Thursday, October 24, 2019

UK: Eco-friendly car drivers could get traffic perks with new green number plates

Green number plates could be fitted to energy-saving cars in the biggest shake up of vehicle registration rules in nearly 50 years, the Department for Transport has announced.

The plates, which will eventually give electric car drivers privileges such as using bus lanes and cheaper parking, have been unveiled as part of a drive to increase take up of greener vehicles.

Images of three proposed designs for the new plate have been released by the DfT as part of a consultation on the new scheme.

The last time number plates changed colour was in 1973, when rear registrations were changed to yellow.

The public is being asked to choose between a completely green plate, or one with a green flash or a green dot.

The Government is also consulting on which electric and low-emission vehicles should qualify for the new plate, which could be introduced as soon as late 2021.

The scheme is part of a general push by the Government to reach its net zero emissions target by 2050.

In a comment piece for the Telegraph, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Fully green number plates, or plates with a green design element, would allow people all over the UK to spot vehicles based on their environmental impact.

“This government is making it more convenient than ever before for drivers to switch to a clean, zero-emission car. We want these cars to become the new normal – and to be as easy to charge as a smartphone.”

Following the 12-week consultation, the Government said it will lay out the legislative steps needed to implement the scheme, which will hinge on how drastic the final changes are to the current number plates.

Other issues being consulted on are whether the new plates will only be available to new vehicles or whether drivers will be allowed to apply for them for their current vehicles and whether the plates should be mandatory for cars that qualify.

Once the plates start appearing on UK roads, councils will be encouraged to grant new incentives for holders such as parking discounts.

Nottingham City Council already runs a scheme were electric vehicles receive a green sticker that allows them to use a bus lane in congested part of the city.

Mr Shapps continued: “Several local authorities have already indicated plates with a green element would enable clearer visual recognition of vehicles eligible for local incentives, such as access to bus lanes, ultra-low or zero emission zones and cheaper parking.

“We are on the cusp of a quiet revolution in transport, which the UK is committed to lead – one green number plate at a time. I think that’s something to shout about.”

Other countries are already operating similar incentive schemes, such as Canada, where drivers who qualify for a green licence plate have certain toll road charges.

The consultation comes after Mr Shapps announced other new measures aimed at encouraging more people to switch over to electric cars.

Last month he pledged £70 million to improve the UK's charging network by building 3,000 new rapid electric vehicle chargers across the country. 

The Government is also currently consulting on requiring charge points to be built into all new homes with a parking space.

Latest figures from the Department for Transport show that there are now over 220,000 registered electric and hybrid cars on the UKs roads as of June.

Elisabeth Costa, Senior Director at the Behavioural Insights Team, said: “The number of clean vehicles on our roads is increasing but we don’t notice as it’s difficult to tell clean vehicles apart from more polluting ones.

“Green number plates make these vehicles, and our decision to drive in a more environmentally-friendly way, more visible on roads. We think making the changing social norm noticeable will help encourage more of us to swap our cars for cleaner options.”


Hole in the ozone is now the SMALLEST it has been on record since it was discovered in 1982

Ho hum!  It was also the LARGEST in 2015.  There is no trend there

The hole in the ozone layer has shrunk to its smallest size since scientists began monitoring it in 1982 because of unusual weather patterns in the upper atmosphere over Antarctica, according to NASA.

The hole fluctuates in size annually and is usually largest during the coldest months in the southern hemisphere, from late September to early October.

The latest observations from space have shown the hole now covers less than 3.9million square miles – a record low and almost half as small as it was during its peak at 6.3million on September 8 only six weeks ago. Experts say the hole is usually around 8 million square miles during this time of year.

Paul Newman, chief scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said it is 'great news for ozone in the Southern Hemisphere'.

But he warned: 'It's important to recognize that what we're seeing this year is due to warmer stratospheric temperatures. It's not a sign that atmospheric ozone is suddenly on a fast track to recovery.'

According to NASA, the 'main ingredient' in the ozone-destroying process is are so-called polar stratospheric clouds.

These relatively rare bodies occur high in the stratosphere at altitudes between 49,000–82,000 feet (15,000–25,000 metres) above the surface.

These clouds provide a surface on which chemical reactions can occur — releasing waste products called 'free radicals' which go on to destroy ozone particles around them.

Fewer polar stratospheric clouds form in warmer weather, however, and they also last for shorter periods of time in such conditions.

This year's warmer global temperatures — aided by unusual weather patterns — have therefore helped to limit the development of these clouds and also given those did form less time to damage the ozone layer.

In turn, this has led to a much smaller ozone hole this year than we have previously seen.

On the surface, the strengthening of the ozone layer would seem to be a promising development — as such serves to better protect the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.

However, the news that the hole is shrinking is not necessarily a good sign — as the process that is closing the hole is a clear product of rising global temperatures.

In years with more typical weather, the hole usually reaches a maximum size of about 8million square miles by late September or early October — before shrinking back down again.

The highly reactive ozone molecule — also known as trioxygen — comprises three oxygen atoms and is a pale blue gas with a pungent smell.

It can be found 25 miles above the Earth's surface, in the stratosphere.

By reacting with high-energy, ultraviolet rays the ozone acts like a layer of sun screen — absorbing the harmful rays in the stratosphere before they reach Earth's surface.

Ozone is created primarily by ultraviolet radiation, when high-energy ultraviolet rays strike ordinary oxygen molecules (O2).

This splits the molecule into two single oxygen atoms — dubbed 'atomic oxygen' — with the freed oxygen atoms going on to combine with regular oxygen molecules to form ozone (O3).

This reaction helps shield the planet from potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer, cataracts, suppress immune systems and also damage plants.

As of October 16, the ozone hole above Antarctica remained small but stable and is expected to gradually dissipate in the coming weeks.


Self-righteous, false climate alarms disturbingly flawed

Climate doom prophets and profiteers assert that their “science is settled,” that the crisis is immediate and dire. They just can’t seem to agree over time regarding whether Earth is going into a deep freeze or is about to boil over.

On Oct. 7, 1912, for example, the Los Angeles Times alerted readers, “Fifth Ice Age Is on the Way: Human Race Will Have to fight for Existence in Cold.”

By Aug. 9, 1923, the situation had already become desperate, causing the Chicago Tribune to declare on its front page, “Scientist Says Arctic Ice Will Wipe Out Canada.”

A complementary story posted that huge parts of Asia and Europe were also threatened.

The world soon appeared to be warming again by the 1930s, however, causing some scientists and news reporters to suggest that CO2 might be the cause.

But by the 1940s, it had become apparent that global mean temperatures had begun to fall again – which by the 1970s — and despite enormous releases of CO2 into the atmosphere by World War II-led to concerns that the Earth was once more heading toward a new Ice Age.

In 1973, Science Digest concluded, “At this point we do not have the comfortable distance of thousands of years to prepare for the next Ice Age, and that how carefully we monitor our atmospheric pollution would have direct bearing on the arrival of this weather crisis.”

Consequently, the scientists warned, “Once the freeze starts, it will be too late.”

The March 1, 1975 cover of the respected Science News magazine depicted the City of New York being swallowed by an approaching glacier, and announced, “The Ice Age Cometh.”

The threat was clear and urgent, “Again, this transition would induce only a small change in global temperature — two or three degrees — but the impact on civilization would be catastrophic.”

The prestigious National Academy of Sciences agreed.

In 1975, it issued a warning that there was a “finite possibility that a serious worldwide cooling could befall the Earth within the next 100 years.”

That grim deep freeze prospect then again took a reverse turn a mere decade later during then-Senator Al Gore’s 1988 Committee on Science, Technology and Space hearings.

The star witness, NASA’s James Hansen, claimed 99 percent certainty that global temperatures had increased with some greenhouse influence, although he made no direct connection between the two.

The scheduling and staging of then-Sen. Al Gore’s hearings were carefully orchestrated for theater. As later recounted by his co-planner, then-Senator Timothy Wirth, D-Colo., in an interview with PBS’s “Frontline”:

“We called the Weather Bureau and found out what historically was the hottest day of the summer . . . so we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo, it was the hottest day in Washington, or close to it . . . we went in at the night before and opened all the windows so that the air conditioning wasn’t working inside the room.”

The rest, as they say, became contemporary history.

Al Gore scored a Nobel Prize for climate science, along with an Oscar for producing a science fiction horror movie on the same subject.

“The Goricle” also became enormously wealthy.

James Hansen went on to gain public notoriety as head of NASA’s Godard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), a tiny climate modeling shop located above a restaurant in a midtown Manhattan office building. Hansen and GISS became “go-to” media sources of virtually all alarmist “NASA reports warmest year, month, day in history” headline fodder.

Disgracefully for NASA’s rich scientific legacy, Hansen continued to retain his politically-protected government position throughout four handcuffed arrests for noncompliance with police orders during anti-fossil energy demonstrations.

Former Stanford University professor Stephen Schneider, author of an alarmist 1976 global cooling book, “The Genesis Strategy,” later became a lead author of multiple U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports trumpeting an opposite global warming crisis.

Interviewed in 1989 by Discovery magazine, Schneider candidly defended the weaponized use of unsupportable climate alarm tactics in order to achieve individually — determined virtuous outcomes:

“On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method. On the other hand, we are not just scientists, but human beings as well. And like most people, we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change.

“To do that, we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. Or we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have.”

