Wednesday, October 09, 2019

In the latest ‘driving is bad for us’ news, it turns out car tires may be one of the biggest sources of microplastics seeping into our oceans

But are microplastics bad for us?  No evidence that they are.  They are just another form of dust

Driving is not just an air pollution and climate change problem — turns out, it just might be the largest contributor of microplastics in California coastal waters.

That is one of many new findings, released Wednesday, from the most comprehensive study to date on microplastics in California. Rainfall washes more than 7 trillion pieces of microplastics,much of it tire particles left behind on streets, into San Francisco Bay each year — an amount 300 times greater than what comes from microfibers washing off polyester clothes, microbeads from beauty products and the many other plastics washing down our sinks, sewers and storm drains.

These tiny plastics, invisible to the naked eye, have been vilified for tainting water and wildlife but are notoriously difficult to study. They’re everywhere and seemingly come from everywhere. They wash into the ocean in all different shapes and sizes, many covered with dyes and chemicals. Scientists and labs across the state, the nation and the world haven’t even agreed on how exactly to measure or sample or study them.

So a team of researchers, led by the San Francisco Estuary Institute and the 5 Gyres Institute, a nonprofit research group focused on reducing plastics pollution, set off to create an inventory of sorts to identify all the ways these different microplastics were getting into San Francisco Bay. They analyzed hundreds of samples from fish, sediment, surface water, wastewater and stormwater runoff and tried to trace the origins of all these particles.

Mark Gold, who heads the state’s Ocean Protection Council and was recently appointed the state’s deputy secretary for ocean and coastal policy, said he was surprised that car tire particles were such a large source.

“I’m so used to thinking of the toxics that come from urban runoff and not the actual physical particles from something like tire dust,” said Gold, who has worked for 30 years on cleaning up California’s beaches and oceans from toxic chemicals. “But the sheer number of particles … the scope and scale of this problem makes you realize that this is something that’s definitely worth looking at a great deal more seriously.”

Once plastic enters the environment, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces but never goes away. Thetiny particles make their way into the ocean and the stomachs of marine animals, and ultimately the food and water that people consume.

A recent UC Davis study sampled seafood sold at markets in Half Moon Bay, Calif., and found that one-quarter of the fish and one-third of the shellfish contained plastic debris. A survey comparing 150 tap-water samples from five continents found synthetic microfibers in almost every sample — 94% in the United States.

Microplastics have been found in Lake Tahoe, in the deep, deep ocean — even in the Arctic, one of the most remote regions in the world. A scientific review of 52 studies recently concluded that humans on average consume a credit card’s worth of microplastic each week. The European Union is trying to classify microplastics as a contaminant that is unsafe at any level of discharge.

“We’re using more and more plastic, and it’s showing up as a footprint on the seafloor,” said Jennifer Brandon, a microplastics biologist at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography whose research found that since the 1940s, the amount of microscopic plastics has doubled about every 15 years. “It begs the question: Is this what our civilization is going to be remembered for?”

Microplastics are commonly defined as plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters and classified into five general categories: foam; “spheres or pellets,” such as microbeads; jagged “fragments” from larger plastic debris; “film,” such as broken-down plastic bags and wraps; and “fibers,” from the likes of textiles, fishing gear and even cigarette filters. Rubber is also considered plastic, both natural (isoprene) and synthetic (styrene butadiene).

These particles often contain harmful chemical additives such as flame retardants or plasticizers, but the diversity in size and chemical composition makes toxicity difficult to predict, let alone study.

What’s missing right now is a systematic approach to evaluating all these different microplastics. When every study does it differently, it’s hard to compare results, said Susanne Brander, an environmental toxicologist at Oregon State University.

As for rubber fragments, they can be toxic because of the fossil-fuel-associated compounds that they’re likely picking up. The San Francisco findings, Brander added, are a window into other populated coastal areas with so many bridges and roads crisscrossing the watershed.

San Francisco Bay is a good laboratory for investigating this emerging contaminant in an urban environment. Essentially a bathtub surrounded by more than 7 million people, it ends up trapping many of the contaminants before they disperse into the greater ocean.

In the latest study, a three-year, $1.1-million effort by a large team of researchers, microplastics from almost 400 samples were identified and analyzed with microscopes, tweezers and lasers in an ecotoxicology lab at the University of Toronto.

By establishing new standards for doing a large-scale study of a major estuary andcreating a baseline for all these diverse plastics, scientists found clues to where all the particles were coming from.

“We wanted to come up with methods that could be duplicated anywhere in North America — to measure the sources, pathways and fates of those various particles … so that we could standardize a definition of the problem,” said Warner Chabot, executive director of the San Francisco Estuary Institute, an independent science think tank whose board draws not only from regulating agencies but those being regulated for water quality, as well as public interest groups.

