Sunday, May 13, 2018

When the rich are GOOD for wildlife: The "luxury" effect

The ecological dynamics of cities are influenced not only by geophysical and biological factors, but also by aspects of human society. In cities around the world, a pattern of higher biodiversity in affluent neighbourhoods has been termed ‘the luxury effect'. The luxury effect has been found globally regarding plant diversity and canopy or vegetative cover.

Fewer studies have considered the luxury effect on animals, yet it has been recognized in the distributions of birds, bats, lizards and indoor arthropods. Higher socioeconomic status correlates with higher biodiversity resulting from many interacting factors—the creation and maintenance of green space on private and public lands, the tendency of both humans and other species to favour environmentally desirable areas, while avoiding environmental burdens, as well as enduring legacy effects.

The luxury effect is amplified in arid cities and as neighbourhoods age, and reduced in tropical areas. Where the luxury effect exists, benefits of urban biodiversity are unequally distributed, particularly in low-income neighbourhoods with higher minority populations. The equal distribution of biodiversity in cities, and thus the elimination of the luxury effect, is a worthy societal goal.


UN’s ‘Billions For Bad Weather’ Is Latest Money-Making Ruse To Fleece Richer Nations Like US

The contentious (and absurd) concept of “loss and damage” compensation for climate change took several steps forward last week at the Bonn UN climate summit. In addition to a packed two-day conference, we now have an established cost estimate.

Loss and damage is diplomatic code for the idea that the developed countries, especially America, should pay the developing countries for the bad things that they attribute to climate change.

This includes pretty much all bad weather, plus the supposed effects of sea level rise, and who knows what else.

Here is a clear policy proposal that came up during the conference:

“Resources to offset climate-related losses and damages need to be scaled up and the perpetrators, not the victims, must pay. Serious consideration must be given to solutions like a climate damages tax on fossil fuel extraction or consumption, a climate levy on those sectors that contribute the most to climate change and more impactful carbon pricing schemes. These mechanisms could raise the hundreds of billions of dollars a year that are necessary, could help to reduce the production of greenhouse gases and could be designed to respond faster to immediate or slowly unfurling climate disasters.”

So, for example, a gasoline tax throughout America and the rest of the developed world might be part of the proposed loss and damage compensation picture. I am not making this up.

That this scheme is under serious discussion at UN climate conferences is simply not being reported in the American mainstream media. It is, however, being widely reported in the developing world, with great enthusiasm. Of course, they are all for it.

The initial cost of this absurd compensation scheme is now generally pegged at a nice round $300 billion a year. This is from a report by the Berlin-based Heinrich Böll Foundation, which was released at last year’s summit.

This is on top of the mythical $100 billion a year that the developed countries are supposed to pay the developing ones for cutting their CO2 emissions and adapting to climate change.

But there is in principle no limit because the list of speculative bad stuff supposedly due to human-caused climate change is endless.

Here is a revealing part of a joint statement issued a few months ago by government ministers from Dominica and Vanuatu, in favor of the UN’s loss and damage compensation scheme:

“A few months ago, Hurricane Maria caused economic losses and damages of 226% of Dominica’s GDP. Only two years before, Tropical storm Erika cost Dominica 90% of GDP, and Tropical Cyclone Pam battered Vanuatu, costing 64% of Vanuatu’s GDP.”

In other words, these tiny countries stand to collect relatively huge amounts every time a hurricane or tropical storm hits, in severe cases multiples of their entire GDP.

No wonder they want this so much. Imagine a big storm tripling your national economy (at someone else’s expense).

The big two-day conference on this vast money-making UN scheme was called the Suva Expert Dialogue. A search on Google news for this term finds no major US news outlet even mentioning it, or the issue of loss and damage.

Do they think that we are not interested in the prospect of being in effect fined trillions of dollars for all of the bad weather in most of the world?

Or maybe they think that if we knew about this absurd scheme we might not support the UN’s climate change crusade? My guess is the latter.


Scientists discover the origin of the amphibian 'apocalypse' that's killing hundreds of species - and they say the Korean war could be to blame.  Scientists have traced the origin of the chytrid fungus to the Korean peninsula

So global warming is not to blame after all

Scientists have traced a deadly fungus responsible for killing frogs, toads and newts worldwide to the Korean peninsula, sparking new calls for a halt to the international amphibian pet trade.

A dangerous infectious disease with the potential to drive species to extinction, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is also known as chytrid fungus.

It has already decimated more than 200 amphibian species and rewired echo systems all over the world.

Chytrid is passed from animal to animal and spreads rapidly in the wild, causing catastrophic mortality and declines in some species, while others are less affected.

The fungus causes a disease called chytridiomycosis, which attacks the animal's skin, affecting their ability to regulate water and electrolyte levels and leading to heart failure.

'Biologists have known since the 1990s that Bd was behind the decline of many amphibian species, but until now we haven't been able to identify exactly where it came from,' said Simon O'Hanlon, of the department of infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, co-author of the report in the journal Science.

'In our paper, we solve this problem and show that the lineage which has caused such devastation can be traced back to East Asia.'

