Sunday, April 19, 2020

Melting glaciers in Norway reveal a lost Viking-era mountain pass scattered with perfectly preserved artefacts up to 1,700 years old including knitted mittens, a wooden whisk and a broken walking stick with a runic inscription

Evidence of the medieval warm period

Melting glaciers in Norway have revealed ancient artefacts dropped by the side of a road more than 1,000 years ago.

Clothes, tools, equipment and animal bone have been found by a team at a lost mountain pass at Lendbreen in Norway’s mountainous region.

A haul of more than 100 artefacts at the site includes horseshoes, a wooden whisk, a walking stick, a wooden needle, a mitten and a small iron knife.

The team also found the frozen skull of an unlucky horse used to carry loads that did not make it over the ice.

The objects that were contained in ice reveal that the pass was used in the Iron Age, from around AD 300 until the 14th century.

Activity on the pass peaked around AD 1000 and declined after the black death in the 1300s, due as well to economic and climate factors.

The researchers say the melting of mountain glaciers due to climate change has revealed the historical objects, with many more to come.

This climate-induced retreat of mountain glaciers has caused a new field of science called glacial archaeology.

The resulting findings are a snapshot of high-altitude travel in the Roman Iron Age and the Viking Age.

‘A lost mountain pass melting out of the ice is a dream discovery for us glacial archaeologists,’ said Lars Pilø, first author and co-director for the Glacier Archaeology Program.

‘In such passes, past travellers left behind lots of artefacts, frozen in time by the ice.

‘These incredibly well-preserved artefacts of organic material have great historical value.

‘The decline of the Lendbreen pass was probably caused by a combination of economic changes, climate change and late medieval pandemics, including the Black Death.

‘When the local area recovered, things had changed and the Lendbreen pass was lost to memory.’

Some of the objects are from the means of transportation through the mountain, such as horseshoes, bones from packhorses, remains of sleds and a walking stick with a runic inscription.

Other items are the remnants of daily life, such as a knife with a wooden handle, a wooden distaff – used to hold wool during hand spinning – and a wooden whisk.

Remains of clothing, such as shoes, a Roman Iron Age tunic and a Viking Age mitten, have also been found.

‘The preservation of the objects emerging from the ice is just stunning,’ said Espen Finstad, co-author and co-director of the Glacier Archology program.

‘It is like they were lost a short time ago, not centuries or millennia ago.’

Radiocarbon dating was used on 60 of the finds from Lendbreen to tell the team exactly when the pass was in operation.

It was likely used for local traffic to and from summer farms at high elevations and for long-distance travel and trade.

The route was also mainly used in late winter or early summer when the rough terrain was covered in snow.

Some of the objects that would have passed through Lendbreen also may have ended up outside Norway, such as reindeer antlers and pelts – skin and fur of the animal used for warmth.

Other products, such as dairy products and fodder to maintain livestock during the winter, would have been for local use.

‘Radiocarbon dates on the artefacts show that traffic through the pass started in the Roman Iron Age around AD 300, peaked in the Viking Age around AD 1000 and declined after this,’ said Professor James Barrett at the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge.

‘The start around AD 300 was a time when local settlement activity was picking up.

‘When the use of the pass intensified around AD 1000, during the Viking Age, it was a time of increased mobility, political centralisation and growing trade and urbanisation in Northern Europe.

‘Instead of just being considered remote regions, mountains could also provide vital access to important products and arteries for transporting such products, linking the mountain regions to larger trading networks.

‘Sites like the mountain pass at Lendbreen have a larger story to tell beyond the incredible finds.’

Bones of packhorses that died during the crossing of the ice have also been dated as early as the 5th-6th century AD

The survey at Lendbreen now covers about 2.6 million square feet, or 250,000 square metres, which is the size of 35 football fields.

The total space of the site includes 30-degree slopes and a combination of loose scree, bedrock and ice, which often made the recovery of the artefacts difficult.