“The goal was to provide the data and the science to define and quantify the microplastic problem and inform policy solutions.”

Researchers collected anchovies and smelt from six sites in the bay and found they had higher particle counts — particularly of man-made microfibers — than those tested in more undeveloped areas. These prey fish are a critical link between contamination in sediment and seawater and the rest of the food web — an indicator of exposure to larger predators and ultimately humans.

Eight wastewater treatment plants in the Bay Area were also examined. More than 90 million microparticles are discharged into the ocean every day through the facilities, the report said.

Sediment samples were also collected from 20 sites. Scientists found that many microplastics do indeed sink and accumulate on the seafloor, and that the highest concentrations of microparticles were in areas that received large volumes of wastewater and stormwater discharges. Public attention and scientific study, they said, need to focus beyond just the plastic floating on the surface.

Scientists were also taken aback by the sheer amount of particles coming from stormwater runoff, as well as the “black rubbery fragments” that made up almost half of all the particles collected from these samples.

“No one had looked at all the water rushing off the streets during rainfall events to see whether that had plastics in it,” said estuary institute scientist Rebecca Sutton, the study’s lead author.

Researchers in California have been working on documenting the presence of microplastics since the 1990s. Studies by the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project found that tiny plastic pellets, or “nurdles,” have become a ubiquitous presence in Southern California beach sand.

The SCCWRP is now working with officials across the state to standardize the way microplastics are measured and studied. There’s been growing movement on the issue since two state Senate bills, signed into law in September 2018, called for the State Water Quality Control Board to develop plans for quantifying microplastic particles in drinking water by 2021, and for the Ocean Protection Council to come up with a statewide strategy on the problem.

At a gathering Wednesday in Berkeley, top state environmental regulators, policymakers and scientists examined the latest findings. They talked about the need for better filters in washing machines to trap microfibers, and the benefits of more advanced filtration at wastewater treatment plants

Eliminating plastic at its source will always be the ultimate, though somewhat unrealistic, solution. While people can stop using plastic straws, states can ban microbeads and companies can redesign their shrink wrap, reducing the world’s dependence on automobiles is a tougher nut to crack.

“The answer to many of these stormwater deposits is ... thinking about public transit, getting people out of their cars — all the things that we need to do anyway are just exacerbated by this issue,” said Jared Blumenfeld, who heads the California Environmental Protection Agency.

“Making this report actionable is about legislation, it’s about individual behavior change, it’s about more corporate responsibility. Together, we can make a big change.”


Cleaner planet? Start with our filthy cities

Some of the nation’s politicians who are the most ardent believers in catastrophic man-made climate change are in charge of the dirtiest localities. These same proponents who are pushing economically and socially disruptive solutions to address future, theoretical climate change, do so while presiding over present-day homeless and pollution crises on their own doorsteps.

Those public officials have their priorities backwards.

If we must address climate change by reordering society, should we not begin with the streets of major cities that are plagued with chronic homelessness and the squalor, drug needles and other filth left behind?

There were nearly 553,000 homeless people in the United States in 2018, according to the latest annual report on the subject by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Of this total number, more than one-third were in “unsheltered locations,” that is, living on the streets, alleyways or abandoned buildings, while most were staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs.

Nearly 25 percent of homeless people are in New York City and Los Angeles. California, with the nation’s largest state population, has four of the seven urban areas with the most homelessness.

These two states have public officials who are some of the biggest promoters of extreme environmental policies, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mayor de Blasio is a staunch supporter of a national Green New Deal, and successfully pushed a New York City version last spring. But, he also has presided over growing homelessness and ongoing deplorable conditions in public housing, documented by the City Comptroller.

Mayor Garcetti just launched his own L.A. version of a Green New Deal, while the city’s growing homeless crisis is resulting in diseases thought to be eradicated, including at least 124 cases of Typhus and fears of a return of bubonic plague.

While L.A.’s homeless population was climbing and rare disease spreading, the mayor received a “Climate Protection Award” by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, given to him at the organization’s junket last year, held in Honolulu.

Gov. Newsom last month attended the United Nation’s Climate Action Summit in New York and proclaimed he was “embarrassed…[and] absolutely humiliated” by the Trump administration’s refusal to embrace climate alarmism. Evidently, the governor feels no such embarrassment or humiliation over his state’s tragic human suffering from homelessness, pervasive litter and piles of human excrement in some of its largest urban areas.

