Wednesday, December 21, 2016

More wildfires ahead for Tasmania's wilderness as globe warms (?)

Warmists seem determined to turn physics on its head.  The report below is based on global warming causing lower rainfall.  I quote from the underlying bureaucratic report:  "The major impacts projected to occur from climate change are related to increases in vegetation and soil dryness and flammability".

But it's basic that warmer water evaporates more vigorously.  That's why your kettle gives off steam. And that evaporated water comes down soon after as rain.  So warmer oceans should bring MORE rain, not less. Soils should be WETTER, not dryer!  Science flies out the window with Warmists.  Warmism is a cult, not science

Would it have made any difference if this bureaucratic report had undergone peer review?  Probably not

Tasmania's globally recognised and protected wilderness faces a growing threat of bushfire.

That's the worrying revelation of a new report looking at the impact of climate change on the 1.6 million-hectare Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

"This report concludes that the risks of bushfire to the TWWHA will increase in coming years under the influence of climate change," author Tony Press wrote in the document published on Tuesday for the state government.

With less than a month until the mid-January anniversary of devastating fires which ravaged about 19,800 hectares of unique and aged temperate rainforest, Dr Press and a team of experts have made a number of recommendations.

"It is likely that climatic conditions like those in 2016 will re-occur, and other aspects of fire risk will also increase," he said.

"It is therefore important to take the lessons learned from the 2016 bushfires, and the climate projections referred to in this report, to prepare for a future where fire management in the TWWHA is expected to be more challenging.

"The increase in bushfire risk has already started, and changes to management are needed now and well into the future."

Across January and February Tasmania recorded thousands of lightning strikes which started multiple fires in dry conditions, with 145 known blazes affecting almost 127,000 hectares.

It took more than 6,500 local, interstate and overseas professional and volunteer firefighters and up to 40 aircraft, as part of a coordinated effort costing an estimated $52 million.

It also sparked a senate inquiry.

"Increased spring and summer dryness, lower rainfall, higher temperatures and increased occurrence of lightning fires, combined, pose a major challenge to fire management in the TWWHA and the long-term protection of its natural and cultural values," the report said.

Eighteen recommendations include improvements or a review of prevention, preparedness, response and recovery methods.

The state government said changes have already been made ahead of the 2016-17 bushfire season.

"It's important to understand that fires within the TWWHA have happened before and the January event was not an isolated occurrence," a ministerial statement read.


Britain to mine coal again

In northeastern England, a battle is raging between grass roots campaigners and a company intent on digging a new open cast mine as world coal prices soar.

A year after Britain closed its last deep coal mine and pledged to phase out coal-fired power generation, the economics of mining have been transformed.

Coal prices have risen by well over 100 per cent this year to $US100 a tonne. Some mining stocks have risen even more, spurred by US President-elect Donald Trump's pledges to revive coal and pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Some wonder how long the coal price surge will last, but in Northumberland, the Banks Group is pressing ahead with plans for a new mine despite opposition from local environmentalists.

Northumberland County Council agreed that Banks could extract three million tonnes of coal by cutting an open cast mine near Druridge Bay, a scenic windswept arc of white sand and grassy dunes on the North Sea coast.

The government has "called in" the application, meaning there will be a public enquiry in 2017.

Jeannie Kielty, who works on community relations for Banks, says open cast is part of the social fabric of the northeast, an area with a long history of coal mining.

"The benefits that come from these sites can't be over-stated," she says. "We are frustrated with the call-in because it delays us, but we still believe we can work the site."

On the other side of the argument is the Save Druridge Bay campaign, led by a hard core of eight campaigners. It also has high-profile support from television personality and comedian and keen bird watcher Bill Oddie.

"Suddenly someone wants to turn the clock back in some really perverse way," Oddie said at a campaigning beach party in May. "It's sacrilege."

Banks has overcome opposition in the past, appealing successfully against a ban on developing another site in the area at Shotton.

Situated on the Blagdon Estate owned by Matt Ridley, a peer and Conservative politician who has said climate change has done more good than harm, Shotton has been mined by Banks since 2008.

Banks says all the coal at Shotton and Highthorn, the site of the proposed mine, can be extracted by the government's 2025 deadline for phasing out coal-fired power generation.

But the company plans to expand. In September, Banks announced it was exporting coal to Spain and has begun canvassing opinion on a project to extract 800,000 tonnes of coal at Dewley Hill near Newcastle.

