Monday, May 01, 2017

An old Greenie scare now looks even more ridiculous

Mainly in the '70s Greenies were wailing that the world's known reserves of potassium compounds -- such as potash -- were not enough to last us much longer.  And potassium is needed for bone health.  So we were all in danger of crumbling bones.  Potash is in fact found worldwide.  The "known reserves" were simply what was most cheaply mined.  But then a big discovery of potash in North Africa was announced, which put the "known rserves" up way beyond scare levels.  So the story below is amusing.  It turns out that even Britain has huge amounts of the stuff under the ground that can economically be mined.  Another Greenie scare has turned out to be a total false prophecy.  Your bones are safe

The Queen is among a clutch of landowners set to share a £3.8bn windfall from the largest mine dug in Britain. Dozens of small farmers in North Yorkshire could become multimillionaires thanks to a gigantic deposit of fertiliser a mile below the moors.

Sirius Minerals lifted the lid last week on the riches that will be unlocked for local people and estate owners by its mine. It broke ground on the project in North York Moors national park this year.

The company aims to tap a 70-metre deep seam of polyhalite, a mineral-rich form of potash. The £2.3bn mine is expected to reach peak production in the mid-2020s.


The economic prospects of advanced coal technologies have never seemed so promising

Despite all of the attention given to wind and solar power, the development and deployment of advanced coal technologies may be far more important in shaping our energy future. Consider where world energy use and research is headed. Coal, and other fossil fuels, remain the backbone of the global energy system and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

If the politics of coal have never seemed so anguished, the economic prospects of advanced coal technologies with higher generating efficiencies have never seemed so promising. Not so far into the future, several new coal technologies are expected to come into greater commercial use in the United States. The best known are new pulverized coal combustion systems, operating at increasingly higher temperatures and pressures, and plants with an integrated gasification combined cycle. Increasing the average efficiency rate of the U.S. coal fleet from 33 to 40 percent using these available technologies would reduce coal-plant emissions by between 14 and 21 percent.

And there may yet be cost-cutting breakthroughs in the development of techniques to capture carbon emissions from power plants – both coal and natural gas units -- and use the carbon to produce petrochemicals, plastics and other useful products. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other leading universities are trying to come up with the answers.

Global warming will continue unless all countries reduce carbon emissions. That's because most countries burn coal, which is responsible for about 45 percent of the world's carbon emissions. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that even as coal's share of U.S. electricity generating capacity declines, its world use will rise from about 30 percent today to 50 percent by 2035.

Its environmental impact notwithstanding, coal is a practical energy option for fast-growing economies like China and India, which don't have large natural gas resources. These countries are determined to grow their economies and lift millions of people out of poverty, and do it at the least cost possible.

Given the certainty that coal will continue to play a large and indispensable role in electricity production, the way forward requires the deployment of innovative coal technologies to mitigate carbon emissions.

The World Coal Association says that lifting the average global efficiency rate of coal plants to 40 percent compared to 33 percent today would reduce carbon output by an amount equal to India's annual carbon emissions, which are among the highest in the world. Some coal plants operating with ultra-supercritical technology in Europe and Japan are already achieving efficiencies in the 42 to 46 percent range.

Importantly, higher efficiencies are a critical step toward the use of carbon capture, use and storage technology, without which, it is highly improbable that global carbon emissions can be brought down to acceptable levels.

Despite the challenges, several projects have been launched to develop and test processes for capturing and sequestering carbon. Most of this activity is under way in the United States, and its cost is being shared by government and private industry. For example, NRG Energy is pumping carbon dioxide 80 miles by pipeline from its coal-burning Parish power plant in Texas and using it to extract more oil and natural gas from old wells.

Exxon Mobil is a major partner in a carbon mitigation project that uses fuel cells – devices that generate electricity through chemical reactions. The idea is to connect fuel cells to fossil-fuel plants, so that the fuel cells can generate additional power to make up for the cost of sequestering the carbon.

In Alberta, Canada, a company is injecting carbon captured from a natural gas plant and injecting it into concrete. The process reduces the need for composite material when making concrete and makes it stronger. So far it's been put into use at about 50 concrete plants over the past two years.

And in Mississippi, a Southern Company power plant that burns lignite coal strips out about 65 percent of the carbon from gas emissions, then pumps it to other companies for use in enhanced oil recovery.

The basic attraction of coal remains its low cost and abundance. In the next 10 to 20 years, coal's value is likely to grow, as advanced coal plants, including some retrofitted with carbon capture, meet the world's growing need for energy while helping reduce greenhouse emissions.


Liberals have epic meltdown after NYT columnist suggests science behind climate change isn’t certain

Bret Stephens, one of the New York Times’ newest conservative columnists, endured a wrath of anger from liberals on Friday who proceeded to meltdown after his first column for the Times stated that “climate change” isn’t certain.

The general idea of Stephens’ column was that the science behind “climate change” is not certain — despite claims from climate change alarmists that it is — and that when uncertain science is deemed certain it undermines science as a whole.

“Claiming total certainty about the science traduces the spirit of science and creates openings for doubt whenever a climate claim proves wrong,” Stephens wrote.

“None of this is to deny climate change or the possible severity of its consequences. But ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism. They know — as all environmentalists should — that history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power,” he explained.

To put it lightly, liberals and climate change alarmists lost their minds. They proceeded to lambaste Stephens on Twitter:

“literally go f*ck yourself, new york times. go eat dog d*cks,” wrote another user.

All of the outrage over his column, or his assertion that it’s OK to be skeptical of climate change despite those who claim it to be “settled science,” didn’t get past Stephens.

“After 20 months of being harangued by bullying Trump supporters, I’m reminded that the nasty left is no different. Perhaps worse,” he responded.

However, the hate continued to pour in.

“bret if you think that tweet was “nasty” i have some news for you: you’re a sh*thead. a crybaby lil f*ckin weenie. a massive tw*t too,” wrote one journalist.

“Oh no, someone said you should get fired, how dare they insult you for being a huge piece of sh*t, on record, over and over again,” added another Twitter user.

“f*ck you, crybaby,” said yet another.

In response to the outrage, the New York Times tweeted its coverage of climate change to its followers on Friday.

But for many liberals who are afraid to read anything they disagree with, publishing Stephens’ column was the final straw. Many called the Times’ subscription office to cancel their subscription of the paper.


Appeals panel agrees to delay case on coal plant pollution

The Trump administration has successfully delayed a legal fight over enforcing Obama-era restrictions on pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Thursday granted a request from the Environmental Protection Agency to postpone a planned hearing on 2012 rules requiring energy companies to cut emissions of toxic chemicals. Though the regulations are finalized and already in effect, the new administration told the court it intends to rewrite them.

It is the latest in a string of moves by President Donald Trump's appointees to help companies that profit from burning fossil fuels. Trump has pledged to reverse decades of decline in a U.S. coal industry under threat from such cleaner sources of energy as natural gas, wind turbines and solar farms.


Another stupid Greenie prophecy from Australia:  "The Reef will never be the same again"

This is just straight Greenie propaganda, with no regard to all the facts.  The GBR has had some bleaching events lately but it is nothing compared to Bikini Atoll, which had a thermonuclear device exploded above it.  And Bikini coral is thriving again.  If coral on Bikini can survive that, why should not the GBR survive infinitely lesser stressors?

And attributing the isolated bleaching to global warming is just assertion.  They offer no evidence for it.  The best evidence is that it is due to sea-level changes, not ocean warming.

It does seem that the 2015/2016 summer bleaching was repeated in summer this year (2016/2017).  Since water levels change only slowly, that is to be expected.

And note that, while they are busily attributing the bleaching to global warming, they give not a single number for either the global water temperature or the North Queensland water temperature.

So let me supply some numbers: NASA/GISS Tell us that the global December 2016 temperature (mid-summer) was .77, which was DOWN on December 2015 (1.10)and even slightly down on 2014 (.79).  So in the period at issue, there was NO global warming.  So the guys below are lying through their teeth.  They say that the bleaching was caused by global warming but there WAS no global warming in the period concerned.

And they also don't give numbers for sea levels in the area.  They are zealously hiding the real cause of the bleaching

THE biggest jewel in Australia’s tourism crown will never look the same again — and to fix it, Australia needs a worldwide hand.

Made up of 3000 individual reef systems, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living organism. It is home to 300 species of coral and a vast array of fish, molluscs, starfish and other marine life.

The Reef also supports a $6 billion tourism industry that provides employment for 69,000 people — all of which is in strife if environmental degradation causes significant, widespread harm.

Already back-to-back coral bleaching episodes have taken their toll, wiping out nearly 600km of coral mostly in the far north.

Caused by rising ocean temperatures that kill food-generating algal organisms inside the coral, no one can say with any confidence that bleaching will not become an annual event.

Even more worrying, scientific data suggests a further two-degree increase in ocean temperatures would wipe-out most of the hard corals.

The man in charge of the Reef Recovery program at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Dr Mark Read, concedes it will never look the same again.

Although some corals will build up a resilience to warmer temperatures, a number of species are facing extinction.

“I think it’s going to end being a real mosaic,” said Dr Read.

“Some parts of the Reef are going to look more classic — hard coral-dominated — that we’re familiar with while other parts will be less dominated by hard coral and more dominated by soft coral and algae.”

While natural habitats are destined to change over time, Dr Read says in the Reef’s case, mankind has contributed to the “current accelerated period of heating” causing coral bleaching.

“We are talking about a global phenomenon,” Dr Read said.

“(Coral bleaching) is happening all around the world where you have hard coral. The Great Barrier Reef has been hit particularly hard, so it’s front of mind.”

Among the strategies being used by his team to aid in the Reef’s recovery, are ensuring activities in the area do not adversely impact the delicate marine environment; tackling the insidious Crown of Thorns starfish; improving water quality and reducing the volume of debris that finds its way into the massive water park.

Together those initiatives will make a difference but Dr Read admits they won’t prevent more episodes of coral bleaching.

