Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mankind is playing 'ecological roulette': Decline in biodiversity could have devastating effects on human societies (?)

And pigs might become airborne.  How do we know that reduced biodiversity will be harmful?  We don't. It's just a faith, a personal ideal. The stuff below is based on the broadest of assumptions.  It tells us nothing about any particular organism or its place in the ecology.  All we know is that the species we do use fulfil our needs. It's only threats to them which might impact us.  And we know that they grow under many climatic conditions

It seems that almost daily we hear about the discovery of a new species, whether it's a silver snake in the Caribbean, or a new tree in the Amazon.

Despite these regular discoveries, levels of global biodiversity are on the decline, which scientists say could have a devastating global impact.

New research suggests this loss in the variety of species around the world could damage the way ecosystems function and even harm the sustainability of human societies.

A team from UCL have found that levels of biodiversity loss are so high that if left unchecked, they could undermine efforts towards long-term sustainable development.

In particular, the researchers have highlighted that grasslands, savannas and shrublands are more affected by the biodiversity lost.

They say the ability of biodiversity in these areas to support key ecosystem functions such as growth of living organisms and nutrient cycling has become increasingly uncertain.

The team used data from hundreds of scientists across the globe to analyse 2.38 million records for 39,123 species at 18,659 sites.

The results were then used to estimate how biodiversity has changed since before humans modified the habitat.

The estimates suggest that biodiversity hotspots – those that have seen habitat loss in the past but have a lot of species only found in that area – are threatened, showing high levels of biodiversity decline.

However, other high biodiversity areas, such as the Amazon, have higher levels of biodiversity and more scope for proactive conservation.

Dr Tim Newbold, who led the study, said: 'We've found that across most of the world, biodiversity loss is no longer within the safe limit suggested by ecologists.

'We know biodiversity loss affects ecosystem function but how it does this is not entirely clear.

'What we do know is that in many parts of the world, we are approaching a situation where human intervention might be needed to sustain ecosystem function.'

The team used data from hundreds of scientists across the globe to analyse 2.38 million records for 39,123 species at 18,659 sites.

The results were then used to estimate how biodiversity has changed since before humans modified the habitat.

The estimates suggest that biodiversity hotspots – those that have seen habitat loss in the past but have a lot of species only found in that area – are threatened, showing high levels of biodiversity decline.

However, other high biodiversity areas, such as the Amazon, have higher levels of biodiversity and more scope for proactive conservation.

Dr Newbold said: 'The greatest changes have happened in those places where most people live, which might affect physical and psychological well-being.

'To address this, we would have to preserve the remaining areas of natural vegetation and restore human-used lands.'

Analysis suggests there may be so many species of tree in the Amazon that it will take humanity 300 years to discover them all
It seems that almost daily we hear about the discovery of a new species, whether it's a silver snake in the Caribbean, or a tree in the Amazon

The researchers suggest that for 58.1 per cent of the world's land surface - which is home to 71.4 per cent of the global population - biodiversity loss is substantial enough to question the ability of ecosystems to support human societies.

Professor Andy Purvis, from the Natural History Museum, who also worked on the study, said: 'Decision-makers worry a lot about economic recessions, but an ecological recession could have even worse consequences – and the biodiversity damage we've had means we're at risk of that happening.

'Until and unless we can bring biodiversity back up, we're playing ecological roulette.'

The team hope the results will be used to inform conservation policy, both nationally and internationally.


Britain's new cabinet is more climate-skeptical than its previous one

The Warmist writing below sees it as part of an evil conspiracy but seeing a slowly expanding awareness of how shaky Warmist theory is provides a more parsimonious  explanation

Prime Minister Theresa May has been in office for less than two days and already the impacts of the Brexit climate denier connection are being felt.

The Cabinet reshuffle dealt a series of surprises, from Boris Johnson becoming Foreign Secretary to the offices of the now former Department for Energy and Climate Change set to be occupied by the new ‘Brexit Department’.

One thing that remained consistent, however, was the presence of the close-knit 55 Tufton Street network of neoliberal think tanks and climate science deniers.

To highlight these changes, DeSmog UK has expanded its ‘Brexit climate denier’ map to include new connections which have come to light since the 23 June vote to leave the European Union.

As this new map shows, those within the network have been elevated to powerful positions within May’s new government.

