Thursday, June 17, 2021

Global treaty to regulate plastic pollution gains momentum

The long article below shows not the slightest doubt that banning plastic bags would be a good thing. It is another of the dubious Greenie claims that have become accepted wisdom as undisputably and obviously right.

But what is the science of the matter? What the scientific studies repeatedly show is very different. In fact plastic bags are unusually environmentally responsible. The studies concerned are set out in book here

Even producers have an interest in global rules on plastic waste that would resolve the inconsistencies among countries.

The simple plastic bag has come to symbolize the world’s growing problem with plastic waste. Yet globally, there are seven definitions of what is considered a plastic bag—and that complicates efforts to reduce their proliferation.

Banning bags, along with other plastic packaging, is the most commonly used remedy to rein in plastic waste. So far, 115 nations have taken that approach, but in different ways. In France, bags less than 50 microns thick are banned. In Tunisia, bags are banned if they are less than 40 microns thick.

Those kinds of differences create loopholes that enable illegal bags to find their way to street vendors and market stalls. Kenya, which passed the world’s toughest bag ban in 2017, has had to contend with illegal bags smuggled in from Uganda and Somalia. So has Rwanda.

Likewise, millions of mosquito nets that Rwanda imported from the United States arrived in plastic packaging for which the chemical content was not disclosed—even after a Rwandan recycler inquired. That rendered them unrecyclable.

For global companies like Nestlé, which sells food products in 187 countries, that means complying with 187 different sets of national regulations on plastic packaging.

These are but three examples of hundreds of contradictory policies, inconsistencies, and lack of transparency that are embedded in the global plastics trade in ways that make it hard to gain control of the growing accumulation of plastic waste. Not only do definitions differ from country to country, there also are no global rules for such practices as determining which plastic materials can be mixed together in one product; that creates a potential nightmare for recycling. Internationally accepted methods for how to measure plastic waste spilling into the environment don’t exist. Without uniform standards or specific data, the job of fixing it all becomes essentially impossible.

Now, help may be on the way. Support is growing for a global treaty to address plastic waste. At least 100 nations have already expressed support for a plastic treaty, and those involved in preliminary talks are optimistic that one could be approved on a pace that could make a difference, much as the 1987 landmark Montreal protocol prevented depletion of the stratospheric ozone.

“Fundamentally, governments will not be able to do what they are supposed to do if they can’t count on an international partnership and international framework. It is not going to work,” says Hugo-Maria Schally, head of the multilateral environmental cooperation unit at the European Commission. “It is a concrete problem that asks for a concrete solution and a global agreement will provide that.”

Schally’s message to industry is direct: “You can work with public policy (to make) plastic sustainable and that means you can be part of the solution, or you can become defensive and then you’re part of the problem.”

A surge in waste
The primary argument against trying to push a treaty through the United Nations and its 193 member states is that negotiations can drag on for a decade or more, and on the issue of plastics, there is little time to spare.

New plastics waste is created yearly at a rate of 303 million tons (275 million metric tons). To date, 75 percent of all plastic ever produced has become waste, and production is expected to triple by 2050. New research this year suggests that the accumulation of plastic waste in the oceans is also expected to triple by 2040 to an average of 32 million tons (29 million metric tons) a year.

With numbers like those, it’s no surprise that none of the nations that are the most significant contributors of plastic waste to the environment have been able to gain control of their mismanaged waste. And though global treaties take time, no environmental issue of this magnitude has been significantly addressed without one.

Plastic pollution has been on the agenda at the United Nations since 2012. In 2019, when the UN Environmental Assembly last gathered face-to-face in Nairobi, talks about plastic waste were stymied primarily by the United States, which opposed a binding treaty. The only agreement that emerged was an agreement to keep talking.

Over the last decade, the ground has shifted dramatically. “In 2015, no country had expressed an interest in pursuing a global treaty,” says Erik Lindebjerg, who is spearheading the World Wildlife Fund’s plastic waste campaign from Oslo. He helped oversee publication of The Business Case for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution, a report prepared in partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which details how a treaty could solve an assortment of business problems. “In one sense, we’ve reached a saturation point, so you suddenly see impacts everywhere.”

Industry also has reversed its opposition.

“We have evolved our position as the situation has evolved,” says Stewart Harris, an American Chemistry Council executive speaking on behalf of the International Council of Chemical Associations, a global chemistry association of which the ACC is a member.

“We were concerned with the binding element of a global [treaty]. We felt we weren’t ready for that yet,” he says. “And now that’s changed. Now we do believe a global instrument is needed to help us achieve the elimination of waste in the environment and help companies achieve voluntary commitments.”

