Sunday, June 18, 2017

Why did physicist Dr. Ridd conclude that corals thrive in warmer water and will flourish as global warming increases?

The above question appeared on Quora and the responses are instructive.  The first commenter, Hirsekorn, started out with an incorrect "ad hominem" assertion about Dr. Ridd's academic background.  I quote from Ridd's page at his university:

"Peter Ridd is a geophysicist with the following interests: coastal oceanography, the effects of sediments on coral reefs, instrument development, geophysical sensing of the earth, past and future climates, atmospheric modelling. In addition with his group in the Marine Geophysics Laboratory "

So Dr. Ridd's background leaves him amply qualified to speak on reef problems.

The next point made by the same author, Hirsekorn, is that individual corals differ in the optimal temperature of the waters surrounding them.  That is undoubtedly true but it offers no scale for that effect.  The acceptable range of temperature could be large and it could differ for individual corals.  And in fact it does, as we see here

So the comments by Hirsekorn have no merit whatever and, as such, are of the standard we have come to expect from Warmists defending their addled theory.

The second comment, by Reiner, is well informed, extensive and perfectly correct.  In particular, it has now been shown that sea level variations in recent times have been the major cause of coral bleaching.  I was unaware that Peter Ridd had predicted that some years back so he is revealed as a good scientist:  One whose theories are borne out by reality

The two original Quora comments below:

Answer by Alex Hirsekorn, lifetime seashore aficionado:

Assuming that you’re referring to Prof. Peter Ridd of James Cook Univ. I would guess that he reached such a conclusion because he is not a biologist but a geophysicist that apparently doesn’t talk to biologists very much.

There are something like 1,000 species of “reef building” coral worldwide and if you plot them by geographic location versus species you will see that they have definite preferences regarding temperature. Looking a bit more carefully will demonstrate that any given species’ numbers will diminish as you leave its temperature ‘sweet spot’ for waters that are either colder or warmer.

You don’t need to be a professor to understand this concept. I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt and say he was probably misquoted; the alternative explanation is that he’s either a moron or willfully ignorant.

Comment by Bryson Reiner, studied at PhD in Biochemistry:

Peter Ridd is a marine physicist and has published multiple studies on sediments and their effect on coral reefs. Having spoken with Dr Ridd, my understanding is that he was suggesting corals do well not directly due to increased temps-but rather due to increased sea levels. From what I can recall, and my memory is admittedly foggy on this as it was over 5 years ago, that the Great Barrier Reef along the Queensland coast has suffered from declining sea levels which destroys coral. I am pretty sure he was inferring that rising sea levels as a result of a warming trend would increase coral growth-not as a direct result of temperature increase.

To professor Ridd’s credit, he is a strong advocate for reproducibility in the marine sciences and decries sensationalism in science. In particular he mentioned the inability to reproduce studies indicating changes in ocean pH as huge shifts in pH occurred with upwelling and even recent rains which caused short term changes but the studies results were not reproducible over long term. As an aside, certain corals will die in cooler temps just as some may die in warmer temps.

Empirically, as an avid diver-I can attest to the fact that inshore reefs are very likely affected by run off. I've been diving at an unusually inshore reef with huge coral mounts not 20 m from shore since the early 80s which was almost inaccessible as it was on the side of a small mountain in the carribean with only 3 houses nearby and a sheer dirt road that was often washed out. The reef was healthy and vibrant until 2013 when a high end housing development went up complete with a paved road. The effect was immediate as the reef went from vibrant reds, yellows, greens and blues to dull gray. The coral closest to shore was the most affected with another swath of graying coral that went well out to 100 m from shore which I couldn't quite figure out until I saw it rain which produced a huge outflow that ran along a rock jetty as a current which ran identical to the swath of dead coral. The coral has become progressively grey with each visit being worse than the last although the most affected areas remain the ones described. Yes, pollution in petroleum products and detergents certainly have an effect on coral-but to suggest that all, or even most instances of coral bleaching are due solely to temperature change is likely not the case and has yet to be determined at best.

Additionally, there are thriving corals that survive with dramatic changes in temperature near and in the Atlantic gulfstream which shifts its location by tens of miles regularly with temperature changes greater than 20 F-it's a literal column of water where within 10 meters you'll have a 60 F reading and a 80 temp. These corals are still healthy and vivid in color with life teeming all round and withstand these temperature changes on a regular and frequent basis. To suggest less than 1 C degree of change is wiping out corals is likely an overstatement.

I'm a firm believer that coral should be protected as they serve as oceanic estuaries and are simply beautiful little wonders to observe. But I suspect we'll get much better results by investing resources in controlling run off and spills rather than trying to manage the global climate. Specific efforts targeted directly at saving our reefs and coral seem more feasible in this instance vs macromanaging daunting things like the climate which in this instance is inconclusive in the degree to which it may affect the viability of coral. I'll go a step further and guess that managing directly runoff and spills will have a more immediate and dramatic effect on coral health and sustainability than even a successful attempt to change global climate.


To Put America First Is to Put Our Planet’s Climate First

By withdrawing from the Paris agreement, President Trump showed that to put America first is to put the planet first


On June 2, 2017, in a Letter regarding US withdrawal from Paris climate agreement addressed to the MIT community, Professor Rafael Reif, president of MIT, criticized President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Accords. In this refutation, we propose to clarify the scientific understanding of the Earth’s climate and to dispel the expensively fostered popular delusion that man-made global warming will be dangerous and that, therefore, the Paris Agreement would be beneficial.

Professor Reif wrote, “Yesterday, the White House took the position that the Paris climate agreement – a landmark effort to combat global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions – was a bad deal for America.”

There is no science unambiguously establishing that CO2 is the chief cause of the warming observed since the end of the Little Ice Age. The opposite has been repeatedly demonstrated. Ice cores have revealed that changes in CO2 concentration follow, rather than precede, changes in temperature. During the last deglaciation, the latest high-resolution records show atmospheric CO2 lagging temperature by 50 to 500 years. Our enterprises and industries return to the air some of the CO2 that was formerly present there, and some warming may be expected. That warming will be small and beneficial.

Professor Humlum and colleagues have demonstrated that changes in CO2 concentration follow changes in temperature after about 8-11 months. The time-lag between changes in temperature and consequent changes in CO2 concentration are caused by outgassing of CO2 from the oceans when they warm and uptake by the oceans as they cool. In addition, the growth rate of the atmospheric CO2 has been slowing recently, linked to an enhanced terrestrial biosphere uptake. Our contribution to atmospheric CO2 adds to the effect of these fluctuations, but it does not add much. One of us (Harde 2017) has reached similar conclusions.

Professor Reif’s assertion that global temperatures can be regulated by an international agreement to atone for our sins of emission is, therefore, at odds with scientific knowledge regarding cause and effect. King Canute’s warning to his English courtiers in 1032 A.D. that even the divinely anointed monarch could not command sea level should be heeded by bombastic intergovernmental agencies a millennium later. The professor’s assertion is, moreover, logically invalid, since the Paris agreement permits China and India to industrialize without limit on their emissions.

Besides, the Paris agreement is not binding. Under its terms, no nation is compelled to sin no more, and many – even including Germany and Denmark, the leaders in renewable energies – now appear unlikely to meet the agreement’s targets. The Paris agreement is, in practice, a political tool for suppressing growth and redistributing wealth. Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, former chairman of the IPCC, said, in resigning in 2015, that the environment was his “religion,” and Ms. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change until last year, openly stated in 2015 that the goal was to overturn capitalism — in her words, “to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the industrial revolution.”

Professor Reif writes, “The scientific consensus is overwhelming.”

The late author Michael Crichton, in his Caltech Michelin Lecture 2003, said, “In science consensus is irrelevant. … There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.” Doubt is the seedcorn of science. Consensus is a political notion which, when pleaded, indicates that the pleader is totalitarian. As Abu Ali ibn al-Haytham said in the eleventh century:

    The seeker after truth [his splendid definition of the scientist] does not place his faith in any mere consensus, however venerable or widespread. Instead, he subjects what he has learned of it to his hard-won scientific knowledge, and to investigation, inspection, inquiry, checking, checking and checking again. The road to the truth is long and hard, but that is the road we must follow.

The alleged “consensus” is nothing more than an agreement that the weather has warmed in the past 300 years. Yet the quantum and attribution of warming are hotly debated among climatologists. Even today, measuring global temperature is subject to errors, biases, missing data, and subjective adjustments.

The estimation of global average temperature from satellite data is relatively new and employs a completely different temperature measurement method from the older methods. Nevertheless, the satellite data and balloon data have provided essentially identical estimates. Neither displays a worrying trend. Both are increasingly at odds not only with the surface temperature records, all of which have been adjusted ex post facto so as to show more warming than the original raw data showed, but also with the alarming projections of the serially unreliable computer models of climate on which the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change profitably but misguidedly relies.

Scientists agree that climate changes. It has done so since the first wisps of the Earth’s atmosphere formed, but they disagree on the causes of climate changes, including the mild warming since the Little Ice Age. Legates et al. (2015), for example, found that only 0.3 percent of 11,944 peer-reviewed articles on climate and related topics, published during the 21 years of 1991 to 2011, had explicitly stated that recent warming was mostly man-made.

Professor Reif wrote, “As human activities emit more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the global average surface temperature will continue to rise, driving rising sea levels and extreme weather.”