Andrea Leadsom has, for instance, been promoted to Environment Secretary, and new additions to the web David Davis and Liam Fox have been appointed the Minister for leaving the EU and International Trade Secretary respectively.

In June, DeSmog UK first mapped the deep-rooted connections between those campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union and those who deny the science on climate change. DeSmogUK showed the many overlapping relationships between those working in the same Westminster building, just a stone’s throw from Parliament.

This updated map not only includes further links between the original members of the web – including donations and neighbouring Tufton street residents – but also branches out to include members of the new Conservative Government.


Democrat AGs Targeting Climate ‘Dissenters’ Face Legal Demand to Disclose Ties to Environmental Groups

State government figures spearheading an effort to obtain documents from scientists and researchers who dissent from the Obama administration’s position on climate change are being asked, once again, to come clean about their relationships with environmental organizations.

But this time around, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey have only two weeks to comply with a demand for information from a House committee that the two Democrats have resisted previously.

That’s because the demand comes in the form of subpoenas issued Wednesday to Schneiderman, Healey, and eight environmental advocacy groups. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology took the action after being rebuffed in previous efforts.

In response, a spokesman for Schneiderman lashed out at the committee as “radical Republican House members” with “zero credibility” who are trying to “block a serious law enforcement investigation.”

Rep. Lamar Smith,  R-Texas, the committee chairman, saw it differently.

“The attorneys general have appointed themselves to decide what is valid and what is invalid regarding climate change,” Smith said in a press statement. “The attorneys general are pursuing a political agenda at the expense of scientists’ right to free speech.”

Smith added:

The committee has a responsibility to protect First Amendment rights of companies, academic institutions, scientists, and nonprofit organizations. That is why the committee is obligated to ask for information from the attorneys general and others. Unfortunately, the attorneys general have refused to give the committee the information to which it is entitled. What are they hiding? And why?

On March 29, state attorneys general calling themselves AGs United for Clean Power held a press conference in New York with former Vice President Al Gore to announce formation of “an unprecedented coalition of top law enforcement” that would “defend climate change progress made under President Obama.”

All but one of the attorneys general are Democrats.

Some of the elected officials, also dubbed the Green 20, have subpoenaed documents, communications, and research in an effort to acquire the work material of more than 100 academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, and individual scientists, the House committee notes.

These organizations and individuals were targeted because they questioned the merits of President Barack Obama’s climate change agenda, the panel says.

On July 6, Smith sent letters to Schneiderman, Healey, and the environmental groups now on the receiving end of the subpoenas. He reminded them of his May 18 and June 20 requests for documents and communications.

Smith set a deadline of noon July 13 for compliance. The committee issued the subpoenas when the state attorneys general and the environmental groups declined to comply.

The eight green groups subject to the committee’s inquiries include the Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace,, the Climate Accountability Institute, the Climate Reality Project, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Pawa Law Group.

The Daily Signal sought comment from Schneiderman’s office in New York and Healey’s office in Massachusetts.

“The extent to which Chairman Smith and Republican committee leadership, at the behest of Big Oil, [are] attacking the legal authority of state attorneys general to investigate whether major corporations misled investors and consumers is very troubling, and an affront to states’ rights,” Healey spokeswoman Cyndi Roy Gonzalez said in an email to The Daily Signal, adding:

This isn’t a fight about the First Amendment because the First Amendment doesn’t protect false and misleading speech. Our office seeks only to understand what Exxon’s own scientists knew about the impact of burning fossil fuels on climate change and on Exxon’s business and assets, when they knew it, and what they told the public. Congress does not have the authority to interfere with a state inquiry into whether a private company violated state laws, and we will continue to fight any and all efforts to stop our investigation.

Schneiderman’s office did not respond, but a spokesman for the New York attorney general, Eric Soufer, released this statement:

The American public will wake up tomorrow morning shaking their heads when they learn that a small group of radical Republican House members is trying to block a serious law enforcement investigation into potential fraud at Exxon. Chairman Smith and his allies have zero credibility on this issue, and are either unwilling or unable to grasp that the singular purpose of these investigations is to determine whether Exxon committed serious violations of state securities fraud, business fraud, and consumer fraud laws.

This committee has no authority to interfere with these state law enforcement investigations, and whether they issue a subpoena or not, this Attorney General [Schneiderman] will not be intimidated or deterred from ensuring that every New Yorker receives the full protection of state laws.

