Sunday, August 23, 2020

 Hotter Tropical Soils Emit More Carbon Dioxide: Sixty-five billion metric tons of the plant-warming gas could enter the atmosphere by 2100

This article is one of the more contemptible to come out of the NYT. Does CO2 really WARM plants? First I have heard of it.   It is usually said to warm the whole globe. Its effect on plants is to promote their growth.  And does soil "spew" anything?  It certainly doesn't emit carbon. Carbon is a solid  element. CO2 is a gas.

And what does it matter anyway?  Atmospheric CO2 levels and global temperature are very weakly correlated so claiming a causal relationship between the two is tendentious

Humble dirt could pack an unexpected climate punch according to a new study published in the journal Nature. An experiment that heated soil underneath a tropical rainforest to mimic temperatures expected in coming decades found that hotter soils released 55 percent more planet-warming carbon dioxide than did nearby unwarmed areas.

If the results apply throughout the tropics, much of the carbon stored underground could be released as the planet heats up. “The loss rate is huge,” said Andrew Nottingham, an ecologist at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study. “It’s a badnews story.” The thin skin of soil that covers much of our planet’s land stores vast amounts of carbon — more, in total, than in all plants and the atmosphere combined. That carbon feeds hordes of bacteria and fungi, which build some of it into more microbes while respiring the rest into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Many of these microbes grow more active at warmer temperatures, increasing digestion and respiration rates.

The finding “is another example of why we need to worry more” about how fast the globe is warming, said Eric Davidson, an environmental scientist at the University of Maryland College of Environmental Science in Frostburg who was not involved in the research.

Ecologists began in the early 1990s building apparatuses to artificially heat soils. Such experiments in temperate and boreal forests have shown that carbon-rich soils almost always belch carbon dioxide when warmed. In 2016, a group of researchers estimated that by 2050, soils could release so much of the gas that it would be like adding the carbon emissions of a new country the size of the United States.

But that study left out the perpetually warm, mega-biodiverse tropics, where a third of all soil carbon resides. Figuring out the fate of this carbon would require grappling with the many pitfalls of doing research in the tropics: humidity, storms and hungry animals that can take a toll on research equipment — chewing through electrical wires or protective coverings, for example — and on researchers themselves.

In 2014, Dr. Nottingham, then a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Edinburgh, traveled to Barro Colorado Island, a humancreated island in the Panama Canal area that’s home to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. He buried electrical wires in five circular plots to a depth of nearly four feet. For protection from the elements and ravenous insects, he shielded the wires inside metal structures shaped like freakishly large spiders. Measurements were logged inside weatherproof boxes.

“Our experiment was basically me as a postdoc making things out of a D.I.Y. shop,” Dr. Nottingham said. The team encountered a number of hiccups, including electrical connections that blew up and cost the researchers nearly a year and much of their budget to repair.

Starting in November 2016, the wires’ electrical resistance began warming the soil by almost 6 degrees Fahrenheit, within the range of how much the tropics are projected to warm by century’s end according to current climate models. Other equipment measured the carbon dioxide coming out of both experimental plots and nearby plots that weren’t artificially warmed as well as microbial activity in the plots.

An experiment warming soil in El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico had turned on two months earlier but was pummeled by back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes in September 2017; the study team didn’t turn the power back on for a year.

The results from Dr. Nottingham’s team are sobering: Over two years, warmed soils spewed out 55 percent more carbon than control plots. “This is a very large response,” said Dr. Margaret Torn, an ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley Lab in California, who runs a similar warming experiment in a California forest that reported a roughly 35 percent increase in carbon emissions after two years. “It’s one of the largest I’ve heard of.” If the entire tropics were to behave similarly, the researchers estimate that 65 billion metric tons of carbon would enter the atmosphere by 2100 — more than six times the annual emissions from all human-related sources.

