Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Global warming is 'not uniform': Regions of the planet have actually COOLED over the past 100 years  -- particularly in the Southern Hemisphere

It's long been known that S. Hemisphere temps did not warm  during the Northern warming period but who needs the silly old S. Hemisphere cluttering up their theory?  It's only half of the globe!

It can be easy to dismiss talks on global warming if your part of the world is feeling colder than usual.

But a new study claims that while the world is getting warmer, the heating effect on the Earth has not been uniform across the planet.

The research provides the first detailed analysis of global land surface warming trends over the century.

‘Global warming was not as understood as we thought,’ said Zhaohua Wu, an assistant professor of meteorology at Florida State University.

Professor Wu used a newly-developed analysis method on historical temperature records to examine land surface temperature trends from 1900 onward for the entire globe, minus Antarctica.

Previous work by scientists on global warming could not provide information of non-uniform warming in location and time due to limitations of analysis methods.

The research team found that noticeable warming first started around the regions circling the Arctic and subtropical regions in both hemispheres.

But the largest warming to date has been at the northern mid-latitudes. The research team also found that in some areas of the world, cooling had occurred.

‘The global warming is not uniform,’ Professor Eric Chassignet said. ‘You have areas that have cooled and areas that have warmed.’

For example, from about 1910 to 1980, while the rest of the world was warming up, some areas south of the Equator, such as those near the Andes, were cooling down, and then had no change at all until the mid-1990s.

Other areas near and south of the Equator didn't see significant changes comparable to the rest of the world at all.

The detailed picture of when and where the world has warmed or cooled will provide a greater context to global warming research overall, Professor Wu said.


Hurrah! The price of carbon credits is approaching zero<>/b>

Written by Tim Worstall

This is very much a time for celebration as the carbon credit price in the EU's trading system rapidly approaches zero. Of course, we do have people taking the wrong message from this, such as our own UK government who reacted to the price falls by insisting that there must be a minimum price for such credits. But then none of us really thought that governments were going to approach this particular problem with even a modicum of good sense, did we?

December EU carbon permits dropped 4.4 percent to 5.22 euros ($7.23) a ton at 4:59 p.m. on ICE Futures Europe in London. The contract earlier slumped as much as 6 percent, the most since April 25. December CERs were unchanged at 15 euro cents a ton, while no ERUs were traded. The program’s rules curb offset use in the 13 years through 2020 to about 1.59 billion tons, 25 percent of which remains unused after today’s announcement, according to New Energy data.

There are two roughly market based ways of dealing with emissions. We could tax them at some rate and see what emissions were. Or we could limit emissions through permits and then see what the price would be. Obviously, the higher we put the price of the tax then the more we would expect emissions to fall. However, the corollary often gets missed (as HMG missed it). Once we've limited emissions though the number of permits then we obviously want the cost of each permit to be as low as possible.

For we have already defined the emissions limit and are now looking to the market to tell us the price of achieving that limit: clearly and obviously a lower price to meet the goal is better than a higher one.

Thus, if we've set a limit, if 25% of those permits won't ever be used, and if those that are being cost somewhere around spit, then we're solving the emissions problem much more cheaply than anyone thought we would. Which is excellent news, isn't it? Thus, and inevitably, those who blather about how awful it is that permits are cheap have got entirely the wrong end of the stick. Which is where HMG comes in again with their imposition of a m,inimum price for such permits. They're deliberately making it all more expensive than it need bem, the very fact that permits are cheaper than their minimum being all the proof that we need.

Climate change is bad enough without people deliberately, or perhaps through ignorance, making dealing with it more expensive than it need be.

We could of course insist that the original targets were wrong: but that would also be saying that government is incompetent in dealing with climate change. Which isn't a great argument for having them do more, is it?


Regulate-First-Think-Later Approach to Harm Honeybees

European bureaucrats placed a two-year ban on a class of pesticides in the name of “protecting honeybees” when in fact, as one EU official recently admitted, they didn’t have evidence that the chemicals present a serious threat to honeybee health.  According to an article in Food Chemical News, the European Commission official admitted that the government banned the chemicals simply because it was “the only factor” that the commission could quickly regulate.

It’s a case of “regulate first, think later.”  That’s not only dumb; it’s dangerous, because it threatens farmers’ ability to provide affordable food and may harm honeybees rather than help them.

As noted in earlier posts (here and here) and on SafeChemicalPolicy.com and all the many articles linked therein, mystery surrounds periodic disappearances of honeybee hives.  It appears that numerous factors, including cold weather, new and old diseases, nutritional issues, and potentially some chemicals affect hive health, making the hives more susceptible when certain diseases strike.

