Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Air pollution is the new tobacco and is killing seven million people a year and harming billions more, head of World Health Organisation warns

This "wisdom" from an Ethiopian politician and the eminently buyable WHO is deep-dyed nonsense.  As I have pointed out repeatedly, the evidence for harm from particulate pollution in the Western world is just not there.  The alleged "proofs" of it are all deeply flawed.  The article below is a triumph of assertion over evidence

More than 90 per cent of the world's population suffers toxic air pollution which is having a drastic effect on the health of people, especially children.

The danger toxic air has on the world's population has been deemed 'a silent public health emergency' by the head of the WHO.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO's director general, told The Guardian: 'The world has turned the corner on tobacco. Now it must do the same for the 'new tobacco' – the toxic air that billions breathe every day.

'No one, rich or poor, can escape air pollution. It is a silent public health emergency. 'Despite this epidemic of needless, preventable deaths and disability, a smog of complacency pervades the planet.' Children and babies, whose bodies are still developing, are the most at risk from  the toxic air.

And there are now 300 million people living in places where toxic fumes are six times above international guidelines.

Dr Maria Neira, WHO director for public health and the environment, told The Guardian: 'We have to ask what are we doing to our children, and the answer I am afraid is shockingly clear: we are polluting their future, and this is very worrying for all us.'

Most urban areas in the UK have illegal levels of air pollution and causes more deaths per year than tobacco.

But researchers think the harm known to be caused by air pollution, such as heart attacks and lung disease, and is 'only the tip of the iceberg'.



A looming technology-security minerals crisis?

New book analyzes near-total foreign dependency for critical minerals – and offers solutions

Paul Driessen

In 1973 OPEC countries imposed an oil embargo to retaliate for US support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Drivers endured soaring gasoline prices, blocks-long lines, hours wasted waiting to refuel vehicles, and restrictions on which days they could buy fuel. America was vulnerable to those blackmail sanctions because we imported “too much” oil – though it was just 30% of our crude.

The fracking revolution (horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing) and other factors changed that dramatically. The United States now produces more crude oil than at any time since 1970.

But now we face new, potentially far greater dangers – because we import up to 100% of dozens of metals and minerals essential for wind turbines, solar panels, and a vast array of defense, security, automotive, computer, communication, electrical grid, battery and countless other technologies. Two dozen of them come 60% to 100% from China, Russia or mines controlled by those two countries … and where child labor, worker safety, human rights and environmental standards are minimal to nonexistent.

Recent Defense and Interior Department reports have identified literally hundreds of ways US industries and military readiness are acutely vulnerable to supply interruptions for these rare earth and other exotic materials. Equally troubling, 90% of the world’s printed circuit boards are produced in Asia, more than half of them in China; that presents still more risks that competitors and enemies are establishing more ports of entry (on top of highly professional hacking) into industry and defense computer systems.

And now the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change absurdly claims American (and global) fossil fuel use must be slashed from over 80% of our energy today to zero by 2050 – and replaced by renewable energy. That would raise our dependency on these metals and minerals, and their costs, by orders of magnitude. It would severely impact every facet of our economy, security, defense and personal lives.

Just building the wind turbines, solar cells and high-tech transmission systems for billions of megawatt-hours of electricity would require incalculable quantities – and money. Batteries to back up all that electricity for windless and sunless hours, days or weeks would require vast additional quantities.

Thankfully, volcanic and magmatic activity, plate tectonics and other powerful geologic processes have blessed America with metallic and other mineral deposits unsurpassed almost anywhere else in the world. We likely have all these essential materials right under our feet. Incredibly, insanely, the United States is the only nation in the world that locks them up, makes them inaccessible under almost any conditions.

Federally controlled lands are especially problematical. Not only are they our most mineralized regions. We have no idea what is actually there. And we are not permitted to evaluate their mineral potential, in order to make informed, rational decisions about how they should be managed – to balance environmental protection and preservation against the raw material needs of a modern industrialized, technological nation.

A 1975 report found that 74% of federal lands were totally or effectively closed to exploration for and development of critical minerals, because of pro-wilderness, anti-mining, anti-energy laws, regulations, bureaucratic roadblocks, environmentalist lawsuits and court decisions.

An updated 1994 study (conducted after 78 million acres had been transferred to the State of Alaska and Alaskan Natives) concluded that 71% of federal lands were still off limits: 427 million acres; our best mineral lands; a land area equal to Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming combined! Since then, the situation has worsened steadily, especially during the Obama years. Even supposedly available lands are mostly inaccessible, because bureaucrats refuse to issue permits.

