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The bare facts of biodiversity

Richard Black | 19:00 UK time, Thursday, 29 April 2010

We've known for a couple of years or so that one of the impressive-sounding environmental promises that governments are signed up to - the pledge to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss significantly by 2010 - isn't going to be met.

Now, an analysis just published in the journal Science is giving us detail on some important dimensions of the problem.

It's particularly timely, as we are now on the path towards October's UN biodiversity convention summit in Nagoya, Japan. There you can expect all of these bones to be picked over, and some new targets to be set.

MonkeysIf you've been following the issue, the basic pattern should be familiar.

Numbers of species, size of populations, diversity within ecosystems: all these are going down.

Habitat loss, the spread of harmful alien species, depletion of fish stocks: all these are going up.

Joining the dots and concluding that the second batch of things causes the first isn't a leap of deduction likely gain you a Nobel Prize.

The Science paper, compiled by an impressive array of scientists across disciplines led by Stuart Butchart from the UN's World Conservation Monitoring Centre and BirdLife International, does three things that may prove useful.

• It sorts out what we know and what we don't know, and in which regions
• It refines measurements of how the various threats are changing
• It puts all of this together in a global whole

As usual, the global picture that scientists would like to have is in reality a patchwork of local and regional pixels, with the added constraint that the time-line for measurements in many parts of the world starts only a few decades ago.

If the availability of good data on something as simple as temperature is patchy across the world, imagine how much patchier it is when it comes to issues such as the rate of nitrogen deposition or the changing abundance of birds.

Where things can be assessed from published data - for example, the size of protected areas declared by governments - you can obviously get a more precise figure than where you have to go out and do field measurements in 270 patches of forest with four day of hiking between them.

So, for example, the researchers concluded that the spread of invasive alien species can only really be assessed in Europe at this stage.

BirdSome fisheries records are only usable from 1997. Just 16 countries submitted data on the extent of seagrass in their waters.

So you get the picture - a fragmented one, at best.

Nevertheless, some trends are clearly discernible, both downwards and upwards.

Picking out some examples, Dr Butchart tells the BBC's Science in Action programme:

"In my lifetime, the condition of coral reefs has declined by 40%, animal populations have declined by a third, and we've lost 20% of the extent of mangroves and seagrasses."

Arguably, the drivers of biodiversity loss are more important than the biodiversity trends themselves.

After all, society is not deliberately trying to send species extinct - it's trying to clothe itself and feed itself and get itself around faster and so on - and as long as society continues trying to do these things faster and faster using the same technologies and materials, you'd logically expect biodiversity loss to keep on going.

Of these drivers, the spread of alien species, the impacts of climatic change, loss of habitat and the over-exploitation of fish stocks are all trending inexorably upwards - the only exception is nitrogen deposition, which appeared to reach a plateau around 1990, although some would argue it's on the way up again now.

Despite the limitations of the data available, governments are undoubtedly better informed about biodiversity decline and its causes than at any time in the past.

There's no room left to claim "we don't understand the problem".

But the problem is closely tied to human development - the rising population, the rising use of resources, eating more food, building more roads, using more energy.

Halting these implies a cost: which is why there's growing interest now in documenting the costs of not halting them - of totting up the value that intact ecosystems bring, and what it would cost to replace the services they provide.

There'll be more on this along during the year. But Dr Butchart has another, much simpler point:

"All nature has intrinsic value. What right have we got to drive hundreds of thousands of species extinct and deny our children, grandchildren or future generations the opportunity to benefit from and appreciate the species around us?"

Whether we have the right or not, it's exactly what we are doing, as this Science paper shows us in greater detail than ever before.

Comments

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  • 1. At 7:26pm on 29 Apr 2010, sensiblegrannie wrote:

    It would be helpful if you could direct us to an animated map of species lost over time; with the relative impact on other species living in the same ecosystem. This would help others who find it hard to visualise; how an insignificant looking creature/s can have a wider impact.

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  • 2. At 7:31pm on 29 Apr 2010, sensiblegrannie wrote:

    Oh, could we have a link to an animated version of what happens when an alien species is introduced into an established ecosystem so that we can make informed choices.

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  • 3. At 7:41pm on 29 Apr 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    The good news is that mosquitoes are doing very well. They have been moving North and especially those that carry West Nile Virus and Dengue Fever. Reports indicate that slight increases in air temperature makes these viruses more potent as well. May help with the human population problem. I think Canada had its first case in 2001, thought Mannysummits would like to know.
    There are those who believe humans are external to the eco-system and those who think humans are just a part...nature doesn't care what you think.

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  • 4. At 7:51pm on 29 Apr 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    Richard Black wrote:

    "The Science paper, compiled by an impressive array of scientists across disciplines [...]
    sorts out what we know and what we don't know"

    Oh dear. I think you had better find out something about the history of science. I recommend Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

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  • 5. At 8:16pm on 29 Apr 2010, sensiblegrannie wrote:

    There are quite a few video clips and BBC stuff about ecosystems on a google search of 'vanishing ecosystems.' Beware of the spoof films if you are planning to show them to the younger generation. I haven't found what I am looking for in animations yet.

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  • 6. At 8:45pm on 29 Apr 2010, Jack Hughes wrote:

    Why don't these eco-babblers stay at home for a week and do some practical conservation work instead of these useless UN conferences?

    We had a day-long session last Sunday tidying up the local woods. Picking up litter, repairing fences, signs, generally cleaning up. We all had fun and finished with a sense of achievement. Organised by the local pub.

    Much better than these pompous taxpayer-funded gab-fests.

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  • 7. At 9:16pm on 29 Apr 2010, Rajiv wrote:

    Like in other web forums, it would be nice if the BBC too allows readers to agree or disagree with them. There are all sorts of comments, some on the lunatic fringes, and it would be nice to know which comments are most agreed with.

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  • 8. At 9:31pm on 29 Apr 2010, LarryKealey wrote:

    #3. At 7:41pm on 29 Apr 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    The good news is that mosquitoes are doing very well. They have been moving North and especially those that carry West Nile Virus and Dengue Fever. Reports indicate that slight increases in air temperature makes these viruses more potent as well.

    -----------------------------------------------------

    Garbage - pure unadulterated propaganda and untrue.

    You have obviously never been to Minnesota or Alaska during summer - some of the largest and fiercest mosquitoes to be found the world over. Oh, and lets not forget Siberia in summer - mosquitoes and biting flies in the tundra so thick they can kill livestock just by sucking them dry.

    Nor is it true that either West Nile or Dengue fever has become 'more virulent'. I personally have had the unpleasant experience of West Nile virus - most people who get it have no symptoms and don't even know, but it can be very unpleasant. Why don't you check the CDC to see if it has become 'more virulent' - I think you will find it has not. Please cite your sources.

    I suppose living in China, you must be very used to propaganda and promulgating it - but I am calling you on it - and I live in the Mosquito capital of the world - South East Texas - only 40 miles from Clute Texas, famous for the annual Mosquito Festival. Down there, people build houses on stilts - most people think its because of flooding, its not. They build houses on stilts because of the mosquitoes, which generally stay within ten feet of the ground.

    It is because of people like you that Africa is deprived of DDT and suffers horribly from malaria - any comment on that? You want to try and blame that one on global warming too? Cop a clue dude.

    Kealey

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  • 9. At 9:39pm on 29 Apr 2010, LarryKealey wrote:

    @Richard wrote:

    "But the problem is closely tied to human development - the rising population, the rising use of resources, eating more food, building more roads, using more energy."

    ---------------------------------------------------------------

    While I agree with most of this - particularly rising population and use of resources, I think that it should be noted that efficiency is an issue here. We lack efficient use of resources, particularly in the developing and undeveloped world. Where people still burn wood - or whatever and it takes ten times as much land to grow food (meager food at that) per person.

    We could do a great deal to both improve the human condition as well as retain and restore natural habitat by development of the third world - more efficient use of resources, and better management of those resources.

    I greatly applaud the creation of the Marine Sanctuary around Diego Garcia and am pleased that no exemptions have been granted for the former french slaves to fish and exploit those waters. We need more of that...

    We also need to provide cheap energy for Africa and South/East Asia to allow for more efficient food production.

    And of course, lets not forget all our fisheries...the list goes on.

    These are the problems we should be focused on tackling, not CO2 emissions and cap and trade and carbon taxes - which solve no problems and have no impact.

    Cheers.

    Kealey

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  • 10. At 10:27pm on 29 Apr 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    Nice to see something other than the silly AGW story.

    The problem with this story is that it lacks specifics and goes instead into too-broad generalizations. Like this:

    "Numbers of species, size of populations, diversity within ecosystems: all these are going down."

    Everywhere? All populations? All ecosystems? Absolute nonsense.

    Which ecosystems are you referring to? Although the Green purists shudder at this reality, human impacts can increase biodiversity simply by increasing habitat diversity. For one simple example, properly logging an area actually increases biodiversity by creating multi-aged habitats for the various species adapted to them. All one gets in an 'old-growth' forest is old-growth species.

    If more people were birders they would understand this.

    The size of many wildlife populations is going up, dramatically. Look at the deer population in the UK to use an obvious example. How about the whooping crane, a poster child of the conservation movement? Population growth. And the peregrine falcon? Etc. Etc. Etc.

    But, Richard, you seem hell bent an accentuating the negative.

    This is going to be an interesting blog! Will be back with more nitpicking in detail. In the meantime, make sure you don't look into the status of the panda, the WWF's poster child. It could disturb your relentless pessimism.

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  • 11. At 10:39pm on 29 Apr 2010, Richard Black (BBC) wrote:

    #4 bowman, I have absolutely no idea what you are driving at here. If it's hand-waving about the nature of knowledge, or some such, perhaps you could tell us how Hegel, Popper, Kuhn etc would variously interpret the extinction of the baiji, for example.

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  • 12. At 10:40pm on 29 Apr 2010, infiniti wrote:

    CanadianRockies,

    The problem with your comment is you evidentally haven't even read the first link in the first sentence of Richard's post.

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  • 13. At 10:54pm on 29 Apr 2010, LarryKealey wrote:

    10. At 10:27pm on 29 Apr 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    Nice to see something other than the silly AGW story.

    The problem with this story is that it lacks specifics and goes instead into too-broad generalizations. Like this:

    "Numbers of species, size of populations, diversity within ecosystems: all these are going down."

    Everywhere? All populations? All ecosystems? Absolute nonsense.

    -------------------------------------------------------

    Agree it is nice to see something other than silly AGW all the time...but...

    Looking at the big picture, which is what he is doing here, we are seeing habitat loss across pretty much every ecosystem. There is good reason to accentuate the negative.

    While there are a few wildlife populations which are going up - like deer, not just in the UK, but all across the US as well, and lets not forget polar bears - dramatic increases in population (regardless of the propaganda we hear from WWF and USGS), these are isolated and rare examples.

    I don't know about in the UK, but deer populations have exploded in the US because of decline in their natural predators, coupled with their ability to adapt to development.

    If you look at the big picture, natural habitat in most places is being destroyed, a great many species are in decline. Did you not read Richard's article a few weeks ago about Tigers and the Black Rhino?

    If you were to choose a Tiger at random today, the odds are that it was born and raised in captivity - more tigers born in captivity than in the wild - not a good sign. The reason? Habitat loss and poaching. Even if you were able to stop poaching, habitat loss would see the end of the tiger.

    Yes, there are some good examples of species which have rebounded, but the big picture is very bleak. In my view, and I believe many others, the culprit is habitat loss. Without preserving and restoring precious habitats and ecosystems the world over, we can only expect greater decline for species already on the decline and a short rebound for those in 'rebound' - such as the whooping crane, peregrine falcon, wolves, etc.

    In Richard's defense, he has written a number of articles on specific species and issues related to biodiversity - as this is the 'year of biodiversity' - I am pleased that he is writing about the 'big picture', related to biodiversity.

    @Richard, cheers for the article. Pity we don't get as many comments as the silly AGW stuff - but perhaps it is because we all recognize the real issue and there is not too much to debate here - wish we could see some action on this front though...

    Cheers.

    Kealey

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  • 14. At 10:58pm on 29 Apr 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    @ghostofsichuan

    You do realize that it is promulgation of propaganda (falsehoods) and myths such as this which weaken the already weakened case for your cause (AGW). But keep it up - it is a 'dead horse' anyway and anyone with sense can see through your propaganda...

    Cheers.

    Kealey

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  • 15. At 10:59pm on 29 Apr 2010, LarryKealey wrote:

    12. At 10:40pm on 29 Apr 2010, infinity wrote:

    CanadianRockies,

    The problem with your comment is you evidentally haven't even read the first link in the first sentence of Richard's post.

    ---------------------------------------------------

    Alas, we agree.

    Cheers.

    Kealey

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  • 16. At 11:03pm on 29 Apr 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To Larry Kealey re #8:

    I once wrote that I thought you were a decent individual.

    I now retract that statement.

    Your post #8 is "garbage," to use your own word, and presents not one single shred of evidence to refute Ghostofsichuan's statement. In addition, your tone and manner is that of one who promotes misinformation and uses character assasination tactics.

    Pity.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 17. At 11:20pm on 29 Apr 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    @Manysummits

    A spade is a spade. It is not up to me to provide a citing, but Ghostofcishuan - he makes the claim - and I call it garbage - it is up to him to prove it.

    I do think you are a decent individual, although misguided at times. I won't retract that statement.

    I rarely respond to Ghost's posts because they seldom cite anything but propaganda and myth.

    Please - talk to you buddy and one of you come up with some evidence to support his assertion regarding mosquitoes and West Nile and similar diseases and I will gladly retract my post and make appropriate apology - but you can't, cause it ain't true.

    Just like it ain't true that polar bear populations have been declining... more mythology - promulgation of which does not support your position.

    BTW - I have seen your tone carry quite a bit of Irish at times...;)

    Cheers.

    Kealey

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  • 18. At 11:23pm on 29 Apr 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    @manysummits

    Please read post #3 again and then tell me who is 'promoting misinformation' - or back it up...

    Cheers.

    Kealey

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  • 19. At 00:26am on 30 Apr 2010, Rob_Cambs wrote:

    @kealy - post#3 was being ironic ! The other scare-monger story otherwise known as AGW states that various unwelcomed species, such as mosquitoes are progressing north, due to warming. No mention of that here of course.

    this doom-mongering is simply unbearable. i don't believe it is as bad as claimed - there is no objective reporting on the enivornment

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  • 20. At 00:31am on 30 Apr 2010, Rob_Cambs wrote:

    Kealey - I apologise. I mis-read the comments.

    I think you may have a good point in there somewhere, but I fell you need to articulate it with a little less anger

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  • 21. At 01:17am on 30 Apr 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    #12, #15 - True. I had not read that. Busy day so I just made my initial comments.

    Now I read it. And while I recognize the point, I still stand by my point. The statement I quoted was a gross generalization.

    I live in Canada. I am retired from a career in the conservation field. That statement is mostly false in Canada. The reality of North America is that the real 'extinction crisis' happened 100 years ago, which is when the conservation movement was born. The decimation of the bison was the headline that started it but it went far, far beyond that. Most people are ignorant of this history and the current eco-crisis research-industrial complex likes it that way. While I absolutely do not deny there are now very serious issues, very serious losses in some habitats, and very serious extinction threats for some species, that is not the whole story at all.

    The list of North American species doing better now than 50 or 100 years ago is far, far longer than the list of actually endangered or threatened species. And those terms actually mean something specific and legal. Most people do not understand even that.

    So, to repeat my initial point, the specifics matter because that is what is happening in the real world. One cannot extrapolate the plight of one species or one habitat to everything. That would be dense.

    Here's just one tiny example for starters. Seems Richard, like many others, thinks that there is some direct correlation between human population growth and species decline. Sometimes there is, particularly in Third World countries. But in developed countries there are countless examples of that being false. Just to use an obvious one, look at all the deer in the UK. Or the exploding black bear population in New Jersey. So this whole thing is much more complex than some would have us believe. That is my point.

    -----------

    But here's one of my serious concerns for North America: biofuels. In the ultimate case of idiocy, some fools want to save us from alleged AGW by using 'wood waste' and other things for biofuels. Even worse, the ethanol thing suddenly makes land that has been marginal or even set aside for wildlife suddenly 'useful' for this. This trend is a very serious threat to wildlife habitat, and thus wildlife right now, and it could get much worse. (Same problem in Brazil.)

    Or here's another one. The palm oil plantations of SE Asia are an ecological disaster. One giant monoculture replacing rain forests and, most famously, orangutang habitat (but that's just the 'poster species'). I just read an article yesterday that says that some EU/AGW morons are considering calling these plantations forests so they can claim carbon credits for them!!!!

    And Unilever hands out cash to environmentalists so they stay quiet.

    Sigh. I'll try and find a link to that palm oil story. But busy outside today so that could take a while.



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  • 22. At 01:18am on 30 Apr 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    First, a paper that might be of some help on this subject:
    Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning:
    Maintaining Natural Life Support Processes
    by
    Shahid Naeem, Chair, F.S. Chapin III, Robert Costanza, Paul R. Ehrlich, Frank B. Golley, David U. Hooper,
    J.H. Lawton, Robert V. O’Neill, Harold A. Mooney, Osvaldo E. Sala, Amy J. Symstad, and David Tilman
    Second, the strange comment about 'silly AGW' is without any factual backing and is merely a bit of straw dog thrown in to lose the scent. Frankly, there is a tremendous lack of scientific background in the opinions from these kinds of commentators (the silly AGW one, for example). It would be useful to read actual research, or perhaps go to Scientific American or any other bone fide publication to get the latest information in layman's language. Biodiversity is a critical issue, and hearty comments about birding and doing a bit of pub-driven pick up of trash seem overtly frivolous. As for AGW, try a few nights of perusing RealClimate.org, a site run by professional climate scientists, and then see if you are still sanguine about the subject.

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  • 23. At 01:28am on 30 Apr 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    Larry Kealy - Just reread your post before dashing outside.

    Tell me about all the North American species in decline. I am certainly aware of some. But there are many more which are stable or increasing. And if you compare things to 50 or 100 years ago, that positive list gets very, very long.

    Here's some off the top of my head.

    ALL birds of prey, except California Condors. Whooping Cranes, Sandhill Cranes, Trumpeter Swans, Whistling Swans, White Pelicans, ALL species of geese and ducks, ALL shorebirds and marsh birds (egrets, herons, etc.).

    ALL ungulates except the 'mountain caribou' (an ecotype of woodland caribou) and SOME herds of caribou. Grizzly and Alaska brown bears (same species but different subspecies), black bears (population explosions in some areas), polar bears. ALL furbearers (the fur trade reduced them) except the Black-footed Ferret (and even its doing better now)...

    Well, there's a few for starters.

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  • 24. At 01:40am on 30 Apr 2010, Rob_Cambs wrote:

    @11 Richard,

    The process of evolution, survival of the fittest, drives extiction. >99% of all species that ever lived have become extict, and apart from global extiction events, this is due to one species 'out-winning' the other. It is not pretty, and we should do what we can to mitigate, but we are animals ourselves who follow the same rules.

    I'm afraid your continous over-zealous, negative, anti-humanist posts suggest to me that you are far removed from reality.

    Sorry

    Rob

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  • 25. At 02:38am on 30 Apr 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To Larry Kealey:

    No, there is no need to even discuss mosquitoes. That is between you and Ghostofsichuan.

    I have long examined your posts, their tone and content, and I have noticed a definite campaign of misinformation, which, if you are who you say you are, a very well educated and well connected individual in both the US military and financial sectors, and possessed of advanced knowledge and expertise in science, conclusively, as far as that is possible, is indicative of a significant departure from the idea of information - the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    All of us get a little heated up on this blog now and again, I'll admit, but that is not what I am talking about here.

    I am talking about the deliberate and long practised attempt to confuse and dissemble, by a man who knows full well what he is doing and why he is doing it.

    That is my opinion, for what it is worth.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 26. At 04:09am on 30 Apr 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    22. wichitazen - Serious birders - or shall I call them ornithologists to impress you? - understand biodiversity because they recognize that each bird species is adapted to its own niche in its own habitat, and the rest falls into place from that.

    If one happens to be among the army of bird listers - which I am not - you are looking to sample as many different habitats as possible to see as many species as possible. Biodiversity is an elementary concept. And its value in stabilizing whole ecosystems is as elementary as having a diversified stock portfolio.

    Scientific American, like Nature, just isn't what it once was. That was revealed when they did their concerted attack on Bjorn Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist. Wasn't scientific.

    As for realclimate... well, what can I say? Just for fun try posting a comment there that in any way questions their orthodoxy. You ought to look at their connections to the whole "professional" AGW industry.

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  • 27. At 04:16am on 30 Apr 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    @manysummits

    It is disappointing that you stand and support a myth and deliberate misinformation which you know is untrue to support your position. And like a child, you try to redirect at me.

    It is about mosquitoes and disease. It is about the myth promulgated on this blog that they are spreading and worse because of supposed global warming. Very deliberate. I called it, someone should.

    Like I said, put up and I will retract and apologize profusely - but you can't, because said myth is just that - a myth. Another lie used to support this religion of AGW. Another card in a house of cards ready to fall...

    If you can't put up, well then...

    Cheers.

    Kealey

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  • 28. At 07:33am on 30 Apr 2010, TJ wrote:

    manysummits & ghostofsichuan re: mosquitoes

    LarryKealey is totally correct on his assessment of mosquitoes and malaria. There is an enormous amount of misinformation been propagated on this subject ever since Rachael Carson (Silent Spring) started a campaign that has been responsible for the unnecessary deaths of millions of people. I share Larry’s strong feelings on the subject.

    For some current background check on the spread of mosquitoes and diseases take a look at Paul_Reiter who was an IPCC contributor and resigned because of issues over the misrepresentations of matter. Here’s a link to Wikipedia that I know manysummits trusts:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Reiter

    Thankfully a few countries are going against the bans and are re-establishing the practice of spraying DDT inside homes with the result of eradicating malaria and will be saving millions of lives.

    Anybody not getting a feeling of anger over all these shenanigans is either uninformed, misinformed, in denial or just plain evil.

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  • 29. At 10:43am on 30 Apr 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #11 Richard Black (BBC) wrote:

    "I have absolutely no idea what you are driving at here."

    You wrote:
    "The Science paper, compiled by an impressive array of scientists [...] sorts out what we know and what we don't know"

    This seems to assume that science is a trustworthy body of clear facts, and that "scientists" are authorities we can surrender our judgment to on questions of knowledge. That is incredibly naïve. The value of science lies in its explanatory power, not its certainty; it buys its explanatory power at the cost of its certainty, because it is so highly speculative. Thanks to the naïvete of people who think the power of science lies in its trustworthiness, every Tom Dick or Harry now flatters himself with the description "scientist", even though the word 'scientist' has only recently entered common currency, and hardly anyone exercises any sort of discrimination in who it applies to. The BBC especially, charged with the responsibility to "inform", has made no effort that I am aware of to explain the differences between good and bad science, or pseudoscience. The word 'science' is just an empty honorific used to excuse its unquestioning appeals to authority.

    If you studied the history of science, you would discover (a) that most if not all scientific theories are mistaken, and (b) that scientific concepts are often quite fuzzy -- scientific terms mean different things to people who hold different theories. The word 'biodiversity' is a good example. It stands for an unalloyed good to environmentalists, who do not even attempt to define it, and seem blissfully unaware of the fact that nearly all premature death is caused by opportunistic pathogens -- in other words, by a sort of biodiversity.

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  • 30. At 10:48am on 30 Apr 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #27 LarryKealey wrote:

    "It is about mosquitoes and disease. It is about the myth promulgated on this blog that they are spreading and worse because of supposed global warming."

    There is a remarkably close correlation in southern Africa between malaria and the use of DDT. Where DDT is used, malaria recedes, and where it is not used, malaria advances. I don't doubt that there are some places where mosquitoes are spreading, but I think we have environmentalists rather than global warming to thank for that.

    By the way, Oliver Cromwell died of malaria in the British Isles, during one of its colder climate phases.

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  • 31. At 11:12am on 30 Apr 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    LarryKealey at #8

    'Ghosts' comments about disease and mosquitoes did not deserve to be called "Garbage - pure unadulterated propaganda and untrue". There is an element of truth in them, even if the wording was that of a lay person and not completely accurate (this is a blog after all, not a scientific forum).
    Nile virus is a mosquito-transmitted virus which was only recently introduced to North America. The paper referenced below describes how West Nile virus is spreading in the Americas. It even describes West Nile Virus as an 'emerging epidemic' in the USA. So Ghosts comment that it is spreading in the US is not without foundation.
    As to his comment about increasing virulency, there is some basis here too – although it is different strains of West Nile virus having different virulency. West Nile virus in humans was initially considered minor, as it usually induces a non-symptomatic or a mild flu-like illness. Until recently, only a few cases of encephalitis associated with fatalities had been reported – in Israel in the 1950s. After an interval with no further reported such cases, fatal encephalitis in humans appeared again from 1996 to 2000 in Romania, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy, Russia, Israel, and France. It was realised that there were more than one strain of West Nile virus. In 1999, it was a virulent West Nile strain that was identified in New York in 1999, causing fatal cases in humans.
    You asked for references:

    "West Nile Virus: Epidemiology and Clinical Features of an Emerging Epidemic in the United States", Edward B. Hayes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, Colorado) and Duane J. Gubler (Asia-Pacific Institute of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases, John A. Burns School of Medicine, Honolulu)

    ABSTRACT: West Nile virus (WNV) was first detected in North America in 1999 during an outbreak of encephalitis in New York City. Since then the virus has spread across North America and into Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The largest epidemics of neuroinvasive WNV disease ever reported occurred in the United States in 2002 and 2003. This paper reviews new information on the epidemiology and clinical aspects of WNV disease derived from greatly expanded surveillance and research on WNV during the past six years.

    Annual Review of Medicine
    Vol. 57: 181-194 (Volume publication date February 2006)
    (doi:10.1146/annurev.med.57.121304.131418)


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  • 32. At 11:28am on 30 Apr 2010, simon-swede wrote:

    Bowman at #29

    Most of Richard's piece is about the limitations in the information available. By quoting out of context you are distorting what he actually says. Pretext to allow you to get on your hobby-horse, I guess.

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  • 33. At 12:14pm on 30 Apr 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #32 simon-swede wrote:

    "Pretext to allow you to get on your hobby-horse, I guess."

    I thought my hobby-horse was religion! Whatever my hobby-horse may be, at least it's a topic rather than a person.

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  • 34. At 1:41pm on 30 Apr 2010, spectrum wrote:

    Let's take samples from as many global warming believers as possible, before there are none left. Future generations may be able to discover the gullibility gene using their DNA.

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  • 35. At 1:47pm on 30 Apr 2010, Lorax wrote:

    Several posters have drawn a distinction between this topic and Richard's usual level-headed articles on climate change - the phrase 'silly' has been used as a charmingly twee put-down. Bless.

    In reality, there are a whole spectrum of interactions between observed climate change and biodiversity. Some of the observed climate change may benefit some species - butterflies in southern UK may be a good example, although such benefits may come at the cost of other species. But what professional conservation scientists really fear is a climate change-driven impact on the foundations of a whole ecosystem. Sounds alarmist? Western Canada and USA have seen more than 14 million hectares of pine forest killed by the native mountain pine beetle, which has become far more lethal due to warmer winters. That's 7x the total UK forest area, and still increasing. A more local example is that of heather moorland in UK - under increasing threat from heather beetle whose attacks have become more widespread in response to warmer, wetter springs.

    In these circumstances we are faced with losing not just individual species, but whole ecosystems and their specialist biodiversity. That is why talking about related climate change and biodiversity loss is not 'silly', rather this unpredictable combination has the potential for huge biodiversity loss - and the loss of the services these habitats provide us with.

    Lorax

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  • 36. At 2:36pm on 30 Apr 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    study: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080627163305.htm

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  • 37. At 3:02pm on 30 Apr 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #35 Lorax wrote:

    "Western Canada and USA have seen more than 14 million hectares of pine forest killed by the native mountain pine beetle"

    That's bad for the pine trees, and good for the mountain pine beetles. What does one species doing well and another species doing badly have anything to do with biodiversity?

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  • 38. At 3:13pm on 30 Apr 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    A bit off topic, but I would guess here that many have been followin1g the rig explosion, fire here in the Gulf of Mexico. It is shaping up to be a massive ecological disaster on the scale of Exxon Valdez.

    The area where the oil has started washing up is an already stressed and important wetland. This will make cleanup all that much more difficult.

    It reminds me of the spill when a well blew out in the Bay of Campeche back in 79. It took 9 months to cap the undersea wellhead, during that time, over 140m gallons of oil entered the sea. Oil washed up on the entire Texas coast.

    I remember being on the beach in Galveston in 83, right after Hurricane Alicia, the city was in shambles and a tanker ran around just off the beach, coating the beach with oil. I was one of the volunteers rescuing sea birds and cleaning up oil with rags on the rocks an the beach. Years after, one could still dig down into the sand on the beach and find the two layers of oil - one from 79 and one from 83. For years, there would also be 'tar balls' in the water, so one would swim and anywhere you came in contact with the tar balls, it would leave oil on your skin, which was very hard to clean off.

    I hope that they find a way to stem the flow of oil from Deepwater Horizon - or this could be the worst disaster ever. Efforts to burn the oil are now on hold as the seas are too rough - and unfortunately that is because of a strong southerly wind, which is pushing the oil up onto the marshes and wetlands along the Louisiana Coast.

    This area is a very pristine environment, the marshes and wetland extend inland for dozens of miles. This is going to be very ugly.

    The clean-up and recovery will be very difficult and costly indeed.

    The Louisiana Coastline is probably one of the largest shrimperies and oysteries in the US. Most of the shrimp and oysters we get in Texas come from Louisiana. The effects will be devastating and lasting.

    The near shore and inland waters in that area are also some of the best fishing grounds on the Gulf Coast. I recall a trip to Terribone Bay (not far from Venice) in which 3 of us limited out on speckled trout (aka spotted sea trout) in less than 4 hours - that was 75 specks, plus we caught another 30 sand trout and a couple of reds (Red Drum). Well, it will be a long while before we see fishing like that in the area again.

    With the advent of deep water drilling, an accident was bound to eventually happen. I would guess (and hope) that this causes a review which leads to better 'fail-safe' equipment on the ocean floor. I am not so concerned with the actual cause of the accident, but their inability to shut off the valves and stem the flow of oil at the sea bed.

    At this point, the oil is still leaking through a pipe string, which is constraining the flow a bit, to an estimated 5,000 bbl per day. At the time of the disaster, the first wells were in production at 8,000 bbl per day, so it seems very possible that the full 8,000 bbl per day could start flowing into the Gulf.

    Another great concern I have is that after the platform collapsed, it was estimated that only 1,000 bbl per day was escaping, this figure was later revised upwards to the present 5,000 bbl per day. I am concerned that not all of the oil is rising to the surface from almost a mile down. As I understand it, this is heavy crude, which can sink. I wonder how much of the oil is sinking to the ocean floor. Where it will remain unrecoverable and uncleanable for who knows how long.

    I expect that in the coming years, this will force the design and implementation of better 'fail safe' equipment on the well head at the sea floor, allowing the valves to be easily closed. But this will take years to design, test and implement - and is already far too late to stop this ecological disaster.

    @Richard, perhaps it would be worthwhile to take a look at some of the larger ecological disasters related to oil spills - such as this one, Bay of Campeche, Iraq War, Exxon Valdez, Amoco Cadez, etc...

    Well, those of us along the Gulf Coast are watching with a weary eye, praying for the best, bracing for the worst.

    Kealey

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  • 39. At 4:34pm on 30 Apr 2010, Lorax wrote:

    #37 bowmanthebard wrote: That's bad for the pine trees, and good for the mountain pine beetles. What does one species doing well and another species doing badly have anything to do with biodiversity?

    Because not all species are equal - lots of other species depend on pine trees, few depend on mountain pine beetles. So the negative consequences, measured by overall biodiversity loss, are likely to be much greater than the positive ones. Nor does the glut of MP beetles last - once they've killed the their food source their population will crash. I guess there may be beetle enthusiasts out there who applaud this process, but I haven't come across any yet.

    But I'll reiterate my original point - this enormous loss of forest is being driven by climate change - the same kind of warmer winter conditions that saw the Olympic skiing taking place in drizzle.

    Lorax

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  • 40. At 4:58pm on 30 Apr 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To Larry Kealey:

    Based on #31 courtesy simon-swede, and ghostofsichuan #36, an apology to Ghostofsichuan and the bloggers on this board is in order.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 41. At 6:46pm on 30 Apr 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #39 Lorax wrote:

    "once they've killed the their food source their population will crash."

    And once a predator's population has crashed, the population of the prey shoots back up again. Pine trees galore.

    "driven by climate change - the same kind of warmer winter conditions that saw the Olympic skiing taking place in drizzle."

    If you are allowed to count warm Olympics as "climate" rather than "weather", I'm allowed to count the coldest winter in decades over most of the Northern Hemisphere as "climate" too. And "I win" because the rest of Northern Hemisphere is bigger than Canada.

    If you attribute this beetle invasion to a warmer climate, it's because the beetles used not to be able to withstand the extremes of cold that pine trees could. But then all that will happen when the climate warms up is that that band of the Earth's surface that is too cold for beetles but warm enough for pine trees moves closer to the poles. It's about time we saw a decent growth of trees in the most barren parts of Antarctica and Greenland. What's the problem?

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  • 42. At 7:12pm on 30 Apr 2010, Barry Woods wrote:

    the effects of:

    'climate change'

    or, does this mean 'man made climate change'

    the first is beyond doubt, and all speices, us included just have to adjust...

    The second is an unproven scientific theory, with absolutely zero, evidence of any human signature, proven in the climate..
    Strong atatement, please someone correct me if I'm wrong with proof..

    ie not it is hot, that happens naturally, seperate out naturally hot or cold, put what % is human, and proof/assumptions to demonstrate this...

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  • 43. At 8:22pm on 30 Apr 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    Oh no! The mountain pine beetle AGW poster child rears up again!

    True, recent warm winters - actually fall is the critical period - allowed this insect to overwinter. But the effects were human-caused.

    This beetle's habitat is the cambium layer of MATURE pines, and the lodgepole pine was its host in most of the recent massive outbreak because there were vast stands of even-aged mature lodgepole pines available to attack. And that was the result of fire suppression - Smokey the Bear stomping out all fires - which allowed this to develop.

    In natural circumstances, fire regularly burns these forests, creating a patchwork of multi-aged forests.

    Thus, no matter how warm winters were, this never could have happened because there would not have been this vast expanse of beetle habitat waiting to be attacked.

    So, while warmer winters did create this opportunity for the beetles, it was human intervention that made it what it was.

    I use the term "was" deliberately. The beetle has now killed off most of its available habitat and this event is all but over, no matter how warm winters are.

    Now, with all the dead wood, if there are fires the this cycle could repeat itself as all the cones of the lodgepole pine are popped open by fire, planting even-aged stands.

    If there are no fires, in most areas spruce trees - which can start growing in the shade of lodgepole pine forest - will take over... until there is that eventual fire.

    Complicating this story in the media at least, because this epidemic was so huge - because of all the beetle habitat - the beetles also attacked some young pines and even some nonhost trees, and the latter impacts created scary stories about how this would spread ad infinitum. These stories were ridiculous because the beetles may attack these other trees but cannot survive or reproduce in them.

    Here in Canada some media stories were beyond absurd, leaving the impression that this beetle, which is specifically adapated to western pines - primarily lodgepole but also ponderosa - was going to spread across the country and kill every tree in Canada.

    Such is the way of the world, with AGW alarmists feeding uninformed reporters.

    The mountain pine beetle is always there, attacking mature pines as available. But usually its numbers are so low that mature trees can survive these attacks unless they are otherwise stressed by drought, disease, or old age. The lodgepole pine is a short-lived species. As noted earlier, it is fire adapted, and in most of its range fires were naturally frequent. Just look at where it occurs.

    Now... back on topic... #39. Lorax wrote: "lots of other species depend on pine trees, few depend on mountain pine beetles. So the negative consequences, measured by overall biodiversity loss, are likely to be much greater than the positive ones."

    This is false. Because of their stand structure (shading out the forest floor) and the way the grow as natural monocultures (again due to the fire adaptation), mature lodgepole pine forest are called by some 'biological deserts' and very few species depend on them. Killing them off greatly increases biodiversity by creating habitat diversity. Monocultures, be they natural or manmade, are the antithesis of biodiversity.




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  • 44. At 8:26pm on 30 Apr 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    #38 - I'll second Larry Kealy's "off topic" comment. That oil spill, in that area, is looking very, very bad. Depressing news.