Archaeological ice sites in the high mountains also differ from those in the lowlands, as artefacts are more likely to become displaced by meltwater, ice movement and wind.

Fieldwork at the lost mountain pass has been ongoing since its discovery in 2011, following the retreat of the ice.

‘When we arrived at the site last fall, the surface of the ice in the pass was littered with artefacts and horse dung,’ said Finstad.

‘The remaining ice from the tine of the pass probably melted out.

‘The final melt revealed many remarkable finds, such as a dog with collar and leash, a horse snowshoe and a wooden box with the lid still on.’

Fieldwork was undertaken on the site from 2011 to 2015 and again in 2018 and 2019, each time collecting several finds.

The research team's basecamp at Lendbreen during a silent and clear night. The site was discovered in 2011 +24
The research team's basecamp at Lendbreen during a silent and clear night. The site was discovered in 2011

The melt at Lendbreen in 2019 was particularly bad and likely revealed the final remains from the ancient pass.

However, the same melt also revealed the first artefacts from another pass about six miles further west, so there are likely to be more finds to come.

The new findings are detailed in the journal Antiquity,


Pandemic Shows The Hollow Fantasies Of Greta And Extinction Rebellion

How glorious it is that the demands of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion are coming true. We are putting a significant brake on carbon emissions by strongly limiting the rampant overconsumption of our society.

Granted, no one seems very happy at those carbon dioxide emissions falling by 5% – or 2.5 billion tonnes – this year, but we can’t have everything, can we?

This gets to the nub of the problem with the climate change movement. We know pretty well we could reverse the problem if we all agree to become as poor as church mice or return to being peasants in the fields.

It is the understandable resistance to such reversion which causes the problem itself. We like being able to heat our food, warm our bodies, travel and generally enjoy civilization.

That, at this current level of technological advance, means the use of fossil fuels – at the cost of changes to the climate in the future.

The question is not whether we should do something about it, but what?

The coronavirus outbreak gives us a neat experiment in what happens when humans suddenly dramatically reduce both production and consumption. And, to put it mildly, most of us are not enjoying it one bit.

That suggests that instead of the hair shirty favored by the Gretas of this world, our best solution is creating the technologies that allow us to keep consuming while also keeping the planet cool with our doing so.

This is not particularly controversial stuff. The economist William Nordhaus got his Nobel for demonstrating how innovation can produce better outcomes with lower consumption.

The same is true of Nicholas Stern, whose name adorns one of the best-known reports on the consequences of climate change.

Sure, there are differences between the two approaches. Stern says do lots now – as a very rough pencil sketch you understand – while Nordhaus says only do what we’re ready for.

More specifically, Nordhaus says work with the capital cycle. Only replace things with the newer non-emitting technology when they are already worn out and ready for replacement anyway.

That would not mean, for example, closing down Germany’s nuclear plants when they have decades of useful life left – a policy that has simply made energy more expensive while doing worse than nothing to save the planet.

Instead, things should be shut down when they are no longer functional and replaced with newer, cleaner tech.

The underlying point here is that both Nordhaus and Stern thinking like economists whose aim is to maximize human utility – essentially, the joy of being here and alive at this time.

As Ryan Bourne noted in a recent CapX piece, economists are forever thinking in terms of costs and benefits and trying to balance them out.

They know too that with a great many facets of our lives there is no simple ‘solution’, just a variety of trade-offs that need to be managed.

That’s quite a different approach to the currently fashionable claim that we must eviscerate modern society right now and retreat back to a much lower standard of living as our method of reducing those emissions.

For that is what a ‘zero carbon’ society by 2030, or even 2050 is liable to mean in real terms – the guarantee of immediate penury for millions of people.

There are few silver linings to the current ghastly pandemic. But one of the benefits is we’re testing the St. Greta method of beating climate change and not liking it very much at all.