British planning rules and the government's drive to close coal-fired power stations do allow coal mining in some circumstances.

The phase-out plans apply only to so-called unabated coal, meaning a company that has the technology to reduce emissions can carry on generating power with coal.

Exceptions can also be made if there is a risk that supplies will be disrupted, a danger heightened by Britain's vote to leave the European Union. That makes the country more reliant on its own resources and less sure it can tap into the European power grid.

Big banks say they have stopped funding coal in Britain, although they may consider projects in some emerging economies.

For shareholders, it made financial sense to get out of the industry a year ago, when mining stocks and coal prices were collapsing. Now the mining sector offers attractive yields at a time when interest rates are at record lows.

Shares in Glencore, the world's biggest shipper of seaborne coal, have risen more than 200 per cent since January.

Fossil Free, which campaigns against fossil fuels, says the shift towards a low carbon economy is irreversible. But while 580 international investment institutions pledged to abandon coal in 2015, the group does not know how many have kept their promise.

Northumberland County Council planning officer Frances Wilkinson, who prepared the report recommending approval for Highthorn, faced a different question.

She found the decision very difficult as the environmental impact and the benefits were "finely balanced".

She was guided, she said, by a clause in planning regulations that permission should not be given for coal mining unless the proposal is environmentally acceptable or can be made so, or "it provides national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh the likely impacts".

Banks says Highthorn will employ 100 people and generate GBP48 million pounds ($A81 million) in related contracts and other benefits to the community.

In 2015, Banks made an operating profit of GBP18 million pounds, down from GBP27 million pounds the previous year because of a fall in coal prices.

It says its break-even coal price is a commercial secret but it can make a profit even when prices are low. The group also includes a renewables arm and a property division.


Is This the End of Obama’s EPA Legacy?

President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to pick Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency indicates that Trump intends to dismantle President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy.

Writers at the Environmental Defense Fund have criticized Pruitt for his ties to fossil fuel interests, implying that placing him in EPA’s top spot would be like putting a fox in charge of the hen house. Nevertheless, Trump is motivated by the belief that EPA needs to “refocus.”

As Obama was running for the White House eight years ago, he said that his environmental plan would make electricity rates “skyrocket.” During his time as president, the EPA has loosed a series of regulations that not only lay the groundwork for higher electricity prices but that have cost tens of thousands of people their livelihoods.

Last month, a District Court judge reprimanded EPA for failing to comply with a requirement in the Clean Air Act mandating that it estimate the number of jobs lost as a result of environmental regulations. Over the last few years, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy responded to requests for such job-loss estimates by stating that those calculations were not done because they are of “limited utility.”

To whom, one might ask? EPA’s bureaucrats, obviously.

It’s unfortunate that the EPA thinks the livelihoods of thousands of people who may be adversely affected by regulation are not worth studying. This is sloppy policymaking that indicates the EPA is more concerned with pursuing a political agenda than with crafting sound policy.

During Obama’s tenure, the EPA has grown bold in manipulating the legal process in order to achieve political goals. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, for example, was sold as a public health safeguard that would cut mercury and acid gas emissions. But the pleasant-sounding rule will cost power plants almost $10 billion per year (a cost passed to electricity consumers), promising benefits of just $4 million to $6 million per year.

In order to justify the high cost of MATS to the public, EPA channeled the ghosts of Enron past and used some creative accounting by including the co-benefits resulting from the reduction of substances that are not covered under the hazardous-air-pollutants program.

More concerning than EPA’s dubious accounting practices, however, is its flippant attitude toward the legal framework within which it must operate. Before the Supreme Court even decided on the appropriateness of MATS, Administrator McCarthy stated that the ruling of the Supreme Court wouldn’t matter because the litigation process had taken so long that most of the power plants were either in compliance already or would be soon.

This means that EPA has the ability to do sloppy work, exploit the legal process, and still get its way, regardless of whether the rule is appropriate and necessary. The British novelist C.S. Lewis wrote of people who behave in such a manner; he called them “moral busybodies ... (who) will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

Cheap and abundant energy is the bedrock of our economy and is necessary to maintain our high standard of living. Regulation affecting our energy supply should be appropriate, necessary, and crafted with great care. It should not be done without honest reflection about those who will be harmed in order to achieve the desired result.

