Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Now global warming threatens pumpkin pie!

Since I had never heard of canned pumpkin, I was not much energized by this story.  Where I grew up in the tropics, people rarely bought pumpkin in any form.  It arrived free.  Pumpkin vines are very prolific so anyone with a fruiting vine would have lots to give away to friends and neighbours. They would just be handed over the fence.  Our tropical species of pumpkin -- which we call "bugelhorn" --  is so vigorous that it's like a triffid. It will cover your backyard in no time if you let it. So if we ever do get global warming, there are some delicious tropical pumpkins awaiting -- and they will probably be free!

"Bugelhorn" pumpkins seem to be unknown to the internet but I have eaten lots of them. They are a long fruit rather than a spherical one -- a bit like a huge cucumber.  Take a trip to Cairns and buy one in Rusty's bazaar.  You won't be disappointed. Cairns is a popular tropical resort anyway.

Not that the report below is about global warming.  It's about rain. And no attempt at linking variable rain to global warming is even attempted. Variable rain is of course, and always has been,  the bane of farmers the world over.  A farmer is a rural gambler and rain is a big part of the gamble

The potential consequences of climate change are pretty well known: rising sea levels, global food insecurity, more frequent and extreme wildfires, stronger storms. But what you might not know is that climate change could also threaten your holiday slice of pumpkin pie.

This year, Libby’s Pumpkin — which supplies more than 85 percent of the world’s canned pumpkin — is anticipating that their annual pumpkin yields will be reduced by half due to an unusually rainy late spring and early summer.

The company, which is owned by Nestle, is headquartered in Morton, Illinois — the self-proclaimed pumpkin capital of the world. Ninety percent of the United States’ pumpkins are grown within a 90-mile radius of Peoria, Illinois, which is just 10 miles from Morton. When we ship the last of the 2015 crop — in early November — we will be left with no reserves.

Illinois experienced record-setting precipitation in June, with more than nine inches falling over most of the state throughout the month — 5.33 inches above average. From May through July, prime growing months for the kinds of processing pumpkins found throughout Illinois, the state received almost two feet of rain — 10.4 inches above average, according to Jim Angel, Illinois’ state climatologist. “This year’s harvest was reduced because rains came early in the season during a critical growth period,” Roz O’Hearn, corporate and brand affairs director for Nestle USA, told ThinkProgress. “The result: not as many pumpkins formed from the flowers.”

Normally, Libby’s harvests pumpkins from late August through the end of October or early November, but this year, the harvest ended on October 5, almost a month early, due to poor yields. “We originally reported our yield could be off by as much as a third, but updated crop reports indicate yields will be reduced by half this year,” O’Hearn said.

O’Hearn told ThinkProgress that Libby’s anticipates having enough product to get customers through the Thanksgiving holiday, but expects that holiday demand will completely deplete their stock, leaving nothing in reserve. That means that once Libby’s makes its final shipment of canned pumpkin — probably around the beginning of November — there will be no extra canned pumpkin to stock shelves.

At a Senate roundtable last week on climate change and food production, Nestle’s president of corporate affairs Paul Bakus spoke of declines in Libby’s pumpkin harvests. The last time Libby’s was hit with a shortage of similar magnitude was 2009, when two times the normal amount of precipitation fell during the harvest, causing tractors to become trapped in the mud and unable to reach the pumpkins before their quality degraded beyond Libby’s standards for harvest. When pumpkins sit on saturated soil for too long, O’Hearn explained, it negatively affects their quality, creating an environment conducive to blight and mildew.

Over the past century, Angel points out on his blog that Illinois’ average precipitation has increased by between 10 and 15 inches, depending on location. In central Illinois, where Libby’s pumpkin growing operation is located, May through June precipitation has increased by an average of two inches (though Angel points out notable exceptions, like drought years in 1988, 2005, and 2012). For the entire state of Illinois, four of the 10 rainiest Junes on record have occurred since 2010.


No Record Year According To both satellite records

With September numbers now out, satellite data shows that global temperatures this year are going to finish well below both 1998 and 2010, despite very strong El Nino conditions for most of this year.

