Tuesday, April 10, 2018

48,000 Brits dead after worst winter in 42 years

THE UK is being hit by its worst winter death toll in 42 years, a new search says. One Brit dies every three minutes from the cold.

After a brief mild spell, temperatures are set to dip again in April after the chilliest March in 21 years.

It is estimated that 20,275 Brits more than average died between December 1 and March

An additional 2,000 deaths more than average were expected due to cold conditions between March 23 and 31, this winter’s average death rates show.

Campaigners have called the deaths a “national tragedy” as cold weather victims fatalities could be prevented - especially in the elderly.

According to the Office of National Statistics, one in 10 cold weather deaths are among under-65s, one in 10 among 65-75s and eight in 10 among over-75s.

The Department of Health also said cold conditions worsen winter killers including flu, chest diseases, heart attacks, strokes and dementia.

It means this winter is set to total at least 48,000 deaths due to cold weather – which works out at an average of one death every three and a half minutes.

National Federation of Occupational Pensioners chief executive Malcolm Booth said: “It’s shocking and disturbing that winter’s excess deaths look like exceeding 40,000. “It’s a national tragedy, with so many families affected.

“Many who die are senior citizens. The elderly should make sure they eat hot meals, dress warmly and, if unable to heat your whole home, heat one room spend your time there.”

Department of Health chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “Cold-related deaths represent the biggest weather-related source of mortality.

“There are too many avoidable deaths each winter, primarily due to heart and lung conditions from cold temperatures. “It is vital to tackle the range of causes and reduce the number of ‘excess’ deaths each winter.”


Americans are increasingly seeing climate change through a partisan lens

Some notes from a sad Green/Leftist below

The Trump administration's rollbacks of crucial climate change policies, from the intended pullout from the Paris Agreement to the scuttled Clean Power Plan, have earned most of the media attention and scorn from environmentalists.

However, the ignorant climate science statements espoused by top federal officials, from the president to the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the secretary of Energy, and many others is having a corrosive effect on Americans' understanding of climate science.

Recent public opinion polling clearly shows that Americans are more divided now than they were a year ago on the causes of global warming, its seriousness, and the urgency of taking action.

While the majority of Americans still believe that global warming is caused by human activities, and that the effects of it have already begun, it's clear that the building drumbeat of flat out incorrect statements about climate science uttered by top officials is molding public opinion in a way that makes it harder for action to be taken on climate change.

A recent Gallup poll, for example, found that Republicans and independents have become more skeptical in their views on climate change, while Democrats have become even more convinced of the need to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming.

According to the Gallup poll, which is consistent with other public opinion surveys, majorities of Americans say that most scientists think global warming is taking place (66 percent), that it is caused by human activities (64 percent), and that its effects have already begun (60 percent).

However, there's a hardening of the partisan divisions that's occurred under Trump.

Gallup's annual survey on the environment, conducted during the first week of March, found that Americans are more divided than ever on climate change.

"President Donald Trump, who has called global warming a "hoax," may have contributed to this widening divide by reversing a number of government actions to address the issue," Gallup wrote in their online analysis accompanying the poll results.

Trump and his cabinet officials have also frequently misstated the scientific consensus on global warming in ways that cast doubt on the seriousness of the problem or even its existence.

For example, Trump does not seem to know the difference between weather and climate, using a December cold snap to rebut evidence of global warming.

Scott Pruitt, the embattled EPA administrator, has openly questioned the scientifically solid link between increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the air and global warming, telling CNBC last year that this long-lived greenhouse gas is not a "primary contributor" to global warming. (This is at odds with scientific knowledge documented in the 18th Century.)

"I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," Pruitt said.

The Gallup poll found that while 82 percent of Democrats think global warming has already begun, only 34 percent of Republicans agree. In fact, 32 percent of Republicans said climate change effects will "never happen."