Where the New York attorney general sees “serious law enforcement,” however, others see an assault on free speech rights and honest scientific inquiry.

“The state attorneys general who are spearheading the green witch hunt are not just sabotaging Americans’ First Amendment rights. They are carrying out a frontal assault on the fundamentals of scientific inquiry,” Bonner Cohen, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, told The Daily Signal.

Cohen added:

In saying the science is ‘settled’ on climate change, they are only revealing their colossal ignorance of what science is all about.  The science isn’t settled on anything. What we think we know about biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and, yes, climate science, is constantly undergoing revision resulting from new findings and discoveries. What’s really going on here is the ruling class telling the rest of us to shut up and do as we are told. And if we don’t, there’ll be a knock at the door.

In response to the House committee’s subpoena, Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, released a statement challenging the congressional investigation.

“Chairman Smith’s subpoena is an abuse of power that goes way beyond the House Science Committee’s jurisdiction and amounts to nothing more than harassment,” Kimmell said, adding:

By attempting to interfere with the attorneys general investigations, Chairman Smith directly undermines efforts to hold Exxon Mobil accountable for misrepresenting climate science. It’s also just plain wrong to investigate a nonprofit for doing its job—in this case, providing public officials with science and evidence to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for deception on climate change, one of the world’s most pressing problems.

But Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation who has tracked the story, said he detected hypocrisy.

“The reaction of the state attorneys general shows what total hypocrites they are,” von Spakovsky told The Daily Signal. “They have clearly conspired with environmental groups to initiate these outrageous investigations and prosecutions of anyone who doesn’t agree with them about an unproven, disputed scientific theory, including voluminous, harassing subpoenas. Yet when they are targeted with inquiries about what they are doing, suddenly they are outraged.”

Committee members insist Schneiderman, Healey, and the other state attorneys general, along with the environmental groups, are at fault for jeopardizing free speech and honest scientific inquiry about whether human activity has resulted in global warming—what adherents to the idea now call climate change.

“Since March, these attorneys general have attempted to use questionable legal tactics to force the production of documents and communications from a broad group of scientists, companies, and nonprofit organizations,” said Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, who chairs the space subcommittee.

“These actions are an attempt to chill the scientific research of those who do not support the attorneys general and environmental groups’ political positions,” Babin said in a formal statement adding:

These actions amount to a political attack rather than a serious inquiry based on the law. Today’s action by the Science Committee and Chairman Smith sustains the commitment to protect the First Amendment rights of the individuals and groups targeted by the attorneys general and environmental activists.

If the committee does not receive a response from Schneiderman, Healy, or any of the green groups, it could hold a vote on whether a “contempt of Congress” finding should be sent to the full House.


Global Warming Skepticism Is Not Fraud

Professor Robert C. Post, dean of the Yale Law School, appeared recently in the Washington Post defending investigations by state attorneys general into ExxonMobil and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), saying such investigations are standard operating procedure for addressing possible fraud. He dismissed the protests of the targets of these investigations, saying, “It is grossly irresponsible to invoke the First Amendment in such contexts.”

The subsequent withdrawal of both subpoenas issued by the Virgin Islands’ attorney general and counter-suits launched by both ExxonMobil and CEI suggest Prof. Post was wrong. But let’s try to understand his perspective.

Prof. Post seems to believe the common meme that “97% of scientists agree climate change is man-made and dangerous,” which leads him to believe the scientific debate is over (though when it ended isn’t clear), that ExxonMobil knew this (though when it knew isn’t clear), and since then ExxonMobil has sowed doubt by financing false and misleading research (although much of the research it funded was considered solid enough to be published in peer-reviewed science journals) in order to keep regulators from shutting it down and investors from selling its stock.

Believing all this, Prof. Post might then conclude that CEI and the 100 or so other organizations and individuals cited in the subpoenas (a list apparently cribbed from a Greenpeace website) may all be “shills” or “front groups” funded by ExxonMobil, and therefore their claims to be participating in a legitimate scientific debate are to be discounted. The attorneys general of Massachusetts, New York, and the Virgin Islands presumably all follow this same and somewhat tortuous path of reasoning.

If belief in the “consensus” meme is in fact driving Prof. Post and the attorneys general, then the whole premise of this litigation is false. Because in fact, there is no consensus, but instead a lively academic debate taking place.

