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Monday, February 26, 2018

Has Scott Pruitt Brought Armageddon to the EPA?

Calvin Beisner 2/6/2018
 
According to two former Administrators, current federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has set the agency back by anything from several years to as much as three decades due to “regulatory rollbacks, mass attrition and budget cuts.”

That sounds ominous. It isn’t.

 At present EPA is operating under FY2017 funding levels. While projected FY2018 funding cuts will be substantial, they have not yet taken place.......To Read More....
 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Democrats Offer Compromise on Deadlocked Pesticide Funding Bill

Posted Feb. 21, 2018
 
  • Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act tied up in the Senate since last summer
  • Democratic amendment would allow the legislation to be reauthorized in exchange for policy provisions
Four Democratic senators offered a compromise to move forward a stalled bill on funding the EPA’s pesticides office, but it’s unclear whether other lawmakers will agree to the offer.
 
Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Kamala Harris of California unveiled Feb. 21 an amendment to the the Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act of 2017 (H.R. 1029) that would reauthorize the legislation through 2023—three years longer than the bill currently proposes—in exchange for two commitments from the Environmental Protection Agency.
 
The senators want the EPA to uphold and implement the Obama administration’s rules to shield farmworkers from pesticide exposure, and to respond to objections filed to the agency’s decision not to restrict the agricultural insecticide chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to neurodevelopmental delays.........To Read More....

My Take - First - if these four loons are for anything - until more information becomes available - a rational person would wisely be against it.   Secondly, when the word "linked" is used as a scientific term it means nothing.  It's mere speculation and opinion, and an opinion that may not be widely shared in the scientific community.  Linked in this context is known as a "weasel word"! Third, it would be wise to remember chemical manufacturers, as allies, are at best leaky vessels. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Drinking Raw Milk Is Flunking IQ Test

By Alex Berezow — February 9, 2018  @ American Council on Science and Health

Every single day, you take several IQ tests. You just aren't aware of them.

Did you look both ways before crossing the street? Did you get a flu shot? Did you buy that $4 organic banana? These are all IQ tests, and the result is either pass/fail. Occasionally, flunking one of these daily IQ tests has very real consequences.

The CDC reports that, in August 2016, at least 17 people in Colorado flunked an IQ test when they consumed raw milk and became sick. Milk samples and patient samples both tested positive for antibiotic-resistant Campylobacter jejuni, which causes vomiting and diarrhea.

Thankfully, they learned from this experience. Just kidding. The CDC says, "Although [individuals] were notified of the outbreak and cautioned against drinking the milk on multiple occasions, milk distribution was not discontinued."

That's not just flunking an IQ test. That's like getting kicked in the face by a horse, then tickling its rear end one more time just for fun.

Pasteurization Is a Triumph of Public Health

In Colorado, it is illegal to sell raw milk. Though I once endorsed that policy, I don't anymore. I believe adults should be free to put whatever they want in their bodies, and Darwin can sort things out.

I will, however, continue to relentlessly mock anyone who drinks raw milk. There is no nutritional justification for it and plenty of scientific evidence against it.

It isn't an exaggeration to claim that pasteurization has saved millions of lives. Before the invention of pasteurization, it was fairly common for people to get sick and die from eating contaminated food. Milk alone was known to spread typhoid fever (Salmonella), diphtheria, scarlet fever (Streptococcus), bovine tuberculosis, and even anthrax. Before widespread vaccination, polio could spread in milk.

This grim reality was reflected in the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. in 1900, the top three of which were due to infectious disease: pneumonia/influenza, tuberculosis, and diarrhea/gastroenteritis. Diphtheria was #10.

However, as public health improved, deaths from infectious disease fell. According to Neatorama, which has published a history of pasteurization, infant mortality in NYC fell from 273 per 1,000 live births in 1885 to 94 per 1,000 in 1915. One of the reasons was pasteurization.

The Paradox of Progress

Today, consuming raw milk or cheese is a senseless health risk. The CDC estimates that the risk of becoming sick from unpasteurized dairy products is 840 times higher than from pasteurized dairy products. So, why do people do it?

Because people take our public health triumphs for granted. In our modern society, we have very little to fear. Thanks to pasteurization, our food is safe; thanks to chlorination, our water is clean; and thanks to vaccination, our lives are (largely) free of contagious disease. And as an added bonus, violence is at a globally historic low. Anyone born in a developed country can expect to live into his 70's or 80's.

Completely ignorant of this history, some people have convinced themselves that the "old fashioned" way of doing things was better. In reality, the old fashioned way killed people, which is why society modernized.

Those who insist on rejecting that will have to grapple with the driving force of natural selection.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Video: Flies Laying Eggs

The Risk-Monger @zaruk 

It is quite fascinating to watch the how many eggs a fly can lay:



As you watch this, tell me again why you are so strongly against plastic packaging and other forms of food hygiene.

IARCgate: Shouldn’t IARC Stop Lying?

on

Outgoing IARC Director, Christopher Wild, refused to attend the US House Science Committee hearing into the IARCgate scandal. In actions of arrogance never seen before at any UN agency, Wild is snubbing IARC’s single largest funder. To make matters worse, several days ago (on January 11), Wild wrote a regrettably undiplomatic letter to the honourable US Congressional leaders in language that was terse, insulting, demeaning and factually incorrect. As IARC is searching for a new head for this moral train-wreck of an agency, Wild seems determined to leave it in tatters.

As US lawmakers are surely befuddled by such ill-chosen lack of decorum (and by present standards in DC, that is saying something!), the Risk-Monger thought it worthwhile to be the one to answer to Chris Wild’s outrageous claims, trickery and misinformation. The following read-through of Wild’s loathe-letter to America will hopefully shine some light on how horrible IARC has become.  It highlights six different ways Chris Wild, in his letter, lied to the US Congress........To Read More...

