Thursday, May 25, 2017

Woof! Peer review in action

MOVE aside quokkas and black swans, Perth is now home to the world’s smartest dog, at least on paper.

Local “academic” Dr Olivia Doll — also known as Staffordshire terrier Ollie — sits on the editorial boards of seven international medical journals and has just been asked to review a research paper on the management of tumours.

Her impressive curriculum vitae lists her current role as senior lecturer at the Subiaco College of Veterinary Science and past associate of the Shenton Park Institute for Canine Refuge Studies — which is code for her earlier life in the dog refuge.

Ollie’s owner, veteran public health expert Mike Daube, decided to test how carefully some journals scrutinised their editorial reviewers, by inventing Dr Doll and making up her credentials.

The five-year-old pooch has managed to dupe a range of publications specialising in drug abuse, psychiatry and respiratory medicine into appointing her to their editorial boards.

Dr Doll has even been fast-tracked to the position of associate editor of the Global Journal of Addiction and Rehabilitation Medicine.

Several journals have published on their websites a supplied photo of Dr Doll, which is actually of a bespectacled Kylie Minogue.

Professor Daube said none of them smelt a rat, despite Dr Doll’s listed research interests in “the benefits of abdominal massage for medium-sized canines” and “the role of domestic canines in promoting optimal mental health in ageing males”.

Today Ollie is being featured in a more reputable publication, the Medical Journal of Australia’s Insight magazine, which is looking at the surge in journals which charge desperate would-be researchers up to $3000 to get their studies published.

“While this started as something lighthearted, I think it is important to expose shams of this kind which prey on the gullible, especially young or naive academics and those from developing countries,” Professor Daube said.

He said the authors would be gutted to know their papers were being reviewed by a dog, who often needed to be offered a treat before she dragged herself in front of the laptop. “It gives all researchers paws for thought,” Professor Daube said.

Dr Doll refused to comment unless she was taken for walkies.


Senator Rand Paul: Say Au Revoir to Paris Climate Agreement

The federal government should be beholden to one authority and one authority alone—our Constitution—and not some U.N. bureaucrats.

It is my duty as a senator to uphold and defend the Constitution. One of my most important responsibilities in this role is to provide advice and consent on treaties, a check and balance on the Executive Branch. It gives us the opportunity to make sure the deals we’re signing up for are good for all Americans.

President Obama wanted to cement his legacy of environmentalism through the Paris Agreement on climate change. Obama also knew the Senate would never ratify the agreement, so he deliberately labeled it as an “executive agreement” to avoid the ratification process and unilaterally pledged the support of the United States with the stroke of a pen.

So what did Obama sign us up for in exchange for maybe reducing global temperature by 0.2°C by 2100? Experts predict that by 2040, the agreement could cost us 6.5 million lost jobs—a number significantly larger than the entire population of Kentucky. It will cost us $3 trillion in lost GDP. For each household, the average annual lost income could be as high as $4,900.

These numbers are jaw dropping. Why can’t we work toward a future that protects both our environment and our jobs? Why did the past administration always force the latter to be a martyr for the former?

Thankfully, President Trump has the opportunity to reverse course on Obama’s mistake.

President Trump has delivered on almost all of his promises to have an America First energy plan. He has directed the EPA to suspend, revise, and rescind certain actions related to the Clean Power Plan. He has removed regulatory roadblocks to American energy independence, including signing the resolution Congress sent him to repeal the Stream Buffer rule. He has also instructed agencies to review existing administrative policies harming domestic energy production.

But there’s one missing piece to being truly America First, something President Trump promised on the campaign trail. He promised he would cancel the Paris Agreement as president. Can we really have an America First energy plan if we are needing to seek the endorsement of the U.N. as we make determinations about our country’s environmental and energy policies? The federal government should be beholden to one authority and one authority alone—our Constitution—and not some U.N. bureaucrats.

I ran for Senate to protect Kentucky jobs and restore the Kentucky coal industry from regulatory overreach. I stood right behind President Trump as he signed the bill I cosponsored to repeal the Stream Buffer rule.

I previously introduced a resolution requiring the Paris Agreement to be considered a treaty needing the Senate’s advice and consent. I am keeping my word to Kentuckians.

That is why I introduced a resolution Monday, with a companion resolution cosponsored by Congressman Andy Barr, calling on President Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an agreement which experts believe will not actually solve the environmental issues it was intended to address.