“In terms of dealing with the warming per se, that is something that needs to be tackled at that global level,” he said.

“What we do, and what we can do is reduce as many of the direct pressures on the Reef to enhance its capacity to bounce back.”

Those who make a living from the Reef are watching the situation with some trepidation.

Despite chalking up their best tourism season since 1997 in 2016, long-term operators know the back-to-back coral bleaching events that have received global coverage will eventually take their toll.



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   main.html or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Motor vehicles and particulate pollution

The article below appeared under the heading "Toxic diesel particles penetrate right through to the heart, scientists warn".  But the research concerned showed no such thing.

The article is part of a decades-long Greenie campaign to demonize motor vehicles by showing that they are harmful to health. And there have been countless studies showing that people who live beside busy roads do have more illness of various sorts.  It has been known for decades that that proves nothing but the studies keep rolling out.

It proves nothing because it is mostly poor people who live beside busy roads.  Richer people can afford more leafy environments.  And the poor have more illness in general -- for reasons that I will glide over -- so the illnesses shown by road studies could well be poverty effects, not pollution effects.

So to the study below:  It was an experiment using particles of gold so was from the beginning inconclusive -- unless motor vehicles start spewing out gold for their tailpipes.

And even using gold no health effects were shown.   All that was shown was that nanoparticles can be very penetrative in the body, which we already knew.  There is a whole literature on the possible effects of nanoparticles too.

So if motor vehicle emissions cause ill-health we are still waiting on a study to show that. No doubt at some level they do cause harm but where is the cutoff?  Do such emissions cause harm in normal life?

There is a reason why they probably do not.  We in fact breathe in all sorts of junk every day.  But our bodies are used to that and normally cope with it seamlessly.  They even cope with all the poisons in tobacco smoke pretty well. There are a lot of Jewish centenarians in NYC and about a third of them smoke.

So the only reasonable question about motor emissions is whether or not they increase the disease burden beyond the already low level that other atmospheric pollutants inflict?  Considering what we cope with already, it seems unlikely.

And note that even mesothelioma, a disease that stems from heavy exposure to asbestos fibres, is normally not fatal or even apparent until the patient is in his 60s.  Asbestos fibres are quite large particles compared with what we have been talking about here but even they are very slow to inflict harm.  If the body tolerates even asbestos fibres relatively well, why should we believe that much smaller particles are not well tolerated?

Toxic particles from diesel vehicles can work their way through the lungs and into the bloodstream, raising the risk of heart attacks and strokes, researchers have proved for the first time.

The nanoparticles, which cannot be traced by Government measuring equipment, stay in the body for months and tend to build up in areas that are most prone to disease.

Scientists have long known that air pollution is bad for the lungs, but until now they did not know whether exhaust particles were able to penetrate further into the body.

A team at Edinburgh University used harmless gold nanoparticles, at an equivalent size to diesel, in a human experiment that simulated cycling through a city.

By looking at surgically removed body samples they found that the gold had accumulated in the fatty areas inside blood vessels that are responsible for heart attack and strokes.

This tallies with previous research showing that cardiovascular disease, of which stroke is a form, accounts for 80 per cent of the roughly 50,000 premature deaths from air pollution each year in the UK.

The scientists say the findings are particularly worrying as officials only have the capacity to measure the overall volume of pollution particles in the air, rather than their number.

While the overall volume of pollution has been falling, they say the number of the most toxic tiny particles able to get deep inside the body is on the rise.

Dr Nicholas Mills, Professor of Cardiology at Edinburgh and one of the study’s co-authors, said: “We have always suspected that nanoparticles in the air that we breath could escape from the lung and enter the body, but until now there was no proof.

“These findings are of wide importance for human health, and we must now focus our attention on reducing emissions and exposure to airborne nanoparticles.”

While petrol particles are also able to penetrate the lungs, a petrol engine will throw out roughly 50 times fewer particles than a diesel engine of equivalent size, the researchers said.

The particles are also capable of penetrating the masks worn by some cyclists to avoid pollution.

Dr Mark Miller, who led the Edinburgh study, said: “It is striking that particles in the air we breathe can get into our blood where they can be carried to different organs of the body.

“Only a very small proportion of inhaled particles will do this, however, if reactive particles like those in air pollution then reach susceptible areas of the body then even this small number of particles might have serious consequences.”

It is possible to fit filters onto diesel vehicles to reduce the number of particles they emit, however these can make cars and lorries inefficient, burning more fuel overall, as well as more expensive.

The research team said a mandatory imposition of filters on all vehicles was premature.


Climate Bullies Take to the Streets for ‘People’s Climate March’

Most Americans are unaware of the vicious campaign waged by climate activists against people who do not recite the strictest tenets of the manmade-climate-change creed.       The People’s Climate March is Saturday, April 29, and it will be the third iteration of an anti-Trump rally just this month. (April has been busy for the perpetually agitated.) It is a day when lefties accomplish little more than exposing their planet-sized hypocrisy on the environment: Eco-celebs such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo will walk arm-in-arm to lament the Earth’s destruction by greedy fossil-fuel companies, and then they will jet off to their next fossil-fuel-powered movie set to make millions. Jerry Brown, Andrew Cuomo, and other politicians will lecture us about the dangers of CO2 as they close zero-emission nuclear plants in their own states. Millennials will snap selfies on cellphones that operate off an electric grid powered by natural gas made abundantly available by the fracking they will protest.

According to its website, here is the point of the People’s Climate March:
On the 100th Day of the Trump Administration, we will be in the streets of Washington D.C. to show the world and our leaders that we will resist attacks on our people, our communities and our planet.

Now set aside for a moment the comical idea that angry anti-Trumpers, who have been in attack mode since November 8, are themselves under attack. This statement reveals the height of hypocrisy from the climate crowd; they are the bullies attacking anyone who dares to question climate science or who doubts whether human activity is causing climate change. Most Americans are unaware of the vicious campaign — including character assassination, political witch-hunts, and media propaganda — waged by climate activists against people who do not recite the strictest tenets of the manmade-climate-change creed.

When the New York Times announced a few weeks ago that it had hired Bret Stephens, a former Wall Street Journal columnist, the climate cult went insane. (Stephens has been critical of climate-change dogma.) Joe Romm, the editor of Climate Progress, and others demanded that the Times fire Stephens. Hundreds of people threatened to cancel their subscriptions to protest the hiring of a so-called climate denier, including leading climate scientist Ken Caldeira who accused Stephens of having a “reckless disregard for well-established scientific facts.” Michael Mann, a climate scientist from Penn State University and keynote speaker at the March for Science, tweeted this:

“It should trouble everyone in the scientific community that the primary response of its leading voices when they encounter a voice they don’t like is to try to get that person fired from their job. That is doesn’t trouble anyone very much says something,” wrote Roger Pielke, Jr. in a blog post this month. Pielke is a scientist who concluded a decade ago that climate change was not contributing to more extreme weather events such as hurricanes and floods, a finding that was eventually supported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

By exposing this flaw in climate science, Pielke has since been targeted by powerful climate interests determined to destroy his career and reputation. He has been called a climate denier, even though he believes human activity is causing climate change and he supports a carbon tax. President Obama’s top science adviser, John Holdren, wrote a lengthy missive against Pielke, which prompted one Democratic congressman to call for an investigation into Pielke’s research (he is a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder). The coercion was so great that Pielke left the field of climate science a few years ago.

He’s back in the fray now, after some climate bullies, including Mann, who is suing National Review for alleged defamation, attacked Pielke for his testimony on Capitol Hill last month on climate science. Pielke will start posting a monthly blog about climate issues, mostly to fight back against the campaign of intimidation by climate activists and the complicity of the scientific establishment.

“The science community not only allows this bullying, they applaud it. And the power brokers endorse it. There are no ordinary checks and balances in the profession,” Pielke told me. “There is a view among climate activists that if they can get everyone to believe the same thing, then the right policies will take place. It gives these people political standing.”

And that is what most terrifies the climate tribe: the loss of political power and policymaking influence, as well as the government funding that goes with it. In a recent interview, Steven Koonin, a former undersecretary in Obama’s Energy Department and now the director of NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, said scientists are fearful of reprisals if they hold a different view of climate change: “If you get scientists in a room together, it’s a vibrant, alive science. But somehow that gets muted, if not suppressed, when you get out into the policy-making discussions,” Koonin said. “It’s very difficult to get into the club, so to speak, if you’re a contrarian. You might see your money cut off, but even more significantly, you’ll see opprobrium from your peers. If you speak up, you can be in big trouble.”

Or even threatened with violence. After the March for Science this past Saturday, shots were fired at the office of John Christy, a climate scientist at the University of Alabama, Hunstville, and a well-known climate-change skeptic. Christy’s colleague, Roy Spencer, reported the shooting on social media on Monday: “When some people cannot argue facts, they resort to violence to get their way. Maybe the ‘March for Science’ should have been called the ‘March to Silence.’”

This is the kind of thuggery climate leaders promote so they can keep their agenda intact. They play the victim by insisting that the Trump administration and Republicans are trying to oppress them, but they are the perpetrators, intimidating and coercing anyone who dares to defy them. Contrary to what they say, it’s about silence, not science.


Why the People’s Climate March Is a Farce

After watching the March for Science, we now need a March for Sanity. But that’ll have to wait because this weekend is the People’s Climate March, another opportunity for left-wing agitators to show off their ignorance on poster-sized tablets preaching the global-warming gospel. It’s unsurprising: Over the past eight years, we’ve heard nothing but alarmist rhetoric from the climactivist-in-chief, Barack Obama, and his PR department, the mainstream media.

The climate march’s website calls itself part of “the resistance” that prevented President Trump from repealing Obamacare and also “stymied his despicable Muslim ban.” And organizers say they will do the “same thing to his attacks on our climate, our air, and our water.” How Mr. Trump was attacking the environment is unclear, since our air and water have never been cleaner.