Naturopathic Cult Populism

on

This is Part 2 of the Insignificant Trilogy.

We are witnessing a rapid rise in naturopathic populism.
  • Up to two thirds of Americans are using non-conventional methods to treat cancer. Naturopathic doctors (see an excellent overview) wear white coats, work in clinics and deceptively offer a simple, painless, ineffective alternative to modern medicine.
  • Four in ten in France do not believe vaccines are safe (there is presently a deadly measles epidemic in one French region) and vaccine safety has become an election issue in Italy. Measles cases are up 300% with 20,000 victims last year.
  • Sales in organic food, unregulated supplements and bogus detox programmes have been rising exponentially. These marketing opportunists have attracted the big food manufacturers and brands to move into the organic food space to cash in on financial margins built on fear and lies.
  • It is almost impossible to find a policymaker today in Europe who will stand up and publicly support agricultural technologies (pesticides, fertilisers, plant breeding).
Over the last decade, there has been a concerted attack on scientific expertise, authorities and conventional practices by a coalition of gurus, anti-industry campaigners, interest groups and environmental NGOs. Naturopaths (defined broadly as those blindly favouring natural methods, substances and treatments over conventional scientific ones) operate across a wide range of disciplines from homeopathy, alternative medicine, organic food and supplements, utilising a network of retailers, producers, lobbyists and media actors.

They are zealots (eco-religious fundamentalists) putting forward a naturopathic populism based on fear campaigns, simplistic alternatives and outright lies. Anti-vaxx, anti-chemicals, anti-pharma, anti-industry, anti-trade, anti-science … these agitators have done well by fostering doubts and distrust of experts and regulators while raising an heroic profile of the brave naturopathic guru leading individuals who resists the status quo. This blog will consider how their techniques fit within a populist cult playbook.......To Read More....

Climate Change Weekly #276

Carbon Tax Cabal, Part One: Economic Punishment

H. Sterling Burnett

Last month, Congress joined with President Donald Trump to deliver a substantial tax cut to the American people. Leaving more money in the hands of the people, instead of under the thumb of government bureaucrats, is always a good idea.

This particular tax cut is already paying dividends as retirement funds and stock portfolios have boomed, corporations are repatriating billions of dollars they sheltered overseas, multiple companies have indicated they are going to invest right here in America with new factories and business expansion, and millions of workers have reaped benefits totaling thousands of dollars each in tax cut bonuses, stock options, etc.

Because of these evident benefits, it might surprise you to hear some liberal governors and members of Congress are already angling to raise taxes once again.

In this essay, I discuss why various proposed carbon taxes can’t work as promised and would be unfair. In the next edition of Climate Change Weekly, I will explain why any carbon tax scheme is doomed to fail and would be immoral.

The governors of Washington and Oregon and Democrat members of Congress are pushing bills to raise the price of energy through a tax on carbon dioxide emissions or by establishing a cap on carbon dioxide emissions and forcing industry and businesses to buy allowances to emit carbon. Capping carbon dioxide emissions and selling allowances to emit certain amounts of carbon dioxide is just a carbon (dioxide) tax by another name.

These tax schemes penalize the use of the cheap, abundant energy sources which built the modern, prosperous economy and are largely responsible for pulling the United States out of 2008 recession. While the rest of the U.S. economy was foundering, the fracking revolution brought about tremendous growth in domestic oil and natural gas production, dramatically reducing energy prices in the process. Lower energy prices helped raise the economy out of the depths of the recession. Energy is the lifeblood of any economy. Economies and people with access to relatively cheap, abundant, reliable energy resources prosper and are freer than those lacking the same. As a result, a carbon dioxide tax is a tax on freedom and prosperity.

In addition, carbon dioxide taxes are regressive, an especially pernicious tax on the poor and those on fixed incomes. A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report found a $28 per ton carbon tax would cause the burden of energy costs to be 250 percent higher for the poorest one-fifth of U.S. households than for the richest one-fifth because “Low-income households spend a larger share of their income on goods and services whose prices would increase the most, such as electricity and transportation.”

The plans from Oregon and Washington substitute governments’ spending priorities for the people’s, taking money from the poorest among us to fund green energy schemes favored by the wealthy. This makes the carbon tax a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.

The state of Washington’s proposed carbon tax would begin at $20 per metric ton emitted in 2019 and increase annually by 3.5 percent. It would amount to a whopping $3.35 billion tax increase over four years, in addition to a 20-cents-per-gallon increase in the cost of gasoline. The new tax revenue would then be used to fund renewable-energy programs—or so proponents claim.

In an effort to reduce regressivity, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) propose giving taxpayers the money raised from the sale of carbon allowances to industry. The U.S. Treasury department would conduct the emissions auctions, and the IRS would return the revenues to every person with a (valid, one hopes) Social Security number each quarter.

There are multiple problems with this plan. I’ll highlight just a few. First, government rarely leaves a revenue scheme alone for long. Once the federal government starts receiving the revenue, past experience shows us Congress and the President will soon decide to keep some or all of the money to finance their preferred government programs or pay down the debt. After all, gas taxes were supposed to be dedicated solely to funding roads and bridges, but legislators have siphoned money away from highways to finance bike trails, museums, visitor centers, and other programs that don’t help move people down the road quickly and safely. Hundreds of millions of dollars are diverted from road and bridge construction and repair each year, yet legislators complain current fuel taxes don’t raise enough money to maintain or expand basic infrastructure. Highways and bridges crumble while Congress raids the piggy bank to fund pet projects.