Perhaps worst of all, much of this steady lockdown resulted from a concerted, irresponsible effort to place lands in wilderness and other highly restrictive land-use categories – often with the deliberate purpose of preventing anyone from ever assessing or accessing their critical and strategic mineral potential. A recent US House of Representatives committee memorandum summarizes growing congressional concerns.

A groundbreaking book – titled Groundbreaking!America’s new quest for minerals independence – will soon provide persuasive reasons why we must reexamine the policies that brought us to this untenable and unsustainable point in American history. In concise, plain language, geologist Ned Mamula and Silicon Valley expert Ann Bridges explain why we must literally break ground in these areas … and drill down to find out what minerals are in them. Their key points must be pondered, absorbed and acted on by all who care about our security and prosperity.

* We won the oil and gas energy war, but a growing minerals and metals dependency imperils our future.

* America is undeniably endowed with mineral riches, but we have no idea what we have or where it is located, because we are not permitted even to look for, map and evaluate deposits. In fact, we cannot even mine major deposits when we know their precise location, composition and value. We need to know as much about subsurface values as we do about surface values, if we are to make informed decisions.

* American jobs, prosperity and security have always been based on “mineral wealth.” Some of our major cities and many of our major industries (including Silicon Valley) exist because of metals and minerals.

* We are at great risk now, because we are 50-100% reliant on foreign countries for the exotic minerals and metals needed to satisfy our addiction to computers, cell phones and other high-tech gadgetry, for virtually every civilian, industrial, medical, communication and defense application imaginable.

* China and Russia supply enormous quantities of our most critical and strategic materials – and could easily use them as leverage if the US challenges their hegemonic goals in Asia, Europe or the Pacific. The wealthy, powerful, increasingly radical environmental industry exacerbates these vulnerabilities.

* Chapters devoted to rare earth metals, uranium and copper-molybdenum-gold explain the politics, economics and corruption surrounding their stories, and how certain politicians and pressure groups actually want to de-industrialize America and reduce our living standards and global power.

* Excessive laws, land withdrawals run amok, costly and interminable environmental review and permitting processes, and other factors impose severe constraints on US viability and sustainability. Constantly changing technologies mean constantly changing materials needs and renewed exploration.

* Australia and Canada protect their precious environmental heritage while also utilizing their precious metals and minerals heritage. The United States must apply these lessons in devising better ways to handle land withdrawals, environmental reviews and permitting – with the White House, Congress, universities and the private sector leading the way on public discussions and positive initiatives.

* Alternatives to fossil fuel energy, high-tech equipment of every description, nearly everything we use in our daily lives is tied to the exotic, strategic and critical minerals we have so cavalierly made off limits.

* Except for national parks and certain other places, federal lands must be surveyed and explored by government agencies and private sector companies using aerial and ground-based induced polarization, magnetometer and radiometric technologies, grid soil analyses and equipment literally carried in backpacks. Good prospects must then be evaluated further using truck and helicopter drilling rigs, to collect core samples and other information needed for deciding an area’s highest and best uses.

* It’s time to launch a groundswell of support for more responsible policies, disrupt the status quo, and turbo-charge US mining, job creation, job and industry preservation, and long-term national security and defense readiness. Failure to do so violates the most fundamental principles of national security and responsible government.

The needs of current and future generations are at stake, because prolonged disruptions of our access to these minerals would lead to the collapse of Silicon Valley and many other industries, severely compromised defense capabilities, and the disruption or even destruction of almost every sector of our computer-dependent economy and society.

President Trump, his cabinet, members of Congress, military and industrial leaders, regulators, citizens and environmentalists need to read this book (coming in December). Above all, they need to recognize that modern mining technologies, techniques and regulations enable us to develop the minerals and metals we so critically need, while preserving the scenic, wildlife and environmental values we cherish.

Via email

Will Global Warming Destroy the World? Ask America’s Farmers

With the fall harvest underway across the nation’s Midwest “breadbasket,” early U.S. Department of Agriculture reporting predicts record-setting corn and soybean crops for 2018.

The corn crop will be above average for a record sixth year in a row, while soybean production is projected at an all-time high of 4.4 billion bushels, up 4 percent from last year’s previous record.

U.S. corn, soybean, wheat, and even rice crops look to continue a trend of remarkable growth in both productivity and output.  This year, corn may yield a record 178.4 bushels per acre nationwide.

