Tuesday, May 28, 2019

How climate change can fuel wars

The article excerpted below is very shifty.  It includes crop losses from COOLING as due to global warming, for instance.  But its main focus is on disruptions caused by drought.  But drought is NOT going to be made worse by Warming. Warming will warm the seas and warmer seas give off more water vapor, which comes down as rain.

Drought is more likely an effect of cooling and they admit that a cooler climate some decades back originated the Sahelian drought.  The Sahel in fact has been recovering in recent decades -- as it should due to the greatly increased CO2 in the air.  High levels of CO2 enable plants to require less water. Look up "stomata" if you don't believe it.

In summary the actual facts about climate that they produce lead us to the conclusion that the travails in the region are NOT caused by global warming

Fifty years ago the Dar es Salaam camp would have been under several metres of water. In the 1960s Lake Chad was the sixth-largest freshwater lake in the world, an oasis and commercial hub in the arid Sahel. Water and fertile lands were shared by farmers, herders and fisherfolk alike.

The vast lake has shrunk from 25,000 square km to half that area today. In the camp, which the UNHCR (the UN’s refugee agency) helps run, over 12,000 men, women and children huddle in any shade they can find from heat that often reaches 45°C. The camp has no guard towers or walls. Boko Haram fighters are only a few miles away. A tangle of torn tarpaulins and human debris is scattered across the desert. For miles around, baked white sand is dotted with sparse, scraggy trees bristling with inch-long thorns. The sole signs of life are camels pecking at the dry vegetation.

As Mr Ibrahim remembers when the lake stretched over the horizon. “Before the lake began to shrink everything was going normally,” he says. “And now, nothing. We cannot get food to eat.” As the lake receded, people moved towards it, plagued by swarms of tsetse flies. Herdspeople, farmers and fisherfolk competed for access to the shrunken supply of water. Mr Ibrahim had to walk farther and farther to get to the fishing grounds.

Green campaigners and eager headline-writers sometimes oversimplify the link between global warming and war. It is never the sole cause. But several studies suggest that, by increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, including floods and droughts, it makes conflict likelier than it would otherwise be. In a meta-analysis carried out in the early 2010s, Solomon Hsiang, then at Princeton University, and Marshall Burke, then at the University of California, Berkeley, found “strong support” for a causal link between climate change and conflict (encompassing everything from interpersonal to large-scale violence). They even tried to quantify the relationship, claiming that each rise in temperature or extreme rainfall by one standard variation increased the frequency of interpersonal violence by 4% and intergroup conflict by 14%.

History offers several examples of climate change appearing to foment mayhem. An examination of Chinese records spanning a millennium found that the vast majority of violent eras were preceded by bouts of COOLER weather. The team behind the study argues that lower temperatures reduced agricultural production, provoking fights over land and food.

Consider Syria. Between 2012 and 2015 three academic papers argued that climate change had been a catalyst or even a primary driver of the civil war. Headlines blamed it for the waves of refugees reaching Europe. The argument was that human emissions had caused or exacerbated a severe drought in Syria in the late 2000s that triggered mass migration from farmland into cities, contributing to tensions which ultimately led to war.

The headlines were too simplistic, as headlines often are. Climate modelling led by Colin Kelley, then at the University of California in Santa Barbara, estimated that greenhouse-gas emissions made the drought twice as likely. That is significant, but need not mean that in the absence of climate change, there would have been no drought and no war. Syrians had many reasons to revolt against their ruler, Bashar al-Assad, a despot from a religious minority who enforced his rule with mass torture.

The conflict around Lake Chad is also a tangled tale. Its roots can be traced back to a deadly drought in the 1970s and 1980s. Many have blamed that drought on industrial emissions of greenhouse gases. But climate models suggest they did not in fact play a big role in the drought. The recurrent failure of monsoon rains was caused by COOLER temperatures in the north Atlantic, which pushed the rains too far south. The cooling was itself caused by a mixture of natural and human factors, notably air pollution above the ocean—a striking reminder that greenhouse-gas emissions are not the only way in which human activity may alter the climate.

A report published this month by Adelphi, a Berlin-based think-tank, shows that *Lake Chad is no longer shrinking*. Its authors examined 20 years of satellite data and found that the southern pool was stable for the duration. The northern pool is still shrinking slightly, but total water storage in the area is increasing, as 80% of the water is held in a subterranean aquifer, which is being replenished, as is moisture in the soil, as the rains have returned.