Let’s hope that means policymakers focus on the technological and economic solutions to climate change, rather than the shrill eschatology of the modern green movement.


Responding to the Terawatt challenge

In chapter 16 of his seminal book, A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations, Austin-based futurist Robert Bryce speaks of “the Terawatt Challenge” – a term coined by the late Nobel laureate Richard Smalley.

Smalley posited that if we can provide sufficient electricity to all the peoples of the world, we can eliminate the massive problems of food security, water quality, poverty, and a clean environment. And Bryce solemnly points out that as a world, we are far from that goal.

But we can get there.

Bryce, whose first book, Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron, was named one of the best nonfiction books of 2002, traces the history of harnessed electricity from Benjamin Franklin through Tesla, Edison, and Westinghouse – and the much less well known but equally important Frank Julian Sprague, who developed electric elevator motors (enabling skyscrapers) and the nation’s first electric rail system.

He next illustrates how Franklin Roosevelt brought affordable electricity to rural America and oversaw construction of massive dams that provided cheap electricity from Tennessee to Nevada to Washington State. It was FDR, Bryce notes, who in 1932 proclaimed that, “Electricity is no longer a luxury; it is a definite necessity.”

Bryce then hits us with the uses the stark fact is that roughly 3.3 billion people (45 percent of humanity) live in places where annual per capita electricity consumption is less than 1,000 kilowatt-hours per year (kWh/yr)– about what his home refrigerator uses. These are the Unplugged.

“Low-Watt” countries comprise another 2.7 billion (37 percent) people, while only 19 percent live in “High-Watt” countries (over 4,000 kWh/yr) – the threshold deemed by Dr. Alan Pasternak as the key dividing line below which countries cannot improve their Human Development Index.

A major barrier, therefore, to electricity sufficiency for the Unplugged – and even the Low-Watt – nations is the lack of societal integrity, capital investment, and affordable fuel. Yet, to ensure that all of humanity can reach its full potential (including liberating women from drudgery and freeing them to develop their innate skills and talents) requires that the human right to electricity is universally available.

That is the goal – but how do we get there?

An essential component of societal integrity is that governments enforce the rule of law. The freest and wealthiest countries are those where factions share political and economic power, whereas in the poorest countries the elites organize society for their own benefit at the expense of the vast mass of people. Capital – and fuel – are much easier to obtain in a free society.

But there can be complications. Bryce notes that, at least since the Korean conflict, the U.S. military strategy has begun with sustained attacks on the enemy country’s electricity infrastructure. The idea was to lower public morale by removing the comforts brought by electricity, but nowhere has this policy been effective. Burning down a village to save it never really connects with those whose villages are being burned.

To illustrate the magnitude of the gap between Unplugged and High-Watt nations, Bryce chronicles the meteoric rise of the Giant Five – Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft – all of whom consume more electricity than many entire countries. Financial services, from Visa to bitcoin, have giant electricity appetites, as does the marijuana industry.

These businesses all know, from experience, the cost that electricity blackouts impose on them – and their customers. Both weather and sabotage threaten the integrity of the electric grid, but the greater threat is the folly of those who believe that wind and solar alone can provide sufficient electric energy for a high-tech society, let alone the world’s billions.

Bryce chronicles how four factors – cost, storage, scale, and land use — prevent renewables from taking over our energy and power systems. Electricity prices are soaring in countries like Germany, which panicked after Fukushima and began shuttering its nuclear power plants. A third of German businesses, Bryce notes, see high electricity costs as threats to their viability.

Rising electricity costs following enactment of Ontario’s Green Energy Act led to political defeat for the Liberal Party and the rescission of 758 renewable energy contracts. Even in California, civil rights leaders have filed a lawsuit, now working its way through the legal system, claiming that the state’s climate policies discriminate against minority and low-income consumers.

