Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Antarctic ‘Doomsday Glacier’ Is Really Doomsday for Climate Alarmism

A fake climate scare making headlines comes from researchers who say West Antarctica’s Thwaites glacier may soon collapse, raising sea levels by 6 feet or more over the next century. Alarmists are dubbing this the “Doomsday Glacier.” This is ironically true, as the fake climate scare of the Doomsday Glacier is really a doomsday for climate alarmism.

The Financial Times (FT) in an article titled, “Climate change: what Antarctica’s ‘doomsday glacier’ means for the planet,” writes, “if Thwaites goes, the knock-on effect across the western half of Antarctica would lead to between 2m and 3m of sea level rise… a rise that would be catastrophic for most coastal cities.”

The FT article implies climate change is behind the Thwaites glacier’s rate of asserted melting and instability, ignoring evidence to the contrary. I debunked that claim in a July 3 Climate Realism post in which I pointed out global satellite data showed no warming or cooling trend at the South Pole since measurements began in 1979. In addition, since 1998, ground based temperature measurements across Antarctica show the continent has cooled for 20 of the last 30 years. So how can global warming cause alleged instability of the Thwaites glacier? It simply cannot.

Throughout geologic history, West Antarctica is also referred to as Lesser Antarctica, being the smaller half of the continent. The ice there has been unstable, with many regions, including regions in an around the Thwaites glacier, underpinned by subsurface volcanic activity. Moreover, “During past interglacials, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has been completely removed,” states

Even with any decline of the Thwaites glacier and other areas of West Antarctica, it is not even clear if Antarctica is adding to recent modest sea level rise. In 2015, NASA reported Antarctica as a whole was adding tens of thousands of tons of snow and ice each year in its interior. NASA wrote, “the Antarctic ice sheet showed a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001. That net gain slowed to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008.” As such, at least through 2008, Antarctica ice change was, on net, reducing the rate of global sea level rise.

Alarmists, ironically, point to other studies that they claim place the NASA findings in doubt. Regardless, Antarctica’s average temperatures range from -60 degrees C (-76 F) during winter to -20 C (-4 F) in summer. Accordingly, no meltdown of the Antarctic continent is in the offing.

The so-called Doomsday Glacier is really Doomsday Nothing – other than a Doomsday Illustration of the flawed Climate Delusion.


The Sordid History of Scam Science

COVID and global warming are not the first

What was not-so-novel about the COVID crisis was its origin in scam or junk science. John Ionnnidis, one of the leading critics of weak scientific work, jumped right in to alert people and policymakers about the many problems with various predictive models but he was largely ignored despite being one of the most highly-cited scientists alive. That is actually not unusual. Even before the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, Americans have been inundated with alarmist “scientific” claims that have not held up to close scrutiny. The problem is, they always hear about false claims but almost never hear about the retractions and whispered mea culpas (Latin for “my bad”). The net effect is undue pessimism about the state of the world.

Most scientific scares are rooted in the extrapolation of current trends to the point of disaster or desolation with no thought given to the possibility of cyclicality, natural limits, or behavioral changes. Ridley jokes about the nineteenth century prediction that by 1950 the streets of London would be ten feet deep in horse manure. Unfortunately, real scam science is no laughing matter. Here is a partial list:

Love Canal and Other “Cancer Clusters:” Love Canal refers to a housing development built near an improperly capped toxic waste disposal site in Niagara Falls, New York, where the media reported a cluster of cancer cases. It turns out, though, that cancer clusters are random events simply more salient than places where, again by sheer luck, cancer is rare. Most cancers, it seems, are not caused by man-made chemicals. Many more carcinogens lurk naturally in foods like cabbage and coffee than in pesticides.

Dioxin, the main chemical culprit at the Love Canal site, was claimed to be so toxic that 3 ounces of the stuff would kill one million people. When 3 pounds of it was accidentally spread over a 700-acre town near Milan, Italy in 1976, though, the worst that came of it were cases of acne, even in the resident who had the highest level of the substance ever found in a human body. A 1983 study also showed that a control group had higher levels of chromosomal damage than Love Canal residents! Nevertheless, environmentalists tried to prevent people fully aware of Love Canal’s history from moving back in.

