Friday, July 22, 2022

Extinction threat may be greater than previously thought, new global study finds

This is an utter crock. How can they know how many extinctions there have been since 1500? It's pure guesswork. They would need periodic species counts since that year if they were to substantiate their claims and there are no such species counts. There is not even a final count of how many species there are at the moment

The global extinction crisis underway may be more intense than previously thought as humans continue to tear up land, overuse certain resources and heat up the planet, new research led by the University of Minnesota indicates.

Nearly one in three species of all kinds — 30% — face global extinction or have been driven to extinction since the year 1500, according to the new survey published in the journal "Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment."

That's significantly higher than prevailing global estimates and the findings surprised lead author Forest Isbell, associate professor in the university's Department of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior. He said one of the reasons is that it takes more insects and other lesser-studied species groups into account.

"I honestly figured it was much lower," Isbell said. "I would have estimated it was 20%."

Prevailing global estimates have ranged from 12.5% across all species groups to 25% of the well-studied ones, such as animals and plants, he said.

Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, called the numbers "quite alarming."

"It took many years for climate change to become a prominent household concern," Greenwald said. "The extinction crisis is really part and parcel of a similar scope and severity to climate change."

Healy Hamilton, chief scientist at the nonprofit research group NatureServe, said the numbers do not surprise her. She said her organization has demonstrated for years that about one-third of plants and animals in the United States are vulnerable to extinction or have already become extinct. The new survey's real power is the broad geographic and taxonomic coverage, she said.

"The majority of species on the planet are plants and insects and other invertebrate animals that we know so little about we cannot even determine the extent to which they are threatened," she said. "And yet those are the very species which help purify our air, filter our water, maintain the health of our soils, pollinate plants we need for food, fuel and fiber, and provide medicines to hundreds of millions of people."

The new findings are the result of a survey that elicited 3,331 responses from biodiversity experts around the world studying in nearly 200 countries. The 30% figure is the median of the middle-tier estimates respondents provided, which ranged from 16 to 50%.

Further, the study found that if trends continue, by the end of the century the imperiled share will grow to 37%, a share that could be significantly reduced if conservation efforts were immediately escalated. Overall, the respondents agreed that the loss of biological diversity is decreasing the functioning of ecosystems "and nature's contributions to people."

Scientists are working to understand biodiversity loss and its impacts and do not know exactly how many species exist on the planet. The study did not put a specific number behind the percent of species threatened or gone.

"There's huge uncertainty with these numbers," Isbell said. "The value is actually asking people for their input from everywhere."

Interestingly, female biodiversity experts from the global south provided much higher loss estimates. Forest said he thinks part of the explanation is that the women work in regions where biodiversity loss is more intense, and because men disproportionately study the less-threatened species.

He said he's not sure what the results say about the threat to species in Minnesota. But he said the state is part of a wealthy country and there is a trend in those responses, he said.

"People from wealthy countries systematically provided lower estimates for biodiversity loss in the past and more pessimistic estimates for the future," he said. Isbell said he does not know why.


New study finds that each year almost 80 times more Britons die from cold than from heat

So global warming should SAVE lives, not cost them

Each year in England and Wales, there were on average nearly 800 excess deaths associated with heat and over 60,500 associated with cold between 2000 and 2019, according to a new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

The study, which is the most comprehensive assessment of mortality risks related to outdoor temperature across the two countries, found that exposure to both heat and cold is associated with substantial excess mortality, but with important differences across geographical areas and population sub-groups.

The study was led by researchers from the Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), in collaboration with the UK Health Security Agency and researchers from several European universities.

The team found that London had the highest heat-related mortality rate, with 3.21 excess deaths per 100,000 people, which translates to 170 heat-related excess deaths each year. Heat-related risks were also much greater in urban areas across the two countries.

In contrast, the risk of death associated with the cold was highest in the North East of England and Wales, with an excess mortality rate of 140.45 deaths and 136.95 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively. London had the lowest risk associated with cold temperatures, with 113.97 deaths per 100,000 people (almost 5800 cold-related excess deaths each year).

Consistent with existing scientific evidence, the research findings showed that the impacts of cold, and to a lesser extent heat, were more prevalent in deprived areas. In addition, older people were the most vulnerable to both heat and cold, with mortality risk of over 85 year olds twice as high as that of people aged 0 to 64.

With the number of temperature-related deaths set to rise under the projected climate trends, the researchers call for targeted policies and better adaptation strategies to prevent more severe health consequences from both heat and cold.

Dr Antonio Gasparrini, Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at LSHTM and lead author of the study, said: “This study offers a thorough evaluation of the health impacts of heat and cold across England and Wales, and provides several epidemiological indicators for more than 37,000 areas across the two countries. These include estimates of the optimal temperature range, as well as impact measures such as excess mortality for heat and cold.

“The detailed mapping of health burdens can help identify high-risk areas and population sub-groups. In particular, the results showed that the impacts of both heat and cold were stronger in more deprived areas. Understanding these patterns is a critical step to designing effective public health policies at local and national levels and protecting vulnerable groups, especially during the current cost of living crisis.”

The researchers analysed 10.7 million deaths that occurred in England and Wales between 2000 and 2019 across over 37,473 small areas that include around 1,600 residents, also known as lower super output areas (LSOAs). They then linked these data with high-resolution gridded temperature maps and potential drivers of vulnerability to heat and cold, including demographic and socio-economic factors, health and disability, housing and neighbourhood, landscape, and climatological characteristics. This allowed the researchers to characterise differences across small areas and map variation in temperature-related mortality risks across the two countries.

Dr Pierre Masselot, Research Fellow in in Environmental Epidemiology and Statistics at LSHTM and co-author of the study, said: “The results come at a critical time as countries and communities face increasing health impacts due to climate change and need to find effective ways to adapt to changing temperatures. The analytical framework also provides a flexible tool that can be adapted for future studies which aim to model temperature-related risks and impacts at small-area level under different climate change scenarios.”

The authors emphasised that, while the research showed that excess mortality attributed to cold was significantly higher than that attributed to heat, these results should be interpreted with caution as more cold than hot days were recorded throughout the year. Despite this, they highlighted that cold-related mortality is evidently a considerable health burden, particularly in deprived areas, and should be addressed with targeted public health interventions.


Heatwaves and floods reduce nuclear power generation somewhat too

Making the need for reserve dispatchable energy even more urgent

The UK Met Office weather agency registered a reading of 40.3 degrees at Coningsby in Lincolnshire which established a new record that had been set elsewhere hours earlier. Prior to Tuesday, the highest temperature in Britain was 38.7 set in 2019. By later in the afternoon, 29 locations in the UK had broken the 2019 record.

New York City is predicted to hit the Fahrenheit ton (38 degrees Celsius) on Sunday. It happens. In fact, it has happened 31 times since 1870. The Big Apple hasn’t clocked a ton since 2012 but it did so in three consecutive years from 2010. 90 percent of dwellings in New York City are air-conditioned but of the 167,000 public housing dwellings putting a roof over 335,000 heads across the five burrows, less than fifty per cent are air-conditioned. Most of these homes are in medium rise buildings where, when the mercury tips 30 degrees celsius outside, it’s 35 degrees inside.

We’re not unused to these temperatures in Australia, of course. Three quarters of Australian homes either have air-conditioning or evaporative coolers. In the UK, the figures aren’t easy to find but Britain’s Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy put the number of air-conditioned homes in Great Britain at less than five per cent of all dwellings. Ouch.

Meanwhile in France, five of the country’s 18 nuclear reactors were forced to drop their output, placing pressure on supply when demand is at peak levels. France is expected to be protected from the looming energy crisis in much of the rest of western Europe driven by an addiction to cheap Russian energy to power industry, cool and warm homes.

70 percent of all electricity generated in France comes from nuclear energy. But French nuclear reactors for the most part are located on river systems and regulatory guidelines oblige them to reduce their outputs by half when down river water temperatures rise by 0.3 celsius or more. If river temperatures exceed 30 degrees, the plants cannot cool and must shut down. With regulated reductions in place, the 70 percent figure of nuclear energy’s contribution to the French national grid has been reduced to 50 percent over the last ten days.

The pressure on the electricity grid has meant the French state-owned energy company, EDF, has sought and received exemptions or derogations from ASN (the French Nuclear Safety Authority) in three of the five power plants. But in the Blayais plant, located on the banks of an estuary where the Dordogne River meets the Atlantic near Bordeaux, the regulations do not permit derogation and the production target announced by EDF is incompatible with the operating limits of the plant.

Across the Channel, Great Britain’s eight nuclear power plants remain online and pumping. A spokesman for EDF (yes, the French national company owns those, too) told media, “All of EDF’s UK nuclear power plants benefit from the cooling effects of a coastal location and are therefore less likely to experience the highest temperatures forecasted or recorded in the UK. Scenarios like heatwaves are factored into safety cases and plant design to ensure continued safe operation.

“We will keep the conditions under review and if temperatures continue to rise there are a range of actions we can take to mitigate this including monitoring of plant condition and increasing ventilation.”

On 19 July the French Finance Ministry announced that they intend to pay $14.8 billion or $16 a share to buy the 16 percent of the debt riddled EDF it does not already own. The nationalisation is an attempt to soothe nervous creditors over the company’s net published debt at $63.6 billion in 2021 with an estimated $6 billion to be added in red ink to EDF’s profit and loss this year.

Thus, in a cruel twist of irony for Brexiteers, much of the company’s revenues from its nuclear power plants in Great Britain will go straight back over the Channel.