What’s on the negotiating table
Preliminary talks are already underway, all aimed at the next in-person meeting in Nairobi, where hopes are high that agreement can be reached to move ahead with treaty discussions.

Scandanavian nations traditionally have run talks about plastic waste, with Norway, as current president of the UN Environmental Assembly, taking the lead. But other groups of nations have been meeting and pushed the conversation forward. Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, and Vietnam have held several sessions, with another planned for September. Small island nations, inundated by drifting plastic waste and with much to lose in climate change, have conducted preliminary talks of their own.

The overarching goal of early talks has been to set a specific date to eliminate plastic from spilling into the oceans. The rest of the agenda is centered around four topics: a harmonized set of definitions and standards that would eliminate inconsistencies such as the definition of a plastic bag; coordination of national targets and plans; agreement on reporting standards and methodologies; and creation of a fund to build waste management facilities where they are most needed in less developed countries.

Christina Dixon, an oceans specialist at the Environmental Investigation Agency, an environmental nonprofit based in London and Washington, says that the existing methods for managing the plastic marketplace are not sustainable. “We need to find a way to look at plastic with a global lens. We have a material that is polluting throughout its lifecycle and across borders. No one country is able to address the challenge by itself.”

The power of the public—and of dialogue
Public opinion is also prompting change. Plastic pollution ranks as one of the three most-pressing environmental concerns, along with climate change and water pollution, according to a 2019 survey included in the Business Case for a UN Treaty report. Young activists who took to the streets in 2019 to protest lack of action on climate have been paying attention to plastic waste. Multiple industry studies show that Gen Z and Millennials are pushing makers of consumer products towards sustainability practices.

Then, there’s a simple matter that the opposing sides are now talking to each other.

In 2019, Dave Ford, a former advertising executive whose company had been hosting corporate leaders on expensive trips to Antarctica, Africa and the like, decided to host a four-day cruise and talkathon from Bermuda to the Sargasso Sea for 165 people working on plastic waste. The passenger roster ranged from executives at Dow Chemical to Greenpeace. In a move designed to get maximum publicity, a Greenpeace activist roomed with a Nestlé executive in what became known on board as the Sleeping With The Enemy moment.

The ploy worked. Many members from the cruise are still talking to each other and tensions that had been building eased. Ford has since founded the Ocean Plastics Leadership Network and recruited additional activists and industry executives to join the conversation.

“What we’re trying to do is get all the parties historically fighting each other to understand where everybody sits,” Ford says. “In a lot of cases, they might be closer than they think.”


'Green Bank' Would Be Boondoggle for Taxpayers and Consumers

Driven by the dubious desire to call everything “infrastructure,” the Biden administration and Congress are considering all sorts of bank-breaking ideas to “Build Back Better.” One proposal that has gotten plenty of airtime is a “green bank,” which is essentially a taxpayer-backed lending operation for projects such as wind turbines and solar panels. Supporters claim that the idea would cost a negligible sum since the government would be doling out loans instead of grants. But in reality, the government is a horrible judge of which projects “deserve” to be funded and which should stay on the sidelines. If lawmakers really want to rebuild America, they should examine ways to remove barriers to private lending and investment. “Green” government lending is simply corporate welfare masquerading as innovative financing.

While plenty about the infrastructure bill remains in flux, there are some encouraging signs that the two parties in power are listening to each other. Republicans are successfully pushing to keep tax hikes off the table, focus spending on core infrastructure priorities (e.g., roads and bridges), and get electric vehicle owners to pay their fair share for road wear-and-tear. All of these hard-fought gains can be undone, though, if lawmakers manage to sneak seed funding for a green bank into the final package. This trendy idea could wind up being sold in a variety of ways, including as a non-profit divorced from the federal government. But, once $30 billion worth of taxpayer dollars gets entangled in the decision-making process, the endeavor effectively becomes a government operation. Much like the healthcare “public option” proposed at various points over the years, all the rhetorical wrapping in the world cannot transform a taxpayer-funded operation into a private or non-profit initiative.

Dispersing dollars via loans and leveraged private funds need not end in disaster if the lender in question is competent and guided by the right incentives. Even if “green” loans are a fairly new idea, experience with government grants shows that the federal policymakers fail at parsing out profit. For example, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program has a poor track record in finding and funding the next great “green” idea.

A study conducted in 2017 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine provides patent and investment statistics, as well as case studies, on these DOE endeavors. The authors find that of all DOE research programs, ARPA-E-funded projects lead the pack in generating follow-up research. The catch is that all of the ARPA-E projects have been lackluster. The analysis finds that “recipients of 44 percent of ARPA-E awards published at least once, compared with the Office of Science and EERE at 27 percent and 18 percent of awards, respectively.”

