Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Greening of the Earth Enhanced by ... India and China?

As they modernize

Over the last two decades, the earth has seen a big increase in area covered by green leaves.

China and India take a lot of flak for their heavy carbon footprints. However, NASA Ames reports, “A new study shows that the two emerging countries with the world’s biggest populations are leading the increase in greening on land.” What explains this dichotomy? The journal Nature Sustainability relays some specifics:

Recent satellite data (2000–2017) reveal a greening pattern that is strikingly prominent in China and India and overlaps with croplands world-wide. China alone accounts for 25% of the global net increase in leaf area with only 6.6% of global vegetated area. The greening in China is from forests (42%) and croplands (32%), but in India is mostly from croplands (82%) with minor contribution from forests (4.4%). China is engineering ambitious programmes to conserve and expand forests with the goal of mitigating land degradation, air pollution and climate change.

Food production in China and India has increased by over 35% since 2000 mostly owing to an increase in harvested area through multiple cropping facilitated by fertilizer use and surface- and/or groundwater irrigation. Our results indicate that the direct factor is a key driver of the ‘Greening Earth’, accounting for over a third, and probably more, of the observed net increase in green leaf area.

NASA Ames adds, “Taken all together, the greening of the planet over the last two decades represents an increase in leaf area on plants and trees equivalent to the area covered by all the Amazon rainforests. There are now more than two million square miles of extra green leaf area per year, compared to the early 2000s — a 5% increase.”

Researcher Chi Chen noted, “China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9% of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation — a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation.”

And according to Ames Research Center’s Rama Nemani, “Once people realize there’s a problem, they tend to fix it. In the 70s and 80s in India and China, the situation around vegetation loss wasn’t good; in the 90s, people realized it; and today things have improved. Humans are incredibly resilient. That’s what we see in the satellite data.” This is a salient point that reinforces the pertinence of adaptation. What’s causing climate change remains obscure, despite the mainstream narrative. Moreover, CO2 isn’t a pollutant. And crops, as demonstrated above, thrive on it — which is a good thing.

Finally, it’s worth noting that this greening would likely be less so without fossil fuels. As Joseph L. Bast and Peter Ferrara wrote in The Wall Street Journal last June, “Fossil-fuel emissions create additional benefits, contributing to the greening of the Earth. A 2017 study published in Nature magazine found that the global mass of land plants grew 31% during the 20th century. African deserts are blooming thanks to fossil fuels.”


Trump should end political junk science regulations by restoring scientific transparency to regulatory process

By Rick Manning

Earlier this week I joined about twenty of my conservative colleagues in Washington, D.C. and around the country in signing a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to sign an Executive Order mandating “full transparency of all scientific data and studies used to justify all pending or new regulations in the federal rulemaking process.”

During the election campaign of 2016, then-President Barack Obama rhetorically questioned the ability of candidate Trump to restore America’s manufacturing sector claiming it would take a “magic wand” to bring those jobs back.

Well, two years and a half million more manufacturing jobs later, President Trump’s “magic wand” turned out to be scissors. Scissors which cut the highest corporate tax rates in the world to incentivize bringing factories back to America. Scissors applied to bad trade deals and unfair low tariffs for countries like China who have engaged in economic warfare against America’s manufacturing sector. And maybe even more importantly, scissors to the mountains of bureaucratic red tape that had been choking out plans for new factories and production facilities while encouraging the gutting of existing ones and shipping them overseas.

President Trump’s first two years have been an economic tour d’ force bringing about 1.4 million Americans who had been left behind back into the workforce, increasing real wages minus inflation by 1.3 percent and creating an environment where record low unemployment rates have been reached for African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and people with disabilities.

But on the regulatory front, there is an important step that remains to be taken. Previous administrations have used junk science to justify radical agendas designed to shut down America’s economy. Individual agencies cannot be depended upon to implement rules that prevent a recurrence of pre-determined scientific conclusions being created in order to justify politically unfeasible regulatory activity.