Despite all these caveats, climate change clearly can play a part in fostering conflict. The Sahel is warming 1.5 times faster than the global average, owing to greenhouse-gas emissions. In future, most models suggest, it will experience more extreme and less predictable rains over shorter seasons. In a region where most people still grow or rear their own food, that could make millions desperate and restless.

Climate models predict that, as global average temperatures rise, dry regions will get drier and wet regions will get wetter, with more extremes and greater variability. Poverty makes it harder for farmers to adapt. Trying something new is always risky—and potentially catastrophic for those with no savings to fall back on. In conflict zones, farmers who once had the means to plant several different crops may only be able to plant one. They end up with all their seeds in one basket. On the shores of Lake Chad, violent clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups have created zones that are off-limits to civilians, says Chitra Nagarajan, a researcher for the Adelphi report, who spent two years conducting surveys in all four littoral countries.

Conflict itself makes the poor even poorer, and more vulnerable to the vagaries of a changing climate. Fearing murder, pastoralists cannot take their herds to places with water and vegetation. The UNHCR’s Mr Cond√© says that fishermen can no longer go into the deep lake to fish. Government troops block them, and Boko Haram is still on the prowl. Fighters steal farmers’ crops. All the farmers can harvest is wood, which they sell as fuel. In a bitter twist, doing so accelerates desertification, further degrading the land.


Solar power is NOT the solution for making fertilizer

The ‘next big thing’ in the environmental movement appears to be ammonia, or rather a more efficient way to make it. Australian computer expert Geoff Russell crunches the numbers, and the results are prohibitive

The world produced 200 million tonnes of ammonia last year; or more than three times more ammonia than cattle meat.

This might surprise you if you think of ammonia as some kind of old-fashioned cleaning product your grandmother used to use. But ammonia is at the heart of most fertilisers; so it’s at the start of any modern food chain, including the cattle meat food chain.

Many of Australia’s 77 million hectares of managed pastures will be fertilised with an ammonia-based fertiliser; particularly if used by dairy cattle.

How much land do you have to cover with solar panels to supply electricity to ammonia production lines to make 200 million tonnes of ammonia? That’s the multi-billion dollar question we’ll answer shortly.

Ammonia’s chemical formula is NH3. The N is for nitrogen. How do you measure the amount of protein in any food? Measure the nitrogen and multiply by 6.25 because nitrogen is about 16 percent of any protein.

During the manufacture of ammonia, the nitrogen is plucked from the air and bonded with hydrogen, this is mixed with other stuff to become fertiliser which is then used by plants to make protein; among other things.

Without that 200 million tonnes of fertiliser, our global protein supply would be seriously limited because very few plants can pull nitrogen from the air. Legumes can do it, using special bacteria bound to their roots. But other plants have to rely on getting it from the soil. And once it’s gone, you have to put it back. Hence the need for fertiliser. Alternatively, you can or plant some legumes and wait for them to work their magic.

The processes that produce ammonia using electricity and water typically take about 11 or so megawatt-hours of electricity to produce a tonne of ammonia. Some people reckon this is a terrific application for solar power. I’ll get to the CSIRO breakthrough shortly.

Nyngan is one of Australia’s largest solar plants; covering about 250 hectares and producing about 233 gigawatt-hours of energy annually; a gigawatt is a billion watts.

To make 200 million tonnes of ammonia annually using a bunch of Nyngan-like solar plants, you’d need to build 9,442 Nyngan solar farms covering 2.36 million hectares.

One down, 9,441 to go.

We can of course divide the job up and have 100 countries each building 94 Nyngans. That’s much more manageable and only gives us 93 more Nyngans to build; or another 23,500 hectares to cover in solar panels. Assuming everybody else pulls their weight and covers the rest of the 2.36 million hectares.

But there’s a catch. Did anybody else notice the IPBES report on Biodiversity and ecosystem services?

What was the number one cause of our loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services? Habitat loss and degradation. Think about 2.36 million hectares. Our intensive land use in Australia – our cities – cover about 1.4 million hectares. So 2.36 million is rather a lot… just to make fertiliser.

The CSIRO breakthrough in synthesising ammonia, assuming it can be scaled up, will require just 1.8 million hectares instead of 2.36. They are aiming at 8.5 megawatt-hours per tonne of ammonia rather than 11.

Replacing oil

But of course, the boffins working on ammonia aren’t just interested in ammonia and fertiliser, they have the entire global energy supply in their sights.