Since April, according to NOAA’s MEI , this year’s El Nino has been much stronger than anything seen in 2010. Normally we can expect a lag of between 3 and 6 months for changes in the MEI to be reflected in atmospheric temperatures, so it is probable that the latter will continue to increase through the NH winter.

It would be remarkable then if temperatures did not at least match those of 2010, but currently that is just what we are looking at.

For this year to finish above 2010, temperatures for the last three months would have to go off the page.


Freeman Dyson on climate change, interstellar travel, fusion, and more ...

Interview: The life of physicist Freeman Dyson spans advising bomber command in World War Two, working at Princeton as a contemporary of Einstein, and providing advice to the US government on a wide range of scientific and technical issues. He is a rare public intellectual writing prolifically for a wide audience, and also campaigned against nuclear weapons proliferation.

At Oak Ridge, Dyson was looking at the climate system before it became a hot political issue, over 25 years ago. Today he provides a robust foreword to a publication by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) co-founder Indur Goklany on CO2 by the Global Water System Project (GWPF), which re-emphasises out his views.

An Obama supporter who describes himself as "100 per cent Democrat," Dyson is disappointed that the President "chose the wrong side." Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere does more good than harm, he argues, and humanity doesn't face an existential crisis. Climate change, "... is not a scientific mystery but a human mystery.

How does it happen that a whole generation of scientific experts is blind to obvious facts?" We invited Dyson to talk about climate change, and other matters too: such as, whether physics can still be considered a science, and (a question from my kids) how will we do interstellar travel?

Q. You were being invited to help solve problems in an era when things looked pretty grim, and those problems looked insoluble, in the Cold War, and before Borlaug's Green Revolution. Now we've conquered a lot of these, but there seems to be an unquenchable thirst for apocalypse?


A. Yes. I don't know why, it's a mood of the times. I don't understand that better than anyone else. It is true that there's a large community of people who make their money by scaring the public, so money is certainly involved to some extent, but I don't think that's the full explanation.

It's like a hundred years ago, before World War 1, there was this insane craving for doom, which in a way, helped cause World War 1. People like the poet Rupert Brooke were glorifying war as an escape from the dullness of modern life. The feeling we'd gone soft and degenerate, and war would be good for us all. That was in the air leading up to WW1 and in some ways it's in the air today.

The years before 1914 were a tremendously promising time. Russia was getting richer, and the whole thing fell apart. It's comparable today – we've done a much better job with feeding the world and if you look at the number of desperately poor people it has been decreasing quite steadily.

The most important thing at the moment is China getting richer. What the rest of the world is doing doesn't really matter.

Q. If you could give your own scientific recommendations for carbon dioxide policy at COP21 in Paris, what would they be?

A. Certainly land management would be one. Particularly building up topsoil, which you can do in lots of ways. Not just growing trees, there are many things you can do which are just as good. Inducing snowfall is something you can do which hasn't been discussed very much, to keep the oceans from rising. The rise of the oceans is a real problem and while it's not rising as fast as people say, they're still rising. That could be stopped if you could arrange that it snows a bit more in Antarctica. That's something that could be quite feasible, but it's not been looked at very much.

Q. Are climate models getting better? You wrote how they have the most awful fudge factors, and they only really impress people who don't know about them.

A. I would say the opposite. What has happened in the past 10 years is that the discrepancies between what's observed and what's predicted have become much stronger. It's clear now the models are wrong, but it wasn't so clear 10 years ago. I can't say if they'll always be wrong, but the observations are improving and so the models are becoming more verifiable.

Q. It seems almost medieval to suppose that nature is punishing us, rather than the Enlightenment view, that we can tame nature, and still be good stewards of it.

A. That's all true.

Q. It's now difficult for scientists to have frank and honest input into public debates. Brian Cox, who is the public face of physics in the UK thanks to the BBC, has said he has no obligation to listen to "deniers," or to any other views other than the orthodoxy ...

A. That's a problem, but still I find that I have things to say and people do listen to me, and people have no particular complaints.

It's very sad that in this country political opinion parted. I'm 100 per cent Democrat myself, and I like Obama. But he took the wrong side on this issue, and the Republicans took the right side.

Because the big, growing countries need fossil fuels, the political goal of mitigation, by reducing or redirecting industrial activity and consumer behavior, now seems quite futile in the West ...

China and India rely on coal to keep growing, so they'll clearly be burning coal in huge amounts. They need that to get rich. Whatever the rest of the world agrees to, China and India will continue to burn coal, so the discussion is quite pointless.

At the same time coal is very unpleasant stuff, and there are problems with coal quite apart from climate. I remember in England when we burned coal everything was filthy. It was really bad, and that's the way it is now in China, but you can clean that up as we did in England. It takes a certain amount of pol willpower, and that takes time. Pollution is quite separate to the climate problem: one can be solved, and the other cannot, and the public doesn't understand that.

Q. Have you heard of the phrase "virtue signalling"? The UK bureaucracy made climate change its foreign policy priority, and we heard a lot of the phrase "leading the world in the fight ...", and by doing so, it seemed to be making a public declaration of its goodness and virtue ...

A. No [laughs] Well India and China aren't buying that. When you go beyond 50 years everything will change. As far as the next 50 years are concerned, there are two main forces of energy, which are coal and shale gas. Emissions have been going down in the US while they've going up in Europe, and that's because of shale gas. It's only half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal. China may in fact be able to develop shale gas on a big scale and that means they burn a lot less coal.

Q. It seems complete madness to prohibit shale gas. You wondered if climate change is an Anglophone preoccupation. Well, France is even more dogmatic than Britain about shale gas!

It seems almost medieval to suppose that nature is punishing us, rather than the Enlightenment view, that we can tame nature, and still be good stewards of nature.

A. That's all true.


EPA unleashes health-hammering ozone rules

It may be incompetence overseas, but in USA Obama intends to reduce jobs and living standards

Paul Driessen

A federal worker named Bob recently called our local talk-radio station, outraged that a failed budget deal could cause a government shutdown that leaves him unable to pay his bills. He blamed Republicans, failed to mention that compromise also involves Obama and Democrats – and left out another important detail: if there is a shutdown, when it ends he will get paid retroactively.

But when he and his fellow bureaucrats impose mountains of regulations, they cost businesses billions of dollars a year, kill millions of jobs, and leave thousands of families and hundreds of communities worse off, struggling to make ends meet. Those folks never get retroactive pay.

The Obama/EPA war on coal has shuttered power plants and mines across dozens of states, leaving thousands unemployed. That’s left truck and equipment makers, tool shops, steel mills and other suppliers – from Kentucky to Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin and beyond – struggling to find customers. That impacts restaurants, grocery and clothing stores, schools, hospitals and other businesses: every lost mining or power plant job affects four jobs in other sectors of our far-flung economy.

Reduced drilling, due to low oil and gas prices and the emerging EPA and Big Green war on natural gas, compound these problems. So does the Pandora’s Box of other federal regulations: ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank and FATCA financial rules, and seemingly endless EPA dictates on soot and dust, puddles and creeks, carbon dioxide and other alleged problems, often for minuscule or imaginary benefits.

Complying just with federal regulations already costs American businesses and families over $1.9 trillion a year, and EPA alone is tacking on an additional $100 billion in new costs this year.

EPA refuses to calculate how many private sector jobs all this has killed or kept from being created, or how many people’s financial, physical and psychological health has been bludgeoned when they are rendered unemployed and unable to pay their bills. Nor have any bureaucrats been held accountable for regulations that are based on ideological agendas, junk science or even outright fraud, or for abusing their powers to go after conservative groups (the IRS) or even members of Congress (the Secret Service).

And now, EPA has slapped us with yet another hugely expensive final rule – on ozone.

Just 18 years ago, the agency reduced allowable ambient ozone levels to 84 parts per billion (equivalent to 84 cents out of $10,000,000). In 2008, the Bush EPA lowered the standard again, to 75 ppb. But the Obama EPA wasn’t satisfied. In 2009, it said it would slash the standard to 70 or even 60 ppb.

However, this action would have been a political atomic bomb, so the White House postponed the decision until after the 2012 elections. Then, under yet another collusive sue-and-settle lawsuit between EPA and rabid environmentalists, EPA promised to finalize a new rule by October 1, 2015.