Radon Panic: Radon sounds scary because it is a radioactive gas. It comes from uranium deposits and its “daughters,” the isotopes produced by its decay, like polonium, pose a real risk to uranium miners. The risk to homeowners, though, was never clear, so the media easily hyped it in the 1980s into a full blown scare labeled “The Colorless Odorless Killer” by Time. Like SARS-COV-2, radon wasn’t really novel but the ability to detect it in the small quantities found in most homes was. The so-called precautionary principle kicked in and the next thing you know the EPA mandated testing and set a limit of just 4 picocuries per liter of air even though miners exposed to 12,000 picocuries showed no adverse health effects, forcing homeowners to spend billions on radon mitigation technologies. (If you think that spending helps the economy, read this.)

Peak Oil: Remember when the earth was proclaimed to be just a few years away from maximum oil production and a rapid rise in oil prices followed by a production collapse due to an absolute dearth of the stuff? It didn’t happen and does not appear likely to anytime soon. Production recently declined along with prices but due to a demand shock, the covidic global economy, not vanishing reserves. The world will stop using petroleum when its price rises above the price of substitutes, just like it stopped using whale oil when its price went above that of petroleum. Likewise, the Stone Age did not end for lack of stone.

Superstorm Hell: Global warming was supposed to cause a spate of tropical superstorms that would wipe out coastal areas time and again. Some big storms have hit and were hyped to the sky but there is no indication that they are any larger or more frequent than in the past.

Air Pollution Armageddon: For all the talk of Greens, one would think that air quality is steadily degrading. In fact, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, and various volatile organic compound emissions have been steadily decreasing for decades. Remember smog? Not many do, even in Los Angeles, the city with the worst air quality in America. But even in the City of Angels nobody dons gas masks anymore, except to slow the spread of novel coronavirus of course.

Turns out that “acid” rain, which sent me scurrying inside as a yute in the 1970s and 80s, was just slightly more acidic than regular rain. Although some predicted that acid rain would destroy all the forests in Germany by 2002, acidic rain did little to no net environmental damage then and has since become as rarified as smog.

And what happened to the “hole” in the ozone layer that Neil Young ranted about in his 1989 song “Rockin’ in the Free World?” and that Newsweek likened to “AIDS in the sky?” It was always seasonal and limited to the earth’s three “poles” (North, South, and Himalayas) and now scientists say it is “closing,” showing that environmental “damage” need not be permanent. The ban on the main human-produced causal agent of ozone depletion, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), was relatively easily achieved because cheap substitutes were available. To this day, however, scientists have not shown that the “hole” was primarily man-made or that it caused any ill effects on humans or any ecological systems. And because CFC substitutes are less energy efficient, they may contribute to global warming.

And that is just “hard” sciences like chemistry and physics. When we move into the biological and social sciences and nutrition, we encounter failed prognostications like:

Overpopulation: In middle income and rich nations, people are having fewer children, not more. Food production has outstripped demand, leading to lower food prices and more obesity, not starvation, in richer countries. Even in poor countries, famines are now rare and caused by governments, not absolute dearth. Even the fake New York Times now says that the human population will peak earlier than expected, in 2067 at fewer than 10 billion.

Ecological destruction: Ecosystems were supposed to collapse, leading to mass extinction. Instead, where property-rights have supplanted open commons, as with catch shares, natural resources like fisheries have stabilized and even rebounded. Many places in the United States sport too many deer, turkey, and wild hogs. The beepocalypse had no sting. Imagine that.

Paving Paradise: In the 1980s, the government claimed that suburban sprawl was going to swallow up most of America’s farmland, which was losing all its topsoil anyway, leaving Americans dependent on foreign nations for bread. Turns out that the USDA grossly overestimated lost acreage and soil erosion and, miracle of miracles, conversion slowed and then reversed when farm prices increased. Despite those revelations, the media continued to harp on the “farmland crisis” for years. Much like a covidic cat, it “seemed to have nine lives,” Simon said.

Death by Eggs: About the same time, the media made eggs seem akin to a tasty poison, like alcohol. It is okay to have one or two every now and again but if you developed an egg habit, you were a goner. Then eggs became okay as scientists began to differentiate between “good” and “bad” cholesterol. Now many consider eggs a “super food.” Would I be less fat today if I had eaten eggs as a kid instead of “healthy” food like Sugar Coated Gluten Flakes? We’ll never know.

Death by Apples: I also avoided death foods like apples “tainted” with Alar, an allegedly poisonous chemical applied to apples to slow their ripening. Until, that is, the manufacturer withdrew it under regulatory pressure after a slick media blitz coordinated by an environmental activist group in 1989. Turns out, though, that Alar was way less dangerous than the high fructose corn syrup I consumed instead of my daily apple juice. To induce cancer in lab rats, scientists had to have them ingest the human equivalent of 19,000 quarts of apple juice … per day, every day, throughout their lives! Who knew? Arguably scientists and the media gatekeepers should have, but money and kudos flow fastest to alarmists with no stake in the underlying reality.

Off-the-Charts Income Inequality: The mere framing of this concept belies its real purpose, to redistribute “income.” If framed correctly, as productivity inequality, the “problem” disappears or begs the question why a few people are so much more productive than most others and why some produce nothing at all. Hint: it is natural heterogeneity plus stochastic processes layered onto inequality-enhancing government regulations, like minimum wages, interest rate caps, and rent controls. In fact, rich countries have far less income and wealth inequality than poor ones and inequality cycles up and down rather than making a beeline towards either extreme. Most disturbing of all, it appears that some researchers are willing to distort statistics to match their doomsday scenarios. Thankfully, they have been called out repeatedly but not before their “story” had become a “stylized fact” widely accepted by the media and Twitter rage monkeys.

Why do scam science and flawed studies so consistently prevail?

For starters, the world is a complex place where parsing cause-and-effect is a tricky thing, especially where living creatures are involved. Existence does not easily yield its secrets.

Nevertheless, incentives all list toward preliminary studies with big, scary findings because that makes them novel and important and hence newsworthy. Even cub reporters know not to pitch their editors on stories with headlines like “Careful Scientific Study Replicates Previous Work Showing Small, Nuanced Causal Connection.” “Everything Will Be Just Fine If No Action Is Taken” is also a loser because it won’t sell papers or attract pageviews. Retractions of previous errors are also boring so they end up buried when published at all, leaving the impression that the alarmist hot take was correct even when it was clearly not.

“Bad Things May Happen in the Future, Unless”-type stories, by contrast, are commercial winners. If adroitly done they do not even elicit backlash, allowing their perpetuation. First, note the weasel word “may.” Next, the amount of possible destruction and the distance of the prediction in time usually vary directly. Finally, the unless provides yet more wiggle room and a segue into policy proposals. When the world doesn’t end in a decade, everyone has forgotten about the article, the reporter is long gone, s/he wrote “may” anyway so s/he wasn’t technically wrong, and besides, one of the policy proposals was kinda sorta implemented so if anything the story “saved us” from Armageddon. Pulitzers and Peabodys all round!

In 1983, ABC News reported on the unemployment situation in five states “where unemployment is most severe” without mentioning that unemployment was actually down in the other 45 states. That sounds a lot like recent COVID-19 “case” reporting by the New York Times and Washington Post. But if you intimate that such news is misleading, if not entirely “fake,” you get immediately smeared as pro-Trump.

In fact, there is a lot of misleading to fake scholarship because even scholars who took clear stances and were proven wrong beyond the shadow of a doubt — on crucial matters of policy — somehow manage to keep their reputations intact. Nobody is perfect, of course, but why do people who are routinely wrong remain relevant, and even revered? Neil Ferguson, the physics-trained mastermind behind nine of the last one pandemic, is simply one of numerous examples that include:

Rachel Carson: As Roger Meiners, Pierre Desrochers, and Andrew Morriss showed in their 2012 edited volume Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson (Washington, DC: CATO), any of Carson’s remaining mystique is sheer mysticism. Except for lung cancer, cancer deaths are down and were even trending that way when Carson, a marine biologist, scared the bejesus out of almost everyone about the dangers of DDT, a pesticide that extended half a billion human lives by killing disease-carrying mosquitoes. She accurately claimed that cancer was the leading cause of death among American children but failed to mention that was because other childhood diseases, especially the communicable ones, had been conquered. Ironically, she died of cancer, a viral infection, and a heart attack, but her fame lives on.

