Friday, November 15, 2019

Christmas goes 'woke' as British people rent trees and are urged to stop sending cards

While Christmas has for some time been a time of excess and glittery celebrations, the eco-minded up and down the country are dreaming of a "woke" Christmas.

Campaigners have urged British people to rent their trees this year from companies which plant them back into the ground after use, decorate their homes using pine cones and holly from outside and to stop sending cards in order to reduce waste.

Celebrities including Emma Thompson have joined the trend and said they will refuse to buy presents in order to be more sustainable.

Analysis from consumer trends specialists Mintel found that last year 29 per cent of British gift buyers bought gifts with a lower environmental impact, and it is expected more will this year.

Tree rental is on the rise; seven million Christmas trees enter landfill every year in the UK, and when they rot they produce carbon dioxide. 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases are produced by rotting trees after the festive period annually.

Alastair and Diane Lucking run Galvaston Farm in Leicestershire, and are one of the three businesses in the UK which offer Christmas tree rentals.

They told The Telegraph: "Our sales from last year have already doubled this year and there are still six weeks to go before Christmas Day! On a daily basis since late September we get emails and phone calls from across the UK from people wanting to rent a Christmas tree, which is fantastic news.

"Be assured that our rented trees most definitely get replanted back into the field. We do have a small percentage of returned trees dying (last year 2 per cent) but this is 50 times better than cut trees which is 100 per cent."

They send the trees in biodegradable netting, planted in a sustainable pot, and pick them up in January to be planted in the ground.

Friends of The Earth said: " More and more places, such as garden centres and plant nurseries, now offer a Christmas-tree hire service over the festive season. They'll often even deliver and collect the tree to save you the hassle. And the tree can carry on growing after it's returned. Sounds like a good solution. Just make sure it's grown sustainably by looking for either the FSC or Soil Association logo."

The campaigners also recommended wrapping Christmas presents in a scarf instead of using paper, and sending e-cards instead of cardboard ones.

Plastic waste reduction charity Wrap recommends swapping out tinsel for mistletoe and holly.

A spokesperson said:  "Natural decorations such as ivy, fir cones, mistletoe and holly look festive and can be composted if they are not covered excessively with glitter – though artificial decorations like ribbons and plastic flowers will need to be removed. After Christmas, greenery can be separated from the base and added to your garden/green waste collection or dropped at your local household waste recycling centre."

Emma Thompson, actress and eco-campaigner, said she is not going to be giving Christmas presents this year in a bid to be sustainable and will instead take her family on a walk.

She told Lorraine on ITV: "Christmas is a kind of complicated time of year. Everything comes up at Christmas and we don’t talk about it - we tamp it all down by buying each other stuff…

 “This year we’re going to have a sustainable Christmas - no gifts. So you’re not thinking in the run up to Christmas, ‘Oh what am I going to get…’ You’ve not got that terrible thing of thinking you’ve got to spend all the money and also what are you going to get them because we’ve got everything because some of us do have way too much.

“Then you think, ‘Well, we could go for a walk or we could all cook together. If people want to bring something they can bring bread sauce or whatever. That’s the sort of thing.”

Wrap agrees with this. A spokesperson said: "We all like to show our appreciation of friends and relatives by finding them the perfect gift – but remember that presents don’t have to be ‘things’. You can buy vouchers for all kinds of ready-made experiences, from gin tasting to theatre tickets, zip wires, bungee jumping or more sedate occupations such as researching a family tree. You could even put together your own special ‘experience package’".


Back to Hanoi for Jane Fonda!? Vietnam can’t build coal plants fast enough as economy booms – Fonda urged to take her DC climate protest to Hanoi instead

Vietnam’s coal and crude oil imports surged in the first ten months of this year, government data released on Tuesday showed, highlighting the Southeast Asian country’s increasing reliance on imported energy to support its fast-growing economy.

Vietnam has one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, backed by robust exports and foreign investment. Economic growth this year is expected to surpass the government’s target range of 6.6%-6.8%, as the country benefits from the Sino-U.S. trade war.

The strong growth has boosted demand for coal. Imports of the commodity, mostly from Australia and Indonesia, during the January-October period more than doubled from a year earlier to 36.8 million tonnes, valued at $3.25 billion, the Customs Department said in a statement.

The imported coal will mostly be used for the country’s growing fleet of coal-fired power plants, which will still play a key role in its power generation mix for the years to come even as Hanoi promotes renewables.

The country’s crude oil imports rose 80.6% from a year earlier to 6.8 million tonnes during the period, the department said.

Once a key export earner for Vietnam, crude oil output of the country has been declining recently as its reserves fall at existing fields and as China’s increasingly assertive stance in the region hampers offshore exploration.

Government data showed crude oil output in the first ten months of this year fell 7.2% from a year earlier to 9.3 million tonnes. Meanwhile, its coal output rose 10.5% to 37.9 million tonnes.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade said in July Vietnam will contend with severe power shortages from 2021 as demand outpaces construction of new plants, with electricity demand expected to exceed supply by 6.6 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2021, and 15 billion kWh in 2023.

Vietnam will need an average of $6.7 billion a year to expand its annual power generation capacity by 10% between 2016 and 2030, the ministry had said.

Tuesday’s customs data also showed Vietnam recorded a trade surplus of $9.01 billion during the first ten months of this year, widening from a surplus of $7.24 billion a year earlier.


Everything You Hear About Billion-Dollar Disasters Is Wrong

Roger Pielke

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) counts the number of disasters in the United States that result in losses of greater than $1 billion, starting in 1980. Over the past three decades that count has shown a sharp increase, from five or less such disasters each year in the decade of the 1980s to ten or more in each of the past 4 years.

That increase must be due to climate change, right? Actually, no. The billion-dollar disaster tally is easy to understand, simple to communicate, but—regrettably—incredibly misleading and just plain bad economics.

Before proceeding, it is important to underscore that climate change resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels poses significant risks to our collective futures, including influences on extreme events. As a consequence, it makes sense to focus policy on the mitigation of emissions and adaptation to reduce vulnerability and exposure to weather and climate.

But the importance of climate change as a policy issue does not mean that the subject gets a free pass when it comes to scientific accuracy, and especially claims made by authoritative bodies like NOAA. To the contrary, building support for action on climate requires maintaining the highest standards of scientific integrity.

The billion-dollar disaster tally, even though it is popular, doesn’t meet that standard. The biggest problem with the time series is that it is based on a threshold of $1 billion, but both the value of the dollar changes over time (inflation) and, more importantly, the value of property and wealth subject to losses from extremes has grown dramatically over time.

When NOAA first released the billion-dollar disaster dataset in 2012, it neglected historical events that, after considering inflation, would have exceeded the billion-dollar threshold. For example, a disaster that caused $900 million in losses in 1980 (in 1980 dollars) would not have been included, although the actual loss amount would have exceeded $1 billion in contemporary times. After this was pointed out, NOAA corrected the oversight and added 19 additional events to their dataset, warning appropriately: “Caution should be used in interpreting any trends based on this graphic for a variety of reasons.”

But the inflation snafu revealed a far deeper problem with the use of the billion-dollar threshold: U.S. disaster take place at the intersection of a changing and variable climate and a nation growing in population, wealth and development. Consider that an identical hurricane making landfall in Texas in 1980 versus 2019 would result in vastly different loss totals, because today there are simply more people in more homes with more stuff than thirty years ago.  In 2012, I identified nine disasters from 1980 not included in the NOAA tabulation that would likely have exceeded a billion-dollar threshold has those events occurred in 2011.

The NOAA billion-dollar disaster dataset is not a reliable indicator of trends in disasters or their costs, and it certainly is not a time series that says anything meaningful about changes in climate. Anyone wanting to look at trends in climate and weather, including extreme events, should always look first at data on climate and weather, not economic loss data.

So how might NOAA improve its economic loss record for U.S. disasters? The answer is simple: Do away with the billion-dollar threshold and look at the entire record of losses. Even better, address the effects of a growing U.S. economy, and greater loss potentials over time, by normalizing disaster loss data based on GDP (or other factors).

That is exactly what I did in the graph below, based on data from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (GDP) and Arizona State University (hazard losses). The graph shows U.S. hazard losses from 1980 (the start of the NOAA dataset) to 2016 (the end of the ASU dataset). There is clearly no upwards trend. The apparent slight downward trend results from the “drought” of major hurricanes from 2006 to 2016, which has since ended in 2017 and 2018.

Compare that graph to NOAA’s billion-dollar disaster tally, shown below, over the same time period. You can easily see how the NOAA tally has potential to mislead.

Billion-dollar disasters

To their credit, early on NOAA recognized that there were methodological issues in its approach to collecting and sharing disaster loss data, and commissioned a study of the dataset and methodology, which was peer-reviewed and published in 2013. That study acknowledges that, “the billion-dollar dataset is only adjusted for the CPI [consumer price index, representing inflation] over time, not currently incorporating any changes in exposure (e.g., as reflected by shifts in wealth or population).” NOAA admitted that the lack of such adjustments had implications for the increasing trend in the count of billion-dollar disasters: “The magnitude of such increasing trends is greatly diminished when applied to data normalized for exposure.”

