Wednesday, June 05, 2019

New England: In the Great Marsh and other coastal wetlands, climate change is harming delicate ecosystems

We read: "the waters from the coast out into the Gulf of Maine have been warming faster than nearly any other body of water on the planet".  So its some sort of local warming  we are looking at, not global warming

ROWLEY - Navigating an unusually high tide through the submerged channels of the Great Marsh, Hillary Sullivan cut the engine and let her skiff drift onto a mud bank. She plopped into the mire, sloshing shin-deep in the brackish water, and pointed to an increasing threat.

There, a few feet from where she stood in the muck, a gouge had formed where a mud bank gave way, a telltale sign of how rising sea levels and pollution are slowly but steadily eroding one of New England's most vital coastal ecosystems.

"We're seeing a lot more of this slumping and cracking of the mud, which destroys the stability of the marsh," said Sullivan, a research scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center who has spent years observing the changes in the Great Marsh, which stretches from the Crane Wildlife Refuge in Ipswich and Essex north to Newburyport and into New Hampshire, the longest continuous coastal wetlands in New England.

"We need to save these vital ecosystems before it's too late."

Wetlands such as these are also crucial buffers against the damaging effects of rising sea levels from climate change. Yet the very forces unleashed by global warming are pounding away at the Great Marsh and other saltwater wetlands: higher tides - more than 8 inches here over the past century - and a 20?percent increase in precipitation over roughly the same period.

Fueled by more powerful storms, such as the succession of nor'easters that pummeled the region in recent winters, rising tides have intensified coastal erosion and threatened beachside properties. On Plum Island, a thin, 11-mile-long barrier of sand, a series of winter storms in 2013 destroyed six homes and damaged dozens of others. More storms last year washed away dunes, flooded 20 homes, and left about 10 others at risk of falling into the ocean.

Moreover, the waters from the coast out into the Gulf of Maine have been warming faster than nearly any other body of water on the planet. That, combined with runoff from septic systems and other human-made pollution, has led to sharp declines of native species and the rise of invasive animals and plants, such as green crabs and reeds known as phragmites.

As a result, the native cord grass that pokes through the shallow water is becoming more top-heavy as its roots weaken, Sullivan's team has found.

In concentrated areas where the team has simulated the changes it expects to come from further coastal development, it has measured a 40?percent decline in the submerged roots of the cord grass. Those changes are destabilizing the banks, making it harder for other species to survive. For example, the population of Mummichog, a small killifish that's an important source of food for flounder and other larger fish, has fallen by half in recent years.

"The population crashed after the mud in the creek started to fracture," said Justin Lesser, a PhD student working with Sullivan. "They lost access to where they would feed."

Other salt marshes in New England, including those on outer Cape Cod and in Narragansett Bay, are showing similar signs of distress, undermining their ability to protect more developed coastal areas from rising sea levels and increasing precipitation that scientists expect to only accelerate in the coming decades. A 2018 report from the state government about the effect of climate change on Massachusetts projected seas rising by as much as 10.5 feet and annual precipitation increasing up to 16?percent by the end of the century.

"A healthy marsh is intricately linked to the health of our coastal waters," said Robert Buchsbaum, a staff scientist at Mass Audubon who has spent years studying the Great Marsh and other wetlands.

Salt marshes not only provide a buffer against coastal storms, they serve as a filter for pollutants, a nursery for juvenile fish, and a habitat for shellfish, migratory birds, and other species. But around the world, salt marshes have been transformed by rising seas and increasing coastal development; Massachusetts, for example, has lost about half of its marshland to dredging and fill of wetlands and other human-made changes to the environment.

Seawalls, which now line more than a quarter of the state's 1,500-mile shoreline, also make it harder for salt marshes to cope with rising seas. Without the impediments, the marshes would naturally migrate further inland. Instead, they are increasingly submerged all the time, upsetting the delicate balance between the tidal cycle of drying and inundation, scientists say.

"The result [of these changes] will be a further loss of wetlands, with devastating impacts for fisheries," said Jack Clarke, a spokesman for Mass Audubon and a member of the state's Special Commission on Coastal Erosion. "Upland areas will also suffer, as the ability of marshes to absorb stormwater as natural sponges will be severely diminished."

The Great Marsh has actually fared better than similar coastal wetlands because of limits on development in the area.

Still, the most visible effect of the changes occurring here may be in the amount of water that lingers after high tides and storms, known as "marsh pooling."