The authors choose to focus on ARPA-E awardees’ relative success in publishing their results. But, the inability of most awardees in any program to publish should be concerning to taxpayers. And subsequent outcomes are hardly encouraging. Nearly three-quarters of ARPA-E projects designated as “completed” have no market engagement whatsoever — no private funding or company formed around the research. And even that figure is probably excessively kind because the academics (somewhat shadily) include in their definition of “company formation” recipients who had founded firms prior to receiving ARPA-E funding.

In theory, it could be the case that “green banking” is more successful than traditional government grants due to a more innovative financing model. It’s important to remember, though, that failed government projects such as Solyndra started out as loans. And states such as New York and Connecticut have already been experimenting with green banking, but the results do not appear promising. According to a 2020 finance report by the American Green Bank Consortium and the Coalition for Green Capital, the majority of green bank investments center around “community solar” projects and nonprofit clean electricity/energy efficiency endeavors. This funding structure is perplexing given that large-scale commercial endeavors are far more cost-effective in delivering “green” energy to consumers.

Consumers ultimately need access to a variety of energy sources ranging from solar to natural gas. Regardless of the source, private investors and lenders are better than governmental institutions at finding the cheapest and most effective way to keep the lights on and drive innovation. A “green bank” would be a boondoggle for taxpayers and consumers and a boon to special interests.


Bill Gates, Warren Buffett to Launch ‘Game-Changing’ Nuclear Power Plant in Wyoming

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon on June 2 announced that a next-generation nuclear power plant will be built at a soon-to-be-retired coal-fired plant in Wyoming in the next several years, with the project a joint initiative between Bill Gates’s TerraPower and PacifiCorp, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

“Today’s announcement really, truly is game-changing and monumental for Wyoming,” Gordon said at a press conference at the state Capitol in Cheyenne.

The project features a 345-megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system, which would produce enough power for roughly 250,000 homes. The storage technology is also able to boost output to 500 megawatts of power for about five and a half hours, which is equivalent to the energy needed to power around 400,000 homes, according to TerraPower.

Gordon said the pilot project, called Natrium, would replace one of the state’s current coal-fired power plants, with an exact location to be announced by the end of the year. At the same time, Gordon made clear that the move toward nuclear doesn’t mean he is abandoning Wyoming’s fossil fuel industry, which he called “the bedrock of our economy” that has provided “an enormous amount of capital” for environmental protection initiatives.

“Earlier this year, I set a goal for Wyoming to be a carbon negative state and continue to use fossil fuels,” Gordon said, with “carbon negative” meaning the state would capture more carbon dioxide than it emitted.

“I am not going to abandon any of our fossil fuel industry—it is absolutely essential to our state and one of the things that we believe very strongly is our fastest and clearest course to being carbon negative.”

“Nuclear power is clearly a part of my all-of-the-above strategy for energy,” Gordon added.

Wyoming is both a top coal mining and top uranium mining state, and the reactor would use uranium from “in situ” mines that extract heavy metal from networks of water wells on the High Plains, officials said.

The reactor proposal also creates common ground between Wyoming, a Republican state, and Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration, which is seeking to reduce carbon emissions by half, compared to 2005 levels, by 2030.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said by video link that Natrium has a “simpler design that will hopefully result in faster construction at lower cost.”

“It’s going to create a smaller footprint. It’s going to be equipped with next-generation safety measures,” she said.

“I have a feeling that Wyoming won’t be the only state angling for one of these nuclear reactors once we see it in action,” she said, adding that the Biden administration is prepared to make “major investments in advanced nuclear technology so that communities all over the country can enjoy the benefits of safe and reliable and clean power that will leave them with lower energy bills.”

Gordon said the small, modular nuclear reactor would provide on-demand energy and result in an overall reduction of CO2 emissions, while creating “hundreds of good-paying jobs through the construction and operation of the unit.”

Gates, who founded TerraPower 15 years ago, spoke at the press conference by video link, saying that he believes “Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry.”

“Wyoming has been a leader in energy for over a century and we hope our investment in Natrium will help Wyoming to stay in the lead for many decades to come,” he said.

The plant will be a “multibillion-dollar project,” with costs to be split evenly between government and private industry, TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque said.

The plant would produce two-thirds less waste by volume than conventional nuclear plants, Levesque added.


Climate Policies Continue to Mislead the Public

I had previously written about the problems of the “global warming” hypothesis. This article is a continuation of the same topic. I will elaborate on how some people identified a stand-in for the “global warming” hypothesis, and how they fool governments and the general public into paying for their so-called “climate policy.”

