Monday, April 13, 2015

Microbes eating melting Artic soil will add 'substantial amounts' of carbon to the atmosphere, researchers warn

A good thing, then, that temperatures seem to be insensitive to CO2 levels

Frozen Arctic and sub-Arctic soil that thaws from global warming will add substantial amounts of carbon to the atmosphere in the form of greenhouse gases, accelerating climate change the rest of the century, but it won't come in a sudden burst, researchers say in a new paper.

A review by government and academic experts concludes that harmful carbon dioxide and methane generated by microbes digesting thawed plant and animal material will instead enter the atmosphere gradually.

But it's a carbon source that shouldn't be ignored, said Dave McGuire, a senior researcher at the U.S. Geological Survey and a professor of ecology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

In the last 30 years, permafrost in Alaska, Russia and other Arctic regions has warmed nearly 11 degrees, climbing from an average temperature just under 18 degrees to just over 28 degrees Fahrenheit, according to research cited.  [Which shows that we are looking at local processes, not global ones -- as the global warming over that period was minute]

Researchers wanted to find out how much carbon is contained in permafrost, how fast it's likely to be released and in what form it will be released.

'The estimates that we came up in this synthesis suggest that throughout the rest of this century, it could be on the order of the magnitude of what tropical deforestation currently affects the global carbon cycle,' McGuire said.

McGuire is co-lead author and one of 17 researchers who worked on a research paper with these conclusions that appeared this week in the journal Nature.

The paper is an outcome of the Permafrost Carbon Network, a group of more than 200 scientists from 88 research institutions in 17 countries who for four years have studied changes in the Arctic.

'People have been sort of proposing that there's a potential for a 'permafrost bomb,' ' McGuire said, a surge that could quickly cause trillions in economic damage to roads, buildings, runways and other infrastructure built on frozen ground.

'Our research indicates that's not likely,' he said. A gradual and prolonged release will give Arctic communities time to adapt.

Many unknowns remain, he said.

An increase in forest fires could result in faster permafrost thaw.  On the other hand, longer growing seasons could mean more vegetation and more absorption of carbon that could counter output from thawing permafrost, he said.


Study: Protecting tropical reefs need not be a zero-sum game

A new study suggests that less draconian restrictions could still put many troubled reefs on the road to recovery. This could reduce friction between conservationists and those who depend on the reefs for their livelihood

Large patches of ocean that countries have declared out of bounds for fishing have become gold standards for maintaining or rebuilding the health of tropical reefs and other key ocean habitats.

A new study suggests that less draconian restrictions could put many troubled reefs on the road to recovery. A mix of approaches – from curbs on the type of fishing gear used and clearly defined fishing rights to restrictions on the species of fish caught – also can lead to healthier, more resilient reef communities, the study suggests.

The recovery probably would take longer under such management practices than it would under a flat ban on fishing, the researchers acknowledge. And the long-term effects of ocean acidification and global warming remain wild cards.
Recommended: Climate change: Is your opinion informed by science? Take our quiz!

But the scientists say that more flexible management practices could reduce friction between conservationists and the millions of people, particularly those living in developing countries, who depend on the reefs for their livelihood. The hope is that management plans tailored to local needs will be less likely to force a Hobson's choice between long-term conservation goals and immediate livelihoods.

"Conservation is not just about walling off areas and denying access, it’s about finding effective solutions that preserve the integrity of the ecosystem," notes Aaron MacNeil, a marine ecologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville, Queensland, and the lead author of the study, which is set to appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Conservation groups have done a lot of heavy lifting in making the case for marine-protected areas and in showing that they can work, he writes in an e-mail.

But, he adds, "fisheries closures are not for everyone, and if they are established in places where people are poor or disinclined to comply with regulations, then they just become ‘paper parks.’ "

The new study, involving researchers from Australia, Canada, Britain, and the United States, provides a unique perspective on tropical-reef conservation that can help inform regulations that are more likely to get buy-in from local people than an outright ban, he adds.

Based on fisheries data from 832 reefs in 64 locations around the world, the study suggests a global base line from which to gauge success. It shows how fish biomass at the reefs stacks up against the base line. It estimates the time needed for a fully protected reef to return to normal. And it suggests how quickly fish biomass can bounce back if measures other than fishing bans are used.

Few question that the world's tropical-reef ecosystems – the ocean analogue to tropical rain forests and their biodiversity – are in trouble and that for now, fishing remains the dominant threat to reef ecosystems.

On average, an unfished reef system supports about 1,000 kilograms (1.1 tons) of fish per hectare (two acres), found the team, which adopted that as their base line.