Everyone has a right to protest and march peaceably. But using factoids from an Al Gore or Leo DiCaprio movie is something that most climatologists would find embarrassing.

What’s becoming clear is that these marches aren’t about the climate but more about preventing Obama-era regulations from being rolled back. Activists don’t want to prevent a climate catastrophe; they want to force mankind to stop using fossil fuels by pressuring political leaders. That’s why the marches began under Obama’s tenure; organizations want to “keep it in the ground” and prevent fuel transport across the country through safe, efficient pipelines. They want the rest of us to accept their fantastical claims that carbon dioxide is a control knob for the planet’s climate.

The next time a warmist starts blathering on about carbon pollution, hand him a glass of tonic water and say “Here, have some carbon pollution.” Yes, that seltzer water contains plenty of the dreaded carbon dioxide. And because the media have warned of “carbon pollution” so often, the public now confuses CO2 with perceived soot emissions. But America’s modern coal-fired power plants use advanced scrubbers to remove mercury, nitrous oxide, sulfates, and particulate matter, leaving only a mixture of water vapor and carbon dioxide to rise up the “smokestack.” Of course, CO2 is also a key nutrient for all plant life and, according to NASA, is making the Earth greener.

So, let’s start with the “hottest year ever” claims. Why do the media refuse to show how much warmer 2016 was than 2015? And why do the media instead show melting icebergs, hapless penguins, and calving glaciers when discussing this crucial data point? According to the available satellite datasets, 2016 was warmer than 2015 by only 0.04 degrees. The margin of error is 0.1 degrees, meaning it’s statistically insignificant. What we can say is that since we left the Little Ice Age in 1850, the Earth has warmed by one degree Celsius. We’ll survive.

Pundits also refuse to tell their readers what drove the warming of the past two years: a particularly strong, naturally occurring El Niño that lasted from 2015 to 2016. El Niño events form during profound shifts in Pacific Ocean convection, with sea surface temperatures becoming warmer than normal for more than three consecutive months. Such powerful reversals of prevailing circulation can affect weather worldwide for many months at a time. As potent as the recent El Niño was, temperatures are now plummeting back to previous levels, according to both satellite and weather balloon data.

Unfortunately, stationary land and sea measuring stations have diverged from satellite scans. NASA has always referred to satellite temperature measurements as the "gold standard" — until they stopped showing net warming after 1998. But these satellite measurements are particularly important because there are no adequate temperature stations located in the tropical forests of South America or much of Africa. Antarctica has a few stations clustered at research stations on one side of the continent, while the Arctic is largely uncovered.

Prior to 1980, the United States possessed the most measuring stations of any nation. Most countries across Eurasia didn't bother to measure how warm or cold it was during both World Wars. U.S. data happen to be so robust that most meteorological organizations have integrated America's pre-1980 data. And by incorporating those data, these organizations have also inherited any corruptions or data-tampering in the 20th-century temperature records. That's because "adjusted" data sets have allowed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to cool the past in order to demonstrate more dramatic warming during the latter part of the 20th century. In fact, NOAA clumsily erased the nearly 30-year-long cooling period from the '40s to the '70s and tweaked the 1930s — the hottest decade on record — to make these years look less dramatic.

As meteorologist Joe Bastardi pointed out on Fox News this week, much of the warming over the past 150 years can be directly tied to sunspot activity, oscillating patterns of oceanic warming and cooling, and numerous sub-variables. But climate alarmists treat CO2 as the sole stove knob for changes in temperature and weather. Bastardi notes that, historically, CO2 and temperature have rarely correlated, including Ice Age periods with much higher CO2 levels.

Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported former Energy Department Undersecretary Steven Koonin's claim that President Obama's administration manipulated scientific data to sway public opinion. "What you saw coming out of the press releases about climate data, climate analysis, was, I'd say, misleading, sometimes just wrong," he said.

As an example, Koonin pointed to the National Climate Assessment (NCA) of 2014, which showed an increase in hurricane activity from 1980 as an example of how federal agencies cooked the books. He said the NCA assessment was wrong because, "What they forgot to tell you, and you don't know until you read all the way into the fine print, is that it actually decreased in the decades before that."

He's right. According to NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, there has been no "detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity." And what about the intensity of tropical cyclones/hurricanes? None have gotten worse, according to the data mapped out by climatologist Dr. Ryan N. Maue. Al Gore once warned of a pending hurricane epidemic. But the facts indicate that there has been "no uptick in the global frequency of tropical storms or hurricanes" and "no trend in cyclone energy."

Koonin said it's a scientist's job "to put the facts on the table." And so, the worst offenders have been NASA and NOAA, with both using their data to politicize science. Koonin sees these agencies' actions as problematic because "public opinion is formed by the data that [come] from those organizations and appear in newspapers."

And so, a deeper dive into the data reveals a lack of support for the catastrophic global warming narrative. But that won't stop protesters from claiming that America's coastlines are quickly going underwater. Al Gore pointed to Hurricane Sandy's flooding of New York and New Jersey as proof of sea-level rise (and of his predictions). Actually, it was proof of a hurricane's storm surge.

Has sea-level rise increased? According to a study published in 2016 in Scientific Reports, it's actually slowed down to two millimeters per year, and "current altimeter products show the rate of sea-level rise to have decreased from the first to second decades of the altimeter era." You can look at coastal photographs from the early 1900s and those from today and see there are minuscule differences, even along rocky coastlines. One prominent study showed the Earth has added more coastline than it's lost.

And before you say Miami flooding, the occurrence is caused by a naturally occurring event known as a King's Tide, in which the moon and sun line up to create a higher-than-normal tide. This has been happening since Miami was settled. And because of land subsidence, it's gotten worse (the land is sinking, because altimeters show sea-level rise has actually slowed down.)

Have tornadoes increased? According to NOAA's climate-information website, there has been "little trend in the frequency of the stronger tornadoes over the past 55 years." The year 1974 is still the reigning champion and that was during the Great Cooling Scare.

Snow extent in the Northern Hemisphere? According to Rutgers University Snow Lab, snow extent has increased. And Al Gore said children wouldn't know what snow was by 2012....

Wildfires? According to the EPA and National Interagency Fire Center, wildfires haven't increased. Ironically, poor forestry management — which has emphasized actions to rapidly halt any forest fires — has yielded an excess of dry kindling, which has enabled subsequent, larger wildfires.

Floods and droughts have not grown in intensity or strength. More people have moved into flood zones and areas once not considered habitable. And such wealthy living has led to larger insurance payouts after catastrophe strikes. But because it's been so long since a large-scale event has occurred, people think it's safe to live in a flood plain or in the wild. Of course, when a massive flood or wildfire occurs, activists blame it on global warming. But the risk is on the occupants, who chose to settle in areas that do indeed face risks.

As for stronger storms or extreme weather, not a single government agency can say there has been any uptick in trends because the data don't back it up. Even the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's most current AR5 report said there have been few instances of extreme weather, which makes it premature to attribute severe weather events to global warming.

Everyone has a right to protest and march peaceably. But using factoids from an Al Gore or Leo DiCaprio movie is something that most climatologists would find embarrassing.

In science, nothing is ever settled. If it were, we'd still think trans fats are no big deal, the Earth is flat, and the sun revolves around the Earth. That's why real scientists cringe at the word consensus, and why politics should be kept as far from the lab as possible.


Shale Crushes Solar

The Promethean task of supplying energy to the U.S. economy and the rest of the world involves scales that are truly difficult to visualize. Many options appear to make sense until you crunch the numbers. That’s why Bill Gates said that people need to bring “math skills to the problem.”

Consider petroleum alone, which accounts for about one-third of global energy use. If the world’s current oil supply were delivered in a pile of actual barrels, that stack would rise up at a velocity of 1,500 miles per hour and reach the moon’s orbit in a week – and continue at that rate every week for years to come.

Meanwhile, solar and wind power are the two most discussed “disruptions” to our energy supply. It is true that solar/wind costs have gone down dramatically in the past decade. At the same time there’s a policy revolution in subsidies (more about policies in part 3 of this series) leading to a cumulative $100+ billion in the U.S. for solar/wind. The effect of this combination has been to proliferate solar panels and wind turbines sufficient to drive a nearly 10-fold increase in combined energy supplied from those sources.

While that’s quite remarkable, wind and solar together still supply less than 1.5% of America’s energy. Fast growth from a small number is like winning $100 in Vegas on a $10 bet. Nice, but not life-changing.

To find a “radical and pervasive” change in energy markets we have to look elsewhere. Over the same decade noted above, the amount of energy added to America from shale hydrocarbons was 2,000% greater than the additional supply from solar and wind combined.  That actual revolution also happened because of the maturation of new technologies. But, notably, in this case it took place without the stimulus of special subsidies.

The scale and velocity of the shale revolution is underappreciated. It is the fastest and biggest addition to world energy supply -- not just hydrocarbons, but all forms of energy -- that has occurred in history.  The only time something close to as dramatic has occurred was in the decade following the 1968 opening of Saudi Arabia’s giant Ghawar oil field.

This American transformation has far-reaching implications, not least of which is that the U.S. now exports crude – savor the word “exports” – at a rate north of 1 million barrels a day. That’s the highest rate of U.S. crude exports since 1958, by a factor of two, and outstrips the crude exports of five of OPEC’s members. Four decades of handwringing about import dependencies and serially misguided federal energy policies were upended overnight.

Looking to the future, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) “optimistic” forecast (which assumes subsidies continue) see solar and wind output growing three-fold by 2035.  EIA’s optimistic forecast for shale hydrocarbons for the next two decades (still no subsidies of course) has that industry replicating it’s growth of the past single decade. We’ll suggest, shortly, why that’s actually a pessimistic forecast. So by 2035, the American energy revolution will still be driven by oil & gas.