In addition, about 69 percent of Republicans said news reports exaggerate the seriousness of global warming, but 64 percent of Democrats say the seriousness of global warming is underestimated.

Even though the vast majority of climate scientists know that global warming is human-caused and already occurring, going as far as saying in a 2017 government report that there is no natural explanation for the global warming we've seen in recent decades.

Yet despite such scientific assessments, a sizable 63 percent of Republicans think climate change is mostly due to natural causes, according to the Gallup poll.

Climate scientists understand that the use of the bully pulpit to espouse unscientific nonsense does not come without consequences.

In a Twitter thread on Friday, Texas Tech University climate researcher Katharine Hayhoe linked officials' statements with public opinion trends and a slowing down of urgently needed actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid the worst global warming impacts.

Tony Leiserowitz, senior research scientist and director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, said up until the 2016 election, recognition of climate change as a real, important issue was growing within the Republican Party. But that has changed dramatically in the last year, which he attributes largely to cues coming from the party's leaders.

“It’s the power of political elite cues,” he said, noting in an interview that partisans “... tend to listen to and follow the lead of what they hear from their political leaders.”

After the rise of the Tea Party and Trump, Leiserowitz said, his polling group has also found a steep drop in Republican recognition of the scientific consensus on climate change.

He said the Republicans made a “huge lurch to this new position that climate change is a hoax.”  “They climbed way out not just a limb but the farthest twig of a limb.”

He called his own group's findings and Gallup's conclusions evidence of the "Trump Effect" when it comes to climate change in particular. “Groups are getting farther and farther split apart,” Leiserowitz said


40 New Scientific Papers Say Global Warming Does Not Exist
Hundreds of scientists involved in 40 recent scientific papers say the scare about global warming is based on hysteria and false science.

Over 40 scientific papers on the global warming hoax have been published in just the first three months of 2018. What their charts show is that “nothing climatically unusual is happening.“

Breitbart.com reports: In the chart below from a study by Polovodova et al, we see that 20th century warming is perfectly normal in a long-term historical context. It was no warmer – indeed, is slightly cooler – than either the Roman Warm Period or the Medieval Warming Period.

A number of strident global warming scientists prefer to dismiss the significance of Europe’s temperature record, claiming that it is local in nature and does not tell us what is really happening globally. However, other papers fully contradict this. For example, a paper by W√ľndsch et al., 2018 shows us that the warming today in South Africa also is nothing unusual.

Temperature reconstructions show the same is true in Southeast Australia, according to  McGowan et al., 2018, Northern Alaska (Hanna et al., 2018), the Tibetan Plateau (Li et al., 2018), South Korea (Song et al., 2018), Antarctica (Mikis, 2018), to cite just a few among dozens of others.

In further bad news for climate alarmists, it seems that two of their favorite bellwethers of global warming doom – Greenland and the South Pole, are cooling not warming.

This puts Greenland’s recent warm spell in its historical context: over 150 years it wasn’t unusual. Temperatures now are cooler than they were in the 1930s.

Furthermore, much to the surprise of global warming scientists, Greenland temperatures have again been falling since 2000. Westergaard-Nielsen et al., 2018 examined the most recent and detailed trends based on MODIS (2001–2015) and concluded that if there is any general trend for Greenland it is “mostly cooling”.

As is the South Pole:

At the other end of the planet at the South Pole, new findings by Cerrone and Fusco, 2018 confirm the large increase in the southern hemisphere sea ice and suggest it “arises from the impact of climate modes and their long-term trends”.

They write that the results indicate a progressive cooling has affected the year-to-year climate of the sub-Antarctic since the 1990s and that the SIC [sea ice concentration] shows upward annual, spring, and summer trends.

Global warming? What global warming??

SOURCE.  (See the original for links and graphics)

Cities can be GOOD for wildlife

Viscount Ridley

Recently I was walking alongside a canal in central London, surrounded by concrete, glass, steel and tarmac, when I heard the call of a grey wagtail. Looking to my right I saw this bold, fast, yellow-bottomed bird, which I associate with wild rocky rivers in the north, flitting into a canal tunnel. Later that week I stared up at two peregrine falcons circling high above parliament — and got funny looks from passers-by.

