Environmentalism: too many gravy trains, lies and dangerous hidden agendas

The modern environmental, or ‘green’, movement has shifted from overt care for the environment towards activist and economic damage, self-serving agendas and covert promotion of more sinister agendas, often supported, even driven, by politicians.  But opposition grows by the day as evidence and  common sense start to prevail.   

Scroll down to read the most recent articles; links to previous articles follow.

Coral can take the heat, unlike experts crying wolf

Coral can take the heat, unlike experts crying wolf  By (Professor) Peter Ridd, The Australian, 26 December 2018

Editor’s note: Peter Ridd was sacked by James Cook University for questioning other scientists’ dubious reports, as noted below. A related court case is pending.  JCU also removed world-renowned Professor Bob Carter (1942-2016) for similar reasons.

Scientists from James Cook University have just published a paper on the bleaching and death of corals on the Great Barrier Reef and were surprised that the death rate was less than they expected, because of the adaptability of corals to changing temperatures.

It appears as though they exaggerated their original claims and are quietly backtracking.

To misquote Oscar Wilde, to exaggerate once is a misfortune, to do it twice looks careless, but to do it repeatedly looks like unforgivable systemic unreliability by some of our major science organisations.

The very rapid adaptation of corals to high temperatures is a well-known phenomenon; besides, if you heat corals in a given year, they tend to be less susceptible in the future to overheating. This is why corals are one of the least likely species to be affected by climate change, irrespective of whether you believe the climate is changing by natural fluctuations or because of human influence.

Corals have a unique way of dealing with changing temperature, by changing the microscopic plants that live inside them. These microscopic plants, called zooxanthellae, give the coral energy from the sun through photosynthesis in exchange for a comfortable home inside the coral. When the water gets hot, these little plants effectively become poisonous to the coral and the coral throws them out, which turns the coral white — that is, it bleaches.

But most of the time, the coral will recover from the bleaching. And here’s the trick: the corals take in new zooxanthellae, that floats around in the water quite naturally, and can select different species that are better suited to hot weather.

Most other organisms have to change their genetic make-up to deal with temperature changes — something that can take many generations. But corals can do it in a few weeks by just changing the plants that live in them.

They have learned a thing or two in a couple of hundred million years of evolution.

The problem here is that the world has been completely misled about the effects of bleaching by scientists who rarely mention the spectacular regrowth that occurs. For example, the 2016 bleaching event supposedly killed 93 per cent, or half, or 30 per cent of the reef, depending on which headline and scientist you want to believe.

However, the scientists looked only at coral in very shallow water — less than 2m below the surface — which is only a small fraction of all the coral, but by far the most susceptible to getting hot in the tropical sun.

A recent study found that deep-water coral (down to more than 40m) underwent far less bleaching, as one would expect. I estimate that less than 8 per cent of the Barrier Reef coral died. That might still sound like a lot, but considering that there was a 250 per cent increase in coral between 2011 and 2016 for the entire southern zone, an 8 per cent decrease is nothing to worry about. Coral recovers fast.

But this is just the tip of the exaggeration iceberg. Some very eminent scientists claim that bleaching never happened before the 1980s and is entirely a man-made phenomenon. This was always a ridiculous proposition.

A recent study of 400-year-old corals has found that bleaching has always occurred and is no more common now than in the past. Scientists have also claimed that there has been a 15 per cent reduction in the growth rate of corals. However, some colleagues and I demonstrated that there were ­serious errors in their work and that, if anything, there has been a slight increase in the coral growth rate over the past 100 years.

This is what one would expect in a gently warming climate. Corals grow up to twice as fast in the hotter water of Papua New Guinea and the northern Barrier Reef than in the southern reef. I could quote many more examples.

This unreliability of the science is now a widely accepted scandal in many other areas of study and it has a name: the replication crisis. When checks are made to replicate or confirm scientific results, it is regularly found that about half have flaws. This is an incredible and scandalous situation, a view shared by the editors of eminent journals and many science institutions. A great deal of effort is going into fixing this problem, especially in the biomedical sciences, where it was first recognised.