Mother Nature and hive management appear to play critically important roles in honeybee health, but all the focus has been on one class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, even though they have not been shown of the source significant problems in real life settings. Randomly banning these pesticides simply harms farmers’ ability to produce food and may force them to switch to other chemicals that pose even greater risks to honeybees.

To top it off, this regulate-first-and-think-later approach diverts attention and resources away from exploring and discovering the actual causes of the problem. For example, researchers point out, in a recent issue of the journal EcoHealth, that the likely potential causes are not getting enough attention.  They explain:

Although many environmental and anthropogenic factors remain under investigation for their role in annual honey bee colony losses, the introduction of pests and pathogens, and large-scale shifts in management practices may be significant, under-researched drivers of colony losses in Europe and North America.

The recently expressed rationale for their regulation highlights the shortsighted nature of European bureaucrats’ approach. Environmentalists, beekeepers, farmers, and others should be up in arms, calling for an approach that includes research focused on likely causes and careful evaluation of the existing science.

While the issue may be complicated, solutions are out there, but public officials have to be willing to look in the right places.


A New God of Chaos

Climate change scientists are spreading panic and disrupting our conception of nature.  Interview with Benny Peiser

Q. You have previously argued that scientists are overstating the significance of anthropogenic climate change. What, then, do you believe is the source of our panic over global warming?

I think it's a combination of factors. It's of course something comparatively new, and what very often occurs when people experience a new hazard, a new risk that they haven't encountered before, is that they are increasingly concerned because it's an unknown hazard. So that's the backdrop to the concern, and then of course we've had the climate science community ratcheting up the rhetoric, which was kicked up by the media because the media like a good scare.

In reality of course, if you just look at the observational evidence, there was no real signal or any evidence to suggest that we are facing an imminent disaster. The warming of the last 150 years has been very slow and very moderate – 0.8 degrees of warming over 150 years is very, very moderate. Very slow and very gradual, and there's no cause for alarm. The actual warming we have experienced is rather low, and the alarm is about speculations of what may happen in the future. There is a reliance on predictions of the future, based on computer modeling.

So I would argue there is a discrepancy between what has been observed in reality, and what has been claimed is going to happen in the future. I think the alarm is mainly based on the claims that the future will be so much worse than what we have observed over the last 100 or 150 years. And that, of course, is pure conjecture. Doomsday prophets have always managed to scare people by making very strong predictions of the future, and so the question then is how reliable are these predictions.

Q. Is the damage done by over-preparing for potential environmental disaster comparable to the damage done by being under-prepared for it?

Given that we've had so many environmental scares over the last 40 or 50 years, it’s safe to say that the world would respond differently if we were actually experiencing a real climate crisis.

Q. Really?

Of course! The reason why the international community isn't doing anything about it effectively is twofold: A, it's extremely expensive; and B, there's no political pressure to do anything about it because the public, by and large, is not concerned. So in a way the alarm isn't actually working.

Q. That's an interesting thing, the panic and then the lack of action. It's a curious thing.

It's a combination, as I said. Some countries have actually tried to do something about it, but they are now feeling the pain and the cost of doing it on their own when it hasn't had any actual effect on CO2 emissions.

Q. What kind of cost do you mean?

Well, countries like Germany and other European countries, and even Britain, building wind farms and solar panels in the name of saving the planet, or saving the climate. Of course it has absolutely no effect on either CO2 emissions, or global CO2 emissions, or the climate. But it is very costly, and people have to pay for it through their energy bills, so you have a public increasingly more worried about the cost of energy bills than climate change.

So there's a political cost and an economic cost. It's difficult to actually address the underlying issues, which are CO2 emissions, the result of the world using cheap fossil fuels. And to get away from that turns out to be almost impossible.

Another reason, apart from the economic and political hurdles and costs, is the fact that people are not concerned about climate change. They might be, if we had increasingly rising temperatures and heat wave after heat wave and disaster after disaster, and people might say: “Well we must prevent this from going on.” But by and large, survey after survey shows that climate change seems to be at the bottom of people's concerns. So there's a discrepancy between the panic generated by campaigners and some scientists and media, and the public response, which is: “I don't care, I'm not bothered.” So that discrepancy is quite manifest.

Q. Is there a spiritual element to our relationship to the earth? And, if so, is this relevant to our response to these predictions about climate change?

I would call it a more religious kind of shift. During the enlightenment of the last 200 years or so, the enlightenment scientists and philosophers worked on the assumption that the world is a fairly stable and resilient system, that nature is cold but that we live in a world that is fairly stable. That was the main outlook of enlightenment philosophy and science. That also resonated with their view (their religious or irreligious view) that the world in a way was resilient, and humans were resilient to whatever nature was throwing at us, so to speak. That we could cope with that. And it’s worth saying that previous generations were much less prepared, technologically, economically than today's generation.