The scientists believe it originated in the Korean peninsula sometime in the 1950s, and they theorized that human activities accidentally spread it across the globe —leading to amphibian fatalities across the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Australia.

'[The pathogen's spread] could have happened from any one event, from the cumulative number of events, or maybe some big anthropogenic events like the Korean War,' said O'Hanlon.

The fungus can infect at least 695 species, and has devastated populations around the world.

From 2009 to 2012, the fungus destroyed Dutch fire salamander populations by more than 99 percent.

An international team of scientists gathered samples of the pathogen from around the world, and sequenced the genomes.

 Chytrid fungus disease, or chytridiomycosis, is caused by the pathogenic fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). It kills amphibians by destroying their skin, damaging their immune systems and even causing heart failure.

The effects of the disease were first seen in the 1990s when a number of frog species were declared extinct in Australia and South America.

Bd has been blamed for wiping out hundreds of species of amphibians in total and is said to threaten one third of the world's frogs and salamanders.

A recent study said Bd has been evolving with amphibians for around 40,000 years, meaning some are able to live while being infected.

They found four main genetic lineages of the fungus - three of which are found around the world, and a fourth found only in native frogs in Korea.

The genetic analysis showed that 'the range of the disease expanded greatly between 50 and 120 years ago, coinciding with the rapid global expansion of intercontinental trade,' said the report.

The findings offer 'strong evidence for a ban on trade in amphibians from Asia, due to the high risk associated with exporting previously unknown strains of chytrid out of this region,' it added.


Global warming 500m years ago 'led to the start of the human race'

So it can't be THAT bad for us, can it?

Sea temperatures of 25C helped fuel an explosion of life on Earth about 500 million years ago on Earth, according to scientists.

Global warming during a "greenhouse interval" ultimately led to the start of the human race, scientists believe.

New research suggests that sea temperatures of around 25C (77F) and a lack of permanent polar ice sheets fuelled an explosion of species diversity that eventually led to the human race.

Scientists made the discovery while looking for clues in tiny fossil shells in blocks of Shropshire limestone thought to be around 510 million years old.

The timeframe is referred to as the Cambrian explosion, when representatives of all the major animal groups first appeared.

The surge in diversity allowed life to evolve into a multitude of complex forms, including fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.

Scientists previously thought the Cambrian explosion must have been fuelled by warm temperatures, but the evidence has been lacking so far.

This new findings suggest it was a "greenhouse interval" when high levels of carbon dioxide filled the atmosphere and temperatures soared.

Thomas Hearing, from the University of Leicester's School of Geography, Geology and Environment, said: "Because scientists cannot directly measure sea temperatures from half a billion years ago, they have to use proxy data - these are measurable quantities that respond in a predictable way to changing climate variables like temperature. In this study, we used oxygen isotope ratios, which is a commonly used palaeothermometer.

"We then used acid to extract fossils about 1mm long from blocks of limestone from Shropshire, UK, dated to between 515 to 510 million years old. Careful examination of these tiny fossils revealed that some of them have exceptionally well-preserved shell chemistry which has not changed since they grew on the Cambrian sea floor."

The isotopes revealed warm sea temperatures of between 20C and 25C.


Now they’re waging war on plastics!

Earth Day Network’s misguided anti-plastic campaign is a sign of more nonsense to come

Tom Harris

Earth Day Network (EDN) chose “End Plastic Pollution” as their theme for this year’s April 22 Earth Day. It is just the tip of the anti-plastic activism that now consumes environmental extremists. A Google search  on “Plastic Pollution Coalition” (a group claiming to represent “more than 500 member organizations” dedicated to “working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts”) yields almost 90,000 hits, including a video actor Jeff Bridges made for the campaign.

Even the United Nations has joined in, making “Beat Plastic Pollution” the theme of its June 5 World Environment Day, “a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries.”

But demanding heavy-handed action on the comparatively minor problems that plastics present makes no sense. To help the public assess these attacks against this miracle material, let’s consider what leading environmental thinkers have to say about issues EDN raised on Earth Day, beginning with its use of the term “Plastic Pollution.”

Canadian ecologist and Greenpeace cofounder Dr. Patrick Moore stresses that plastic is not toxic. “It’s litter, not pollution. Many people find it unsightly, and the solution is to educate people not to discard it into the environment and to organize, as is done on highways, to have it removed.”

EDN also says plastics are “poisoning and injuring marine life.” As Moore notes, “Plastic does not ‘poison’ anything. It’s non-toxic. Do they think our credit cards, made with PVC plastic, are ‘toxic’?” Of course, plastics can release toxins when burned, but not when they are simply littered into the general environment. So burning should be done under careful emission control standards.

“The main reason birds and fish eat bits of plastic is to get the food that is growing on them,” Moore adds. “But they’re both quite capable of passing bones and other fairly large objects through their digestive systems.” Plastics are no exception.

Paul Driessen, senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of books and articles on energy and environmental policy, points out that “some animals do ingest plastics or get caught in plastic loops and nets. But the notion that marine life (and people) are being poisoned by chemicals in plastics has no scientific basis.”

