Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Let's look on the sunny side

A comment from "The Times" of London

That round yellow thing in the sky may have more influence on climate change than man’s activities. Writing about the Sun at the end of August this year might seem ironic, even sadistic. As a reminder, especially for readers in the East and South East of England, the Sun is the big round yellow thing in the sky that made a robust appearance in July, but that has largely absconded since.

The Sun will, however, be enjoying some company soon. Next month, Nasa will launch the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (Stereo). This consists of two probes, one just ahead of the Earth’s orbit and the other behind it, which will examine coronal mass ejections, or solar flares. Coronal mass ejections really are, well, massive. The Sun can throw out eruptions consisting of ten billion tons of its atmosphere, measuring six million miles across, or well over five times its own width, at a speed of approximately a million miles an hour. That is one hell of a celestial fireball.

This is all very fascinating, you might respond (a little bemused that there seem to be two Science Notebooks on these pages today), but should Stereo interest me? An awful lot as it happens. For if this £250 million, two-year project produces the evidence that some scientists hope and believe it will, it could transform the raging debate about global warming.

There has long been a minority school of thought that is deeply sceptical about the extent to which rising temperatures on this planet can be explained, and blamed, on human activity. The most persuasive subsection of this community is convinced that the principal cause of climate change on Earth is the intensity of solar activity.

This argument is virtually unknown to the wider public. In part this is because the data required truly to prove the case have not been available, although Stereo should change that. It is also because the control exercised in this area by those who contend that global warming can only be man-made resembles that which the Roman Catholic Church once held over the character of the solar system. Public discussion is dominated by those inclined to the most doom-laden predictions, and this lobby is not that wild on the notion that astronomy may come up with a compelling alternative hypothesis. And it probably has not helped the proponents of solar influence that one of their most prominent advocates rejoiced in the name Harry van Loon.

There are, nonetheless, three sound reasons to be open to this explanation. The first is that the conventional global warming stance has huge limitations. It is widely accepted that the average surface temperature on Earth has risen by about 0.5 degrees centigrade over the past 125 years or so. Yet if man’s activities were driving this warming process then one would expect the rate of that increase to have accelerated in modern times in response to increasing industrialisation, aircraft flights and so on. This evidence has singularly failed to materialise, despite satellites having been available to measure the Earth’s temperature since the late 1970s.

This conundrum is compounded by the knowledge that dramatic climate change on Earth has occurred in the relatively recent past, but well before contemporary inventions came into play. Examinations of ancient tree rings and other data show that temperatures cooled in the 11th century, but rose quite sharply in the 150 years after that, when the Vikings were able to settle in Greenland. Then temperatures slumped again, so much so that the period 1645-1715, when the Thames froze solid most winters in London, is now referred to as “the little ice age”, only to reverse course after 1800. None of this could possibly have been triggered by the deeds of low-cost airlines.

Finally, there is what we can already ascertain about the Sun itself. Solar activity has short-term fluctuations such as the familiar sunspot cycle with a duration of about 11 years, and much longer term patterns of solar flares about which we understand less.

There is little doubt that daily atypical solar activity can have an impact on our climate. That is hardly surprising as total solar irradiance (TSI) can vary as much in a space of time as short as a week as the total energy used by humans beings, globally, for a year. The overall energy output of the Sun is far greater in a single second than all human activity could produce in a million years. To the layman such as myself, the claim that the big round yellow thing in the sky may have more influence on the condition of this planet than the 10.45 easyJet flight from Stansted to Palma does have a kind of logic. We laymen are not alone.

In 2003 a team from Columbia University reported that the Sun’s heat had increased by 0.05 per cent a decade since the 1970s, the point when completely reliable data started to be collected. This would be enough to have a big influence on the Earth’s climate if it were a trend that had continued for many decades. The Columbia team believed that the pattern could be traced back to the mid-19th century at the very least. Others, working with carbon data material, insist that the Sun has been more vigorous in the past six decades than at any time in 8,000 years. It defies reason, surely, to conclude that this would be irrelevant to the climate. Indeed, there is a deep arrogance implicit in the sentiment that if anything on Earth is changing, human beings must be responsible.

A decade ago, H. N. Priem, the Dutch geologist, predicted: “The current and anticipated fleet of spacecraft devoted to the study of solar and solar-terrestrial physics will probably prove to have more bearing on the understanding and forecasting of climate change than the orchestrated assessments by politically motivated international panels biased towards global warming exclusively by the enhanced greenhouse effect.”

Stereo should shed illuminating light, in more ways than one, on this matter. It will provide real fuel for this discussion.


Meat is a global warming issue

An amusing bit of nuttiness from a vegetarian below

There are many human activities that contribute to global warming. Among the biggest contributors are electrical generation, the use of passenger and other vehicles, over-consumption, international shipping, deforestation, smoking and militarism. (The U.S. military, for example, is the world's biggest consumer of oil and the world's biggest polluter.)