But not for Barrier Reef science. The science institutions deny there is a problem and fail to correct erroneous work. When Piers Larcombe and I submitted an article to a scientific journal suggesting we needed a little additional checking of Great Barrier Reef science, the response from many very eminent scientists was that there was no need. Everything was fine. I am not sure if this is blind optimism or wilful negligence, but why would anybody object to a little more checking? It would cost only a few million dollars — just a tiny fraction of what governments will be spending on the reef.

But the truth will out eventually. The scare stories about the Barrier Reef started in the 1960s, when scientists first started work on it. They have been crying wolf ever since. But the data keeps coming in and, yes, sometimes a great deal of coral dies in a spectacular manner, with accompanying media fanfare. It is like a bushfire on land — it looks terrible at first, but it quietly and rapidly grows back, ready for the scientists to peddle their story all over again.

Peter Ridd was, until fired this year, a physicist at James Cook University’s marine geophysical laboratory.

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An ideological mess of monumental proportions

An ideological mess of monumental proportionsBy Maurice Newman, The Australian, 6 July 2018

Australia’s emissions reduction policies are in response to what has always been an ideologically charged, fashionable flight of fancy, writes Maurice Newman.

Once upon a time, politics was referred to as the art of the possible. It was less about what was right or best than what could be achieved politically.

Today, the political class has refined that dark art and, like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, has decided that “imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality”.

It removes the constraints of inconvenient truths and unpalatable facts. For the doubters, “experts” can always be enlisted to validate even the wildest fantasies.

Take the government’s latest national energy guarantee contrivance. Even though it requires significantly more wind farms than now and a much increased demand for gas (despite the constraints on its extraction), some pundits say it will allow Australians to have their cake and eat it, too. It will allow us to meet emissions reduction commitments, to deliver reliable electricity supplies and make energy use more affordable. Imagine that. South Australia tried something similar and ended up with the highest retail electricity prices in the world.

Yet, notwithstanding the vagaries of ageing coal-fired generators, the addition of the expensive Snowy Hydro 2.0 and an increased reliance on intermittent sources, we are assured that this time it’s different.

Australia’s emissions reduction policies are in response to what has always been an ideologically charged, fashionable flight of fancy: the imagined danger that industrial “greenhouse” gas emissions lead to catastrophic global warming. Somehow, across time, this became politically accepted “settled science”.

It spawned an industry of crony capitalists and other taxpayer-dependent rent-seekers. But it didn’t stop Mother Nature, independent scientists and scandal exposing the hollowness of the narrative. Rather than withdraw from economically crippling and socially impoverishing emission abatement schemes, the political class just doubles down.

Rational thinkers may ponder what it will take for policymakers to recognise reality. It clearly takes more than the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s 40-year satellite data, which to date has recorded no increase in Australia’s atmospheric temperature.

Likewise, NASA’s recently released global data, which recorded average temperatures for the two years to February this year, shows the biggest two-year drop in the past century. That cooling brought the worst British winter in 42 years, and the related deaths of 48,000, mainly elderly, Britons.

Perhaps this and last year’s Greenland melt season, which was the lowest since 1996, are just aberrations. But then what about the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest of the Antarctic ice shelves, which, contrary to scientific predictions, continues to expand? If sea levels are rising dangerously, why are 80 per cent of reef islands in the South Pacific and Indian oceans stable or growing? And why do the longest continuous Australasian records at Fremantle and Auckland reflect a tendency towards a general slowing in the rise of mean sea level? Perhaps the fact polar bears were listed as endangered in 2008 but have increased in number by more than 30 per cent since 2005 can pass without comment today. But there was a time when this was promoted as emblematic of global warming.

Albert Einstein told us: “Knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world.” Well, we know a lot more than we did 40 years ago.

Climate change advocates may say individual data points are simply isolated weather events, but collectively the evidence is mounting and no longer should be denied. Yet it is. The political class remains unfazed and seems determined to ensure that whatever the latest science may prove, ideology, not economics, will prevail.

It is no mean feat to take a country from being among the cheapest energy markets to one of the most expensive. Confirming the collapse of the low-cost market-based system, in nine years retail prices in the National Elec­tricity Market are up 80 per cent to 90 per cent and wholesale prices have risen 120 per cent since 2015.

The economic cost of emissions abatement policies can be observed in increasing layoffs, relocations and industry closures. The cumulative effect has yet to be felt, but it will be significant and deep, consistent with experience overseas, where higher energy ­prices have led to many more job losses in the broader economy than have been created in the renewables space.