Paul Ehrlich: In 1968, predicted the explosion of a Population Bomb that would kill most of humanity through disease, starvation, and war before 2000. That didn’t even happen in Africa much less globally. He claimed that life expectancy in America would drop to 42 years by 1980, a surprisingly exact prediction considering how far off the mark it was. This famous entomologist (insect scientist) also bet Simon that the prices of metals would increase and, infamously, lost. Yet Ehrlich remains an environmental guru.

Paul Krugman: Has been wrong about almost everything since he won the Nobel in 2008 for his work on international economic trade theory and concentrated his efforts on the newspaper columnist career he began in 2000. His biggest errors are in labor economics, including the effects of minimum wage policies. See Contra Krugman by Robert Murphy for details.

When their views are directly challenged, such erudite individuals usually a) ignore the challenge and hope it goes away; b) belittle the challenger’s qualifications; c) label the challenge “simplistic” even though simpler explanations are generally preferred (“Occam’s Razor) and, as Sowell says, “evasions of the obvious can become very complex;” d) inaccurately ascribe to the challenge claims that are easily refuted; or, increasingly, e) insinuate that the challenger is a bigot or that her thought emanates from a presumably racist or sexist or fascist school of thought. In other words, they deflect instead of trying to defend the indefensible. That is perfectly natural as evidenced by the fact that small children also engage in such deflections, albeit more “simplistically.”

What does this all mean? We have to return to teaching people how to research and think for themselves and not just mindlessly jump on #bandwagons while falling for gross rhetorical tricks. Light rail, it turns out, is just a new term for trolleys. Call low-lying areas where stagnant water accumulates swamps or call them wetlands, they are still just sloughs where mosquitoes breed. Not everything labeled racist actually is; some claims considered “woke” are deeply racist. Calling a piece of legislation the Affordable Care Act does not mean that it will result in more affordable healthcare. Shelter-in-place orders may just be a soft form of martial law that leads to bankruptcy, default, and unemployment, not safety.


U.S. Supreme Court Approves Trump Administration Clean Water Act Pipeline Rules, but Not for Keystone XL

The United States Supreme Court stayed a lower court ruling that was holding up dozens of oil and gas pipeline projects across the nation. The Court’s ruling allows most of the projects, approved under expedited procedures by the Trump administration, to proceed. However, the order exempts the long-delayed expansion of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, continuing the hold on it.

The Supreme Court’s order reverses a nationwide stay issued by Judge Brian Moore of the U.S. District Court of Montana in Army Corps of Engineers v. Northern Plains, on pipeline projects issued under rule developed by the Trump administration to expedite critical pipeline projects, called Nationwide Permit 12 (NP12).

Under NP12 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allows pipelines to be constructed across or underneath bodies of water on an expedited basis, using standardized environmental impact statements. Moore ruled the Army Corps had failed to properly account for the impact individual projects might have on endangered species, ordering a halt to all pipelines approved under NP12, pending the completion of a separate environmental impact statement for each project under the rules that existed before NP12 was issued.

Partial Victory

The Supreme Court’s ruling provide a partial victory to the eighteen states and dozens of companies, consumer groups, and trade associations who sided with the Trump administration in the court battle over NP12 and its attempt to get pipelines built more expeditiously than under the Obama administration.

The ruling should allow more than 70 pipeline projects that had been delayed by Moore’s order to proceed.

Keystone Fight Remains

The last remaining portion of the 1,200-mile Keystone XL Pipeline to be constructed, which would link Canadian oil sands fields to refineries on the Gulf Coast, was not covered by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The vast majority of the pipeline did not need federal approval, having been finished in 2013, running from Alberta, Canada, to Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The final segment needed approval from the U.S. State Department.

Keystone’s developers have projected it will safely transport as much as 830,000 barrels of crude oil from Alberta to Montana, Oklahoma, and Texas, stretching 875 miles through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

Under President Barack Obama, the State Department twice issued reports concluding the pipeline would deliver large quantities of Canadian oil to U.S. refineries, create thousands of jobs, and have minimal environmental impact in the United States. Despite his State Department’s conclusions, Obama denied approval of the final leg of Keystone XL, saying it would contribute to climate change.

The court’s exclusion of the final portions of the Keystone XL pipeline from its order is a setback for President Donald Trump, who had promised to move Keystone forward during his 2016 campaign for the presidency.

Trump signed a presidential memorandum on Jan. 24, 2017, just days after being sworn in as President, ordering the State Department to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to facilitate [the] expeditious review” of the Keystone permit application.

As legal matters stand now, Keystone XL’s developers will have to go through the lengthy process in place under the Obama administration to get the final segment approved and completed.


Australia: One-touch environment assessment regime to hand control to states

Control of environmental assessments will be handed to state governments in return for a new system of national standards under a Morrison government plan to speed up major developments.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the government was consulting with the states over the "one-touch" regime, which would "devolve" the Commonwealth's legal responsibilities to them.

The mining and agriculture sectors welcomed the changes, while environmental groups expressed concern Ms Ley had ruled out an independent watchdog to ensure the states complied with the new standards.

Ms Ley revealed the plan as former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel released the interim findings of his review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which he found was "ineffective and inefficient" and created significant extra costs for business.

"It does not enable the Commonwealth to protect and conserve environmental matters that are important for the nation," Mr Samuel said on Monday.

The Samuel review recommended cutting duplication in environmental regulation by allowing states to approve developments should they meet a strong set of national environmental standards.

The EPBC Act makes the Commonwealth responsible for matters deemed to be of national environmental significance, including the protection and recovery of threatened flora and fauna and World Heritage areas.

Under the bilateral approval system, states would be accredited by the Commonwealth to carry out environmental assessments required under the act.

"This is our chance to ensure the right protection for our environment while also unlocking job-creating projects to strengthen our economy and improve the livelihoods of everyday Australians," said Ms Ley, adding she hoped to introduce legislative changes to parliament this year.

Noting widespread community distrust of the system's ability to adequately protect the environment, the Samuel report said "a strong, independent cop on the beat" that was properly resourced and "not subject to actual or implied political direction from the Commonwealth minister" was required.

Ms Ley said the government would "strengthen compliance functions and ensure that all bilateral agreements with states and territories are subject to rigorous assurance monitoring".

"It will not, however, support additional layers of bureaucracy such as the establishment of an independent regulator," she said.

Since the EPBC Act was established in 1999, the average time taken for large, complex resource projects to be assessed and approved had increased to 1013 days from 817, the Samuel review found.

The Minerals Council of Australia said the proposed changes could deliver "faster approvals, greater national co-operation" and clearer guidelines that would "boost jobs and investment and improve biodiversity outcomes".

National Farmers' Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said the changes were "imperative" to the farm sector and "we must not squander this opportunity for overdue reform".

But environmental advocates said such changes could make a failing system of environmental protection worse.

"Without strong standards and oversight, fast-tracking approvals just fast-tracks extinctions," Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy said.

She said state governments had an interest in approving developments in their jurisdictions and were sometimes even the proponents of potentially damaging developments, and it was not enough to have officers inside a department in oversight roles.

The Wilderness Society's law specialist, Suzanne Milthorpe, said the report showed environmental protection laws were failing, yet the government had proposed devolving federal safeguards to states while also ruling out an independent regulator.

Labor environment spokeswoman Terri Butler said her party would consider the report and blamed a blowout in approval times on Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment budget cuts.

"Since 2014, job and investment delays resulting from federal environment decisions have exploded from 19 days to a massive 116 days – almost 4 months – over the statutory timeframes on average in 2018-19."

Greens environment spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said "the outlook is worse than grim". "The PM must immediately drop his plans to make approvals for big developers, land clearing and new mines easier," she said.

Mr Samuel will consult further with stakeholders before delivering his final report in October.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott attempted to devolve environmental approval powers to the states in 2014 but the changes were blocked in the Senate.



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.  

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