But the revolution with respect to shale goes far beyond ‘mere’ quantity. In many quarters, the enthusiasm for solar and wind has been animated largely by the notion that these sources democratize energy production. But in fact, wind and solar growth in the past decade is utterly dominated by utility-scale projects, and a Darwinian consolidation of the companies that produce the hardware. There are currently only a few major wind turbine vendors (only one in the U.S.); while a comparably small number (most in China now) of solar panel producers utterly dominate the market. In short, we’ve seen the emergence of “big solar” and “big wind.”

The shale story has been precisely the opposite. None of the “big oil” companies, the super-majors, were responsible for creating the new shale industry. The pioneers were all upstarts with names like Continental, Pioneer and Brigham. There are hundreds of shale drillers; more than four dozen relatively unknown companies comprise the top ranks. The majors, of course, have noticed and have started to get into the game, but they will still constitute a small share of that industry for the foreseeable future. The rapid emergence of a new, diverse and broad community of companies in the U.S. shale industry is a classic, American entrepreneurial bootstrap story culminating in a new industry that has truly democratized a huge swath of the energy landscape.

And second only to its staggering scale, the single most remarkable and revolutionary feature of the shale ecosystem is, in a word, velocity. It’s not just the speed with which that industry went from essentially zero to a $100+ billion per year business – about which we note: this was a faster and bigger growth in revenues than the contemporaneous rise in smartphone sales in the U.S. It is also the speed with which wells can be drilled. Rather than planning and development that can take not just multiple years but even decades for traditional billion-dollar hydrocarbon projects, each shale well is an individual decision involving nearly a thousand-fold less capital. Those decisions are made in weeks to months. And, critically the wells can be drilled in a week or two.

The world has never seen anything like this. The net effect of all this is a collective U.S. shale ecosystem that can respond organically and rapidly to price fluctuations. We’ve already seen the result of this in action. The huge oil price collapse that began in 2014 and lasted until only a few months ago did lead to a pullback in U.S. production, but only about a 10% decline. Now with a modest price rise of the past several months, investments, and drilling and production, have come roaring back and are on track and could reach  new record levels this year.

But the price collapse – a collapse, it bears noting, that was engineered by the Saudis to discipline markets – did result in some casualties in the form of bankruptcies and layoffs across the shale domains. Hydrocarbons will continue to be cyclical commodities both from manipulators and natural market dynamics. However, high-speed U.S. shale now becomes a throttle on price rises. What we have learned from this latest price cycle is that the staggeringly large shale system is in fact quite resilient.

Just see what happens if you propose that the solar and wind industry be subject to a cyclical and spot pricing system and have to deal with a 60% drop in revenues (as the oil business experienced) without the crutch of semi-permanent pricing and guaranteed off-take. That such a state of affairs would likely deal a deathblow to solar/wind growth is not speculative; it’s precisely what industry lobbyists tell policymakers on both sides of the aisle every time it is suggested.

So while solar/wind advocates ply the halls of Congress and statehouses to preserve access to the people’s capital, the total amount of capital committed by private entities to the shale fields rose by nearly $40 billion in the first quarter of this year.  That money is not coming from captive ratepayers, or government gifts. Shale financing comes from the America’s broad and distributed financial markets; the world’s most diverse, liquid, and resilient.

Resurgent investment in the shale fields will inevitably -- that’s the point of the investment -- result in another jump in hydrocarbon output, stimulating America’s economy, boosting jobs and exports, reducing the trade deficit, and enhancing federal and state treasuries with tax and royalty receipts. There is, after all, a kind of “free lunch” for policymakers.

What we have also learned from the cyclical downturn in oil prices is that the technologies involved in shale production are getting better at an amazing rate. The efficacy of shale rigs – the amount of physical production per capital dollar spent – has been improving by more than 20% per year on average. Put another way; the rigs are getting roughly twice as productive every three years. No other energy technology is improving that quickly. And EIA data shows that rate actually jumped during the last couple of years during the price downturn.

But many still believe that a future energy revolution depends solar and wind. Of course those technologies will get far better. But, as is clear from NREL data, both wind and solar are now experiencing a declining rate of improvement as those technologies start to approach their limits in terms of what physics permits. They still improve each year, but now necessarily at a slower rate than in the past.

Shale technology is a long way from its physics limits. In fact, the industry is at the beginning of what I’ve earlier termed Shale 2.0. Only now has the industry just begun to embrace the kinds of software and digital solutions that common in other industrial domains.

It is no longer speculative to suggest that shale production will soon be boosted, even radically, by digital tools.  Analysts at BofA Merrill Lynch in March 2017 released their report telegraphically titled, “The Internet of Oil.”  McKinsey thinks that a digital revolution in oil and gas is coming but is hidden (not for long). Goldman Sachs, and many others, has finally concluded that the shale revolution is structurally permanent. It’s taken time for the punditocracy to realize that the shale business more closely resembles a manufacturing industry than an “extractive” one, and it’s about to benefit from Silicon Valley-class tools as a spate of startup tech companies start chasing such a big prize.

The bottom line here is important. If you were interested in investing in genuinely revolutionary energy technologies in order to get the biggest bang for the buck, where would you place your bets?  This question is relevant for private investors in public companies and increasingly start-ups too. It should also be relevant for policymakers invoking the euphemism of “investment” when making bets with taxpayers' funds.


Bill Nye's View of Humanity Is Repulsive
Bill Nye has some detestable ideas about humanity. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Many environmental doomsdayers share his totalitarian impulses (he has toyed with the idea of criminalizing speech he dislikes) and soft spot for eugenics.

In his Netflix series, “Bill Nye Saves the World,” the former children’s television host supplies viewers with various trendy notions to adorn his ideological positions with the sheen of science. In the final episode, Nye and his guests contemplate a thorny “scientific” question: How can the state stop people from having “extra kids”?

All of this was pretty familiar to me, and not only because the panel sounded like a ChiCom planning meeting. The Nye segment, it turns out, was just a repetition of a 2016 NPR article on overpopulation featuring Travis Rieder.

“Should we have policies that penalize people for having extra kids in the developed world?” asked Reider and others who were pondering the “ethics of procreation.” The article is titled “Should We Be Having Kids in the Age of Climate Change?” In it, Rieder, a philosopher with the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University, scaremongers a class of college students about The End of Days and the immorality of having children. NPR describes: “The room is quiet. No one fidgets. Later, a few students say they had no idea the situation was so bad.” It’s not.

“Here’s a provocative thought,” Rieder says. “Maybe we should protect our kids by not having them.” This is provocative in the way a stoner wondering why airplanes don’t run on hemp is provocative. That’s because the entire case for capping the number of children rests on assumptions entirely devoid of scientific or historical basis.

In 1798, Thomas Malthus wrote that “the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” At that point, there were maybe a billion humans on Earth, so we might forgive him for worrying. In 1800, the life expectancy of the average British citizen — Britain then being the leading light of the world — was 39 years. Most humans lived in pitiless poverty that is increasingly rare in most parts of the contemporary world.

Now, had Nye been around in the early 19th century, he’d almost surely have been smearing anyone skeptical of the miasma theory of disease. The problem is he lacks imagination; he’s unable to understand that science is here to help humanity adapt and overcome, not constrict it. Anyway, seven-plus billion people later, extreme poverty was projected to fall below 10 percent for the first time ever in 2015. Most of those gains have been made in the midst of the world’s largest population explosion.

Additionally, it is reported that because of the spread of trade, technological advances and plentiful fossil fuels, fewer people are hungry than ever; fewer die in conflicts over resources; and deaths due to extreme weather have been dramatically declining for a century. Over the past 40 years, our water and air have become cleaner, despite a huge spike in population growth. Some of the Earth’s richest people live in some of its densest cities.

It’s worth remembering that not only was early progressivism steeped in eugenics but early ‘70s abortion politics was played out in the shadow of Paul Ehrlich’s population bomb theory. Former Vice President Al Gore has already broached the idea of “fertility management.” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg mentioned a few years ago, “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

You thought right. Today, abortion is used as a means of exterminating a class of human deemed unworthy of life — those with Down syndrome.

We live in a world where Ehrlich protege John Holdren — who, like his mentor, made a career of offering memorably erroneous predictions (not out of the ordinary for alarmists) — was able to become a science czar in the Obama administration. Holdren co-authored a book in late 1970s called “Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment,” which waded into theoretical talk about mass sterilizations and forced abortions in an effort to save hundreds of millions from sure death. Nye is a fellow denier of one of the most irrefutable facts about mankind: Human ingenuity overcomes demand.

Now, just because something hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future. But the evidence against Malthusianism is stronger now than it has ever been. And, of course, not everything about human existence can be quantified. This is the point. Talking about humans as if they were a malady that needs to be cured is, at its core, immoral. And listening to a man who has three residences lecture potential parents about their responsibilities to Mother Earth is particularly galling.

Although many thousands of incredibly smart and talented people engage in real scientific inquiry and discovery, “science” is often used as a cudgel to browbeat people into accepting progressive policies. Just look at the coverage of the March for Science last week. The biggest clue that it was nothing more than another political event is that Nye was a speaker. “We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially,” he told the crowd, “of the significance of science for our health and prosperity.” Fortunately, our health and prosperity have blossomed despite the work of Nye and his ideological ancestors.



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   main.html 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


Friday, April 28, 2017

Cold Comfort from Ice Core Records of Climate

The attempt to defend Warmism below would appear to have solved a problem -- but not the problem they think it solved.  The big problem for Warmists is to show synchrony between CO2 levels and temperature.  There is so little synchrony in modern times that their only recourse has been to look at paleoclimate -- the climate of many thousands of years ago -- as estimated from ice-cores etc.  And when they do that, they appear to find the synchrony they need.   CO2 and temperature seem to go up and down roughly in tandem.

Skeptics however have always made the point that synchrony is not enough.  Following David Hume's notion of causation, you cannot say that X caused Y unless you can show that X PRECEDED Y.  And that is where Warmists became unglued.  If you looked closely at the paleoclimate record, you found that the causation was the other way around:  Warming preceded and hence probably caused CO2 increases, not the other way around.  Pesky!