Scaling the results to account for the entire tropics is complicated, however. The soils on Barro Colorado Island are richer in nutrients than many others, such as those of much of the vast Amazon rainforest, Dr. Davidson noted. That could make it easier for the Panamanian microbes to ramp up their activity. Microbial communities in African and Asian soils are very different from those in the Americas, Dr. Torn added.

And while there is agreement that climate models need to treat soil more realistically, how best to do that is unclear. The new study strikes a blow against simple theories predicting that tropical soils will respond weakly to warming, said Kathe Todd- Brown, a soil scientist at the University of Florida in Gainesville who was not part of the research team. But to really get a handle on the problem, she said, modelers will need information about how microbes respond to variations in soil moisture and nutrients in addition to temperature.


Maine Supreme Court Declares Power Line Initiative Unconstitutional

In an unusual move, Maine’s state Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional a ballot initiative that would, if passed by the voters, have blocked a power line project running through Maine to Massachusetts. The state Supreme Court sent the case back to the Superior Court, directing it to rule that the initiative is unconstitutional and barring any legal challenge by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D) to keep it on the ballot.

Who Decides Power Line’s Fate?

In 2019, Maine’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved Central Maine Power’s (CMP) proposed project to construct a 145-mile transmission line cutting through western Maine to Massachusetts, per a deal between the two states, to bring power from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to the region. CMP said the power line is necessary to ensure reliable power, as the region’s coal power plants are being shuttered and new natural-gas power plants and the pipelines to deliver the fuel are being blocked by lawsuits across the northeast region. PUC agreed.

Opponents of the initiative gathered enough signatures to put a ballot initiative before the voters in the November 2020 elections that would reverse PUC’s decision and block the power line.

Supporters of the power line project, including CMP and a subsidiary, New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), challenged the constitutionality of the ballot initiative in court. The plaintiffs argued Maine’s law was clear, that more than 100 years ago the state legislature had delegated to PUC the sole authority over most utility-related decisions. CMP and NECEC also argued it was appropriate for the courts to decide the constitutionality of the ballot initiative.

Supreme Court Reverses Precedent, Lower Court

The decision by the Supreme Court to prevent the initiative from being put before the voters was unprecedented. Courts in Maine have never before blocked an initiative which had garnered the appropriate number of valid signatures. Instead, the courts had always interpreted Maine’s constitution as allowing voters decide an issue at the ballot box. This was the precedent the Superior Court followed when it dismissed opponents’ challenges to the ballot initiative in June, ruling courts did not need to decide the constitutionality of the referendum before the election.

The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, arguing court system did have the power under Maine’s Constitution both to hear the case and to block this particular initiative. During oral arguments, Dunlap testified the Secretary of State’s assistant district attorney general agreed it would be proper for the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of this particular ballot question, and asked it to do so.

“[The referendum] exceeds the scope of the people’s legislative powers conferred by … the Maine Constitution,” the Supreme Court ruled in its August 13 decision, directing the Superior Court to bar the initiative as unconstitutional.

Calls Decision Legal, Beneficial

The Supreme Court’s ruling was correct as a matter of law and will benefit Maine’s economy and its environment, Thorn Dickinson, president of the NECEC, told WBUR.

“They determined that the initiative failed to meet the constitutional requirement,” said Dickenson. “It was clear to me, anyway, that this would be the likely outcome.

“The ruling by the Maine Supreme Court is a victory for the state of Maine and our future, both environmentally and economically,” Dickinson said in a separate press release.


The Green New Deal Means Monumental Disruption

Kamala Harris co-sponsored the Senate resolution to support the Green New Deal. Now Joe Biden has endorsed the plan. Naturally, people want to know what the GND will cost – usually meaning in state and federal government spending. But that is the wrong question.

The real question is, how much do Green New Dealers expect to get out of it, at whattotalcost? Mr. Biden says he wants the feds to spend nearly $7 trillion over the next decade on healthcare, energy and housing transformation, climate change and other GND agenda items. But that is only part of the picture.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who has a degree in some socialist version of economics) and the folks who helped her write Biden's so-called Climate Plan have a clear idea of how much money they want, and pretty much know where they expect the money to come from. Here it is in its clearest form, as stated by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s then chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti:

“The resolution describes the 10-year plan to transform every sector of our economy to remove GHG [greenhouse gases] and pollution. It says it does this through huge investments in renewables, at WW2 scales (which was 40-60% of America’s GDP).”