In other words, trust not what they tell you, but believe that they have your best interests in mind because their personal intentions are ethical.

Remember that when they are found to exaggerate the truth in order to get your attention, they did so for a righteous cause.

Or then again, maybe not.


Study Finds No Link Between Sea-Ice Loss And Cold Waves

Background: A good six years ago, Potsdam climate researcher Stefan Rahmstorf was outraged by the German Weather Service (DWD) at his at Klimalounge site. The DWD had the audacity to contradict Mr. Rahmstorf.

Specifically, it was about the presumed connection between the expansion of Arctic sea ice and cold winter weather.

Rahmstorf’s simple model: Less Arctic sea ice causes cold European winters. At the time, he led a conglomeration of studies and claimed:

"In my view, the above studies provide clear evidence of a link between Arctic ice loss due to global warming, and more frequent winter high pressures, particularly over the Atlantic-European part of the Arctic, and the associated influx of cold air into Europe. As we have often experienced it in recent winters – for example spectacularly in the first half of February 2012.”

In the process, Rahmstorf became verbally wild and didn’t hold back dishing it out: The DWD was embarrassing, incompetent in questions of climate change, that it could not even read scientific papers, their arguments were flat.

It was an unusually aggressive style of discussion that is seldom encountered in science. Rahmstorf’s original:

"However, the Taz quoted [German paper] yesterday the spokesman of the German Weather Service [DWD in German] as saying that if there was a direct relationship with the sea ice cover, the entire winter would have to be very cold in Germany.

I think this trivial argument with which he would like to wipe from the table the climate research results shown above is pretty embarrassing for the DWD. Of course, open water in the Arctic does not prevent stochastic weather variability.

There will always be warm and cold periods. In all these studies it comes down to changing probabilities in the prevailing weather patterns: Petoukhov and Semenov estimate that the probability of cold winter extremes could triple, that is even in the Abstract.

One wonders whether the DWD representative has read the relevant studies at all – and if not, why he feels the urge to comment on them in the media.

Unfortunately, it has a certain tradition that meteorologists dealing with weather, are not familiar with climate science.”

More than half a decade has passed since Rahmstorf’s rumblings.

In the meantime, research has taken up the topic professionally and now has certainty: Rahmstorf was completely off the mark. Sea ice does not play a major role in the cold waves. Press release of the University of Exeter from August 12, 2019:

"Arctic sea-ice loss has “minimal influence” on severe cold winter weather, research shows

The dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice through climate change has only a ‘minimal influence’ on severe cold winter weather across Asia and North America, new research has shown.

The possible connection between Arctic sea-ice loss and extreme cold weather – such as the deep freezes that can grip the USA in the winter months – has long been studied by scientists.

Observations show that when the regional sea-ice cover is reduced, swathes of Asia and North America often experience unusually cold and hazardous winter conditions. However, previous climate modeling studies have suggested that reduced sea ice cannot fully explain the cold winters.

Now, a new study by experts from the University of Exeter, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and the Energy and Sustainability Research Institute in Groningen, has shed new light on the link between sea-ice loss and cold winters.

For the research, the international team combined observations over the past 40 years with results from sophisticated climate modeling experiments. They found that the observations and models agreed that reduced regional sea ice and cold winters often coincide which each other.

They found that the correlation between reduced sea ice and extreme winters across the mid-latitude occurs because both are simultaneously driven by the same, large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns.

Crucially, it shows that reduced sea ice only has a minimal influence on whether a harsh and severe winter will occur. The study is published in a leading science journal, Nature Climate Change.

Dr. Russell Blackport, a Mathematics Research Fellow at the University of Exeter and lead author of the paper said:

‘The correlation between reduced sea ice and cold winters does not mean one is causing the other. We show that the real cause is a change in atmospheric circulation which moves warm air into the Arctic and cold air into the mid-latitudes.’

Over recent decades, the Arctic region has experienced warming temperatures through climate change, which has led to a large decline in sea-ice cover.

This reduction in sea-ice cover means that areas of open water increase, which in turn allows the ocean to lose more heat to the atmosphere in winter – this can potentially alter the weather and climate, even well outside the Arctic.

Recent studies have suggested that the reduced sea ice or Arctic warming has contributed to recent cold winters experienced in the mid-latitude region – and that as the sea-ice reduces further through climate change, cold winters will become more frequent and severe.

Now, this new study suggests that reduced sea ice is not the main cause of cold winters. Instead, the cold winters are likely caused by random fluctuations in the atmospheric circulation.

Professor James Screen, an Associate Professor in Climate Science at the University of Exeter said:

‘The are many reasons to be concerned about the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice, but an increased risk of severe winters in North America and Asia is not one of them.’