EDN next complained about “the ubiquitous presence of plastics in our food.” Moore responded, “This is complete nonsense. If a bit of plastic gets in our food it is passed right through the digestive system.”

“Plastic wraps and containers help preserve food and keep bacteria out,” Driessen emphasized. “Which is worse? Barely detectable trace amounts of chemicals in our bodies, or serious bacterial outbreaks?”

EDN also worried about plastic “disrupting human hormones.” Physician and lawyer John Dale Dunn, a lecturer in Emergency Medicine at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood, Texas, dismisses this concern. “Hormone disrupter scares … are based on junk science. Many extensive studies have shown no toxic or lethal effects from BPA, which is a beneficial chemical that has promoted progress and provided new products that are well received and very helpful.

“The debunking of hormone disruptor researchers and their claims has been definitive and devastating,” Dunn notes. “ director Steve Milloy also has been prolific in his criticisms of hormone disruptor junk science,” as this excellent article explains.

Bizarrely and unbelievably, EDN proclaimed plastic as “threatening our planet’s survival.” Reminiscent of how Comedian George Carlin poked fun at the plastics scare, Driessen dismisses this hyperbole. “Earth has survived huge meteor strikes, massive ice ages, Devonian and other mass extinctions, and other planetary calamities. Now plastics have usurped dangerous manmade climate change’s role as the threat to planetary survival!?”

EDN promotes “a global effort to eliminate primarily single-use plastics.” Steve Goreham, executive director of the Climate Science Coalition of America and author of “Outside the Green Box – Rethinking Sustainable Development,” responds: “Single use plastics are a boon for humanity. Packaging food in plastics instead of animal skins, wood, metal, glass and paper brings major sanitation, convenience and health benefits, as well as lower cost. The solution is biodegradable plastics for single-use products, not elimination of plastic.”

In keeping with their climate alarmism, EDN said they want “alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials.” Driessen replies: “It is absurd to suggest that non-oil and gas sources would make plastics better – or that it could be done without turning nearly the entire planet into a massive biofuel farm to provide energy and plastics. The impacts on water supplies, croplands and wildlife habitat lands would be devastating.”

As retired NASA-JSC engineer Alex Pope explains, “fossil fuels and fossil fuel products have made life better for billions of people on this Earth…. This better life is due to energy from fossil fuels and to fossil fuel products, especially plastic products.… The war against fossil fuels and fossil fuel products is all the same war. I think they know they are losing many parts of the war against using fossil fuels for energy,” so now they are cranking up the war against vital fossil fuel products that enhance and safeguard lives.

EDN wants “100% recycling of plastics.” Goreham brushed this idea aside. “100% recycling of plastics is not an economically sound policy. Either landfilling, incinerating, composting or recycling plastics is best, based on cost and applicability.  Today’s landfills are environmentally friendly in modern nations.”

EDN wants people to “reduce, refuse, reuse, recycle and remove plastics.” Driessen says “this will work in some places and cultures. But where people have no food, sanitation, clean water, jobs, electricity or real hope for the future, do you really think they will worry incessantly about plastics?”

The first Earth Day was held on 22 April 1970 in response to the legitimate concerns of millions of people that reducing air, land and water pollution needed to happen more quickly. The movement grew, until today Earth Day Network president Kathleen Rogers estimates that “more than 1 billion people in 192 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.”

This should surprise no one. All sensible people are environmentalists. We want to enjoy clean air, land and water, and we like to think future generations will live in an even better environment. These were the original Earth Day objectives, and I am happy to have presented at Earth Day events in the early 1990s.

However, as Henry Miller and Jeff Stier observe in a Fox News article, “In recent years, Earth Day has devolved into an occasion for professional environmental activists and alarmists to warn of apocalypse, dish up anti-technology dirt, and proselytize. Passion and zeal now trump science, and provability takes a back seat to plausibility.” That is sending science and rational thinking backward hundreds of years.

All this demonstrates the wisdom of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposed rule to require that data underlying scientific studies used to justify federal environment and energy policies be open to public inspection and criticism. This means actual evidence, full independent peer review, and data, methodologies, computer codes and algorithms will no longer be kept secret.

Sterling Burnett, senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, calls Pruitt’s proposal “one small step for regulatory reform, one giant leap for scientific integrity and political transparency.” EDN and its allied groups should have to prove plastics are dangerous pollutants, before governments take any actions against them.

Meanwhile, Goreham reminds us how important plastics are to health and safety in modern societies. “They are a miracle material. We fabricate food containers, boat pad­dles, shoes, heart valves, pipes, toys, protective helmets and smart phones from plastic.”

Even EDN and some other anti-plastics groups seem to recognize that plastics are indispensable for numerous applications, since they also call for manufacturing these products. They just want them made from manmade hydrocarbons (biofuels, et cetera), instead of from the oil and natural gas that Mother Nature created and left beneath Earth’s surface for humanity to use to improve our lives in countless ways.

Hopefully, applying Pruitt’s new rule, and ignoring the groundless claims of extreme eco-activists, will ensure that plastics are with us for a long time to come.

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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