This has degraded the mud banks, where much of the ecosystem thrives, and has hurt plant life that needs time to dry out and birds that nest in drier areas. The pooling is exacerbated by human-made barriers to the natural ebb and flow of water, such as dams, roads, and culverts.

"The Great Marsh is the coastal jewel of New England, and we have an opportunity to get out in front of the impacts and keep it from being degraded, as have other systems in the country," said Chris Hilke, senior manager of climate adaptation and resilience at the National Wildlife Federation, which has received millions of dollars in federal grants to study and help protect the Great Marsh from climate change.

For longtime residents, such as Michael Morris, who owned a cottage on Plum Island for more than a decade, the changes to the Great Marsh are far from abstract.

After the onslaught of storms in 2013, he and his neighbors formed a group called Storm Surge to urge state and federal officials to take the threats of climate change more seriously and help residents adapt.  A few years later, with seas rising faster, he decided it was time to sell his two-bedroom cottage - at a loss.

"When there's a disaster like what we experienced, property values plummet," said Morris, chairman of Storm Surge.

As he has watched the landscape change in recent years, with phragmites replacing the natural grass and tunnelling crabs weakening the mud banks, he worries about the future.

"We're just on the cusp of things about to happen," he said.


'Flight shame' has Swedes rethinking air travel

Saddled with long dark winters at home, Swedes have for decades been frequent flyers seeking out sunnier climes, but a growing number are changing their ways because of air travel’s impact on the climate.

Flygskam, or flight shame, has become a buzz word referring to feeling guilt over the environmental effects of flying, contributing to a trend that has more and more Swedes, mainly young, opting to travel by train to ease their conscience.

Spearheading the movement for trains-over-planes is Sweden’s own Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate school striker who refuses to fly, travelling by rail to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and the climate summit in Katowice, Poland.

A growing number of public figures have vowed to #stayontheground, including Swedish television skiing commentator Bjorn Ferry who said last year he would only travel to competitions by train.

And 250 people working in the film industry signed a recent article in the country’s biggest daily Dagens Nyheter calling for Swedish film producers to limit shoots abroad.

An anonymous Swedish Instagram account created in December has been shaming social media profiles and influencers for promoting trips to far-flung destinations, racking up more than 60,000 followers.

“I’m certainly affected by my surroundings and (flight shame) has affected how I view flying,” Viktoria Hellstrom, a 27-year-old political science student in Stockholm, said.

Last summer, she took the train to Italy, even though the friends she was meeting there went by plane, as that would have been her second flight within a few weeks.

“The only way I could justify going there was if I took the train,” she said.

The Scandinavian country’s location far north – it is 4,000km from the northernmost town of Kiruna to France’s Cote d’Azur – as well as its robust standard of living, the popularity of charter trips and the rise of low-cost airlines have all contributed to making Swedes big flyers.

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg last year found that Swedes’ per capita emissions from flying between 1990 and 2017 were five times the global average.

Emissions from Swedes’ international air travel have soared 61% since 1990, their study said.

Swedes’ concerns rely on solid data: The Swedish Meteorological Institute said last week that the average annual temperature was rising twice as fast in the country as the global average.

In March, the World Wildlife Foundation published a survey indicating that nearly one in five Swedes had chosen to travel by rail rather than by air in order to minimise their environmental impact.

The trend was most noticeable among women and young people, it said.

Meanwhile, a survey published recently in Sweden’s leading travel magazine Vagabond said 64% of those who travelled abroad less last year did so because of climate reasons.

National rail operator SJ reported a 21% boost in business travel this winter, and the government has announced plans to reintroduce night trains to major European cities before the end of its mandate in 2022.

The number of domestic flight passengers was projected to be down by 3.2% in 2018, the transport authority said in its latest figures from September, though the number of passengers on international flights rose 4%.

So far the “flight shame” trend hasn’t had the same traction among Sweden’s neighbours, although Finland has spawned its own version of the expression, calling it “lentohapea”.

Other parts of the developed world may not have a word that’s quite as catchy – making do with #flyingless or #stopflying – but average CO2 emissions of 285g per air kilometre, compared with 158 for cars and 14 for trains, have given many pause.

Fausta Gabola, a French-Italian student in Paris, is no longer sure that she should take up an offer to study in Australia on a scholarship.

“It’s my dream to go there,” she said. “I applied without thinking too much about it and now I have a dilemma. I would feel like a hypocrite if I went.”

French political scientist Mathilde Szuba said any no-fly decision effectively puts distant countries out of reach.

“There is no easy substitute for flying,” she said. “You can’t go to faraway places without taking the plane.”

