Sunday, December 10, 2017

Vicious Greenies get respected IPCC scientist charged because he mapped glaciers as is standard, not as they wanted

A prominent geoscientist in Argentina is facing criminal charges over accusations that he manipulated a government survey of glaciers at the behest of mining interests.

On 27 November, a federal judge in Buenos Aires charged Ricardo Villalba, the former director of the Argentinian Institute of Snow, Ice and Environmental Research (IANIGLA) in Mendoza, with abusing his authority and violating his duty as a civil servant. Villalba appealed against his indictment on 4 December — but if he loses, the case will go to trial. In the meantime, the court has ordered Villalba to stay in the country, and has authorized the seizure of his assets up to 5 million pesos (US$289,000).

The case hinges on the definition of a glacier as viewed from space. When Villalba began the government survey in 2011, he determined that it would include glaciers of 1 hectare or larger — following international norms for satellite analyses. But environmental activists in Argentina’s San Juan province argue that he excluded some smaller glaciers to prevent tougher regulation of adjacent mines operated by the Barrick Gold Corporation of Toronto, Canada. Villalba’s scientific colleagues in Argentina and abroad say the charges against him are baseless and political.

International support

“It’s surreal and kind of ridiculous,” says Bruce Raup, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, who co-authored a letter of support for Villalba. Raup maintains an international glacier database that includes information from the ongoing Argentinian survey. He says that many scientists set a minimum glacier size of 1 hectare to reduce the risk of incorrectly counting ephemeral snow and ice.

Villalba rejects the idea that he or his colleagues at IANIGLA failed to carry out their duties properly. “There is no other institution in Argentina that has done more for the knowledge, care and protection of glaciers than IANIGLA,” he says. The allegation that the glacier surveys were designed to promote mining interests "is totally wrong", he says, and a blow to science in Argentina generally.

Fellow scientists have rushed to his defence. Villalba's co-workers at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) in Mendoz protested on his behalf as he entered his appeal on 4 December. And scientists in other countries who have worked with Villalba are collecting signatures on a letter defending him and his glacier survey. Many of these researchers see parallels between Villalba's case and that of six seismologists who were found guilty of manslaughter for misleading the public about the dangers of an earthquake, although their convictions were later overturned.

The charges against Villalba stem from a lawsuit by environmental activists in San José de Jáchal, a community in the northwestern part of the country. They argue that the glacier survey conducted by Villalba and his colleagues at IANIGLA did not comply with a law enacted in 2010 that was designed to give extra protections to Argentina's glaciers, which provide the bulk of the country's water. The law also directed the government to conduct a survey of Argentina's land ice — the work that Villalba, who had advocated for the law's passage, later coordinated.

Environmental impact

The environmental activists argue that Villalba and his colleagues should have documented all glaciers, no matter the size — including ice in the vicinity of Barrick Gold’s Veladero gold mine, near San José de Jáchal. "The law did not distinguish glaciers by surface or size," says Diego Seguí, a lawyer who is representing the activist group, the Asamblea Jachál No Se Toca.

Once the ice near the mine had been mapped, the activists say, the law would have required the scientists to audit the Barrick facility's impact on glacial resources. They claim that this would have halted activities there, thus preventing the three cyanide spills that have taken place at the mine over the past two years.

Villalba and his allies reject that idea. They say that as a science agency, IANIGLA is not responsible for enforcing environmental rules. Instead, they argue that the responsibility of maintaining environmental safety at the Veladero mine is the duty of Barrick and of Argentina’s environmental regulators.

“Clearly there is no relationship between the actual mapping and the spill of cyanide,” says Tom Veblen, a geographer at the University of Colorado Boulder who was Villalba’s graduate adviser. “Ricardo is being used as a scapegoat, without a doubt."


Moody's Climate Change Delusion

Moody's might downgrade themselves if they push too hard on this

Coastal cities and towns across the United States are now facing significant pressure from Moody's Investors Service, one of the world's most important credit agencies, to battle climate change. Failing to do so, Moody's warns, could result in downgraded credit ratings.

In a recent report to clients, Moody's outlined several indicators its analysts use to assess "the exposure and overall susceptibility of U.S. states to the physical effects of climate change" while crafting credit ratings for state, city, and regional government bonds. Among the indicators Moody's listed is the share of a community's economy that's linked to the coast.