We founded our country on a system of checks and balances, and no president should have the unilateral authority to make such significant international commitments without input from Congress.

I look forward to President Trump following through on his promise to exit this agreement.


European Nations Set To Wipe Out Forests To Cheat On CO2 Emissions

It looks like greenwash.  European nations publicly keen to boost their climate credentials by switching to “green” biomass are accused of working behind the scenes to expunge their carbon emissions from burning wood in power stations from national emissions statistics.

“If we don’t measure emissions when trees are cut, we won’t measure them at all,” says Hannah Mowat of FERN, a European NGO working to save the continent’s forests, who has followed the EU negotiations on the issue.

Under international climate treaties such as the Paris Agreement, burning biomass like wood is defined as carbon-neutral, even though it emits as least as much carbon as fossil fuels. The assumption is that new trees will be grown to take up the carbon emitted from the burning.

If countries reduce their forest cover – as a result of harvesting trees for biomass burning or anything else – the carbon loss should show up in national statistics under a complex accounting process known as LULUCF, for Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry.

But measuring carbon stocks on the land and in forests is an inexact science, and critics say the LULUCF rules are wide open to accounting errors.

On 19 June, European environment ministers will set their own rules for LULUCF carbon accounting. How they do this will play an important role in Europe meeting its emissions targets under the Paris Agreement.

But Mowat says that countries with plans to replace coal and nuclear fuel burning with wood are lobbying for rules that will obscure likely resulting emissions.

“France, Austria, Sweden and Finland are fighting tooth and nail to weaken the EU’s rules,” Mowat told New Scientist. “This is because they all plan to significantly increase the amount of trees they cut in the next decade: Finland will increase harvesting by 25 per cent and France by 20 per cent, and they don’t want to count the emissions.”

Government data show that France plans to increase timber harvesting by 12 million cubic metres by 2026.  Finland plans a 15 million cubic metre increase, almost entirely for burning more wood in power stations.

Fewer trees will mean less carbon being soaked up from the atmosphere, too.

Mowat estimates that the reduction in the EU’s total forest carbon sink between now and 2030 is equivalent to the emissions of 100 million cars.


Trump's budget proposal 'savages' climate research, scientists say

Scientists poring over President Trump's proposed 2018 federal budget say it guts funding for climate science.

Under the proposal, the three federal agencies that perform the bulk of that research face dramatic cuts.

David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council said the budget "savages" the agencies' programs, noting dramatic slashes in funding at NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the proposal would "stall out U.S. technological innovation and scientific research, and the country’s capabilities to respond to extreme weather and national security threats."

NASA's Earth science mission faces cuts of 8.7%, according to Chris McEntee, executive director of the American Geophysical Union. Overall, there is a 45% cut in research in the EPA budget, the NRDC said. And NOAA faces a 16% reduction. Cuts were also proposed to the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy.

Trump's Office of Management and Budget defended the cuts at a media briefing in Washington, D.C., Tuesday morning: “What I think you saw happen during the previous administration is the pendulum went too far to one side, where we’re spending too much of your money on climate change and not very efficiently," said OMB director Mick Mulvaney.

"We don’t get rid of it here," he said. "Do we target it? Sure. Do a lot of the EPA reductions aim at reducing the focus on climate science? Yes. Does it mean that we are anti-science? Absolutely not. We simply try to get things back in order so we can look at the folks who pay the taxes and say: ‘look, yeah we want to do some climate science but we’re not going to do some of the crazy stuff the previous administration did.' ”

Both Republicans and Democrats have raised concerns about various parts of the budget plan and have indicated they are not using the president’s request as the starting point for drafting a spending bill for next year.

The elimination of five NASA Earth science space missions "were not identified as high priority," according to the budget. Those missions have yielded safeguards to avoid eating toxic shellfish, reduce aviation disruptions and take precautions for unhealthy air quality, to name a few, the Union of Concerned Scientists said. NASA has instructions to "stop looking at Earth and only focus on other planets," Doniger said.

But Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot disputed the characterization that the space agency was abandoning the mission.

"This budget still includes significant Earth Science efforts, including 18 Earth observing missions in space as well as airborne missions," he said in a prepared speech to NASA employees.

The EPA's program that reports on greenhouse gas levels drops from $95.3 million to $13.6 million, according to the budget. Carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases that are most responsible for global warming.

“This is a budget declaring war on climate change," said Elgie Holstein of the Environmental Defense Fund. "It’s not a particular surprise though it’s deeply disappointing and (with rollback of Clean Power Plan) an abdication of American leadership on climate."