Back in Sweden, some experts say that changing travel patterns are not always a direct result of “flight shame”.

Frida Hylander, a Swedish psychologist, said shame, and the fear of being shamed, was a powerful motivator, but she also cautioned against overstating its importance.

Other factors were at play, Hylander said, citing as an example Sweden’s unusually hot summer last year which caused massive wildfires and may have sparked wider concerns about climate change.

“You should exercise caution when pointing to one single factor,” Hylander said.

A new flight tax introduced in April 2018 may also have played a role, she said, as well as the bankruptcy of regional airline NextJet, which led to the closure of a number of domestic flight routes for several months. – AFP Relaxnews


The Phony Case For Electric Cars

In an editorial published last week, Bloomberg (the news site, not the former mayor) declares that the only way cities can “dramatically improve air quality and extend lives shortened by pollution” is to follow the lead of places like Amsterdam and “ban (non-electric) cars.”

“Cities should offer up-front incentives to buy zero-emission cars, for instance, as well as non-financial benefits such as parking vouchers. Higher taxes on petrol and diesel cars — whether via congestion tolls or at the pump — will encourage drivers to switch and offset some of the costs of the transition,” the editorial board says.

They go on, and on, with policy advice, including more public transit options, charging stations, electric taxies and buses and “underground skating pods.”

There’s nothing wrong with underground staking pods, whatever those are, so long as they’re privately funded and operated.

But the entire premise of the Bloomberg editorial is wrong. Flat out wrong. Provably wrong.

The truth is that every city in America has made massive improvements in air quality over the past several decades — progress that was made without any help from electric buses, cars or taxis, and while “gas guzzlers” continued to dominate domestic car sales. Air quality in most places today is above, or well above, the government’s standards for safety.

Don’t believe it? Then go to the official government source for such information: The Environmental Protection Agency. It’s been tracking pollution levels for decades, whether it’s smog, carbon monoxide, or dust.  Even in California, smog levels have declined sharply over the years.

And while pollution levels have been steadily declining, the number of miles driven has vastly increased — it’s up 50% since 1990. What’s more, car buyers have, over these years, been flocking to trucks and SUVs and away from passenger cars.

How is it possible that the air is vastly cleaner? Because new cars are more efficient and less polluting. And as the fleet of cars turns over, air pollution levels steadily decline.

Yet news outlets like Bloomberg continue to peddle the myth that air pollution is terrible and getting worse, and that the only way to clean the air is by taking draconian actions like forcing people into cars they don’t want or modes of transportation that don’t meet their needs.

Worse, they perpetuate the lie that electric cars are zero emission. They aren’t. While the cars themselves don’t emit pollution, the electricity that powers them does. So increasing demand for electricity means more pollution from the power plants — many of which run on coal — that fuel these “zero emission” vehicles.

Even when it comes to fighting climate change, electric cars aren’t necessarily better than their gas-powered brethren.

A report from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute calculated the CO2 emissions from plug-in electrics based on the energy sources used to generate electricity, and then translated that into a miles-per-gallon equivalent.

They found that an electric car recharged by a coal-fired plant produces as much CO2 as a gasoline-powered car that gets 29 miles per gallon. A plug-in recharged by a natural gas-powered plant is like driving a car that gets 58 miles per gallon. Given the energy mix in the U.S., the average plug-in produces as much CO2 as a conventional car that gets 55.4 miles per gallon.

In other words, not zero emissions.


There Is No Evidence Weather Is Increasingly Threatening to Human Lives

Climate isn’t the same as weather — unless, of course, weather happens to be politically useful. In that case, weather portends climate apocalypse.

So warns Elizabeth Warren as she surveyed Iowan rainstorms, which she claims, like tornadoes and floods, are more frequent and severe. “Different parts of the country deal with different climate issues,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-Malthusia, cautioned as she too warned of extreme tornadoes. “But ALL of these threats will be increasing in intensity as climate crisis grows and we fail to act appropriately.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., recently sent a fundraising email warning Democrats that climate change was causing “growing mega-fires, extremely destructive hurricanes, and horrific flooding” which put “American lives are at stake.”

Even if we pretend that passing a bazillion-dollar authoritarian Green New Deal would do anything to change the climate, there is no real-world evidence that today’s weather is increasingly threatening to human lives. By every quantifiable measure, in fact, we’re much safer despite the cataclysmal framing of every weather-related event.

How many of those taken in by alarmism realize that deaths from extreme weather have dropped somewhere around 99.9 percent since the 1920s? Heat and cold can still be killer, but thanks to increasingly reliable and affordable heating and cooling systems, and others luxuries of the age, the vast majority of Americans will never have to fear the climate in any genuine way.