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  • 45. At 10:49pm on 30 Apr 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    Dear Canadianrockies:
    Thanks for your thoughts. Unfortunately, none of them withstand much scrutiny, other than birding is, absolutely, a worthy enterprise. Scientific American is still a fine publication; your denigration comes from what set of analysis? Sources please. As for Mr. Lomborg (and the article as a 'source'): there is a site in Denmark devoted to debunking his misleading and often hilariously inaccurate 'science'. He is not a practicing scientist in climate study, but is much more an apologist for business interests. Clearly his credentials are not adequate for the press he gets.
    RealClimate regularly posts anti-AGW comments; the site was set up mainly to air debate on currently published papers in the subject (which number in the thousands) and some of the give and take can be a bit technical. The scientists involved are award-winning climatologists and many in related fields, and have proven their credentials many times over. The sad and disgusting ad hominem attacks on their character currently being practiced by some 'denialists', if I may call them that, give one pause. When this sort of practice is being resorted to, then we know the debate has turned from factual analysis to something agenda-driven and sinister.
    I would be fascinated to see detailed studies and statistics showing the increase in overall animal and plant population groups, whether in North America or Tierra del Fuego. Could you please provide those? I have given you two of many established scientific sources to get information. Goddard, NASA, JPL, etc etc (Nature, Lancet...and on and on) all are available for perusing. What may I ask are your sources specifically?
    Third-hand information from non-science sites does not constitute viable debate materiale...
    In general, your hints at a 'cabal' of AGW scientists, skulking in alleys, living off the fat of the government dole, is ludicrous, and one of the standard tactics of the denialist camp. In fact, climatologists are just one of many, many scientific disciplines, and have rigorous standards for research and publication. When they err, as in the now well-known Jones episode, then they re-fit the system to be more open and transparent. In fact, all the information in that event WAS available but most people weren't willing to go to the sources to read it. When the Freeman Dysons and Allegre's of the world attempt to attack climate science, they are either completely out of their field (Dyson) or, in the case of Allegre, (when factual errors galore were pointed out in his attack-book), simply shrug off this as inconsequential, as they were pursuing 'political' aims. This spin and dance around factuality reveals the lack of integrity that the author has; he is more concerned with painting with a broad and inaccurate brush than he is in truth. Why Mr. Allegre went down this road, only he knows.
    In general, vague commentary and inuendo about whole scientific communities does not further the real discussion about biodiversity or climate change.

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  • 46. At 11:53pm on 30 Apr 2010, LarryKealey wrote:



    "The oil is on the Gulf shore, and more is on the way" - ABC News, 2 minutes ago...

    Other interesting developments - Obama acts as court and jury stating that BP is at fault and will bare the cost of clean-up and reparations.

    I find that very interesting. There were four companies involved. The most likely cause at this point of the failure is bad concrete seal around the wellhead - which caused the blow-out and prevented the fail-save from closing the valve. Who was responsible for that? Well, that would be Halliburton. Cameron was also a prime contractor on the rig. I believe it was their valve system on the sea-bed which failed.

    Transocean owned and operated the rig - do they not have any responsibility?

    BP, which leased the rig had 7 people working on the rig. But of course they have the biggest 'brand name' and they are the only ones with deep enough pockets for something like this.

    It is very disappointing to me that we have gone ten days now, and only now is the situation being taken seriously by the Obama administration. BP was mobilizing every resource possible before those who evacuated the rig even reached shore...

    While I won't applaud anyone here - its not the time for finger-pointing or anything like that, investigation and understanding of what happened will take a long time, if ever, to be fully understood.

    Now is the time for action. The National Guard and Coast Guard and Naval assets should have already been mobilized. There should be much more in the way of booms in the water at this point, there should be armies on the beaches already...there should be so much more happening...but as usual, the Obama Administration will be several days late and several dollars short...

    Meanwhile, while today is the last day of 'raw oyster season', the price of oysters will be very high for years to come, as will shrimp. And for so many in southern Louisiana, who's livelihoods depend upon the sea, the summer season will end before it begins and it will be many years before any recovery is possible.

    As OTC kicks off here in Houston on Monday (Offshore Technology Conference), it will be interesting to see what is said during the conference.

    But, back to the environmental impact - the most important aspect of this disaster - the area where the oil is washing ashore is particularly vulnerable and fragile at this point. The whole area was protected by mangroves at one point, but so many of those have been lost already. There has been an interesting program going on to re-seed the mangroves. I read about some interesting experiments to re-seed the mangroves with 'air-dropped' seed packets. The last runs, last fall, I believe were successful in that they created a packaging which would allow for the mangrove seeds, along with some soil and fertilizer to be air dropped in-tact...well, don't think that program will move forward this summer. Such a shame.

    As I mentioned before, I am most curious as to why the fail-safes at the well head on the sea floor failed. To me, this is the critical issue as deep sea drilling moves forward both here in the Gulf as well as other places particularly in the mid-Atlantic, off the coast of Brazil.

    Let us all hope that we do not see a repeat of Ixtoc I in the bay of Campeche back in '79, which took over 270 days to cap...

    Kealey

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  • 47. At 00:00am on 01 May 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    @many1summits

    I don't think you read the article - no apology in order. It does not state that mosquitoes are moving North as Ghost claims. It also states that the new strain of West Nile is more virulent than the initial invading strain at all temperatures. Nor does it mention Dengue Fever anywhere.

    It does state that West Nile first appeared in the US in New York - and apparently moved southward - as most cases during the peak were in the south - particularly here in Texas.

    As they started looking for a link between climate change and disease of course they reported (like good AGW-ers) that its gonna be worse because of climate change - but no proof is provided.

    Additionally, this is not the scientific paper - but an article, without all the caveats, etc...

    I'll also stand by my assertion that malaria is much worse in Africa because they have been deprived of DDT - without which, the US would still have malaria. And by the way, even though Rachel Carson is dead, the rest of us are still alive even though we eradicated malaria with DDT.

    Now, on to more important stuff...

    Kealey

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  • 48. At 00:41am on 01 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    45. wichitazen - Know how to google? Try that for starters. The North American populations of all those species I mentioned has grown and compared to their status 50 or 100 years ago they have grown tremendously. Conservation works. And it didn't start yesterday.

    For a spectacular example, look up the Trumpeter Swan. On the verge of extinction 100 years ago. Doing great now.

    I am not saying that all species have increased. That would be dense. But many have.

    If you would like to pick one or two or whatever number of specific species - feel free to use any example you want, including something that is declining - to discuss specifically, I would be glad to. But since my initial point in my comments here was that making broad blanket statements is pointless and misleading so I certainly can't be bothered answering the kind of broad blanket question you just asked.

    As for the rest of your post, I could not disagree more but since that discussion will only likely turn into Monty Python's dead parrot sketch,and there are too many other blogs about the whole AGW thing, why bother doing that here, again? My first statement in my first comment - which provoked your response - expressed my delight to see something other than that here.

    So, pick a species or two and let's have an intelligent factual discussion. Or not.

    Cheers

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  • 49. At 08:40am on 01 May 2010, Barry Woods wrote:

    The problem is that the AGW thing is so entwined with every other environmental issue, that the debate is distorted on every issue..

    As soon as we can get back to talking about real environmental issue the better.

    When Richard uses 'climate change' what does he mean..

    Natural or man made? surely he should clarify this, and not use the term interchangeably.

    Good news again anyway.. ice is back to ‘normal’ as it always was anyway, (for all we know that 20 year average, was put a high point on a hundred year or thousand year average) decadal fluctuations mean nothing either way.. except that the alarmists computer models said this was not possible…

    When reality is shown, throw away a dodgy theory..

    sea ice extent:

    http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_timeseries.png

    the rich become richer:

    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_resources/article7113476.ece

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  • 50. At 08:58am on 01 May 2010, ChangEngland wrote:

    @Barry Woods

    >> Good news again anyway.. ice is back to ‘normal’ as it always was anyway...

    So the plot line for this year almost reaches the average line at this point in time. How can you describe that graph as "back to normal" ? Please explain your logic. Thanks.

    Sorry all off topic but could not let that pass.

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  • 51. At 09:26am on 01 May 2010, sensiblegrannie wrote:

    I have looked on the UNEP site and found lots of maps about the environment but I still have not found anything as good as the USGS site. The animated earthquake sequences are very good for aiding understanding. Does any site have a similar system? What is needed is an alphabetical list of species under threat of extinction.
    How it could work:
    An alphabetical list of the most endangered species (common names and scientific names)
    Click on the name of a particular species. (image of creature available for viewing)
    Up pops an animated map of the particular species in decline over a specified period of time.
    Further searches of other creatures could be overlaid over the first search.
    This would build up a picture of a species extinction event and show the knock on effects to other species.

    I can't create such as an animation because I don't have the software or computer memory space to do it myself.

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  • 52. At 09:41am on 01 May 2010, Barry Woods wrote:

    well my logic is this...

    the avearge used to compare against is 1979-2000

    Which begs the question what was the average, 1900 - 2000?

    They only have this data from 1979 (via satellite)

    Yet historic records (ie maritime) have periods of much less sea ice in the 50's - and 30's and periods in the 19th century...

    If you cherry pick the 'average' starting period to get your anomaly, well excuse my scepticism...

    ie the 1979-2000 period could very easily be a very short period of time with a HIGHER than the longer term average for sea ice extent...

    Just using 'since records began' mantra, is useless, when discussing climate where 30 years is just a tiniest blip,

    So the 'average' could be very easily be not an averagee of ice over a longer period..

    plus, as it is recovering, and the 'climate 'scientists are having to scarmble around to explain why. we might get back to all the many other factors that explain sea ice... wind direction, etc, etc..

    Shall we get started on the starting point average, for the 'supposed' temperature anomalies we have been seing, until rises stalled in 1995.

    The same argument applies... what happens to the temperature anomaly, if a wider temperature period/average is used...


    For sea ice extent, I wold only have any confidence in sea extent averages (and they don't really tell much about climate anyway) if we actually took into account, histical maritime records as well...

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  • 53. At 10:10am on 01 May 2010, Lorax wrote:

    In post#43 CanadianRockies is working hard to throw dust in the air to obscure the central point I was making - that climate change and biodiversity change - and loss - are closely intertwined.

    The 'dust' that you raise seems to focus on two points - that other factors were at work as well as a series of milder winters, and that it doesn't matter anyway because 14 million hectares of pine forest don't count as biodiversity.

    Of course there are other factors involved - all ecological change on this scale is dependent on the starting point and the interaction of a range of variables. But what is undeniable - and you didn't deny it - is that a changing climate has allowed the mountain pine beetle to become much more lethal.

    As for your second point, that lodgepole pine forests are biological deserts, well, that's an interesting view that takes us into a tangled discussion of whether naturally simple ecosystems are worth less than naturally complex ones. However, if you look at the impact of the MP beetle on other pine species, such as ponderosa or whitebark pine, there seems to be much more concern over the implications for biodiversity.

    And for the posters for whom the human contribution to climate change is such a difficulty - the mountain pine beetle doesn't care. It's an example of the ever strengthening data that indicates that we are experiencing a changing climate. It has't got any emails ripe for misinterpretation, hasn't got a socialist world government agenda. It just likes the fact that it isn't as cold as it was.

    Lorax

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  • 54. At 11:04am on 01 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    @ #53 Lorax

    Putting aside the question of whether global warming is actually happening, I'm having real difficulties finding anything wrong with it. You didn't address my point that if the Earth warms up, the pine-tree belt simply moves closer to the poles -- thereby decreasing the area of the Earth's surface that is barren, frozen wasteland. Wouldn't that be good for living things?

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  • 55. At 12:23pm on 01 May 2010, Barry Woods wrote:

    The issue is whether man made co2 has any effect on 'climate change' this is a totally seperate issue, with how man damages/changes local environments by many other means..

    THIS is what we should be worried about, not the AGW, catastrophic man made co2 delusion..

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  • 56. At 3:51pm on 01 May 2010, infiniti wrote:

    arctic ice back to normal?

    The normal line is an average over the time period. Arctic ice rarely went below that line once, now in recent years it rarely goes over it. At this rate we'll reach a point where ice never goes above the normal line.

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  • 57. At 6:09pm on 01 May 2010, ChangEngland wrote:

    @barry Woods #52

    >> the avearge used to compare against is 1979-2000

    >> Which begs the question what was the average, 1900 - 2000?

    Irrelevant to my question YOU gave us THAT Chart to underline your point - Which it does not.

    >>If you cherry pick the 'average' starting period to get your anomaly, well
    >> excuse my scepticism...

    This implies that the 1979-200 average (picked in PAST as the starting point for comparisons) was known in the PAST to be a "cherry picked starting point if you want to show warming" do these guys have a time machine?

    >> ie the 1979-2000 period could very easily be a very short period of time with >> a HIGHER than the longer term average for sea ice extent...

    >> Just using 'since records began' mantra, is useless, when discussing climate >> where 30 years is just a tiniest blip,

    >> So the 'average' could be very easily be not an averagee of ice over a longer >> period..

    30 years ago seems along time me! On a personal scale :) However, these I will become sliding averages (as used in share prices) - these give a recent-past comparison of the movement not a movement of the situation since the year dot (which we don't know with any certainty). I would rather rely on 30 years of accurate high-tech records than records that say "Shiver me timbers! Jim lad there's a lot of ice this year!"

    >> plus, as it is recovering,

    It's recovering is it, by your own standards how are you judging? The satellite record (your reference for your blog) or Jim the lad? If you want to use that chart, you indicate what it shows! A high point approaching the average after a really cold northern hemisphere winter! That is all it shows - not recovery.

    >> and the 'climate 'scientists are having to scarmble around to explain why. we >> might get back to all the many other factors that explain sea ice... wind
    >> direction, etc, etc..

    They are not "scrambling" they sticking to their theory.

    Shall we get started on the starting point average, for the 'supposed' temperature anomalies we have been seing, until rises stalled in 1995.

    Nope, If you keep changing your base line then all sorts of other variables creep in that need adjusting, probably by computer, which you will criticise as well.




    For sea ice extent, I wold only have any confidence in sea extent averages (and they don't really tell much about climate anyway) if we actually took into account, histical maritime records as well...

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  • 58. At 7:32pm on 01 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    Here is something for everyone, in Richard's words,

    "The bare facts of biodiversity,"

    from Dr. Boris Worm, world renowned fisheries scientist at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Canada. I'll paraphrase from Alanna Mitchell's book "Sea Sick," p. 137, hardcover edition:

    - "50,000 years to deplete the planet's large animals

    - 5,000 years to exhaust most of the coastal environments

    - 500 years to fish out the continental shelf

    - 50 years to impoverish the open ocean

    - 5 years to run through the creatures of the deep ocean."
    ==========================================================

    As we speak, on the first anniversary of the "Mayday Declaration" which Jr4412, Davblo and I wrote just one year ago, a massive oil slick is set to destroy countless marine and coastal inhabitants along the Gulf coast, and to alter the way of life of many human beings along that coast and around the world.

    Complexity strikes again.

    Jr4412 no longer posts here, but I wish he would return.

    One often looks to the various wonders of the world to see beauty and when seeking inspiration, but I have seen both here on this weblog. Simon-swede is still here, and Rossglory, and Ghost, and many others.

    Everywhere, if my readings tell a true story, people are waking up, and doing what they can to avert catastrophe.

    More and more, the words of Alanna Mitchell, in her book Sea Sick, in the final 'Epilogue,' ring true:

    "Truth lies in the tales we tell rather than in the scientific facts that give rise to them... The story we tell matters because it alone determines the actions we take or fail to take... the final vital sign of the global ocean is how the agent of destruction - us - will react. Will we turn the destruction off?"
    ==================================

    And we are now telling each other powerful stories.

    "Avatar," "The Age of Stupid," "Home," "Capitalism - A Love Story," "The Day after Tomorrow," "Armageddon," "The Eleventh Hour," "Manitou Api," "The Bolivian Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth," "The Gaia Theory," etc... etc...

    Inch-perfect science is no longer the most relevant theme - the science is well enough understood to have inspired these stories and others.

    Soon, perhaps even now, the ultimate instinct will kick in:

    \\\ Survival ///

    There is a convergence occurring in the psychological domain. The realization that logic alone is not enough to extricate us from this mess.

    It will require heart.

    \\\ What do we stand for? ///

    \\\ Where is our heart? ///
    =============================

    - Manysummits - "Home"

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  • 59. At 8:41pm on 01 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    53. Lorax wrote: "In post#43 CanadianRockies is working hard to throw dust in the air to obscure the central point I was making - that climate change and biodiversity change - and loss - are closely intertwined."

    Well, Lorax, I wasn't trying to obscure anything but rather explain some things lost in your first post.

    True that the beetle also attacks whitebark and ponderosa pines but the vast majority of your vast acreage noted was lodgepole pines, and the vast majority of that was even-aged monoculture type forests.

    Unlike the other pines you noted - which do not grow in the same types of stands - very few species live in them. And, for just one aspect of this, while whitebark and ponderosa pine cones provide seeds which are food for many species, almost nothing uses the cones of lodgepoles.

    If you go to where this happened now there is already more biodiversity and, IF they manage the aftermath right, it will just get better.

    They need to ensure that the same kind of lodgepole pine monoculture does not grow back. (That starts with fires popping open all the cones simultaneously.) They need to ensure the new forests are more diverse... biodiversity. That is what they are trying to do but in BC you are looking at huge areas and shrinking budgets.

    In any case, the big scary mt pine beetle story is now effectively over because it has killed off most of its available habitat. And, to repeat, IF things are managed right now the same problem will not reoccur no matter how warm winters are.

    The point you seem to miss is that climate change creates change, period, and it can sometimes increase biodiversity. It always gets back to the specific case or place you are looking at. That's why gross generalizations are useless and almost always misleading.

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  • 60. At 8:55pm on 01 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 61. At 9:11pm on 01 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    I have an article that may be of some help in this discussion:

    An Interview with Dr. Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden:
    Biodiversity extinction crisis looms says renowned biologist
    Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
    March 12, 2007

    Hopefully, posting this link will not be a problem for the rules.

    As for AGW...by referring to it, in whatever light, one opens the door for commentary. There was mention of climate change in a subsequent post by the same party, and how it affected insect populations. Perhaps the two subjects are inextricably linked?

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  • 62. At 9:20pm on 01 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    "logic alone is not enough to extricate us from this mess.