World War II was a time of great sacrifice and hardship, as part of a dramatic and historic mobilization to win a horrific global war. However, that hard reality doesn’t matter to these folks. They say we are now waging a war to stop catastrophic climate change. So money, sacrifice and disruption are irrelevant.

Our nation’s GDP is around $20 trillion a year, or $200 trillion in ten years. 40-60% of that is $80-120 trillion. For simplicity, let’s call it an even $100 trillion to finance the Green New Deal utopian dream.

$100 trillion! The ways and means of raising this stupendous sum are also clear in their minds. It will be done the same way WW2 was financed, however that was. To them, it’s obvious that we can simply do this, because we did it before. The specifics don’t matter. Government elites will figure them out.

But even this arrogant, cavalier attitude is only part of the picture.

If you read what Green New Dealers say, confusion arises because people think the GND is an ordinary policy proposal:“Here’s what we want done, and this what it should cost.” It is nothing like that. The Green New Deal is more along the lines of,“Here’s the level of effort we require to transform our entire economy, and this is what we should be able to do with that much money.”

People tend to interpret Green New Dealer talk of a WW2-like mobilization as a simple metaphor. But these folks mean it as an actual measure of what they are determined to do. So far they have glossed over and ignored the extreme hardships of mobilization. Here’s just one example – not from front lines mayhem, but from the United States home front during World War II.

“Gasoline, meat and clothing were tightly rationed. Most families were allocated 3 US gallons of gasoline a week, which sharply curtailed driving for any purpose. Production of most durable goods, like cars, new housing, vacuum cleaners and kitchen appliances, was banned until the war ended. In industrial areas housing was in short supply as people doubled up and lived in cramped quarters. Prices and wages were controlled.”

No doubt the Green New Deal mobilization would impose different hardships. But all mobilizations are oppressive. You can’t commandeer half of the GDP without inflicting severe disruption on people’s lives.

The argument is sound in its way, provided there is a need for all-out war – which there is not. The minor to modest temperature, climate and extreme weather changes we’ve been seeing (in the real world  outside computer models) explain why most Americans see no need for a painful war. So does the fact that China, India and other emerging economies are not about to give up fossil fuels anytime soon.

In fact, polls show that roughly half of Americans do not even believe in the idea of human caused global warming, much less that it is an“existential threat,” as Senator Harris claims it is. The latest Gallup poll found that only 1% of US adults consider “climate change/environment/pollution” to be “the most important problem facing this country today.” That’s down from a meager 2% in the May 28-June 4 poll.

Even more revealing, a 2019 AP-NORC poll found that 68% of adult Americans were unwilling to pay even an extra $10 on their monthly electricity bill to combat global warming. Indeed, 57% of them would not be willing to pay more than $1.00 in added electricity charges to fight climate change!

Just wait until they see what the Biden-Harris-AOC-Democrat Green New Deal would cost them.

And it’s not just that their costs would likely skyrocket from an average US 13.2¢ per kilowatt hour (11.4¢ or less in ten states) to well beyond the nearly 20¢ per kWh that families are already paying in California and New York, or the 30¢ that families are now paying in ultra-green Germany. Or that factories, businesses, hospitals, schools and everyone else would also see their costs escalate – with blue collar families, the sick and elderly, poor and minority communities hammered hardest.

It’s that the Green New Deal would force every American to replace their gasoline and diesel cars and trucks with expensive short-haul electric vehicles; their gas furnaces with electric systems; their home, local and state electrical and transmission systems with expensive upgrades that can handle a totally electric economy. They’ll see their landscapes, coastlines and wildlife habitats blanketed with wind turbines, solar panels, transmission lines and warehouses filled with thousands of half-ton batteries. Virtually every component of this GND nation would be manufactured in China and other faraway places.