Since 1980, death caused by all natural disasters and heat and cold is somewhere under 0.5 percent.

It’s true that 2019 has seen a spike in tornadoes, but mostly because 2018 was the first year recorded without a single violent tornado in the United States. Tornadoes killed 10 Americans in 2018, the fewest since we started keeping track of these things in 1875, only four years after the nefarious combustion engine was invented.

There has also been a long-term decline in the cost of tornado damage, as well. In 2018, we experienced near-lows in this regard. The only better years were 2017, 2016 and 2015.

After a few devastating hurricanes around a decade ago, we were similarly warned that it was a prelude to endless storms and ecological disaster. This was followed by nine years without a single major hurricane in the United States.

According to the U.S. Natural Hazard Statistics, in fact, 2018 saw below the 30-year average in deaths not only by tornadoes and hurricanes (way under average) but also from heat, flooding and lighting. We did experience a slight rise in deaths due to cold.

Pointing out these sort of things usually elicits the same reaction: Why do you knuckle-dragging troglodytes hate science? Well, because science’s predictive abilities on most things, but especially climate, has been atrocious. But mostly because science is being used as a cudgel to push leftist policy prescriptions without considering economic tradeoffs, societal reality or morality.

There are two things in this debate that we can predict with near certitude: First, that modern technology will continue to allow human beings to adapt to organic and anthropogenic changes in the environment. Second, that human beings will never surrender the wealth and safety that technology has and continues to afford them.

People who deny these realities are as clueless as any “denier” of science. Which brings me back to Democrats.

There have been a number of stories predicting that 2020 will finally be the year politicians start making climate change an important issue. One can only imagine these reporters started their jobs last week.

It’s true that a number of Democrats presidential hopefuls have taken “no fossil fuel money” pledges — as if they were going to get any of that cash anyway — as they spew carbon into the atmosphere searching for another bad-weather photo-op. Kevin Curtis, executive director of NRDC Action Fund, told BuzzFeed News that all of this was “really wicked cool.”

The 2018 midterm elections, adds Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, are when “climate change was beginning, for the first time, to play a significant role in a few races across the country.”

A poll conducted by that very same Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that even for the most left-wing voters, climate change — an imminent planetary tragedy that threatens the existence of all humanity and most animal species — ranked third on the list of most important issues. It ranked 17th among all voters, behind things like border security, tax reform and terrorism.

Maybe one day the electorate will finally buy in. Climate change, though, didn’t even make a blip on exit polls of 2018. Which is why Democrats keep ratcheting up the hysteria over every environmental tragedy.

“Climate chaos is here,” declares Merkley, “but it’s not too late to act.” Remember: When disaster is perpetually 10 years away, it’s never too late to send Democrats some of your money.


New Video: What Rising CO2 Means for Global Food Security

On May 1, the CO2 Coalition held a briefing at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. on climate and food production to highlight What Rising CO2 Means for Global Food Security, the newest White Paper by the CO2 Coalition.

The speaker was Dr. Craig Idso, agronomist, climatologist and principal researcher for this White Paper. The moderator was Dr. Caleb Rossiter, climate statistician and executive director of the CO2 Coalition.

Food security is one of the most pressing problems facing us today. Advances in farm technology and know-how will continue to increase production, but it will still be a challenge to feed the world's growing population, especially as diets improve with rising income. Fortunately, carbon dioxide (CO2), a non-polluting, non-toxic gas that is created when fossil fuels are converted into energy, is a powerful plant food.

The CO2 added to the air has already "greened" the planet: since 1900, it has increased crop production on the order of 15 to 30 percent, and satellite imagery shows that deserts are even shrinking in places as new plants encroach on their edges.
Enhancements in CO2 will help lift hundreds of millions of people out of hunger and malnutrition. The analysis of the latest research in What Rising CO2 Means for Global Food Security shows that this effect will only improve as carbon dioxide continues to rise from four one-hundredths of one percent of the atmosphere today to, perhaps, six one-hundredths of one percent in 50 years.

The video is available at

The CO2 Coalition was established in 2015 as a 501(c)(3) for the purpose of educating thought leaders, policy makers, and the public about the important contribution made by carbon dioxide to our lives and the economy.  The Coalition seeks to engage in an informed and dispassionate discussion of climate change, humans' role in the climate system, the limitations of climate models, and the consequences of mandated reductions in CO2 emissions.

Visit us at

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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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