EDF is currently building the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset, the first nuclear power plant to be constructed in the UK in a generation. The project is being financed by EDF Energy and China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN).

There have been delays and cost overruns but there is now hope Hinkley Point C will come online some time in 2027 where it is planned to provide 13 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs. Construction began in 2017. It received a nuclear site licence from the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation in 2012.

The long lead time for nuclear power plants to go online and just who owns and finances them notwithstanding (it’s either the French or the Chinese these days), little has been said about the problems associated with nuclear energy generation during heatwaves. I’ve certainly not come across it in the debate about nuclear energy in Australia which, as we know, is prone to suffer heatwaves that would have the English running around in their underpants and, with climate change, we’re bound to get a lot more of them.

Just in case you’re wondering, nuclear power plants don’t go well during floods much. In 1999, a combination of high winds and incoming tides breached the sea wall around the Blayais nuclear plant leading to what was described as a “level two incident” in the one-to-seven International Nuclear Event Scale.

For those who cheer as the renewables bandwagon passes, the bad news is that photovoltaic cells -- solar panels don’t prosper in extreme heat either. In this Northern Hemisphere heat wave, Germany broke its national record for solar power generation earlier this week. Solar panels are designed to operate optimally at 25 degrees. They continue to operate at peak efficiency up to 35 degrees. Beyond that, efficiency drops markedly.


Australia's Greenie Luddites

Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio certainly has chutzpah. This week she demanded the Australian Energy Market Operator be given stronger powers to make sure that there’s enough gas in Victoria to keep the lights on. Queensland LNG exporters are being forced to bail out Victoria, but the state’s pain is all self-inflicted.

Nobody bears more responsibility than Ms D’Ambrosio for the farcical reality that Victoria is sitting on top of massive onshore reserves of natural gas in the Gippsland and Otway basins, while power prices skyrocket, industries shut down, and the poor shiver in unheated homes.

But there’s plenty of blame to share around. For more than a decade Victorians have voted in governments of the right and left that have banned the fracking of unconventional gas and then enshrined the ban in the constitution to make it harder to undo. They even put a moratorium on conventional gas exploration and when it ran out, government incentives all subsidised the development of renewable energy.

Australia has built four to five times more solar and wind energy than Europe, the US, Japan or China but now hapless Victorians are discovering that to get through a ‘renewable drought’ which analysts forecast could cause a one-terawatt shortage between now and September, the state would need about 7500 batteries like the one Elon Musk built for the South Australian government, after it cheerfully blew up a coal-fired power plant. The cost? A cool $700 billion.

The energy shortfalls come because our giant energy producers across the National Electricity Market – stretching from South Australia and Tasmania through Victoria and NSW to Queensland – are accelerating the closure of coal-fired power plants.

Liddle in NSW shut a 400MW unit in April. It will shut another 1200MW next April and in 2025, Eraring, the largest plant in Australia will close, seven years earlier than expected, taking out 2922MW, around 20 per cent of NSW’s power. By 2030, two-thirds of our coal-fired power will have been blown up by our latter-day Luddites.

You can hardly blame the providers. Ever since the introduction of the federal renewable energy target by the Howard government in 2001, followed by state targets, governments have ensured power companies receive hefty subsidies for unreliable renewables and crushing penalties for reliable fossil fuels. Why wouldn’t they shut down coal and not build gas when there was an 85 per cent increase in power prices after the accelerated closure of Victoria’s Hazelwood power station?

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews sneered when former federal energy minister Angus Taylor tried to get the states and territories to see sense and sign up to an energy security mechanism that would prevent power companies closing coal-fired power plants until they were replaced with dispatchable energy. One of its biggest critics was none other than Ms D’Ambrosio who sniffed that the Andrews government wouldn’t support a scheme which delayed the clean energy transition or locked in ‘outdated’ technology. Mr Andrews dubbed the scheme ‘Coalkeeper’ because for green zealots coal is a four-letter word. Victoria was hardly alone. Others, including NSW Liberal Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean, were equally dismissive.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has provided a brutal wake-up call to Europe, the UK, and the US. Faced with soaring energy prices enriching Mr Putin and funding his war, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and Austria opted to fire up their coal-fuelled power generators. Indeed, 345 new coal-fired power stations are being built around the world and China and India are expanding their coal mining operations by 700 million tonnes a year, almost twice Australia’s annual production.

Yet Australian politicians seem oblivious to this reality, still in the grips of carbon dioxide-driven delusions, with Prime Minister Albanese fighting to legislate his economy-killing emissions reduction target of 43 per cent by 2030 while the Greens push for a target of 75 per cent.

‘Democracy’, said H.L. Mencken, ‘is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.’ Today, Australians are getting good and hard the policies for which they voted. Let’s hope next time Australians vote for a party that will keep the lights on.




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