There is no reason to think Congress won’t find other uses for carbon tax revenue rather than returning it to the people as promised.

Second, even if Congress keeps its hand out of the till, it’s just a fact some of the money, probably a good portion, will be diverted to the bureaucracies involved in selling the allowances and cutting the dividend checks. No government program is cost-free.

How are we to calculate or track the amount of the dividend each individual should receive from the Internal Revenue Service each quarter? Will the government just give an equal check to everyone with a Social Security number? This would end up shorting some people, including truck drivers and others who use a lot of energy in their daily lives or at work, while overcompensating those who use little energy. On the other hand, maybe everyone will have to use their Social Security cards when purchasing gasoline or paying their utility bills, with the government assuming an additional set amount in payment for the higher costs of food and other goods for which fossil fuels are used in creation and transportation.

The carbon (dioxide) scheme would also result in higher policing costs: the criminal-justice system would have to deal with carbon cheats, efforts by organized criminal groups to profit by creating false Social Security numbers for illegal aliens, and attempts to sell fake carbon allowances to companies. In addition, some companies will almost certainly try to underreport their emissions, necessitating more bureaucracy, investigation, and recordkeeping costs.

Just as with every other government program, there will be huge transaction costs for collecting, tracking, auditing, and archiving taxes paid and rebates paid out. New employees will have to be hired, or existing federal government workers will have to divert their time from other responsibilities to focus on selling carbon (dioxide) allowances, policing the program, and sending out the quarterly dividends.

These and other costs will eat up billions of dollars each year. Unless these costs are paid directly out of the revenues from the sale of the allowances—in which case all the revenues will not be returned to taxpayers as promised—then the government will have to impose other taxes or take on additional debt to pay for the program.

Third, although the fees paid by companies buying carbon allowances could, in theory, be returned to taxpayers, that would still not reimburse people for the higher energy prices they will pay as a result of the program. As fossil fuel use is limited under the carbon cap, more expensive, less reliable, alternative energy sources will have to be substituted. Wind and solar power are many times more expensive, than coal and natural gas, so prices will rise because of the need to purchase allowances and because higher-cost energy sources are substituted, an amount not accounted for in this energy tax scheme.

Whatever the system—a straight tax or a cap and refund system—these government-imposed restrictions on fossil fuel use will cost billions, reducing people’s disposable income and making it harder for U.S. businesses to compete around the world.

Climate Realist to Chair EU Environment Council

Neno Dimov, Bulgaria’s Environment Minister, ascended to the presidency of the European Union’s (EU) Environment Council on January 1. Dimov previously served as Bulgaria’s deputy minister of the environment, from 1997 to 2002, simultaneously serving as a member of the management board for the EU’s European Environment Agency, which is comparable to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Dimov is unique as an Environment Council president because he is an explicit climate skeptic, or realist.

Like U.S. President Trump, whom he has told the press he admires, Dimov is known for arguing environmental protection must be balanced against economic growth. In his book From Environmentalism to Freedom (2012), Dimov argues EU environmental regulations have gone too far, harming people and the economy for little or no environmental gain.

Forbes reports Dimov has said in myriad interviews the theory of global warming is being used as a tool of intimidation. In a May 2017 television interview, Dimov said, “Climate change is a scientific debatе; there is no consensus, and every part has arguments,” and said he disagrees with the theory. In an online video from 2015, Dimov says global warming is a “fraud … used to scare the people. The melting of the ice will not raise the sea level even a millimeter.” In the same video, Dimov also said, “The main factor for climate change is solar activity.”

SOURCE: Forbes

Germany, Other EU Members Miss Emission Targets

Germany is leading a parade of EU member states falling behind in their carbon dioxide reduction goals under the Paris climate agreement. The Wall Street Journal reports Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Malta have each fallen behind in reducing emissions, with Germany facing the largest gap between commitments and current emission levels. In early 2018, Germany announced it would miss its target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Germany announced in 2016 its emissions rose for the second year in a row, emitting 2.6 million tons more greenhouse gases than in 2015. A government spokesman announced, “The environment ministry is preparing itself to purchase emission allowances from countries that have surpluses in the coming years.”

A report commissioned by the BDI German industry group estimates meeting Germany’s share of the EU’s overall long-term target of cutting emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 would cost Germany $1.2 trillion. This price will rise if Germany’s emissions continue their upward trajectory in the short term. SOURCES: The Wall Street JournalClimate Change News


Pentagon Drops Climate From Defense Concerns

The Pentagon released its 2018 National Defense Strategy, and for the first time since 2008, it doesn’t mention anthropogenic global warming as a national security threat. The Daily Callerreports the Huffington Post did a keyword search of the National Defense Strategy’s 11-page summary and found neither “global warming” nor “climate change” was mentioned.

In 2008, the Bush administration added global warming to the defense strategy for the first time, with the Obama administration expanding on that in subsequent years. The 2018 report follows the National Security strategy released by the Trump administration in December 2017, deemphasizing climate change as a security threat. The National Defense Strategy’s discussion of energy issues is brief, saying the United States would “foster a stable and secure Middle East” and “[contribute] to stable global energy markets and secure trade routes."  SOURCES: The Daily CallerNational Defense Strategy

University sued after censuring a scientist for criticizing great barrier reef alarmism

February 1, 2018 by , 1 Comment @ CFACT

 

Professor Peter Ridd, a noted coral reef expert, is suing an Australian university for violating his academic freedom by censuring him for being critical of research hyping the “death” of the Great Barrier Reef.
James Cook University, where Ridd works, issued a “final censure” against the geophysicist for not acting in a “collegial” manner during an August interview with Sky News over the quality of science on the Great Barrier Reef.