Quite simply, Americans deserve and need to know that the science used to justify regulatory actions is sound, and the only way to ensure this is for the scientists to be forced to show their work.  In fact, the essential element of the scientific method is reproducibility of results. The reason we know that the boiling point of water at sea level is 212 degrees Fahrenheit is because anyone can test whether that is true or not.  Similarly, making the methodology of scientific reports available for scrutiny will make certain policy makers do not pursue damaging regulatory fixes based upon false or erroneous conclusions.

David Randall, the director of research at the National Association of Scholars recently wrote in The Hill that, “America is suffering from a crisis of irreproducible science. In 2012 the biotechnology firm Amgen tried to reproduce 53 ‘landmark’ studies in hematology and oncology, but could only replicate six. That same year Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the FDA, ‘estimated that as much as 75 percent of published biomarker associations are not replicable.’”

Randall continued, “The federal government bears some blame. According to a 2015 study, government funds two-thirds of preclinical research in America and half of that research is irreproducible. Of the $28 billion our country wastes each year in irreproducible preclinical research, the government share is $19 billion.

“The federal government makes policy based on research that can’t [be] reproduce[d]. The EPA used the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) to justify many costly regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan. When Dr. James Enstrom acquired the original data and conducted an independent re-analysis, he ‘found that there was no significant relationship between PM2.5 and death from all causes.’”

The bottom line is that President Trump can bring sanity back into the scientific method by restoring it when agencies are determining regulatory actions. The only people who could possibly object would be those who have made it an industry to push agenda motivated science to create public policy. Getting regulations right through transparent, reproducible science rather than continuing to rely upon politically correct pseudo-science is just plain common sense.

It is time for President Trump to act by signing an Executive Order which re-establishes scientific integrity throughout our government.


Mueller’s ‘Foreign Agent’ Prosecutions May Lead to Probes of Green Groups

Some of them really do get support from Russia

By invoking a law regulating foreign agents to pursue prosecution of former Trump campaign officials, special counsel Robert Mueller opened the door to more intense scrutiny of some U.S. environmental groups, according to legal analysts who say China and Russia use such groups to influence America’s energy policy.

But these legal analysts said they also see a danger that Mueller’s Russia investigation could set a precedent for the Justice Department to “selectively enforce” the Foreign Agents Registration Act in a manner that undermines the rule of law and potentially jeopardizes national security. 

The Trump administration, they say, should closely examine the relationship between environmental advocacy groups and foreign governments that are considered strategic competitors of the U.S.

“If the Mueller probe has any real benefit, it is that it opened the door for the Justice Department to employ FARA as a basis to investigate green groups that are undermining our country and aiding socialist/communist regimes,” lawyer Mark Fitzgibbons told The Daily Signal.

Because these same environmental groups persistently lobby for policy changes to restrict U.S. energy use and the projection of U.S. military power, the groups may operate at the direction and encouragement of hostile foreign actors, Fitzgibbons and other reform proponents argue.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act, which predates World War II, requires anyone who acts as an agent of foreign principals “in a political or quasi-political capacity” to disclose that relationship periodically, as well as “activities, receipts, and disbursements in support of those activities,” according to the Justice Department.

But because FARA has not been strictly enforced, little case history and precedent exist for investigations into the actions of possible foreign agents who decline to disclose their activities, Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a Washington-based nonprofit government watchdog, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

Americans and their elected representatives have been deprived of the openness and transparency they need to evaluate the political activism and legal tactics of environmental advocacy groups, Fitton said.

‘Selectively Enforced’

The disclosure requirements of the Foreign Agents Registration Act explicitly state that information made available through registration would help ensure that citizens and officials can get the specifics they need to evaluate the activities of anyone who registers “in light of their function as foreign agents.”

But Fitton expressed concern that the law could be misused and misapplied to advance a political agenda detached from its stated purpose.

“We already know the law has been selectively enforced,” Fitton said of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. “Violations of FARA have typically been handled administratively. If you didn’t file paperwork, you were told to file it. But the Mueller special counsel operation, desperate for prosecutions, started criminally prosecuting FARA regulations where they had never been criminally prosecuted before.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein appointed Mueller to serve as special counsel on May 17, 2017, to investigate allegations that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller, a former FBI director, also is probing allegations that the Trump presidential campaign coordinated with Russian operatives in its efforts to win the election.