So where to from here? With the range of renewable energy subsidies paid for by consumers, and state, territory and federal taxpayers running at more than $4 billion a year and likely to remain in force to at least 2030, the outlook is bleak.

With financial inducements and priority to the grid, intermittent energy progressively will crowd out fossil fuel generators. In such distorted markets, new investment in reliable coal-fired power will be uneconomic. Subsidies to would-be clean-coal investors will distort the market further.

Perhaps after 27 years of uninterrupted growth, policymakers are as dismissive of the laws of economics as they are of inconvenient scientific evidence. Going from a virtual debt-free position 10 years ago to a half-trillion dollars and counting is alarming enough. But when the debt is hypothecated to unrealistic expectations of an endless demand for Australian exports, the risks magnify.

Add to this the Bank of International Settlements’ recent observation of record household debt, static real wages, rapid rises in non-discretionary household expenditure and potential interest rate hikes and Australian families have rarely been more exposed to an economic downturn than now.

There is no quick fix. Australia’s manufacturing base has been hollowed out and the mortgage belt is running on empty. This is an ideological mess of monumental proportions and the likelihood of returning the electricity market to some form of normality may well be beyond the political courage of today’s politicians.

Still, as Ayn Rand reminds us, “We can ignore reality but we cannot ignore the consequences of ­ignoring reality.”

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New Zealand is killing its economy by green zealotry

New Zealand is killing its economy by green zealotry  By Dr Muriel Newman, NZCPR Weekly, 27 June 2018

There are just over 20 days left to send the Government a message that you are not prepared to accept the economic consequences of their Zero Carbon Bill.

The consultation documents accompanying the Bill show the policies come at a very high economic cost to all New Zealanders. Their modelling forecasts that by 2050, the economy would be at least a quarter smaller, that the burden will fall disproportionately on lower income households, and that the output of emissions-intensive industries such as sheep, beef, and dairy farming, will be halved.

With that economic prospect ahead it’s no wonder Winston Peters tried to distance himself from the future when he announced his choice of the new Government: “We in New Zealand First believe that an economic correction, or a slowdown, is looming…”

While he said he was foreshadowing the downturn so as not to get blamed when it arrives, the reality is that he is very much to blame. Winston Peters is only political leader in our country’s history to have allowed the radical agenda of the Greens to become law. All other political leaders, who have been in a position to choose a coalition, have elected to leave the extremist Greens out of any Ministerial line up. Winston Peters, however, ignored the risk when he crowned Labour and opened the door to the radical Greens.

The reality is that the ideologically driven Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who is on a moral crusade to save the planet, is blind to the economic harm his policies will inevitably cause.

At no time during the election campaign did Labour or the Greens attempt to outline the full details of the wealth cost of their Carbon Zero policy. Even now, when the policy implications are being disclosed and the costs are becoming clear, they are continuing to down-play the cost and claim benefits when there are none.

No party has the right to introduce policies to destroy a country’s economic future without clearly spelling out their intentions during an election campaign.

Since Labour and the Greens did not do that, their Zero Carbon Bill should be rejected in the strongest possible way.

James Shaw announced the consultation on his Bill using his typical weasel words.

In spite of there being no real-life evidence that dangerous man-made global warming exists, James Shaw continues to attribute all manner of natural events to global warming: “But the frequency and the severity of storms, coastal and river flooding, droughts and wildfires is increasing, and will continue to increase as long as we and the rest of the world keep putting greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere… Sea level rise alone puts at risk, five airports, 46 kilometres of railway, 1,100 kilometres of road and nearly 70,000 buildings, with a replacement cost of $19 billion.”

His exaggerated claims have no basis in fact, and are no better than the sensationalist predictions from United Nations’ climate models that have proven to be grossly inaccurate for over twenty years – models used by former US Vice President Al Gore and the UN Environmental Programme to claim that sea level rise would engulf cities around the world and create 50 million climate refugees by 2010!

James Shaw is not only dishonest with his fear-mongering predictions of gloom, he is also dishonest about the economic benefits of de-carbonisation, which he claims will provide “an extraordinary opportunity to upgrade our economy, not just to be ‘clean and green’, but also more productive and better paid”.