“Global warming” has disappeared from the vocabulary of the Biden administration’s climate policy. This is because there have been several unusually cold winters after the global warming theory was touted, thus many people began to question it. However, in terms of relevant policies, “global warming” has not disappeared completely. Is there any difference between “global warming” and “climate change?” In fact, the two terms are essentially the same thing—”global warming” entered the various international summits under a new name: “climate change.”

Governments and international organizations now use the term “climate change” and have formulated a series of related policies to prevent “climate change.”

According to a report from Deutsche Welle on Feb. 3, 2007, it was President George W. Bush who first used the term “climate change” during his tenure. Then President Barack Obama inherited the entire “climate change” game from the Bush administration.

After President Donald Trump took office, he declared that climate change was “a hoax” and subsequently withdrew from the Paris climate agreement.

Does the Earth’s Temperature Keep Rising?

The core argument of the “climate change” theory is still based on the “global warming” hypothesis, which blames carbon dioxide emissions for the continual increase of global temperature. Therefore, it continues to stress that mankind must implement policies to reduce various carbon dioxide emissions.

However, does the Earth’s temperature continue to rise?

Based on temperature records, from 1983 to 2008, many places on Earth were much warmer than before, but at the end of 2009 many regions had a severely cold winter.

In January 2019, the average temperature in the Great Lakes region of North America dropped around -34°C to -40°C (-29°F to -40°F), and many cities and towns experienced record low temperatures. In early February 2021, the United States again had cold snaps several times, and cold weather spread to the central region, causing many areas to reach record low temperatures. Even Texas was among the severely affected areas.

Online research reports show that the change in global temperature from January 1999 to December 2008 is plus or minus 0.07 degrees Celsius, which is much less than the plus or minus 0.18 degrees Celsius of the previous ten years. It is basically stable, and the main cause of global temperature fluctuation is the El Niño, an oceanic and climatic phenomenon.

G.G. Matishov, the academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) and the scientific director of the Southern Scientific Center RAS, believes that the world is not warming up, but rather cooling down. In his opinion, the climate is cyclical and now the warming cycle is over and the Earth is entering the cooling cycle.

In an interview with the Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta on Feb. 23 this year, Matishov stated that what awaits mankind is not global warming, but the Little Ice Age. He has been doing research in the Arctic since 1965 and believes that there is no such thing as global warming. If the theory of global warming is correct, then the Arctic ice would have already melted. Mattisov also said that since the Arctic temperature has slightly increased in recent years, this led some people to believe that global warming is the trend. However, the Arctic in 1878 and 1933 were in the same warm cycle, but since then entered a cold cycle again. “Is our memory really so short?” Matishov asked sarcastically.

He believes that to understand the trend of climate change, one must look at data accumulated over at least one hundred years, rather than focusing on events that have occurred in the last couple of years.

Mattisov pointed out that the climate is cyclical, and mankind is now witnessing the beginning of a new Ice Age. He believes the warm cycle that caused the temperature to rise in the Arctic has ended, and the climate is turning into a cold cycle. He said that the European part of Russia has experienced extremely cold winters, droughts, and heavy precipitation–all these factors prove his claim.

Mattisov also pointed out that the Antarctic ice sheet is a very stable system, and the argument that global warming will lead to ice sheet melting, sea level rising and severe flooding is false.

However, the “political correctness” camp obstructed the debunking of the global warming theory. Obsessed with their own political and economic interests, they used political power to suppress criticism of the global warming theory, and at the same time continued to push forward various arguments supporting it. Additionally, these arguments were used as the basis for the forceful implementation of various policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In recent years, global summits are the international arena for this group of people to turn their political agenda into policies and regulations in different countries.

What Are the Causes of Climate Change?

The Earth’s surface temperature is always changing. The temperature change is usually fluctuating, and there are natural climate cycles. Each cycle may last several decades, or even millions of years. The fluctuation may be regional or global, and the factors causing these changes are numerous and mostly due to natural factors, including solar radiation, changes in the Earth’s orbit, continental drift, changes in ocean currents, and orogenic movements.

These natural factors are beyond human control. Of course, changes in climate may also be related to human activities. However, it is unscientific to attribute all climate changes to the economic activities of mankind.

I have summarized how these natural factors led to climate changes in my previous article, and pointed out that so far, the scientific community cannot describe or explain them clearly due to their complexity. The global warming hypothesis emerged as a result of an unscientific approach—some scientists chose to ignore the influence of all natural factors and use carbon dioxide emissions to explain the short-term temperature changes on Earth.