A small puzzle was that the warming seemed to precede CO2 rises by a lot.  There was a gap of, for example, 800 years between a warming event and a CO2 event.  So the CO2 event and the temperature event were not connected at all.  They were not part of one continuous process. There seemed in fact to be NO causal relationship between the two variables. Skeptics didn't bother too much about that, though.  It was sufficient to show that the sequence required by Warmism did not occur in the record.

But that gap did of course burn Warmist up a bit in their rare moments of honesty and some recent research has gone into getting the timing of the various events precisely right.  The paleoclimate record is very imprecise so I was always possible that more precise measures of it might not show that pesky gap.

And so it seems to have happened. The report below from one of the few Warmist sites that tries to make a scientific case for Warmism lists several studies that essentially eliminate the gap. They find that warming events and CO2 rises were roughly synchronous.  And I am going to take that as read.  I am not going to take a critical look at the studies concerned.

And one of the reasons why I am going to take the "discovery" as read is that it makes sense.  Warming and CO2 levels SHOULD be pretty synchronous.  Warming should cause the oceans to outgas CO2 and thus should produce, more or less immediately, higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

So the new data do nothing to support the Warmist case.  Rather than show that CO2 causes warming, they are perfectly compatible with warming causing an atmospheric CO2 rise.  Warmists still have no proof anywhere that atmospheric CO2 rises cause terrestrial temperature rises.

It is always a bit of a thrill for me to look at posts on "Skeptical Science", from which the report below comes.  They always seem so sound and solid in their conclusions at first glance.  So it is a challenge to spy out the fast and loose bits that their arguments depend on.  Usually, they simply omit contrary evidence but on some occasions their fault is simply a fault of logic -- as below

When it comes to climate change imagery, the ice core record is kind of a rock star. Graphs of ice core data have become as common as pictures of polar bears and traffic-jammed Los Angeles freeways. And it’s easy to see why- atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the most important long-lived greenhouse gas, and reconstructions of temperature at the core sites track each other beautifully. As ice cores have been pulled from deeper beneath the surface of polar ice sheets (the longest, in Antarctica, reaching nearly two miles down) the synchronized movement of temperature and greenhouse gases grows more compelling, stretching back more than 800,000 years into the past. In 2006, the ice core record made its big screen debut, with a sizable role in the documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Al Gore showed two lines, CO2 in red and temperature in blue, moving faithfully together across millennia. Matching peak for peak, dip for dip. The effect was mesmerizing. Suddenly, CO2 skyrockets almost straight up, the result of our modern emissions. The implication for future temperature is clear. Gore characterized the pairing this way:

The relationship is very complicated. But there is one relationship that is more powerful than all the others and it is this. When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer, because it traps more heat from the sun inside.

As the profile of the ice core record increased, it became the subject of attacks from those seeking to cast doubt on the reality of human-driven climate change. Some dismissed the data because they disagreed with older methods of estimating past levels of CO2, such as fossilized plant stomata. Others claimed that the coring process caused degassing that corrupted the data. Eventually, many contrarians seized upon a line in a paper (Caillon et al., 2003) published a few years before AIT to claim the entire premise of global warming, the whole enchilada, was wrong. They had found, or at least believed they had found, a loophole. An out. And they had it in writing.

They claimed that temperature and CO2 might move together, but rather than CO2 driving changes in temperature, changes in temperature actually preceded the changes in CO2. It said so, right there in the paper, “the CO2 increase lagged Antarctic deglacial warming by 800 ± 200 years”. And since effect can’t precede cause, CO2 can’t possibly be responsible for changes in planetary temperature. If CO2 “lags”, the contrarians said, it can’t lead. That big CO2 increase Al Gore showed in his movie? It was nothing to worry about. If CO2 was doing the leading now, temperature wasn’t going to follow, period. The contrarians were triumphant.

This “lag not lead” claim was echoed across blogs and online forums, made its way around the News Corp media empire, and appeared in a widely-watched anti-climate-science polemic The Great Global Warming Swindle. It was even championed by Congressman Joe Barton, former Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It remains one of the most common objections to the reality of man-made climate change to this day.

Climate scientists tried, vainly, to rebut this line of attack. They were quick to point out that, just as Gore noted, the CO2-temperature relationship is complicated. Greenhouse gases weren’t the initial cause of the temperature increases over the ice core record; subtle variations in the Earth’s position relative to the sun (called Milankovitch cycles) were. These orbitally-driven temperature variations eventually triggered changes in greenhouse gases, which then greatly boosted the initial temperature change. CO2 can be both a cause and a response- a forcing and a feedback, in the vernacular of climate science- depending on the circumstances. They also noted that there was still an enormous amount of uncertainty in the exact timing of the changes recorded by the ice cores, so that it wasn’t clear there even was a lag as large as the contrarians claimed. But more to the point, the physics of the greenhouse effect are well-understood and entirely uncontroversial. A guy named Joseph Fourier had it pretty much figured out all the way back in the 1820s (Pierrehumbert, 2004). This is about as solid as science can get, the climate scientists insisted. Our present increase of greenhouse gases will result in increasing temperature, and no amount of arguing about ice cores can negate that. You can’t cheat physics. The contrarians, convinced of their out, were unpersuaded. The arguments in comments sections of blogs and news articles raged on.

And then a funny thing happened- the lag disappeared.

Jeremy Shakun and some of his colleagues had an idea. Noting that the temperature data “leading” the CO2 in the ice core record were an estimation of local conditions near the core site in the Antarctic interior, they set out to reconstruct regional and eventually global temperature change as we thawed out of the Last Glacial Maximum (what most people call “the ice age”). Last year, they published a paper showing that global temperature change followed changes in CO2 rather than the reverse (Shakun et al., 2012). Milankovitch cycles initiated warming of the Northern Hemisphere, which melted a great deal of freshwater previously locked up in ice. This freshwater melting disrupted a global oceanic heat pump, resulting in a cooling of temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere and warming in the Southern Hemisphere. This hemispheric heat switcheroo is known as a “bipolar seesaw”. As the Southern Ocean warmed during this seesaw, it released CO2 into the atmosphere. This increase in CO2 then warmed the rest of the globe. CO2 was driving warming globally, even though it wasn’t the initial trigger. Shakun et al. further found that the Southern Hemisphere warming and CO2 increase were closely coordinated, happening within a few hundred years at most, and possibly simultaneously.

A few months later, a group of researchers led by Joel Pedro published a paper on the lag issue looking at another perspective. Noting the large uncertainty in timing associated with the longer ice core records from the interior of Antarctica, they turned to ice core records from the Antarctic coast (Pedro et al., 2012). These records don’t reach as far back into the past as the records from the interior, but were able to be dated more precisely. Like Shakun’s team, Pedro and colleagues found that the changes in Antarctic temperature did not lead changes in CO2 by 800 or 1,000 years, but rather the two changed pretty much together. This March, a third group of researchers led by Frédéric Parrenin independently confirmed this finding. Parrenin et al. attacked the lag issue from still another angle. Instead of reducing uncertainty in the timing of events by looking in other regions, they used the behavior of atmospheric nitrogen isotopes in settling within snowpack prior to freezing to better constrain the age of the existing data (Parrenin et al., 2013). In doing so they found, like Pedro and colleagues, there was essentially no lag between Antarctic temperature increases and CO2 increases.

These multiple lines of independent evidence were telling the same story- more or less what climate scientists had been trying to explain all along. Local temperature and CO2 increased together, a consequence of the orbitally-triggered warming up north and a resulting bipolar seesaw, while CO2 then drove warming globally. The greenhouse effect endures, vindicated and implacable.

The coupling of CO2 and temperature in the ice core record is a reminder that some technicality buried in the pages of a journal isn’t going to divorce our actions from their consequences. There is no loophole when it comes to physics. As we continue to drive CO2 levels ever higher, that’s something all of us- not just contrarians- should keep in mind.

More HERE  (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Carbon tax proposals

The article below is by Jerry Taylor, a one-time libertarian and climate skeptic.  It is not clear why he eventually went over to the dark side but I suspect that when his hair began to grey, he found that his good looks could no longer pull in the chicks so he felt that he needed a boost to his social acceptability.  What he proposes below is certainly more rational than the thicket of regulations and policies that presently surround climate policies.  So he is a good critic of such policies.  I won't reproduce the whole of his post below as he simply takes global warming as read.  He gives no evidence for it at all. He is just playing establishment games

On April 11, I was invited by the Electricity Consumers Research Council (ELCON) to debate carbon taxation with the Manhattan Institute’s Oren Cass at their Spring workshop in Washington, D.C. Although the debate was not recorded, it is worth discussing. Cass is one of the most prominent and serious “anti-carbon-taxers” on  the right. His opinions, moreover, track those of Bill Gates, one of the most influential thought leaders in this field.

Our debate was a confrontation along increasingly familiar lines: Does the world need a clean energy moonshot to address climate change, or do we have the cost effective technology to do so right now? My opening remarks follow, after which I will spend a bit of time reflecting on Cass’s rebuttal.

Opening Remarks: The Dangers We Face, the Question of Uncertainty, and the Case for a Carbon Tax

Too many conversations about carbon taxation are bereft of any serious discussion about the underlying problem that we’re trying to address. So let’s begin with a quick review of our present situation, which is far more serious than Cass’s recent essay in Foreign Affairs (“The Problem with Climate Catastrophizing: The Case for Calm“) would have us believe.

According to a new study from MIT, the planet is presently on track to experience a warming of 3-5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100. The range reflects our uncertainty about how quickly the planet will respond to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (a concept known in the profession as “transient climate sensitivity”). MIT’s central estimate, however, is that a 4 degrees Celsius warming is the most likely outcome in 2100.

Happily, Cass—unlike most opponents of climate action—accepts the findings of mainstream science and, in his Foreign Affairs essay, accepts the 4C warming projection for 2100. Turning up the global thermostat by 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) is a very big deal. To put that warming into perspective:

Global temperatures during the last ice age were only 4C cooler than pre-industrial norms.