It has gotten so bad that  officials in the greater Los Angeles area last week demanded Gov. Newsom declare a “state of emergency” to enable public funds be diverted from natural disaster relief to address the homeless crisis.

Mitigating and solving homelessness is complicated, but hardly impossible. It takes strong leadership and focus to tackle the myriad of issues that contribute to homelessness, including removing such victims from the streets. This may require expanding shelters, drug treatment and mental health wards. It also requires reversing the relaxation of criminal penalties for “non-violent” drug dealers and enforcing anti-loitering laws.

Dealing effectively with homelessness further entails increasing housing capacity by removing restrictive zoning and rent control laws, the latter of which provide disincentives for private construction of affordable housing. These restrictions, especially rent control, lead to dilapidated buildings and raise rents of buildings outside such controls. Nonetheless, both New York and California recently approved statewide rent control laws, which likely will restrict housing development and worsen homelessness.

Fixing the homeless crisis in New York, California and so many other places would provide real, immediate benefits to people, starting with the homeless, but also the residents and tourists trying to avoid them and the accumulated garbage.

Unfortunately, too many politicians would rather spout climate alarmism, promise to face down a theoretical “existential threat” to the planet in the distant future, and propose grandiose, unwarranted, and counterproductive policies. This is all rhetoric and vapid promises that help no one – especially the present-day homeless population suffering daily in the streets of progressive cities.


NYT: Millionaire money pours into climate alarmism

In yet another blow to the choreographed deception that big money skews the climate change debate to benefit skeptics, the New York Times published an article last week documenting millionaire money funding disruptive climate activism.

Dubbed the Climate Emergency Fund, organized campaigns to disrupt society via climate protests have raised more than $1 million from Daddy Warbucks families like the Gettys and the Kennedys.

According to the Times, “The grants have been welcome, said Roger Hallam, a co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, in a telephone interview from England. ‘My understanding is, unsurprisingly, some of the rich people are intelligent enough to do the basic maths [sic] and realize we’re heading toward extinction.’ Climate change, he said, makes strong protest reasonable, even necessary.”

But apparently Hallam is not “intelligent enough” to understand what most first-graders know; that “maths” is not a word.

It is hard to decide which is worse. Is it worse that alarmists and their media lapdogs keep peddling the laughably false story that disproportionate funding benefits skeptics in the climate change debate, or is it worse that huge alarmist funding is promoting ridiculous assertions like the assertion that global warming is threatening imminent human extinction?

It gets still worse. Discussing law-breaking disruption perpetrated by the Extinction Rebellion group, the Times observes, “Mr. Hallam seemed to find these distinctions a bit fussy. The money the group raises doesn’t precisely go to someone to break the law, he said, but ‘it goes without saying that Extinction Rebellion is involved in civil disobedience, and civil disobedience involves breaking the law.’ But, he said, the group draws the line at destructive and violent acts.”

The Times adds, “The scale of the problem, he said, makes rebellion necessary. ‘Sometimes it’s common sense that you have to cause harm to prevent a greater harm.’”

Rich oligarchs give millions of dollars to promote climate alarmism and societal disruption. They admit they are causing harm, but justify causing harm under the assertion that the ends justify the means. And then the media vilify climate realist scientists and allege that big money is skewing the debate in favor of skeptics/realists.

Sure, whatever you say….


Hydropower works

The Australia-based, in an article by publisher Carly Cassella, has a bright new idea. Since dams are bad anyway, why not knock all of them down (at least the ones that generate electricity), drain the reservoirs, and install solar panels in their stead.

Cassella admits that, at least for now, the ambitious idea is “just a thought experiment.” But not to worry. This new idea marries the hatred of dams in general (that has led to a growing dam removal movement) with the religious zeal of the ‘clean energy” movement.

But, you may say, hydro power IS clean energy. As recently as 2014, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz touted an agency report encouraging new hydro projects. The report estimated that there are over 65 gigawatts (GW) of potential new hydropower development across more than three million U.S. rivers and streams – nearly equivalent to the current U.S. hydropower capacity.

According to Moniz at the time, “As the Energy Department works with industry, universities and state and local governments to advance innovative hydropower technologies, the resource assessment released today provides unparalleled insight into new hydropower opportunities throughout the country.”

How things change.

Today, Cassella, echoing a growing number of critics, asserts, “While it’s true that hydropower dams are a renewable source of energy, they still produce large amounts of greenhouse gases and can be environmentally destructive and costly to maintain in the long term.”

She claims that “only” 1.3 million acres of solar panels would be needed to generate as much electricity as we now get from hydropower (about 13 percent of total reservoir capacity). The rest of this reclaimed land could, she suggests, be used for wildlife habitat, recreation, and agriculture.

