Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Children raised in greener neighbourhoods have higher IQs and lower levels of difficult behaviour, study finds

Only a small groan about this study.  Income is of course the big potential confounder.  Rich people tend to be the ones living in leafy areas and they tend to be smarter.

And the researchers knew that and tried to control for it. And they didn't do a bad job. But both the index of income and the index of greenery encountered were geographical rather than personal so the correlations were ecological and such correlations are often high.  The results are not given in correlational form but appear to be undramatic so are lower than expected in the circumstances.  Testing the theory using individual measures could well have confirmed the nul hypothesis.

That the finding is not a strong one is also suggested by the fact that it was found in urban areas only, not in suburban or rural areas

Growing up in an area with more green space is beneficial to a child's intelligence, according to a new study that found those in greener urban areas had a higher IQ.

A team from Hasselt University, Belgium, analysed IQs of over 600 children and then used satellite images to examine the green coverage of their neighbourhoods.

The children in the study were all aged between 10 and 15, according to the team, who say a 3 per cent increase in greenery led to an IQ increase of about 2.6 points.

Researchers also found that children in the study had lower levels of behavioural problems if they lived in an area that more green coverage.

IQ point increases as a result of living in a green environment had the biggest impact on those at the lower end of the spectrum as small changes made a big difference.

This is the first time IQ has been considered as a potential benefit of being exposed to green spaces in childhood - other studies have looked at wider cognitive benefits.

The researchers aren't sure exactly why IQ increases with exposure to a green environment, but suspect it could be to do with lower levels of stress.

The data on IQ and location came from the East Flanders Prospective Twin Survey (EFPTS), a registry of multiple births in the province of East Flanders, Belgium.

The average IQ of those involved was 105 but the team found 4 per cent of the children with a score below 80 had grown up in areas with low greenery levels.

It wasn't just intelligence that was impacted by living in an area that was more green - the team found it also helped improve the behaviour of some of the children.

They found that behavioural problems reduced for every 3 per cent rise in greenery.

The team said that a well planned city could offer unique opportunities to create an 'optimal environment' for children to develop to their full potential.

'Whereas in 1950, only 30 per cent of the world’s population lived in urban areas; nowadays, this is already more than half of the global population, and it is expected to increase to 68 per cent by 2050,' the team explained.

'There is more and more evidence that green surroundings are associated with our cognitive function,' study author Tim Nawrot told The Guardian.

'I think city builders should prioritise investment in green spaces because it is really of value to create an optimal environment for children to develop their full potential.'

According to the study authors the benefits of greenery recorded in urban areas weren't replicated in more rural communities - likely because those areas had enough green space for everyone to benefit so the effects weren't as localised.

The authors believe that a combination of lower noise levels and lower stress levels found in green space areas contribute to the improvements in IQ and behaviour.

Part of this is also due to the fact there are more opportunities for physical and social activities in areas with more greenery - which can improve IQ scores on their own.

'Our results indicate that residential green space may be beneficial for intellectual and behavioural development of children living in an urban environment.

'We showed a shift in the IQ distribution of urban children in association with residential green space exposure,' the authors wrote.

The findings have been published in the journal PLOS Medicine.


California Could Put Out the Fires and Create Real Jobs… or Continue Listening to AOC

The news that Palantir, the prominent tech company co-founded by Peter Thiel, is leaving California for Colorado sends a strong signal that the gold is leaving the Golden State.

To be sure, there’s still plenty of precious value in California.  Apple, headquartered in the Silicon Valley city of Cupertino, just became the first company in the U.S. to be worth $2 trillion, and the state’s economy would rate as the fifth-largest “country” in the world. 

And yet as has been noted here at Breitbart News, the city of Manaus, Brazil, serves as a cautionary tale for those who think that being rich now means being always rich.  Vastly engorged by the rubber trade in the 19th century, Manaus grew complacent and soon toppled from its lofty place in the global economy, never to recover.  Indeed, these days, when so much of life is virtual, one’s physical place matters less—and so the moving, and the unraveling, of a jurisdiction can come quickly.

That’s indeed what has happened on the other coast, in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio’s massive mismanagement is depleting the wealth.  For weeks now, the New York Times, hardly an enemy of leftism, has been publishing ominous articles with headlines such as, “One-Third of New York’s Small Businesses May Be Gone Forever.”  And just on August 13, business author James Altucher, a lifelong New Yorker, published an essay that went further: “NYC is Dead Forever—Here’s Why.”  As Altucher explained, the big variable is Internet bandwidth; if you have enough of it, you can live anywhere.  And if that’s true for New York, it’s true for California–and everywhere.

Okay, so if we return to California, we see plenty of reasons to flee.  One concern is electricity, obviously a basic of civilization.  Will California have enough?  On August 19, the Wall Street Journal editorial detailed power shortages as another reason to skedaddle.  Under the headline, “California’s Green Blackouts,” the Journal added, “Welcome to California’s green new normal, a harbinger of a fossil-free world.”  The editorial concluded:

Democrats in Sacramento are so committed to ending fossil fuels that the hoi polloi are simply going to have to make some sacrifices—such as living with blackouts as if the state were a Third World country.  So shut up and broil, and wait for the Green New Deal to do this for the rest of America.

We can observe that humans can’t flourish without power.  And so those who want a foretaste of what a Green New Deal might be like for America can see it now in the Golden State.  Indeed, it’s interesting that in the midst of this fire season, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proudly tweeted that her video touting the Green New Deal was nominated for an Emmy award.  So to the extent that Californians are influenced by showbiz, we can assume that Hollywood’s bow to AOC will further inspire west coasters to continue supporting Green New Dealish policies.

Such dogmatic “greenery” raises an intriguing paradox, because the crown-jewel companies of California are, in fact, energy hogs.  As energy expert Mark P. Mills wrote back in 2013, the Silicon Valley corporations may claim to be green, and yet they’re really not.  “The enterprise-class data centers—Google, Apple, Facebook etc.—sit in buildings that each dwarf a Wal-Mart,” Mills explained, “and each consumes quantities of electricity that rival a steel mill.”  To put that another way, every time we post something on Facebook, or look up something on Google, we’re all contributing to very un-green levels of power usage.

Thus we see the vise squeezing Big Tech: It needs more power, and California is producing less power.

And now, the latest insult to California’s quality of life and thus to its business climate: Wildfires.

As the Associated Press reported on August 22, some of the largest wildfires in state history have forced thousands to flee, destroyed hundreds of homes, and killed five people.  To be sure, the response has been impressive, as more than 12,000 firefighters, aided by helicopters and air tankers, are battling the fires throughout California.

Yet still, according to the California Office of Emergency Management, as of August 22, some two-dozen fires were burning, and by August 23, more than one million acres had been burned.  We can observe that the firefighters are brave and tenacious, and yet even so, using chemicals, hand-held hoses—even mere shovels—to put out fires is not the best we can do.  California, being the citadel of high tech, should be using more brain, and less brawn.

Of course, the greens have their pat answer: Stop climate change.  And yet even if their science is correct, the fact that China is still building hundreds of coal plants is a reminder that carbon emissions aren’t going anywhere.  Which is to say, whatever California and the U.S. do will be overwhelmed by Chinese CO2 emissions, as well as the emissions of other non-green countries.

So we can see: While Californians are waiting for the yearned-for Green Day to arrive—and that might be a very long time—they’ll still have to figure out how to put out fires.

And if so, why not think big?  Specifically, why not use ocean-water desalination?  You see, there’s a large body of salt water just west of California, and the tiniest fraction of its water, desalinated, could be used to put out fires.

Back in January 2018, this author wrote an imaginary scenario in which California uses its brains to quench the fires:

After a dry summer, wildfires erupted in many places across California.  Fortunately, the governor was ready; the chief executive ordered the state’s 30 seawater desalination plants, from San Diego in the south to Crescent City in the north, to double their normal output.  Billions of gallons of clean, fresh, water from the coastal desalination plants were piped as close as possible to the locations of the fires.  From those points, the water was mostly trucked to the actual firefront, where firefighters quickly put out most of the fires; they simply inundated the flames in a watery avalanche—there was so much water, it was almost easy.

In addition, other harder-to-reach fires were doused from the air, as airplanes “bombed” the flames with endless barrages of desalinated water.  Moreover, helicopters and blimps used a new technique: They skyhooked flexible plastic water pipelines from where they lay on the ground and then pointed them back down at the fires, like a child aiming a garden hose.  The result was that all the fires, statewide, were put out within hours.  Damage was minimal.

None of that has ever happened, of course.  And yet as this author also wrote in 2018, this annual firefest, in a state controlled by Democrats, could pose an opportunity for Republicans.  That is, the GOP could take the lead in advocating  visionary desalination infrastructure.  After all, interest rates are at record lows, so why not borrow big and invest big? 

Indeed, if California ever could get out from under these fires, one could see a rural renaissance, as people could live safely out in the boonies, where land is cheap and spacious, using the same desalinated water for agricultural, industrial, and recreational purposes.

Of course, this transformation would not come without a fight.  Last year, Breitbart News’ Joel Pollak published a three–part series on water in California, detailing how environmentalists and NIMBYs have teamed up to throttle the state’s water supplies, turning much of the Golden State into the Parched State.  In fact, we shouldn’t kid ourselves about the resolve of those who like the status quo to keep it that way.  For hardcore greens, the idea of expanding opportunity for ordinary people to live out in the country is exactly what they do not want to see.

Yet once again, this green-NIMBY axis would give Republicans a worthy target.  That is, Republicans could invoke Abraham Lincoln’s Homestead Act and propose a New Homestead Act, expanding property ownership and thus the conservative middle class.  Surely many Californians, wearying of greens, billionaires, and San Francisco Democrats running everything, would rally to such a proposal.

Yes, one of these days, Californians could desalinate sea water, put out fires, and spur a rural renaissance.  Or, instead, they could keep doing what AOC and the greens want and continue with this perennial burning and suffering.

If California chooses the latter, then the state’s job creators, weary of blackouts and wary of burnouts, will go looking elsewhere.  Colorado beckons.


The flourishing world of climate finance

A thousand flowers are blooming in the world of climate finance. Having largely ignored global warming for decades, banks, borrowers and investors are trying to come up with innovative ways to link financial instruments to environmental metrics.

Much of the excitement centres around variations on green bonds, the proceeds of which are spent on environmentally friendly projects. In 2018 the Seychelles issued the world’s first sovereign “blue” bond, which raised money for marine protection. Last year a handful of “transition” bonds were launched. In this variety the cash is put towards curbing greenhouse-gas emissions of dirty firms. Marfrig, a Brazilian beef-seller , for instance, raised $500m last August to encourage deforestation-free cattle farming. The next month Enel, an Italian utility, issued a sustainability-linked bond, the interest rate on which is connected to the firm’s renewable-energy capacity.

Other innovators are changing not the colour of green bonds, but their inner workings. In December the Danish government said it was working on a new model for green bonds. That would involve splitting a bond into one interest-paying part and one that promises spending on green projects. The two chunks could then be traded separately. This month BNP Paribas, a French bank, issued a green bond in which the returns are linked to a climate index.

The motivation behind such innovation is two-fold. One is to channel capital into worthy projects. A lot more of that money is needed. The UN puts the annual gap in the trillions. The other is good public relations. Investors, banks and corporations are keen to be seen promoting green-tinged financial wizardry. Demand is booming: green-bond issues are many times oversubscribed.

Yet some of these new environmental instruments are struggling to take root. No more sustainability-linked bonds have been launched, despite climate financiers’ claims that they are the next big thing. A new sustainability index is reportedly failing to gain traction with investors. Blue-bond flows are but a trickle. Some investors are questioning the value of transition bonds too.

Part of the reason is to do with the nature of innovation. Not every invention hits the spot. Some need time to blossom. The markets are being shaped by lots of competing interests, including those of corporates, investors, regulators and environmental campaigners. That slows down progress. And new financial products must strike the right balance between innovation and familiarity to institutional investors. Without the latter, they will never attract meaningful amounts of money.

Another, more cynical explanation is that the PR shine fades fast. The first issuance of a flashy new green product makes headlines. The tenth goes unnoticed. For financiers and corporates the incentive can be to come up with something new, rather than to use something old.

When new green instruments do take off, a process of standard-setting has to take place. Rules must be agreed on to reassure both investors and environmentalists. That is what helped the first wave of green bonds. The first one was issued in 2008. Six years later, a set of green-bond principles were agreed upon. That helped the market grow to $271bn in new issuance last year. That is still only around 5% of total global bond issuance, but it is a success story in sustainable finance nonetheless. If any of the newfangled bonds do take root, they too will require several years and common standards to reach a similar scale.

Newsletter from The Economist

Australia: Global warming diehards object to natural gas

Gas can actually replace coal so that is no good

A group of leading Australian scientists has taken the unusual step of writing to the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, saying his support for gas as an energy source "is not consistent with a safe climate".

"We are making a definite and profound statement that the advice the Chief Scientist is giving is in opposition to the evidence the Australian scientific community has gathered about the climatic system and the way it is changing," Professor Will Steffen, the founding director of the Australian National University's Climate Change Institute, said of the decision to write the letter.

The letter's signatories include many world-leading Australian experts and lead authors with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They include professors John Church, Matthew England and Steven Sherwood from the University of NSW's Climate Change Research Centre, Professor Mark Howden of the Australian National University and Professor Graeme Pearman of the University of Melbourne.

"We are writing to you as Chief Scientist with our concerns about your strategy for dealing with climate change, and to offer any scientific advice that you might find useful on climate change issues," begins the letter, which is signed by 25 scientists.

Professor Steffen said the scientists' decision to take the unusual step of speaking out about the Chief Scientist was prompted in part by elements of Dr Finkel's address to the National Press Club in February, as well as other public comments he has made about gas.

Professor Steffen said more would have signed the letter but could not as they were employed by government agencies such as the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.

In the speech Dr Finkel outlined how Australia needed to electrify its energy system to meet Paris climate goals.

He said that as renewable energy generation, storage and transmission technologies are scaled up to decarbonise the economy, gas would play a "critical role", and that the transition could take decades.

The speech, made shortly before the government embraced a gas-led economic recovery from the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, caused concern among elements of the scientific community who see gas as an increasingly destructive global warming agent.

"He seems to be speaking in ignorance of or [to be] ignoring the overwhelming amount of evidence gathered by his own scientific community about the impact of the gas industry on the climate," said Professor Steffen.

Professor Steffen said that Australia's Paris climate targets were weak, set politically and had no scientific basis; that even if they were to be met Australia would still not be doing its fair share to mitigate global warming under the agreement, and that the use of gas as a transition energy source was quickly making the situation worse.

In the letter the scientists applaud Dr Finkel's support for a transition to renewable energy, but take issue with his support for the government's advocacy for an ongoing role for gas.

"Our concern ... relates to the scale and speed of the decarbonisation challenge required to meet the Paris Agreement, and, in particular, your support for the use of gas as a transition fuel over ‘many decades'," they write.

"Unfortunately, that approach is not consistent with a safe climate nor, more specifically, with the Paris Agreement. There is no role for an expansion of the gas industry."

"The combustion of natural gas is now the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, the most important greenhouse gas driving climate change.

"On a decadal time frame, methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

"In Australia, the rapid rise in methane emissions is due to the expansion of the natural gas industry. The rate of methane leakage from the full gas economy, from exploration through to end use, has far exceeded earlier estimates."

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor as well as the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission support gas as an energy source that is less carbon intensive than coal and that can quickly be ramped up or down to support renewable energy sources in the grid.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Chief Scientist said Dr Finkel was considering his response and would comment in due course.

A spokesman for Mr Taylor said that the International Energy Agency has estimated that coal-to-gas switching has avoided more than half a billion tonnes of emissions between 2010 and 2018.

"A separate CSIRO assessment of Queensland LNG production found that gas alone can reduce emissions from electricity production by up to 50 per cent. When gas backs up solar and wind, the emissions savings are even greater.

"Australia's gas exports are reducing emissions in importing countries overseas where they displace more emissions-intensive alternatives or backup renewables.

Dr Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project and a chief research scientist at the CSIRO said greenhouse gas emissions from the gas industry in Australia were "skyrocketing".

"They are not taking Australia in the direction it needs to go."



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


No comments: