Thursday, December 13, 2018



Sea rise scenarios barely possible, says climate scientist Judith Curry

A catastrophic rise in sea levels is unlikely this century, with ­recent experience falling within the range of natural variability over the past several thousand years, according to a report on peer-­reviewed studies by US climate scientist Judith Curry.

Writing in The Australian today, Dr Curry says predictions of a 21st-century sea level rise of more than 60cm are increasingly difficult to justify, even if the predicted amount of global warming is correct.

“Predictions of higher than 1.6m require a cascade of ­extremely unlikely to impossible events using overly simplistic models of poorly understood processes,” Dr Curry says.

The review coincides with ­debate about whether some warnings about climate change relied too heavily on worst-case scenarios.

Dr Curry, a professor emeritus form Georgia Institute of Technology, said extreme, barely possible values of sea level rise were driving policies and local ­adaptation plans. She said an ­additional sea level rise of 60cm or less over a century could be a relatively minor problem if it was managed appropriately.

She said there was not yet any convincing evidence of a human fingerprint on global sea level rise because of the large changes driven by natural variability. “An increase in the rate of global sea level rise since 1995 is being caused by ice loss from Greenland,” she said. “Greenland ice loss was larger during the 1930s, which was also associated with the warm phase of the Atlantic Ocean circulation pattern.”

Dr Curry said predictions of sea level rise depended on climate models to predict the correct amount of warming.

Based on current greenhouse gas emissions, temperature rises to 2100 have been predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports to be 3C.

However, there were reasons to think the climate models were predicting too much warming. She said observed warming for the past two decades was smaller than the average warming predicted by climate models.

When compared with observations over the past 150 years, climate models produced too much warming in response to increasing atmospheric carbon ­dioxide, she said.

The latest IPCC report on 1.5C warming said there was a medium confidence that sea level rise would be about 10cm less by the end of the 21st century in a 1.5C compared to a 2C warmer world. Projections for a 1.5C and 2C global warming cover the ­ranges of 20cm to 80cm and 30cm to 100cm respectively.

There was high confidence in the IPCC report that sea level rise would continue well beyond 2100.

“Marine ice sheet instability in Antarctica and/or irreversible loss of the Greenland ice sheet could result in multi-metre rise in sea level over hundreds to thousands of years,” the IPCC report said. “These instabilities could be triggered at around 1.5C to 2C of global warming (medium confidence).”

SOURCE 





Trump EPA takes aim at Obama-era clean water rules, prompting outcry from environmentalists

The Trump administration is moving forward with a significant rollback of an Obama-era clean water regulation that has become a rallying cry for farmers and property-rights activists opposed to federal overreach.

The new proposal, unveiled Tuesday morning by acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and other administration officials, would ease Washington's oversight of small bodies of water, undoing a regulation President Donald Trump has called "a massive power grab."

The new rule would replace an Obama administration regulation, known as the "Waters of the United States" rule that expanded federal protections to smaller rivers and streams.

Environmental advocates warn the proposed rule could remove pollution and development protections from most U.S. waterways and pose far-reaching effects on the safety of the nation's tap water for more than 100 million Americans.

“Even a child understands that small streams flow into large streams and lakes – which provide drinking water for so many Americans,” said Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources for the Environmental Working Group. “By removing safeguards and allowing industry to dump pollutants into these water sources, Trump’s EPA is ensuring more contamination challenges for utilities and dirtier water for their customers.”

But opponents of the Obama-era WOTUS rule say it unduly prevents property owners from being able to fully use their land because the rule's overly broad definition regulates ditches that temporarily flood as federally protected waterways.

“The old rule put Washington in control of ponds, puddles, and prairie potholes," said Wyoming GOP Sen. Tom Barrasso, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee. "The regulation was so confusing that property owners and businesses could not determine when permits were needed."

The crux of the rollback is a change in how "navigable waterways" are defined under the Clean Water Act.

The 2015 definition crafted under President Barack Obama would narrow considerably under Trump, a move that Wheeler told reporters would make it "clearer and easier to understand ... that will result in significant cost savings, protect the nation's navigable waterways, and reduce barriers to important economic and environmental projects."

Wheeler cited the Missouri Farm Bureau, which launched a "Ditch the Rule" campaign opposing the 2015 proposal because it was concerned the Obama-era definition was so broad it could apply to almost every acre in the state.

The Obama administration "claimed it was in the interest of water quality but it was really about power, power in the hands of the federal government over landowners," Wheeler said.

It's also confusing because the rule is enforced in only 22 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories.

Under Trump's proposed rule, federal protections would remain for major waterways, rivers, tributaries, wetlands adjacent to federally protected waterways, certain lakes and ponds, reservoirs, and ditches used for navigation or affected by the tide.

States would oversee most ditches, terrain that fills with water during or in response to rainfall, certain wetlands that have been used to grow crops, stormwater control ponds, and water and wastewater treatment systems. Additionally, groundwater would not be federally protected, an exclusion Wheeler said that was never supposed to be included.

Wheeler disputed claims by environmental groups that the rule would remove federal oversight from at least 60 percent of the nation's waterways. But EPA officials also could not say what percentage would lose those protections.

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said the rollback would send the country back to a time when environmental protections were few and far between.

"Back then, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, was so polluted that it actually caught on fire. Polluters were allowed to dump toxic waste into our waterways without consequence. Garbage littered our shores," Carper said. "It isn’t just a coincidence that this is no longer the reality in our country."

In one of his first acts as president, Trump signed an executive order in February 2017 to undo the clean water rule and instructed the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to come up with a new approach.

In a Roosevelt Room ceremony with farmers and lawmakers at the time, Trump called the rule "one of the worst examples of federal regulation."

The debate over the water rule was part of a larger political flashpoint over environmental issues during the 2016 presidential campaign as Trump tried to appeal to rural Americans exasperated by federal regulations and the loss of property rights.

While the broader debate centered on climate change and clean air rules, the waters rule was nearly as polarizing because its broad application could affect farming, construction and other activities near federally regulated waters.

The issue has often come down to the definition of "navigable waters" under the Clean Water Act.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 makes it illegal to pollute "navigable" waters. Over the decades, disputes arose over the government's changing definition of "navigable" with opponents complaining the definition was too broad.

Two Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 came down on the side of landowners, ruling that ponds at the bottom of a gravel pit and a marsh miles from any lake or river were not navigable and thus not subject to the act.

Wheeler said he wants the rule to reflect the court rulings.

SOURCE   





Protests erupt as Trump team pushes fossil fuels at climate talks
     
KATOWICE, Poland — Trump administration officials at high-stakes climate talks here offered an unapologetic defense of fossil fuels Monday, arguing that a rapid retreat from coal, oil, and gas was unrealistic.

While that stance brought scorn from environmentalists and countries that favor stronger action to fight global warming, there are signs that the administration is finding a receptive audience among other major fossil-fuel producers, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.

President Trump’s international energy and climate adviser, Wells Griffith, hosted a panel discussion on fossil fuels at the United Nations conference, arguing that the developing world would be heavily reliant on coal, oil, and gas for some time and that it was in the world’s interest to find more efficient ways of developing and burning those fuels.

Midway through, the panel was interrupted by scores of noisy protesters, who chanted, “Shame on you!” and “Keep it in the ground!” Griffith responded that the administration’s policy on fossil fuels like coal “is not to keep it in the ground, it’s to use it in a way that is clean and efficient.”

Also on the panel was Patrick Suckling, Australia’s ambassador for the environment, who agreed that “fossil fuels are projected to be a major source of energy for a significant time to come.” He spoke in favor of technology for capturing carbon dioxide from coal plants and burying it, and noted that such technology could be exported.

The public endorsement of fossil fuels came just days after the Trump administration helped to block the UN climate conference from embracing the findings of a major scientific report on global warming.

The United States — along with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Russia — refused to allow a collective statement that would “welcome” the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which detailed a variety of strategies for cutting global fossil-fuel emissions roughly in half by 2030 in order to avoid many dangerous climate impacts.

Instead, the countries, all major oil and gas exporters, demanded the conference only “note” the existence of the report and thank the scientists for their work.

SOURCE   





Trump was right about “raking” Finnish forests



Heavy machinery “rakes” Finland’s forest floors after tree cutting, greatly reducing fire risks

Mikko Paunio

President Donald Trump was recently ridiculed for telling California Governor Jerry Brown that the Golden State should do as my country does. Trump critics laughed at what some called his “bizarre” claim that foresters in Finland “rake” areas that have been thinned or clear-cut, to remove leaves and other debris that could otherwise start conflagrations like the recent tragic fires in California.

The Washington Post spread similar misinformation. The Los Angeles Times carried an article by Finnish “green” journalist Anu Partanen. “Finland to President Trump: We don’t rake the forest floor, but we do other things you should emulate,” the headline read. Late night talk show hosts had more fun at the President’s expense.

Ironically, all this happened at just about the time that Finland’s own forest specialists declared that Mr. Trump was correct about what he told Governor Brown. The foresters disseminated that information widely to the Finnish media and public.

As a result, much of Finland’s mainstream news media began ridiculing Finns who posted photos of garden rakes with the hashtag #RakingAmericaGreatAgain. Now the media are saying the self-styled comic activists were wrong to laugh at the President.

Of course, that too is ironic, since many of that same, very green Finnish mainstream media had actively questioned and ridiculed Mr. Trump just days earlier.

Back in America, not surprisingly, the exoneration story has been largely ignored. The media, pundits and late-night comedians had already made up their minds, don’t want to be confused by the facts – and don’t want their audiences confused by facts, either. Here’s the rest of the story: the missing facts, anyway.

One of the most pressing ecological problems today is preservationist forestry principles. This ideological approach prevents harvesting mature (or even any) trees, thinning out dense stands of timber to remove excess biomass (and thus allowing remaining trees to grow better, faster, thicker and taller), or even removing dense underbrush. This leads to an over-accumulation of biomass in trees and on forest floors. It makes forests vulnerable to raging and fast moving forest fires, especially during dry seasons, even more so when winds are blowing.

If these policies are accompanied by active suppression of forest fires over long periods of time – or by policies of not dousing “natural” fires until they become really big and dangerous – any ignition can lead to catastrophic events that cause tragic loss of property and human lives.

The “confusion” over what President Trump said unfortunately came initially from the Finnish side, as even our media thought “raking” meant only light removal of leaves, pine cones and other debris from forest floors. Even Finnish president Sauli Niinist√∂ did not understand that the practice really involves “raking” with heavy machinery that removes extensive amounts of combustible material. Mr. Niinist√∂ simply told Mr. Trump he could rely on advice from Finland to prevent catastrophic wildfires.

In Finland, after clear-cutting a forest area, crews use heavy machinery (similar to what is used in this video) to “rake” or gather tree harvesting residues, tree roots and other material into huge piles. The biomass is then chipped onsite after it has dried up sufficiently, and chips are hauled to local heat-producing plants to generate warmth for local residents.

In addition, throughout the clear-cut area, crews heavily till the soil so that a fire cannot move easily into or through the clear-cut area. This harvesting policy is motivated by the idea that clear-cutting mimics wildfires in pristine forests. Wildfires start a new succession: a new generation of trees in forests. Cutting does too, but without destroying soils and soil organisms the way raging fires do.

When the new succession has started in the previously clear-cut forest, Finnish law requires thinning operations around the best remaining trees, and accumulating biomass is again removed from time to time from these young forests. This again lessens the probability of uncontrolled wild fires, while allowing the strongest, healthiest trees to grow more fully in less confined spaces and with improved access to water, sunlight and nutrients.

There was some sense in Washington Post writer Rick Noack’s suggestion that forest roads can help prevent fires from spreading. They help fire brigades gain rapid access to fires before they get too big to control. They also provide open areas (“fire breaks”) that stop fires at their perimeters, if the fires aren’t too big.

Finland is about the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined. It has an extensive forest road network (120 thousand kilometers, or 75,000 miles!) – and significantly more trees than 100 years ago, despite clear-cutting being at the center of our wood harvesting policy.

However, Mr. Noack also said, “The forest service in Finland does carry out controlled burns of the forest floor, mostly to clear away underbrush and also promote new saplings.” This is misleading, because it makes controlled burns seem more important than they actually are.

As a recent Finnish morning television program pointed out, the yearly acreage of controlled forest fires is only 200-300 hectares (500-750 acres), which is next to nothing. Moreover, these controlled burns are apparently performed on state lands only to symbolically please environmentalists.

Finland’s last “large” forest fire took place in 1997. It burned 250 hectares (625 acres) of forest in Southern Finland – a tiny fraction of what many U.S. fires burn every year.

The catastrophic fires seen in California and elsewhere are not due to climate change – natural or manmade – although warmer, drier, windier weather can certainly be a major contributing factor. The important point is that foresters must adapt to both weather and climate change, and revise past practices that are now known to cause serious problems. They must manage forests better, more scientifically and more responsibly, with special attention to areas where large populations of people reside.

Governments could also implement new standards for homes built in or near forests. Homes should have fire-resistant roofs and walls, and people should be required to keep brush and debris from accumulating.

Governor Brown and others seem to cite climate change as a way to absolve them of responsibility for ideological or incompetent decisions that help create or perpetuate conditions that spawn horrific, deadly infernos. This must not continue.

One final point regarding climate change. Finland’s official forest studies estimate that climate change (warmer temperatures and more atmospheric carbon dioxide) will help increase annual timber growth from the current 102 million cubic meters (m3) to 130 million m3 by 2050. The current wood harvesting rate is around 72 million m3, and the government announced recently that annual growth increased by five million m3 to a staggering 107 million in 2018.

Finland manages theses forests for timber, wildlife, controlled fires – and protection of nearby homes and people. Its lessons can and should be applied elsewhere. President Trump understands that. His incomplete grasp of Finnish “raking” and other practices led to confusion and ridicule, but should not result in these principles and practices being rejected out of hand.

Via email





What are they Plotting in Poland?

By Viv Forbes, Secretary of the Saltbush Club

The Saltbush Club today called on the Morrison Government to come clean on what additional burdens for Australians are being discussed at COP24, the UN climate jamboree now taking place in Poland.

The Secretary of The Saltbush Club, Mr Viv Forbes of Australia, said that Australia will suffer badly from the destructive energy policies being promoted by the UN’s war on cheap, reliable hydro-carbon fuels.

“Like the Trump supporters in USA, Brexit in Britain, Solidarity in Poland, the Yellow Vests in France and the new Brazilian government we do not support the UN energy plans and we fear their hidden agenda.

“Australia’s backbone industries were built on cheap reliable power. We have huge overheads in the bureaucracy, academia and the welfare state which must be supported by real industry - mining and smelting, farming, fishing, forestry, processing, transport and manufacturing. These industries rely on hydro-carbon energy – coal, gas, oil, diesel and petrol.

“Because Australia has no nuclear or geothermal power, limited hydro potential, an aging fleet of coal generators and several bans on gas exploration, we are very vulnerable to the UN’s war on hydro-carbons.

“PM Morrison must answer three specific questions:

“Who represents Australia at COP24?

“What instructions have they been given?

“When will he report to the Australian people?

“Australia should sign nothing, agree to nothing and signal its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

“COP24 will produce zero benefits for Earth’s climate, but their goals are economically irresponsible for those selected to pay the bills.

“The Paris Agreement they seek to enforce is negative for the Australian people, and for everyone not on the climate gravy train.”

Via email

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