Bryce’s reporting suggests that the elitists who are pushing renewable energy – like despots in broken (Low-Watt or Unplugged) countries – ignore the poor and middle class and treat rural areas as if they were uninhabited or just irrelevant as they pursue unattainable goals that heavily burden taxpayers while threatening electricity reliability.

To meet California’s 80 percent renewable mandate, for example, will require massive increases in costly electric storage because of seasonal variation in wind and solar electricity generation. Green energy growth today cannot even keep up with the increase in global electricity demand, let alone replace all conventional power. But the final nail in the renewables coffin is land use.

Bryce cites multiple studies showing that an all-wind grid would mean turbine farms would cover a tenth of the nation’s total land. Rural counties, frustrated by the indifference of urban elites to the real-world impacts on human health and wildlife, are fighting wind farms with renewed vengeance. Giant solar arrays also present, as one reporter called it, “a choice between a vanishing ecosystem and a push toward cleaner energy.”

Despite opposition by environmentalists, developing nations are rapidly turning to nuclear as a fuel for the future. But, Bryce notes, it takes a New Deal like national commitment to provide both the political stability and financial backing to construct and operate large nuclear power plants economically. High-Watt countries have imposed exorbitant permitting and regulatory costs which, together with antinuclear zeal, limit their prospects for nuclear energy.

Natural gas, which thanks to fracking has become abundant and cheap, must, Bryce asserts, be a major part of the world’s electricity generation future. Yet governments in High-Watt countries are already banning fracking, blocking new pipelines, and even demanding that citizens mothball their gas-burning appliances.

Despite all of the attacks on affordable, reliable fuels, Bryce is optimistic about the world’s ability and willingness to meet the Terawatt Challenge and provide electricity to a hungry world without wrecking the biosphere. Consider that in little over a century, a fifth of the world has gone from no electricity to High-Watt usage and another three-eighths is somewhat electrified.

The humanist response to the Terawatt Challenge, Bryce asserts, is to empower the billions who are living in the dark to come into the bright light of modernity and progress. This will require societal integrity, massive infusions of capital, and the right choices of fuels. Bryce admits that electrifying the world will take time.

But it can – and must — be done.


New Study: Green-Energy Mining Does Massive Ecological Damage

Mining all of the lithium, cobalt, rare earth minerals, and other elements required for a wind- and solar-powered economy would unleash massive and widespread environmental devastation, according to a newly published study.

The study, authored by Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) senior policy advisor Paul Driessen and published by The Heartland Institute, concludes that climate activists impose more environmental harm than good when they insist on a wind- and solar-powered economy.

“Expanding mining on the scale needed to meet the renewable energy requirements of the Green New Deal and other proposed renewable energy mandates would cause unimaginable harm to the environment, wildlife, and humans,” the study, titled, “How the Green New Deal’s Renewable Energy Mining Would Harm Humans and the Environment,” reports.

Particularly troubling is the “renewable” economy’s reliance on rare earth minerals mined in China, lithium mined in Argentina, Chile, and Tibet, and cobalt mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (pictured).

The study comprehensively documents the environmental and human health misery imposed by such mining.

For example, “There’s not one step of the rare earth mining process that is not disastrous for the environment,” reports Greenpeace China program director Jamie Choi, according to the study.

Also, the study cites a 2018 study by Harvard University researchers concluding it would require covering one-third of the land in the United States with wind turbines just to meet existing electricity demand.

Transforming all automobiles to electric power would likely push that total closer to one-half of the United States. What would happen to all the wildlife in America if half our country is devoted to wind turbines?

As the study shows, the clear impact of global warming activism is imposing more environmental harm than good.



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1 comment:

C. S. P. Schofield said...

"As the study shows, the clear impact of global warming activism is imposing more environmental harm than good."

I knew this decades ago. I knew this before I was old enough to vote. Global Warming Activism is Environmentalist Activism with a new cloak, and Environmentalism has always been based on comparing established practice with untested pipe-dreams.