Like other cities, London is increasingly home to exotic wildlife and is as biodiverse as some wildernesses. Mumbai has leopards, Boston turkeys, Chicago coyotes and Newcastle kittiwakes. Suburbs are already richer in wildlife than most arable fields in the so-called green belt, making environmental objections to housing development perverse. Gardens, ledges, drains, walls, trees and roofs are full of niches for everything from foxes to flowers and moths.

Two Czech scientists counted the species of plants in the city of Plzen compared with a similar area of surrounding countryside. In the city the number of species had risen from 478 in the late 19th century to 773 today. In the countryside it had fallen from 1,112 to 745.

Since most animals have shorter lifespans than us and no welfare state, they are genetically adapting faster to the concrete world than we are. A fascinating book by a Dutch biologist, Menno Schilthuizen, called Darwin Comes to Town, documents just how wide and deep this urban wildlife evolutionary pulse is. We have unleashed an unprecedented burst of natural selection.

Once a species thrives in a man-made habitat, it may find itself giving up living elsewhere. This must have happened to swallows and sparrows a long time ago: they became so successful nesting in buildings that the genes of their tree or cliff-nesting cousins died out. Today it is probably happening with peregrine falcons and herring gulls: urban ones are having more young than rural ones, so will soon swamp the whole species with their genes.

Urban landscapes present new evolutionary pressures. Street lights confuse and massacre moths and cause songbirds insomnia. Metal concentrations can be toxic. Noise drowns out birdsong. Instead of remaining insuperable, however, these novelties bring out the ingenuity in evolution. Urban insects may be changing their genetic  make-up so they no longer fly towards lights: suicide as a selective force. One Swiss study found that ermine moths from the countryside are almost twice as likely to fly towards a light as their cousins from the city of Basel.

Other examples of urban evolution abound. Killifish in polluted American harbours have developed genetic resistance to the effect of polychlorinated biphenyls, an industrial pollutant. Acorn ants in Cleveland, Ohio, can withstand high temperatures better than ants from the country — which is necessary because city temperatures tend to be higher. Mexican sparrows that incorporate cigarette butts in their nests have fewer bloodsucking mites feeding on their chicks because nicotine is a pesticide.

Birds sing higher-pitched songs in cities — the ones that stayed low having attracted fewer mates over the sound of traffic. In the countryside, the opposite is true: female great tits mated to high-pitched males are more likely to stray. So the species is splitting into soprano town-tits and bass country-tits. In the Netherlands, chiffchaff warblers and grasshoppers both sing higher-pitched songs if they live near busy roads. Pigeons in big cities have darker plumage because melanin pigment binds zinc, excreting it from the body and improving the birds’ health.

Human beings, too, have been forced to evolve by urbanisation. For centuries cities such as London were population “sinks”, killing more people with disease than their birth rates could match and sustaining their population only by immigration from the countryside. That put a premium on genetic mutations that resisted urban diseases. People with long histories of urban living tend to have genes that resist tuberculosis and leprosy, for example. It would not be a surprise to find that an ability to tolerate continual noise may also be partly genetic as well as learnt.

Walking to the Tube in London each morning at this time of year I hear goldcrests and goldfinches, parakeets and dunnocks, wrens and long-tailed tits, none of which lived in the middle of cities in my youth. Experiments show that urban tits, finches and sparrows are less “neophobic” than rural ones: they have evolved to be less fearful of the appearance of new objects on bird tables, for example. Compared with the egg-stealing, catapult-wielding youths of previous centuries, young people today simply do not pester animals as much.