But what has changed is that many of today’s scientists and, by and large, the public think that nature is very fickle, very unstable, that anything could tip it into utter chaos. We're almost back to the view of nature where the ancient pagans looked like they thought they were at the whim of irrational gods punishing mankind at will. They didn't understand basic physics, the basic scientific dynamics of nature. That was the big breakthrough of the enlightenment, where we discovered we could understand exactly how nature works. And today we're back in the situation where people no longer trust nature, and they feel that anything we do, any intervention could flip nature into some kind of 'revenge of Gaia', that certainly there could be a tipping point that could tip our stable environment into a chaotic, disastrous downturn.

That is a view that makes many people very fearful of any new technological advance, because they think any new intervention of humans has the potential to be the final straw that kills nature.

Q. Rather than it being something positive?

Yes, rather than being something that actually could, and actually has, improved our living standards and our environment. So that's why people are so afraid of any new technology

Q. Is that because they now feel like climate change is a human-caused event, so it almost seems like we deserve it, or is it because we seem to know so much more about what's going on, and all the data intimidates us?

It is more because you don't trust nature any more. And you don't trust humans either, and that the best way of going through life is not to risk anything, just to keep the status quo, the stability, the order as it is. Because that will guarantee that there won't be any risk, no accident, no big change. People are extremely afraid of novelty, new technology, intervention, because they have this fickle view of nature, that it is inherently unstable and disastrous. And so they are afraid. That's why they're afraid of the CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, because they think this could at any point turn into a disaster.

Q. Like a new god of chaos.

Yeah, it's like a new kind of chaos philosophy. Nature used to be something that people adored: the beauty of nature, the harmony of nature, the Newtonian worldview where the universe works like clockwork and we can predict exactly the movements of the planets and we know when the sun rises. We know everything, we can predict everything: even evolution, which had this kind of almost progressive idea of development and things getting better. But all of this has been turned upside down, and everything that is new and happening though mankind is threatening the stability of the natural order.

Q. We kind of hate those ideas of nature having some sort of teleological direction, don't we?

Yes, well it doesn't, in the view of modern man. Nature is a truly random chance conglomerate of things that can easily tip into chaos. That changes our response to any large-scale human technology or intervention into nature. Of all the interventions climate change is the most global. The alarmists fear that it will cause disaster, will cause a climate catastrophe. And of course the vast majority of people don't think about it at all. You can't see it; it's not like pollution which you breathe in or drink or whatever. This is invisible to most people so they ignore it, and the very small minority of scientists who think that the world is more stable than the alarmists fear, they don't see any evidence that it is causing any significant change. If we were to see signals of significant change or significant deterioration then we would be much more concerned, but people don't see that.

Q. And is that because the scientists who see nature as more stable take a wider view?

I think because of the new, changed view of our world as inherently unstable, the vast majority of scientists are more concerned still. Because it is a paradigm that is more deeply rooted now. We've heard in the last 40 or 50 years that man is destroying nature and the environment, against all evidence showing the opposite, the general thinking is that we are actually destroying the environment. That is the perception. When you actually look at issue after issue – whether it's forests or water or food or agriculture – in reality things are actually improving rather than deteriorating. Technology makes it much easier to produce food or clean water, air and so on.

If you think about Britain, just as an example. Compare Britain to what it looked like 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago. The rivers are cleaner than ever before, the air is cleaner, the water's cleaner, living standards are going up. 100 years ago the average life expectancy was 40 years or something like that. Many kids would die early on.  Things for families and individuals, and the environment, have actually improved. But the general perception is that it's going down the drain.

Q. So, if not climate change, what do you think is the single biggest threat to the earth today?

There's no threat to the earth, there's no global threat. We could be hit by a large asteroid, which hits every million years or so. So the likelihood is very remote. Even that wouldn't destroy the earth, it might destroy the global economy though. So the biggest realistic threat to an open and liberal society is irrationality and fanaticism. That is the biggest risk we face in my view. That is a political issue that can be solved long-term. War often results as a direct consequence of these extreme ideologies and fanaticism. Although even the number of wars has gone down significantly over the last few generations, globally, maybe because we have more democracies than ever before. That is still in my view the biggest risk we face.

Q. Do you think that there could be wars based on our fears about climate change?

No. that is highly unlikely. For a start, countries are actually getting better all the time. The scenarios we hear – water wars or something like that – the reality is that even countries that are enemies are dealing with water issues, because they have to, they rely on it. And also, because of desalination a lot of countries that are struggling with water issues are increasingly able to produce desalinated water. There's a boom in desalination plants around the world. I wouldn't be surprised that within 50 years or so there wouldn't be any problems with water at all. By means of technological solutions.