Not surprisingly, due to such methodological concerns, the NOAA study concluded: “it is difficult to attribute any part of the trends in losses to climate variations or change, especially in the case of billion-dollar disasters.” That conclusion is solid.

Yet, in the years since, NOAA has ignored its own research and continued to attribute an increase in the counts of billion-dollar disasters to climate change. On its website today NOAA says: “Climate change is also playing a role in the increasing frequency of some types of extreme weather that lead to billion-dollar disasters.”

With respect to floods, NOAA says, “Billion-dollar inland—non-tropical—flood events have increased in the United States” and attributes this to climate change, “heavy rainfall events and their ensuing flood risks are increasing because warmer temperatures are "loading" the atmosphere with more water vapor.”

NOAA’s claim on rainfall and flood risks is contradicted by the most recent U.S. National Climate Assessment: “in U.S. regions, no formal attribution of precipitation changes to anthropogenic forcing has been made so far, so indirect attribution of flooding changes is not possible. Hence, no formal attribution of observed flooding changes to anthropogenic forcing has been claimed.” What this somewhat technical passage says is that for the United States, it is incorrect to claim that increasing rainfall in some regions or flooding (which has not increased) can be attributed to human-caused climate change. Yet, NOAA – one of our most important and respected scientific agencies – is making such an unfounded claim and extending it even further to disaster losses.

With misinformation coming from one of our most trusted federal agencies, it’s no surprise that bad science propagates widely. Just yesterday Climate Central reported on the latest NOAA quarterly climate report: “this year has been full of devastating extreme weather events—which are getting more costly as the climate warms.”

The billion-dollar disaster time series should provide us a lesson on how easy it is to promote a simple message that fits a particular narrative but which is completely misleading and even outright wrong. NOAA is an important agency – among its many functions it provides the weather data and forecasts that help keep all Americans safe. NOAA is too important an institution to get caught up in dodgy science related to climate change.


We Need an Honest Debate on Climate Change

Pacific Gas and Electric of San Francisco began public safety power shutoffs to prevent equipment from starting wildfires. Deadly fires in the last few years have resulted in PG&E being sued for billions of dollars and the company is now bankrupt. These blackouts have left up to nearly three million people without electricity for up to five days.

Pacific Research Institute (PRI) has published “California’s Blackouts: How Did We Get Here and What Can We Do to Keep the Lights On?” Kerry Jackson of PRI begins the introduction with the reactions by the politicians to the Great Blackouts of 2019.

“The state’s political class quickly played a game of political hot potato, blaming PG&E and others for the blackouts, while positioning themselves as having the best solution to prevent future blackouts moving forward.”

Of course, many politicians seeking more political power are quick to claim California fires are caused by climate change. Jackson provides a few examples.

“PG&E executives as well as political figures and journalists have declared, with no supporting evidence, that “climate change” has fueled California wildfires in recent years.” According to CNN, “deadlier and more destructive wildfires have become the new normal.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted “this is what climate change looks like” as wildfires raged. “Climate change is real, it’s happening, and you and everyone else will recognize that,” said former Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) who opened his testimony before Congress in October swearing, presumably under oath, that climate change is “a direct cause of California’s increasingly dangerous wildfire seasons.”

Sorry, CNN, Gov. Brown and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, but many studies confirm that wildfires in California peaked in 1980 and have steadily declined since that date. A U.S. Geological Survey of the data showed “there have been fewer and fewer wildfires” in the state. UCLA professor Jon Keeley agrees. “The claim commonly made in research papers and the media that fire activity is increasing throughout the western USA is certainly an overstatement,” Keeley said in a research paper.

Concerning the continuous, safe, and efficient delivery of electricity to everyone in California, there are two enormous political problems. First, PG&E and other utilities are government-controlled monopolies that are very bureaucratic and persistently controlled by political whim and pressure. Second, the politicians and State of California bureaucracies have long been heavily influenced by very aggressive environmental activists who have thwarted known safe forest management practices.

In 1996 there was legislation was passed to “deregulate” the state electricity market. Unfortunately, what was pronounced to be deregulation was more regulations and control. Adrian Moore of the Reason Foundation found that the 1996 law “discourages entry into the market … restricts expansion of capacity, and … sustains the old systems and rules that prevent competition.”

Additionally, Jackson reports on a main reason for California’s blackouts; state law mandates that utilities must only use renewable energy by 2045. Jackson wrote, “If anything, it’s the state’s obsession with global warming that has contributed to the fires. The rush to renewable energy, and the crusade to reduce and ultimately eradicate fossil fuels, have pushed utilities to allocate funds that should have been used for wildfire prevention to programs and projects conceived by politics.”

Terry Anderson of the Hoover Institute knows that environmental activist organizations have badly prevented “scientific management — including logging, prescribed burns, and thinning — to treat forest fuel loads.”