Blackbirds first showed up in London in the 1920s, later than in continental cities. Studies in France and the Netherlands found that urban blackbirds were rapidly diverging from rural ones. They tend to have shorter beaks and wings, longer intestines and legs, as well as higher-pitched songs. They may soon count as a separate species, just as town pigeons are very different from their rock-dove cousins. Dr Schilthuizen argues that “as the urban environment expands its reach, it will become more and more an ecosystem in its own right, writing its own evolutionary rules and running at its own evolutionary pace”. Wildernesses experience very slow rates of species formation because they are already mature ecosystems. Cities, like archipelagos of islands, experience a much faster rate of change.

The immediate reaction of many people to this tale of urban biodiversity might be to lament the human interference in nature and discount urban wildlife as artificial. We sometimes despise rather than admire creatures that become urban: town pigeons are “feathered rats”, urban foxes “mangy vermin”.

An increase in urban wildlife cannot compensate for the extinction crisis in wilder spaces. But thanks to increased awareness and new techniques, we have shown we can halt extinction if we try.

In recent centuries we have lost 61 of 4,428 species of mammals and 129 of 8,971 birds. Thanks to the genetic change that is happening in the urban Galapagos, we can create new species too, albeit unwittingly.


Australian government lobbies company board to force coal-fired power plant to continue operating

The company thinks it can make more profits by converting the plant to subsidized renewables.  They are probably waiting for a subsidy for coal generation  to change their minds

The energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, has all but confirmed he had personally lobbied board members of AGL Energy in an effort to force a sale of the ageing Liddell power plant.

Sources have told Guardian Australia Frydenberg has been calling individual board members in an effort to crash through management opposition to offloading the coal-fired facility in New South Wales to a competitor, the Hong Kong-owned Alinta Energy, which is looking to expand its market share.

The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, contacted the chairman of the company last Tuesday.

When it was put to Frydenberg on Sunday that he was also involved in the highly unusual practice of speaking personally to board members, the energy minister said: “Well, we’ve made it very clear that it’s in the interests of the company to consider this offer.”

Last week the AGL chief executive, Andy Vesey, insisted the company would proceed with plans to transform the Liddell site into a renewables hub, saying it will bring cheaper, greener and more reliable energy, while providing quality, long-term jobs for decades.

The government has for months been trying to persuade AGL to sweat the Liddell asset for longer and keep the plant operating beyond its scheduled closure in 2022.

While both the competition watchdog and the Australian Energy Market Operator have argued that more competition in the NSW energy market would be beneficial to consumers, the federal government has no power to force AGL to do anything with the asset it acquired from the state government in 2014.

So the government is subjecting the company to an extraordinary campaign of public pressure and private intervention in an effort to force its hand.

Former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce last week accused AGL of “shorting” the market by hanging on to Liddell rather than selling it to a competitor prepared to extend its operating life – a charge the company rejects.

The public pressure on the company has perturbed institutional investors. The Investor Group on Climate Change – a group that represents over 68 Australian and New Zealand institutional investors with more than $2tn in funds under management – wrote to Vesey last week validating the company’s approach.

“Many of IGCC’s members are direct investors in AGL and have engaged with AGL over many years on the significant challenges inherent in delivering capacity to market, managing price impacts for consumers and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with Australia’s commitments under the Paris agreement,” the IGCC chief executive, Emma Herd, said.

“Long-term planning, an early and unambiguous notification to the market of intention to close, strategic investment in the repurposing of infrastructure and the adoption of new technologies to deliver increased generation capacity is exactly the kind of business planning that investors want to see from companies managing climate change impacts for their business.

“IGCC notes that this is the approach that AGL has adopted in providing seven years’ notice to market of intention to close Liddell power station, while investing in alternative renewable energy generation, repurposing the existing infrastructure and continuing to play a role in the local community.

“A divergence away from this plan, particularly one that does not provide a long-term vision for future uses of the Liddell power station site, its infrastructure and its workforce, would be of considerable concern to investors due to the risks and uncertainty it would create.”




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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