The cost of this massive, total transformation of our energy and economic system would easily reach $10 trillion: $30,000 per person or $120,000 per family – on top of those skyrocketing electricity prices. And that’s just the energy component of this all-encompassing Green New Deal.

These are stupendous, outrageous costs and personal sacrifices. Every American, at every campaign event and town meeting, should ask Green New Deal supporters if they think America needs to – or can afford to – cough up $10 trillion or $100 trillion over the next ten years. And not let them get away with glib, evasive answers, or attempts to laugh these questions off as meritless or irrelevant.

The American people are not about to be mobilized into an all-out war against dubious climate change, with price tags like these coupled with repeated blackouts, huger personal sacrifices, and massive joblessness in every sector of the economy – except among government ruling classes.

They’ve already seen news stories about the latest rolling blackouts in California (here, here, here and here) – resulting from one-third of that state’s electricity coming from “renewable” sources, and with a good portion of that being hydroelectric, much of it imported from other states. They must be wondering what their lives, livelihoods and living standards would look like under100%wind and solar power.

And yet, once again, even all this insanity is only a small part of the picture.

Remember, the Green New Deal is also about government run healthcare – and an economy and nation where “progressive” and “woke” legislators, regulators, judges and activists tell companies what they can manufacture and sell ... and tell us what we can buy, eat and drink; how and how much we can heat and cool our homes; and what we can read, hear, think and say, as they “transform” our culture and traditions.

The GND is being promoted by politicians, news and social media, “educators” and others who also want to eliminate free enterprise capitalism; have totally open borders, even for criminals and people who might have Covid and other diseases; and want to defund the police, put rapists, looters and arsonists back on our streets, and take away our right and ability to defend ourselves, our homes and our families.

The time to think long and hard about all of this is NOW. Not sometime after the November 3 elections.


Australia: Ban on uranium mining in New South Wales is set to be lifted after 30 years in an effort to create new jobs - but environmentalists are furious

Uranium mining is set be allowed in New South Wales - creating a wave of new jobs - after the government struck a deal with One Nation to lift a ban on the industry.

A bill to be voted on in the upper house of parliament next week calls for the repeal of legislation banning nuclear facilities and uranium mining in the state.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro are understood to have thrown their support behind bill by directly working out a deal with One Nation.

The deal has left some Coalition members in the Liberals and many of Mr Barilaro's Nationals colleagues fuming.

In an effort to appease their party a deal had been struck which would allow uranium mining but keep the existing ban on nuclear facilities, according to 7 News.

Nuclear energy generation is currently banned by the federal government so this part of the deal would only signal intent not to push for any of the power plants.

If the federal government were to lift the ban then the deal would also allow New South Wales to follow suit, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The ban on the industry has been in place since the late 1980s and would likely see significant backlash from nuclear energy opponents in repealed.

Australia has been estimated to hold 30 per cent of the world's uranium reserves - the largest of any single country.

As such, the industry could generate a significant amount of jobs and revenue for the state according to The Minerals Council of Australia chief executive, Tania Constable.

'Australia is endowed with the world's largest uranium resource but is only the third largest producer,' she said.

Ms Constable said if the bans are repealed, it would help strengthen Australia's position as a global uranium producer.

South Australia, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory are currently the only states and territories that allow the mining of uranium.

The arguments against mining of the radioactive metal include the environmental aspects, the dangers of nuclear power, and indigenous land issues.

The draft legislation has also attracted criticism form conservationists. The Australian Conservation Foundation has argued the country doesn't need to explore 'dangerous' nuclear options.

'The state ban on uranium mining has served NSW well and should remain,' Australian Capital Territory nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney said in a statement. 'Uranium mining in New South Wales would risk the health of the environment and regional communities for scant promise of return.'

Cabinet will need to give their final approval of Ms Berejiklian's and Mr Barilaro's deal with One Nation on Monday.



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