Jackson concludes: “Wildfires are unavoidable in California. It’s truly a place “nature built to burn.” Yet preventive measures can lessen the losses of life and property. The necessary changes will require a new way of thinking in California. The old paradigm that says utilities must be government-protected monopolies has to be left behind. The state that was at one time not afraid of fresh ideas has stayed dedicated to an old one for far too long.”

Also very critically needed is an honest debate on global warming. Actions taken by California and many other jurisdictions are beginning to have a major impact on the lives and needs of their citizens. (I have previously published, "The Climate Crisis that Wasn’t: Scientists Agree there is 'No Cause for Alarm.'”)

“Foreseeing the potential for horrific political decisions based on inadequate science and mob rule, five hundred scientists and professionals in climate related fields have sent a “European Climate Declaration” to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, which strongly states, “There is no climate emergency. Therefore, there is no cause for panic and alarm. We strongly oppose the harmful and unrealistic net-zero CO2 policy proposed for 2050.”

“Thomas D. Williams, the Senior Research Associate at the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, writes, “The signatories of the declaration also insist that public policy must respect scientific and economic realities and not just reflect the most fashionable frenzy of the day.”

It is long past time to have an honest debate on climate change.


Australia: Green bureaucracy blocking big natural gas developments

Two world-class liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects valued at $40 billion and owned by some of the world’s biggest oil companies, including Shell, BP and PetroChina, are at risk of being permanently marooned by a complex “economy v environment” dispute in Australia.

The Browse and Scarborough projects will only be developed if final government approvals can be obtained and that could mean satisfying the carbon emissions requirements of an international climate-change agreement.

Unfortunately for the companies behind the projects, which have taken more than 30 years to reach the point of a final investment decision, different layers of government in Australia can’t agree on whether local or international rules apply.

At a political level there is support for both Browse and Scarborough because of the economic and job creating benefits from investment.

But at an administrative level there are government officials who argue that approval is not possible for any big resource development, including oil and gas, unless the proponents can demonstrate how they will offset all emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the gases blamed for global warming and climate change.

Australia, like many other countries, is a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change which includes a set of recommendations designed to limit carbon dioxide pollution.

But, for a country which is heavily dependent on mining and oil production the Paris deal has become a logistical nightmare and, in the case of natural gas a two-edged sword because while it might be a fossil fuel it is far less polluting than the coal or oil it can replace.

Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea are major buyers of minerals and energy products produced in Australia and are keen to see a continuation of a reliable LNG supply from a relatively risk-free supplier.

But, if the civil servants working in government departments, such as the Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia (EPA), both Browse and Scarborough will be subjected to onerous emissions offset requirements which could jeopardize their development.

First hint of a standoff between elected and unelected government officials emerged earlier this year when the EPA said all new LNG projects could only proceed if they could demonstrate “zero net emissions” and needed to meet so-called Scope 3 emissions, or those emitted by countries which consume resources sourced from Australia.

The resources industry has rejected that position even if it does comply with the Paris agreement and Australia’s obligations, warning that all new resource projects face an insurmountable hurdle, especially when it came to Scope 3 because Australia cannot control what a foreign customer does with raw material even if it is sourced from Australia.

Elected government officials are slowing waking to the trap into which they have been led by not reading the fine print of the Paris agreement and by allowing civil servants, many with strong views on environmental protection, commit the country to a set of international rules which do not appear to be in Australia’s best interests.

An attempt to tone down the early EPA ruling has been made by the State Government of Western Australia but that position will soon be tested by the imminent development application for the Scarborough project led by Woodside Petroleum and BHP.

They plan to extract gas from the offshore Scarborough gasfields and pipe it to the onshore Pluto gas processing plant which is, in turn, being connected to the North West Shelf gas plant owned by Woodside, Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP, Mitsubishi and Mitsui.

The next stage in a process to create a major LNG “hub” is to develop the Browse gasfields owned by Woodside, Shell, BP, PetroChina, Mitsui and Mitsubishi.

Sorting out the ownership of the different stages of the projects has been likened to herding cats, a near-impossible task, but that process appears to have been settled, leaving the the challenge of dealing with government which is split between pro-and-anti development positions.

Last week, the Scarborough project took two big steps towards formal approval by its owners. The amount of gas in the fields was recalculated to deliver a 52% increase to now stand at 11.1 trillion cubic feet, just short of Browse with its 13.9tcf, and a contract was signed to build an inter-connecting pipeline between Pluto and the North West Shelf gas processing plants.

With design and ownership issues largely settled the LNG projects have moved to within sight of investment commitments, setting the stage for a showdown between elected and unelected officials over the question of Australia’s economic interest and its international climate-change obligations.



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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