The plan is to make ammonia using renewable energy and ship it globally. That’s what the renewable energy super power chant is all about. You can then use the ammonia to power vehicles, either directly or by cracking the NH3 and extracting the hydrogen and using it in fuel cells.

Ammonia has well under half the energy density of oil. So you need to produce two tonnes of ammonia to replace one tonne of oil. The amount of land required to produce oil is tiny; because oil comes in 3D deposits. Oil flows out of holes in the ground and you can think about the power per square meter as the energy flowing from the wells in an area.

Energy expert Vaclav Smil did this kind of calculation and found that power from oil typically achieves rates between 125 and 40,000 watts per square metre (w/m2) of the size of the field. If we calculate the power per square metre (averaged over 24 hours) of Nyngan we get a figure of just over 10 (w/m2), and this drops to about 6 (w/m2) when we use the solar power to make ammonia using the new super-efficient CSIRO method.

Clearly wildlife habitat will take a hammering if this kind of technology really is scaled up to take on oil.


The single-use plastics ban is a load of rubbish

Faced with an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy, our politicians are clutching at straws.

This week, the UK government announced that from April next year, the sale of plastic straws, drink-stirrers and cotton buds will be banned.

The plastic ban follows several years of high-profile, emotive and misleading campaigns on the problem of plastic waste ending up in the oceans. Despite the obvious fact that these little plastic things are quite useful, for environmentalists it seems that there is no problem, real or imagined, that cannot be solved by banning something.

It is extraordinary that as the UK faces perhaps its deepest political and democratic crisis for centuries, politicians are preoccupied with something as petty as the use and disposal of plastic. The ban is the last gasp of a useless, desperate administration.

The policy is all the more striking considering how little plastic waste from Britain actually finds its way into the ocean directly. But thanks to green policies promoting recycling, millions of tonnes of waste are sent for ‘recycling’ overseas. The countries receiving our waste often become overwhelmed and local waste goes unprocessed. As there are fewer environmental regulations in these countries, excess waste can just be burnt or dumped. Three years ago, two-thirds of the UK’s plastic waste was sent to China. But China has since banned imports of foreign waste, while other countries, including Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan, have introduced heavy restrictions. This has left exporters of waste, like the UK, with a problem on their hands.

Faced with vast mountains of rubbish of their own making, politicians prefer to pin the blame on the public and their apparently excessive plastic use. But there is no need to resort to a ban on plastic when there are perfectly safe and clean ways to dispose of it.

The simplest method is incineration. The heat can even be used to generate electricity. But green types are the first to whinge the moment an incineration plant is proposed, despite the fact that modern incinerators produce almost no toxic emissions at all. In contrast, recycling – the greens’ preferred method of waste management – is nowhere near as clean or safe. Uncontrolled, accidental fires break out in recycling collection centres around 300 times per year in the UK, spewing thousands of tonnes of thick black smoke into Gaia’s precious skies.

Water-treatment plants can also be upgraded to allow them to better capture plastic and other items. London’s new 25km-long, £4.2 billion Thames Tideway mega-sewer scheme will prevent the discharge of millions of tons of unprocessed sewage into Thames tributaries each year.

A similar investment could be used to create an effective infrastructure for the processing and incineration of plastic waste. But greens object to burning waste because it is incompatible with the so-called ‘circular economy’ – a utopian ambition of environmentalists in which all resources are endlessly recycled and all waste is eliminated. This means that no green billionaire-backed NGOs, no quangos, no UN or EU committees and no weepy BBC documentaries narrated by David Attenborough are going to make the case for incineration, despite its obvious benefits.

More importantly, for the establishment actors engaged in the war on plastic, finding a technical solution to a problem as simple as waste disposal would rob them of their last vestiges of legitimacy. They want to be seen as planet-saving superheroes, as politicians with visions and purpose. Without the crusade against plastic, our politicians would be exposed as pointless, petty-minded bureaucrats.


The truth about Chernobyl

The shocking truth about the Chernobyl disaster is how FEW people it killed -- despite Greenie panic

In 1995, nine years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine, I spent six months working at the heart of it all. At that time, I was the only Westerner permanently based at the site. The scale of the fallout, which displaced hundreds of thousands of people and affected millions living in designated contamination zones, was massive.