So far, the Mueller investigation has resulted in dozens of indictments and eight guilty pleas, none of which involves coordination or collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign. An updated list of charges, pleas, and resulting convictions is available here.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman for two months, pleaded guilty in September to charges that he violated FARA because he failed to disclose to the Justice Department that he worked as an agent of Ukraine’s government and as a lobbyist for pro-Russian political forces in that country.

Richard Gates, a former Trump campaign aide and business associate of Manafort’s, also pleaded guilty to FARA violations in connection with his lobbying efforts in Ukraine.

No Comment From Special Counsel

Mueller has pointed to potential violations of foreign agent registration rules in his prosecution of 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies accused of trying to manipulate the 2016 election through internet and social media campaigns.

Fitton favors counterintelligence investigations into the actions of groups and individuals who appear to skirt registration requirements, but has expressed concern with how the law has been applied against Trump campaign officials.

“In my view, the Mueller team has been manufacturing dubious FARA charges against Trump campaign people,” Fitton told The Daily Signal. “In the case of Manafort, he was really working for political parties, not a foreign government. So this is a pretty dramatic expansion of FARA.”

The Daily Signal sought comment from the Special Counsel’s Office on concerns that the law might be “selectively” or “unevenly” applied in a manner that enables some environmental activists to escape scrutiny.

“We will decline to comment,” Mueller spokesman Peter Carr replied in an email Tuesday morning.

During a December hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Fitton commented on how some actions of nonprofit advocacy groups and their relationships with foreign governments could activate requirements of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

In response to questions from Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Fitton said that if advocacy groups are found to be “taking orders from a foreign government” or “beholden to them financially,” they probably should be required to register under the law.

During his exchange with Fitton, Gosar said environmental advocacy groups that oppose natural gas development and the process of hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) have received millions of dollars in grant money that congressional investigators traced back to the Russian government.

Environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council “have undermined the energy sector in the United States and even got fracking banned in the cash-strapped state of New York,” Gosar said.

‘Cozy’ With the Chinese

If there is genuine concern on the part of Mueller, the media, and other members of Congress about Russian meddling in American affairs, the Arizona Republican said, then environmental advocacy groups working to disrupt American energy while receiving financial support from the Russian government should be subjected to investigations.

Gosar, who also sits on the House Natural Resources Committee, took the opportunity to focus attention on the relationship between environmental activists and China’s communist government. In 2018, the Natural Resources Committee sent letters to several environmental groups, inquiring about their relationship with government entities in China and Japan.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, for example, has “gotten cozy with the environmentally unfriendly Chinese government while suing the U.S. government whenever it can,” Gosar said during his exchange with Fitton.

He suggested that the environmental group’s lawsuits against the Navy and its “weapons development programs” could work to the strategic advantage of China’s communist government.


Open Buckets of Uranium Ore Found at Grand Canyon not a problem, Experts Say

For nearly 20 years, a trio of 5-gallon (19 liters) paint buckets sat near the taxidermy exhibit at Grand Canyon National Park's museum collections building. Those buckets, it turns out, weren't holding paint — they were actually loaded up with uranium ore, a naturally occurring rock rich in uranium that gives off potentially dangerous radiation.

Elston "Swede" Stephenson, a health and wellness manager at the park's South Rim, recently described the uranium find and subsequent "cover-up" in a series of email blasts to Congress, his fellow National Park Service employees and the staff of The Arizona Republic newspaper. [Soviets Hid Nuclear Bunkers in Poland's Forests (Photos)]

Stephenson warned that thousands of employees, tourists and school groups who visited the exhibit between 2000 and 2018 were likely "exposed" to dangerous amounts of radiation, especially groups of kids who sat for 30-minute presentations in the uranium's vicinity. These children may have been exposed to roughly 1,400 times the safe radiation dosage allowed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Stephenson wrote. Scary stuff, if true.

However, several experts told Live Science that Stephenson's assessment may be unfounded.

"If the time spent near the ore was short, there is likely little cause for concern," Bill Field, a professor of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa, told Live Science in an email.

Safe ore not safe?

Over time, uranium can break down into radioactive materials like radium and release harmful gas like radon. Studies of uranium miners have shown that prolonged exposure to uranium's decay products can increase the chances of getting cancer — However, Field said, "The risk from a few buckets of the uranium ore is quite different than a career in uranium mining."

According to F. Ward Whicker, a radioecology expert and professor emeritus at Colorado State University, uranium ore chiefly emits gamma particles — the least dangerous type of radiation.

"The amounts of radiation exposure from natural terrestrial sources and galactic cosmic rays to people living anywhere is far higher than most realize," Whicker told Live Science in an email. "Life flourishes in this constant radiation environment because DNA repair mechanisms operate efficiently and rapidly in cells — provided that intensity of radiation exposure is within certain levels."

The danger, if any, from the Grand Canyon ore buckets depends on a long list of factors, Whicker said, including an individual's distance from the ore, the length of their exposure, the quantity of ore in the buckets, the amount of uranium in that ore, and the amount of shielding provided by the rocky parts of the ore itself and the container.

In this case, the plastic paint buckets may have provided a powerful enough shield against the ore's radiation. Modi Wetzler, a chemistry professor at Clemson University who studies nuclear waste told The Arizona Republic that, while gamma rays can be dangerous if inhaled, they are easily absorbed and rendered harmless by just a few inches of air, or even a person's outer layer of dead skin.

The ore's relative harmlessness is reflected in a report from the Parks Service, which Stephenson referenced in his emails.

After a teenager with a Geiger counter accidentally discovered the ore buckets in the museum in March 2018, the Parks Service launched a brief investigation to test radiation levels in and around the building. According to their report (which Stephenson quoted to The Arizona Republic), direct contact with the ore resulted in radiation levels at roughly twice the safe annual dosage allowed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — however, readings taken just 5 feet (1.5 meters) away from the bucket showed zero radiation.

The next steps

The uranium ore has since been disposed of in a nearby uranium mine. Meanwhile, the Parks Service, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Arizona Bureau of Radiation Control are now investigating the museum and its premises. According to Emily Davis, Grand Canyon National Park Public Affairs Officer, radiation levels at the site are normal and safe.

"A recent survey of the Grand Canyon National Park's museum collection facility found radiation levels at background levels — the amount always present in the environment — and below levels of concern for public health and safety," Davis told NPR. "There is no current risk to the public or park employees. The museum collection facility is open and work routines have continued as normal."

Any long-term effects caused by the ore's 18-year stint in the museum remain to be identified. While it might be negligible, the ore likely did increase the radon levels in the building somewhat, Field told Live Science.

"The facility should have radon testing performed," Field said. "Over the long term, however, the potential exposure from radon from natural sources in the soil and rock under the facility would likely be the greatest source of radiation to the public and workers."


Out-of-touch Leftist politician says it 'could be a GOOD thing' if Australia's $25billion coal industry collapsed leaving thousands of people unemployed

The Scott Morrison government has pounced on a Labor MP who suggested a decline in the $25billion coal market is a 'good thing'.

Labor frontbencher Richard Marles told Sky News on Wednesday the world market for thermal coal - Australia's top export industry - had collapsed.

'At one level that's a good thing because what that implies is the world is acting in relation to climate change,' Mr Marles said.

Mr Morrison and his Liberal colleagues slammed Mr Marles and accused him of suggesting a supposed decline was 'wonderful'.

'He might think it's wonderful... we don't think it's wonderful. In all of those places [people] who depend on those jobs don't think it's wonderful,' the prime minister told Parliament.

Queensland-based federal minister Steve Ciobo reiterated the 'wonderful' line, telling parliament thermal coal produced $25 billion in export income for Australia and thousands of jobs each year.

'The Australian Labor Party thinks it is a wonderful thing that they get to junk-pile 55,000 jobs in the resources sector,' he told parliament.

Mr Marles later clarified his position and said he didn't properly articulate his point.

Coal clearly has an important and enduring role to play, even as we transition to more renewables, and I should have made that clear,' he said.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released this month showed coal export sales rose nearly 16 per cent in 2018.

Mr Marles earlier reiterated Labor's position that no money should be spent on the proposed Adani Carmichael coal mine in Queensland.

'There are lots of ways in which you can generate employment, but the important statement here is that no public money is going to be spent on it,' he told Sky.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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