This isn’t the first time James Cook University has censured Ridd for being critical of scientists hyping the “death” of the Great Barrier Reef. But this time, Ridd is fighting back.


Ridd has filed suit against his employer, arguing they are violating his academic freedom. Ridd said the censure “is unacceptable” and “flies in the face of my instinct for truth and honesty, and my academic freedom,” according to a GoFundMe.com page to raise money for his legal fight.

 The whole controversy started in 2016 when a strong El Nino warming event pushed up ocean temperatures surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, causing a massive bleaching event that consumed much of its northern reaches.
 
Scientists studying the reef came out with studies warning the bleaching had affected 93 percent of the reef, and follow-up studies claimed 67 percent of northern shallow reefs had died. The news coverage only heightened the alarm, pointing the finger at man-made global warming.

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies put out some of the more alarming studies on the reef that got the most media coverage. ARC reef expert Terry Hughes was quoted in many papers warning about the impacts of global warming.

“Climate change is not a future threat,” Hughes told The New York Times last year. “On the Great Barrier Reef, it’s been happening for 18 years.”


 Ridd criticized the quality of ARC’s research in an interview with Sky News in August 2017. Ridd was invited to come on air to discuss a chapter he wrote for the book “Climate Change: The Facts 2017,” which was published by the Institute of Public Affairs, an Aussie think tank.
 
“The basic problem is that we can no longer trust the scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies – a lot of this is stuff is coming out, the science is coming out not properly checked, tested or replicated and this is a great shame because we really need to be able to trust our scientific institutions and the fact is I do not think we can any more,” Ridd told Sky News.

“I think that most of the scientists who are pushing out this stuff they genuinely believe that there are problems with the reef,” Ridd said. “I just don’t think they’re very objective about the science they do, I think they’re emotionally attached to their subject and you know you can’t blame them, the reef is a beautiful thing.”

James Cook University said Ridd’s comments denigrated the university’s reputation, despite no individual researchers being mentioned nor the fact that Ridd worked for the school.

“At no point in my Sky News interview did I name the university where I work or any of my colleagues. Nor did I make any statements which I believe to be untrue,” Ridd wrote on his fundraising page.

Ridd said his comments in the interview were based on peer-reviewed research he published and are shared by other experts in the field.

“My point was about academic integrity and scientific research, which I am entitled to make under the intellectual freedom provisions of my employment agreement,” Ridd said.

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This article originally appeared in The Daily Caller

NPR Is Seeking a Science Editor. Science Education Not Required.

By Alex Berezow — February 5, 2018 @ American Council on Science and Health

The job ad is appalling.

NPR, which to its credit at least attempts to cover science and health, is looking for a new Science Editor. Unfortunately, actually being trained in science is not required for the job.

Under the qualifications section, the ad says, "Education: Bachelor's degree or equivalent work experience." Amazingly, not only is a background in science unnecessary, college itself is optional. Despite such a low bar, whoever gets hired for the job will be responsible for covering "consumer health trends, medicine, public health, biotech and health policy." Seriously?

The only substantive qualification in the ad is "broad and deep experience reporting and editing stories on health, medicine and science." But that's so vague, it could mean nearly anything. Whoever wrote "13 Amazing Sex Tips From Around The World" for Cosmopolitan would probably be qualified.

Journalists and editors pay lip service to the notion that society needs better science communication, but their actions prove they don't mean it. Why hire a Ph.D. or a person with a bachelor's degree in science when it's cheaper and easier to hire a social media intern who has spent the last few years copying-and-pasting press releases about scary toxins and miracle vegetables?
If you've ever wondered why science journalism is so incredibly bad, this is why. (It's also one reason why we ranked NPR's science coverage rather poorly.) But it's not just NPR. It's almost all of journalism.

KCTS, the PBS affiliate in Seattle, has a job ad for Science/Environment Producer. Once again, neither a background in science or even a college degree is required. Instead, the jaw-dropping ad reads:
"The ideal candidate will be an experienced field producer with a deep understanding of Northwest environmental issues, including urban sustainability and environmental justice."
In other words, the ideal candidate works for Greenpeace or Sierra Club in policy issues rather than accepting science.

A few years ago, I spoke with one of the head editors at The Economist. He told me that the newspaper rarely hires anyone with a journalism degree. Why? Because in Britain, journalists are expected to major in "something real." Then, they can be taught the craft of journalism on the job.
Until more media outlets adopt that very sensible standard, we can expect (science) journalism to continue to fail us miserably.

Has Scott Pruitt Brought Armageddon to the EPA?

Calvin Beisner  

According to two former Administrators, current federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has set the agency back by anything from several years to as much as three decades due to “regulatory rollbacks, mass attrition and budget cuts."

That sounds ominous. It isn’t.

At present EPA is operating under FY2017 funding levels. While projected FY2018 funding cuts will be substantial, they have not yet taken place.

The FY2018 budget’s 28% reduction for the Superfund program and $427 million cut to geographic programs such as the Great Lakes, Puget Sound, and Chesapeake Bay are reasons for concern. But EPA is known for its vast labyrinth of complex and convoluted regulations. Like any federal agency, it has bloat and inefficiency, problems endemic to large bureaucracies. So some rollback of regulations is welcome........To Read More....

 

We’ll Send You Home Again, Kathleen: Energy and Politics

William MurchisonFebruary 6, 2018

Republican “moderates” abandon a bullied Trump nominee.  From the Washington Post, Feb. 4, 2018: “The White House has withdrawn its controversial nominee to head the Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett White, whose selection failed to gather momentum with some Senate Republicans raising questions about her expertise.”