But rather than quantifying the benefits, he refers to “the costs if we do nothing”. The truth is there is no rational argument in support of his policy position. It’s a policy built on fear.

James Shaw’s ‘clean’ and ‘green’ economy doesn’t exist – it’s a false prophecy. Wind and solar power, which he heralds as the clean green saviours of the future, depend on mining and smelting. A 3 metre wind turbine contains over 300 tonnes of steel, 5 tonnes of copper, 1200 tonnes of concrete, 3 tonnes of aluminium and 2 tonnes of rare earths – where mining one tonne of rare earths produces 200 cubic metres of acid waste water. Solar panels contain arsenic, aluminium, boron, cadmium, copper, gallium, indium, molybdenum, phosphorous, selenium, silica, silver, steel, tellurium, and titanium.

California’s obsession with sustainable energy has led to escalating power prices and massive power cuts, while Spain’s love affair with renewable energy has also ended badly, failing to provide affordable power or security of supply, despite decades of government subsidies.

James Shaw wants 95 percent of cars and 50 percent of trucks electrified by 2050, but has yet to provide any details – including how New Zealand is expected to generate sufficient clean green energy to power all of the batteries. Will he force people to comply with his world view by raising the carbon levy on each litre of petrol from the present 4.7 cents to over 55 cents – as predicted by the Productivity Commission – or will he do it by increasing the annual registration levies on petrol and diesel vehicles.

To see the folly of ‘clean green’ policies, one needs look no further than the government’s disgraceful decision to ban future oil and gas exploration. With domestic supplies of natural gas dwindling, and without the ability to discover new reserves – New Zealand’s importation of natural gas from distant overseas markets will eventually lead to an overall increase in emissions.

Labour exposed its reckless approach to governance when it dictated that the industry would close – without any prior warning, any costings, or any consultation – just so the Prime Minister could look decisive on the world stage. It remains one of the key reasons why Kiwi businesses cannot trust this government and why business confidence is declining.

So why would James Shaw, Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters impose ideological policies onto New Zealand that have failed overseas? Why would they put our future at risk for a theory – for that’s all man-made global warming is?

To reiterate, there remains no real-life evidence that dangerous man-made global warming exists. The weather events that James Shaw likes to highlight as being proof of runaway climate change are not outside the bounds of natural variability.

During the Medieval Warm Period, the earth was far warmer than it is today, and during the Little Ice Age, far cooler. Carbon dioxide levels have been far higher than now, and far lower. Species continue to evolve as they always have, with some dying out and others adapting and flourishing. Storms have been fiercer and more frequent than the present, as have floods and every other adverse weather event. The climate is chaotic, but no more, nor less, than it’s ever been.

Furthermore, while carbon is classed as “pollution” by some, it remains essential for life on earth. Although the actual level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is miniscule, it plays an essential role in the food chain. All plants and animals breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, but through photosynthesis in the presence of green chlorophyll and water, plants are able to capture the sun’s energy and carbon dioxide and store them as food, releasing oxygen in the process.

Yet Green socialists, intent on destroying economic growth and prosperity, have convinced politicians around the world that carbon dioxide is their enemy.

There is no doubt that at some stage in the future, sanity will again prevail and the current climate extremism will be relegated to the dustbin of history.

But in the meantime, how do we stop the politicians from destroying our economy and undermining our living standards?

One practical step is to encourage everyone who shares these concerns to express their views through the Zero Carbon Bill consultation. It’s open until 5pm on the 19th of July, and feedback can be provided through the website questionnaire HERE – or by directly emailing the Climate Change Team at ZCB@mfe.govt.nz.

The Zero Carbon Bill will create a vast bureaucracy: A Climate Change Commission, ‘emissions budgets’, climate change adaptation plans, and emissions targets.

The Bill presents three options for emissions targets for 2050. The first would regulate only carbon dioxide, the second carbon dioxide and methane, and the third carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and any other gases they can find.

The second and third options are designed to target farmers, as environmental extremists want to see stock numbers reduced and farming limited as an economic activity.