Increasing the global thermostat by 6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels has in the past delivered unto earth its most epic hothouses (think “Age of the Dinosaurs”).

The last time the atmosphere had today’s high concentrations of greenhouse gases was during the late Pliocene Epoch, some 3 million years ago. Temperatures then were only 2°C to 3.6°C above pre-industrial levels. Under those conditions, there was no Arctic ice cap and sea levels were 30-65 feet higher.

4 degrees Celsius is not the endpoint of our warming under business-as-usual. It is simply a way-point. If we manage to stabilize atmospheric CO2 from then on, inertial warming of the climate will continue beyond 2100. It isn’t until anthropogenic emissions hit zero that we will begin to plausibly reverse course on global temperature.

The MIT report indicates that global emissions in 2100 will still be larger than they are today.

We have little idea how, precisely, the planet will respond to such an unprecedentedly rapid increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases. There are literally no data points either in human or pre-human experience to inform our analysis. Nassim Taleb’s parade of black swans is marching down the street. A long list of socio-economic shocks is plausibly on the horizon.

Given the uncertainty regarding transient climate sensitivity, where the various tipping points lie for warming-related climate shocks, what the economy will look like decades hence, and how that economy will respond, we cannot say with confidence what warming will cost us by the year 2100. Here are the best (if imperfect) guesses:

William Nordhaus’s updated DICE model finds that 4C warming will reduce global GDP by 3.6%. The majority of economists who publish in the peer-reviewed literature on this matter, however, suspect that his forecast is too conservative. They believe that 3C warming will reduce global GDP by 5-10%.

If it turns out that warming affects output growth rates rather than output levels, the cost of warming will increase by many orders of magnitude (for more on this, see economists Robert Pindyck and Geoffrey Heal and Jisung Park). A recent deluge of econometric analyses of temperatures and growth rates shows this could very well be the case. Incidentally, 78% of the economists who publish in the peer-reviewed literature in this field believe that climate damages will affect growth rates.

When those same economists were asked about the chances of low-probability, high-impact outcomes from climate change reducing global GDP by 25% or more (economic losses, in other words, on the order of the Great Depression), they put the odds of that happening at 10-20% given a 3C warming.

Cass has asked me to be concrete about the carbon tax I’m advocating. My preference is for an economy-wide $45 per ton carbon tax, rising 2% above inflation every year.

The tax would be applied or rebated at the border (as necessary) so that U.S. manufacturers are not rendered uncompetitive with imports from non-acting states or exports to the same.

Federal regulatory authority to address greenhouse gas emissions would be eliminated in sub-sectors of the economy where the tax is applied.

I am agnostic about how the federal government uses carbon tax revenues (about $2 trillion over ten years) for the purpose of this discussion. The immediate need is to reduce emissions to hedge against climate risks. How revenues from that undertaking are spent is an entirely separate (fiscal) matter.

Among possibly attractive uses are offsets for corporate income tax rate cuts, providing lump-sum rebates to households to compensate them for rising energy prices, paying down the national debt, offsetting expenditures for national infrastructure, investing in low-carbon energy R&D, and investments in climate adaptation (better that polluters rather than victims of pollution pay that bill).

The tax I propose would reduce U.S. emissions by around 40% relative to business-as-usual by the mid-to-late 2020s. That would put us on a path to reduce U.S. emissions by 50-80% by 2050 (relative to 2005)—the goal that would allow us to play our part in keeping global warming from going above 2C.


The Liberal Crusade to Redefine Science

It seems every weekend brings a march for one cause or another in D.C. Last weekend, folks marched for science. Or did they?

In his preface to “Mere Christianity,” C. S. Lewis explains what happens when words lose their original meaning. Take the word “gentleman.” Once upon a time, Lewis writes, a gentleman was “one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone ‘a gentleman,’ you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact.”

Gradually, however, “gentleman” evolved into just that—a compliment. A true gentleman was no longer someone who met the objective qualifications, but a person whom the speaker liked. Thus, concludes Lewis, “gentleman” became a useless word.

I think another important word is undergoing this same redefinition. That word, alas, is science.

There was a time when “science” meant the systematic pursuit of knowledge through experimentation and observation. But it’s rapidly becoming a synonym for progressive politics and materialist philosophy.

To be labeled a “science-denier” in 2017 often just means you’ve upset someone who insists on teaching strict, Darwinian orthodoxy in schools, or who advocates particular climate legislation, or who supports ethically fraught research on embryos.

In contrast, being “pro-science” has become a shibboleth for supporting progressive ideology. Think of a recent ad by National Geographic with the caption, “Stand behind the facts. Stand with science. Stand for the planet.” But just weeks prior, National Geographic had run a cover depicting a nine-year-old boy dressed as a girl. Because, as we know, they stand with science.

But if there were ever going to be a ceremony inaugurating this new and useless definition of science, it’s got to be last weekend’s “March for Science” in the nation’s capital, co-chaired by Bill Nye, “the science guy.” Nye, a children’s TV host from the nineties with no formal training as a scientist, has recaptured the spotlight with his videos on climate change, abortion, women’s rights, and other topics.

To say his arguments in some of these videos are embarrassing is being kind. For instance, in one odd and rambling speech promoting abortion, Nye claimed that because many lives end through natural causes before they leave the womb that it’s okay for us to kill the unborn ourselves. That’s like saying it’s okay to kill adults, because millions die of natural causes. That does not stop Nye’s supporters from honoring him as a champion of science.

But not all of the marchers are fans. After issuing several revisions to his massive “Statement on Diversity and Inclusion,” the organizers of the March for Science are fending off critics who complain that Nye is a white male whose fame is the result of privilege. One wonders who, exactly, was in charge of this debacle. An official tweet, which has since been deleted, declared that “Colonization, racism, immigration, native rights, sexism, ableism, queer-, trans-, intersex-phobia, & econ[omic] justice are scientific issues.”

Heather Wilhelm at National Review got it right when she wrote that the whole event was collapsing into a civil war of competing left-wing agendas.

I hope someone—anyone—who still believes science has a definition independent of politics will speak up. Because whether it’s the denial that life begins at conception, the denial of sex and gender as biological facts, the denial of decades of research proving that children do best with their father and mother, or the denial of dissenting voices on Darwinism, the left has proven quite capable of ignoring science.

Language is powerful. Words matter. And “science”—real science—is too important a word for us to let go the way of “gentleman.”


The March for Science Fiction

One of the asinine yet oft-repeated phrases in the modern progressive lexicon is “settled science,” an oxymoron that is the antithesis of the scientific method. The literal definition of the scientific method is “a method of procedure … consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” Modification means alteration or change. Meaning that in science, many, many things are never “settled.”

Among the most well-known theories that have been debunked over time are that the world is flat, that the solar system is geocentric (it is heliocentric), that the physical world is made up of four elements (rather than more than a hundred currently known elements, including four new elements discovered just last year), and that atoms are the smallest units of matter. Each and every one of these was once universally accepted as infallible truth.

This makes the recent “March for Science” in Washington, DC, not only ludicrous, but an indictment of those marching while claiming to believe in science. It was not about science, but about publicly rebuking President Donald Trump behind the thin patina of ideology masquerading as science. The leftist mainstream media played its part well, praising the event while ignoring dissent from actual scientists.

With scathing wit, Jeremy Faust, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, exposed the hypocrisy and lunacy of the march — in the lefty rag Slate, no less. He observed, “Being ‘pro-science’ has become a bizarre cultural phenomenon in which liberals (and other members of the cultural elite) engage in public displays of self-reckoned intelligence as a kind of performance art, while demonstrating zero evidence to justify it.”

Instead of elevating the quality of, and respect for, actual science, says Faust, this march “revealed the glaring dissonance of opposing that trough of ignorance by instead accepting a cringe-worthy hive-mind mentality that celebrates Science as a vague but wonderful entity. … There was an uncomfortable dronelike fealty to the concept — an oxymoronic faith that information presented and packaged to us as Science need not be further scrutinized before being smugly celebrated en masse. That is not intellectually rigorous thought — instead, it’s another kind of religion.”

Indeed, progressive Democrats claim to be the “Party of Science” yet, mind-bogglingly argue that sex/gender is determined by how one “feels” rather than by DNA and plumbing. They accept man-made global warming (now known as “climate change” to free themselves of the pesky fact that the Earth stopped warming for nearly two decades) as inarguable fact. These are the same people who chain themselves to trees to protest the “destruction” of Mother Earth, but refuse to acknowledge that a baby in utero is a living human being.

In short, they are modern-day pagans, worshipping “Gaia” while denying observable truths that conflict with their secular religion, and seeking punishment for the heretics who dare challenge their belief system with something so coarse, so crude and as unenlightened as mere facts.

The ultimate goal of the progressive religionists is to force compliance with their worldview, either through the coercive power of rigid, politically correct orthodoxy, or through punishment such as jail time for “climate change dissenters/deniers,” a position embraced by leftist celebrity and fake TV scientist Bill Nye “The Science Guy.”

CNN, in an interview with Nye and an actual scientist, physicist William Happer of Princeton, inadvertently displayed the truth behind the march with a caption that read “March for Science: Scientists Rally for EPA, Govt Funding and More.” Climate change hysteria is a big business. If you are a scientist, you have access to billions of dollars in federal grants so long as you produce “research” that proves the claims of the alarmists. Politicians pushing climate hysteria can usurp tremendous power over the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the name of saving the world from cataclysmic disaster.

The reality is that “science,” across a broad spectrum of disciplines, is not nearly as “settled” as its advocates would have us believe. In fact, the most-repeated claims have a habit of turning out to be spectacularly wrong. For example, as we’ve noted previously, leftist climate alarmists have been trying to scare us into giving up the abundant energy and higher standard of living that comes with industrialization. They warned that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years” (Harvard biologist George Wald, 1970), and that (due to scarce food supplies), “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years” (Paul Ehrlich, 1970), and that by 1980 “urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution.”

