Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Earth May Be Close to 'Threshold of Catastrophe'

And it may be close to turning into a second garden of Eden.  About 2 degrees of global warming would move us towards that.  Much of the earth is too cold at the moment.

More stupid speculation below.  But it's a speculation about what will happen thousands of years in the future so it is safe from falsification

The amount of carbon dioxide that humans will have released into the atmosphere by 2100 may be enough to trigger a sixth mass extinction, a new study suggests.

The huge spike in CO2 levels over the past century may put the world dangerously close to a "threshold of catastrophe," after which environmental instability and mass die-offs become inevitable, the new mathematical analysis finds.

Even if a mass extinction is in the cards, however, it likely wouldn't be evident immediately. Rather, the process could take 10,000 years to play out, said study co-author Daniel Rothman, a geophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

However, slashing carbon emissions dramatically in the coming years may also be enough to prevent such global catastrophe, said Lee Kump, a geoscientist at Pennsylvania State University who was not involved in the study.

Carbon and death

Over Earth's 4.5-billion-year history, life has seen a lot of boom and bust times. In the past half-billion years alone, five major extinctions have wiped out huge swaths of life: the Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction, the Late Devonian mass extinction, the Permian mass extinction, the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction and the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. The most severe was the Permian extinction, or "The Great Dying," when over 95 percent of marine life and 70 percent of land-based life died off.

All these major extinctions have one similarity.

"Every time there's been a major mass extinction — one of the big five — there's been a serious disruption of the global carbon cycle," Rothman said. It could be a direct link between CO2 and death due ocean acidification or an indirect link, as carbon dioxide emissions can warm a planet to unlivable temperatures and have even been linked with volcanic eruptions and the related cooling of the atmosphere.

For instance, at the end of the Permian period, about 252 million years ago, ocean carbon dioxide levels skyrocketed, marine rocks reveal. (Carbon dioxide that is in the air gradually dissolves into the ocean's surface and eventually enters the deep ocean.)  However, carbon doesn't always equal assured doom for the planet. It's possible that a change in carbon levels in the atmosphere and oceans are markers for rapid environmental change, which could be the underlying cause of extinctions. In addition, rocks from the past reveal many other "carbon excursions" — or rises in atmospheric or ocean levels of carbon — that did not result in mass extinctions, Rothman said.

Fast time and slow time

So what distinguishes the deadly carbon excursions from the ones that don't cause mass dying?

In the new study, which was published Sept. 20 in the journal Science Advances, the scientists assumed that two factors may play a role: the rate at which carbon levels increase, and the total amount of time that change is sustained, Rothman said.

To calculate those values, Rothman looked at data on carbon isotopes, or versions of the element with differing numbers of neutrons, from rock samples from 31 geologic periods over the past 540 million years. Determining the length and magnitude of rises in atmospheric carbon can be tricky because some periods have thorough rock samples while others are sparsely represented, Rothman said.

From that data, Rothman and his colleagues identified the rates of carbon change and total carbon input that seemed to be correlated to extinctions in the geologic record. Then, they extrapolated to the present day, in which humans are adding carbon to the atmosphere at a furious rate.

Rothman calculated that adding about 310 gigatons of carbon to the oceans was enough to trigger mass extinctions in the past, although there is huge uncertainty in that number, Rothman said.

"Most every scenario that's been studied for how things will play out, as far as emissions are concerned, suggest on the order of 300 gigatons or more of carbon will be added to the oceans before the end of the century," Rothman said.

What happens the day after that threshold is reached?

"We run the risk of a series of positive feedbacks in which mass extinction could conceivably be the result," Rothman said.

Of course, those effects wouldn't be felt immediately; it could take 10,000 years for the die-off to result. And there's a lot of uncertainty in the estimates, Rothman added.

"I think it's a really useful approach, but there are always limitations when we're working in deep time," Kump told Live Science. "One of the limitations is that Rothman had to accept the state of our understanding of the timing and duration of these disturbances."

But even with that uncertainty, "clearly the rate of fossil fuel burning today rivals, if not exceeds, the rate of carbon cycle perturbation in the past" associated with mass extinctions, Kump said.

Because the rate of carbon rise is so steep currently, the best option for preventing eventual catastrophe is to ensure the duration of the carbon increase is short, he said.

"If we can rein ourselves in, we can avoid the Permian catastrophe," Kump said.


U.S. Government Says Walrus Not Endangered As Mammals Adapt To Climate Change

ANCHORAGE, Alaska  – The Trump administration announced Wednesday it will not list the Pacific walrus as a threatened species based on diminished Arctic Ocean sea ice, concluding that the marine mammals have adapted to the loss.

“Walrus demonstrated much more ability to change their behaviors than previously thought.”

Walrus cows and yearlings rest on ice in Alaska in 2014. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Associated Press

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they cannot determine with certainty that walruses are likely to become endangered “in the foreseeable future,” which the agency defines as the year 2060.

The decision could be challenged in court by environmental groups, who say a decline in Arctic Ocean sea ice due to climate change is a threat to the walruses’ future.

The agency said in 2011 that walruses deserve the additional protection of being declared threatened, but delayed a listing because other species were a higher priority. The agency revised the decision based on new information, said Patrick Lemons, the agency’s marine mammals management chief.

“Walrus demonstrated much more ability to change their behaviors than previously thought,” Lemons said. Their ability to rest on shorelines before swimming to foraging areas makes the threat of less sea ice uncertain, he added.

Older male walruses spend summers in the Bering Sea. Females with calves, however, ride sea ice north as it melts in spring and summer all the way through the Bering Strait into the Chukchi Sea. The ice provides a moving platform, giving walruses a place to rest and nurse, and protection from predators.

In the last decade, however, ice in the Arctic Ocean has melted far beyond the shallow continental shelf over water too deep for walruses to reach the ocean floor. Walruses instead have gathered by the thousands on beaches in northwestern Alaska and Russia, where smaller animals are vulnerable to being trampled in stampedes if the herd is spooked by a polar bear, hunter or airplane.

In the last six years, Lemons said, protections put in place in Alaska and Russia have greatly reduced trampling deaths. Walruses also have shown a willingness to swim great distances of 130 miles (210 kilometers) or more from coastal haulouts to prime foraging areas.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list walruses in 2008 because of diminished sea ice tied to global warming. Arctic sea ice this summer dropped to 1.79 million square miles (4.64 million square kilometers), about 610,000 square miles (1.58 million square kilometers) below the 30-year average.

Lemons said the Fish and Wildlife Service used climate models showing the Chukchi Sea between northwest Alaska and Russia could be ice-free in the summer by 2060. But he said information collected in the last six years makes predicting the walruses’ fate uncertain beyond then, so the decision was made not to list the species.


New York Times Spreads Fake News on Trump EPA

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump's EPA secretary, Scott Pruitt, had "almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates." This in the same report that acknowledged Pruitt personally met with representatives from quite a few such organizations.

"The truth is: EPA has met with over 25 consumer protection, public health and environmental groups," EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told PJ Media in a statement Tuesday. "Additionally, Administrator Pruitt has been praised by the Galveston Bay Foundation and Texas Health and Environment Alliance for his work on cleaning up toxic Superfund sites."

Indeed, community activists praised Pruitt for coming in person and pledging to clean up the Dioxin dump known as the San Jacinto River Waste Pits in the area of Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey. "He said he would expedite the decision," Scott Jones of the Galveston Bay Foundation told Fox 26. "We think that's great. EPA staff has already said removal is the right course."

"As long as the waste pits stay in the river, our residents won't feel safe," Jackie Young, leader of the Texas Health and Environment Alliance, told Fox 26. "Administrator Pruitt made it clear, he understands that."

In addition to his statement, Wilcox also provided a list of all the environmental, consumer protection, and public health groups the EPA has met with. Here is the list:

The Nature Conservancy. Audubon Society. American Lung Association. American Public Health Association. American Academy of Pediatrics. March of Dimes. Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. Physicians for Social Responsibility. Trust for America’s Health. National Medical Association. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. National Environmental Health Association. NYU School of Medicine. National Association of Environmental Medicine. National Association of County and City Health Officials. Health Care Without Harm. Healthy Air Campaign. Indiana NAACP. East Chicago Community Action Group. Twin City Ministerial Alliance. First Baptist Church East Chicago. Interfaith Federation. Association of Clean Water Administrators. Texas Health and Environment Coalition. Galveston Bay Foundation. Environmental Council of the States. Western Governors Association, including Democratic Governors Steve Bullock (Mont.), Kate Brown (Ore.), David Ige (Hawaii), and John Hickenlooper (Colo.).

The Times report attacked Pruitt for meeting with rural voters, conservative nonprofit organizations, and energy and other companies. The report insinuated that the EPA head barely ever met with environmental or public health organizations, but it explicitly stated that he had "almost no meetings" with them.

"Since taking office in February, Mr. Trump's E.P.A. chief has held back-to-back meetings, briefing sessions and speaking engagements almost daily with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the major economic sectors that he regulates — and almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer protection or public health advocates, according to a 320-page accounting of his daily schedule from February through May," Times reporters Eric Lipton and Lisa Friedman reported.

Lipton and Friedman wrote this, despite the fact that the very list they linked to explicitly mentioned many such groups, including the Association of Clean Water Administrators, the American Lung Association, Dr. Alan Woolf of the Boston Children's Hospital Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, and others. These are meetings Pruitt personally attended, included on the very list the Times cited to say he had "almost no meetings."

Indeed, the Times report even mentioned meetings with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the conservation group Trout Unlimited, and other groups.

These admissions were craftily buried in the story, with Lipton and Friedman spending more time attacking Pruitt for meeting with businesses, flying home to Oklahoma, meeting with the Family Research Council, and attending a Heritage Foundation summit at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Perhaps Pruitt has spent more money than necessary on travel, but Obama's former EPA director, Gina McCarthy, said one of her greatest regrets was her inability to connect with rural Americans on Obama's environmental policy.

"We tried to change the outreach and messaging in rural America in a number of ways, but ... has it changed the rhetoric that people hear?" McCarthy asked in a January interview with Reuters. "It hasn't," she admitted.

"We couldn't get it, but I wish we had," McCarthy said.

Pruitt's aggressive travel schedule and meetings with a wide variety of businesses seems a plausible response to the former Obama EPA head's regrets. Donald Trump came to the presidency by promising to help rural Americans and to jumpstart the economy after companies had struggled to meet Obama's stringent EPA rules.

Indeed, an EPA statement to the Times said as much. "As E.P.A. has been the poster child for regulatory overreach, the agency is now meeting with those ignored by the Obama administration," the agency said in a statement. This more than anything explains any slant in Pruitt's schedule toward companies that felt unfairly targeted by Obama's policies.

Also buried in the Times story was another crucial admission: a year's worth of McCarthy's calendar records showed a similar "partisan bent" and quite a few meetings with businesses. "She also met with industry players, like the American Gas Association, the National Pork Producers Council and Edison Electric Institute, the utility lobby," Lipton and Friedman reported.

McCarthy also "held a disproportionate number of meetings with Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups."

The Times did emphasize one crucial difference between Pruitt and McCarthy, however. "The documents show Ms. McCarthy apparently spent much more time meeting with E.P.A. professional staff and other federal government officials than Mr. Pruitt," the report noted.


Trump EPA plan will roll back Obama standards on power plant emissions

The Trump administration is moving to roll back the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s attempt to slow global warming, seeking to ease restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

In a plan expected to be made public in coming days, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declares the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the 43-page document, which underscores President Donald Trump’s bid to revive the struggling coal industry.

The new EPA proposal would make good on Trump’s campaign pledge to unravel Obama’s efforts to curb global warming and follows the president’s promise to pull the US out of the landmark Paris climate agreement, under which nearly 200 countries have committed to combat global warming by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

The EPA will not prescribe an immediate replacement to the plan, but will seek public comment on whether to curb climate-warming emissions from coal and natural gas power plants.

A spokeswoman for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt declined to comment on Friday on the authenticity of the leaked document but said the Obama administration “pushed the bounds of their authority so far” that the US supreme court issued a stay to prevent the Clean Power Plan from taking effect.

“Any replacement rule that the Trump administration proposes will be done carefully and properly within the confines of the law,” Liz Bowman said.

The Obama administration’s cost-benefits analysis of the Clean Power Plan was “highly uncertain” in multiple areas, the EPA spokeswoman said, adding that the Trump administration would present a range of scenarios to the public “in a robust, open and transparent way”.

Obama’s plan was designed to cut US carbon dioxide emissions to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule dictated specific emission targets for states based on power-plant emissions and gave officials broad latitude to decide how to achieve reductions. The supreme court put the plan on hold last year, following a legal challenge by industry and coal-friendly states.

Even so, the plan has been a factor in a wave of retirements of coal-fired plants, which also are being squeezed by lower costs for natural gas and renewable power and state mandates promoting energy conservation.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan without a timeline or a commitment to propose a rule to reduce carbon pollution “isn’t a step forward, it’s a wholesale retreat from EPA’s legal, scientific and moral obligation to address the threats of climate change”, said former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.

While the supreme court has concluded that EPA is obligated to regulate greenhouse gases, “this administration has no intention of following the law” said McCarthy, who led the EPA when the Clean Power Plan was completed.

“They are denying it just as they are denying the science. They’re using stall tactics to defer action, ignoring the courts and the demands of the American people.”

Industry groups cheered the planned repeal, saying it would reverse regulatory overreach by Obama and McCarthy.

“The Clean Power Plan represented an unlawful attempt to transform the nation’s power grid … and raise costs on American consumers,” said Hal Quinn, president and chief executive of the National Mining Association.

The Obama plan would have sharply reduced the number of coal-fired plants, making the grid more vulnerable to reliability concerns and increasing costs with “trivial environmental benefits”, Quinn said.

The new plan will save an estimated 240 million tons of annual coal production and safeguard more than 27,000 mining jobs and almost 100,000 additional jobs throughout the supply chain, Quinn said.

In the leaked document, the Trump administration argues that repealing the Clean Power Plan could spare an estimated $33bn in compliance costs in 2030, arguing that the Obama administration overstated the rule’s potential health benefits. Previously, the EPA had estimated that by 2030 the Clean Power Plan would prevent 90,000 asthma attacks and up to 3,600 premature deaths a year.

The leaked document casts doubts on those numbers and says the EPA plans to perform updated modeling and analysis of health benefits and other impacts of the rule.

Liz Perera, climate policy director for the Sierra Club, said repealing the Clean Power Plan “is about one thing and one thing only: helping corporate polluters profit”.


Politicized sustainability threatens planet and people

It drives anti-fossil fuel agendas and threatens wildlife, jobs, and human health and welfare

Paul Driessen

Sustainability (sustainable development) is one of the hottest trends on college campuses, in the news media, in corporate boardrooms and with regulators. There are three different versions.

Real Sustainability involves thoughtful, caring, responsible, economical stewardship and conservation of land, water, energy, metallic, forest, wildlife and other natural resources. Responsible businesses, families and communities practice this kind of sustainability every day: polluting less, recycling where it makes sense, and using less energy, water and raw materials to manufacture the products we need.

Public Relations Sustainability mostly involves meaningless, superficial, unverifiable, image-enhancing assertions that a company is devoted to renewable fuels, corporate responsibility, environmental justice, reducing its carbon footprint – or sustainability. Its primary goal is garnering favorable press or appeasing radical environmental groups.

Politicized Sustainability is the untenable, even dangerous variety. It relies on ideological assertions and theoretical models as an alternative to actual outside-our-windows reality and evidence. Like “dangerous manmade climate change,” its real purpose is gaining greater agitator and government control over people’s energy use, lives, livelihoods, liberties and living standards. It reflects an abysmal understanding of basic energy, economic, resource extraction, manufacturing and human rights realities.

The most common definition is that “we may meet the needs of current generations” only to the extent that doing so “will not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

Among other alleged human wrongdoing doing, Political Sustainability thus reflects the assertion that we are rapidly depleting finite resources. Therefore, we must reduce our current needs and wants in order to save those resources for future generations. At first blush, it sounds logical, and even ethical.

However, under sustainability precepts, we are supposed to predict future technologies – and ensure that today’s resource demands will not compromise the completely unpredictable energy and raw material requirements that those completely unpredictable future technologies will introduce. We are supposed to safeguard the assumed needs of future generations, even if it means ignoring or compromising the undeniable needs of current generations – including the needs, aspirations, health and welfare of the most impoverished, malnourished, disease-ravaged, energy-deprived, politically powerless people on Earth.

For thousands of years, mankind advanced at a snail’s pace. Then, as the modern fossil-fuel industrial era found its footing, progress picked up rapidly, until the speed of change became almost exponential. How today is anyone supposed to predict what might be in store ten, fifty or a hundred years from now?

Moreover, as we moved from flint to copper, to bronze, iron, steel and beyond, we didn’t do so because mankind had exhausted Earth’s supplies of flint, copper, tin and so forth. We did it because we innovated. We invented something better, more efficient, more practical. Each advance required different materials.

Who today can foresee what future technologies we will have … and what raw materials those future technologies will require? How we are supposed to ensure that future families can meet their needs, if we cannot possibly know what those needs will be?

Why then would we even think of empowering activists and governments to regulate today’s activities – based on wholly unpredictable future technologies, lifestyles, needs and resource demands? Why would we ignore or compromise the pressing needs of current generations, to meet those totally unpredictable future needs?

“Resource depletion” claims also fail to account for new technologies that increase energy and mineral reserves, reduce their costs – or decrease the need for certain raw materials: copper, for instance, because lightweight fiber optic cables made from silica (one of Earth’s most abundant minerals) can carry thousands of times more information than a huge bundle of copper wires that weigh 800 times more.

In 1887, when Wisconsin’s Hearthstone House became the world’s first home lit by hydroelectric power, no one could foresee how electricity would come to dominate, enhance and safeguard our lives in the myriad ways it does today. No one could envision the many ways we generate electricity today.

120 years later, no one predicted tiny cellular phones with superb digital cameras and more computing and networking power than a big 1990 desktop computer. No one expected that we would need so much cadmium, lithium, rare earth metals and other raw materials to manufacture thousands of wind turbines.

No one anticipated that new 4-D seismic, deepwater drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies would find and produce so much oil and natural gas that today we still have at least a century’s worth of these vital energy resources – which “experts” had just told us we would run out of in only a few more years.

And yet, we are still supposed to predict the future 50 or 100 years from now, safeguard the assumed needs of future generations, and ignore the clear needs of current generations. We are also supposed to presume that today’s essential natural resources have to last forever. In reality, they only have to last long enough for our creative intellects to discover real, actually workable replacements: new deposits, production techniques, raw material substitutes or technologies.

Of course, all of this is irrelevant to Politicized Sustainability dogma. That doctrine focuses on ridding the world of fossil fuels, regardless of any social, economic, environmental or human costs of doing so. And regardless of whether supposed alternatives really are eco-friendly and sustainable.

For example, mandated U.S. ethanol quotas eat up 40% of this nation’s corn, grown on over 36 million acres of cropland, to replace 10% of America’s gasoline. Corn ethanol also requires billions of gallons of water, and vast quantities of pesticides, fertilizers, tractor fuel and natural gas … to produce energy that drives up food prices, damages small engines, gets one-third fewer miles per gallon than gasoline – and during its entire production and use cycle emits just as much carbon dioxide as gasoline.

Imagine replacing 100% of US gasoline with corn ethanol. How would that in any way be sustainable?

Mandated, subsidized wind energy requires millions of acres for turbines and ultra-long transmission lines … and billions of tons of concrete, steel, copper, rare earth metals and fiberglass. The turbines’ subsonic noise and light flicker create chronic health problems for susceptible people living near them, and kill millions of birds and bats annually – to produce expensive, intermittent, unreliable electricity that must be backed up by dozens of fossil fuel generators or billions of (nonexistent) land- and resource-intensive battery arrays.

Meanwhile, American and Canadian companies are cutting down thousands of acres of forests and turning millions of trees into wood pellets that they truck to coastal ports and transport on oil-fueled cargo ships to England. There the pellets are hauled by truck and burned in place of coal, to generate electricity … so that England can meet its renewable fuel targets. How is this sustainable – or “climate friendly”?

Why not just build the fossil fuel power plants … mine for coal and frack for natural gas to fuel them – or build more nuclear power plants – and forget about the ethanol, wind turbines, wood pellets and other pseudo-renewable, pseudo-sustainable false alternatives … until something truly better comes along?

Meanwhile, more than 1.2 billion people still do not have electricity. Another 2 billion have electrical power only sporadically and unpredictably. Hundreds of millions get horribly sick, and five million die every year from lung and intestinal diseases that are due to breathing smoke from open fires … and not having refrigeration, clean water and safe, bacteria-free food.

As Steven Lyazi has noted, these people simply want to take their rightful, God-given places among Earth’s healthy and prosperous people. Instead, they’re being told “that wouldn’t be sustainable.” They’re being told they must be content with a few wind turbines near their villages and little solar panels on their huts – to charge cell phones, pump a little water, power a few light bulbs and operate tiny refrigerators.

Politicized Sustainability is irrational, unjust, inhumane, eco-imperialistic and environmentally destructive. It is especially harmful to the world’s poor. It’s time to rethink and overhaul this insanity.

Via email



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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