Now the agency has “compromised” at 70 ppb. A Business Roundtable study found that almost every US county met the 84 ppb ozone standard, and 90% met the 75 ppb standard. A 60 ppb rule would have put 96% of those counties out of compliance, but even the 70 ppb rule will send many into noncompliance. It will hammer power generation, manufacturing and shale gas production, and raise electricity prices.

To understand how draconian it is, Grand Canyon National Park is now out-of-attainment, at 72 ppb. So are Mammoth Cave National Park at 75 ppb, Rocky Mountain National Park at 77, and Great Smokey Mountain National Park at 79. Yellowstone NP barely slips under the new EPA limbo bar at 66 ppb.

That’s because volatile organic compounds that are ozone precursors don’t come just from refineries, power plants, factories, automobiles and other hydrocarbon use. They come from volcanoes, hot springs and trees: deciduous trees emit VOCs on hot, sunny days; conifers emit them day and night. They also come from “clean, green” ethanol. A new NOAA study found that ethanol refineries emit up to 30 times more VOCs than originally assumed – and 170 times more than when ethanol is burned in cars.

EPA doesn’t mention those inconvenient truths. It says its new standard will cost “only” $3.9 billion a year. That deliberately low-balled, out-of-thin-air number doesn’t even pass the laugh test. It is leagues removed from National Association of Manufacturers and other analyses that calculated a 65 ppb ozone standard would reduce America’s economic output by $140 billion annually and cost 1.4 million jobs lost or not created per year, for 25 years. Reality for 70 ppb is far closer to NAM than to EPA.

The simple fact is, the 70 ppb ozone rule is yet another rock shoved in the pocket of a drowning man. A measly 142,000 new jobs were created last month. Over 40 million Americans are unemployed, under-employed or have given up on finding a job. Over 47 million are on food stamps. The labor participation rate plunged to 62.4% in September, its lowest since October 1977, on a mere 34.5-hour work week.

So now EPA trumpets alleged health benefits. The new rule will reduce result in fewer asthma attacks among children and save lives, the agency insists. Hogwash. As physician Charles Battig explains, the new standard will only save theoretical lives. The supposedly fewer ozone-related deaths will occur “in a computer-generated fantasy world, where epidemiological data-torturing takes place by bits and bytes, not in the hospital admission records for real-life patients.”

In that EPA world, lives theoretically saved are concocted using higher pollution levels from decades ago, when ozone and other air contaminants really did affect human health. The faulty data are fed into a series of computer models, to generate garbage in-garbage out calculations used to justify regulatory edicts.

But in the real world, aggregate emissions of ozone, particulate matter (soot), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and lead plummeted 63% since 1980. Refinery emissions of volatile organic compounds were slashed 69% between 1990 and 2013, ozone-forming emissions are projected to decline another 36% over the next decade, and ground-level ozone levels have already fallen by a national average of 18% since 2000. Meanwhile, reported asthma rates have risen – but not because of pollution.

Today’s kids likely have more asthma attacks because they spend more time indoors, enjoy less time outside in the dirt, and don’t get exposed to enough allergens during childhood to reduce their immune hyperactivity and allergic hypersensitivity. They respond more readily to allergen exposures that would have caused few reactions in previous generations. Cold air can also trigger asthma attacks, as can higher pollen and fungi spore levels, and perhaps low-fat diets that reduce surfactant layers on lung tissues.

In short, national-park-level ozone is not the bogeyman that EPA claims. However, the new rules will affect numerous states, counties, cities, industries – and highway safety projects that lose federal funding because natural sources, local emissions or even VOCs from China raise ozone levels above 70 ppb.

EPA claims “only” 358 counties around the US will be pushed into nonattainment status by the arbitrary new standard. But even that is too many, and another 1,500 counties could be at risk if EPA begins monitoring their ozone levels. That will affect job creation and preservation, especially in metro areas.

The National Association of Manufacturers, National Black Chamber of Commerce, American Association of Blacks in Energy, business owners and leaders, mayors, governors, state legislators, members of Congress, and health and traffic experts asked EPA to retain the 2008 standard.

As Small Business and Entrepreneurship president Karen Kerrigan has noted, they pointed out that areas like Chicago, Gary and Denver, with large poor and minority populations, would lose tens of thousands of jobs, see average household incomes decline by hundreds of dollars a year, and be forced to spend billions of dollars to comply with the new standard. People’s health and well-being would decline, they emphasized, instead of improve. Kerrigan’s Center for Regulatory Solutions provided many more facts.

EPA ignored them all, reiterated its false health benefit claims, and imposed the costly new standards.

Affected parties should file lawsuits to prevent EPA from enforcing the new rule, courts should block the regulation, and Congress should delete EPA funding to implement this health-impairing program.

Via email

Justiciable climate?

Attempts by environmentalists to gain an advantage in the climate wars through the courts continue to attract the interest of commentators, particularly those on the sceptic side. Judith Curry has a review of some recent developments and Booker was discussing similar questions behind the Sunday Telegraph's paywall over the weekend.

I'm unsure about just how far the legal system is going to accept the kinds of cases that the greens are hoping for. It may well be that it depends on the particular jurisdiction. Philippe Sands reckons that because international courts involved themselves in the question of whether the Japanese whaling programme was scientific, they can (and should) involve themselves in questions of climate change. This seems an almost preposterously weak argument for a senior lawyer to make. Whether some activity is scientific or not is a question of categorisation - quite different to questions such as "What is the value of climate sensitivity?"

Interestingly, while a professor of international law can make such a lame case, a more mature understanding is demonstrated by Laura Hardcastle, an undergraduate law student at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. Her dissertation was cited in the Sharman paper I discussed the other day, and I note it has also been cited by a former Prime Minister of New Zealand. I'm therefore reasonably comfortable in presenting it as a credible source.

Hardcastle makes the point that the courts are inherently unsuitable for deciding scientific matters, which should therefore remain non-justiciable. This seems eminently sensible to me. She goes on to explain that an exception should be made for cases of scientific fraud. I think she is right here as well, because of course the question of whether a scientist has behaved fraudulently is not really a scientific question, it's a question about the permissibility of their behaviour.

If we accept Hardcastle's case, then Sands' hopes for help for his cause from the courts will come to nothing. That still leaves greens' agitation for a RICO case in the USA. Here, you might argue the question is one that might - in principle at least - be justiciable. However, whether any court would give more than a moment's consideration to what is little more than a conspiracy theory is another question altogether.


FreedomWorks Supports Lifting the Oil Export Ban - Without Handouts

The longstanding ban on the exportation of American crude oil is a misguided policy founded on protectionism and a misunderstanding of global economics. Lifting the ban would produce the economic benefits of free trade at home and abroad, promoting desperately needed economic growth and job creation.

For this reason, FreedomWorks is pleased that Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) has introduced H.R. 702 “To adapt to changing crude oil market conditions.” The bill recognizes that the United States is now a leader in energy production, and that it would be folly to squander the gains from such productivity with protectionist measures.

Unfortunately, when the Congressional Budget Office revealed that the bill would save taxpayers an estimated $500 million, the House Rules Committee tacked on a rider to give that money away to the Maritime Security Program. This giveaway is an earmark in everything but name, blatantly intended to benefit selected unions and thus allure some Democrats into voting for the bill.

This kind of log-rolling is emblematic of the dysfunction of Washington. The out of control national debt is perhaps the greatest threat to American security and prosperity over the next several decades, yet as soon as a cost savings is found, Congress reflexively spends it on something new. The fact that this was done in committee without the opportunity for a floor vote adds insult to injury.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) has introduced an amendment to the bill to remove the special interest rider. If the Amash amendment passes, FreedomWorks will count votes on Rep. Barton’s bill as a Key Vote when calculating our Congressional Scorecard for 2015. If it does not, FreedomWorks will only score votes on the amendment. Our scorecard is used to determine eligibility for the FreedomFighter Award, which recognizes Members of Congress who consistently vote to support economic freedom and individual liberty.

Please contact your representative and ask that they support lifting the ban on crude oil exports, while demanding that the cost savings not be passed on to special interest lobbies and Big Labor.



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.  

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