    "It will require heart."

    And it will require brain.

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  • 63. At 9:30pm on 01 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    For Sensiblegranny...I don't have an animated map, but the article I just sent the link to has similar graphs that show much of this information.
    As per the extended sea ice; what wasn't said was that although the extent was 'normal', the thickness of the ice has diminished considerably, hence the ultimate demise of the Arctic ice within a few years, as the ice does not retain its stability or longevity due to this thinness. The other comment above...that since 1995 temperatures have stayed level or dropped...NASA recently released a global temperature survey and stated that the past ten years have been the hottest in recorded history. The lull in, I believe, 2005, was due temporarily to La Nina, and ceased as that went away.
    I have no problem with facts being strewn about, as long as they are current...

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  • 64. At 9:35pm on 01 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    #53. Lorax, in my haste I missed this point you made: "But what is undeniable - and you didn't deny it - is that a changing climate has allowed the mountain pine beetle to become much more lethal."

    Actually that is completely deniable because it is not true. What made the recent epidemic so lethal was the sheer number of beetles. That was due to the sheer abundance of habitat - mature pines - available to support their growing populations, and that was due to fire suppression which allowed that to develop.

    Without that habitat, those numbers, and their resulting lethality, could never have happened no matter how warm winters were.

    As I mentioned earlier, this beetle is always present on the larger landscape attacking pines as they mature but unless there are huge numbers of them, or the trees defenses are otherwise weakened by a variety of possible factors, the trees can survive the attacks. I just see them as part of 'old age' for them.

    And an interesting aside, fall is the critical period as the beetles develop sort of an 'anti-freeze' as winter progresses.

    But,as you note, whitebark and ponderosa pines are a different story in their details, although for ponderosas in particular fire suppression was again a major contributing factor. But fire suppression changed many things about their natural ecology, not to mention allowing so much fuel buildup that now when a fire does happen it is devastating.

    Its all much more complicated and, in my opinion, much more interesting than the simple stories tell.

    P.S. I never said that "it doesn't matter anyway because 14 million hectares of pine forest don't count as biodiversity."

    That doesn't even make sense.

    And I never suggested that "simple ecosystems are worth less than naturally complex ones." Worth? I just emphasized that the former can support fewer species, and monocultures support the fewest.

    Cheers

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  • 65. At 9:37pm on 01 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    Here is a link to an article in RealClimate.org talking about arctic sea ice extent...

    Sea ice minimum forecasts
    Filed under: Arctic and AntarcticClimate Science— gavin @ 17 July 2009

    Go to RealClimate.org and enter arctic sea ice in their search box...

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  • 66. At 9:45pm on 01 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    61. wichitazen - You wrote "There was mention of climate change in a subsequent post by the same party, and how it affected insect populations. Perhaps the two subjects are inextricably linked?"

    They certainly are, of course. Its all linked. From the sun to the tiniest microbe. Or beyond that to the cellular level - we are basically just supporting our mitochondria - and back to the Big Bang or whatever actually happened.

    I live in Canada. Where I live was under ice 12,000 years ago. I can see what the ice did to the mountains and the soils here are a result of what happened when it melted. Very little biodiversity here when the ice was here, to put it very mildly.

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  • 67. At 10:32pm on 01 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    I guess my interest is not in shouting matches, or similar ilk, but in getting some decent facts and information out into the hands of the public. I do appreciate that people have enough passion (either way) to post and debate. And I sometimes get caught up in the rising of the boiling blood...but I hope I can keep that at bay and stay focused on basic scientific inquiry. CanadianRockies...I'm not sure I understand the last paragraph of your post #66. Could you elaborate? Thanks.

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  • 68. At 11:32pm on 01 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    witchitazen - It goes back to your comment about the linkage between climate change and biodiversity. The valley where I am sitting right now was under about 1000 meters of ice about 12,000 years ago. At that time the biodiversity here was almost zero, except for what was on the mountains above the ice and the few species that can actually live on the ice surface. As the climate changed and those cordilleran ice sheets melted, leaving only the mountain glaciers, the whole successional story happened and now we have our current ecosystem with a range of habitats from valley bottom forests and wetlands to the alpine meadows and rocks, each with its own complement of species, plus the species that can use a wide range of them.

    So on that macro and long-term level, the impacts of climate change on biodiversity is very obvious. Same thing happens on the micro and short term level.

    The mountains I look at out my window were all carved into their current basic shape by that ice age ice, through many glacial periods.

    And the soil here, on the valley bottom, consists of a base of clay deposited in the glacial lake that was once here (as the ice melted), plus now various layers of organic soil created by the life that has lived and died here since then. And that soil influences what particular plants we have here (along with other factors) and those plant communities largely determine which animal species we have here (along with other factors, e.g. the winter snow levels determine which ungulate species are here in which season, or if they are here at all).

    Hope that answers your question. Could go into a zillion details and use all the technical jargon (I am retired from a conservation career) but that always reminds me of priests in the Middle Ages speaking Latin, if you know what I mean.

    Cheers

    P.S. Are you actually in Wichita, as in Kansas?

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  • 69. At 01:43am on 02 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    Excellent answer. Thank you.
    I grew up in Wichita, but now live in the frying pan of Scottsdale, Arizona. Thirty-two years here; every summer a test.

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  • 70. At 07:49am on 02 May 2010, MangoChutney wrote:

    @manysummits #many

    I think you may be suffering from an ailment that has become quite common over the last 20 years, my friend.

    According to Wiki: hypoclimochodriasis is a new condition which began in a small group of scientists, but over the years has spread throughout the population. The pandemic has led to mass hysteria, which is only now on the wane. Fortunately the ailment doesn't have any long term effects."

    There you go - if it's on Wiki, it must be true ;)

    Warmist regards

    /Mango

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  • 71. At 08:58am on 02 May 2010, sensiblegrannie wrote:

    to post 63, wichitazen

    Thank you for the link. A fine site for all levels of learning and understanding. I wish there were many more helpful bloggers like you.

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  • 72. At 09:00am on 02 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    Stuart Butchart, lead author of the Science report, was interviewed on Science in Action on the World Service last night.

    Like so many others, he seemed perfectly happy to tell us without any apparent reflection that "biodiversity has intrinsic value".

    I ask again: How can anything be valuable "in and of itself", independently of agents who value it? Can someone who is not a religious mystic kindly explain to me what "intrinsic value" is supposed to mean?

    It is this attachment to a form of mysticism that bothers me, and it's a real obstacle to clear, realistic, critical but above all balanced thinking. Life involves compromises, but these mystics are more interested in their fantasy "wars" than compromise. The blank refusal to give reasons costs everyone dear in the end, but it shows the environmentalist "community" up in a very bad light, especially when they try to appeal to (what they regard as) "science". It's as if reasons just to matter to them.

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  • 73. At 09:32am on 02 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    bowmanthebard #72: "It's as if reasons just to matter to them."

    Oops! I meant: It's as if reasons don't matter to them!

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  • 74. At 12:55pm on 02 May 2010, Lorax wrote:

    Well now, CanadianRockies (posts #59/64) - in your conservation career - as in mine - I've no doubt you've noted that outcomes tend to have multiple influences. Seems to me that our friends the Mountain pine beetles have become such a spectacular problem because of the interaction of changed climate AND a vulnerable forest structure. Without both of these factors, we wouldn't have had an impact of this magnitude. And that was my original point - that any discussion of biodiversity loss/change cannot be separated from the impacts of climate change.

    As you say - and I entirely agree - these are complex stories and much more interesting than simplistic media stories that tend either to shout 'We're all doomed!', or 'Everything's fine, no need to change anything'. Both are probably wrong, but the nuances and probabilities are always hard to communicate.

    Bowmanthebard (post #54)raised the question - essentially - of why biodiversity change gets interpreted as biodiversity loss, and similarly Canadian Rockies said...'that climate change creates change, period, and it can sometimes increase biodiversity'.

    Both valid points that would be worthy of a much larger discussion. Biodiversity isn't a single thing that we can measure - and for every principle you could find an exception. The Highlands of Scotland - where I work - have some of the largest areas of heather moorland in the world. They also have some of the most damaged and vulnerable natural woodland remnants in Europe. Is the cause of biodiversity better served by rebuilding the natural woodland cover to look more like (say) Norway at the expense of the heather - or should we at all costs retain the artificial and managed moorland? Similarly, lichenologists have been concerned about the reintroduction of beaver to Scotland - because they may fell important lichen trees. These are essentially a non-scientific questions, much more linked to whether ones instinctive set of values - and thus biodiversity change can't easily be definitively described as loss or gain.

    Part of the reality (damn those nuances...) is that we humans now occupy and modify some much of the planet that there probably isn't room for all our inherited biodiversity to flourish. So the climate change dynamics combine with other factors to induce habitat change in reducing space for natural habitats. Yes, we may see forest extend north as the climate warms. The subarctic tundra habitats may similarly extend north, but as that happens on a finite planet the polar habitats simply fall off the top of the world as they run out of 'climate space'.

    And all that rather leads to the question - If we can't keep everything, what are you prepared to lose?

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  • 75. At 1:24pm on 02 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #74 Lorax wrote:

    "And all that rather leads to the question - If we can't keep everything, what are you prepared to lose?"

    That strikes me a very sensible, reasonable question. We really have to weigh up losses and gains, and ask what we value more or less, and what we can be more or less sure about. It's all very tricky and it requires discussion, not appeals to "the intrinsic value" of biodiversity, a term whose very meaning is rather unclear, let alone its value.

    The question of reintroducing the beaver is interesting. I would love to see beavers in Scotland (or anywhere else) but I fear for the lichen trees and the salmon rivers and all the rest of it.

    "the polar habitats simply fall off the top of the world as they run out of 'climate space'."

    But maybe the polar habitats are less valuable per unit area than the pine tree rich sub-polar habitats? They sustain less life after all.

    Now many will feel an uncontrollable urge to say: "but if we change the area of the polar habitats, a delicate balance will be disrupted!" -- To which I reply: but that balance was not "delicate" in the sense of being in unstable equilibrium. It was an exact balance, sure, but one that nature itself settled on, and if there are smaller polar habitats than before, nature will settle on a new and equally exact balance. It may even be richer than the previous balance, because polar habitats are relatively barren.

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  • 76. At 4:30pm on 02 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    Speaking of biodiversity this Sunday morning, the great Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson has a new book out - a NOVEL!

    Winner of two Pullitzer prizes for non-fiction, Dr. Wilson says that he has written this parable-type novel because while non-fiction can win you prizes, people READ novels.

    The book is "Anthill," just out.
    ================================

    I thought I might answer my own questions, posed in post #58:

    "What do I stand for?" \\\ LIFE ///

    "Where is my heart?" \\\ Right here, inside my chest ///

    Maybe it's not so difficult, looking at things this way?

    Life is irrepressible, with highs and lows. To be alive is to embrace this existence - to become a soul-surfer. The distance between the top of the wave and its trough is the amplitude of experience - from joy to despair, and is a measure of the energy of existence - the life force.

    The bigger the wave - the fewer the surfers.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 77. At 7:29pm on 02 May 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    48. At 00:41am on 01 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    45. wichitazen - Know how to google? Try that for starters. The North American populations of all those species I mentioned has grown and compared to their status 50 or 100 years ago they have grown tremendously. Conservation works. And it didn't start yesterday.

    For a spectacular example, look up the Trumpeter Swan. On the verge of extinction 100 years ago. Doing great now.

    I am not saying that all species have increased. That would be dense. But many have.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    While I agree with your main point - we are doing a better job in North America, we do still have a long way to go. You also forgot to mention fisheries, in the last ten or so years, the US has moved up to number 3 in the world in terms of fisheries management...

    Even though these things are true, we still have a long way to go. I believe the two greatest challenges we face (not just in North America, but the world over) in this century are land use and water use. While it is true that one can see the 'greening' of America on satellite pics over the last 30 years, there is still much to be done.

    While we have seen improvement, there is still a long way to go. Imagine if we could restore our fisheries to levels of several hundred years ago...we could double or triple our current catch and do so sustainably.

    We need to ensure that sufficient environments and habitats are set aside to not only preserve what we have left, but restore much of what has been lost.

    Additionally, while we have made some pretty significant strides in the US and Canada, Mexico lags behind. Europe has made some improvement over the same period of time, but also lag behind. Then we look at the rest of the world and see environmental disaster unfolding. Horrible mismanagement of resources, land and water use. Deplorable human condition, exploding population, horrid pollution, terribly inefficient agricultural practices, the list goes on...

    These are real issues we can measure and have a real impact on. A visible, measurable impact. This is where we should focus our efforts, rather than a fools game of trying to 'control climate change'...

    Cheers.

    Kealey

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  • 78. At 10:24pm on 02 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    Mr. Kealey: thanks for the tip on Google. I'll add to the prior tip. Two posting conservationists who, I assume, worked with governmental agencies in their respective countries have made some valid and complex points about biodiversity. The subject is part of an intense debate over the consequences of the removal of both plants and animals, plus the change in size (usually a reduction) in the natural habitats of same; in particular, the question is whether the systems retain their robustness with the removal of certain species. The authors above give equivical answers, which is, to a certain extent, understandable. Without the actual results in hand from unplanned modification of a local or regional ecosystem, we can only rely on studies done to date on actual results observed. The trophic relationships between species is as important, is seems now, as the actual numbers of species (changed). In general, there appear to be certain sets of trophic parameters with species ("Of or involving the feeding habits or food relationship of different organisms in a food chain"...definition....) which trump change, at least for a while. Unfortunately, we know that simplification of ecosystems via species removal ultimately makes them more vulnerable to further alteration, and the question of robustness then takes a further turn, as we realize that far from being independent of these systems, we are, in fact, intimately tied to them. The bees that pollinate plants that we eat or use for other purposes are critical to our well-being, for example. Most people do not think of insects in this regard, but, of course, their participation in the breakdown of dead flora and fauna are essential, etc etc. So, if we set up (not just trade out, as suggested above...either the 'look' of a system or the living elements) simpler ecosystems, not only are we, shall we say, playing the divine role in choosing survivors, but are playing dice with our own futures as well. We simply don't know enough about the consequences of blundering about in earth's larger ecosystems. The recent oil debacle off the shore of Louisiana points out the unintended consequences of economic activity. Now, not only is there a natural disaster for the life forms of that area, but there is also a probable disaster looming for the local economies as well. So to discuss biodiversity as though one were talking about changing wallpaper or the decor of the den is clearly off target and not useful.
    The elephant in the living room here is something briefly alluded to, and that is the stupendous number of humans on earth. Not only are we by far the most numerous large mammal, we are also increasing at a still aggressive rate. As of today, we are approaching nearly 7 billion as the number of people extant. All theological argumentation aside, as a practical matter, if we do indeed level out (if...) at 9 billion by mid-century, the effect upon our surrounding will inevitably be greatly magnified. I can assure you that there will not be pleasant outcomes as a result. And all this affects and is affected by biodiversity in many, many ways. Mix in the issues of water resource decline (look up what is happening, for example, to the water tables in Beijing, Phoenix, etc.), loss of arable land and topsoil, the salinization of farmed land through irrigation, and so on, and you have the makings of a very unstable future.

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  • 79. At 01:17am on 03 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    #77, #78 Larry Kealey and wichitazen,

    Very busy today but just stopped in for a quick read. With minor quibbles - I am a chronic nitpicker for details - I agree wholeheartedly with your comments.

    wichitazen noted something that shows how complicated this can get.

    "The bees that pollinate plants that we eat or use for other purposes are critical to our well-being..."

    Yet in North America, honeybees are "alien species" from Europe. They no doubt displaced and/or impacted some native species, and obviously must impact ecosystems beyond just their agricultural targets. For one obvious example, in northern Alberta a lot of black bears used to die raiding beehives, and some still do.

    Alien or not, they did increase the biodiversity by one species - unless they caused the extinction of one or more. And even if they did cause extinctions, we couldn't live without them. So...

    As for our unstable future, that is putting it very, very mildly, for a multitude of reasons.

    And, wow, that oil spill is getting more depressing by the minute.

    Hope to get back here later tonight for more on this. You folks both made some very perceptive and interesting comments. So much more interesting than the simple stories.

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  • 80. At 01:23am on 03 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    #74 - Lorax - I just about missed seeing your post. You sure did raise some interesting points, and your conclusion was a real thought provoking one.

    That beaver question could be a whole blog topic in itself.

    I'll try to provoke some more thoughts on that when I get back. But thanks for your response.

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  • 81. At 05:22am on 03 May 2010, sonofalphaaleph wrote:

    A number of people have commented here that the principal driver of biodiversity loss is not climate change but habitat change (or possibly the interaction between the two) and to get diverted from that message, as the many in both the media and conservation organisations certainly have been, risks any hope that we may have of influencing current global trends in wildlife abundance and richness. I don't intend to comment on the veracity of those statements but I would like to add from my own experience of conservation in SE Asia. Here, without a doubt the major immediate drivers of biodiversity loss are hunting for food and for trade and habitat loss. The overall picture relating to both these drivers are complex and tied to the rapid economic development that many of the region's states are experiencing. My own experience is largely related to habitat loss and so I will concentrate on that, specifically the loss of natural forests.

    Forest cover in SE Asia is shrinking at an unprecedented scale and with it the habitat available to many globally threatened species. The Annamite Mountains for instance are home to many endemic species, continue to throw up species previously unknown to science but lie between two countries where forest cover has declined significantly over the last 50 years. Much of that forest loss is an inevitable part of economic development and who can reasonably blame the governments of these countries for setting policies which promote conversion of unproductive forest to other land-uses which are more economically appealing? How then can the argument be made for not only setting aside biodiversity rich areas that have economic potential but investing in those areas so that the extent of hunting and forest clearance seen elsewhere can be limited? This is one of the main questions that face those trying to implement conservation.

    The fact is however that most governments have made commitments to establish protected area networks covering significant portions of their respective countries. Many of these are what would widely be called paper parks because they lack the resources, infrastructure and in many cases the commitment to provide effective management. One of the principal roles of conservation organisations in such countries is to facilitate international funding for PA management. There are countless arguments about how this creates dependence and certainly doesn't provide the incentives for the long-term commitment of money that could be better spent on more immediate economic needs. There are probably an equal number of examples (often unreported) of protected areas where, for whatever reason, external funding has stopped, salaries have dried up, vehicles have been sold and management of the area has ceased in all but name. International funding of conservation may be no bad thing [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] it is a global (predominantly western) concern and the reason that it is focused on developing countries is often because they haven't developed to the extent where biodiversity has already been hammered.

    I'm digressing slightly but I wanted to make the point that sustainable financing for conservation, particularly for the protection of land that has far more economic value in production that it can ever have in its natural state is elusive and at current levels totally inadequate. This is where some of the regular contributors to these pages will groan because one of the mechanisms that has conservation circles excited here is carbon trading, specifically by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). I have no intention of going into the rights and wrongs of carbon as a commodity, or even of bringing up some of the many valid concerns that people have with the implementation of REDD - there are other people/places you can go to to read those (eg http://www.redd-monitor.org/). What I will say though is that here is a mechanism with the potential to fund the management of (mostly) forested protected areas that would otherwise rely on insufficient external funding sources and can directly target some of the main drivers of habitat loss in countries where the policy priority is understandably economic development. (At this point I want to make it clear that I'm talking about protecting natural forest not in creating bogus forest definitions which allow sterile rubber or oil-palm plantations to take the place of species-rich habitat.) It is unlikely that REDD will ever provide sufficient revenue to counter the opportunity costs of not converting the forest to other land uses and in some cases it may not even cover the opportunity costs of not harvesting the timber. It does however offer governments the incentive of meeting international commitments, such as the one which sparked this article, allow conservation organisations the opportunity of dealing with decision-makers in the Ministry of Finance rather than the often poorly-supported Ministry of Environment (that is where they even exist) and has the leverage to allow for meaningful engagement with the private sector that might otherwise not give conservation interests a second thought.

    Inevitably conservation is a horribly complex beast and as things stand at present (over a hundred years into modern conservation practice) we don't fully understand the processes which support ecosystem health (as have been pointed out on these pages), we haven't found a successful formula for reducing species or habitat loss, nor have we worked out how to pay for it all. In fact the vast majority of the species we assume are going extinct are unknown to us. In areas like SE Asia, however, the change is so rapid that you can see it in a very short space of time and the challenge is clear: protect and manage important habitat or watch it disappear with all the richness of life that it represents.

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  • 82. At 07:48am on 03 May 2010, Barry Woods wrote:

    ChangEngland wrote:

    30 years ago seems along time me! On a personal scale :) However, these I will become sliding averages (as used in share prices) - these give a recent-past comparison of the movement not a movement of the situation since the year dot (which we don't know with any certainty). I would rather rely on 30 years of accurate high-tech records than records that say "Shiver me timbers! Jim lad there's a lot of ice this year!"

    that is just scientific arrogance...

    ie cherry pick a bit of science ignore a vast historic record.
    ie just like the 'hockey stick team' little ice age, mediavel warm period... or we have proxies, that is 'scientific' human records don't count!!!

    Maritime records of lat/long navigating the artic don't count,
    polar explores were all simple 'oiks, we are 'cleverer?
    because 'shiver me timbers' statement is plainly a ridiculous to belittle inconvenient evidence.
    Belittle our ancestors, because they were 'stupid' we know better?
    or just to try angd get rid of the evidence?

    Ocean liners carrying hundreds of people navigated the atlantic well over a hundred years ago... (titanic anyone) and for centuries before sailors were seeking the northwest passage, because of artic ice shrinking..

    But know if it is longer ago than an academic career (30 years), sat in a building at CRU. all thta does not count, because we have some tree ring proxies!!!

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  • 83. At 07:53am on 03 May 2010, Barry Woods wrote:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/05/02/catastrophic-retreat-of-glaciers-in-spitsbergen/#more-19179

    1930's link above:

    over 80 years ago, they must all have been to stupid to see that the glaciers were not melting then, that it was relly freezing... no way that 1930's could be the hottest on (human ) record... it was 80 years ago, they were just stupid then..

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  • 84. At 10:42am on 03 May 2010, sensiblegrannie wrote:

    Will those last two earthquakes in the Bering sea have any effect elsewhere in this coming week? I have been following the oil rig disaster and wonder if more stuff will hamper their clean up operations. We humans certainly know how to make a mess of things in human terms. Also the earth does a pretty good job at messing things up; but it doesn't think about it like we do.
    What bothers me is the cost of it all. We rely too heavily on money as a form of exchange. I think we will enter a time where bartering of skills and resources may be a more useful exchange, especially when events occur suddenly-needing immediate resources.

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  • 85. At 2:51pm on 03 May 2010, LarryKealey wrote:



    day thirteen - oil continues to gush from the ocean floor, now they finally admit that they really don't know how much is leaking out.

    Headlines here this morning - estimated three months minimum to stem the flow of oil.

    The oil has made landfall on the marshes at the mouth of the Mississippi - we could see oil on the reeds in the water.

    Fishing has been closed from the Mississippi Delta eastward to the Florida Panhandle.

    Estimated cost of the clean-up and economic damage - ranges from tens of billions to hundreds of billions at this point.

    BP and the Coast Guard have been training shrimpers and fisherman to deploy booms over the last 48 hours. Crash class in clean-up.

    Fortunately, while there have been heavy south winds along that section of the Gulf for the last several days, the winds are dying this morning and should be calm for several days as high pressure sets in.

    From my perspective, and those of everyone I have spoken too (this is the Energy Capital of the World, Houston), the Obama administration appears impotent in mobilizing and taking the actions needed to minimize the damage - it is already too late for much of what should have already been done.

    Twenty sea turtles washed up dead on the Mississippi Coast over the weekend. Many birds already affected as well.

    This is shaping up to be the worst ecological disaster of our time.

    Well, thats the word on the street here - it is the main topic of conversation for everyone and the focus. The Offshore Technology Conference opens today here in Houston, it would be interesting to see what comes out of that. Still no word on why the safety valves and relieve valves failed on the sea floor, rumor is it was a bad cement job by Halliburton.

    Thats all for now, pray for those on the Gulf Coast, this will be much worse than even Katrina - and is in the same section of coastline.

    Kealey

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  • 86. At 3:34pm on 03 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    I forgot my manners. A "your welcome" to sensibleoldgranny.... and a bit of an apology to others for my first, rather fulminating post.

    I'm hoping that the disaster in the Gulf coast region will not be as bad as I'm afraid it will be. The whole question of the search for energy sources is again put out front and center. Risk vs. reward. The risk now begins to look too high...one high-end drilling rig goes down, and an entire region suffers (really, all of us); postponing the inevitable need to segue from oil to other energy options has been a bad gamble. I'm not a fool. I know it will take an enormous effort and tremendous will to change directions, (and with that always present elephant in the living room of population growth/pressure)...let's cross our fingers. Good post by Kealy.
    For Barry Woods: I was having trouble following your thread. Could you restate your thesis simply for this fellow in his dotage? Thanks.

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  • 87. At 4:19pm on 03 May 2010, ChangEngland wrote:

    @ Barry Woods,

    Try these links then, if nothing else the first one is interesting, The second I can't access (they want $37 for it :(. But the abstract should give you the idea.

    Arctic Expeditions and whaling records.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    I know it's the Antarctic - but you wanted records from Sailors:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VGB-4MNYJS0-1&_user=10&_coverDate=02%2F28%2F2007&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1320620286&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=63979b6089fe28e1193036becd4a0e84"Historical whaling records reveal major regional retreat of Antarctic sea ice"

    and here is a detailed (by proxy( 400 year temperature study of the Northern hemisphere:


    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    It seems to me that the 1979-2000 average was a warm or relatively ice free place to start observations from...

    Oh and err "shiver me timbers" was just my attempt at a pun trying to keep things reasonably light hearted and civilised :)

    Tim.

    P.S. you still have not justified your interpretation of the graph.

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  • 88. At 4:30pm on 03 May 2010, ChangEngland wrote:

    Oh, Barry I meant to include:

    I have tried now for a couple of hours (as it's a holiday) to find the vast historical record of Ice extent and thickness of which you speak. It does not seem to exist! Records start around 1850. Before that it seems that the whaler William Scoresby Junior and the naval exibitions (which laid up for the entire winter because they could not get home) were the first fisherman/sailors to record such things as temps, ice and pressure. So a link would be nice then I can merge the info into my thinking. Thanks.

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  • 89. At 5:04pm on 03 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To sensiblegrannie #84:

    "I think we will enter a time where bartering of skills and resources may be a more useful exchange, especially when events occur suddenly-needing immediate resources." (#84)
    ===================================

    Hello from Calgary!

    I thought you might like this, from Joseph Tainter's 1988 book, "The Collapse of Complex Societies"?

    "Collapse then is not a fall to some primordial chaos, but a return to the normal human condition of lower complexity." (p. 198)
    =============

    All these theories by our leading intellectuals have this in common - they are propounded by the elite, who are generally comfortable and well off, i.e., divorced from what some of us might call reality.

    This oil disaster is an opportunity to address the problems we face at a deeper level, to simplify and cut back while we can, and where we can, and to rethink our place in the world.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 90. At 7:03pm on 03 May 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    I find it interesting that LarryK wants to blame President Obama for the oil spill, tells you all you need to know about him. And there is a reason DDT is not used, side effects, mothers milk, reproduction in men, things like that and also that the mosquitoes build up a resistent.
    In the US they sprayed it on the walls of houses, most African homes do not have walls and they have tried using DDT and did not get desired results.

    LarryK: "the Obama administration appears impotent in mobilizing and taking the actions needed to minimize the damage - it is already too late for much of what should have already been done."

    Think maybe that the oil company or the state regulators would have a plan in place, but just blame the President anyway.

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  • 91. At 8:05pm on 03 May 2010, Barry Woods wrote:

    2 hours work online.... Wow.
    Bit like sitting in a CRU office and dreaming about single trees in the yamal penisula, that somehow demonstrate a global hockey stick..

    records from the 1800's 1900's and previously tend to lie in hard copy documents and libraries, ie not online..

    The internet is not everything quite yet.....Has anyone got a budget to put all the maritinme records on line for your convenience?

    The watts up link speaks for itself, russian artic scientist in the 30's

    If a deviation from an average is described as an anomaly...

    First you must demonstrate that the average used is not itself an anomaly from the longer period..
    As this has not been done, everything is guesswork..
    The historical record, like that link provided, demnstrates that the artic ice waxing and waning over a period of years is NOT unusual..

    So why pretend otherwise.

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  • 92. At 11:34pm on 03 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    To Ghost #90:

    I noticed that too - right off!

    I watched in the mid-nineties when the Republicans pulled out all the stops and tried to impeach then President Bill Clinton. Their tactics have only gotten worse.

    However, as regards this oil disaster, I thought I'd pass on a remark I just read in a new book, "Tar Sands - Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent," by Andrew Nikiforuk, 2010. Unfortunately, the lack of political irresposibility is not restricted to any one party, as the following remark by Wendell Berry makes clear:

    "Our present 'leaders' - the people of wealth and power - do not know what it means to take a place seriously: to think it worthy, for its own sake, of love and study and careful work. They cannot take any place seriously because they must be ready at any moment, by the terms of power and wealth in the modern world, to destoy any place."

    (Atlantic Monthly, February 1991 - "Out of your car, off your horse")
    ================

    This seems particulary relevant now, with this massive spill in the Gulf, and with the President having just opened up more offshore areas to drilling to appease the Republicans. And for what - a climate bill that is worthless - less than worthless.

    I am watching another 'powerful story,' a true one, from oil's invasion of Ecuador. It is called "Crude."

    http://www.crudethemovie.com/
    ==============================

    The writing is on the wall, in my opinion. Change will not come through conventional political process.

    Perhaps, movies such as the one linked to, and the many others now out and upcoming, will finally get us out in the streets, and perhaps, out of our cars?

    - Manysummits -

    PS: Temperature anomalies:

    The 'GISS Tabledata' website doesn't yet have the number for April 2010, but it should be in soon.



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  • 93. At 01:23am on 04 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    To: bowmanthebard :

    You're sort of promoting a kind of species 'relativism' in choice, it seems here. Of course, one problem with this is that it is us, humans, that are driving much of the change, both in extinction and habitat. You pose several times equivical ideas about how there might be equivalence...if I may make such a silly sentence. So, who chooses? Among humans, that is. Animals have no voice, nor plants, so, we play the divine role. How do we choose? I don't deny us a place on this planet, but if that place becomes us to the detriment of any other living (and perhaps inorganic too?) thing at the scale we are now witnessing, then I have a problem. I gave a link that talks about the specifics of extinction. I also addressed some of the natural reasons why ecosystems can tolerate some attrition. But...we aren't really talking about how natural systems 'fix' themselves. What we are really addressing in this series of posts is the anthropogenic factor. And it is huge. The greatest die-off in millions of years is occurring, and it isn't something nature-driven, unless you equate us with nature. I felt you were not really comfortable with talking about either the human responsibility or the actual outcomes, which aren't just a tit for tat kind of change at all. You'd like to see beaver in Scotland. So would I. But that isn't really relevant...the global picture is. What are you willing to part with (and assume the consequences of parting with) species-wise? How would you and others choose? And, we MUST choose. Inaction is choice too. Which kind should we take...where, how, what numbers, with what information...The notion that natural changes in biodiversity are really the same as what is happening now is simply not true.
    "Now many will feel an uncontrollable urge to say: "but if we change the area of the polar habitats, a delicate balance will be disrupted!" -- To which I reply: but that balance was not "delicate" in the sense of being in unstable equilibrium. It was an exact balance, sure, but one that nature itself settled on, and if there are smaller polar habitats than before, nature will settle on a new and equally exact balance. It may even be richer than the previous balance, because polar habitats are relatively barren." Your quote...
    Nature (we must admit, we are part of nature, whether we like it or not; our choices however are, for now, mostly ego-driven...without regard to the other...if this is nature's will being exhibited, then we are wading into deep semantic waters...and worse...) will, in fact, sort out these things, but it will be some new and probably unstable (since many other interconnected systems are disrupted as well) 'solution'; further, it is a human construct to think of something as barren versus rich. Polar regions are simply what they are; delicate, robust, or otherwise. That isn't really something I think is your area of expertise. Our tinkering with our environment isn't a semantic exercise. It is life and death for other living things, and we have yet to take responsibility for our actions.
    We make the claim to be free to act as we please on this planet; our stewardship so far is atrocious.

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  • 94. At 07:58am on 04 May 2010, MangoChutney wrote:

    @manysummits #92

    PS: Temperature anomalies:

    The 'GISS Tabledata' website doesn't yet have the number for April 2010, but it should be in soon.


    The chances are the temp anomalies will show warming, although it sure doesn't feel warm in my neck of the woods! Don't expect it to last though. Despite CO2 supposedly being the primary driver of temperature, something bigger is about to hit that will dwarf CO2's ability to raise temperature.

    Warmist regards

    /Mango

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  • 95. At 09:00am on 04 May 2010, lburt wrote:

    @wichitazen #93 who wrote...
    "What we are really addressing in this series of posts is the anthropogenic factor. And it is huge. The greatest die-off in millions of years is occurring, and it isn't something nature-driven, unless you equate us with nature."

    While it is an important change for the planet, it is quite likely that each glacial period began with a die-off greater than we're seeing now. The fact is MOST animals never fossilize. Small populations like the pup-fish come and go pretty rapidly on geologic time scales. Habitat loss? try millions of square kilometers of ice a kilometer thick covering north america and europe.. It is impressive that we've managed to alter things as much as we have...but mother nature manages much more impressive feats (text of the link might need to be cut/pasted...the BBC website often screws up when it encounters certain characters in links)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Last_glacial_vegetation_map.png

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  • 96. At 09:44am on 04 May 2010, rossglory wrote:

    all this reminds me of a chinese saying (one of many from my partner!) that goes something along the lines of 'a rabbit never ****s outside its own burrow'. to mix the metaphor, the way we are soiling our nest imho puts us amongst the least developed of creatures on the planet.

    technology has delayed the impact but we can't say we weren't warned, the likes of paul ehrlich were writing about ecocatastrophe in the late 60s.

    as much as i hate john gray's analysis, i don;t see much in the way of human progress over the past 50 years. all very depressing

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  • 97. At 2:14pm on 04 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    Hello Rossglory @96:

    I just finished watching "CRUDE." a Joe Berlinger film about Chevron/Texaco in Ecuador. Enough to break one's heart, but we cannot let that happen.

    What struck me more and more as I watched the story unfold was the great similarity to the tactics of delay and misinformation used by the Chevron/Texaco lawyers and environmental science department to counter the obvious, that are and have been used here on the blog and in the tobacco industry lobby.

    These transnationals are truly evil - I don't know another word to accurately describe them.

    I personally worked for two companies in the oilpatch, as a wellsite geologist, both of which were eventually bought up by Texaco, now Chevron. A partial return, when you think about it, to the old Standard Oil, for whom the anti-trust laws were written.

    This juggernaut must be stopped, and replaced, if we are to survive.

    I am currently reading "Tar Sands," by Andrew Nikiforuk (2010), about Alberta's bid to be the new Saudi Arabia. Here is what Dr. David Schindler, professor of ecology at the University of Alberta, had to say:

    "This book is a must read...Andrew Nikiforuk...reveals that we have the Guinness World Record for environmental disasters on our hands."

    I cannot but notice that the scene has moved from Ecuador into my own backyard.

    Windmills would be preferable, not the nuclear reactor the government is moving ahead with to supply steam for the tar sands.

    Warmist regards Rossglory,

    Manysummits

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  • 98. At 3:00pm on 04 May 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    I wonder if the oil spill would have been less or more damaging had it been a tanker full of vegetable oil destined for bio-fuel production that had leaked. Would vegetable oil be easier to clean up, can anyone enlighten me?

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  • 99. At 3:42pm on 04 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    Re: Poitsplace wrote:
    "hile it is an important change for the planet, it is quite likely that each glacial period began with a die-off greater than we're seeing now. The fact is MOST animals never fossilize. Small populations like the pup-fish come and go pretty rapidly on geologic time scales. Habitat loss? try millions of square kilometers of ice a kilometer thick covering north america and europe.. It is impressive that we've managed to alter things as much as we have...but mother nature manages much more impressive feats"....(here the text ends).

    Several problems with your analysis: first, large extinctions of the order we are seeing now do NOT show up in the fossil record just at the beginning of glacial periods. The great die-offs, Ordovician, Permian, Triassic, KT etc, were due to other causes (volcanic etc.). Some species are brief in appearances on earth, but that has really nothing to do with the longevity of biosphere populations and their general health, nor does it have anything to do with general die-offs. It has to do with local habitat issues, weak adaptations, and the like. Fact: most animals do not fossilize. But, we do get a fairly decent overview of general animal populations, (and plant populations), and can see definite starts and stops in numbers and distribution that are good indicators of overall biodiversity issues. Your use of paleontological info here should include how animals fossilize, where they tend to fossilize (where there is water or vulcanism) and the extraordinary explosion of finds and data in the past two decades, from China to South America. I don't have enough room here to even begin to cover what has been found.
    The ice sheets did indeed cover large amounts of land. But, overall species numbers did not drastically drop, as in major overall extinction events. Nature is powerful. Yet we are proving that one species, us, can produce the same kinds of numbers as ancient extinction events, and that should give you pause. This IS the issue. This 'experiment' is now and ongoing and definitely affecting large populations of wildlife and plantlife. I suggest you read the WWF paper on biodiversity (PDF available online), climate change and the effects on plants and animals, including regional migration etc., by Jay R. Malcolm | Canran Liu | Laurie B. Miller | Tom Allnutt | Lara Hansen. Take a look at their information, and then see what you think.

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  • 100. At 5:56pm on 04 May 2010, lburt wrote:

    @wichitazen #99

    It is an issue but the fact is you're essentially comparing detailed information on numerous species extinctions...to the roughest of information. The evidence in those other extinction level events is clear...things were so bad that even modern man would have been driven to the brink. Again, we are most certainly having a substantial and largely adverse impact on the planet's ecosystem...but all shifts in the dominant species have an adverse impact on the stability of the previous biosphere's order, species, etc.

    In the end, we're probably a lot closer in our opinions on this subject than you think. I just disagree with your comparison to what are to me...far more pronounced extinction events. I too think we need to do something to prevent destruction of habitat, over-exploiting of wildlife populations, etc...and this is in fact one of the reasons I'm so very vocal about NOT giving credibility to the nonsensical climate alarm claims you so often see in the news these days...which detract from REAL environmental issues.

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  • 101. At 7:36pm on 04 May 2010, SR wrote:

    Rising mean global temperatures will obviously create a change. The general belief is that the sudden nature of the change will result in a loss in biodiversity. Of course, natural changes are a recurring theme in the history of our planet - these were times of immense struggle, a darwinian warzone. It is important that we listen to the experts on these issues because they are the people best placed to predict what will happen. The only time it becomes naive or 'gullible' to prioritise the advice of an expert over the 'common sense' layman is when the expert has been shown to be corrupt.

    For this reason i'm not sure why threads like this aren't a literature review of works carried out on biodiversity loss and climate change. The general picture, though complex, is 1) Climate change will result in biodiversity loss (who disputes this?, not a layman view, but in the genuine scientific literature?), and 2) A loss in biodiversity will lead to a lowering in the standards of living for mankind, especially the poorest.

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  • 102. At 8:16pm on 04 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    Poitsplace: you're probably right about us being closer in our opinions that our posts might indicate. I am, however, worried that we aren't getting the information across about climate alarm, which you don't seem to subscribe to. I'm not an hysteric, but I am truly frightened by the potential, and this is after four years of steady reading of current research being done by climatologists (not the second hand opinions of those outside the field but still in science, or actually outside altogether). In science literature, the norm is dry, dry, dry. Now we are seeing scientists, who dislike sounding alarmist or like marginal personalities, beginning to be very very worried. These aren't people whose angst is driven by greed...the result of their worries (i.e. climate change disaster) would in fact eliminate stable economic conditions and hence them as well. The timetables are up for argument. The change isn't. Not among reputable scientists. That is why I was so critical of Allegre. Be all this as it may, when we add all the other variables (as I pointed out in an earlier post) of diminishing water resources etc etc, then we have the potential for an epic correction by Nature. And it will be our own doing. The problem is that all of these things are intertwined, and then with the complexities of human behavior mixed in, the varied political and religious agendas competing, and just sheer desperation from some areas of the globe where humans have their backs to the wall, well, I can't see how anyone could be blase about this. I'm not accusing you of this, mind you. I'm speaking in general. A great problem for all people reading and thinking about this problem (biodiversity plus climate change plus all the other factors noted above) is that the amount of information to wade through is staggering. We have to rely on summaries often, and when these take the form of popular press, or economically driven editing, or simply in isolation without proper context, then the layman can often wander off the path and try to judge these things by local conditions and 'common sense'. Sadly, this won't do nowadays. Too much to handle, and so we have to look for the reputable scientific community to help with the description, and hold their feet to the fire when they err. Which, of course, is just what has been happening as of late. I'm off to resume a workshop in forensic facial reconstruction via clay on skull...and, as an analogy, what I, a professional artist and instructor, didn't know about the head, has been legion...so my own opinions have had to be modified. We must all be able to take this road...
    Well, off to add the mouth and eyelids...
    Cheers,

    Steve

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  • 103. At 8:49pm on 04 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    The threat to biodiversity at the world's largest capital project, The Alberta Tar Sands, beggars description. Entire watersheds are undergoing devastation, as the watchdog, the 'Energy Resources Conservation Board,' rubberstamps virtually all projects, and the human population lives in boomtown Canada, taiga-style, northern lights and all.

    As I read deeper into "Tar Sands" by Andrew Nikiforuk, and I realized in the pit of my stomach what the "empire" requires, a supertanker docking at US shores every four hours, two pictures leapt simutaneoulsy to mind:

    1) The core-collapse of an incipient supernova, the phenomena precedent to the soon to follow explosion, possibly with Gamma Ray burst, which for a brief moment in time, produces the brightest object in the Universe. We are possibly in core-collapse mode, which would mean an unstoppable chain reaction in progress. My acquaintance Dr. Chaos, the retired professor of Chaos Theory, thinks we may have already passed the tipping point. What scares me is the recent memory of watching the Eleventh Hour documentary, and the iconic and in many ways macabre figure of Stephen Hawking, saying the same thing, with his voice synthesizer adding a Twighlight Zone atmosphere of unreality.

    Several BBC pieces in the news these last days only add to this feeling of impending collapse - I need not document them - those with an interest will know of what I speak, and those who don't, well, enough said.

    2) The surealistic image from the movie "2010 - A Space Odyssey," the sequel to Arthur C. Clarke's "2001." Remember the multiplication of the black slabs - the runaway event which finally culminates in the destruction of the planet Saturn, and the dawn of a new Day.

    This pessimistic train of thought occurred - I could not stop it - and as witness on this blog - I must report it.

    Of course I will soon turn optimistic again, that is human nature.

    But the process underway just north of me is ongoing, and gathering speed and even accelerating, all with the 100 percent backing of the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico, and the money is flowing in from almost every oil-hungry nation state on the planet. It all has the feel of the irresistible force coming up against the immovable object.

    Bolivia had it at least partly right - capitalism in its present configuration is the means to our end. But I can't help thinking, as I sense the boomtown go for broke attitude in Fort McMurray of the high-school graduates making their hundred thousand dollar salaries, and the at least forty per cent of the population on drugs, that WE are just as much the 'CAUSE' as are the political and corporate systems which in some sense reflect human nature, or at least parts of human nature.

    Our only hope, as I see it today, is that people are in the main decent, and will manifest this part of human nature in the not too distant future.

    - Manysummits -

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  • 104. At 9:31pm on 04 May 2010, manysummits wrote:

    Wendell Berry wrote something in 1991 for The Atlantic Monthly, which is featured in "Tar Sands." As it is available on the Internet, I thought to excerpt two paragraphs which bear on biodiversity, and also on the tar samds of Alberta:

    "Fossil fuels have always been produced at the expense of local ecosystems and of local human communities. The fossil-fuel economy is the industrial economy par excellence, and it assigns no value to local life, natural or human...

    When the industrial principles exemplified in fossil-fuel production are
    applied to field and forest, the results are identical: local life, both natural and human, is destroyed."

    http://www.fs.fed.us/eco/eco-watch/ew910219
    =============================================

    It is snowing here in Calgary - the wind is unusually strong. This is probably AGW amplification of the hydrologic cycle.

    When I worked part-time for The Geological Survey of Canada (many years ago) here in Calgary, as a type of coal technician, correlating coal on old well-logs, I hadn't a clue that we would eventually "carpetbomb" our local farmlands for coal-bed methane. Or did I have a clue, and forget to think?

    I don't know anymore.

    All I know is that 'The Mountain Path' which I adopted in the late 90's set me straight, and enabled me to slow down and come into balance.

    Several times on this blog the lobby has pointed out the seeming incongruity of mountain climbing and environmentalism.

    Nothing could be further from the truth, with this caveat:

    The Path is dependent upon the frame of mind of the Traveller - upon his or her receptiveness to the teachings of the Natural World. The Mountain provides the backdrop only - the awesome scenery, the necessity of focus, sometimes called meditation, or living fully in the moment, with life and limb hanging in the balance - Freud's "highest stake in the game of life."

    The Path enables the 'Contemplatio in Actiones,' but he or she must be worthy.

    We must park our cars, and discover again the joy of living in the moment,

    "My mistress still, the open road and the bright eyes of danger." (RLS)

    In Cro-Magnon, by Brian Fagan, he points out that forty thousand years ago, Ice Age Man might expect to see at most a few dozen others of his kind in a lifetime. Joseph Tainter in "The Collapse of Complex Societies" alluded to this same 'natural state' of the human being.

    Of a sudden - I realized that the 'Anthill' of E.O. Wilson is not us, but rather an aberrant us - a final multiplication, like those "2010" slabs on Saturn, before the dawn of a new way.

    What that new way will be may or may not be under our control at this moment.

    You too are now climbing a virgin peak with me - and all around there is mystery and enchantment.

    - Manysummits -



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  • 105. At 10:45pm on 04 May 2010, GeoffWard wrote:

    Biodiversity is as much a socio-political concept for policy-makers these days as it is an ecological concept for ‘real’ scientists.
    This brings terminological problems when professional ecologists have to interact with pressure groups/politicians. Concerned laymen and even amateur conservationist have been very ‘wooly’ with their use of the word Biodiversity, frequently juxtaposing it with the term Natural Heritage, especially in the USA. This is a terminological use without rigour and I defy any poster here to give me a tight definition in use by ‘politicians’ that encompasses ecological exactitude.
    If we can’t define our terms e.g. legally and within environmental protection legislation, how can a world biodiversity forum/convention prove success, except in the most general sense?
    Much of the exactitude of the mathematical ecological diversity studies of 30-40 years ago has been lost as the environmental bandwagon rolled over scientific rigour, and campaign-management became the focus of Environmental Studies.
    Indices such as the Shannon (Weiner) Diversity Index lead to some very different answers from Variety studies (Biodiversity in the lay sense). Island Biogeography Theory and inter-connectedness studies (see Jared Diamond) show where the greatest species savings can occur; but the loss of any of a couple of dozen species of the great mammals will hit the human psyche harder.
    It was many year later, after my father had declined to transform Nigerian virgin forest into palm plantations for Unilever (*for the ‘right’ reasons*), that I realised that to retain diversity you really do have to put your money where your mouth is.

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  • 106. At 01:05am on 05 May 2010, GeoffWard wrote:


    • 99. At 3:42pm on 04 May 2010, wichitazen wrote: Re: Poitsplace wrote: "While it is an important change for the planet, it is quite likely that each glacial period began with a die-off greater than we're seeing now. The fact is MOST animals never fossilize. Small populations like the pup-fish come and go pretty rapidly on geologic time scales. Habitat loss? try millions of square kilometers of ice a kilometer thick covering north america and europe.. It is impressive that we've managed to alter things as much as we have...but mother nature manages much more impressive feats". And: "wichitazen: Several problems with your analysis first, large extinctions of the order we are seeing now do NOT show up in the fossil record just at the beginning of glacial periods. The great die-offs, Ordovician, Permian, Triassic, KT etc, were due to other causes (volcanic etc.)."
    Glaciation extinctions and the great (volcanic, meteor, etc.) die-offs; both are profound generators of biodiversity reduction; also, a recent century of terraforming across the globe. Terraforming might sound an emotive term but consider the extent of agricultural monocultures across all continents, from the grain plains to the palm plantations. Project forward to the food production needs for a world population in e.g. 2100. Now add a human-generated spasmic climate change (or, in time, the next glaciation). In this post-apocalyptic environment, absence of mosaics of different communities of species in different biomes will seriously diminish the genetic potential for re-establishment of diverse communities of the species that we know and love.
    In time, and with massive human interventions with animal and plant genomics & seed-banks, new species mixtures will populate the new biome-types. This will not be a ‘natural’ world, and it will achieve a biodiversity appropriate to the survival of a post-industrial human-world…. Less diverse and, arguably, much less interesting.
    Few people are thinking even a thousand years into the future.

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  • 107. At 01:25am on 05 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    Re: Post 105:

    "The theory of island biogeography proposes that the number of species found on an undisturbed island is determined by: immigration, emigration and extinction."

    Wikipedia

    Shannon (Weiner) Diversity Index:
    The index was set up to measure the outcomes of outside influences on habitat and habitat quality such as pollution et al. Since it doesn't utilize habitat specific parameters, viz specific species, it has not been used as much contemporarily. More recent indices (called Habitat Suitability Indices) use these parameters. Species richness and equatability (number of species and numbers per species) are the two measures used in the Shannon (Weiner).

    Anyway, useful to a certain extent in this discussion, but more a technical matter (I am gathering that the author wants some definite mathematical data to present and use viz a viz political forums). Whether this would make a difference, I don't know. To throw these terms out without giving the layman any idea what they mean, sort of muddies the waters. I'm not an expert, but the main theme of this article, and the use of biodiversity, popularized by E.O. Wilson (although not coined by him) still is viable for general discussion.

    We seem to be talking in several different themes here. The main thrust, if I understand at all, is whether the clear decline (see today's science headline about fisheries off British Isles) can be ameliorated, should be amerliorated, or is just fluff from, as the rightwing says in America, tree-huggers. I know much of what we are talking about here is more general in scientific terms, although some useful links have been provided; we really must say, directly, whether humans have the wherewithall to do what must be done to keep a semblance of a healthy biosphere intact.

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  • 108. At 02:08am on 05 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    To clarify...I was quoting Poitsplace, not agreeing.

    I concur with Mr. Ward on what he said in his last post...not that I am very optimistic about humans, post-whatever, being more than able to just scrub out a raw existence on a beleagered planet. I'd like to think they'd whip out the genetic machines, and, after taming the damage they've done to the inorganic part, repopulate the organic. Perhaps. We'd need a paradigm shift in our own psyches to accomplish this. So far, I see little evidence that humans in general even remember their now distant role in the general biosphere. Mr. Ward...I hope you see something in us that I don't. You clearly are as concerned as I am. Maybe I muddied the waters more than you or others. Who knows.

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  • 109. At 04:27am on 05 May 2010, GeoffWard wrote:

    Thanks, Wichitazen.
    There are no stupid people on this blog-site, only really concerned individuals, saying what they feel in different languages from different perspectives. I am probably too old now to 'make a difference', but those of us with youth and spirit should go beyond the blog, seek out the influencers of policy and action, and *demand* species survival; species-loss through politics, trade and trade-offs is too high a price to pay.
    Geoff.

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  • 110. At 04:54am on 05 May 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    LarryKealey claims
    "I'll also stand by my assertion that malaria is much worse in Africa because they have been deprived of DDT - without which, the US would still have malaria. And by the way, even though Rachel Carson is dead, the rest of us are still alive even though we eradicated malaria with DDT. "


    He is incorrect on two counts, mosquitoes and malaria were clearly not eradicated by DDT. When he claims DDT can't be used for controlling disease carrying insects in Africa, he is simply wrong. It is only banned for agricultural use, and is currently being used to control mosquitoes in tropical third world countries in Africa and else where.

    see [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] http://www.epa.gov/pbt/pubs/ddt.htm, http://extoxnet.orst.edu/pips/ddt.htm if you want credible information on DDT.

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  • 111. At 05:10am on 05 May 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    It seems that too many of the posters to this blog don't seem to understand that there are many species of mosquitoes. The problem is species that typically carry human diseases that co-evolved with malaria and other parasites and humans in the tropics and that were limited to the tropics and sub tropics are expanding their range toward the poles as the globe warms.

    If you garden or go out in nature to catch different wild flowers blooming, birds migrating or the tree canopy closing during the spring, you will notice these are generally happening earlier and earlier in the year. Since I only get out on weekends, I am marking my calender a week earlier for next springs hikes.

    Do you have an alternative explanation to global warming?

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  • 112. At 05:18am on 05 May 2010, wichitazen wrote:

    Geoff...I appreciate your comments. I too hope my children and their generation can do better than the previous...

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  • 113. At 05:45am on 05 May 2010, lburt wrote:

    @wichitazen #102

    There are so many little points to touch on I'll just ramble through them.

    The problem is that the "theory" of dangerous, significant, anthropogenic global warming is (as far as I can see) the biggest failure of science the world has ever seen. It is technically a collection of several poorly substantiated hypotheses that must ALL be true in order for there to be any real problem...and its likely none of them are true (or at least anywhere near as pronounced as is stated).

    (1) There is no hint of evidence that mankind or wildlife ever had any problem during the significantly warmer Holocene optimum. In fact, contrary to your comment about water, almost everywhere on the planet seemed to have MORE water when the world was warmer...with Africa and Australia bing covered in forests and grasslands.

    (2) Feedbacks WERE strongly positive during the glacial period but the earth's climate is very non-linear. Currently, and its reflected in the ice core record and other proxies, feedbacks are weak or negative.

    (3) Nobody has ever actually worked out what the true "forcing" of CO2 is in the first place. Simple absorption is NOT the whole story. The absorption and emission leads to a temperature gradient across the troposphere that slows the flow of energy out of the system. The gradient its self is also a logarithmic function...driven by the (logarithmic) absorption of CO2 verses its radiative efficiency. This is one of the most blaring errors in the whole "science" of AGW.

    It has come to this because of the politicization of science. If you'll notice, the top climatologists are NOT at the "top" of their field because they've proven themselves. They're all at the "top" because they were appointed to organizations (like the IPCC) which then became the defacto-standard for climate information (again, due to socio-political forces). Trouble is brewing, I assure you. REAL scientists do not like what they've seen in the climategate emails.

    I agree that there is a great deal of information and misinformation on both sides. For many years I just assumed that these scientists knew what they were talking about. Eventually I started to notice problems for myself and felt the need to actually look into the matter. The "science" of AGW as it stands is disturbingly bad, full of poorly done studies, propaganda and sometimes even outright lies. At its core is one, tiny grain of truth...additional CO2 should cause SOME warming.

    I've been digging through this junk for about two years now. I assure you, there is no way we're going to see 2C of warming from increased CO2. Even if we did, humans would probably actually be better off...and the only reason the ecosystem would suffer is because of segmentation from man's land use. Since the peak of the previous warm period (in the 1940s) we've had about .4C to .5C of warming, a rather anemic .5C-.6C per century warming rate.

    The claims of significant to substantial AGW...are nothing but junk science. Other impacts by man, however...are very real and quite substantial. I believe this witch hunt for CO2 has been a HUGE waste of time, money and resources. All of those resources could have been better spent working out better ways to protect the environment, reduce our impacts on the environment within our footprint and helping to improve conditions for people in the developing world. In the end I feel it will be horribly detrimental to the environmental movement...another down side.

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  • 114. At 07:09am on 05 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    #113 poitsplace - I couldn't agree with you more, particularly your last line. The backlash on this could be brutal. So much credibility has been blown on alarmist AGW junk science that real environmental science - the kind we really do need - is going to take a major hit. It already has.

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  • 115. At 07:36am on 05 May 2010, MangoChutney wrote:

    #104

    It is snowing here in Calgary - the wind is unusually strong. This is probably AGW amplification of the hydrologic cycle.


    no, that's weather

    /Mango

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  • 116. At 07:58am on 05 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    wichitazen #93wrote:

    "You're sort of promoting a kind of species 'relativism' in choice, it seems here."

    Dirty, overcrowded cities with open sewers are good for rats, but bad for humans. We choose to make them better for humans by making them worse for rats. So we give priority to our own interests over rats' interests. I don't see how that is any type of "relativism".

    Bowmanthebard #75: "that balance was not "delicate" in the sense of being in unstable equilibrium. It was an exact balance, sure, but one that nature itself settled on, and if there are smaller polar habitats than before, nature will settle on a new and equally exact balance. It may even be richer than the previous balance, because polar habitats are relatively barren."

    "Nature (we must admit, we are part of nature, whether we like it or not; our choices however are, for now, mostly ego-driven...without regard to the other..."

    So what? The idea that there is a "delicate balance" (i.e. unstable equilibrium in nature) is still mistaken!

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  • 117. At 08:05am on 05 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #104 manysummits quoting Wendell Berry:

    "Fossil fuels have always been produced at the expense of local ecosystems and of local human communities. The fossil-fuel economy is the industrial economy par excellence, and it assigns no value to local life, natural or human..."

    Yeah, but it is of great value to NON-LOCAL life. How bourgeois to be so narrowly focussed on one's own local comforts that one completely overlooks the way fossil fuels feed the world's hungry.

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  • 118. At 09:40am on 05 May 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    Many of those with hidden agendas have dropped AGW like a hot potato and moved on to other issues such as biodiversity loss, but I doubt that they will find another “host cause” with as much leverage as climate change. Telling somebody that their grand-children will starve if they do not do what they are told is powerful stuff, telling them that some creepy crawly faces extinction is nothing.

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  • 119. At 09:44am on 05 May 2010, blunderbunny wrote:

    @HungeryWalleye #111

    "If you garden or go out in nature to catch different wild flowers blooming, birds migrating or the tree canopy closing during the spring, you will notice these are generally happening earlier and earlier in the year. Since I only get out on weekends, I am marking my calendar a week earlier for next spring’s hikes."

    That's simply untrue - Spring in the UK was very late this year.

    I suggest, perhaps getting out a bit more than just on the weekends, maybe paying a bit more attention when you’re out and about and finally removing one's standard issue AGW rose-tinted spectacles ;-)

    As you’re mentioning gardening above, you might want to check out what the keenest of all UK spring watchers, the gardeners, are actually saying about this spring before you start blogging about it - Just a thought……………….

    Here's nice example of a famous one for you:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/apr/28/spring-alan-titchmarsh

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  • 120. At 10:08am on 05 May 2010, lburt wrote:

    Blunderbunny, he said "generally happening earlier" so your criticism is invalid. Of course, since the cold phase of the PDO has started and the AMO will follow over the next few years (maybe a decade)...that trend will likely reverse for a bit.

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  • 121. At 10:23am on 05 May 2010, rossglory wrote:

    #97 manysummits

    hi manysummits,
    we've had a mixed bag of weather here the past week in the uk from glorious sunshine to torrential rain....the joys of living at mid-latitudes between oceans and continents :o)

    my last post was a bit sombre i must admit, feeling pretty frustrated by a uk election that has hardly mentioned the environment at all (let alone agw). it's quite amusing watching our politicians getting their hands dirty for a few months glad-handing us 'little tax payers' (as margaret thatcher used to refer to us) before they turn their attention back to the ceos of the multinationals that really run our politics!

    the new found love tar sands and deep water drilling seems to be the next stage in our disastrous dash towards ecocatastrophe. soon i think we'll reminisce fondly on the merits of middle eastern sweet crude :o(

    i was prompted to post after coming across an extract from paul ehrlich's 1970's essay 'eco-catastrophe'. some fo the words just seemed so prescient (although a bit dated e.g. ddt was a big worry back then). there was also a rather disturbing news story about a dead grey whale that had 50 tonnes of rubbish in its stomach and it just struck me we still seem to be in a long dark tunnel with only the faintest of light a long way ahead.

    warmist regards - good to see my tag line taking off :o)
    rg

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  • 122. At 11:14am on 05 May 2010, Smiffie wrote:

    rossglory @ 121 said

    “feeling pretty frustrated by a uk election that has hardly mentioned the environment at all (let alone agw).”

    That is because from politicians’ view point AGW has run its course and in no longer useful to them, in fact it is a vote loser.

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  • 123. At 12:35pm on 05 May 2010, Lorax wrote:

    It's frustrating to see this conversation still revolving around whether climate change and biodiversity change are interconnected. There is a great deal of evidence of recent and ongoing climate change, as well as acidification of the oceans. Whether or not you believe that this is due to human activities and greenhouse gases could usefully be parked elsewhere - there are enough other blogs ventilating on that.

    The extent to which we can retain our natural world and biodiversity will depend on acknowledging that humans will decide what happens to it. That will be a mass of individual, local, national and global choices - on agriculture, genetics, fish, water and forest management, pollution and the atmosphere. We can't just stand back and say 'oooh, look at the lovely animals'. That's for children. We need to be saying 'the lovely animals are our responsibility'. Nature isn't really very wild any more - we dominate its future almost utterly.

    If we can accept that, then we get on to a much more useful discussion - how do we want our biodiversity to look in the future? Unless you set some goals, then any efforts are uncoordinated, weak and expensive. Example: The EU set a goal for halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010. The methodology for assessing this loss of biodiversity was only in place by 2009 - I was on one of the expert committees drawing these up in Copenhagen. So the ambition was doomed from the start - because those who might try and implement it could not know what it was they were trying to implement. There was no agreed definition on what biodiversity loss was.

    From my own perspective, living in a small and crowded island, our limiting factor is land area. We simply haven't got enough room to meet the ambitions for food, energy and timber production, as well as new development and infrastructure - and still maintain our existing (and much reduced) biodiversity. Yet politicians find it awfully hard to accept that there are fundamental limits on their freedom of action - and thus ignore this issue. Add to this the (partly) climate change-driven pathogens we are already seeing, and new species moving in, and we are sleepwalking into a further biodiversity change - unless we can get ahead of the curve and start directing our behaviour towards specific measurable goals.

    Getting broad agreement on what those goals should be - that's the real trick. Any ideas?

    Lorax



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  • 124. At 1:33pm on 05 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    Lorax #123 wrote:

    "Getting broad agreement on what those goals should be - that's the real trick. Any ideas?"

    I suggest we learn to embrace disagreement as a something valuable. Let's aim for compromise instead of agreement.

    An hour ago, an intelligent guy on You and Yours was talking about the surprising fact that biodiversity on non-"organic" farms is higher than than on "organic" farms. But even if it weren't, we would still have to weigh up the pros and cons of biodiversity versus yield, and balance these (usually) opposed values against each other. When people assume we have a divine responsibility to "preserve the planet" instead of a human responsibility to muddle through as best we can, the discussion lapses into fanaticism and fantasy.

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  • 125. At 2:09pm on 05 May 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    Politicans are not talking about climate change because they have nothing to offer. Most people see the ETS as a tax scheme to refill the public coffers and know it will be passed on to the consumer. The nations are all in deficit and have no funds to take on any additional costs. There is no political benefit to the politician. There are any number of things that they should be talking about and are not. You hear very little about banking regulations and you hear very little about details for public spending reductions. these are politicans and they want you to think of them in some positive way and if that means talking about a senior bus pass, that is what you get. The other side of this process requires that the public and media ask the questions they would like answered and that has not happened as well. With most people concerned about personal financial security, and one might wish to note that Greece and others may be in serious trouble, other topic do not resonate at this time. Remember it took from about 1831 to 1884 to get a fundemental child labour act passed in Britain. Special interest have a way of delaying progress.

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  • 126. At 2:25pm on 05 May 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    Day 15 - Deepwater Horizon oil spill

    First, my girlfriend had made an interesting comment the day after the explosion, before the rig had sunk: "who would name the thing 'Deepwater Horizon' - it sounds just like something out of a horror film..." How prophetic those words now seem.

    BP now estimates as much as 60,000 bbl per day could be leaking from the sea floor, and been leaking at that level all along. We started with an estimate of 1,000 bbl per day, then 5,000 bbl per day - I had been wondering why it wasn't 8,000 (which is what the wells were producing at the time, now it seems much worse.

    Now we hear fears of the oil getting caught in the 'Gulf Loop Current' which feeds the Gulf Stream, taking oil through the Florida Straights and up the Eastern Seaboard of the US. Thy mention the Florida Keys, but not the marine sanctuary around the Marquesas Keys or Dry Tortuga. Both pristine marine environments.

    At 60,000 bbl per day, this could quickly eclipse the worst oil spill (accidental) of all time - Ixtoc I in the bay of Campeche which spilled 10,000 - 30,000 bbl per day for 9 months - a total of 140m gal of oil. The only larger spill was the 520m gal intentionally spilled by the Iraqi's during the first gulf war.

    The area currently impacted the worst is also probably the most sensitive area in the Gulf of Mexico. While most of the Gulf coast is sandy beaches on barrier islands, the Mississippi Delta region is mostly march, mangroves and wetlands (swamp). Once it gets in there, it will be almost impossible to get out. I suppose one big hope is that the spring flooding will continue and flush the area with fresh water from upstream, but the season is about over, without major floods, so that won't last long.

    This is certainly shaping up to be the worst disaster of the century and in my view, will certainly be much worse than Exxon Valdez. The only accident which I can think of which was worse was Chernobyl.

    As dead sea turtles continue to wash up along the Mississippi coast, some are saying that the impact on the Lower Louisiana wetlands could last for three or four decades, I think it likely it will last a decade - a decade too long.

    On another note, the OTC (Offshore Technology Conference) is in full swing here in Houston - and all abuzz about the spill and what went wrong. Why did the blowout preventer fail, why does the manual system continue to be unusable? Rumors still persist regarding a 'bad cement' job by Halliburton, but we don't see much about that in the news. Cameron, the deepwater equipment manufacturer who designed and built the valve system on the seafloor is interestingly quiet.

    While this will not slow the pace of deepwater oil field development, except perhaps in the US, I sincerely hope that the lessons learned are taken seriously - and we understand why the blowout preventer failed - and steps are taken to address this problem.

    BP is currently working feverishly to build and deploy a 'box' to cover the largest leak on the seabed with an umbilical to capture the oil and pump it to the surface to waiting tankers. Many hold little hope that this solution will work. It will be another week minimum before this contraption can be deployed - so we will be on day 22 by then, at least.

    Also of interest was a report yesterday that the nearest 'fire booms' - those special booms used to corral the oil for burning it at sea were in Illinois. Why were there not booms of this type on the Gulf Coast, ready to deploy? The Gulf does have the largest concentration of both production and exploration rigs in US waters - by far.

    I hope this causes a real wake up call for the industry - if the blowout preventer had worked, if the booms had been here, ready to deploy, if, if, if...things would be much better today.

    Well that is it for day 15...except to say that if it really is 60,000 bbl per day leaking, that would make 900,000 bbl so far, or 37.8 m gallons of oil - almost 4 times the oil spilled by Exxon Valdez, on a coastline much harder (nearly impossible) to clean.

    @Richard, I hope you are diligently working on your take regarding this environmental disaster...

    Kealey

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  • 127. At 2:27pm on 05 May 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    As a side note, while this spill will not affect biodiversity, per say, it will have significant impacts on the populations of a number of aquatic species, as the current area of impact is spawning grounds for a great many gulf species...

    Keaely

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  • 128. At 7:50pm on 05 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #127 LarryKealey wrote:

    "it will have significant impacts on the populations of a number of aquatic species, as the current area of impact is spawning grounds for a great many gulf species"

    I don't think it will. In general, animal populations are determined by the food supply rather than by the attrition rate to predation (or in the present case to poisoning). If a large number of any species is lost to poisoning this summer, its food supply will increase for next summer's population explosion.

    I think we habitually make a fundamental mistake about how populations work. We tend to think there is a fragile balance, which if dramatically cut down by some horrible event such as a major oil spill will take years to recover. But in fact, populations are always "bumping along the ceiling" at a maximum, and like a child's helium balloon they shoot upwards as soon as the ceiling is taken away.

    I'm not saying the present disaster is not extremely bad in the short term -- and the culpable parties should be forced to pay, and pay more. But we nearly always exaggerate the long term damage of these disasters, partly because we assume (without really thinking about it) that there is a "fragile balance", partly because humans take to apocalyptic disaster scenarios like ducks to water.

    Prince William Sound is in much better shape than most people would have said 30 years ago. Not long after that we were told that oil well fires in Kuwait would take a quarter of a century to put out, turning it into a sort of Mordor. But it's a lovely, wildlife-rich place. So is Chernobyl.

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  • 129. At 8:09pm on 05 May 2010, sensiblegrannie wrote:

    hi manysummits,
    ...been to busy to blog. Found myself celebrating the beauty of the natural wildlife that persists even in the city. It was wonderful to stand within stepping distance of two goldfinches plucking the seeds out of some 'weeds' in a municiple park flower border. The seagulls look massive and pristine clean even though they are supplementing their diet with scraps that we humans throw away.

    I have been waiting for the next 'event' after watching big zig-zag lines appear on a graph again. I suppose the renewed activity of the Iceland volcano is the cause, but I don't really know (because I am only speculating).

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  • 130. At 9:59pm on 05 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #129 sensibleoldgrannie wrote:

    "Found myself celebrating the beauty of the natural wildlife that persists even in the city."

    It isn't even in the city -- it's especially in the city. Our cities are filled with amazing wildlife. Peregrine falcons prey on rock doves (i.e. city pigeons with some added biodiversity). Blackcaps and other non-native birds take detours to visit our gardens.

    "It was wonderful to stand within stepping distance of two goldfinches plucking the seeds out of some 'weeds' in a municiple park flower border."

    Yes -- and there are many more of them than before because people leave out niger seeds.

    "The seagulls look massive and pristine clean even though they are supplementing their diet with scraps that we humans throw away."

    We should personally thank them for that. They are doing the job that rats often do, but we humans are all much better off if seagulls do it instead of rats. A few hundred years ago, everyone despised red kites (the birds I mean) because they are scavengers. Nowadays we humans deliberately make stuff for them to scavenge because we've finally woken up to the fact that the red kite is a beautiful bird. Why do we always learn stuff like that when we're in a state of loss? -- I say cities can be beautiful!

    The seagulls in west Wales are huge and magnificent -- and I appreciate them as much as you do.

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  • 131. At 04:54am on 06 May 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    119. 05 May 2010, blunderbunny

    My garden and my outings are in the Eastern U.S. where AGW deniers claimed that the large snow falls we had this winter proved their case. They didn't seem to realize that warmer air leads to more snow because it holds more moisture per unit volume than colder air. That is why it snows very little in Antarctica. In any case, you don't have to take my personal observations as evidence; however, they are consistent with the fact that the climate bands for timing planting in the U.S. have been moving north. The continental experience might be more indicative of global trends that those of an island.

    If any of you are really interested in the science behind AGW, check out the following WEB sites:

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/blogs/climateqa/if-earth-has-warmed-and-cooled-throughout-history-what-makes-scientists-think-that-humans-are-causing-global-warming-now/?src=eoa-ann

    http://climate.gsfc.nasa.gov/static/cahalan/Radiation/SunClimate.htm

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  • 132. At 05:05am on 06 May 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    There is still a lot of oil in the gravel and rocks of Prince William Sound

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill

    http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/recovery/lingeringoil.cfm

    The assertion that the effects of that oil spill are in the past is simply false!

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  • 133. At 06:52am on 06 May 2010, lburt wrote:

    @Lorax #123 who wrote...
    "It's frustrating to see this conversation still revolving around whether climate change and biodiversity change are interconnected. There is a great deal of evidence of recent and ongoing climate change, as well as acidification of the oceans"

    Perhaps you could cut down on that unwanted debate by not immediately following your complaint with an assertion that is bound to provoke the very response you're complaining about. In the coming years you'll find that many of the things you thought were linked to anthropogenic global warming were in fact related to natural climate cycles. BUT...there are lots of things we could be doing to help preserve biodiversity.

    BTW, we had had one of the worst pine beetle infestations in the state on my family's land back in the 90s. Pine beetles are a reoccurring problem. There were major outbreaks in the 70s and 40s...and going back through history (people didn't care as much back then though). Blaming that (and so many other things) on "climate change" is just not a good idea.

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  • 134. At 07:01am on 06 May 2010, lburt wrote:

    @HungeryWalleye #131 who wrote...
    "In any case, you don't have to take my personal observations as evidence; however, they are consistent with the fact that the climate bands for timing planting in the U.S. have been moving north."

    Yes, this happens during every warm period...then reverses during the cold periods. The problem is that this is nothing more than evidence of warming. That's literally all we have...evidence of simple warming. The earth has warmed and cooled many times during this interglacial period...most of these changes are entirely unexplained. We went through a cold period for several hundred years so it makes sense that temperatures would pop back up for a while. Ice melts, the seasons shift...its just a sign of general warming.

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  • 135. At 08:12am on 06 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    bowmanthebard #128: "Prince William Sound is in much better shape than most people would have said 30 years ago."

    Oops! -- I meant 20 years ago. It's in a lot worse shape than most people would have said 30 years ago!

    HungeryWalleye #132wrote: "There is still a lot of oil in the gravel and rocks of Prince William Sound"

    "The assertion that the effects of that oil spill are in the past is simply false!"

    I agree, but I didn't make that assertion. I'm just remembering the absolute sense of desolation expressed by almost everyone (including me) 23 years ago. Terrible as it was, the long-term effects were not as terrible as predicted at the time.

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  • 136. At 1:19pm on 06 May 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    @Bowmanthebard

    I don't think I am being apocalyptic in my assessment. Not only is it the spawning grounds for many species of fish, but also for their prey - the shrimp primarily, as well as several types of minnows. Larger fish, particularly red drum (redfish) and flounder enter these marshes to feed at night and early morning - often reds are seen 'tailing' - swimming along in waters so shallow that their backs protrude.

    Prince William Sound is a very different place - no marches, no real wetlands, a rocky shore, by comparison, easily cleanable.

    The other problem is that the fish return to the spawning grounds where they are born. I have serious doubts that the oil will be cleaned in a years time. We shall see, but I do fear the worst in this case.

    Eventually, things will recover, nature will take care of itself and the area restored, but I think that will be several years at best.

    The Alabama and Mississippi shorelines are much easier to deal with as they are protected by barrier islands with sandy beaches...Southern Louisiana is not.

    Cheeers.

    Kealey

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  • 137. At 1:34pm on 06 May 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    Day 16, the news showed shrimp boats with their booms spread wide, not trawling with nets, but pulling oil booms through the water. Air planes continue to spray dispersants on the surface oil, but BP has discontinued the use of dispersants at the leak, 5000ft down.

    We saw the 'last hope' - a 20 ton 'cap' on the back of a crew boat, heading out the the site this morning. They will try to lower the cap over the worst of the leaking pipes and pump the oil to waiting ships above. No on is booking odds on whether this plan will work. If it fails, it will be at least 3 months to drill relieve wells, which will pump cement and fluids into the leaking well to seal it deep below the sea floor.

    Already, we hear more and more people calling for carbon taxes to 'encourage' a shift from oil. Its sad that the result of this will be oil companies and the government making tons of money - out of the pockets of the middle class consumer and taxpayer.

    Obama yesterday, patted himself on the back for being the Senator from Illinois who secured billions in subsidies for ethanol production - a really bad fuel source - not only not cleaner than gasoline, nor more efficient, but also diverting land from food production and having impacts on food prices across the board.

    They have also begun burning oil on the surface again, with calming winds, high pressure and good weather settling over the region.

    More dead turtles are washing up along the Alabama and Mississippi shoreline. It is nesting season, and it looks like those young hatchling turtles will be making their perilous trek across the beach and into an even more perilous, oil covered waters...

    We are lucky it is not yet hurricane season in the Gulf (we usually have hurricanes late summer in the gulf) - one hurricane with a storm surge in the area could push the oil 20 miles or more inland.

    Well, thats my take for day sixteen. While Bowmanthebard is correct (in my view) of his assessment of Exxon Valdez, this is already far worse and will be much more difficult to clean from the Louisiana wetlands than from the rocky shore of Prince William Sound.


    Kealey

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  • 138. At 2:23pm on 06 May 2010, LarryKealey wrote:


    As a side note, the OTC (Offshore Technology Conference) is in total disarray...there is only one topic of discussion - Deepwater Horizon.

    In my view, the most critical issue - and the talk of the town is why the blowout preventer failed. Determining why this failure occurred and fixing it is critical as most oil exploration and future production is moving to the deep sea environment.

    Kealey

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  • 139. At 03:45am on 07 May 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    134. At 07:01am on 06 May 2010, poitsplace

    Perhaps you could cite some studies in the refereed scientific literature that support your assertions or some exposition on the subject by recognized authorities.

    For example here is a web site on global warming in addition to the others I have posted earlier.

    http://climate.gsfc.nasa.gov/static/cahalan/Radiation/

    In regard to Pine Bark Beetles the following


    "Extreme cold temperatures also can reduce MPB populations. For winter mortality to be a significant factor, a severe freeze is necessary while the insect is in its most vulnerable stage; i.e., in the fall before the larvae have metabolized glycerols, or in late spring when the insect is molting into the pupal stage. For freezing temperatures to affect a large number of larvae during the middle of winter, temperatures of at least 30 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) must be sustained for at least five days. "

    can be found at the following WEB site:

    http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05528.html

    Another reason for Pine Bark beetle epidemics is fire suppression which leads to much denser stands of Ponderosa pines than usually occurs under natural fire conditions. The low intensity fires that occur under natural conditions in Ponderosa pine habitat kill the beetles, but leave the mature trees unharmed.

    From the same WEB site:

    "Solar treatments may be appropriate in some areas of Colorado to reduce beetle populations in infested trees. For the treatment to be effective, the temperature under the bark much reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Such treatments can be performed with or without plastic. This method is also labor intensive; contact your local forester for more details on solar treatments."

    The AGW skeptics simply ignore the fact that many of their critiques of the models have not much to do with the content and structure of the models used. For example some claim that clouds are not taken into account. The following WEB site shows that they are:

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/people/robert.pincus/Papers/3DRT-Models/

    You can down load the paper from this site which contains the abstract.


    The claim by one poster that "back of the envelop" calculations show AGW isn't happening is absurd especially when other AGW doubters claim that the existing models are not detailed enough to be relied on. But for those who want to avoid acknowledging the hole humans have dug themselves into even mutually contradictory assertions are welcome because if a reader is not inclined to fall for one assertion they may fall for the opposite one if presented aggressively enough.


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  • 140. At 04:12am on 07 May 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    137. At 1:34pm on 06 May 2010, LarryKealey

    Hey, we agree on something -- ethanol is a net energy loser when based on corn i.e. the energy available in the ethanol is less than the energy needed to plant, cultivate, grow, fertilize, harvest, transport, ferment and distill ethanol from the corn.

    However, how are the subsidies for ethanol any worse than the subsidies the big oil and coal companies have received from the tax payers for decades to say nothing of the environmental costs?

    Modern American Agriculture has been described as the use of soil to convert petroleum into food. The end of the petroleum is in site and the U.S. population is still growing at about 1% per year, which means doubling every ~70 years.

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  • 141. At 07:48am on 09 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    139. HungeryWalleye - thanks for posting those links.

    They substantiate the points I made in comments 43, 59, and 64. I didn't bother to go track down supporting links because I assume that people would investigate further if they were actually interested in knowing more about that.

    But you seem to have missed the point that the mountain pine beetle, like the polar bear, is just a false poster child for AGW proponents.

    And that final point about 'treatments' for it are beside the point, unless you have just a few trees to deal with. In British Columbia it swept through huge areas. But now its all but over because the mature lodgepole pine stands which provided the habitat for it are already killed. Its like trying to cap a volcano. Now another cycle will begin and we won't need to worry about it for another 80 years or so - no matter how warm the winters (falls) are. And all the other non-pine tree species were not impacted.


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  • 142. At 08:21am on 09 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    128. bowmanthebard wrote:

    "In general, animal populations are determined by the food supply rather than by the attrition rate to predation (or in the present case to poisoning)."

    Sorry, but false. First, its an overgeneralization. That said, some populations are limited by food supply. More accurately, their potential populations are. But most actual populations are limited by predation where predators exist.

    What you are describing is the false theory called 'Natural Regulation' which was first accepted most famously in the management of elk in Yellowstone National Park in the late 1960s, and can be most easily explained using that example.

    In Yellowstone, the key natural predators of elk - Native North Americans, wolves, and cougars - were removed and the elk population exploded. It was already overcrowded and overbrowsed by about 1900 and the first solution was to transplant elk to other areas, as elk were extirpated almost everywhere else by then. Except for the 'Roosevelt elk' of the Pacific coast, almost all elk now in North America came form Yellostone transplants, including those in Banff and Jasper in Canada.

    By the 1940s there were few new areas to put elk so they started annual culls to control the elk population. Then in the 1960s - remember the 1960s? - the public started complaining that those culls were not nice or 'natural' so politics stopped them and the elk population exploded, a situation made worse by supplementary winter feeding of them (hay)outside the park.

    To explain this change they came up with the theory of 'Natural Regulation' (based on one largely irrelevant paper) which ignored the absence of predators and claimed that this population was controlled by its food supple and that therefore all the elk starving every winter was 'natural.' This was great for bears scavenging dead elk every spring but a disaster for bears, and many other species, because that hyper-abundant elk population overbrowsed the park vegetation. For one clear example, the bears in Yellowstone eat less berries than any other bear population because the elk ate most of the berry bushes.

    Then in the mid-1990s they reintroduced wolves from Canada and the results have been dramatic, and clearly shown how false this theory is. The wolf population exploded and the elk population (plus moose, deer, sheep)has been dramatically reduced. Now, the wolf population in the park is shrinking as its food supply is reduced. But at the same time the wolves are spreading all over the region outside the park, reducing their prey populations everywhere and causing all sorts of other problems for the people who live there. This is currently a huge political issue down there, and getting worse.

    When I see some people actually want to introduce wolves to the UK to deal with the deer overpopulation there I just shake my head and wonder what kind of fairy tale information they are listening to. In a place as crowded as the UK that would be the stupidest possible way to deal with that deer population, and it would guarantee a severe backlash against environmentalism just as it is doing right now in the western US.

    This backlash is not coming from the misinformed urbanites who just watch TV and read environmentalist websites. It is coming from the people who have to deal with the actual wolves, and who own the land where they are spreading to... and those are the people who really matter in the long run. If urbanites don't understand this point, they just need to release a wolf pack in the suburbs to deal with the deer there and they soon will.

    P.S. Farley Mowat's book 'Never Cry Wolf' is a work of FICTION.



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  • 143. At 08:42am on 09 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    Larry Kealey - Thanks for those updates on the Gulf oil spill. The media coverage is pathetic. Shallow, and mostly into the blame game now.

    You also mentioned (136) that "Prince William Sound is a very different place - no marches, no real wetlands, a rocky shore, by comparison, easily cleanable."

    Very different indeed, and really no comparison at all. Much colder environment with a much simpler ecosystem... or less biodiversity to put it in the context of this blog. But that also means that some things take longer to recover. Nonetheless, if you go there now you need to look very hard for evidence of that spill, almost everything has recovered, and the results were not nearly as apocalyptic as some feared when it happened.

    The Gulf looks so much worse... all those coastal wetlands, and all the life they support... so sad. Fingers crossed for the best possible outcome from a very bad situation.







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  • 144. At 10:10am on 09 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    bowmanthebard #128: "In general, animal populations are determined by the food supply rather than by the attrition rate to predation (or in the present case to poisoning)."

    CanadianRockies #142: "Sorry, but false. First, its an overgeneralization. That said, some populations are limited by food supply. More accurately, their potential populations are. But most actual populations are limited by predation where predators exist."

    Only in the very short term. In the short term, there can be wild swings around the mean, but in the long term that mean is set by the food supply. That's because the number of prey lost to predation is determined by the number of predators. But the number of predators is determined by its food supply, i.e. by the first number, the number of prey lost to predation. If some environmentalist nitwits come along and remove all predators, that's a different story of course, because it completely removes the proportion lost to predation.

    The removal of wolves from Yellowstone was done by (then) environmentalists, most of whom have very poor grasp of evolutionary theory and seem instead motivated by half-baked religious ideas about what is "natural".

    I'm delighted to hear that there's a backlash against these morons.

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  • 145. At 10:48am on 09 May 2010, bowmanthebard wrote:

    bowmanthebard #128: "In general, animal populations are determined by the food supply rather than by the attrition rate to predation (or in the present case to poisoning)."

    CanadianRockies #142: "Sorry, but false. First, its an overgeneralization. That said, some populations are limited by food supply. More accurately, their potential populations are. But most actual populations are limited by predation where predators exist."

    You're thinking of a bizarre situation in which all predators (wolves) were artificially removed from a sealed-off area (Yellowstone Park) by the environmentalists of the time. As usual, they were well-meaning but misguided.

    In nearly all natural situations, the number of predators is a function of the number of prey, so a proportion of them are lost to predation, but their overall number is determined by the food supply.

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  • 146. At 02:12am on 10 May 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    141. At 07:48am on 09 May 2010, CanadianRockies -- You missed my point -- I was first of all talking about Ponderosa Pines, not Lodge Pole Pines, and responding to poitsplace, not you -- but regardless, the point I was trying to make was that cold winters that started with sever cold early in the Fall and low intensity fire helped keep the beetles in check. I count both the warming and the lack of low intensity fire up to human activities. I wasn't referencing the article to suggest treatment methods, I was presenting evidence that changes in the environment brought about by humans are the primary source of the problem.

    Having some knowledge of the scientific literature, computer modeling, physics and biology, I find the AGW much more plausible than the suggestion by skeptics that the observed global warming is just "natural" variation and humans have no culpability in it. Of course other skeptics claim things aren't warming up at all. Unfortunately these two types of skeptics overlook their fundamental disagreement and spend pretty much all their time trying to discredit AGW with generally ill informed attacks on the scientists and the science. While we are anonymous here, it is clear that some posters have an economic stake in the fossil fuel industry so it is not surprising they would try and create doubt about AGW.

    That as it may, the issue of weather or not populations are controlled by predation or food depends on whether or not the ecosystem in question is sufficiently productive to support an odd number of effective trophic levels. The theory describing this relation was published by Hairston, Smith and Slobodkin, three ecologists at the University of Michigan in the 1960's Since then numerous field studies have confirmed this theory. The deserts are "brown" because they only are productive enough to support two trophic levels: plants and herbivores, the herbivore populations are food limited, so the environment is "brown", forested areas, say the mid west such as Minnesota and Michigan for example are "green" because they are productive enough to support three trophic levels, plants, herbivores and predators (on herbivores). The predators control the herbivores which frees the plants to produce a "green" environment. One of the most dramatic observations supporting the theory was the discovery of a large green diamond pattern in the Sahel region of Africa by NASA's Landsat satellite. It turns out that the desert was kept out by a fence which kept cattle, the dominate herbivore in the region, out.

    Personally, I rather like the idea that wolves are back in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. The effect of wolves on the Yellowstone Ecosystem also supports the theory. Many plants that previous to the introduction of wolves were severely cropped by elk are now growing much more robustly. Those of us who have been around long enough only need to consult our memories of the changes in the Larmar River valley to see the supporting evidence. I hope to be able to see some wolves on my next visit.

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  • 147. At 08:42am on 12 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    #144 - Well, first let me restate the point I started with way back at #10. Overgeneralization.

    But in the example I used from Yellowstone, and in other similar scenarios, and in simple terms that do not consider other possible factors, the POTENTIAL elk population is determined by food supply but the ACTUAL or realized population is determined by predation.

    And contrary to popular mythology, wolves can eradicate a prey population if they have alternate prey or are in a restricted area.

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  • 148. At 09:00am on 12 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    146. HungeryWalleye - Well, I'll try to ignore this silly comment: "it is clear that some posters have an economic stake in the fossil fuel industry so it is not surprising they would try and create doubt about AGW."

    And while I appreciate the elementary ecology lesson, I am retired from a career in that field so I didn't really need it.

    As for Yellowstone, the most important predator there under 'natural' conditions were Native North Americans but they were removed too. And besides their impacts as predators their most significant impact was their use of fire on the landscape, not just in Yellowstone but almost everywhere in North America. Which complicates the 'natural' story of the mountain pine beetle, and the 'wilderness,' to put it mildly.

    For starters, you might like to read the book 1491 by Charles Mann to get up to speed on this topic. Very interesting.

    I agree that it is great that the wolves are back in Yellowstone. The problems arise when they leave the park, and, while the national media has failed to cover this inconvenient topic, it is reaching a critical level now which you are bound to hear about sooner than later. It is big news in the western states. The backlash against environmentalism in the states effected is already bad, and its going to get worse, which is most unfortunate.

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  • 149. At 08:17am on 13 May 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    148. At 09:00am on 12 May 2010, CanadianRockies

    How did you make a living as an Ecologist? What was your area of specialization?

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  • 150. At 08:21am on 13 May 2010, HungeryWalleye wrote:

    148. At 09:00am on 12 May 2010, CanadianRockies

    Do you think 145. At 10:48am on 09 May 2010, bowmanthebard is an Ecologist too?

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  • 151. At 03:58am on 14 May 2010, CanadianRockies wrote:

    #149 HungeryWalleye - Never was labeled as an "ecologist" but understanding how ecosystems and ecological processes work what fundamental to what I did. Won't go into any further details because I like my anonymity and back when I started it was a much more limited field. Let's just say zoology was my primary field, and that led to many things.

    I'll just let my comments speak for themselves. I hope they make sense to you. And on blogs like this I avoid technical jargon as much as possible.

    #150 - No. You just can't generalize like that about 'populations.' Of what? Where? What else is there? Etc., etc., etc. That's why I picked one example, the Yellowstone elk, to make a point... and even that was pretty simplified. And written quickly.

    Sound like you are familiar with Yellowstone. Me too. Very familiar. One could have a whole blog on the impacts of that wolf reintroduction alone which could go on for months and still be interesting, with so many tangents to explore. That's the thing about ecosystems... all the connections, impacts, feedback mechanisms, and it is always more complex than it appears. And wolves are a keystone species with profound impacts.

    And, I must say, that picture you painted about trophic levels and 'green' and 'brown' was also extremely oversimplified. But back in the 1960s they were developing the basic concepts, and that is what that does... on an oversimplified level. Its really much more complex than that. But at least they got the impact of predation which was later denied by that 'natural regulation' theory which I noted earlier - and which was accepted for purely political reasons.

    If you get back to Yellowstone fairly soon you will be almost guaranteed to see some wolves, but also far, far fewer elk, moose, etc., and even coyotes. That reduction of their prey base is already have predictable results on that wolf population and its heading for a crash. Then it will probably stabilize with much, much lower wolf and elk populations.

    But, again, I must say probably because its not really that simple. That park is not "natural" and, more significantly, its an ecological island.

    Never did get back to your point about Ponderosa Pines... maybe next time. But will just quickly say the basic story is not fundamentally different than lodgepole pines when it comes to recent mt pine beetle epidemics. Their severity is due to Smokey the Bear. So is the severity of all those western wildfires they love to blame on warming.

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