If realized, this will be the highest yield on record for the United States. Soybean yields will likely be up 2.5 bushels from 2017, which surprised grain-trading experts and exceeded even the highest private yield estimate.

Wheat yields (for all varieties) are forecast to increase 1.1 bushels from last year,  and the 2018-19 U.S. rice crop is projected at 210.9 million cwt, down less than 1 percent from an earlier forecast but 18 percent larger than a year earlier.

America’s farmers will once again help feed a hungry planet that presently has more than 7.6 billion inhabitants and may reach 8.6 billion by 2030.

Global agricultural trends reflect gains as well.  Since 2002, world production of four major crops – corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans – has grown by 846 million tons or 48%.

Yields have kept pace with the world’s annual population growth rate of 1%.  In fact, prices for staple grain crops reveal a downside to those abundances, such that plentiful supply depresses commodity prices on world markets.

“There is too much corn,” said one analyst, to match demand. Corn- and soybean-growers now concern themselves with consumption of previous record-setting crops to promote future market price increases.

These blessed abundances occur in an environment where Americans are fed a steady diet of dire predictions of climate change with its presumption of human-caused global warming.

Scientists tell us that weather phenomena like the extremes of storms, drought, wind, heat, and rainfall will be more frequent and intense.

Add pestilence, pollution, fires, and the encroachment of human activity to other natural calamities, and one wonders just how the American farmer can survive to produce and even prosper.

Instead, the American farmer continually adapts to the climate – and weather – through changes in crop rotations, planting times, genetic selection, fertilizer choices, improved equipment, innovation, pest and water management, and shifts in areas of crop production, among other possible measures.

Farmers take advantage of an unmatched system of education, research, science, and technology in American universities and business that has evolved to aid and support American agriculture.

Farmers also make good use of a responsive agri-business banking and finance system. On whole, American farmers are part of, and benefit from, a well-honed agricultural infrastructure that fosters advances in production and efficiency.

By contrast, in just one global example, Africa, despite vast natural resources, including stretches of arable land, has the world’s highest incidence of undernourishment (estimated at near one in four persons).

It is assessed that more than 60% of the planet’s available and unexploited cropland is located in sub-Saharan Africa, yet agricultural production remains dismal, which further undermines Africa’s future and economic growth.

Africa must import food staples valued at some $25 billion annually, largely because continental food production, supply, and consumption systems do not function optimally.

Why?  Consider that no nation on that continent can provide its farmers the needed political and societal stability to support a similarly developed agricultural infrastructure.

The examples of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia and once Africa’s breadbasket) and Sudan are illustrative of the entire continent’s challenges.

Zimbabwe has Africa’s most fertile farmland, yet, as a recent exposé explained, “a onetime net exporter of maize, cotton, beef, tobacco, roses, and sugarcane,” Zimbabwe now “exports only its educated professionals,” who fled by the thousands from decades of corrupt autocratic rule.

In Sudan, only 16% of the available land had been cultivated by 2009 – the majority of which now falls within South Sudan, a “new” country that must still import nearly all its food.

Imagine the possibilities if African farmers could bring to bear similar resourcefulness, science, technology, finance, know-how, entrepreneurship, and work ethic to what the American farmer possesses.

What if Africa’s arable and unexploited croplands were farmed to similar standards as those in the American Midwest and production raised to the optimal – and sustainable – levels they are capable of?

It is not climate change, weather phenomena, human encroachment, or other natural calamities that pose the greatest threats to future generations.

Humans adapt to their environment and can adjust the agricultural enterprise to feed the people.

The real global threat is poor, non-functioning governance, and more precisely, autocratic, dictatorial, corrupt regimes not acting for the common good of the governed.

Poor governance has worsened more people’s lives – made more people go hungry – than anything extreme weather, pests, or climate change will ever do.  That is the national security concern; that is the threat to global agriculture and food production.

When offering thanks for our blessings before coming holiday meals, remember and appreciate America’s farmers for their achievements we all too often take for granted.


Last-ditch push to scrub carbon from the air

Scrubbing carbon from the air would be criminal. The present high levels are making all plants flourish -- including trees and crops.  Deserts are even shrinking

With time running out to avoid dangerous global warming, the US’ leading scientific body on Wednesday urged the federal government to begin a research program focused on developing technologies that can remove vast quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to help slow climate change.

The 369-page report, written by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, underscores an important shift. For decades, experts said that nations could prevent large temperature increases mainly by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and moving to cleaner sources like solar, wind and nuclear power.

But at this point, nations have delayed so long in cutting their carbon-dioxide emissions that even a breakneck shift toward clean energy would most likely not be enough.

