Tuesday, December 21, 2004


November has been quite a month for climate disaster stories! First, Nature magazine reports that the Antarctic food chain is all out of whack, with krill populations crashing around the South Orkney Islands because of global warming. Then a new, federally funded "Arctic Climate Impact Assessment" (ACIA) comes along, predicting the upcoming extinction of polar bears and the death of Inuit culture. But you can breathe a sigh of relief because both of those disaster stories are critically flawed. In fact, the only real disaster they demonstrate is the disheartening decay of the peer-review process in science.

The krill story should be especially disturbing to anyone who places faith in the refereed scientific literature, which once could reliably be cited as the canon of current truth. Krill, if you don't know, are small, shrimp-like animals that basically are manna to whales and other sea life. The authors of the Nature report that the krill population around South Orkney Island in the South Atlantic Ocean varies directly with the amount of sea ice that forms each winter. Because that area has warmed in recent decades, and because the krill population has declined rapidly from the 1970s to today, the authors conclude that global warming is killing the krill.

But the very same data that show a relationship between the amount of ice and the krill also show that there has been absolutely no change in the amount of ice around South Orkney Island since 1975. That's right; the factor that the authors claim is controlling the krill population hasn't changed a lick. The sea ice data were published in the journal Environmental Conservation in 2002. It is inconceivable that the authors of the Nature paper did not know about it, because they used it to "prove" the relationship between ice and krill. Why wasn't this caught in the peer review process? It's in the magazine's best interest for embarrassments like this to get spotted before they appear in print. Anyone sent this paper for commentary would (should?) have asked whether the ice was in fact in decline.

Lax review is also evident in the Arctic Assessment, which probably received more press than any climate story in recent years. One of the big headlines that it generated was that polar bears are going to go extinct because of climate change. the Washington Post quoted Lara Hansen of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who expressed serious concern that populations will stop reproducing as climate warms. In 2002, the WWF published a huge report on polar bears and global warming, called "Polar Bears at Risk." The organization found 22,000 polar bears scattered in 20 somewhat distinct populations around the Arctic. According to the WWF, 46 percent of the populations were stable, 17 percent were in decline, 14 percent were increasing, and the status of 23 percent was unknown. Red flags waving on bad math! Any number divided by 20 yields a multiple of 5 -- 5, 10, 15, etc... An accompanying map only showed 19 populations, but no whole number divided by 19 yields 46, 17, 14, or 23.

The WWF did not map out the regions where the polar bear populations were changing. They left that to enviro-curmudgeons like me. And what I found was this: Where the polar bear populations are in decline -- around Baffin Bay (the region between Canada and Greenland), temperatures are also going down, big time. And the area where temperatures are rising the most -- in the Pacific region bordering on Alaska and Siberia, polar bear populations are increasing. That fact did not make it into the ACIA report, but the doomsday WWF claim did. Again, the simplest check of an hypothesis was not made.

How many stories are out there like this on global warming? Plenty. These two are just the most recent and two of the more egregious. Why does this happen? Washington has handed out nearly $20 billion in global warming research money in recent years. That is ample money to do good research. There is absolutely no incentive to tell the truth, if the truth will make one poor.



Evidence regardless

Pennsylvania lawmakers are facing pressure from activists to impose stringent mercury restrictions on power companies. Penn Future, an anti-mercury activist group with the motto, "We refuse to accept our current environmental condition and dedicate ourselves to changing it," is pressuring the state legislature not only to issue mercury standards in advance of federal action, but to preempt whatever federal rules are ultimately issued. "Penn Future has formally petitioned the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to adopt new rules to require power plants to reduce their emissions of toxic mercury pollution by 90% by 2007," states the group's Web site. Moreover, Penn Future urges the legislature simply to disregard the prohibitive costs of such a standard. "Whatever the cost is, it's unavoidable," Penn Future President John Hanger told the Harrisburg Patriot on August 10. "We have so much mercury within our borders. It's past time to get going," asserted Hanger.

Analysts contend the proposed restrictions would not only be expensive, but would have little impact on the state's environment. Connie Walker, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania Power and Light, observed in the Patriot that 75 percent of U.S. mercury pollution comes from outside the nation's borders. Walker further noted that power plants are responsible for just 10 percent of U.S. mercury pollution and merely 1 percent worldwide. "State regulations will have little impact on lakes, streams, and fish in Pennsylvania," Walker told the Patriot. "They will put us at a competitive disadvantage and increase the cost of electricity."

In Illinois, activist groups are urging Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) to impose the strictest possible mercury standards on the state's power suppliers. For example, the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) is pushing for a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions by 2010, regardless of cost. PIRG supports its demand by asserting "the vast bulk of mercury loading into our waterways comes from coal-burning electric power plants." Scientists dispute that claim.

A recent study by Derek Winstanley and Edward Krug, published in the journal Hydrology and Earth System Science, concluded most of the mercury found in the environment comes from natural rather than manmade sources. According to a review of the Winstanley and Krug study in Electricity Daily, "The background for the study is a longstanding problem with the theory that coal-fired power plant emissions are the leading cause of mercury in fish, namely that there is no correlation between power plant locations and high mercury levels. To overcome this lack of evidence the proponents of the theory, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have claimed that mercury circulates nationally and globally via a process of general atmospheric deposition."

The Winstanley and Krug study tested the EPA theory by comparing human-source mercury emissions with newly measured environmental mercury levels globally, nationally, and in Illinois. The study showed most mercury emissions are natural in origin: "Hg [mercury] concentrations and contents of Illinois and USA soils are too great to be accounted for by atmospheric anthropogenic [man-made] Hg deposition," they conclude. As a result, notes Electricity Daily, "reducing the estimated 50 tons of mercury emitted by U.S. coal fired power plants might have little or no effect on environmental mercury levels."

Winstanley and Krug note, "The reported average Hg concentration of USA soils is about 2.5 times greater than that of the Illinois soils, whereas average total USA atmospheric Hg deposition is reported to be about half that of Illinois." In other words, Illinois has twice as much mercury deposition as the U.S. average, but mercury concentration in Illinois soils is about 40 percent lower than in the U.S. on average. For that reason, Winstanley and Krug write, "The hypothesis that most Hg in Illinois and the USA soils is of anthropogenic origin is rejected."

More here


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

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