 Herewith a confession: I have known Kathleen Hartnett White quite a long time now.

A second confession follows hard upon this one: I know her to be very, very smart; very, very wise; very, very honorable (as well as impressively nice); and as of this moment, a tremendous loss to government service.
 
Another confession, and then I’ll get to the point: I was privileged to offer her editorial advice on a book she and the Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore produced for Regnery. The book touted the ingenuity of the free marketplace in the solution of environmental problems such as climate change.
 
I lent her a hand, checking syntax and such like, because her and Moore’s analysis seemed to me, and still does, more compatible with scientific evidence and common sense than the counter-narratives of climatic despair produced by “science” and the mainstream media…………To Read More…

Forecast for Solar Cycle 25

James A. Marusek

I. Introduction

The sun is the natural source of heat and light for our planet. Without our sun, the earth would be a cold dead planet adrift in space. But the sun is not constant. It changes and these subtle changes affect the Earth’s climate and weather.

At the end of solar cycle 23, sunspot activity declined to a level not seen since the year 1913. [Comparing Yearly Mean Total Sunspot Numbers1] The following was observed during the solar cycle 24:
  1. The number of sunspots over the entire solar cycle decreased significantly by 50% or greater.
  2. There were fewer solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME’s), which produces Solar Proton Events (SPE’s) and geomagnetic storms on Earth. During the transition, beginning in July 2000, the sun produced 6 massive explosions in rapid succession. Each of these explosions produced solar proton events with a proton flux greater than 10,000 pfu @ >10 MeV. These occurred in July 2000, November 2000, September 2001, two in November 2001, and a final one in October 2003. And there hasn’t been any of this magnitude since.2
  3. The magnetic field exerted by the sun significantly weakened. The Average Magnetic Planetary Index (Ap index) is a proxy measurement for the intensity of solar magnetic activity as it alters the geomagnetic field on Earth. It has been referred to as the common yardstick for solar magnetic activity. Ap index measurements began in January 1932. The quieter the sun is magnetically, the smaller the Ap index. During the 822 months between January 1932 and June 2000, only one month had an average Ap index that dropped down to 4. But during the 186 months between July 2000 and December 2015, the monthly Ap index fell to 4 or lower on 15 occasions.3
  4. The number of Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs) striking Earth increased. GCRs are highenergy charged particles that originate outside our solar system. They are produced when a star exhausts its nuclear fuel and explodes into a supernova. The Sun’s magnetic field modulates the GCR flux rate on Earth. Cosmic rays are deflected by the interplanetary magnetic field embedded in the solar wind, and therefore have difficulty reaching the inner solar system. The effects from the solar winds are felt at distance approximately 200 AU from the sun, in a region of space known as the Heliosphere. As the sun went quiet magnetically, the Heliosphere shrunk, and a greater number of these particles penetrated into the Earth’s atmosphere. The sun's interplanetary magnetic field fell to around 4 nano-Tesla (nT) from a typical value of 6 to 8 nT. The solar wind pressure went down to a 50-year low. The heliospheric current sheet flattened. In 2009, cosmic ray intensities increased 19% beyond anything that was seen since satellite measurements began 50 years before.4 5. In general, the sun’s total irradiance varies about 0.1 percent over normal solar cycles. But this variation is not linear across the entire radiation spectrum. Between 2004 and 2007, it was observed that the decrease in ultraviolet radiation (with wavelengths of 400 nanometers) was 4 to 6 times larger than expected, whereas the visible light (400-700 nanometers) showed a slight increase.
  5. This is significant because Solar UV flux is a major driver of stratospheric chemistry.
  6. The upper atmosphere of Earth collapsed. The thermosphere ranges in altitude from 90 km to 600+ km above the Earth’s surface. During the depth of last solar minimum in 2008-2009,the thermosphere contracted by the largest amount observed in at least the last 43 years. The magnitude of the collapse was two to three times greater than low solar activity could explain.6
  7. Solar radio flux during the peak of the solar cycle diminished significantly. The F10.7 index is a measure of the solar radio flux per unit frequency at a wavelength of 10.7 cm, near the peak of the observed solar radio emission. The solar cycle minimum produced the lowest F10.7 flux since recordings began in February 1947.7
  8. Sightings of noctilucent clouds (or night clouds) are appearing at lower latitudes. These clouds are formed from ice crystals in the extreme upper atmosphere, called the mesosphere. Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) were first reported by Europeans in the late 1800s. In those days, you had to travel to latitudes well above 50º to see them. Now, however, NLCs are spreading. In recent years they have been sighted as far south as Colorado and Utah in the United States.
II. Background - Solar Cycles
 
Sunspots are dark spots that appear on the surface of the sun. They are the location of intense magnetic activity and they are the sites of very violent explosions that produce solar storms.

The sun goes through a cycle lasting approximately 11 years. It starts at a solar minimum when there are very few sunspots and builds to a solar maximum when hundreds of sunspots are present on the surface of the sun and then returns back to a solar quiet minimum. This cycle is called a solar cycle. We are currently in the solar minimum separating Solar Cycle 24 and 25. The first solar cycle documented by scientist began in March 1755

Figure 1. Image of Solar Cycle 23 from the Solar and Heliospheric
Observatory (SOHO) by Steele Hill (NASA GSFC)
The sun exhibits great variability in the strength of each solar cycle. Some solar cycles produce a high number of sunspots. Other solar cycles produce low numbers. When a group of cycles occur together with high number of sunspots, this is referred to as a solar Grand Maxima. When a group of cycles occur with minimal sunspots, this is referred to as a solar Grand Minima. Usoskin details the reconstruction of solar activity during the Holocene period from 10,000 B.C. to the present.8 Refer to Figure 2. The red areas on the graph denote energetic solar Grand Maxima states. The blue areas denote quiet solar Grand Minima states.

The reconstructions indicate that the overall level of solar activity observed in the middle of the 20th century stands amongst the highest of the past 10,000 years. The 20th century produced a very strong solar Grand Maxima. Typically these Grand Maxima’s are short-lived lasting in the order of 50 years. The reconstruction also reveals Grand Minima epochs of suppressed activity, of varying durations have occurred repeatedly over that time span. A solar Grand Minima is defined as a period when the (smoothed) sunspot number is less than 15 during at least two consecutive decades. The sun spends about 17 percent of the time in a Grand Minima state. Examples of recent extremely quiet solar Grand Minima are the Maunder Minimum (about 1645-1715 A.D.) and Spörer Minimum (about 1420-1570 A.D.) Figure 2. .............To Read More, Much More.........

The UN World Urban Forum: UN-American & Incompetent

by , 0 Comments @ CFACT

It didn’t take long at the UN’s “World Urban Forum,” currently underway in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for those assembled to voice their displeasure with American freedom.

“We’re not sure what happened to North America [audience laughter] but we’re trying to make sustainable development great again,” said a panel of European Union mayors and city planners.
Debbie Bacigalupi is leading CFACT’s team in Malaysia (thanks CFACT supporters!) and we’d like to say she’s shocked, but at this point she’s seen it all too often before.

“You choosing where and how to live for yourself is not quite to their liking here at the World Urban Forum,” Debbie said.  “They envision us shivering in towering, dimly lit, concrete cubes in a government-sponsored building project, not too different from those the Soviets left strewn about Eastern Europe.  They’re confident we can squeak by on a trickle of expensive ‘Green’ electricity.  They envision themselves living a trifle larger,” she added.

Prince Charles sent a special video message to the UN Ministers, delegates, city planners, bureaucrats and “stakeholders” declaring in Orwellian fashion, “Now is the time to implement the New Urban Agenda.”  Do you think the Prince of Wales will join us in scaled-down, carbon-neutral, bureaucratically prescribed dwelling-units he now champions? 

Charles appears willing to espouse any pious, left-wing cause in order to score points with the British media and ease the damage his reputation suffered by dumping the world’s most popular princess and obtain the title “queen” (which he promised to abandon) for his second wife.


“Sustainable development” has become perhaps the world’s most dangerous term.  It sounds nice, yet defies clear descriptionWhat it means at a UN forum like that in Malaysia is giving the Left whatever it wants.  History has taught us that heavy-handed control is the most unsustainable way to govern.  For a recent lesson just ask Venezuela.

American “farmers have gotten away with murder” sniffed Professor Eugenia Birch of the University of Pennsylvania in an interview with Debbie Bacigalupi.  Birch is in Kuala Lumpur advocating an immediate resumption of the Obama-era push to bury farmers under an avalanche of over-regulation, particularly when it comes to so-called “clean water rules.”  Fortunately for Professor Birch, our farmers will keep her fed.

Our would-be UN urban masters are convinced they are smarter than us.  They’d like us to concede the point already, and do as we’re told.  They’re so “all-knowing,” in fact, that they paid to place a loose insert into Kuala Lumpur’s local The Star newspaper.  “Unfortunately, only half of the message was delivered as the bottom half of the ad was left empty with the words ‘add montage pictures of KL, Penang, Melaka, Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Medan Pasar and KLCC.'”

If the 20th Century taught us anything it is that freedom is just and efficient.  Central government planning is not.  People need to know what the UN is planning before the future becomes half empty lives for the lot of us.
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Thank you to everyone who gave so generously to make CFACT’s mission to the UN Forum in Kuala Lumpur a reality.  Our team has a great deal more work to do.  If you’ve not yet made your gift, can we count on you to chip in today?  CFACT is effective, but only due to the support of our friends.  Fortunately, you are the best.

February Environment & Climate News:

Trump Moves to Open U.S. Offshore Waters for Oil and Gas Drilling

The February issue of Environment & Climate News reports Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to make more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) acreage available for oil and gas exploration and development. The area is estimated to contain 98 percent of the federal offshore area's undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources. "While we're not likely to see the fruits of this important decision for a number of years, this is just one more example of the commitment of the Trump administration to maintain U.S. energy dominance,” Heartland Institute Policy Analyst Tim Benson said.

Also in this issue:
  • Unable to see an end to court battles and local objections, Energy Management Inc. announced it was cancelling Cape Wind during the final week of November 2017, ending its battle to erect what it intended to be the nation's first offshore wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts.


The full text of the issue is available online in Adobe Acrobat's PDF format: February 2018 Environment & Climate News
All issues of Environment & Climate News are archived here: Environment & Climate News Issue Archive
 

Partisan divide erupts on glyphosate-cancer science as IARC supporters push ‘Monsanto Papers’ narrative

, | February 7, 2018

There appear to be serious problems with the science underlying [the International Agency for Research on Cancer]’s [2015] assessment of glyphosate,” said Committee Chair Lamar Smith at the latest round of congressional hearings that could lead to cut off of United States funding of the World Health Organization cancer research sub-committee.

The glyphosate controversy shifted to a new forum this week: The House Science and Technology Committee. As might be expected, it was a highly political and ideological airing, illustrating the sharp differences among scientists, industry groups, regulators and politicians over the controversial herbicide glyphosate, sold exclusively until 2000 by Monsanto under its patent name Roundup, but now widely available in generic form from many suppliers.