In addition to its 16% overall reduction, NOAA faces deeper cuts to climate and other research programs, McEntee said. The agency provides weather and climate data that protects more than half of all American who live along the coasts, over 2.8 million jobs in ocean reliant industries and coastal property valued in excess of $10 trillion.

"We are concerned that the administration's proposed cuts to research into the Earth system sciences will undermine the continued scientific progress that is so vitally needed to better protect the nation in the future from costly natural disasters," the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) said in a statement.

Last year, the nation endured a whopping 15 separate disasters that each cost at least $1 billion in damages, including tornadoes, drought, and widespread flooding, UCAR said.

Enacting the budget would bring serious repercussions for the U.S. economy and national security and to the ability to protect life and property, UCAR said. "Such funding cuts would be especially unfortunate at a time when the nation is moving to regain its position as the world leader in weather forecasting."

McIntee said: "The President’s FY18 proposal instead charts a course of destructive under-funding for scientific agencies that stimulate the economy, protect public safety, and keep our nation safe and secure."


New maps show the risk of sea level rises to Australian cities

Another Greenie prophecy that will fail like all others before it

SAY sayonara to Sydney airport, farewell to Fremantle and bye to Byron Bay.

A series of maps has graphically illustrated how Australia could be affected by climate change and rising sea levels. And it looks like many of our major towns and cities could be getting a lot soggier.

Hobart Airport would be underwater, Melbourne’s Southbank submerged and the WACA in Perth would be inundated.

Famous sea side resorts like Byron Bay, Port Douglas, Noosa and the Gold Coast are in danger of seeing the sea get a whole lot closer for comfort.

A climate expert has said rising sea levels globally could displace “tens of millions of people”.

The new maps come from Costal Risk Australia run by Western Australia business management consultants NGIS. The data is fished from the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA to show which areas will be at risk from a “business as usual” scenario of a 2 metre sea-level rise by 2100.

Just by putting in your suburb name into the Coastal Risk Australia, you can see if you area is at risk of flooding.

Website co-creator Nathan Eaton said that with more than 80 per cent of Australians living near the coast, it was critical for people to appreciate what rising sea levels in the decades to come could mean for their communities.

However, in some areas its likely even a 2 metre sea rise will be surpassed. Climate scientists have pointed to parts of northern and Western Australia where rises could be higher.

The Torres Strait Islands have experienced regular king tides, an area which rarely got any of the monster tides in the past.

Professor John Church from the University of NSW’S Climate Change Research Centre said flooding to the measure forecast would cause catastrophic problems for many Australians.

“With business as usual emissions, the questions are when, rather than if, we will cross a 2 metre sea level rise,” he told Fairfax. “This scenario would result in major catastrophes and displace many tens of millions of people around the world.”

One of the worst affected areas would be Cairns with vast tracts of the city’s CBD and suburbs at risk from rising sea levels.

But Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said he wasn’t going to lose any sleep over the maps. He said claims Cairns could be under the ocean by the end of the century were “outlandish”.

“I’m someone who takes environmental issues very seriously,” he told the Cairns Post. “But if we’re going to run around every day because some group comes up with some wild or outlandish or extreme prognosis — and we don’t have any verification on it — then we’ll just spend the next so many years going crazy.”

He said the decisions made by the council were based on the “best scientific evidence we’ve got” and that the city worked with the Local Government Association of Queensland’s sea-level adaptation unit.

Earlier this month, climate scientists at the University of Melbourne warned an agreement reached in Paris to hold global average temperatures rise to under 2C above pre industrial levels would inevitably fail.

Last week, US researchers said sea levels driven by global warming were on track to dramatically boost the frequency of coastal flooding worldwide by mid-century, especially in tropical regions.

A 10 -20cm jump in the global ocean watermark by 2050 — a conservative forecast — would double flood risk in high-latitude regions, they reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

Major centres such as Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, along with the European Atlantic coast, would be highly exposed, they found.

But it would only take half as big a jump in ocean levels to double the number of serious flooding incidents in the tropics, including along highly populated river deltas in Asia and Africa.

Even at the low end of this sea rise spectrum, Mumbai, Kochi and Abidjan and many other cities would be significantly affected.

“We are 95 per cent confident that an added 5 — 10 centimetres will more than double the frequency of flooding in the tropics,” lead author Sean Vitousek, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told AFP.



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