A healthy reef system typically hosts at least 90 percent of that base line, the study shows. With the right mix of species, a reef system can still maintain its full range ecosystem functions with about 500 kilograms of fish per hectare.

But of the 832 reefs in the study, 83 percent had fish densities below 500 kilograms per hectare. One-third of the reefs fell below 250 kilograms per hectare. Reefs around Guam and Papua New Guinea were in the worst shape, with only 10 percent of the fish-density base line – a level at which the reef system has all but collapsed.

The team's analysis found that for reefs where fishing was permitted or under some restrictions, on average it would take 39 years for fish density to recover to the 90 percent level. The worst reefs could take up to 60 years to recover.

Meanwhile, previous studies have suggested that marine-protected areas, which have been set up during the past 20 years, also take decades to bring fish populations back to the base line.

One key finding in the new study: Fish that graze on algae – vital to preventing algae from smothering a reef – don't need to be present at "pristine reef" levels to fulfill their roles as reef cleaners. They tend to reach their ideal biomass well before the overall fish density on a reef reaches the 500 kilogram mark. That may help explain a reef system's ability to maintain its functions with only half the fish density of an unfished reef.

In general, reefs with some form of fishing restrictions sported fish biomass levels averaging 27 percent higher than those of fished reefs. Where those restrictions involved nets hurled from beaches or the catch of algae grazers, the density of grazers in general increased to about 80 percent of the levels needed to keep algae in check.

For Nicholas Dulvy, a marine biologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia whose conservation research focuses on sharks and rays, any surprise from the study comes less in its results than in the effort it makes to evaluate, at least in broad terms, more-traditional conservation approaches, rather than focus on marine-protected areas alone.

Over the past decade, he says, many marine scientists and conservations groups "have given up on fisheries management and instead focused on locking down the ocean into marine protected areas," he writes in an e-mail.

Yet even for marine-protected areas, accommodations are being made for some level of fishing, notes Deborah Brosnan, an independent marine biologist who works closely with governments in developing conservation and natural-hazard resilience plans.

Last summer, researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia published an analysis of several approaches to setting up marine-protected areas in an attempt to strike a balance between long-term conservation demands and those of local residents for immediate income from fishing. Depending on local circumstances, the approaches involved gradually increasing the size of a reserve, increasing the number of species protected, or adjusting the number of months a year that the reserve would be closed to fishing.

The latest study provides additional information that managers could use immediately, notes Dr. Brosnan.

"In communicating with fishermen, being able to provide an explanation with biomass numbers will be critical to explaining the level of degradation and the goals of recovery in a language that they can understand," she writes in an e-mail. This kind of communication "also will be important to help avoid a situation where the recovery of some fish triggers overfishing."

She currently is advising an agency that is having a hard time explaining to fishing interests why tighter reef-fishing restrictions are needed. The issue is raising "real tensions," she writes. The kind of information the new study provides "gives a rationale, a basis, and a way to have a dialogue instead of a conflict."


Our global whorehouse

Did you know that the small minority of climate change deniers among us, me included, are Hell bent on turning our planet into a global whorehouse?

That’s right. Unless we climate change deniers are silenced once and for all, and mankind is forced to drastically reduce his carbon footprint, the detrimental effects of human caused global warming will soon overwhelm the entire earth and drive our women into prostitution.

Thankfully, a California congresswoman is introducing legislation to save our women from a life of ill repute. Democrat, Barbara Lee, seeks to force our government to address all “policies and programs in the United States that are globally related to climate change” through the lens of gender.

This courageous congresswoman understands that “Recognizing the disparate impact of climate change on women and the efforts of women globally to address climate change,” is necessary to stop the long term and catastrophic weather changes that will result in drought and destructive weather events such as flooding, which will lead to food shortages, joblessness and disease, along with economic and political crisis on a regional scale.

Global warming if allowed to continue unchecked will cause women to become whores because “women will disproportionately face harmful impacts from climate change, particularly in poor and developing nations where women regularly assume increased responsibility for growing the family's food and collecting water, fuel, and other resources,” she explains. Consequently, they will be the most desperate and vulnerable, forced into situations, “such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage.”

The impending climate change environmental crises will force women to migrate, often into refugee camps or other vulnerable circumstances, where they will have to scrounge for food and resources for their families. Therefore government should begin to focus on poor women, as well as empower women to develop strategies to prepare for these eventualities.