The National Institutes of Health’s grant database shows that it gave IARC more than $1.2 million last year and more than $48 million since its inception.

"There are real repercussions to IARC's unsubstantiated claims, which are not backed by reliable data," Smith, the Texas Republican, said.........To Read More....

My Take - The IARC is another great idea that became infested with junk scientists and ideologues.  It's time to dump it.  Quoting Oliver Cromwell tdismissing the Rump Parliament:
"It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.  
Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government. Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.  
Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes?  
Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?  
Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?   Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.  
Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God's help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.  
I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place. Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!"
 You might say that about Congress.

Gene-editing advances put us at the dawn of a revolution in medicine

| | February 7, 2018


Genetic engineering is most often linked to the foods that we eat and crops that we grow.  It’s a technology that has generated a great deal of controversy, with opponents claiming it is inherently dangerous to human health and the environment.  There is however no scientific evidence to validate those concerns.

GE foods have been exhaustively tested and researched with more than 2,000 studies vouching for their safety. All the major National Academy of Sciences in the world have concluded that they are no more dangerous than conventionally and organically grown crops. Not one incident of harm or allergic reaction has been traced to the consumption of GE foods.

What’s not widely known is that genetic engineering plays a critical role in the development and production of drugs that improve the quality of life for people with chronic diseases. For instance, virtually all of the insulin produced for diabetics is made through a process that involves genetic engineering.  Treatments for infertility, hemophilia, blood clotting and dwarfism also depend heavily on genetic engineering as does immunotherapy for developing treatments for cancer....To Read More...

‘Social Justice Warrior’ Vandana Shiva Is A Poor Advocate for the Poor

The recently-published “Social Justice Warrior Handbook,” which satirizes people who promote liberal, multicultural, anti-capitalist, anti-globalization, politically correct views, could have had Indian activist and mountebank Vandana Shiva on the cover. 

She opposes the tools and practices of modern agriculture and science--and well, modernity in general—and advocates retrogressive policies that will cause widespread malnourishment, deprivation and death to the very people she claims to champion.  And she’s no friend of the environment, either.
 
Illustrating the quest for “Back to Natutre” and anti-globalization fervor that has infected many U.S. universities, Shiva has been a popular guest lecturer at American universities.  In recent years, she has been invited to a number of U.S. campuses, including Beloit College, the College of New Jersey, Arizona State, the University of Utah and Wake Forest and Georgia Southern Universities, among others.  Although she gets good press from left-wing and environmental publications, and naïve undergraduates dote on her, Shiva is widely considered by the scientific community to be abjectly unbalanced (in both senses of the word) for advocating unsound policies and promulgating disproven theories about agriculture.

As science writer Jon Entine and Monsanto science communicator Dr. Cami Ryan discussed in a Forbes article, many of Shiva’s hobby horses have proven to be exceedingly lame.  Some prominent examples:
  • The “Green Revolution.”  The new varieties and practices of the Green Revolution provided greater food security to hundreds of millions of people in developing countries on much of the planet; it made available high-yielding varieties of wheat and also new agronomic and management practices that transformed the ability of Mexico, India, Pakistan, China, and parts of South America to feed their populations.  From 1950 to 1992, the world’s grain output rose from 692 million tons produced on 1.70 billion acres of cropland to 1.9 billion tons on 1.73 billion acres of cropland—an extraordinary increase in yield per acre of more than 150 percent.  India is an excellent case in point.  In 1963, wheat grew there in sparse, irregular strands, was harvested by hand, and was susceptible to rust disease.  The maximum yield was 800 lb per acre.  By 1968, the wheat grew densely packed, was resistant to rust, and the maximum yield had risen to 6000 lb per acre.  Without high-yield agriculture, either millions would have starved or increases in food output would have been realized only through drastic expansion of land under cultivation—with losses of pristine wilderness far greater than all the losses to urban, suburban and commercial expansion.
And yet, from her perch in a parallel universe, Shiva contends that the Green Revolution actually caused hunger.  Here, as elsewhere, she employs the propaganda technique known as the Big Lie, a phrase coined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 book Mein Kampf.  Shiva promulgates lies so "colossal" (as Hitler put it) that it seems inconceivable that someone could "have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”  Read on.
  • Golden Rice, genetically engineered varieties that are biofortified, or enriched, by genes that produce beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A.  These could be a monumental public health breakthrough, because vitamin A deficiency is epidemic among poor people whose diet is composed largely of rice, which contains no beta-carotene or vitamin A.  In developing countries, 200 million-300 million children of preschool age are at risk of vitamin A deficiency, which increases their susceptibility to illnesses including measles and diarrheal diseases.  Every year, about half a million children become blind as a result of vitamin A deficiency and 70% of those die within a year.  But Shiva is opposed to it: “By focusing on only one crop, rice, which by itself does not provide all the nutrients, including higher quantities of Vitamin A than Golden Rice, the Golden Rice pushers are in fact worsening the crisis of hunger and malnutrition.”  “Promoters of Golden Rice are blind to diversity, and hence are promoters of blindness, both metaphorically and nutritionally,” she adds.  Shiva has dismissed Golden Rice as a hoax and a myth–which are the vilest sort of lies, not unlike those of the pernicious charlatans who condemn childhood vaccination for the prevention of infectious diseases. 
As Entine and Ryan wrote: “Shiva’s alternate proposed solution for promoting a ‘diversity of diet’ has not worked for the very poor who cannot afford to buy vegetables or fruits, or cannot devote the land on their subsistence farm to grow more of them.”  The hoax is Shiva’s unworkable alternative, not the proven capabilities of genetic engineering.
  • Genetically engineered, pest-resistant cotton (Bt-cotton, so-called because it contains a protein from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that kills certain insects).  Shiva claims that the cultivation of these seeds is not only ineffective but actually causes hundreds of thousands of farmer suicides in India.  But Shiva’s statistics are cherry-picked, largely irrelevant and often simply wrong, and her argument relies on a fallacy of logic known as post hoc, ergo propter hoc–after the fact, therefore because of the fact.  In other words, she confuses correlation with causation, the kind of “logic” that leads one to believe that autism is caused by organic food because of graphs like this one
In a 2013 article in the journal Nature, agricultural socio-economist Dominic Glover observed, “It is nonsense to attribute farmer suicides solely to Bt cotton,” and moreover, “Although financial hardship is a driving factor in suicide among Indian farmers, there has been essentially no change in the suicide rate for farmers since the introduction of Bt cotton.”