According to a landmark scientific report issued by the United Nations this month, taking out a big chunk of the carbon dioxide already loaded into the atmosphere may be necessary to avoid significant further warming, even though researchers haven’t yet figured out how to do so economically, or at sufficient scale.

And we’ll have to do it fast. To meet the climate goals laid out under the Paris Agreement, humanity may have to start removing around 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the air annually by midcentury, in addition to reducing industrial emissions, said Stephen Pacala, a Princeton climate scientist who led the panel. That’s nearly as much carbon as all the world’s forests and soils currently absorb each year.

“Midcentury is not very far away,” Professor Pacala said. “To develop the technologies and scale up to 10 billion tons a year is a frightful endeavor, something that would really require a lot of activity. So the time would have to be now.”

The panel’s members conceded that the Trump administration may not find the climate change argument all that compelling, since the President has disavowed the Paris Agreement. But, Professor Pacala said, it’s quite likely other countries will be interested in carbon removal. The United States could take a leading role in developing technologies that could one day be worth many billions of dollars.

Right now, there are plenty of ideas for carbon removal kicking around. Countries could plant more trees that pull carbon dioxide out of the air and lock it in their wood. Farmers could adopt techniques, such as no-till agriculture, that would keep more carbon trapped in the soil.

A few companies are building “direct air capture” plants that use chemical agents to scrub trace amounts of carbon dioxide from the air, allowing them to sell the gas to industrial customers or bury it underground.

But, the National Academies panel warned, many of these methods are still unproven or face serious limitations. There’s only so much land available to plant new trees. Scientists are still unsure how much carbon can realistically be stored in agricultural soils. And direct air capture plants are still too expensive for mass deployment.

In theory, it might be possible to collect wood or other plant matter that has absorbed carbon dioxide from the air, burn it in biomass power plants for energy and then capture the carbon released from combustion and bury it deep underground, creating, in essence, a power plant that has negative emissions. While no such facilities are operating commercially today, the technology to build them exists.

But one potential problem with this approach, the National Academies panel said, is that the land required to grow biomass for these power plants could run into conflicts with the need for farmland for food. The panel estimated this method might one day be able to remove three billion to five billion tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year, but possibly much less, depending on land constraints.

That’s a far cry from the 10 billion to 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide we may need to pull out of the air by the end of the century to limit overall global warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the recent United Nations report. That figure assumes nations manage to decarbonize their energy and industrial systems almost entirely by 2050.


Hottest October day in 120 years: Queensland swelters as mercury tops 40C for the TENTH day in a row - and it's not over yet

One day is newsworthy? This is just nitpicking.  I have been enjoying springtime in Brisbane for a total of 40 years and the current season seems no different from any other.  We always get some warm days and some cool days and a temperture of 32 degrees C is no outlier for Brisbane.  34C is in fact about the usual summer afternoon temperature in Brisbane

At the time of writing in the afternoon of Monday 29th, it is in fact rather cool in Brisbane for the time of the year. I actually had to put a shirt on.  My thermometer says 22C.  We have just had rather a lot of rain too. It's been raining off and on for the last two days in fact.  No drought in Brisbane!

Monstrous heatwave, my foot

Australia's north is continuing to endure a monstrous heatwave, with no relief in sight.

Central Queensland registered 40C temperatures for the tenth consecutive day on Sunday, but the area will see extreme heat until Thursday.

The soaring temperatures shattered October records that had been in place for the region for more than 120 years, with one regional town topping out at nearly 44C.

'In Brisbane we'll probably see a few showers develop late this evening, it will be pretty cloudy as well,' Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Chris Joseph told the Courier Mail.

'It will probably be a better chance for showers tomorrow and pretty cool as well.'

The stormy skies in the state capital will come after it too basked in sunshine on Friday and Saturday. Crowds gathered to escape the heat at Streets Beach in the the city's South Bank Parklands as they sweated through temperatures of 32C on Friday.

Australia's major cities also had a dry Sunday, with Hobart the only capital to register any rainfall at all.

'Some locations have had two to three times October's rainfall in a week, but others haven't seen any significant falls. Overall, the cropping season is looking like one of the 10 driest on record,' climatologist Felicity Gamble told Daily Mail Australia.

The record-breaking dry spell could be a sign of things to come.

The Bureau of Meterology has predicted higher than average temperatures throughout the summer months for nearly the entire country.

The heatwave brings with it particularly grim conditions for the country's farmers, who have been suffering through a major drought.




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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