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Moody's says cities with large ports or an extensive fishing industry, for instance, are at a greater risk of climate change-related disasters.

"Extreme weather patterns exacerbated by changing climate trends include higher rates of coastal storm damage, more frequent droughts, and severe heat waves," Moody's wrote in a press release accompanying the report. "These events can also cause economic challenges like smaller crop yields, infrastructure damage, higher energy demands, and escalated recovery costs."

Moody's claims state and local governments that don't adequately prepare for these increased risks will likely face credit downgrades in the future. Moody's identified Texas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi as the states with greatest risks, and thus as the states that must urgently spend more money preparing for what Moody's seems to think is inevitable climate change disaster.

If the evidence were to clearly show that future climate change is inevitably going to create additional extreme weather events and damage to coastal areas, then Moody's analysis would make perfect sense. Increased risks should be met with more preparedness.

However, the climate change assumptions Moody's has built into its forecasts aren't based on the existing evidence, which shows dire extreme weather events have not substantially increased in recent years.

Prior to Hurricane Harvey making landfall in Texas in August as a Category 4 hurricane, the United States experienced an historic major-hurricane drought. From November 2005 to August 2017, not a single hurricane that measured as Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane intensity scale made landfall along an American coast — the longest such drought since modern hurricane records were first created in 1851.

Evidence of a substantial growing danger posed by other kinds of extreme weather events is also virtually nonexistent.

In testimony given before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in March 2017, Roger Pielke, Jr., Ph.D., a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and formerly a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, noted, "There is little scientific basis in support of claims that extreme weather events — specifically hurricanes, floods, drought, tornadoes — and their economic damage have increased in recent decades due to the emission of greenhouse gases. In fact, since 2013 the world and the United States have had a remarkable stretch of good fortune with respect to extreme weather, as compared to the past."

Moody's is basing its analysis of future climate change risks on the credit agency's commitment to climate change alarmist dogma, not on scientific data, and this isn't the first time it's happened. In June 2016, Moody's urged countries around the world to ratify the Paris climate agreement and said it planned to use the Paris agreement commitments to guide future credit analyses.

Moody's embrace of the extremely costly Paris agreement is telling, especially since even those supportive of the accords have said they would have a relatively minimal impact on global temperature.

Researchers at MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change estimated that compared to the 2009 Copenhagen agreement, the Paris agreement would likely only prevent an additional 0.2 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100. Even without the Copenhagen agreement, the MIT researchers estimated it would prevent only 1 degree C of warming by 2100.

These figures are truly remarkable considering fulfilling all the obligations of the Paris agreement would cost the U.S. economy about $3 trillion and 6.5 million industrial jobs by 2040, according to an analysis by NERA Economic Consulting.

By coercing communities to spend billions more to prepare for natural disasters that may never come, Moody's is attempting to impose its climate change fantasies on the millions of American families who would have to shoulder the burden of added government costs made to prevent a downgraded credit rating.

Rather than indulge in climate alarmist fiction, Moody's should instead stick to what the available data actually reveals when creating its credit assessments.


End the ‘war on coal’

Far from being a threat, coal continues to bring health, welfare and prosperity to billions

Bryan Leyland and Tom Harris

At the recent Environmental Protection Agency public hearing in Charleston, West Virginia, on withdrawing the “Clean Power Plan,” anti-coal activists were out in force: the Climate Justice Alliance, Sierra Club, Citizens Climate Lobby, Natural Resource Defense Council and many others.

The New York Times reported that several groups also met at the University of Charleston, to discuss the purported “environmental, health and climate benefits of reducing coal consumption.”

They apparently do not understand that the abundant, low-cost energy provided by coal laid the foundations of the industrial revolution and modern society. It provided power for trains that transported raw materials and factories that turned them into vital products.

In the twentieth century coal-fired power stations provided the reliable, inexpensive electricity that is the lifeblood of modern economies. It still does today.

The world has vast coal reserves. The USA alone still has a 380-year supply at current usage rates. It could be burned in modern clean power plants.