Reinforcing Glover’s observations, a definitive, comprehensive study of Bt-cotton in India published in 2011 concluded: “Bt cotton is accused of being responsible for an increase of farmer suicides in India. . . Available data show no evidence of a ‘resurgence’ of farmer suicides.  Moreover, Bt cotton technology has been very effective overall in India.  Nevertheless, in specific districts and years, Bt cotton may have indirectly contributed to farmer indebtedness, leading to suicides, but its failure was mainly the result of the context or environment in which it was planted.”  A 2006 study of four of India’s major cotton-producing states found that Bt-cotton gave rise to yield gains of approximately 31% and a 39% decrease in number of insecticide sprays, which led to an 88% increase in profitability, equivalent to about $250 per hectare.

Eminent UC Berkeley agricultural economist David Zilberman echoes those findings and sums up India’s experience with genetic engineering this way: “India gained from adopting [genetic engineering applied to] cotton but has lost from not adopting it with other crops.  The US, Brazil and Argentina adopted [genetic engineering] in corn and soybean, which led to increases in output and gains from exporting these extra crops. India and the rest of the world have also indirectly enjoyed benefits from the increased global supply of corn because of [genetic engineering].

In a 2014 article, “Seeds of Doubt,” in The New Yorker, investigative journalist Michael Specter called into question a number of Shiva's claims regarding genetic engineering, as well as her ethics and judgment:

At times, Shiva’s absolutism about [genetic engineering] can lead her in strange directions.  In 1999, ten thousand people were killed and millions were left homeless when a cyclone hit India’s eastern coastal state of Orissa.  When the U.S. government dispatched grain and soy to help feed the desperate victims, Shiva held a news conference in New Delhi and said that the donation was proof that “the United States has been using the Orissa victims as guinea pigs” for genetically engineered products.  She also wrote to the international relief agency Oxfam to say that she hoped it wasn’t planning to send genetically modified foods to feed the starving survivors.  When neither the U.S. nor Oxfam altered its plans, she condemned the Indian government for accepting the provisions.

We endorse shopping in the marketplace of ideas, but not when toxic goods there pollute it.  Recall Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation that everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts.  Shiva is a seemingly endless font of bogus, made-up facts–that is to say, lies--and bizarre reasoning.

Even the way Shiva represents herself to the public at large and to potential speaking venues–variously as a “scientist,” “nuclear physicist,” or “quantum physicist--is untrue.  However, she earned her doctorate not in physics, but in philosophy.

Ironically, Shiva’s connection with physics illustrates not her expertise in the discipline, but her wrong-headedness. Her dissertation in the philosophy of science at the University of Western Ontario focused on the debate over a central notion in physics known as Bell’s Theorem, which is concerned with “testing whether or not particles connected through quantum entanglement communicate information faster than the speed of light,” and which has been called the “most profound theory in science.”  The abstract of Shiva’s dissertation states, in part: “It has been taken for granted that Bell’s [theorem] is based on a locality condition which is physically motivated, and thus his proof therefore falls into a class by itself.  We show that both the above claims are mistaken” (emphasis added).

But contrary to Shiva’s conclusion, Bell’s theorem has been proven scientifically correct.  As Entine and Ryan wrote, “The main thesis of quantum mechanics that she challenged has since been confirmed by experimental physics, meaning that her thesis stands at odds with factual reality.”  But reality testing has never been Shiva’s forte.

The New Yorker’s Michael Specter wrote that Shiva has been called the “Gandhi of grain” and been “compared to Mother Teresa.”  We think a more apt comparison would be to Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, the charlatan and ideologue who single-handedly laid waste to Soviet agriculture during the Stalin era and for years thereafter.

While this upper-caste Indian gets little right about science, she is adept at extracting money from sponsors on the lecture circuit.  According to her speakers’ agency, the Evil Twin Booking Agency (we did not make up that name), Shiva’s usual fee for an American university appearance is $40,000 plus a business class round-trip ticket from New Delhi.  We can infer, then, that American universities probably pay Shiva around $50,000 for each appearance, at which she exposes their students to her mendacious, baseless attacks on modern agriculture and science.

As for the actual substance of Shiva’s presentations at universities, we can only imagine…  After all, she is the author of “In Praise of Cowdung” – a paean to peasant agriculture and an attack on improved seeds and modern fertilizers in Indian agriculture.  That essay in particular reminds us of an old “Peanuts” cartoon in which the character Lucy van Pelt is about to embark on a writing assignment.  “Write about something you know well,” the teacher instructs.  Lucy begins typing, “The air hung heavy with stupidity…”

Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford Universitys Hoover Institution and a former trustee of the American Council on Science and Health. He was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA.  Drew L. Kershen is the Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law (Emeritus), University of Oklahoma College of Law, in Norman, Okla. This article first appeared in the American Council on Science and Health print magazine Priorities.