The first chapter of The Heartland Institute’s newest book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, identifies and takes apart the four sources given by NASA as proof of a consensus: They were written by a socialist historian, two college students, and a wacky Australian blogger. The book then identifies surveys and abstract-counting exercises that show considerable disagreement within the scientific community, and then explains why scientists will probably never agree on this issue.

The rest of the book summarizes the perspective on climate change of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international network of climate scientists who are much less alarmist than the experts relied on by the Obama administration. NIPCC’s findings, reported in a series of 1,000-page-plus books published by The Heartland Institute in the Climate Change Reconsidered series, are so credible they have been cited in more than 100 peer-reviewed articles. Part of that series was translated into Chinese and published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Because there is a lively academic debate over the causes and consequences of climate change, this litigation has First Amendment implications. One side in a bona fide scientific debate is declaring, falsely, that the debate is over and therefore its opponents are engaged in a fraud. This baseless accusation is libelous: It damages the reputations and threatens the livelihoods of scientists who oppose the alarmist narrative and organizations that provide them with platforms from which they can be heard.

In light of this, it seems clear that the wrong individuals and organizations are being investigated. Greenpeace, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and similar groups that are the source of the false “consensus” meme ought to be put on trial for libeling groups that disagree with them. But nice people don’t sue people who disagree with them, so skeptics have rarely resorted to doing this.

There is a second and independent reason to view this litigation as a threat to First Amendment rights: This isn’t about potential consumer or investor fraud or even about climate science. It’s about restricting political free speech.

The AGs, with the encouragement of the U.S. Department of Justice, are entering this debate on the side of alarmists because the alarmists almost without exception are partisans. They are spokespersons for the Obama administration, or contributors to Mr. Obama’s political campaigns, or stand to benefit financially from the Obama administration’s war on fossil fuels (environmental advocacy groups, academics who have made their careers by exaggerating the threat of global warming, and the renewable energy industry angling to keep massive subsidies). Often, they are all three all at once.

Virtually every so-called expert or activist who “believes in global warming” is paid to hold that belief. Scratch the surface and their conflicts of interest are immediately apparent. Skeptics of the anthropogenic global warming theory, on the other hand, are most often financially independent and have no financial stake in the outcome of the debate. They are retired from academic positions or operate as scientists outside the academy. They “looked under the hood” at the science and saw there was nothing there. True believers never look under the hood. Why would they?

Businesses and organizations being targeted by the AGs are exercising their First Amendment right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It is not the possibility of harm to the public that led the AGs and DOJ to decide to enter into a wickedly complicated scientific debate, but the possibility of harm to the current administration in the White House.

Their objective is to silence opposition by ExxonMobil and CEI (and other nonprofit organizations similar to CEI) to this administration’s draconian energy policies. Proof of its partisan nature can be found in the fact that there was no talk of similar litigation during the administrations that preceded Obama … see for example this brief history by the Federalist Society.

It seems to me the basis of this litigation is an abuse of authority by the Obama administration and its cat’s paws in the states. They base their claims on a myth, readily disproven, that a scientific consensus exists on the causes and consequences of climate change.

Why anyone – least of all the dean of a prestigious law school – would dignify such a crude and corrupt assault on justice is a mystery, and very troubling to me.


Cheeky South Australian Greenies want more interconnetors with other states in order to prop up their windmill-reliant power

They have to to import coal-fired power when the wind is not blowing there and want to export their windpower to other States when the wind IS blowing.  Typical Greenies:  Demand, demand, demand

An energy crisis in South Australia created by an over-reliance on untrustworthy and expensive wind and solar will force the state Labor government to seek greater access to cheaper coal-fired electricity from the eastern states.

This comes amid rising concern that federal renewable ­energy targets will force other states down the path taken by South Australia, which has the highest and most variable energy prices in the national electricity grid.

South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, who is also the Energy Minister, yesterday put the eastern states on notice, vowing to “smash the national electricity market into a thousand pieces and start again”.

He warned other states that the energy crisis was “coming to get them”.  “This is coming to Victoria, this is coming to NSW ... every jurisdiction is facing what we’re facing now,” the Treasurer said.

South Australian Labor’s ­admission that it needed urgent reform of the national energy market rules, so that in addition to upgrading connection with Victoria it also could tap into NSW baseload power, reveals the vulnerability of its reliance on ­renewables. The last coal-fired power stations in South Australia closed in May.

Wind and solar make up more than 40 per cent of the state’s ­energy mix under a green policy agenda driven by Labor, in power in South Australia since 2002.

Several major companies, ­including BHP Billiton and Arrium, this week warned Mr Koutsantonis of possible shutdowns because of high energy prices, forcing him to plead for a temporary power spike from a private owner of a mothballed gas-fired power plant. Private energy supplier ENGIE fired up its Pelican Point plant near Port Adelaide for a short time yesterday, bringing an extra 239 megawatts of power into the grid.

Mr Koutsantonis said the federal government had encouraged South Australia, which has the best conditions for wind farms, to chase the energy source as part of Australia’s renewable energy target of about 24 per cent by 2020.

“Wind is paid by the commonwealth to produce power ... if you are going to pay wind farms to produce electricity regardless of demand, you better make sure that is distributed equally across the country because you can’t have a national policy implicating just one state,” he said.

He called on Malcolm Turnbull to immediately appoint an energy minister and schedule an urgent meeting of federal and state ministers to undertake ­energy market reform.  “If you want a true national electricity market, you really need to have all of the states interconnected.

“What we have is a series of state-based markets with very poor interconnection between them,’’ Mr Koutsantonis said.

The market was supposed to integrate the east coast states with South Australia and Tasmania to allow the free flow of electricity across borders via a ­series of interconnecters, he said. It excludes West Australia and the Northern Territory.

An upgraded interconnecter with Victoria is scheduled for completion next month, and South Australia also wants a larger interconnecter with NSW, at a cost of between $300 million and $700m.

“Victoria has multiple markets it can draw from; we have one, NSW has two and Queensland has one. That’s not a national electricity market,” he said.


Australian Federal election 2016: Rising minor parties leave Greens in shade

The Greens’ vote in the Senate has fallen in every state apart from Queensland, leaving the minor party facing the possible loss of three of its 10 senators once all ­ballot papers have been counted.

Nationally, the Greens have suffered a 0.9 per cent swing against them in the Senate as other minor parties have risen in popularity, led by One Nation (up 3.8 per cent), the Nick Xenophon Team (1.3 per cent) and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party (1.8 per cent).

The party’s vote in the Senate peaked at 13.1 per cent in 2010 but has fallen to 8.3 per cent so far in this count.

The Greens have already lost a senator in South Australia, Robert Simms, who was second on the ticket behind Sarah Hanson-Young, after the NXT clinched three seats in the state.

Political analysts are now ­predicting the Greens could lose a Senate seat in Western Australia, where Rachel Siewert is trying to snatch the final spot, and another in Tasmania where former state leader Nick McKim is nervously awaiting his fate.

Those losses would mean the Greens’ 10 senators in the last parliament — its best representation in the Senate — would be cut to between seven and nine senators.

In Western Australia, the Greens’ vote has fallen 5.3 per cent from its strong showing in the 2014 Senate re-run election despite the Greens boasting of their biggest grassroots campaign ever organised in the state in the lead-up to the July 2 poll.

Senator Siewert will rely on preferences to secure the final Senate spot over the Nationals candidate Kado Muir.

Election analyst William Bowe told The Australian that based on an analysis he did yesterday of past Senate preference flows it ­appeared the contest between the Greens and the Nationals for the final seat in WA was a virtual dead heat.

“It is extremely close,” he said.

The battle between the Greens and Nationals comes as One ­Nation’s controversial candidate in Western Australia, Rod Culleton, appears to have secured the 11th spot in the Senate.

Mr Culleton has rejected ­suggestions that he will be ineligible to serve in the Senate due to a conviction for larceny in NSW.

It is understood the Greens are reasonably confident that Senator Siewert will win enough preferences from “progressive” parties, including the Australian Sex Party and Animal Justice Party, to outperform the Nationals’ Mr Muir.

Mr Muir stood for the Greens at the 2007 and 2010 elections. The antinuclear campaigner is aiming to become WA’s second indigenous senator after Pat Dodson.

Greens leader Richard di Natale declined to comment.

But sources in the party stressed they expected that the Greens’ performance would improve as the count progressed because absentee and below-the-line votes tended to favour the Greens.

The Greens’ vote in the Senate is down 0.8 per cent in NSW, 0.4 per cent in Victoria, 1.6 per cent in South Australia and 0.8 per cent in Tasmania, but is up 0.74 per cent so far in Queensland.



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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