Let’s hope that Trump’s pick to head his administration’s EPA is able to refocus and restrain the agency’s overreaches because all Americans are affected by the decisions made by a small group of bureaucrats in Washington.


Let’s Make American Energy Great Again

For the past eight years, President Barack Obama and his allies in Congress have feverishly worked to centralize energy regulatory power in Washington, empowering federal bureaucrats to micromanage how energy producers operate their facilities and run their businesses.

The fundamental problem with centralized regulatory authority is the tendency of Washington bureaucrats to be ignorant of—and often indifferent to—the interests of the people who live in the communities that are affected by their rules.

This isn’t a knock on the men and women who work in the federal bureaucracy, most of whom are well-educated and well-intentioned. But there’s no doubt that a regulator in Washington, D.C., knows less about a coal mine in Sevier County, Utah, than a regulator in Salt Lake City.

But starting in January 2017, we can begin to move all that decision-making power closer to the people.

The incoming Congress and new administration give us the best opportunity in recent memory to put Washington—especially federal energy policy—back on the side of hardworking Americans.

This will require a dual-track approach that simultaneously reins in our hyperactive federal bureaucracy and takes positive steps to return regulatory authority to the states.

We can—and should—start the process of repealing the most harmful and costly federal regulations right away. For President-elect Donald Trump, this means undoing many of his predecessor’s executive orders, like the moratorium on coal leasing.

And on Capitol Hill, we can get to work immediately after the new Congress is sworn in, by using the Congressional Review Act to rescind the laundry list of regulations the Obama administration issued in the past several months.

Much of this can be accomplished in the first 100 days of the new administration. But we must also advance long-term, structural solutions that decentralize regulatory authority out of the federal bureaucracy.

This should begin with a much-needed and fundamental attitude adjustment within administrative agencies (which is one reason I’m extremely encouraged by the nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency), so that Washington’s regulators remember that their job is to work with—not condescend to—the states.

Finally, Congress should work to pass, and get signed into law, legislation that empowers states to resume their rightful role in regulating the energy producers within their borders.

For federal lands states, like Utah, I believe the only fair and sustainable solution is a full transfer of all noncontroversial federal land back to the state governments.

But this is a long-term goal, and in the meantime, we can develop solutions that encourage co-management of public lands and that prevent federal rules from pre-empting or overriding effective regulations implemented by state agencies.

Advancing public policies that support and strengthen the revival of energy production in our country is important for all Americans, but especially for our fellow citizens involved in producing, refining, and transporting our nation’s energy resources—jobs like construction workers, rig and drill operators, and miners—where upwards of 90 percent of workers don’t have, or need, a college degree.

If we want our economy to produce the jobs and wage growth it has in the past, the energy sector is perhaps the best area for the incoming administration to start.


Fact Checking The Claim Of 97% Consensus On Anthropogenic Climate Change

A very cautious approach

The claim that there is a 97% consensus among scientists that humans are the cause of global warming is widely made in climate change literature and by political figures. It has been heavily publicized, often in the form of pie charts, as illustrated by this figure from the Consensus Project.

The 97% figure has been disputed and vigorously defended, with emotional arguments and counterarguments published in a number of papers. Although the degree of consensus is only one of several arguments for anthropogenic climate change – the statements of professional societies and evidence presented in reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are others – there is data to suggest that support is lower. In this post, I attempt to determine whether the 97% consensus is fact or fiction.

The 97% number was popularized by two articles, the first by Naomi Oreskes, now Professor of Science History and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University, and the second by a group of authors led by John Cook, the Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland. Both papers were based on analyses of earlier publications. Other analyses and surveys arrive at different, often lower, numbers depending in part on how support for the concept was defined and on the population surveyed.

This public discussion was started by Oreskes’ brief 2004 article, which included an analysis of 928 papers containing the keywords “global climate change.” The article says “none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position” of anthropogenic global warming. Although this article makes no claim to a specific number, it is routinely described as indicating 100% agreement and used as support for the 97% figure.

In a 2007 book chapter, Oreskes infers that the lack of expressed dissent “demonstrates that any remaining professional dissent is now exceedingly minor.” The chapter revealed that there were about 235 papers in the 2004 article, or 25%, that endorsed the position. An additional 50% were interpreted to have implicitly endorsed, primarily on the basis that they discussed evaluation of impacts. Authors addressing impacts might believe that the Earth is warming without believing it is anthropogenic. In the article, Oreskes said some authors she counted "might believe that current climate change is natural." It is impossible to tell from this analysis how many actually believed it. On that basis, I find that this study does not support the 97% number.

The most influential and most debated article was the 2013 paper by Cook, et al., which popularized the 97% figure. The authors used methodology similar to Oreskes but based their analysis on abstracts rather than full content. I do not intend to reopen the debate over this paper. Instead, let’s consider it along with some of the numerous other surveys available.

Reviews of published surveys were published in 2016 by Cook and his collaborators and by Richard S. J. Tol, Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex. The 2016 Cook paper, which reviews 14 published analyses and includes among its authors Oreskes and several authors of the papers shown in the chart below, concludes that the scientific consensus “is robust, with a range of 90%–100% depending on the exact question, timing and sampling methodology.” The chart shows the post-2000 opinions summarized in Table 1 of the paper. Dates given are those of the survey, not the publication date. I’ve added a 2016 survey of meteorologists from George Mason University and omitted the Oreskes article.

The classification of publishing and non-publishing is that used by Cook and his collaborators. These categories are intended to be measures of how active the scientists in the sample analyzed have been in writing peer-reviewed articles on climate change. Because of different methodology, that information is not available in all of the surveys. The categorization should be considered an approximation. The chart shows that over half the surveys in the publishing category and all the surveys in the non-publishing category are below 97%.

Cook is careful to describe his 2013 study results as being based on “climate experts.” Political figures and the popular press are not so careful. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have repeatedly characterized it as 97% of scientists. Kerry has gone so far as to say that “97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.” This is patently wrong, since the Cook study and others showed that the majority of papers take no position. One does not expect nuance in political speeches, and the authors of scientific papers cannot be held responsible for the statements of politicians and the media.

Given these results, it is clear that support among scientists for human-caused climate change is below 97%. Most studies including specialties other than climatologists find support in the range of 80% to 90%. The 97% consensus of scientists, when used without limitation to climate scientists, is false.

In the strict sense, the 97% consensus is false, even when limited to climate scientists. The 2016 Cook review found the consensus to be “shared by 90%–100% of publishing climate scientists.” One survey found it to be 84%. Continuing to claim 97% support is deceptive. I find the 97% consensus of climate scientists to be overstated.

An important consideration in this discussion is that we are attempting to define a single number to represent a range of opinions which have many nuances. To begin with, as Oreskes says, “often it is challenging to determine exactly what the authors of the paper[s] do think about global climate change.” In addition, published surveys vary in methodology. They do not ask the same questions in the same format, are collected by different sampling methods, and are rated by different individuals who may have biases. These issues are much discussed in the literature on climate change, including in the articles discussed here.

The range of opinions and the many factors affecting belief in anthropogenic climate change cannot be covered here. The variety of opinion can be illustrated by one graph from the 2013 repeat of the Bray and von Storch survey showing the degree of belief that recent or future climate change is due to or will be caused by human activity. A value of 1 indicates not convinced and a value of 7 is very much convinced. The top three values add to 81%, roughly in the range of several other surveys.

Even though belief is clearly below 97%, support over 80% is strong consensus. Would a lower level of consensus convince anyone concerned about anthropogenic global warming to abandon their views and advocate unrestricted burning of fossil fuels? I think not. Even the 2016 Cook paper says “From a broader perspective, it doesn’t matter if the consensus number is 90% or 100%.”

Despite the difficulty in defining a precise number and the opinion that the exact number is not important, 97% continues to be widely publicized and defended. One might ask why 97% is important. Perhaps it’s because 97% has marketing value. It sounds precise and says that only 3% disagree. By implication, that small number who disagree must be out of the mainstream: cranks, chronic naysayers, or shills of the fossil fuel industry. They are frequently described as a “tiny minority.” It’s not as easy to discount dissenters if the number is 10 or 15 percent.

The conclusions of the IPCC are the other most often cited support for anthropogenic climate change. These conclusions are consensus results of a committee with thousands of contributors. Although this is often viewed as a monolithic conclusion, the nature of committee processes makes it virtually certain that there are varying degrees of agreement, similar to what was shown in the Bray and von Storch survey. The Union of Concerned Scientists says of the IPCC process “it would be clearly unrealistic to aim for unanimous agreement on every aspect of the report.” Perhaps this is a subject for another day.



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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