Friday, February 15, 2019

NOT Headed For World Without Insects - Decline Study Is Very Patchy & Limited

By Robert Walker

Please don’t be scared by this, it is just the journalists hyping things up again. It does not mean what it seems to mean from the headlines. Insects can’t vanish and we will continue to be able to grow our crops and do agriculture. The study itself involves a lot of extrapolation on inadequate data, not their fault, it is just that there hasn’t been that much research done on insect populations for them to draw on.

The number of studies they found, 73, is not a lot for the whole world and the studies are limited. The authors are also getting criticism on twitter by experts for the way they conducted the survey, for instance they found it with a literature search in "Web of Science" for “[insect*] AND [declin*] AND [survey]” which seems likely to bias in favour of groups that are declining as well as miss out many surveys that don’t happen to use the term “survey”.

They should have stated the limitations of the survey and they do not seem to have taken the extra care needed for a survey likely to influence public opinion and decision making. This was a traditional review, and not the carefully conducted systematic review that you get in medicine and that first began to be used in conservation in 2006.

This is another example of hugely hyped up research with click bait headlines. Journalists do love a good “catastrophe” - this is generating terrifying headlines for the easily scared.

* Insects are not going to vanish. That can’t happen. As some go extinct others will flourish in their place.

* It does not mean we won’t be able to do agriculture. Only some crops depend on insects and many of those require domesticated insects like bees, and those are not going to go extinct, for the same reason that, say, sheep are never going to go extinct for as long as we want to keep them.

* The study is preliminary, based on inadequate data. It’s not clear that worldwide insects are decreasing at all. We just don’t have enough data to know. See this map - most of the map is white
The two studies in Australia and China can be discounted as they are of domesticated honey bees:

* None in Asia, only two data points in Brazil for the whole of South America, none for India, none for Russia, none in Africa except a couple in South Africa, only one in Canada, none in the Arctic or Antarctic or Siberia.

* They didn't find any studies on "most flies, grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, cicadas, phasmids, mantids, cockroaches, termites, fleas, thrips, ants, a lot of beetle families + more"

Most of the studies are from Europe or the States and many are just for the UK which is one of the best studied. And even those studies only focus on particular groups of insects.

There could be a boom of grasshoppers or ants (say) in the UK, or even worldwide, and we just wouldn’t know because there haven’t been any comparative studies of them, as grasshoppers and ants are included in the many insects that their search didn't turn up any studies for.

The issue here is that to compare populations you need to know the figures from many years ago to compare with the present. But most parts of the world just don’t have an insect population figures from a decade ago, say, or several decades ago. So there isn’t really any way to fill those gaps, except looking forwards, to see what happens in the next decade or so. We can’t go back in time and survey insect populations in the past if nobody did it at the time. Then we also need researchers to look up the old records and then write comparison studies.

It is more important for highlighting how little we know about insect numbers.

Yet this story is just running without comment in all the top news sources. It also featured on the BBC News last night with a long segment about it in "Beyond 100 days" and interview with one of the researchers. For a study that is likely to influence decision makers and public opinion, they should have made clear how patchy the data is, and the non systematic nature of the review.

Here are some example click bait titles. CNN: Massive insect decline 'catastrophic' for planet

The Guardian: Plummeting insect numbers 'threaten collapse of nature'

Exclusive: Insects could vanish within a century at current rate of decline, says global review

The subtitle there is click bait, the study does not say that insects could vanish, not as in all insects, at least, not in the abstract. Large numbers of insects are declining or going extinct sure. However others are taking their place, as you might expect. This is from the abstract of the paper, the only part I can read:

"Concurrently, the abundance of a small number of species is increasing; these are all adaptable, generalist species that are occupying the vacant niches left by the ones declining. Among aquatic insects, habitat and dietary generalists, and pollutant-tolerant species are replacing the large biodiversity losses experienced in waters within agricultural and urban settings."