In 1986, following the disaster, the rescue effort was courageous and inspirational. But there was also an inexcusable, criminal cover-up by the Soviet authorities, led by the then leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. The West was also slow to expose the magnitude of the disaster. Undoubtedly, there was an initial hesitation to criticise Gorbachev, as Western leaders were courting him at the time. Following the nuclear disaster of Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania in 1979, Chernobyl was also a hammer blow to the global atomic industry – not least because industry figures had repeatedly and misleadingly claimed that a full nuclear core meltdown could never happen. This downplaying of the disaster led many to distrust the official accounts.

Kate Brown, a professor at MIT, specialising in environmental and nuclear history as well as the Soviet Union, is the latest to cast doubt on the official version of events. Her new book, "Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future", sets out to expose a 33-year cover-up, in which the United Nations was in cahoots with the KGB and Western intelligence agents. This cover-up, she argues, was designed to downplay the horrendous health consequences of the disaster, both to protect the reputation of the Soviet Union and to prevent lawsuits arising in the West against the nuclear industry.

The UN estimates of fatalities were first published in 2005 in the landmark "Chernobyl Forum Report". Its research and publication was led by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on behalf of – and endorsed by – eight UN agencies and the governments of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. The report assessed all the epidemiological evidence in a collaborative effort involving hundreds of experts. It found that there had been fewer than 50 deaths directly attributable to radiation from the disaster – there have been a further four deaths directly caused by Chernobyl since the report came out. Almost all of those who died were highly exposed rescue workers, many of whom died within months of the accident. The UN also predicted that there could be up to 9,000 Chernobyl-related deaths from cancer.

In response to the UN’s 2005 report, Greenpeace claimed that the death toll could be as high as 200,000.

"Manual for Survival" sets out to explain this ‘Grand Canyon-sized gap between the UN and Greenpeace estimates of fatalities’. Brown argues that decades after Chernobyl exploded there is still a need for a large-scale, long-term epidemiological study of the consequences of low-level radiation on human health in the affected areas. That may be so. But this does not itself prove a cover-up.

Brown also wants us to believe that after Fukushima blew its top in 2011, scientists told the public that they had no certain knowledge of the damage that could be caused by exposure to low doses of radiation as a result of the accident. Yet she provides no evidence of them claiming ignorance on this subject that is well understood by experts. She also argues that because of our failure to learn the lessons of Chernobyl, we are stuck in an ‘eternal video loop’, with the same scene of nuclear disaster playing over and over again, from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl to Fukushima. She accuses Japan’s scientists in the wake of Fukushima of ‘reproducing the playbook of Soviet officials 25 years before them’ by also downplaying the consequences of the disaster.

But Brown seems to inhabit a parallel universe. If anything, there is unnecessary panic about the supposed impact of low-level radiation. Far from downplaying the consequences of Fukushima, the official response has been overly precautious. An exclusion zone was created around the site, which largely exists today, though the nearby town of Okuma has since been declared safe for residents to return. Professor Geraldine Thomas of Imperial College, London, one of Britain’s leading researchers on the effects of radiation on the human body, told the BBC in 2016 that the radiation levels in the exclusion zone pose little risk to human health: ‘There are plenty of places in the world where you would live with background radiation of at least this level’.

A key case study in Brown’s Chernobyl cover-up theory is the story of Keith Baverstock. Baverstock was one of many courageous scientists and doctors who battled to convince the World Health Organisation (WHO), his employer, that the Chernobyl disaster had resulted in an unexpected outbreak of thyroid cancers among children. They discovered and publicised the fact that radioactive iodine (iodine-131 and caesium-137) was more carcinogenic than was previously thought.

But Brown understates the fact that Baverstock and his colleagues won their battle. The final Chernobyl Forum report of 2005 incorporated their findings. What’s more, Baverstock repeatedly told the media that the biggest cause of health problems among people living in territories affected by low-level radiation was increased anxiety and stress levels, fanned by scaremongering.

Baverstock continued to criticise the Chernobyl Forum after he left WHO. He offers the most considered interrogation of the Chernobyl Forum findings that I have read. Along with his colleague, Dillwyn Williams, Baverstock criticised the conflicted politics behind the Forum and the impact this has on its research. He has pointed out the limits of the existing body of knowledge and called for more intensive research into the long-term effects of Chernobyl. He correctly said that we won’t know for sure the full outcome on human health for decades – the real death toll might still emerge because low-level radiation impacts are difficult to detect. But while Baverstock has advanced important criticisms of the UN’s figures, he has never endorsed Greenpeace’s speculative inflation of the evidence.

