Sunday, October 21, 2018

Groan! Another tale about the evils of particulate pollution

New York Magazine has a subsection called "Intelligencer" which would more aptly be called "Dramatizer".  Under the heading, "Trump’s Climate Denial Isn’t Just a War on Our Coastlines. It’s a War on Our Brains'" they have a large collection of tired old Warmist talking points, all of which have been refuted many times by skeptics. Hell! I have refuted them many times.

What has got them particularly stirred up this time is particulate pollution -- tiny little bits of matter that float around in the air.  Diesel truck exhausts put out a lot of it. And various industries put it out too. Technically, it is airborne particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, known as PM2.5.

Various regulations exist to minimize it but there is still some out there.  And to Greenies it is obviously BAD.  They need no evidence to draw that conclusion.  But Greenies are an evangelical lot so they like to draw others into their faith. And a lot of the people they target are pesky people who demand evidence!  So they have often set out to provide it.

That "often"really gives the game away. If there really were any firm evidence that normal levels of particulate pollution were bad for us, they would not have to keep trying to prove it!

For a long time I would write something pointing the holes in the various studies as they came out but I am getting more and more reluctant to do that.  "There are none so blind as those who will not see" and even basic errors of science are usually invisible to the Green/Left.

So let me just give the key paragraph in the whole long winded article and then go on to point out what it misses:

Excerpt: "How big are the developmental and cognitive effects? The term researchers use is “huge” — the equivalent of having lost a year of education. Reducing Chinese pollution to the EPA standard, they found, would improve the country’s test scores by 13 percent and its verbal scores by 8 percent —potential boosts in productivity that should alarm anyone concerned about the country’s rapid economic and geopolitical ascent".

I have recently given a general discussion of such studies here and here and I have dealt with the specific study principally relied on by  New York Magazine here. PM2.5 might be bad for you but that is yet to be shown in a scientifically well-founded way -- JR.

Wow! Media declares moonwalker "mistaken" - Last Man to Walk on the Moon Mistaken About Climate Change on Earth

Why is geologist Harrison Schmitt  mistaken? Because the IPCC says otherwise! And this gem below is used as "evidence" Schmitt is "mistaken." Just how did the Geological Society of London "conclude" this? By a governing board vote of less than a dozen? A vote by people steeped in funding concerns and politics?

Excerpt:  In fact, The Geological Society of London concluded that humans were the cause of rapidly accelerating climate change in a statement published in 2010. Society members wrote an addendum to the statement in 2013 explaining that new climate data from the geologic record bolstered their original conclusion — "that CO2 is a major modifier of the climate system, and that human activities are responsible for recent warming."


Let’s get fracking on with it

The obstructionism has gone on long enough.

At the High Court in London this week, a group of anti-fracking activists had their sentences for blocking lorries going to fracking sites reduced on appeal. Simon Blevins, Richard Roberts and Rich Loizou had received surprisingly long custodial sentences for the protests at a fracking site at Preston New Road in July 2017. The appeal verdict, which reduced those sentences to conditional discharges after the three defendants had already served two weeks in jail, should be welcomed. Peaceful protests should not, ordinarily, attract a prison sentence straightaway. But while those initial sentences are worthy of criticism, so are the aims of the protests themselves.

Thankfully, the protesters appear to have failed to achieve their goal. On Monday at 1pm, according to energy exploration company Cuadrilla, drilling for shale gas started again in the UK. About time, too. The drilling – which is still exploratory in nature rather than for full production – has been held up for years by planning disputes, legal challenges and concerns about earth tremors. But the alarmism is misplaced.

Hydraulic fracturing – ‘fracking’ – of rock is a clever, economic and surprisingly old way to produce energy. It involves using explosions and a pressurised mix of water, sand and small quantities of chemicals to force trapped gas or oil out of rocks. It was first performed in 1947 in America, and the technique has been used since the 1960s in the UK. The big development in the past 20 years or so that has made fracking economically viable is improvements in horizontal or directional drilling, which mean fewer wells need to be dug. Instead, drillers can go deep underground and then drill sideways to maximise the area in which gas or oil is extracted.

There have long been misplaced claims made about fracking. The most lurid claim is that methane can leak from wells into water supplies, allowing tap water to be ignited. This claim is central to the agit-doc Gasland. But while it looks spectacular, the fact is that there have always been parts of the US where methane rising up from underground mixes with water.

In any event, the rocks that are fracked are generally way below the water table. As long as the wells are properly sealed – and drilling companies should be held to account if they’re not – then there should be no way for methane coming up from underground to mix with water.

Another common claim is that fracking causes ‘earthquakes’. It’s certainly true that if you set off explosions underground or force water into rocks, then seismic activity can occur. But only occasionally are such seismic events noticeable by human beings without the help of detection equipment. Even the strongest such events, which are very unusual, are so small that they wouldn’t cause damage to property. At most, there is noticeable shaking.

Such concerns ignore the fact that, while significant earth tremors are rare in the UK, minor events of the same strength as those caused by fracking are much more common. These are mostly natural, but can be caused by mining and other activities. The last notable ‘earthquake’ in recent years in the UK, in Lincolnshire in 2008, measured 5.2 on the Richter scale and was felt hundreds of miles away. However, that event – not exactly one that has lived long in the memory for most Brits – was roughly 800 times more powerful than the most powerful tremor caused so far by fracking (2.3 on the Richter scale). To call such seismic events caused by fracking ‘earthquakes’ is like calling a gentle breeze a ‘hurricane’.