What many people do not know, however, is that the production of meat also significantly increases global warming. Cow farms produce millions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane per year, the two major greenhouse gases that together account for more than 90 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions, substantially contributing to "global scorching." According to the United Nations Environment Program's Unit on Climate Change, "There is a strong link between human diet and methane emissions from livestock." The 2004 State of the World is more specific regarding the link between animals raised for meat and global warming: "Belching, flatulent livestock emit 16 percent of the world's annual production of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas." The July 2005 issue of Physics World states: "The animals we eat emit 21 percent of all the CO2 that can be attributed to human activity." Eating meat directly contributes to this environmentally irresponsible industry and the dire threat of global warming.

Additionally, rainforests are being cut down at an extremely rapid rate to both pasture cows and grow soybeans to feed cows. The clear-cutting of trees in the rainforest -- an incredibly bio-diverse area with 90 percent of all species on Earth -- not only creates more greenhouse gases through the process of destruction, but also reduces the amazing benefits that those trees provide. Rainforests have been called the "lungs of the Earth," because they filter our air by absorbing CO2, while emitting life-supporting oxygen. "In a nutshell," according to the Center for International Forestry Research, "cattle ranchers are making mincemeat out of Brazil's Amazon rainforests."

Of course, the U.S. should join the other 163 countries in ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Of course, we should sharply reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and shift towards renewable sources of energy. Of course, we need to stop destroying the rainforests. Of course, we need to stop the war in Iraq and drastically reduce the U.S. military budget (presently at half of the entire world's total military spending), which would increase, not decrease, national and global security. But as we're struggling and waiting for these and other structural changes, we need to make personal changes.

Geophysicists Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin from the University of Chicago concluded that changing one's eating habits from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to a vegetarian diet does more to fight global warming than switching from a gas-guzzling SUV to a fuel-efficient hybrid car. Of course, you can do both. Where the environment is concerned, eating meat is like driving a huge SUV. According to Eshel, eating a vegetarian diet is like driving a mid-sized car or a reasonable sedan, and eating a vegan diet (no dairy, no eggs) is like riding a bicycle or walking. Shifting away from SUVs and SUV-style diets, to much more energy-efficient alternatives, is key to fighting the warming trend.

Global warming is already having grave effects on our planet. Vegetarians help keep the planet cool in more ways than one. Paul McCartney says, "If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That's the single most important thing you could do." Andrea Gordon, in her article "If You Recycle, Why Are You Eating Meat?" agrees: "There is a direct relationship between eating meat and the environment. Quite simply, you can't be a meat-eating environmentalist. Sorry folks."

Vegetarianism is literally about life and death -- for each of us individually and for all of us together. Eating animals simultaneously contributes to a multitude of tragedies: the animals' suffering and death; the ill-health and early death of people; the unsustainable overuse of oil, water, land, topsoil, grain, labor and other vital resources; environmental destruction, including deforestation, species extinction, mono-cropping and global warming; the legitimacy of force and violence; the mis-allocation of capital, skills, land and other assets; vast inefficiencies in the economy; tremendous waste; massive inequalities in the world; the continuation of world hunger and mass starvation; the transmission and spread of dangerous diseases; and moral failure in so-called civilized societies. Vegetarianism is an antidote to all of these unnecessary tragedies.

The editors of World Watch concluded in the July/August 2004 edition that "the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future -- deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease." Lee Hall, the legal director for Friends of Animals, is more succinct: "Behind virtually every great environmental complaint there's milk and meat." Global warming may be the most serious global social problem threatening life on Earth. We need to fight global warming on the governmental and corporate levels, and we also need to fight global warming on the everyday and personal levels. Now we need to fight global warming -- with our forks.



Thousands of wheelie bins have been secretly fitted with bugs as the Government comes under increasing pressure to charge households for collecting non-recyclable waste. The penny-sized electronic chips could be used to fine homeowners who exceed any weight restrictions imposed on rubbish. They have been fitted to about 500,000 bins across England. Their existence was revealed as the Institute for Public Policy Research urged the Government to start billing households according to how much waste they produce. Britain has the third worst recycling rate in the European Union, according to figures published yesterday by the institute, an influential centre-left think-tank.

Its warning was backed by the Local Government Association (LGA), which threatened to increase council tax bills if recycling did not improve. It said that this tariff would be needed to cover EU fines. Councils face penalties of up to 150 pounds per tonne of rubbish if they fail to meet recycling targets set under the EU landfill directive. This could lead to a bill of 230 million pounds.

Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, the LGA chairman, said: "For decades people have been used to being able to throw their rubbish away without worrying about the consequences. Those days are now over. "There needs to be a radical overhaul of the way in which rubbish is thrown away, otherwise there is a real danger that council tax bills will have to rise and the environment will continue to suffer."

The tag is screwed into a recess under the bin's lip. It contains a silicon chip with a serial number identifying the home to which it belongs. This is detected by a sensor on the truck as the bin is lifted for emptying. The weight of the rubbish it contains is calculated by equipment on the truck. This information is then transmitted to a central computer.

Plans to charge for the collection of non-recyclable rubbish have already been mooted. David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, indicated last month that he backed a tax on household rubbish. He said that he was interested in an idea suggested by Sir Michael Lyons, as part of his inquiry into local government finance, which involved a system of variable waste-charging. The research institute said that a "pay as you throw" system was the only way of improving Britain's poor record of recycling - which accounted for only 18 per cent of its municipal waste in 2003-04.



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.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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