In contrast, Brown misrepresents much of what was uncovered by scientists in the wake of Chernobyl. She does so, presumably, in order to back up her claim that the Chernobyl exclusion zones will have to remain abandoned for much longer than anybody expected. (They are being repopulated gradually already.) Her claim is based on a misunderstanding of the science. Brown says it will take between ‘180 and 320 years’ for caesium-137 to disappear from Chernobyl’s forests. But the half-life of cesium-137 is 30 years.

Her misunderstanding is based on an article in Wired, which has since been updated to reflect the science of half-lives more accurately. In other words, Brown is basing her conclusions on secondary sources written by people who failed initially to understand what they had been briefed by scientists. Meanwhile, in the real world, according to Professor Jim Smith of the University of Portsmouth, while the Chernobyl exclusion zone is still contaminated, ‘if we put it on a map of radiation dose worldwide, only the small “hotspots”’ would stand out’.

In the final chapter of Manual for Survival, we finally learn what Brown considers to be a more credible estimate of the total number of existing and expected fatalities from the Chernobyl accident. And once again we see there isn’t any real evidence or credible sources to support her thesis: ‘Off the record, a scientist at the Kyiv All-Union Center for Radiation Medicine put the number of fatalities at 150,000 in Ukraine alone. An official at the Chernobyl plant gave the same number. That range of 35,000 to 150,000 Chernobyl fatalities – not 54 – is the minimum.’ In reality, if even half or one-third of those deaths actually occurred, this would be impossible to hide.

In the end, the shocking truth about Chernobyl is how few people were killed or made ill by the radiation.


Thanks, Bob Brown, You Helped the Australian Labor Party Lose The Unloseable Election

Greens leader Bob Brown

For an alleged Labor party to put Greenie causes ahead of worker welfare was epic folly.  Coal miners are workers too and they make a good dollar.  Labor now need to divorce themselves from their happy marriage to the Greens

Still trying to figure out how Labor lost another unloseable election? The pollsters got it wrong, the bookies got it wrong, the punters got it wrong the ABC and most of the mainstream media got it wrong. And obviously Bill Shorten got it very wrong.

Bob Hawke got it right when he said, “Never underestimate the intelligence of The Australian voters”. He probably should have added, “Especially in Queensland”, where Labor lost two seats and the LNP shored up their margins even in Peter Dutton’s Dickson, where Labor and GetUp put in a huge effort.

We even saw the spectacle of another ex-Labor PM Paul Keating, shakily urge voters to “drive a stake through his dark political heart”.

Why did they all get it so far off the mark? Well Queenslanders don’t take kindly to a bunch of ratbags from the south telling them how to run their economy and create jobs. So Bob Brown’s Anti-Adani Convoy couldn’t have come at a better time for the LNP. Waving banners shouting “Coal Kills” and “Block Adani” floated like a lead balloon over a State which reaps billions from coal exports.

This folly combined with Shorten’s fence sitting and the Palaszczuk Government’s stalling over issues such as the numbers of a common bush bird, the black-throated finch. Anastacia must be worried she’ll be next.

The LNP increased its vote substantially in the previously very marginal seat of Flynn, which was high on the Labor wish list. Centered on the major coal port of Gladstone and held by Ken O’Dowd since 2010, it also takes in an extensive agriculture and beef area including the North Burnett region.

Rockhampton’s Michelle Landry increased her LNP winning margin in neighbouring Capricornia and in Dawson, centred on Mackay, the so-called Member for Manila, George Christensen, gained another big unexpected win. Further north in Townsville, Labor’s Cathy O’Toole was out-gunned by war veteran LNP candidate, Phillip Thompson. In all these centres, jobs and the economy were major factors.

Combine all that with Labor’s big taxing agenda, its hit at self-funded retirees, negative gearing, Capital GainsTax, the blank cheque it sought for an un-costed, over-ambitious climate policy (including a controversial push for 50 percent electric vehicle sales by 2030), and the result in Queensland and most other States is not surprising.

Add the arrogant advice to retirees and investors from Labor’s Treasury spokesman and candidate for the top job, Chris Bowen, “If you don’t like it, don’t vote Labor”.

Good advice. So the voters said it’s not time to risk Shorten, we’ll stick with Scott Morrison and a stable economy.

Now it looks likely Morrison will gain an absolute majority and enjoy a major opportunity to grow his influence over the coming term.



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.  

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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