Yet these lakes and reservoirs are already used for wildlife habitat, recreation, and water for agriculture! [Some might also note that hydropower is 24/7 while solar and even wind are intermittent.]

Another new argument against dams comes from a recent Washington State University study which claims that methane makes up 80 percent of the emissions from water storage reservoirs created by dams – none of which is currently included in global greenhouse gas inventories.

But an earlier Brazilian study [in 2007 by the National Institute for Space Research, INPE], while noting that large dams release methane into the atmosphere, saw this as an opportunity to capture the methane [aka natural gas] for use in electricity generation. [Of course, California has banned new gas stoves and sees natural gas as just as evil as coal.]

The Federal Emergency Management Administration notes that the United States is second only to Canada as a producer of hydropower. America’s dams produce over 103,800 megawatts of renewable electricity and meet 8 to 12 percent of the Nation’s power needs – and, according to the National Hydropower Association, 52 percent of the nation’s renewable energy. FEMA states that “hydropower is considered clean because it does not contribute to global warming, air pollution, acid rain, or ozone depletion.”

FEMA also lists the many benefits other than electric power generation of dams – topping the list are the recreational benefits they provide for tens of millions of Americans. Boating, skiing, camping, picnic areas, and boat launch facilities are all supported by dams. Lake fishing is yet another related benefit.

The mammoth state of Texas is blessed with a single natural lake (Caddo Lake), yet 67 manmade lakes and reservoirs enabled over 2 million Texans and nonresidents to purchase fishing licenses in 2018, bringing that state nearly $60 million in revenues. [Texas is third behind California and Washington State in fishing licenses issued.]

Dams also protect homes, businesses, recreational areas, livestock, and wildlife from many of the devastating impacts of floods. They also provide water storage for feeding livestock, fighting fires, and more. About 10 percent of America’s croplands rely on steady flows of irrigation water thanks to dams.

There are concerns over dam construction, some of which are arguments for dam removal, while others indicate the need for proper management. Algal blooms, invasive plants, sedimentation, the needs of migrating species (like salmon), evaporation, and saltwater intrusion downstream all are well known concerns, but the larger concerns cannot be addressed unless entire cities are dismantled and the urban waste (concrete, steel, etc.) returned to the ground.

While Cassella cites deforestation, loss of biodiversity, substantial emissions, the displacement of thousands of people, and harms to nearby food and water quality as reasons to remove dams and drain lakes and reservoirs, most of these are actually arguments AGAINST dam removal.

But, as the title suggests, the best argument against dam removal is that this boat does not need rocking. Nor, for that matter, do we need to retrofit every U.S. building or submit to any other hare-brained ideas.


Warning of 'Fukushima-style' disaster as Labor pushes back against plans for nuclear power plants in Australia to reduce greenhouse gases

A chilling warning has been issued of a 'Fukushima-style' disaster in Australia as the LNP continue to push to explore nuclear power.

Nuclear power is currently a banned source of power in Australia despite the country having the world's biggest uranium reserves, but the Queensland Government is looking to open a nuclear power plant in Maryborough.

Bruce Saunders, the Labor member for Maryborough in Queensland's Legislative Assembly, has slammed Keith Pitt - the LNP member for the federal seat of Hinkler - for his push to open the 'Fukushima-style' nuclear plant.

'Mr Pitt - the man behind it all - owes it to our community to declare where he sits in the widening rift that is LNP energy policy,' Mr Saunders told The Chronicle.

In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was hit by the devastating tsunami in the region, causing a meltdown at the plant which necessitated the evacuation of all people in a 20-kilometre radius due to the release of large amounts of radiation.

It is considered the second worst nuclear accident in the history of nuclear power, behind the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the viability of nuclear power to reduce greenhouse gases from reliance upon coal-fired power plants.

'Angus Taylor has said he's more than willing to consider nuclear, opening the door to a Fukushima-style disaster right here in Maryborough,' Mr Saunders continued.

Mr Pitt spoke out against the 'outrageous claims' and said he had the best interest of Queenslanders when it came to cheaper and reliable energy. 'I want cheaper power prices not cheap political point-scoring from Mr Saunders,' he told the publication. 

He stated that renewable energy sources are unreliable and don't meet the needs of stable energy supply. 'Renewables don't work 100 per cent of the time and there are businesses and industries that need reliability, so solar is just not suitable for them,' he told The Northern Star.

'I called for an inquiry into nuclear power to get the facts, to look at the new technology available and to have an adult conversation.

'I'm pleased Minister Taylor has asked the Environment and Energy Committee to consider the economic, environmental and safety implications of nuclear power.'



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


No comments: