, protecting Americans' freedoms and saving the nation from unneeded expensive and oppressive regulations.



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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