While most methane in New Zealand is produced by ruminants digesting food, it is not the problem the activists are making it out to be. Soil scientist, Dr Doug Edmeades, explains:

“Methane is short-lived in the atmosphere. It hangs around for about 10 years before it is converted to CO2. For every unit of carbon the animal emits as CH4 it must ingest the same amount of carbon from its plant-based feed source, which, comes initially from the CO2 in the atmosphere. The animal is both the source of the carbon in methane and it is also the sink for the equivalent amount of carbon in CO2. In this sense the carbon-methane cycle – methane-to-CO2-to-forage-plants-to-animals-to-methane – is a closed cycle. The animal is CH4-carbon neutral.”

Dr Edmeades is right – and his finding illustrates only too clearly why climate science, like all science, is never ‘settled’, with new discoveries continually improving our knowledge and understanding.

Since livestock are carbon neutral, methane from agriculture should not be included in emissions targets. Without methane, New Zealand would have one of the smallest greenhouse gas emissions profiles in the developed world.

In fact, no gases should be included in emissions targets, because just like the Emissions Trading Scheme, James Shaw’s proposed Zero Carbon Bill will create a costly nightmare of red tape and bureaucracy that will waste time and money, drag down the economy, and destroy businesses and jobs – all for no benefit.

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator is former Reserve Bank economist Michael Reddell, who shares his analysis of the economic modelling that has been carried out on the Zero Carbon Bill. He also expresses astonishment at what is actually being proposed:

“I guess these targets are advocated by zealots, but even the zealots surely recognise that what New Zealand does is not going to change the climate, and that many countries already richer and more productive than we are are proposing adjustments that are materially less costly or demanding than what the New Zealand government is proposing here. I am not suggesting we can or should do nothing – there is some minimum effort probably required to ward off the threat of trade sanctions – but surely on any reasonable cost-benefit assessment of the interests of New Zealanders, we would be confronting these costs – the wilfully given up opportunities for our kids and grandchildren – and pulling back?

“I would be surprised if ever before in history a democratic government has consulted on proposals to reduce the material wellbeing of its own people by up to 25 per cent. Wars, of course, come at a very considerable cost – and sometimes are worth fighting – but again, I doubt any democracy (or perhaps even any tyranny) ever entered a war thinking that as a result of doing so they would be so much poorer 30 years on. It is simply a breathtaking proposition – the more so in a country that at the moment struggles to achieve any material productivity growth at all.”

So, what should we, the people, do?

We need to push-back against the Bill and James Shaw’s moral crusade. Anyone who cares about New Zealand and our economic future should say no to emissions target. Doing nothing is not an option.

Regrettably, instead of taking a lead and standing up against the extremist madness of the Greens and this Bill, National’s new leader Simon Bridges has decided to support it. And without a Donald Trump – who had the courage to reject climate scaremongering and threats and put the wellbeing of his country and its people first – it’s up to us! Don’t forget, submissions close July 19.

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About Peter Senior

I'm a very experienced and pragmatic management consultant. I've reviewed and led the restructuring of many organisations - large and small corporations and Government Departments, much of the time as President of the New Zealand Institute of Management Consultants. Before that I was General Manager of a major NZ newspaper; earlier, an analyst for IBM UK. I gained an honours degree in engineering at London University, and studied management at Cambridge University. This wide range of experience has left me frustrated: I continue to see too many examples of really bad management. Sometimes small easily fixed issues; sometimes fundamental faults; and sometimes really tricky problems. Mostly these issues can be fixed using a mixture of common sense, 'management 101' and applying lessons from years of management experience. Unfortunately, all too often, politics, bureaucracy and daft government regulations get in the way; internal factors such as poor culture and out-of-date strategies are often evident. So what's gone wrong, and why, and most importantly, how to fix 'it'? I hope there are like-minded people 'out there' who will share their thoughts enabling 'us' to improve some significant management failures that affect the general public. If you just accept bad management, you don't have the right to complain! If you'd like to share thoughts on any aspects of management, send me an email to petersenior42@gmail.com . My latest project has the interim title 'You’ve been conned. Much of what you were taught and read is largely irrelevant, misleading or plain wrong – this is the REAL story of life: past, present and our possible future.' The working paper so far comprises 105 pages, many listing references and interim conclusions. The main problem is finding sufficient credible evidence, and realising the more Iearn, the more I realise I don't know!
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