Apocalypse Delayed

The IPCC report does not justify climate scaremongering.


We should all be dead by now, thanks to overpopulation and resource depletion. The few of us remaining should be scavenging a landscape denuded of life by acid rains and UV rays. Thankfully, we are not. Also still standing are the scientific institutions and the global bureaucracies that predicted our premature demise. One of those is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The job of the IPCC is to provide a review of climate-change research to policymakers. The bulk of climate policymaking occurs under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which meets yearly to try to wrangle a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the 2015 UNFCCC meeting in Paris, a loose deal was struck. It aimed to limit global warming to 2°C, with a looser agreement to aim to limit it to 1.5°C. Subsequently, the UNFCCC asked the IPCC to compare global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C for a report to be published this year. So far, so boring.

But before the report was even published, it began to excite climate alarmists. In September, the Guardian reported leaked details from the report’s summary for policymakers, claiming that government interference had forced scientists to ‘water down’ their findings and ‘pull their punches’. The claim that ‘temperature rises of above 1.5°C could lead to increased migrations and conflict’ was cut from the final draft, it reported.

It is usually climate sceptics, not alarmists, who point out that the IPCC’s summaries are subject to political interference. These summaries tend to be much more alarmist than what the actual science says in the reports’ technical chapters. In 2014, for example, the summary for policymakers warned that climate change can increase the risks of conflict and migration. But this was totally unsupported by the technical parts of the document.

This year’s IPCC’s report has been a disappointment to many climate activists, including the apparent source of the leak, Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) and the Grantham Research Institute (GRI). The GRI is named after its billionaire benefactor, Jeremy Grantham. Both the CCEP and the GRI are chaired by the world’s leading climate technocrat, Nick Stern, author of the UK government’s review of the economics of climate change in 2007.

The problem for Stern, his financial backers, researchers and PR men is that their political agenda depends on science identifying dramatic risks, which can act as a spur to action: catastrophic increases in the frequency and intensity of storms, flooding and drought, devastating changes to agricultural productivity, increases in diseases and poverty, impacts across society that could lead to civil conflict and war for resources. But so far, signs of these dramatic consequences have not materialised. As a result, these activists, researchers and technocrats are now at odds with the science.

That’s not to say that this year’s IPCC report gives nothing to alarmism. But it tells the alarmists that they will have to wait longer, that the apocalypse has been delayed. It also adds important caveats. Take, for example, the claim that ‘Any increase in global warming will affect human health… Risks from some vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, are projected to increase with warming from 1.5°C to 2°C.’ At face value, this appears to be a clear injunction from science that the 1.5°C target is preferable to the 2°C target. However, digging into the technical chapters of the report reveals that incorporating estimates of global adaptation to climate change into projections of its future trajectory ‘reduces the magnitude of risks’.

What this means is that these risks can be overcome by ‘adaptation’, even as the temperature rises. According to the two most authoritative estimates, the number of deaths caused by malaria has fallen dramatically in recent decades. While malaria has been eradicated from North America and Europe, it remains in Africa. Vulnerability to malaria remains strongly correlated with poverty, not meteorology. This ought to be read as an argument for development. It is ideology, not science, which turns the IPCC statement of risks into an argument for emissions reductions.

None of which is to say that global warming does not create risks. It does. But they are not the risks that climate technocrats have hoped to capitalise on. There are no immediate, looming catastrophes that can easily be detected in statistics which can provide unambiguous instruction to governments. Climate activists and technocrats need this threat of catastrophic risks to sustain their political arguments in lieu of any positive agenda. Though the most alarmist edges have been smoothed out of the IPCC’s output, it is still very much driven by ideology.


Thank fracking for continued decreases in US greenhouse gas emissions

For all the pearl clutching that swept over vast swaths of the Left after the U.S. pulled out of the Paris climate accords, President Trump continued the Obama and Bush administrations' success in decreasing domestic greenhouse gas emissions in his first year in office.

Advocates of increased environmental regulations may find it odd that directly measured greenhouse gas emissions fell by 2.7 percent from 2016 to 2017, and are down 12.2 percent since this type of reporting in was first done in 2011.

Trump entered office advocating for the expansion of the coal and the natural gas industry, and he has even tried to prop up big coal using emergency executive powers. But natural gas has relentlessly continued to replace coal as the electricity-generating fuel of choice thanks to its abundant supply and resulting low price. The combustion of natural gas produces just half of the carbon dioxide of coal.

The shale boom made possible by fracking has become a progressive bogeyman of sorts. Liberals will correctly point out that methane released from fracking is far more potent than carbon dioxide in fueling climate change. But as the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports, nearly two-thirds of reductions in energy-related CO2 emissions in the past decade can be attributed to fracking. Through technological developments, total greenhouse gas emissions from fracking have plummeted.

Even the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that fracking "has increased and diversified the gas supply and allowed for a more extensive switching of power and heat production from coal to gas; this is an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.”

For what it's worth, even as fracking has expanded in the past decade, methane emissions have plummeted. The result is that the U.S., which has repudiated the Paris treaty, avoided the Kyoto Protocol, and refused to impose any sort of national caps on carbon emissions, has been more successfully in reducing its emissions than any of the nations that have embraced such economically damaging measures.

In short, fracking has done more to reduce greenhouse emissions than any environmentalist or environmental policy in modern history.




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


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

RE - "Media declares moonwalker 'mistaken'..."

I never get tired of posting this whenever, based on temperature anomalies, anyone declares that warming is rapidly accelerating.

What they are obsessing over is basically just noise in the noise.