Also the abstract talks about what can be done about it. The causes it lists are:

i) habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanisation

ii) pollution, mainly that by synthetic pesticides and fertilisers

iii) biological factors, including pathogens and introduced species; and

iv) climate change. The latter factor is particularly important in tropical regions, but only affects a minority of species in colder climes and mountain settings of temperate zones.
So, they are declining for different reasons, it's not one thing.

What may be a problem in the tropics is that the insects that are disappearing are adapted to a narrow range of temperatures and they don’t have enough time to adapt or to migrate. The Puerto Rico study reported a big decrease in insects. Fruit eating animals and birds though remained unchanged. And just one forest, calling for more studies. That also got dramatic headlines about collapse of insects. "Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’"

That is not enough by itself to generalize to other tropical forests though it may well be that it's the same for others too. Nor can it be generalized to other tropical habitats.

In colder climes the results are not what you’d expect from climate change. You would expect a warmer planet to have more rather than fewer insects. The insects are adapted to the winter / summer cycles of higher latitudes and are less likely to go extinct just because of somewhat warmer temperatures.

The abstract of the paper focuses on agricultural practices as the main thing we can do however, especially, reducing insecticide use. Also cleaning polluted waters:


Here are some comments by Dr Manu Saunders who is an insect ecologist Manu Saunders

She put it like this on Twitter: "This review doesn't show worldwide declines in entomofauna, but does highlight how much we *don't* know about global insect fauna...

Also important to note are the insect taxa the authors couldn’t find long-term data on: most flies, grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, cicadas, phasmids, mantids, cockroaches, termites, fleas, thrips, ants, a lot of beetle families + more.

Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera & dung beetles are not the 'most affected'. They may be the most studied & recorded, at least in some countries. But the most affected taxa will depend on the location & the drivers in question. Let's focus on finding out more about those contexts....


ANWR Will Assure US Oil Production Dominance

BP this month announced the discovery of 1 billion barrels of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Louisiana coast. As large as it is, that find pales in comparison to the estimated 5 billion to 16 billion barrels of “Texas Tea” located in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, which President Trump unlocked for energy exploration after Congress authorized his plan in the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act.

Those who oppose developing Alaskan oil reserves may forget that it was President Jimmy Carter who first supported the idea of opening ANWR’s coastal plain to energy development. He did so as a way of dealing with the “crisis” Washington’s price-control policies had created at the nation’s gas pumps: long lines, limits on the number of gallons motorists could buy on any given day, and other disruptive rationing schemes.

By 2005, nearly 25 years after Carter left office, imported oil still accounted for more than 60 percent of domestic oil consumption. U.S. oil production has boomed in the decades since. Today, oil imports account for less than 20 percent of U.S. consumption, a percentage that continues to fall.

What’s changed? For one thing, the global oil cartel is losing its grip on the world market. On New Year’s Day, Qatar said it would leave OPEC and make production decisions independently. Meanwhile, the state-owned oil sector of OPEC member Venezuela, called the Saudi Arabia of Latin America, is paralyzed under its socialist government, reducing OPEC’s overall market share.

Oil production at Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope, together with construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (which was built following the 1973 oil crisis) played a key part in America’s recent energy boom. Before oil development began on the North Slope, conservationists warned that exploration, drilling, and building the 800-mile pipeline would irreparably harm the Porcupine caribou herd and cause serious environmental damage to the region’s permafrost. In the four decades since the pipeline was completed, however, it has safely carried more than 17 billion barrels of oil to the port of Valdez in southern Alaska, providing important lessons for the neighboring ANWR region.

Prudhoe Bay and 18 other oilfields on the North Slope now are home to more than 3,800 exploratory and producing wells, 170 drill pads and other oil and gas facilities. Over the years, producers implemented practices and safety standards to protect the permafrost and wildlife—and they succeeded.

The upshot is that subsurface drilling on the North Slope has increased by 4,000 percent since the 1970s, during which time the Porcupine caribou herd has expanded more than sevenfold.

Drilling in ANWR oilfields, whose potential has few rivals in the history of U.S. oil production, certainly will be challenging, both technically and environmentally. It was even more challenging to exploit the oil reserves at Prudhoe Bay while working within the constraints of state and federal safety regulations.

Technological frontiers nevertheless continue to be pushed back in the areas of seismic surveying, subsurface drilling, data processing, and predictive maintenance, meaning that best practices in ANWR are going to be even better.

Environmentalists want to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and their opinions should not be ignored. But economic growth and living standards also matter, as indicated by the overwhelming majority of Alaskans who favor ANWR production.

It also is important to recognize that the measure Congress approved stringently limits surface development on ANWR. The refuge spans 19.6 million acres and drilling is confined to no more than 2,000 of those acres—an area smaller than the municipal airport in Fargo, N.D.

No one can guarantee that the exploitation of ANWR’s oil and gas deposits will not affect some wildlife negatively. Positive impacts, likewise, are possible, as the example of Prudhoe Bay illustrates.

What can be guaranteed, however, is that ANWR will contribute considerably to America’s energy renaissance, providing the fuel that, green dreams aside, will power our homes, offices, factories, cars, and trucks for the foreseeable future.


Pingree, Ocasio-Cortez Pressure Big-Tech CEOs For Sponsoring LibertyCon

It was the skeptical mention of global warming at the conference that got them going

Members of Congress should not be in the business of chastising private-sector leaders for sponsoring events like LibertyCon that encourage civic engagement.

Hundreds of libertarian activists and young professionals recently descended upon the Washington D.C. area for LibertyCon. This conference put on by Students for Liberty provides networking opportunities and a forum to discuss libertarian ideas in a series of panels and presentations. They spanned a wide variety of topics, from the merits and drawbacks of a universal basic income to examining the greatest regulatory threats to the Internet.

One presentation caught the ire of a few Democrats in Congress. This presentation, led by Dr. Caleb Rossiter, a retired statistics professor from American University, argued that there should be a more robust public debate about whether carbon dioxide was the cause of the “climate catastrophe.” Rossiter argued there should be a more dispassionate review of the data surrounding climate science, and be more room for debate about causes and effects.

To Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), this was unacceptable. The pair penned a letter to the CEOs of Facebook, Microsoft, and Google to chastise them for being high-level sponsors of a conference that featured such a presentation. It is worthwhile to note that they did not sponsor that presentation itself, but the conference in general.

It’s quite upsetting that two members of Congress would take time to send a letter making sure private companies get back in line after they sponsored a conference at which one presentation among dozens did not align with these politicians’ opinions on the climate. The conference also featured a debate on the merits of a carbon tax, and included a speaker who made the libertarian case in favor of such a tax.

To be sure, no self-professed libertarian should favor a carbon tax. Nonetheless, this panel demonstrates the openness of LibertyCon and its attendees to engage in an open debate on this issue, something apparently Pingree and Ocasio-Cortez oppose.

In an afternoon speech entitled “Arguments Libertarians Shouldn’t Make” by economist David Friedman, son of the lauded free-market economist Milton Friedman, he argued one such argument is that climate change isn’t real or isn’t caused by human activity. Friedman stated unequivocally that he believes climate change to be real and man-made. This certainly counters Pingree and Ocasio-Cortez’s narrative that LibertyCon was an anti-environmentalist free-for-all.

While it’s clear LibertyCon represented a forum for debate and engagement rather than a single-tracked agenda, it’s still concerning that this letter was sent in the first place. Members of Congress should not chastise private-sector leaders for sponsoring events like LibertyCon that encourage civic engagement of a younger demographic that has historically lacked in that area. This is a veiled form of intimidation.

It’s also ironic that one of this letter’s signatories is Ocasio-Cortez. She is nationally recognized for grassroots campaigning that led her to a shocking political upset victory. She has been willing to challenge conventional wisdom on many issues and does not shy from debate on issues and positions that are considered out of step with the mainstream.

This type of attitude, regardless of the conclusions to which she ultimately comes, will undoubtedly make our national discourse healthier. If any elected official should champion conventions that increase political participation amongst millennials and are willing to take on issues that few others are willing to talk about, it ought to be Ocasio-Cortez.

The fact that members of Congress were willing to write such a letter raises other issues with regards to political speech. Not more than five years ago, the nation found out that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had singled out and targeted politically conservative organizations for increased scrutiny within the agency. Elected officials going after sponsors of political events they don’t like calls to mind some of the same dark themes behind the IRS scandal and should be cause for concern.

Perhaps more concerning than the letter, however, is the introduction of the so-called “For the People Act,” H.R. 1. The legislation, which Pingree and Ocasio-Cortez cosponsor, would force all organizations involved in political activity to disclose their donors. With the IRS’s history of targeting groups for their political affiliation and members of Congress chastising private sponsors of political conferences, it’s not difficult to fathom the chilling effect on political speech that would occur if such legislation was passed into law.

The 19th-century British philosopher John Stuart Mill stated that if an idea “is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.” If members of Congress take issue with certain opinions, they should be willing to fearlessly discuss them in a public forum, as the attendees of LibertyCon did. They should be confident in their convictions and trust the merits of their arguments. Our leaders who swore an oath to defend the Constitution should not only defend free speech, but be the foremost advocates for open discussion wherever possible


Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) said the planet “can’t sustain” people eating meat, as the 2020 hopeful aims to become the first vegan president

More empty assertion from Crazy Cory

Booker told the vegan magazine VegNews earlier this month that he became vegan after coming to the realization that eating eggs “didn’t align with my spirit.”

Free Beacon Reports:

While claiming he does not want to lecture Americans on their diets, Booker says Americans need to be nudged into fake cheese because the planet cannot sustain the “environmental impact” of the food industry.

“You see the planet earth moving towards what is the Standard American Diet,” Booker said. “We’ve seen this massive increase in consumption of meat produced by the industrial animal agriculture industry.”

“The tragic reality is this planet simply can’t sustain billions of people consuming industrially produced animal agriculture because of environmental impact,” he said. “It’s just not possible.”

Booker says the “devastating impact” of greenhouse gases produced by the meat industry is “just not practical.”

“The numbers just don’t add up,” he said. “We will destroy our planet unless we start figuring out a better way forward when it comes to our climate change and our environment.”

Booker, who said his vegan “journey” began in 1992 when he became a vegetarian after reading Gandhi’s biography, wants to make the “existing model” of the food industry “obsolete.”

“You never change things by fighting what exists in reality; to change something, you gotta build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete,” he said. “That’s the deal here. American consumers should not be told what to eat, but if you provide viable alternatives, in some cases, that taste even better—and if people have more information, if we consumers are informed about whatever it is—the dangers of the overuse of plastics all the way to the conditions in which animals that we are consuming are being treated.”

Booker argues all his nonvegan friends “love” vegan food like his favorites, “vegan pancakes” and “vegan stuffed French toast.”

“I’ve seen incredible vegan cheese shops popping up across the country, and my friends who are lovers of cheese just can’t tell the difference,” said the senator. “You have pizza: I was at the New Jersey VegFest, and Screamer’s Pizza is just phenomenal.”

“My nonvegan friends love it,” Booker said.

Booker is not alone in calling for transformations of major sectors of the U.S. economy. The 2020 Democratic presidential field has already called for the elimination of private health insurance, and to “reshape” capitalism.

Booker, along with every other prominent 2020 liberal candidate, signed on to the Green New Deal, which calls for the “economic transformation” of the United States by transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy in just 10 years. Renewable energy currently accounts for just 17 percent of electricity generation.

Booker’s fight against dairy intersects with the aims of the Green New Deal. Initial plans put out by democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revealed ambitions to eliminate “farting cows.”

On the campaign trail Booker endorsed the plan that guarantees every single resident in the country a job with paid vacation, retirement, “adequate housing,” and “access to nature,” because “our planet is in peril and we need to be bold.” He likened the plan to fighting the Nazis in World War II and going to the moon.