Q. Aren’t there are objections to desalination plants on the grounds that the process is environmentally unfriendly?

Well they are environmentally unfriendly only to people who hate energy. They are energy intensive, so you need a lot of energy, but by and large they don't cause any environmental damage.

But don't get me wrong, there are a lot of energy issues around the world, in China for example. But they will solve their problem of air pollution the same way we did. We started with the industrial revolution with terrible air pollution. But we sorted it out. It also requires a certain economic development. What is the top priority for China? The top priority is getting their people out of poverty. Once that happens and they have a kind of middle class, urban lifestyle, they will say: “OK, now I’ve got a job, and I’ve got a flat and a telly and fridge, OK now I also want clean air. This is how things tend to develop. First food on the table and then clean air.


'Peak oil' theory runs out of gas

The problem is, it’s just so hard to be an alarmist these days. Temperatures aren’t rising, U.S. emissions are down, and now it turns out that peak oil won’t peak.  What’s a scare-monger to do?

“Peak oil proponents — the guys and gals who believe overconsumption combined with scarce resources will lead to stratospheric energy prices — are now clinging to the hope that the shale oil and gas boom will fizzle out as the cost of drilling climbs,” reports Business Insider. “For the most part, the boom has held up, though no one believes it will last forever. But there is a fifth-column phenomenon this group has completely overlooked that will once-and-for-all obliterate their arguments: energy consumption efficiency.”

Put simply, we won’t run out of oil and gas (and other fuels) because we’re using less and less of them.

Not because demand is down, but because efficiency is up.

“Contained in Exxon’s new Outlook for Energy report is the following damning statistic: Electricity generation will grow by 90 percent by 2040, but the amount of fuel needed to generate that electricity will only have to grow by 50 percent,” the magazine reports. “And the projected increase in energy demand is 20 percent less than the demand increase seen from 1980 to 2010. The IEA has previously projected that electricity will become more affordable over time in most regions as income levels increase faster than household electricity bills.”

In one sense, this is a victory for the conservationists. It’s difficult to quantify, but the EPA’s Energy Star program no doubt played a part. Consumers were encouraged — but not forced — to spend their money on more energy-efficient appliances. Consumers were rewarded for their purchases with tax credits — and lower electricity bills.

Although the General Accounting Office has criticized the Energy Star program’s implementation, it was at least a free market approach to saving energy.

The free market deserves a lot of the credit for the failure of peak oil claims, as well. Companies, as well as consumers, seek to trim their expenses, and energy is always a big expense. There’s a built-in motivation for efficiency that everyone responds to.

Writing in the Dallas Business Journal, Nicholas Sakelaris says that efficiency can be seen as our greatest “green” energy source. He quoted Ted Pirog, an energy analyst with Exxon.

“Our greatest source of energy in the future is our ability to use it more efficiently,” Pirog said.

Don’t tell that to Daryl Hannah, the Hollywood star who has been arrested in East Texas protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.

“We should be starting to build some resilience and some self-sufficiency by developing renewable energy infrastructure,” she says.

And she’s right, to a degree. There’s nothing wrong with a true “all-of-the-above” energy policy.

But we can’t let the alarmists continue touting the peak oil theory, which was first expounded in 1956 by Shell scientist M. King Hubbert. He said U.S. oil production would peak between 1965 and 1971, and after that, costs would steadily rise until we’re out of oil completely.

It didn’t — and it won’t.


Nuclear Adaptation – How Evolution Works

CATCHING evolution in action is hard. The best-known examples are those where human action, in the form of pesticides, herbicides or drugs, has intentionally made the world a nastier place for some specific group of creatures, and natural selection has pushed back to create resistance (see article). But a group led by Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina, Anders Moller of the CNRS, in France, and Ismael Galván of the Doñana Research Station in Spain has now, in a paper in Functional Ecology, provided an example of selection responding to a human action that was most definitely unintentional: the explosion and fire at a nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine, 28 years ago.

Dr Mousseau and Dr Moller knew from previous work that birds living near Chernobyl have better survival rates than those living near Fukushima, in Japan, where a serious reactor accident happened in 2011. They suspected that was because the Ukrainian birds had had time to evolve resistance. They therefore sent blood and feather samples from 120 birds of 13 species they collected from both high- and low-radiation regions around the defunct reactor at Chernobyl to Dr Galván, who looked for genetic damage in them and also analysed their levels of glutathione, an antioxidant that mops up highly reactive (and therefore harmful) molecules created when radiation hits biological tissues.

In those birds taken from low-radiation zones the average concentration of glutathione was 450 micrograms per gram of body mass; in high-radiation areas it was 725 micrograms per gram. Moreover, the higher a bird’s glutathione level, the lower the amount of genetic damage Dr Galván could spot in its cells. Birds in high-radiation zones, then, seem to have evolved to deal with the threat, just as Darwin would have predicted.



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