If we don’t act quickly and decisively to muzzle the climate change deniers, save our women, and prevent the terrible disaster, global warming will surely turn our beautiful planet into... our global whorehouse.


Greenie disruption behind California's water shortages

Call it potty policy. This week, California took aim at the porcelain throne, mandating that all toilets — along with urinals and faucets — sold in the state after Jan. 1, 2016, conserve water. It’s part of a frantic effort to do anything to manage the state’s severe drought without actually doing what’s needed to manage the state’s severe drought.

While it’s true that California is in the fourth year of below-average precipitation, and that January and March of this year have been particularly dry, neither of these things is fully to blame for the intensity of the drought’s impact. Instead, the culprit is bad government policy and a three-inch fish.

Despite population growth, California has not completed a major water infrastructure project in nearly 50 years. Indeed, Democrats, including Governor Jerry Brown, have opposed state and federal water projects since the 1970s. And while California voters have authorized $22 billion in water bonds since 2000, most of the money has gone to environmental projects and not to safeguarding and improving water supply.

Then there’s the Delta smelt. The little swimmers, whose most appreciated contribution to society arguably comes in conjunction with the word “fried,” have become so revered by ecofascists that they’re willing to imperil the entire state to save them. Delta smelt are native to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in northern California, and a federal rule from the 1970s limits diversion of water from this northern delta to the San Joaquin Valley and southern California — all for the sake of the smelt.

The ridiculousness becomes apparent when you consider that in the past two years more than 2.6 million acre-feet of water were let out into the San Francisco Bay because there was not enough capacity north of the delta to store the water, and the “save the smelt” policies wouldn’t allow the water to be sent to reservoirs south of the delta. So instead, the water was wasted.

Indeed, as The Wall Street Journal notes, “During normal [rainfall] years, the state should replenish reservoirs. However, environmental regulations require that about 4.4 million acre-feet of water — enough to sustain 4.4 million families and irrigate one million acres of farmland — be diverted to ecological purposes.”

And the problem is nothing new. A year ago, California, populated by thriving smelt, was in a similar situation. At that time, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the smelt and against diverting much-needed water south. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California took the issue to the Supreme Court, which earlier this year turned down the appeal, effectively raising a glass to smelt and a finger to California farmers and residents.

The water shortage has become so severe that the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which houses about one-third of California’s water reserve, is at a paltry 5% of its normal average. Given smelt priority and the mismanagement of billions intended for water improvement projects, Governor Brown has now instituted the first mandatory water restrictions in the state’s history, requiring cities and towns to cut usage by 25%, with possible fines of up to $10,000 per day for those localities that fail to meet the mandate.

While conserving water will help, it will hardly solve a problem decades in the making. For this, a good lesson is needed in prioritizing humans over fish. Now, please pass the tartar sauce.


No one is talking about Britain's utterly mad energy policy

All the major parties are signed up to the policy set in train by Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act. They don't know what they are doing

By Christopher Booker

One reason why this election campaign seems so trivial and unreal is the number of important national issues that will scarcely be mentioned. Several of these I shall cover in the weeks ahead. But high on the list is our reckless and dangerous national energy policy. Last week, scarcely noticed south of the border, came the news of the premature closure of Britain’s second largest power station. The giant Longannet plant in Fife, with its 2,400-megawatt capacity, can still supply two thirds of all Scotland’s average electricity needs.

The reasons given for Longannet’s closure early next year were partly the crippling cost of the Government’s “carbon” taxes and the additional £40 million it is being charged for connection to the grid. But the immediate trigger for the decision was Longannet’s failure to win a contract to supply back-up for Scotland’s ever-rising number of wind farms at times when there is insufficient wind.

Even Scotland’s energy minister, Fergus Ewing, called the closure of Longannet “a national scandal”, laying the blame squarely on “Westminster” – which is curious considering that his government’s policy is that by 2020 Scotland should produce 100 per cent of its electricity from “renewables”. (In other words, that it should be able to rely on unsubsidised back-up from fossil fuel plants in England when there is too little wind, while selling heavily subsidised wind power back to England when there is too much.)

But Longannet’s real crime is that the 4.5 million tons of coal it burns each year make it the biggest CO2 emitter in Scotland. Which is also, of course, why we will hear nothing about Britain’s energy future in this election: because all the major parties are signed up to the policy set in train by Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act committing us to reduce our “carbon” emissions by 80 per cent within 35 years.

Nuclear power plants make energy that is four times as expensive as that from coal

The policy on which they are all agreed, set out in the Coalition’s “2050 Pathways for tackling climate change”, centres on three main steps, each more bizarre than the last. Step one is that we should “decarbonise” our economy, not just by closing down the coal and gas-fired power stations that supply more than 70 per cent of our electricity, but by chucking out all those gas appliances 90 per cent of us use for cooking and heating.

Step two is that we should double our production of electricity, which we would then use, not just for cooking and heating but also for virtually all our transport (electric cars, trains etc). Step three is that all this electricity should be generated from “zero carbon” sources, mainly from thousands more wind turbines and a fleet of new nuclear power stations.

The only problem is that none of this insane make-believe can possibly come about. When the wind doesn’t blow, the only power to keep our lights on, our homes heated and our electric cars running would be that from those supposed new nuclear power stations.

At the present rate, with only one new nuclear power plant dubiously in view by 2024, producing electricity four times as expensive as that from coal, not even tens of thousands of diesel generators could produce enough back-up power to keep our computer-dependent economy functioning at all. (Last Tuesday evening, wind was producing less than 1 per cent of the power we were using).

But not a word of this will we hear in the election campaign: partly because all our main political parties have signed up to it, but even more because virtually none of our politicians have the slightest clue what it is they are signed up to.


Australia: The renewable energy bomb is set to explode

David Leyonhjelm

You know you have a dog of a policy when the government, opposition and various minor parties agree it should be reformed, but the Greens and their cheer squad think it’s great.

That policy is the Renewable Energy Target. What seemed like a good idea – to encourage renewable energy – is now a mess of rising energy costs and a distorted electricity market.

Renewable electricity generators have received $9 billion in industry subsidies over the 15-year life of the RET, in addition to the price they receive for the electricity they produce. Without change, a further $22 billion will be paid by 2030. In the words of the Warburton Review, the RET is “a cross-subsidy that transfers wealth from electricity consumers and other participants in the electricity market to renewable energy companies”.

The renewable energy legislation was designed to ensure renewable energy makes up 20 per cent of the energy market by 2020. Electricity retailers must purchase Renewable Energy Certificates – from power companies that generate renewable energy – for at least 20 per cent of the power they sell. Each certificate (representing 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity) currently trades for around $40, which retailers then add to your electricity bill.

However, the legislation also contains a hard target for renewable energy of 45,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh), which at the time was assumed would equate to 20 per cent of the market. Due to falling consumption, this is now expected to be closer to 30 per cent. The problem is – leaving aside small-scale solar (ie rooftop panels on houses), which is allocated 4000 GWh of the target – we currently generate just 16,000 GWh of large-scale renewable energy towards satisfying the target.

Put another way, in 15 years we have incorporated 16,000 GWh of new renewable energy into the RET, leaving just five years to generate another 25,000 GWh to meet the large-scale target of 41,000 GWh. Nobody believes this is possible.

If retailers cannot purchase enough certificates, the legislation requires that a penalty charge of $65/MWh be imposed. With retail margins added, this will nearly triple the cost of the scheme to electricity retailers, who will pass it on to consumers. Electricity prices will skyrocket.

Everyone with knowledge of the electricity market knows this is a political time bomb about to go off, most likely within 18 months when interim targets are not met. Electricity retailers have for some time been refusing to enter new long-term agreements to purchase power (and Renewable Energy Certificates) because they know the scheme will implode due to bill shock and political pain. The public will not stand for increases in electricity prices of up to 20 per cent.

With this problem looming and negotiations between the government and opposition stalled, late last year I developed a detailed reform package for the RET. Since most opposition to reform is based on cuts to the 41,000 GWh large-scale target, my plan is to maintain this but to recognise established hydro-generation in the calculations – essentially Snowy Hydro and Hydro Tasmania – which together produce about 15,000 GWh. There would also be no cap on small-scale solar generation, which is expected to grow to 13,000 GWh.

My proposal would ensure the renewable target is achieved, with no penalty charges kicking in.

There would be strings attached for existing hydro-generators, though. To be allowed to produce valuable Renewable Energy Certificates they would have to commit to upgrading their existing generators, thereby introducing around 3000 GWh of new renewable generation into the grid.

The only losers would be the major wind-energy generators, which are eagerly waiting to build dozens of new wind farms in an effort to meet the target and get on the subsidy gravy train. Against that, many people are hoping these are never built, among them those who suffer adverse health effects from the inaudible infrasound they generate, plus those (like me) who hate to see our majestic eagles and hawks splattered all over the countryside.

The importance of reasonably priced electricity cannot be overstated. My plan will reinforce Australia’s commitment to renewable energy while solving the RET problem before the time bomb goes off.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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