Booker explained he first became a vegetarian because his “body just took off,” and he had more energy after he stopped eating meat.

He then searched for science that backed up his feelings.

“I found the data that began to reaffirm my vegetarianism,” Booker said. “In fact, it led me to more about our environment and cruelty to animals. I began saying I was a vegetarian because, for me, it was the best way to live in accordance to the ideals and values that I have. My veganism started then.”

“I think so many of our likes and dislikes are childhood memories or family traditions, and you associate the foods you’re eating often with such good emotions—but now, suddenly, eating those eggs for me was something that didn’t align with my spirit, and I could feel it,” Booker said. “I finally just made a decision that I was going to become vegan. I remember my last non-vegan meal was Election Day, November 2014.”


Radical ‘Green New Deal’ – Coming to a Community Near You

Politicians in Washington are often immersed in endless political fights with little regard for the impact of the policies they are actually fighting over.  We see this with taxes, regulations, spending, trade and other issues.  The decisions they make often have unforeseen consequences in communities and small towns.

This week, the left’s new rising star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and her allies, introduced their far-reaching radical “Green New Deal.”  These ideas are not only being discussed in Washington, but they are actually well under way and causing great debate and conflict in many communities throughout the United States.

 In New York, Governor Cuomo and his green energy bureaucrats have imposed mandates to reduce carbon emissions.  Appealingly entitled Clean Energy Standards (CES), these mandates call for over 50 percent of the state's utilities to generate electricity through renewable sources by 2030.  In addition, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order mandating over 2,000 megawatts of energy be generated, also by 2030, using offshore wind. 

How is all of this being paid for you might ask.  Well, by the same folks who always pay – you, the taxpayer.

 Indeed, to fund the CES, New Yorkers will pay an increase of $3.6 billion in electricity costs according to a report by Continental Economics. That’s just to get things going.  By 2050, New Yorkers will be subsidizing Cuomo’s green new deal to a tune of over one trillion dollars, “providing scant, if any, measurable benefits” the report states.

Footnote: U.S. per person CO2 emissions have declined to their lowest levels in over six decades. The U.S. Energy Administration reports that from 2005-2017 U.S. energy related emissions are down 14 percent.

But it’s not just about the numbers, the money and the costs.  There is tremendous environmental and community impact experienced by the deployment of green energy.  Utility scale solar facilities, not built in the desert, require destruction of the land – trees and farms – and they can permanently alter the character of the community. 

There is additional risk from muddy runoff, which can impact roads, streams and tributaries.  Water is needed for cleaning the panels so solar companies often have to tap into water sources impacting local wells and aquifers. If decommissioning is not handled appropriately, when their use is complete, these solar fields can be left to rot causing additional environmental damage, waste of land and taxpayers being left to pay the clean-up costs.

Solar and wind facilities, largely propped up by taxpayers’ subsidies, are causing environmental damage and community conflict.  But local citizens going about their daily grind are never told or warned about these troubles.  Rather, they are told to be proud that a green energy project is coming to a community near you. But in some communities, the people impacted, and the taxpayers being forced to pay for these projects, are standing up and voicing concerns about the damage they can cause.

Residents in Spotsylvania, Virginia, for example, are pushing back against what would be the largest utility scale solar complex east of the Mississippi, covering over 6,000 acres – that’s half the size of Manhattan. It would be the fifth largest solar facility in the U.S. and the twelfth largest in the world.  This large, not so green, facility is part of embattled and controversial Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s version of the green new deal.

Local citizens have formed citizens groups. Large numbers of citizens are attending local government meetings and voicing their concerns. This all proves, once again, that if we are going to fight the not-so-good deals emanating from Washington and some state capitals, citizen activism is critical.  Because while all of this sounds and feels good to the politicians, someone has to live with the consequences.



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1 comment:

C. S. P. Schofield said...

The politicians who believe (or SAY they believe) that an all 'renewable' energy economy is possible are as batty as the people who believed the 'Hollow Earth' theories.