They are often insanely wrong in their predictions, and are so wedded to their ideology that they can’t even identify fake science even when it is specifically written to be obviously wrong. Time after time, robotically generated “gibberish papers” were accepted in supposedly peer-reviewed journals.

As amusing as this can be, it’s actually dangerous. The beauty of science is that it is ruthless. It cares not for sex, race, education or socio-economic status. It cares only about replicable fact. But when science — actual science — is hijacked by partisans and ideologues, and propaganda is passed off as science, it undermines our faith in science, and therefore the truth.

And that is never a good thing.


UK foreign office cut climate staff in half under Tory government

The UK foreign office has almost halved the staff it devotes to climate change over the term of the past two Conservative-led governments.

Staffing records, released by the foreign office under freedom of information laws, show the previous Labour government more than trebled the amount of time devoted by foreign office staff to climate and energy issues between 2007 and 2009.

As the world built momentum towards ultimately calamitous 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, foreign secretary David Miliband headed an army of climate staff, the equivalent of 277 full time jobs.

No such recruitment effort took place under the Tory government of David Cameron – who came to power promising an environmentally friendly agenda under the slogan “Vote Blue, Go Green” – in the build up for the decisive talks that took place in Paris six years later.

On the contrary, over the six years of Cameron’s government, the amount of time foreign office staff spent on climate and energy fell by 46%.

When the Paris agreement was struck, the foreign office had between 149 and 158 full time equivalent jobs in climate-related roles worldwide.

The UK is a self-styled key advocate for greater ambition at climate negotiations. In the months leading up to the Paris conference, the foreign secretary’s special representative for climate change David King helped to develop Mission Innovation, a collaboration between 22 countries and the EU to double public funding for clean energy research and development investment over five years.

Foreign office embassy staff and UK-based officials also provide support for the energy department, which leads UK negotiations at UN climate conferences.

A spokesperson from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said: “Climate change and energy work is a network-wide priority. The FCO works closely in partnership with departments across Whitehall on the international climate change agenda.”

As campaigning begins for the UK’s June election, the Labour Party’s spokesperson on climate change Barry Gardiner said the “staggering cut in the number of FCO staff working on climate change shows that the Government is not serious about implementing the Paris Agreement”.

He referred to a report in the Times this month that prime minister Theresa May plans to “scale down” concern about climate change in order to win new trade partners post-Brexit.

“How can the public have any respect for politicians who are all too happy to sit there for the photo at the signing ceremony but then don’t deliver what is in the agreement? Theresa May has done the same on UK emissions and renewables. The implementation plan that was due last July has now been delayed indefinitely,” said Gardiner.

“Under Labour the UK led the world in climate policy. We need a Labour government that will transform our country at home into a low carbon high value economy; and abroad will give the resources and the leadership required to deliver the Paris Agreement.”



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   main.html 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


Thursday, April 27, 2017

A very hungry caterpillar

Looks like plastic is "biodegradable" after all

Here is something interesting. A caterpillar that digests plastic. And it makes sense, because it is the wax moth caterpillar that digests the wax in bee hives.

I expect the enzyme that breaks down the plastic will eventually be isolated and reproduced artificially. Then waste plastic will simply be dissolved and turned into fertilizer.

I have never considered plastic to be a great long term problem, just something for Greenies to make a fuss about.


The EPA's Secret Human Experiments about particulate pollution

EPA officials first testified to Congress that small particle pollution is a huge health hazard.  Then, when challenged on ethical grounds, they say it is very safe

The issue of small particle air pollution human effects was discussed in a House of Representatives hearing in September 2011 by the U.S. EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson.  In a colloquy with Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ms. Jackson stated, "Particulate matter causes premature death.  It's directly causal to dying sooner than you should."

Markey asked, "How would you compare [the benefits of reducing airborne PM2.5] to the fight against cancer?"

Ms. Jackson replied, "Yeah, I was briefed not long ago.  If we could reduce particulate matter to healthy levels, it would have the same impact as finding a cure for cancer in our country."

Markey: "Can you say that sentence one more time?"

Jackson: "Yes sir.  If – um – we could reduce particulate matter to levels that are healthy, we could have identical impacts to finding a cure for cancer."  (Author note: Cancer kills a half-million Americans a year – 25 percent of all deaths in the U.S. annually).

The claim stated above by Ms. Jackson is the basis for the EPA's war on coal, fossil fuels, and internal combustion engines.  All other criteria air pollutants are minimal concerns for the EPA.  Surely small particles are a very toxic and lethal thing, as bad as cancer.  Right?  

EPA is discovered doing human experiments

The same month as Ms. Jackson's testimony, Milloy discovered a report in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal published online and in hard copy by the National Institutes of Health, that reported an experiment on a 57-year-old lady subjected to small particle air pollution much higher than the EPA says is safe, in a chamber at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine EPA laboratory for human research.  A stunned Milloy showed the journal report to Dunn.  So little had come of the decade of human experiments before that Milloy and Dunn had not known of the EPA human exposure experiments project that was at least illegal and unethical, possibly a crime against humanity.  Humans are not guinea pigs.  

The Nuremberg Code; the Helsinki Accords; the Belmont Report; and U.S. common law, statutes, and regulations, to include state laws and the Federal Code "Common Rule" and EPA rule 1000.17, all prohibit human experimentation that might cause harm to the subjects.  Human risk can be considered only for the researchers themselves in circumstances where the research is essential and vital.  The civil or criminal offense of human experimentation that risks harm to the subjects would be either exposure to harm or the fear of harm by infliction of mental distress if subjects found out that the public position of the EPA is that small particles are toxic and lethal and cause cancer.  Which lie to believe?  That is the twist – you can't make these things up.

In 2011 and 2012, Milloy and Dunn wrote letters to the EPA, the NIH journal editor who published the article, the EPA inspector general, and the federal Office for Scientific Integrity.  They wrote to all the physicians in Congress, all the deans of the ten domestic medical schools doing human experiments, and state medical boards in North Carolina and Michigan, all attempting to stop the human experiments.

The authors have written about the EPA project of research that exposed human beings of all ages, even children, to that same small particle air pollution to see if they could cause some harm.  EPA sponsorship of these studies at ten domestic and six foreign medical schools was admitted under oath by an EPA official, Wayne Cascio, M.D., and it is unethical and illegal.  Senior EPA research scientist Robert Devlin, Ph.D. admitted in a sworn affidavit that the EPA epidemiology was unreliable, the reason for human experiments.

EPA hires the National Academy of Science

The EPA, in response to a congressional inquiry and negative inspector general report, engaged and paid the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) contract subdivision, the National Research Council (NRC), to provide a whitewash investigation.  The NAS National Research Council Investigative Committee was convened in secret without notice and without contacting Milloy and Dunn, the complaining parties, or the congressional committee that had demanded an inspector general report that had gone badly for the EPA.

The closeted investigation continued with closed meetings attended only by NRC staff, committee members, and the EPA.  The docket by a year, June of 2016, had 50 documents, all submitted by the EPA or its allies.  In May of 2016, a congressional aide ran across information about the existence of the committee and informed Milloy.  Milloy demanded a hearing and allowance for submissions in June of 2016, which was granted by NRC officials.  Milloy found that 13 out of 19 members of the committee were significant grantees of EPA, amounting to tens of millions of dollars received, with the most extreme example being Charles Driscoll, discussed here.

On August 11, 2016, an internet audio conference  of the National Research Council Panel on EPA-sponsored human exposure experiments titled "Assessing Toxicological Risks to Human Subjects Used in Controlled Exposure Studies of Environmental Pollutants" was held, with two hours of testimony heard and submissions critical of the EPA human exposure experimentation.  After that, nothing was heard from the committee.  

The committee published its news release and a 150-plus-page report on March 28, 2017, ignoring the testimony and submissions of witnesses Milloy, Dunn, Young, Enstrom, and Donnay.  The report exonerated the EPA human experiments on the theory that small particles are not toxic or lethal or carcinogenic acutely – that is, they do not have any acute toxic effects, but rather just long-term deleterious effects.  They said that, knowing that the EPA asserts short-term acute death effects and justifies its regulations on the basis of Ms. Jackson's claim – that small particles kill people and kill them acutely.

The problem for the NRC committee is that they are trying to create cover for the EPA by misstating the EPA position on toxicity and lethality of small particles.  That is clear from this quote from the National Academy of Sciences Report press release:

To assess the level of safety provided by study protocols and the likelihood of participants experiencing any serious health effects with long-term consequences, the committee reviewed eight recent CHIE studies.  The committee concluded that the societal benefits of CHIE studies are greater than the risks posed to the participants in the eight studies considered, which are unlikely to be large enough to be of concern.  EPA applies a broad set of health-evaluation criteria when selecting participants to determine that there is no reason to believe that their participation in the study will lead to an adverse health response.  The health status of subjects is monitored shortly before, during, and immediately after the exposure studies and usually again about 24 hours later.

The NAS report is self-destructive, obfuscatory, contradictory gobbledygook.

The NAS report is so filled with errors, omissions, misstatements, misdirection, and general dishonesty that it would take days if not weeks to fully critique.  The NAS compromised its integrity to cover for the EPA, confirming Eisenhower's warning about the government-research complex that can produce science fraud and misconduct for a political agenda.  Scaremongering is important for justifying government growth and overreach.  After all, the aim of practical politics is to create scares so the populace will be anxious and clamor to be led to safety by government experts (paraphrasing H.L. Mencken).

If the EPA can continue to do these experiments, then it must not be true that any exposure to PM2.5 can kill within hours or days, or even weeks.  It must have only a "chronic" long-term effect that the NRC committee fails to define.  That destroys the basis for the EPA air pollution regulatory regime that has burdened society for three decades and more and is based on scientific misconduct.