In the last 20 years, we have released more than a third of all the CO2 produced since the beginning of the industrial period. Yet global mean surface temperature has remained essentially constant for 20 years, a fact that has been acknowledged by the IPCC, whose models failed to predict it. NOAA’s State of the Climate report for 2008 said that periods of 15 years or more without warming would indicate a discrepancy between prediction and observation – i.e., that the models were wrong. Just before the recent naturally occurring el Niño event raised global temperature, there had been 18 years and 9 months without any global warming at all.

The climate models relied upon by the IPCC and the politicians they advise have predicted warming at about twice the rate observed during the past 27 years, during which the Earth has warmed at 0.4 °C, about half of the 0.75 °C 27-year warming rate implicit in IPCC’s explicit 1990 prediction that there would be 1.0 °C warming from 1990-2025.

Green and Armstrong (2014) conducted longer-term validation tests of the models and found that their forecasts were much less accurate than assuming there had been no global warming at all. The relative inaccuracy of the IPCC projections increased with longer (multi-decadal) horizons. Even forecasts of natural global cooling at a rate of 1 ºC per century were much more accurate over long periods than the IPCC’s projections of dangerous man-made global warming.

Ten years ago, Al Gore asserted that global temperatures had reached a dangerous “tipping point,” with extreme warming imminent and unavailable. Professor Scott Armstrong challenged Mr. Gore to a ten-year bet based on the Green-Armstrong-Soon (2009)) scientific no-change forecast of global mean temperatures.

Mr. Gore declined the bet, but website keeps track of how the bet would have turned out. With the ten-year life of the bet due to end at the end of this year, the cumulative monthly error in the IPCC’s business-as-usual 0.3 ºC per decade prediction is 22 percent larger than the error from the benchmark prediction of no warming at all.

Why does Professor Reif continue to champion the notion of dangerous manmade global warming when it is so greatly at odds with observation?

Professor Reif wrote, As human activities emit more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the global average surface temperature will continue to rise, driving rising sea levels and extreme weather.”

The average sea level rise since 1870 has been 1.3-1.5 mm (about a twentieth of an inch) per year. Professor Nils-Axel Mörner, a renowned sea-level researcher who has published more than 500 peer-reviewed articles on this topic, has been unable to find observational evidence that supports the models’ predictions of dramatically accelerating sea level rise.

Professor Reif wrote, “As human activities emit more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the global average surface temperature will continue to rise, driving rising sea levels and extreme weather.”

Observations during the last few decades indicate that extreme events, including tornadoes and hurricanes, have been decreasing, rather than increasing, both in number and in intensity. Moreover, the total accumulated cyclonic energy has also been declining. As MIT Emeritus Professor Richard Lindzen has explained, the decline in storminess is a consequence of reduced temperature differentials between the tropics and exo-tropics that arise when global average temperatures are warmer.

Professor Reif wrote, “As the Pentagon describes it, climate change is a “threat multiplier” because its direct effects intensify other challenges, including mass migrations and zero-sum conflicts over existential resources like water and food.”

Milder temperatures and increased CO2 levels green the planet, instead of browning it. Deserts are retreating, and vegetation cover has increased throughout recent decades. The production of maize, wheat, rice, and soybeans is at a record high. More CO2 in the air helps plants by CO2 fertilization. Our planet has seen more than 20 percent greening during the past three decades, half of which is due to the action of CO2.

Forecasts of droughts are also not borne out by experience. For example, since the now-former Australian Chief Climate Commissioner Professor Tim Flannery warned that dams would no longer fill owing to lack of rain, Australia has been subjected to a series of dramatic floods and overflowing dams.

Governments’ naïve belief in Professor Flannery’s warnings appear to have led to policy actions and omissions that exacerbated flooding and failed to take full advantage of the rainfall when it came. The most comprehensive recent study of the worldwide extent of droughts (Hao et al., 2014) found that for 30 years the percentage of the Earth’s land mass under drought or severe drought has been declining.

Though the U.N. Environment Program had published in 2005 a document predicting 50 million climate refugees by 2010, to date there have been no bona fide climate refugees. Nor has mass migration owing to global warming been observed. The one person recognized as a climate refugee had his demand rejected by the Supreme Court of New Zealand. He has returned to his island home, where he remains safe from inundation.

Professor Reif wrote, “The carbon dioxide our cars and power plants emit today will linger in the atmosphere for a thousand years.”

The average residence time of a CO2 molecule in the Earth’s atmosphere is about four to seven years. Taking into account multiple exchanges leads to an estimate of a mean lifespan of 40 years (Harde 2017). Rather than a problem, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the prime nutrient for plants. Indeed, plants grow more strongly when CO2 concentrations are much higher than they currently are, which is why commercial greenhouses add CO2 to the air. The current CO2 concentration is higher than for 800,000 years, but it is far lower than at almost any time in the previous history of our planet.

Nor is CO2 a pollutant. It is a colorless, odorless gas that is not toxic to humans and other animals even at concentrations much higher than we are currently experiencing. It is also one of the most important fuels for phytoplankton, which use carbon dioxide for energy and that release oxygen. Up to 75 percent of the oxygen present in the air originates in the phytoplankton photosynthetic water-splitting process.

Moreover, during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras, there were long periods during which the levels of CO2 were much higher than today, but the temperatures were far colder. We are not aware of any explanation that squares the man-made global warming theory with that fact.

Professor Reif wrote, “In 2016 alone, solar industry employment grew by 25 percent, while wind jobs grew 32 percent.”

Growing jobs by subsidy is easy, provided that one cares nothing for the far greater number of jobs destroyed by the additional taxation, energy price hikes, or public borrowing necessary to pay for the subsidy. Several studies have shown that the creation of one “green” job results in the loss of two jobs elsewhere in the economy. Despite all those subsidies, solar power accounts for 0.9 percent and wind generation for 5.6 percent of total U.S. electricity production. Electricity itself is a small fraction of total energy consumption, including transportation, industrial processes, and heating.

The so-called alternative energy companies survive through heavy subsidies and supportive regulations. For example, SunEdison received $1.5 billion in subsidies and loan guarantees, and yet it was compelled to file for bankruptcy. Solyndra is another example. So-called “renewable” energy is cripplingly expensive to the customer but is often unprofitable even after massive subsidies from taxpayers.

Europe is suffering from political rejection of fossil fuels: energy prices have soared, millions of poor people are unable to pay their energy bills, and energy-intensive businesses are relocating to where energy is cheaper. Theirs is not an example the U.S. should wish to follow.

By withdrawing from the Paris agreement, President Trump did a wonderful thing for America and the world. He showed that advocacy masquerading as science should not be the basis for political decisions. He showed that to put America first is to put the planet first. And, by rejecting the non-problem of man-made global warming, he began the long and necessary process of waking up the likes of Professor Reif to the fact that the diversion of time, effort, and trillions of dollars away from real environmental problems and towards the bogus but (to MIT) profitable non-problem of supposedly catastrophic global warming is as bad for the planet as it is for true science.


EPA coverup

Does the Environmental Protection Agency care more about its image than it does about the environment?

Its behavior in response to the massive 2015 Gold King Mine disaster in Colorado would suggest a very clear “yes.”

The Environmental Protection Agency is hiding its incredible recklessness in the affair by giving official accounts that are clearly contradicted by ample evidence in the government’s possession.

As the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt has an opportunity to drain a bit of the swamp by exposing the EPA’s cover-up.

An Environmental Disaster

In August 2015, an EPA crew inexplicably dug out the rock and rubble “plug” to the long abandoned Gold King Mine, triggering a massive blowout that flooded the Animas River with 3 million gallons of acid mine drainage and, according to the EPA, over 550 tons of metals.

Had the EPA actually been doing what it claims it did, the disaster would never have happened. However, it seems the EPA could not allow its reputation to be tarnished with the truth.

The EPA has put forth the fiction that its crew had simply removed backfill that was blocking access to a mine tunnel, but did not disturb the natural plug that had formed in the tunnel’s opening that was holding back a sea of acid mine drainage.

The EPA claims its crew planned to wait for experts who would address the plug. It says its team was just further cleaning up the site when, through some inexplicable bad luck, the plug eroded, causing a blowout that turned the Animas River bright orange.

In essence, the agency wants us to believe that this was an accident that could have happened to anybody.

The truth the EPA is concealing is that its team did not stop after excavating to the tunnel’s opening, and never had any intention of stopping.

The EPA crew began removing the plug as it had planned, even though it anticipated acid mine drainage would flow out and that the drainage could be pressurized.

The EPA’s actions could be likened to poking a balloon with a pin to let out just a little air. At best, the EPA’s actions were incredibly reckless.

Numerous federal officials in and outside the EPA turned a blind eye to the truth, and never challenged the fiction that the EPA maintains to this day and that was just repeated Monday by the EPA’s inspector general.

For an agency more concerned about its own welfare than its environmental mission, the almost unfathomable incompetence is sufficient motive to cover up what really happened.

There are other reasons as well. Some grossly negligent acts can be criminally prosecuted under provisions the Clean Water Act—a measure the EPA has used against private parties in the past. Additionally, New Mexico has already brought a lawsuit seeking damages.

Further, the EPA’s dishonest actions after the fact likely provide even more impetus to continue the deception.

Given the contradictory assertions they have made in public and the bogus reports they have produced for public and congressional consumption, it is difficult to imagine how the EPA officials involved could have possibly been honest with the inspector general investigators.

Pruitt’s team has inherited a tangle of half-truths, misdirection, and deceit. Like the Gold King Mine disaster itself, this is a mess the agency needs to clean up.

A Prelude to Disaster

Years before the Gold King Mine disaster occurred, there had been a collapse within a tunnel (an adit) used to access, ventilate, and drain the mine’s inner content.

Water can naturally accumulate within mines, and if there has been a collapse, fine solid matter like clay can eventually fill all the spaces between the collapsed rock, forming a natural plug. Eventually a pool of water forms behind the plug, and with enough time there can be so much water that it becomes pressurized.

In 2009, after this collapse, a pipe had been inserted into the mine in an attempt to prevent the accumulation of water. Then, the old structure at the entrance to the adit (posts and timbers supporting a roof to protect from debris sliding down from the slope above) was demolished, and the area in front of the mine opening was backfilled, burying all except the end of the drainage pipe.

Subsequently, water flowing from the mine had slowed to a trickle, a possible indicator that the mine was plugged.

When the EPA crew came to the mine in 2015, it came specifically to address the concern about conditions that could lead to a blowout.

The crew, however, was operating under outlandish assumptions that the agency had made one year before, which are covered in greater detail by a congressional committee report.

In brief, based on almost no evidence, the EPA had concluded during a visit in 2014 that the floor of the mine was 6 feet lower than the ground immediately outside the mine.

It assumed that water in the mine would have to be over 6 feet deep before it would flow out of the pipe. Seeing little flow out, it conjectured the backfilled mine was only half-full and not pressurized.

This conclusion was contrary to available old photographs, documents from the Colorado’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, and the basic fact that the tunnel was designed in part to drain the mine—so recessing the floor 6 feet would make no sense.

The ground immediately outside the mine was made of the waste rock removed to create the tunnel. Why and how would a tunnel be dug so it couldn’t drain or be accessed?

An additional clue should have been clear to the crew: During a 2014 visit, the EPA removed a stinger—a pipe that is used to drive through a collapse to drain impounded water.

This is especially true given that when the crew yanked the stinger from the rubble, it found the front section mangled, indicating there had possibly been an unsuccessful attempt to penetrate a blockage.

In any case, whether the mine was full or not could have been determined by drilling to test for hydrostatic pressure. However, because drilling was difficult and expensive, the EPA chose to rely on faulty assumptions rather than data.

In 2015, the EPA crew set about removing unconsolidated backfill (material that was not holding back water) to reach the plugged tunnel opening cut into the mountain’s rock face. This was accomplished the first day of digging.

The crew’s outlandish assumptions were proven to be just that when it reached the tunnel’s opening. It had exposed the entire plug from the bottom to the top of the tunnel, not just the upper half.

With the tunnel not recessed as anticipated, the crew should have realized, and likely did, that the basis of its assumption that the mine was not full of water had evaporated.

In what appears to have been a hopeless effort to account for this, the following day, the EPA crew reburied all but the very top portion of the plug. It built a large mound of earth (a berm) in front of the tunnel opening and constructed a makeshift channel to the side.

The crew apparently anticipated that when it dug a hole into the top of the plug, any water that came out would calmly flow through the channel and to a pre-existing ditch that ran down the mountain to settling ponds.

Hope springs eternal.

Although the EPA fails to mention the reburying of the plug in any of its reports, several executive branch reports, along with an EPA inspector general report released this week, described what supposedly happened next.

All these reports are wrong, and most, if not all, are intentionally deceitful.

Rewriting History

First, the EPA produced a report that asserted its crew was just digging to clear the bedrock face, but not touching the plug. Then, somehow, the lower bedrock crumbled and the mine just blew out.

The Department of the Interior produced the next report, a bureaucratic treatise that says the EPA crew discussed a plan, but then ambiguously states “the contractor continued to excavate.”

Exactly what the crew was excavating—the dirt above the tunnel opening (which in fact had already been removed) or the plug itself—is left unsaid. The report asserts that the EPA crew planned to insert another stinger through the now-exposed plug to drain the mine.

The crucial fact omitted by the report is that the EPA did not have a stinger. So, the plan was pure fiction.

In fact, the Department of Interior report was so short on details that an Army Corps of Engineers peer-reviewer made his signature conditional on including additional text in the executive summary.

He included the line:

The report discusses field observations by EPA (and why they continued digging), but does not describe why a change in EPA field coordinators caused the urgency to start digging out the plug rather than wait for [Bureau of Reclamation] technical input as prescribed by the EPA project leader.
Unlike the Corps reviewer’s comments, the remainder of the Interior report is nebulous.

Then, the night before a congressional hearing on the Interior report, the EPA issued an addendum to its first report, stating that the report was based on an unrecorded, untranscribed, simultaneous interview of the two EPA on-scene coordinators in charge of the site.

According to the addendum, the on-scene coordinator who was on vacation at the time of the blowout had handed supervision off to the other, along with an emailed list of instructions.

Curiously, this critically important email was not mentioned in the narrative of the two earlier reports. The email provides explicit instructions on steps to take to remove the upper portion of the plug.

The EPA’s midnight addendum also asserts that its crew was following these instructions with one exception. Without any supporting evidence whatsoever, the report claims that after he sent the email, the on-scene coordinator who would be on vacation told his replacement not to remove the plug, something inconsistent with his instructions.

Even if this supposed “clear verbal direction” was ever given, it definitely wasn’t followed.

The report goes on to repeat the fiction that the EPA crew was digging high above the tunnel opening and preparing the site for when the experts would arrive when, somehow, the mine inexplicably burst open.

Finally, the EPA Inspector General’s Office released its report this Monday that at best demonstrates an inability to uncover the truth by repeating the fiction.

After omitting any serious discussion of the outlandish assumptions from the EPA’s 2014 site visit, the EPA inspector general repeats the official EPA line, stating that:

According to the [on-scene coordinator] on-site, the team stopped excavation in front of the blockage on Aug. 4, 2015, after they reached material that was compacted, well consolidated, and considered by the [on-scene coordinator] on-site to be the blockage.
The EPA inspector general goes on to state that the next day, “[t]he excavator operator built a ramp to enable reaching higher.” This was reportedly done so the excavator operator could “scratch” above the mine entrance where the plug was.

Like the other reports, the inspector general omits any mention that the plug that had been unearthed the day before was reburied—as is demonstrated in this series of photos—and that the rock face had already been “scratched” clean before the blowout, as demonstrated in this series of photos.

Time for Truth and Accountability

All these reports are clearly refuted by an email from the Department of Interior recently released by the House Committee on Natural Resources, which states:

On 8/5/2015, the EPA was attempting to relieve hydrologic pressure behind a naturally collapsed adit/portal of the Gold King Mine. The EPA’s plan was to slowly drain and treat enough mine water in order to access the inner mine working and assess options for controlling its discharge. While removing small portions of the natural plug, the material catastrophically gave-way and released the mine water.

This document, site photographs, and other information clearly contradict the fiction that the EPA has spun. The cover-up is so bold it fits the old saying, “Who you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

While the EPA crew did not snap a photo of the excavator bucket that was digging the last fateful scoop of the plug, it might as well have.

There are enough people inside the agencies that know the truth, and a trail of pictures and papers show that they know it.

It is time the cover-up be uncovered, and the EPA be exposed for caring more about its own institutional interests than protecting the quality of the environment.


Do America’s Science Teachers and Students Need a Ministry of Truth on Climate Change?

Four liberal Democratic Senators—Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Brian Schatz (HI), and Edward Markey (MA)—are upset because Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement an “example of his commitment to rolling back the unrealistic and overreaching regulatory actions by the previous Administration.”

Thank heavens! These gallant Senators, painstakingly working to protect the American people, have taken heroic action to set DeVos straight! How would truth survive without them?

“This is a quick about-face from your nomination hearing … ,” they said in a letter to DeVos on June 7. “When Senator Whitehouse asked you in January about your views on human-caused climate change, you answered: ‘The Department of Education does not have any jurisdiction over climate change or climate issues so, if confirmed, I would respectfully defer to my colleagues in other agencies … on these issues. Additionally, the Department of Education is prohibited from dictating curricula in our nation’s schools so I respectfully defer to state and local school districts about what they will or will not teach.’ Between January and last week, you apparently decided to present your views on an issue over which your department ‘does not have any jurisdiction.’ In doing so you landed squarely on the side that argues, incorrectly [as these four Senators are qualified to judge, all having earned Ph.D.’s in climatology—ooops, I just checked and found none does—anyway, back to what they said], that climate change science is not settled.”

Hold on a minute. The Senators are upset because DeVos voiced support for her boss’s policy decision? They imply that she went back on a commitment she made during her confirmation hearing?

Just what was her commitment? To “defer to [her] colleagues in other agencies” about climate change. Well, her colleagues in other agencies hold various positions on climate change and disagreed among each other on whether to withdraw from the Paris accord, but some supported the President’s decision—particularly the one who heads the most relevant agency, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. And her boss, and theirs, made his decision.

So she kept her word.

What more could the Senators want? Boot licking?

Nonetheless, they wrote demanding that she tell them whether she or her department have “had contact with individuals associated with the Heartland Institute on climate, science, or science education issues,” and demanding copies of any such correspondence.

The Senators, quick to protect impressionable children from debate in our government-run schools (from which they might learn to weigh opposing arguments and become less docile proletarians), told DeVos that PBS Frontline “reported that the Heartland Institute is distributing factually inaccurate and scientifically illegitimate materials on climate change to upwards of 200,000 public school science teachers.”

That cannot be tolerated! After all, what if some of those science teachers (who presumably know more science than the Senators) were to be persuaded? (Ignore the fact that, as Heartland President Joseph Bast pointed out in a response, “the number of public school science teachers is considerably less than 200,000.” Are the Senators distributing factually inaccurate and scientifically illegitimate material?)

Rest easy, Americans. Your schools, your children, and the future of your country and planet are safe in the hands of these four Ministers of Truth. Valiant champions of the freedoms of speech and press guaranteed in the First Amendment, they would never dream of interfering in anyone’s exercise of those rights.

Except that that’s exactly what their letter to DeVos implicitly does. And more to the point, Whitehouse has called for RICO investigations of those who question the alleged scientific consensus on climate change, a call in response to which some liberal Democrat state attorneys general founded “Attorneys General United for Clean Power” in a potentially felonious attempt to “injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person … in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same,” for which you could be fined or imprisoned up to ten years, or both (18 U.S.C. 241)


Solar power will save us "real soon now"

A skeptical comment:

It’s easy to forget that the photovoltaic cell is a very old technology; especially if your education was more Shakespeare than Newton.

PV cells go back over 60 years; and the basic science behind them is even older. It dates back to an observation by Alexandre Becquerel in 1839. Shine a light onto some materials and loose electrons can flow. Flowing electrons are a current; behold the photovoltaic effect.

But sometimes electrons leave the material altogether, which isn’t as easy to detect and wasn’t discovered until much later. This is called the photoelectric effect. It’s easy to get confused by two such similar words.

Efforts to apply the photovoltaic process to something useful resulted in the first solar cell patent being issued in 1888. And, no, that’s not a typo, it’s just a really old idea. But it was never more than a curiosity until people worked out how to grow highly pure metallic crystals.

That problem was cracked in 1918, by one Jan Csochralski. A few decades later and the method was adapted to grow silicon crystals. So by the 1950s solar cells were being developed for space applications with the first practical cell being produced in 1954. Predictions quickly followed that it would lead to a source of limitless energy from the sun.

A few decades later, in 1989, Professor Martin Green of NSW University put a time on such predictions. He thought solar cells could replace coal in “10 to 15 years”.

Green was obviously aware of the utility scale solar plants being rolled out in the US. The biggest in 1983 was the plant at Carrizo Plains; a hundred thousand 1×4 foot solar panels. You may well ask what happened to this plant. Here’s a picture.

Carrizo was part of a short lived explosion of wind and solar energy generation rolled out in response to the oil crisis of the 1970s. But calling it an explosion is a little grandiose, the energy it produced was more of a whimper.

But wait, there’s another trick which electrons have which is worth a mention. You don’t have to shine light on some materials to make electrons move or leap from the surface. Some materials just emit electrons spontaneously: “Look mum no light!”.

This happens during some types of radioactive decay; which is just the spontaneous reorganisation of the furniture inside an atom with the surplus bits being ejected. When the surplus bits are electrons, it’s called beta radiation.

Who discovered radioactivity? That would be Becquerel junior, Alexandre’s son Henry, in 1895. Which is rather a long time after the discovery of photovoltaic effect, and even after the first solar cell was patented. Henry was honoured by having the Becquerel name used as one of the fundamental units of radioactivity.

If something is undergoing 1000 radioactive decays per second, then its activity is 1000 Becquerels (Bq). It’s a tiny unit. A human body is radioactive to the tune of about 105 Bq per kilogram, so a person weighing 70 kg has a radioactivity level of 7,400 Bq. This is roughly 50/50 made up of decays from potassium and carbon atoms. Both elements have atoms which exist in slightly different forms which are rather prone to furniture reorganisation.

You can use radioactive decay to make batteries. One method uses beta radiation and the result is called, appropriately, a betavoltaic device. Another form uses the heat that can result from decay events. NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover powered its way along the Mars landscape powered by a plutonium battery. NASA sources have revealed that plans to use a lithium-ion power source for the Rover were abandoned when it was realised that there were no power points on Mars to plug in the charger.

Geothermal energy is the ultimate radioactive battery. It is simply harnessing heat from the radioactivity that drives the earth’s internal fire.

The interactions of sunshine, matter and radioactivity hit the headlines recently with the discovery that Indigenous Australians became Indigenous thousands of years earlier than had previously been thought. How on earth do people know such things? The Guardian article I just linked doesn’t tell you. And what’s it got to do with radioactivity? Or sunshine? The answer is in the sands of time… more formally known as OSL dating.

Bury a grain of sand and what happens? The natural radioactivity of all the material around it is constantly hitting that grain. Every cubic meter of even the most organic of organic gardens is radioactive because plenty of elements have atoms prone to furniture rearrangement.

All organic produce is radioactive because it all contains carbon and some forms of carbon undergo radioactive decay. A grain of sand is a quartz crystal and as radiation hits it, it changes the electron configuration ever so slightly; it’s a little like winding a clock with a spring. Does anybody remember such clocks? Probably only from old TV shows or museums.

This isn’t like photoelectricity, it doesn’t eject electrons and it isn’t like the photovoltaic effect, electrons don’t move far enough to create a current; they just get a little added energy.

So each decay in the surrounding material releases a little bundle of radiation which winds up the spring by an ever so tiny amount. Expose that grain of sand to sunshine and … sproing! … the energy is released. Physicists can do a lot more than just describe this process, they can measure it in excruciating detail. So here’s a rough outline of the process; very rough.

Crawl around in the dark digging up some grains of sand around the artifacts you want to date. Measure the radioactivity in the surrounding material. Take your sand to a very special laboratory and expose the grains to light and measure the energy released. Happily only some frequencies of light release the energy, so you don’t really need to do everything in pitch black darkness.

If the grain was underground for a long time the amount of energy will be high, but if only recently buried, it will be low. There is a predictable relationship between time buried, radiation in the area where the sand came from and the energy released. The science of crystals is far deeper and more wonderous than anything the world’s spiritualists could possibly imagine.

In extraordinarily rare cases, radioactive decay can lead indirectly to large atoms breaking into pieces and releasing large amounts of energy. This process, called fission, was discovered by people in 1938. But the first example of fission that anybody knows about happened naturally in Africa at Oklo about 1.7 billion years ago.

This entirely natural nuclear reactor ran for a few hundred thousand years. It generated the first globs of high-level nuclear waste. This ancient natural reactor was only discovered in 1972, but perhaps there are others still awaiting discovery. When I say, “large amounts of energy”, I mean something that is really tough to comprehend. The amount of energy in a golf ball sized piece of pure uranium, assuming you could get it all, which some modern reactors can, is enough to power an entire human life; 70+ years of every litre of oil, or kwh of electricity; everything.

The first demonstration of the feasibility of people replicating this natural process happened in 1942 when the first reactor was built in a squash court in Chicago. It took 16 days to assemble the graphite blocks, uranium metal and uranium oxide. It’s first operating output was half a watt!

Like the early solar cells, it was just a toy. But predictions about it’s future were much closer to the mark.

The first nuclear reactor was erected in 1942 in the West Stands section of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, which was also used as a squash court.

The first nuclear reactor was erected in 1942 in the West Stands section of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, which was also used as a squash court.

The first nuclear power plant was connected to the grid just 12 years later in the UK. It ran for 47 years and produced more electricity every year than Australia’s largest 2015 solar plant, Nyngan. It will take the Nyngan solar about 60 years to produce as much electricity as that 1956 nuclear plant produced in 47. But Nyngan, of course, isn’t expected to run for anything like 60 years. It will be lucky to last its anticipated 30. Carrizo plains only managed 11.

While the understanding of the fundamental science of sunshine, inanimate matter and radiation and their interactions goes back over 100 years, the interactions of sunshine, radiation and living matter is very recent and almost entirely the province of experts.

Biology, and more importantly medicine, are both very different from maths, physics and chemistry. The latter trio proceed pretty much incrementally.

When quantum physics displaced Newtonian physics as our best estimate of truth, people didn’t stop using Newtonian physics because it still gives excellent answers in many situations. But progress in microbiology and oncology is very different. The modern understanding of the interactions between radiation, DNA, genes, mutations and cancer is totally incompatible with that of the 1950s.

This can be amply illustrated by the scientific beliefs which launched the anti-nuclear movement. When Linus Pauling laid the foundations of this movement in the late 1950s, it wasn’t just that he didn’t know much, but that everything that he thought he knew about these fundamental interactions was simply wrong or misleading, and usually both.

It was all overturned in the following decades. But we have been left with plenty of intellectual detritus; we have a potent political and environmental movement based entirely on obsolete science. When Pauling was writing, genes were thought to be highly stable, with natural mutations occuring perhaps once in a hundred thousand generations (See Jan 1958, p.19). But what’s the modern estimate of mutations?

It’s that every one of your 20,000 genes is mutated in about a billion cells of your body during your lifetime. Pauling used wrong assumptions to predict thousands of birth defects from atmospheric bomb testing fallout. It didn’t happen because it was never going to.

But that’s a topic best kept for another piece.

Meanwhile, we are building our own generation’s version of the Carrizo plains; just bigger and grander.



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   main.html 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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