Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Penguin chicks dying because of unusual and unpredicted cold in Antarctica

Grossly inconsistent with global warming

Almost the entire cohort of chicks from an Adelie penguin colony in the eastern Antarctic was wiped out by starvation last summer in what scientists say is only the second such incident in over 40 years.

Researchers said Sunday the mass die-off occurred because unusually large amounts of sea ice forced penguin parents to travel farther in search of food for their young. By the time they returned, only two out of thousands of chicks had survived.

"Not only did the chick starve but the partner (who stayed behind) also had to endure a long fast," said Yan Ropert-Coudert, a marine ecologist with the French science agency CNRS.

Ropert-Coudert, who leads the study of seabirds at the Dumont D'Urville Antarctic research station, said the Adelie colony there numbers about 18,000 pairs who have been monitored since the 1960s. A similar breeding loss was observed for the first time during a 2013-2014 research expedition.

"It is unusual because of the size of the population concerned," he said in an email to The Associated Press. "Zero breeding success years have been noted before elsewhere, but never for colonies of this size."

Sea ice extent in the polar regions varies each year, but climate change has made the fluctuation more extreme.

The environmental group WWF, which supported the research, urged governments meeting in Hobart, Australia, this week to approve a new marine protection area off East Antarctica. Rod Downie, head of polar programs for the group's British branch, said the impact of losing thousands of chicks was dramatic for an otherwise hardy species such as Adelie penguins.

"It's more like 'Tarantino does Happy Feet', with dead penguin chicks strewn across a beach in Adelie Land," he said.

Ropert-Coudert said creating a protection zone in the D'Urville Sea-Mertz region, where the colony is located, wouldn't prevent larger-than-usual sea ice, but it might ease the pressure on penguins from tourism and over-fishing.


SNP government accused of ignoring own research as it bans fracking

The Scottish National Party has been accused of ignoring its own scientific research yesterday after Scotland announced a ban on fracking, triggering a backlash from industry leaders.

Ministers justified the decision by pointing to a public consultation that found that 99 per cent opposed the gas extraction technique, and by saying that allowing fracking would make it harder to meet climate targets. The effective ban will be enforced through planning powers.

The move was warmly welcomed by environmentalists but the Scottish government faced claims that it prioritised populism over the evidence of its scientific advisers, who said that fracking could be carried out safely if properly regulated. The SNP was also accused of glossing over the fact that the country will continue to rely heavily on gas imports.

Companies in England are pressing ahead with developing sites after Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, approved plans last year for Cuadrilla to develop a site in Lancashire, overruling the county council’s decision to refuse permission.

Ineos, one of Scotland’s largest private companies, which has obtained fracking licences in the Central Belt, said that yesterday’s decision “beggared belief” and would send a damaging signal about how businesses were treated in Scotland.

An expert panel set up by the Scottish government said in a 2014 report that developing an unconventional oil and gas sector could be lucrative and that regulation could address any environmental risks. According to supporters of the industry, none of the conclusions was contradicted by subsequent research ordered by the government.

The Scottish government initially appeared open to fracking, before announcing a moratorium in January 2015 while new research and a public consultation was carried out.

Ineos accused the SNP of turning its back on a “potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance” that would now be enjoyed by England, with the UK government embracing fracking south of the border. The company said that supporting fracking would have meant an estimated 3,100 jobs for Scotland. Ineos will continue to ship large quantities of fracked gas from the United States to Grangemouth, where it is used to fuel its chemicals business.

“Not once has any issue of public health or monitoring been raised with us,” Tom Pickering, operations director for Ineos Shale, said. “The decision has certainly not rested on science, as they said it would. The argument about climate change doesn’t stack up. We know we will continue to use gas, importing it produces more emissions than if you produce it from beneath your feet.”

The decision is likely to lead to a deterioration in already tense relations between the Scottish government and Ineos, owner of the Grangemouth industrial complex, which contributes 4 per cent of the country’s GDP and 8 per cent of Scotland’s manufacturing base.

Fracking, in which large quantities of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to fracture shale rock and release gas, has been responsible for a economic boom in parts of the US. However, critics say it harms the environment and puts public health at risk.

Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish energy minister, said: “We have undertaken one of the most far-reaching examinations of unconventional oil and gas ever carried out by any government, anywhere. It is clear that people across Scotland remain firmly opposed to fracking — this government has listened and taken decisive action.

“Regardless of our position on unconventional oil and gas, our support for Scotland’s industrial base and manufacturing is unwavering.” [Except when it wavers]


PBS Airs Anti-Pruitt Documentary Funded By Environmentalist Group Backer

Documentary paints Republicans as 'climate deniers,' 'extreme'

A new PBS Frontline documentary that paints Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt as a tool for the fossil fuel industry received major funding from a group that has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to environmentalist activists like the Sierra Club.

The documentary, "War on the EPA," received major support from the Kendeda Fund, an Atlanta-based nonprofit focused on the environment and sustainability.

The documentary features interviews with numerous Obama administration backers, including Gina McCarthy, the former EPA administrator, and Betsy Southerland, a former EPA director making $250,000 who claimed earlier this year she resigned in protest because of the Trump administration's budget. Southerland was eligible for early retirement and told coworkers she was retiring because of family issues.

Southerland tells PBS that Pruitt's EPA is a "clear and present danger to public health and safety in this country."

The documentary calls critics of the Obama administration's wide-ranging regulatory actions targeting the coal industry and nuclear power plants "climate deniers" and "extreme." The PBS narrator refers to Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.) as "the Senate's leading climate change denier" and features Jane Mayer, a journalist with the New Yorker, calling the Trump EPA "radical."

"What you see now in the Trump administration is the triumph of the anti-environmental movement," Mayer says. "They are now in control of the government and in control of the regulatory process in a kind of a brazen way we haven't seen before."

Obama administration alums are depicted as crusaders against pollution, as they appear in interviews dismayed by President Trump and Pruitt following through on campaign promises to roll back environmental regulations.

Gina McCarthy said the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which was blocked by the Supreme Court and could have shrunk the coal industry by nearly half, was "disturbing."

Eric Schaeffer, a former EPA director of civil enforcement, called Pruitt's EPA a "hostile takeover" and a "political operation."

Jerry Taylor, a former fellow at the Cato Institute who now is in favor of a carbon tax, tells PBS the "conservative narrative" of a war on coal was "disconnected from reality."

PBS does not include clips in the documentary of Obama and Hillary Clinton discussing the coal industry. Obama said, "electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket" under his cap and trade plan, while Clinton boasted during a debate, "We are going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."

PBS also interviews Eric Lipton of the New York Times, who was bothered by paintings in Pruitt's old attorney general office in Oklahoma that pictured sheriffs in the Old West and a Native American sheriff.

"When I first got to [Pruitt's] office, there were these large paintings on the wall," Lipton said. "It just struck me that this was the real Wild West, that we will dispense our own justice." The camera zoomed in on the painted gun in a holster, as ominous music played.

PBS also attempts to tie Pruitt to the Koch brothers and paints a picture of the administrator receiving dark money from oil and gas companies.

PBS says, "Much of the Koch's fortune came from oil and gas, and they would spend millions opposing Obama's initiatives."

The documentary received major funding from Kendeda, which in turn has donated to many liberal groups that lobby for climate change regulations. On its website, Kendeda encourages "activism that promotes solutions to the social and equity challenges caused by climate change."

Kendeda has donated to numerous environmentalist activist organizations, including: $70,000 to the Sierra Club, $50,000 to Earthjustice, $50,000 to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and $500,000 to the U.S. Climate Action Network in 2015.

A spokesperson for WGBH, which put on the documentary, told the Free Beacon that the Kendeda Fund did not directly fund the documentary.

"The Kendeda Fund provides support to many organizations and groups, including schools and military families, and they have provided funding to WGBH under their People, Place, and Planet program for use in a variety of WGBH programs," said Jeanne Hopkins, vice president for communications. "Some was used to support this FRONTLINE film, along with its many other funding sources. They did not directly fund this program."

"War on the EPA was a political story full of voices on both sides of a contentious issue," Hopkins continued. "The film spent considerable time illuminating the roots of conservative thinking and action towards the EPA and featured key figures from industry and the movement around Scott Pruitt, including Bob Murray, CEO of Murray Energy and Myron Ebell, the head of President Trump’s EPA transition team."

The group also donated $250,000 to the New Venture Fund, which also supports environmentalist organizations. The same year, New Venture Fund donated $515,000 to the Sierra Club Foundation and $95,000 to, which vows to "stop fossil fuels."

The documentary also features Andrew Miller, a lobbyist for Southern Company, who was asked by PBS if it was "unseemly" that oil and gas companies lobbied against Obama's environmental regulations and that Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general filed lawsuits to stop the rules.

"Not at all," Miller said. "And the reason I say that is you have the Sierra Club partnering with attorneys general on the other side."

"It's all part of the Democratic process," he said.


Will questioning climate change become illegal in Canada?

Ecojustice wants government “cops” to investigate, punish and silence dissent

Tom Harris


 This slogan appeared on posters of the Party leader in the dystopian society of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. It was a constant reminder of omnipresent government surveillance for “thoughtcrime” – independent thinking.

In Orwell’s book, Ministry of Truth ‘history re-writer’ Winston Smith quietly rebelled against this oppression, starting a diary expressing forbidden thoughts. But government telescreens were everywhere. Watched constantly, Smith’s every move was monitored. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the consequences of being caught were dire; the stress on individuals enormous.

As head of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), I have been feeling a bit like Smith these days. That’s because ICSC has been under investigation by Canada's Competition Bureau, an independent law enforcement agency that “has a legislated mandate to ensure Canadian consumers and businesses prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.”

Here’s what happened.

In December 2015, while in Paris attending counter conferences to the United Nations’ climate meetings, I learned that the environmental organization Ecojustice had registered a complaint with the Competition Bureau on behalf of six prominent Canadians against the ICSC, Friends of Science, and the Heartland Institute.

Ecojustice claimed we presented “climate science misrepresentations” which “promote the denier groups’ own business interests,” and “promote the business interests of deep-pocketed individuals and corporations that appear to fund the denier groups.”

Our own core principles – which summarize our position on climate science and which we provide on our website – were actually presented as evidence against us.

Two of our allies assembled a 37-page response to the attack in which they presented peer-reviewed research in support of our positions. They suggested I counterattack with this impressive rebuttal.

Others cautioned me to keep my powder dry since the complaint made no sense. We were simply exercising our rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to express our opinions. That is what science is all about – opinions of experts based on their interpretations of observations. And, especially in climate science, different experts have different opinions.

Further, the complainants had no idea who helps the ICSC financially. With the exception of the late Dr. Gerry G. Hatch, an Order of Canada recipient who openly supported us, the identities of our donors have been confidential since 2008. Some of our scientists have been harassed and even had death threats for contesting climate alarmism. We do not want to risk exposing our donors to such abuse.

So I did nothing, hoping the Competition Bureau would dismiss the complaint as unfounded.

Yet, five months later, it did launch an investigation, referencing a complaint that we make “representations to the public in promotion of a business interest that are false or misleading in a material respect regarding climate change.”

The Bureau warned us, “If the results of an investigation disclose evidence that, in the opinion of the Commissioner, provides the basis for a criminal prosecution, the matter may be referred to the Attorney General of Canada, who determines whether a prosecution should be undertaken.”

Although I asked the Bureau where they suspected the ICSC may have made false or misleading statements, it refused to say, citing Competition Act Subsection 10(3), which requires that inquiries be conducted privately.

Aside from a letter in November 2016 informing me that the investigation was “ongoing,” I heard essentially nothing until the beginning of July 2017 when I received a letter from the Bureau informing me:

“While the Commissioner has discontinued the inquiry, and no further steps are contemplated at this time, be advised that no binding determination has been made respecting the conduct of International Climate Science Coalition. The Commissioner continues to have discretion to investigate and take enforcement action in respect of matters previously inquired into, including where additional information is discovered following the discontinuance of an inquiry.”

The National Observer reported that they received an e-mail from a bureau spokesperson concerning this investigation, stating, “We invite Canadians who believe they may have additional information to contact the Competition Bureau.”

So, after nearly 14 months, the investigation is “discontinued” but revivable at the “discretion” of the Commissioner. Ecojustice criticized the Bureau for “walking away without finishing the job, and asserted: “Now is the time we need our cops on the climate beat to be stepping up.”

In their September 19th press release concerning the affair, Friends of Science stated, “democracy is at stake as there are ever increasing calls to jail those who hold dissenting views on climate science.”

Is this the Canada my father and grandfathers defended against tyranny?

Via email.  Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition

Australian government to omit clean energy target from energy policy

They are just focusing on keeping the lights on

GOVERNMENT figures insist its new energy policy will meet Australia’s Paris agreement emissions target while saving households more than $90 a year.

Coalition MPs will be briefed on the scheme at a meeting in Canberra today following cabinet’s decision to reject a clean energy target as recommended by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel.

Instead, it has backed an idea from the new independent Energy Security Board. The head of the coalition’s backbench energy committee, Craig Kelly, was briefed on the new approach after Monday night’s meeting, welcoming the focus on dispatchable switch on/switch-off power.

“The problem with solar and wind, as wonderful technologies as they are, when there is no wind you get no electricity generation and as soon as the sun sets you also get zero electricity generation as well,” he told ABC radio this morning. “So as good as technologies as they are, you’ve got to have them backed up in some way and that’s either got to be a coal-fired power station, a gas generator or some form of battery.”

He defended the idea to ditch the clean energy target, as recommended by Dr Finkel. “The Finkel report contained 50 recommendations. If we’ve recommended 49 that’s a 98 per cent strike rate,” he said.

However supporters of the clean energy target — recommended by the country’s chief scientist as a way to reduce the future cost of energy — slammed the move to disregard the idea.

It is understood economic modelling of the alternative to the clean energy target — expected to be called the National Energy Guarantee — delivered price cuts deeper than under Dr Finkel’s mechanism.

The annual benefit from the CET came in at $90 a year for households, while large industrial users were expected to pay about 20 per cent less a year. At the same time, the modelling showed the new mechanism would enable Australia to achieve its commitment of a 26-28 per cent reduction in 2005 emissions by 2030.

Blackouts would be minimised with power generators and storage providers, such as hydro and batteries, covered by a new “generator reliability obligation”, as recommended by Dr Finkel.

Adequate dispatchable power would be required in all regions of Australia to ensure consumer demand is met, with the obligation being met using a variety of technologies.

Power prices have risen in real terms by 63 per cent during the past decade.

Labor leader Bill Shorten says Malcolm Turnbull was endorsing a clean energy target only four months ago. “Why on earth did we ask the chief scientist of Australia to give us a report,” he told reporters in Canberra.




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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