Who will reimburse society for the costs and burdens of this scam?  How about all those coal miners without jobs and the companies that had to spend millions to comply with regulations chasing a phantom small particle air pollution menace that was claimed to kill hundreds of thousands annually in the U.S.?

The movie Creature from the Black Lagoon, featuring the gill man, was scary, but corrupt researchers and politicians at the EPA-NAS-D.C. swamp are just despicable.

A comprehensive and informative narrative of the EPA wars and the EPA misconduct and what to do about it is found in Milloy's sixth and most recent book, Scare Pollution (Bench Press 2016).

Dunn's long battle with the EPA on scientific integrity is told here.  


Fracking isn't contaminating groundwater, study finds

A major anti-fracking argument by environmentalists may not have the facts to back it up, a new study conducted by Duke University found.

Fracking has not contaminated groundwater in northwestern West Virginia, according to the peer-reviewed study published this month in a European journal.

“Based on consistent evidence from comprehensive testing, we found no indication of groundwater contamination over the three-year course of our study,” explained Avner Vengosh, the professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

The growing industry could help create as many as 3.5 million jobs by 2035, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

While the study concluded that fracking didn’t contaminate groundwater, the researchers did say accidental spills of fracking wastewater could be dangerous to surface water in the area.

”However, we did find that spill water associated with fracked wells and their wastewater has an impact on the quality of streams in areas of intense shale gas development,” Vengosh added.

“The bottom-line assessment,” he continued, “is that groundwater is so far not being impacted, but surface water is more readily contaminated because of the frequency of spills.”

To complete the research, water samples from 112 drinking wells in northwestern West Virginia were evaluated during a three year period. Twenty of the water wells were sampled prior to drilling or fracking started in the area in order to obtain a baseline for later comparisons.

Tests demonstrated the presence of saline groundwater and methane in both the pre-drilling and post-drilling well water samples. But the samples had a chemistry slightly but distinctly different from the methane and salts found in fracking fluids and shale gas. The findings indicated that the elements occurred naturally in the region’s permeable rock and weren’t related to the result of recent shale gas operations at the site.

The study appears in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.


UK: We’re All Victims Of The Great Green Swindle

A generation who thought they were doing the right thing by buying diesel and clean energy have been taken for a ride.

When I was three my parents moved next to one of the busiest roundabouts in Europe. Hogarth roundabout in west London leads to the M3 and M4 and the smell of car fumes was only overpowered by the aroma of hops from the brewery on the corner. It was the perfect place to grow up. We had a huge green in front where we could stand on the railings and count the number of cars whizzing past. No one in the 1970s worried about the lead pollution, only about being run over. Nor did we care about where our electricity came from unless the lights went out. Green issues were not high on our agenda nor was our health. Our neighbours happily smoked away and we ate tinned spaghetti hoops and Angel Delight without a care for the sugar content.

Now my family is as green and healthy as possible. We recycle our apple cores, the children play sport every day under the Westway flyover, we bought a second-hand diesel car and then a hybrid and take the train to Devon for holidays. But the children are probably less healthy than I was 40 years ago. When the youngest started to wheeze I took him to the doctor who said he had doubled the number of inhalers he hands out in the past three years, so many children are becoming asthmatic.

“It’s the diesel, all that nitrogen dioxide and those toxic pollutants,” he explained. “He’ll inhale the particles in the car even with the windows shut, when he’s playing football by a busy road and even from the trains at the station.”

Our obsession with cutting carbon emissions has had terrible consequences. Air pollution contributes to an estimated 40,000 premature deaths a year in Britain, mainly among the young, the frail and the elderly, according to the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health. It can also hinder brain development, raise the risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer, and contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Our attempts to be altruistic have harmed rather than helped the most vulnerable. Almost as bad, those 11 million people who now own a diesel car are about to be penalised for following government advice a decade ago that the vehicles would help the country cut CO2 emissions. [...]

Gordon Brown’s budget of 1998 may have said in the small print that the government “recognises the adverse effect that the use of diesel has on local air quality” but first as chancellor and then as prime minister he shifted incentives towards diesel, until more than 35 per cent of cars were running on it, while manufacturers fiddled their engine management systems to cheat the testers. Japan, meanwhile, steered consumers away from polluting diesel, America stuck to petrol and India began switching buses to compressed natural gas (CNG).

The same mistake is now being made subsidising power stations to burn American wood pellets that are doing more harm to the climate than the coal they replaced, according to a recent Chatham House report. Drax in Yorkshire, once the largest, cleanest, most efficient coal-fired power station in Europe, has been converted to burn wood pellets with an annual £500 million public subsidy but it now pumps out more CO2. Wind farms are little better because we’ve had to build diesel power plants across the country to help on days when the wind doesn’t blow at the right speed.

One Scottish stately home owner boasted to me that he keeps his heating on in the summer as well as the winter because he is paid more in subsidies to use “green” wood chips for fuel than he pays out in heating costs. All this while the rest of us worry about our escalating energy bills.

Anaerobic digesters, which were sold to the public as a means to convert food waste into power, are now turning huge quantities of crops into small quantities of methane for the national gas grid thanks to yet more subsidies costing £200 million a year.

But it is car manufacturers who are still making the most money out of this great green swindle — consumers certainly aren’t. Diesel owners now face having to buy another car at vast expense. Scrappage payments of between £1,000 and £2,000 for the oldest diesel cars would help those hardest hit. However, if we subsidise new electric cars we will have to accept that much of the electricity used to charge their batteries comes from power stations using fossil fuels — or wood chips.

This week Andrea Leadsom, the environment secretary, shelved a new plan for air quality. But Downing Street policy advisers hint that Theresa May is on the side of the consumer, and sceptical of the latest money-spinning environmental fad. Last year, the prime minister’s joint chief of staff Nick Timothy described the Climate Change Act, which has been at the root of many of these misguided policies, as “a monstrous act of national self-harm”. He was right. As soon as the election is over Britain needs a coordinated energy strategy and a new Clean Air Act, to protect the environment and restore faith in government policy.


Settled science? 107 cancer papers retracted due to peer review fraud

The Warmist reliance on peer-review as a warrant of truth is badly flawed

The journal Tumor Biology is retracting 107 research papers after discovering that the authors faked the peer review process. This isn’t the journal’s first rodeo. Late last year, 58 papers were retracted from seven different journals— 25 came from Tumor Biology for the same reason.

It’s possible to fake peer review because authors are often asked to suggest potential reviewers for their own papers. This is done because research subjects are often blindingly niche; a researcher working in a sub-sub-field may be more aware than the journal editor of who is best-placed to assess the work.

But some journals go further and request, or allow, authors to submit the contact details of these potential reviewers. If the editor isn’t aware of the potential for a scam, they then merrily send the requests for review out to fake e-mail addresses, often using the names of actual researchers. And at the other end of the fake e-mail address is someone who’s in on the game and happy to send in a friendly review.

Fake peer reviewers often “know what a review looks like and know enough to make it look plausible,” said Elizabeth Wager, editor of the journal Research Integrity & Peer Review. But they aren’t always good at faking less obvious quirks of academia: “When a lot of the fake peer reviews first came up, one of the reasons the editors spotted them was that the reviewers responded on time,” Wager told Ars. Reviewers almost always have to be chased, so “this was the red flag. And in a few cases, both the reviews would pop up within a few minutes of each other.”

It’s not always the authors providing the reviews. "There is some evidence that so-called third-party language-editing services play a role in manipulating the reviewing process,” said a spokesperson for Springer, the company that published Tumor Biology until this year. Scientists who work in a language other than English may use editing services to polish their papers before submitting to a journal, and some of these services can be unethical and predatory, says Wager.

It might be naive, she says, but “if the authors didn't realize that this is what the editing company was doing, then I feel the authors should have a fair chance. There's probably nothing wrong with the research; it just hasn't been peer reviewed.” But of course, it’s difficult to assess whether the authors knew about it. “It is unclear whether the authors of the manuscripts were aware that the agencies were proposing fabricated reviewer names/e-mail addresses,” the Springer spokesperson told Ars.

This most recent avalanche of fake-reviewed papers was discovered because of extra screening at the journal. According to an official statement from Springer, “the decision was made to screen new papers before they are released to production.” The extra screening turned up the names of fake reviewers that hadn’t previously been detected, and “in order to clean up our scientific records, we will now start retracting these affected articles...Springer will continue to proactively investigate these issues.”

It’s best for editors not to rely on the contact details submitted by authors, but rather search for proper academic e-mail addresses themselves, said Wager. Some journals include this in their editorial guidelines, and other institutions recommend it as best practice. But there are other ways to game the system.

Tumor Biology changed hands in January, and the new publishers, SAGE, were aware of the problems when they took over. “[Springer] were open about the past instances of peer review fraud, and as part of the relaunch they wanted to address the underlying reasons,” a SAGE spokesperson told Retraction Watch. “The Tumor Biology editorial team have already introduced new robust peer review practices expected from all SAGE journals.” However, this doesn’t necessarily mean no more retractions for the journal, since investigations like this recent one may turn up more dirt from the past.

jooced wrote:

The U.S. EPA and Dept of Science should take note of this. This one example is but one of many of scientific fraud. EPA and Dept of Science: you wonder why too many people are skeptical of your work? 1. You are affiliated with the U.S. Government which has shown time and again how it cannot be trusted. 2. You do not hold your own to the highest standards -and- when there is an issue you are too slow to report it and/or out the fraudster.

This is on the scientific community - pure, plain, and simple.

Sigh, it is clear that 68 comments later some people still chose to spew their own nonsense without reading other comments first or having a basic understanding of the scope of this issue. Seriously, don't feel that you are now somehow justified in not believing in science because of anecdotes like this.

I really hate to reiterate the same point over and over, but this particular issue is exactly like what the other reader Veritas super omens stated: a three-year-old running her tricycle into the curb. It does not mean we need to stop all motorvehicles on the road.



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   main.html 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