The “climate change” claim inherited all the arguments from the global warming hypothesis, making the successor as questionable as the predecessor.

Let me use an analogy to illustrate what these theories amount to: if someone notices that a plant in the backyard is not growing well, without analyzing whether the weather, soil conditions, pests, diseases, moisture levels have changed compared to previous years, he subjectively asserts that it is the resident’s outdoor barbecue activities that is solely responsible for the unhealthy state of the plant!

Are Experts Right in Their Calculation?

Since the “climate change” theory became a government policy, carbon dioxide emissions have become a rigid indicator. However, there are serious human errors in the calculations, that is, researchers only calculate carbon dioxide emissions, but refuse to calculate carbon dioxide absorption by plants.

It is high school knowledge that plants use light to turn carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates, a process known as photosynthesis, yet scholars doing research on carbon dioxide concentration choose to ignore this part of the carbon cycle.

Twenty years ago, I participated in a conference hosted by a non-profit organization, and one of the topics was global warming caused by carbon dioxide emissions. During the conference, I asked a climate expert, “How do you calculate the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed?”

He really surprised me when he replied that such calculations are too complicated and scientists like him choose to ignore it.

I then asked him, “Does this mean that the natural balance of carbon dioxide in the air in North America, which has a high degree of vegetation coverage, and that of African deserts, are treated the same way?” In North America where there are many lush green open spaces, the carbon dioxide emitted by cars can be absorbed to a large extent in rural and suburban areas, but very little in cities and deserts. Would it be inaccurate if scientists only calculate carbon dioxide emissions in each country, without knowing how much carbon dioxide is absorbed in different regions? This expert finally admitted that they have to stick to their unscientific method, otherwise they won’t be able to get research funding.

Pushing Policies Based on Flawed Theories

There is a Chinese idiom, “He who is muddle-headed tries to educate others.” The decision-makers of climate policies in different countries seem to fit in this category.

As a matter of fact, to analyze the relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and absorption in a country, some scientists proposed an index called “carbon flux,” which is the amount of carbon exchanged between carbon pools in a certain region.

However, up to now, no country cares about the “carbon flux” data and there is no research paper that discusses this measurement. I only found one such paper written by a Chinese scholar at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania in 2011, and it was the study of the history of carbon flux changes in peatlands on Earth.

The recent climate summit set the goal of “carbon neutrality” by 2050, also known as net zero emissions. There are three main methods to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions. First, planting trees and growing forests to absorb more carbon dioxide; second, replacing coal and oil with wind and solar energy; third, giving money to developing countries to help them emit less carbon dioxide.

The first method itself reflects the fallacy of climate policy. Since climate policy advocates and researchers refuse to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by existing plants in various countries, it is equivalent to assuming that the amount of carbon dioxide uptake by all plants is negligible. Then why do they list afforestation as the top priority of climate policy?

Conversely, since planting trees and afforestation has become the top priority of climate policy, it means that people who advocate climate policy actually know that plants can absorb carbon dioxide. Why do they refuse to calculate how much carbon dioxide is absorbed by plants in various regions on Earth?

Based on this fallacy, climate policy has proposed the so-called ‘green energy’ program as an alternative to coal and oil. If the general public understands that climate policy is not solid science, they will certainly reject this costly alternative.

The third method could also fail, because even when developing countries receive subsidies for carbon reduction, it is not a guarantee that they will stop using coal and oil.

In addition, there are two drastically different methods in the current monitoring of carbon dioxide concentration in the global atmosphere: super-macro and super-micro.

Super-macro: Although there are more than 200 observation points monitoring the changes of carbon dioxide concentration in the world, only global data is given, while the data collected from each country’s observation stations is absent. Therefore, it is impossible to determine whether the global data can represent the trend of changes in the carbon dioxide concentration in each country.

Super-micro: For instance, global data often comes from an observation point in Hawaii, and sometimes from another observation point in Australia. However, do we really know to what extent the changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations at these two observation points are caused by local human activities, or by other factors, such as whether the volcanic eruptions in Hawaii had caused an excessive increase of carbon dioxide?

When the leftists in Western countries are in power, they pursue so-called “progressivism” and include all the policies they want to promote into the category of “progressivism” and “political correctness,” labeling their opponents as “backward and ignorant.” In such a setting, climate policy is promoted as an unquestionable issue. They are actually using “political correctness” to interfere with scientific research and hype up the issue in order to push forward certain policies. Subsequently, the same group of people would profit from these policies as well as bolster their political image.

Needless to say, the general public can easily fall prey to such a large-scale and concerted brainwashing campaign and become indoctrinated.




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