Dr. John Fyfe, a Research Scientist at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, who was not involved in the research, writes in Nature Climate Change:

‘Blackport and colleagues put to rest the notion that Arctic sea-ice loss caused the cold mid-latitude winters, showing instead that atmospheric circulation changes preceded, and then simultaneously drove sea-ice loss and mid-latitude cooling.’

Minimal influence of reduced Arctic sea ice on coincident cold winters in mid-latitudes by Russell Blackport, James Screen, Karin van der Wiel, and Richard Bintanja is published in Nature Climate Change. It was funded through a grant by the Natural Environment Research Council."


Australia: Appeals court declares ex-judge ‘irrational’ in anti-coal ruling

A Land Court judge deemed to be “irrational” by Queensland’s highest appeals court has quietly retired, raising searching questions­ about the performance and accountability of the state’s judiciary.

Paul Anthony Smith left his $412,956-a-year post as a presiding member of the Land Court of Queensland ahead of the ruling by Court of Appeal president Walter Sofronoff that he had formed an “extreme and irration­al animus” towards a coalmine developer during high-stakes court proceedings.

Justice Sofronoff upheld an earlier Supreme Court finding that Mr Smith displayed appre­hende­d bias against the New Hope Group, which wants to expand­ its Acland mine, west of Brisbane, with an open-cut operation three times the size of Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal project in the state’s central west.

Justice Sofronoff warned that bias by judges undermined the justice system. “Allegations of bias, whether actual or ostensible, constitute a challenge to the very validity of a judicial decision,” he said. “Such allegations involve an assertion that the administration of justice has failed.”

State Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath is under pressure to appeal against the sentence from federal Home Affairs Minister Peter ­Dutton

Her office confirmed that Mr Smith retired from the Land Court on May 31, but would not be drawn on whether he had faced sanction over his handling of the Acland case.

Ms D’Ath’s spokesman said: “The Attorney-General doesn’t comment on individual judges, past or present, but she would like to acknowledge the improvements at the Land Court over the last 12 months, which include dramat­ic reductions in the time taken to deliver judgments.”

A finding of apprehended bias against a judge is rare, but the blunt language of Justice Sofronoff, a highly regarded former Queensland solicitor-general, cata­pult­s the judgment into the realm of the extraordinary.

It came after Mr Smith recommended that the state government reject applications by New Hope subsidiary New Acland Coal to ramp up production by an estimated seven million tonnes a year through the planned pit.

Formerly a high-flyer in the Department of Premier and Cabinet­, Mr Smith was appointed to the Land Court in 2004 by Peter Beattie’s Labor government.

In May last year, on appeal by the company, Queensland Sup­reme Court judge Helen Bowskill set aside Mr Smith’s orders, finding that his reasons were inadequate and there were reasonable grounds to apprehend bias on his part.

Protest group Oakey Coal Action­ Alliance took the case to the Court of Appeal

Justice Sofronoff found the rea­sons Mr Smith cited for his orders­ against the company contained­ errors of fact and “unnecessary­, unsupportable and irrati­onal criticisms” of New Acland’s commercial and litigious behaviour. “In such circumstances, a reasonable lay observer might well conclude that the member was, at that point of the proceedings, animated by an extreme and irrational animus against Acland,” the judge said.

He found Mr Smith had directed sarcasm at the company and was combative and argumentative. Although New Acland’s lawyers had conducted themselves in an orthodox and proper manner, he wrongly accused them of playing games, “wormings and turnings” and departing from every tenet of “common-law justice in this world”, Justice Sofronoff said.

Further, Mr Smith’s appropriation of cult movie The Castle to frame the dispute had been ­“wholly inappropriate”. One of the principal objectors to the mine expansion, Glenn Beutel, a local refusing to sell his home in the ghost town of Acland, had been likened by Mr Smith to the hero of The Castle, which the Land Court judge lauded as being a film about a “little person trying to protect his property from a corporate giant”.

Justice Sofronoff said: “It is notoriou­s that in The Castle it was the ‘little person’ who ultimately won the litigation and that the ‘corporate giant’ had behaved unethical­ly and had lost. Whatever might be the respective financial power of the litigants, it is the duty of a court to afford them equal justice and to favour neither of them, where rich or poor, for irrelevan­t reasons. The member’s use of this simile was wholly in­appropriate and conveyed partiality by reason of sympathy.”

New Hope declined to comment, pending further orders from the Court of Appeal. With a projected yield of 7.5 million tonnes of coal annually, New Hope claims the new pit would deliver economic benefits to the state of $8bn over 12 years. Critics of the development, including Sydney radio broadcaster Alan Jones, who grew up in the area 50km west of Toowoomba on the Darling Downs, insist it would destroy some of the best farmland in the country.

Land Court judges in Queensland are paid the same as those of the District Court, earning $382,108 in yearly salary, lifted to $412,956 by benefits.



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