Sadly, in the Western world, radical environmentalists are working to shut down existing coal-fired stations, and prevent new ones from being built. Meanwhile, hundreds of new coal-fired stations are being built annually in the rest of the world, to power expanding economies and bring improved health, welfare and prosperity to billions of people who until recently had no access to electricity.

Developing countries must build new coal-fired stations to provide their poverty-stricken populations with reliable low-cost electricity. But environmentalists have convinced international development banks that coal is evil and persuaded the banks to squander vast sums on expensive wind and solar power that keeps a few lights burning a few hours a day.

For commercial and industrial development, hospitals, schools and families, developing nations need abundant, continuous, low-cost electricity. In many cases, coal is by far the best option.

So why is coal vilified? It is because of the mistaken belief that man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) is causing dangerous global warming. Indeed, coal stations are a major source of CO2 emissions. However, this climate change connection rests entirely on the output of computer models that are programmed to predict warming if CO2 increases. The models assume what they are supposed to prove!

Speaking at the recent America First Energy Conference in Houston, Texas, University of Delaware climatology professor Dr. David Legates showed that climate models consistently predict far greater temperature rises than are actually observed: a full degree Fahrenheit difference by 2017.

Models are “tuned” to give the results desired for political purposes, he explained. “This is not science!”

Yet, the benefits of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide – the only gas controlled by the Clean Power Plan – are clear. CO2 is essential for plant growth. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change expert Dr. Craig Idso told the Houston audience, “The entire terrestrial biosphere is reaping incredible benefits from an approximately 40% increase in atmospheric CO2 since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.”

If it were true that man-made CO2 caused dangerous global warming, the best option would be nuclear power that is proven, safe and environmentally friendly. But environmental extremists claim that nuclear power is too dangerous, even though the only recorded deaths from nuclear power generation occurred at the obsolete and mal-operated Chernobyl station in Ukraine.

The next best option is natural gas. This has been spectacularly successful in the United States, and hydraulic fracturing is producing abundant supplies of this vital fuel. Yet, despite its excellent safety record, activists violently oppose fracking.

Instead, they push wind and solar power that exist only because they are heavily subsidized, and their health and environmental impacts are ignored. The huge expansion of wind and solar power has massively increased electricity costs because of subsidies, mandated purchases and the high cost of providing backup power whenever the wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine.

Reliability is also a problem, especially with wind power. For example, extensive blackouts occurred recently in South Australia when their wind power went offline in a gale and so overloaded the backup supply that it also shut down.

Few people understand that the war against coal is actually a war against people and a cleaner environment.

Modern highly efficient coal-fired power plants with stack gas cleanup – the kind that can be built all over the world – are as clean as they can be. Their emissions consist of water, CO2 and nitrogen. The stack gas cleanup removes virtually all the real pollutants, especially sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides.

The only pollution left behind is coal ash, which freezes pollutants in its glassy matrix and can be stored safely in disposal facilities.

The USA is not building modern coal-fired power plants because EPA regulations set allowable CO2 emissions per megawatt of electricity far below what can be achieved using the best technology. If it had been set slightly higher – or better still, if no limit had been imposed on CO2 emissions – the United States would be still leading the world in building modern, clean, efficient, economical coal-fired stations. That’s exactly what Europe, China, India and dozens of other countries are doing.

It’s clearly high time to end the war on coal!

Via email

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is reining in the out of control radical environmentalists

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been Republicans least favorite agency for quite some time. The Obama administration allowed the EPA to expand their influence far past nearly any other executive agency, imposing unprecedented regulatory burdens on the American people. Under the leadership of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump’s EPA has taken a dramatic turn to foster innovation within the private sector and remove stifling regulations from state and corporation.

The EPA made waves in October when it followed up the U.S. departure from the Paris climate accord and announced the Trump administration would be rescinding the Clean Power Plan, which placed strict regulations on carbon emissions. The removal of this rule removes significant economic burdens from U.S. industries and will allow coal to remain a resilient energy source for millions of Americans, but this is just one example of the EPA’s success during the Trump Administration.

Congress has worked with the EPA through the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to remove elements of executive overreach the Obama Administration pushed into place.

Under the CRA law, Congress has 60 legislative days to offer joint resolutions of disapproval for any executive regulation; once passed through both legislative branches and the presidency, the statute is nullified and cannot be reinstated without a vote of Congress. Congress has used the CRA to rescind 13 regulations under the Trump Administration, many dealing with overreach from the EPA and Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS).

Congress used H.J. Res. 69 to rescind the FWS Wildlife Management Rule. Under this rule Alaskan citizens faced increase hunting restrictions, costing communities $5.9 million annually.

Congress used H.J. Res. 38 to rescind the Stream Protection Rule. This rule targeted coal companies in order to “minimize disturbances and adverse impacts on fish, wildlife, and related environmental values” as deemed necessary by the EPA. This devastated industry across the country, the final rule of the regulation explains, “Of the $81 million in increased annual costs to industry, surface mining operations will bear an estimated $71 million, while underground mining operations will absorb $10 million.”

The House reaffirmed this interest in reining in burdensome EPA guidelines with the inclusion of section 113 of the omnibus bill. The bill passed the House on a 211-198 vote, including a provision targeting the Endangered Species Act due to their protections of the greater Sage Grouse. Despite not listing this bird as an endangered species, the EPA and the FWS have classified 5.5 million acres of privately owned land across 11 states as conservation areas.

Within the EPA, Administrator Scott Pruitt has taken steps to remove regulations that harm industry without producing significant benefit to the United States.

The Water of the United States Rule was imposed by President Obama to require a federal permit for any activity resulting in a distarch of water into small streams and wetlands, placing a new barrier to expansion for farmers across America’s heartland. President Trump ordered an executive order to review the rule in February 2017, and in July the EPA began with a proposed withdrawal.

Glider vehicles, old, heavy-duty trucks, were regulated out of existence in the Obama administration for causing too much carbon emissions. Pruitt has defended the trucks, “Gliders not only provide a more affordable option for smaller owners and operators, but also serve as a key economic driver to numerous rural communities.” Under his leadership, the EPA has taken steps to repeal these restrictions.

The Obama Administration also wanted the EPA to place additional restrictions on the hard rock mining industry. Pruitt concluded the environmental risks were not worth further federal requirements and refused to “impose an undue burden on this important sector of the American economy and rural America, where most of these mining jobs are based.”

Scott Pruitt has taken significant steps to return the EPA to its true purpose, to enforce the rules of Congress in order to protect the interests of the American people best. While the Obama Administration transformed the agency into one with overarching power, Pruitt is empowering the American people without the restrictions of the federal government.


Britain Starts Dismantling Wind Farms After Successful Lake District Campaign

A dozen 140ft wind turbines on the edge of the Lake District are due to be dismantled next summer after a decision which could result in many more being removed to restore views.

The wind farm on Kirkby Moor on the Furness peninsula in Cumbria would be the first large one to be taken down since they began appearing around Britain in 1991

The wind farm on Kirkby Moor on the Furness peninsula in Cumbria would be the first large one to be taken down since they began appearing around Britain in 1991.

South Lakeland district council refused an application by the wind farm operator to keep the turbines operating for another ten years until 2027.

Under the original planning permission, granted in 1992, the turbines have to be removed by August 26 next year.

The council’s decision follows a campaign by the Friends of the Lake District (FLD) and the Open Spaces Society (OSS), which argued that the turbines blighted views from within the Lake District National Park.

The distance to the park boundary from the nearest turbine is 800 metres. Laura Fiske, FLD planning officer, said the decision set a precedent which would make it easier to resist applications from other wind farm operators to extend the life of visually intrusive turbines for which planning permission will soon expire.

She said: “This decision is a victory for the local communities who live in the shadow of this development imposed on them by the government in the early 1990s. This decision reflects the tireless effort they have put in to make their voices heard.”

Kate Ashbrook, OSS general secretary, said: “We objected because the turbines are a severe intrusion in a wild landscape, highly visible from many directions and in particular from the Lake District national park.

“Furthermore, the turbines occupy a significant area of registered common land, where the public has the right to walk and commoners have the right to graze stock. The moor is also criss-crossed with public rights of way.

“Now we need to make sure that every trace of the turbines is removed when the current consent expires next year, so that this magnificent common is restored to its former glory.”




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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