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SCIENCE AND POLITICS NEWS ROUNDUP 2023 JANUARY

A monthly review of climate, energy, and environmental policy issues

Eating bugs, atmospheric rivers, our turbulent climate past, and bad energy policies are just a few of the subjects we cover this month.

Articles compiled by Jonathan DuHamel

CLIMATE ISSUES

A note on climate alarmism:

by Jonathan DuHamel

Climate alarmists claim that if Earth’s temperature rises more than 2°C, life will perish. However, most people do not realize that we are in an interglacial period of an ice age and that it is much cooler than normal. Geologic evidence shows that for much of the past 600 million years, global temperature was as much as 13°C warmer than it is now and life flourished.

“Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle

requires intelligence, vigilance, dedication and courage. But if we don’t practice these tough

habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us, and we risk

becoming a nation of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who comes along.” —Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Climate & Human History

from the CO2Coalition

There exists a fascinating relationship between the rise and fall of temperature and the rise and fall of great civilizations and empires. We find that the facts are opposite to the prevailing “consensus” predictions of apocalyptic doom from modest warming.

Nearly all great advances occurred during warm periods. Before climate science became politicized, the warm periods were called “climate optima” by those studying such things because both the Earth’s ecosystems and humanity benefited from the blessed warmth.

Conversely, the human condition declined during cold periods–and markedly so.

Wolfgang Behringer, in his book A Cultural History of Climate, reveals that “even minor changes in climate may result in huge social, political and religious convulsions.”

“Cooling has always resulted in major social upheavals, whereas warming has sometimes led to a blossoming of culture. If we can learn anything from the history of culture, it is that, even if humans were ‘children of the Ice Age,’ civilization was a product of climatic warming.” ☼

What Climate Crisis? A Primer On Earth’s Turbulent Climatic Past

by Ian Plimer

“For more than 80 percent of the time, Earth has been a warm wet greenhouse planet with no ice. We live in unusual times when ice occurs on continents. This did not happen overnight.”

In this essay professor Plimer examines climate history on a large scale and examines plate tectonics and the position of Earth relative to the sun. He notes: “No past warming events have been driven by an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. No past cooling events were driven by a decrease in atmospheric carbon dioxide.”

“On a scale of tens of millions of years or more, the Earth’s climate is driven by plate tectonics. On a scale of hundreds of thousands of years, the Earth’s climate is driven by orbital cycles which bring Earth closer to or more distant from the Sun. On a scale of thousands of years to decades, the Earth’s climate is driven by variations in energy emitted from the Sun.”

He concludes the essay this way: “We are putting all our efforts and wasting trillions of taxpayers’ dollars into trying to prevent mythical human-induced global warming, yet we still don’t prepare for the inevitable annual floods, droughts, and bushfires, let alone longer-term solar – and orbitally–driven global cooling.

We have a crisis of single-minded stupidity exacerbated by a dumbed-down education system supported by incessant propaganda, driven by financial interests and political activist authoritarianism.” (Read full article) (See also Plimer’s book “Green Murder”)☼

Scientist: ‘There Is No Climate Crisis’ And ‘No Particular Correlation Between CO2 And Temperature’

By Kenneth Richard

The modern notion that human CO2 emissions are equivalent to a “deadly poison” may one day be viewed as “the greatest mass delusion in the history of the world.”

In a new paper published in the Journal of Sustainable Development, Manheimer (2022) summarizes some of the evidence for the lack of correlation between CO2 and temperature in the paleoclimate as he rips apart the claim that humans are driving a changing climate.

About 4000 years ago the limit of Northern Hemisphere tree growth extended 322 km (200 miles) farther north than it does today, as it was much warmer back then.

During Medieval times the Vikings were able to grow barley for centuries. Today Greenland is too cold to grow this crop.

The Romans grew wine grapes in northern Britain, indicating the climate was much warmer than today about 2000 years ago. Wine vineyards cannot flourish at these latitudes today (unless the new “hybrid” grapes, bred to survive in colder climates, are used).

Observing paleo temperature and CO2 concentration charts for the last hundreds of millions of years, it can be affirmed there is “no particular correlation between CO2 and temperature.”

In the paper abstract, Manheimer writes: “The emphasis on a false climate crisis is becoming a tragedy for modern civilization, which depends on relible, economic, and environmentally viable energy. The windmills, solar panels and backup batteries have none if these qualities. This falsehood is pushed by a powerful lobby which Bjorn Lomborg has called a climate industrial complex, comprising some scientists, most media, industrialists, and legislators. It has somehow managed to convince many that CO2 in the atmosphere, a gas necessary for life on earth, one which we exhale with every breath, is an environmental poison. Multiple scientific theories and measurements show that there is no climate crisis.” (Read more) ☼

The Case Against Human Caused Climate Change

by David Robb

[This is an excerpt from a much longer article.]

There is no question that climate change is happening. What is still open is whether the change is due to human use of fossil fuels, or is it something natural? Climate activists and even government authorities have tried to claim that the science is settled, and there is consensus that human activities are the cause. Aside from the fact that science doesn’t rely on consensus, there is considerable evidence that the change is natural.

Consider, …just two bits of evidence. First, in the mid 1600s, Europe was in the depths of the Little Ice Age. It was so cold that the Thames river froze over – something that has not happened since. About 1650, temperatures began to rise, and that rise has continued at about the same rate until just recently. Use of fossil fuels didn’t begin until about 1850 when coal began to replace wood for heating, cooking, and industrial applications such as steam power. In other words, the temperature rise began two hundred years before the use of fossil fuels and the corresponding rise of CO2. The rise in CO2 followed the temperature rise; how can the effect precede the cause?

A second bit is that the historical record is clear. Carbon dioxide levels in prehistory were over 20 times the level we have today, yet there was no catastrophic heating or runaway greenhouse effect. Indeed, all the evidence points to that period as one of lush forests, a benign climate across all the continents, and no tipping points.

Part of the evidence is found in the massive limestone deposits found across the world. Close examination of limestone shows it to be the fossil remains of uncountable creatures who thrived in the warm seas, drew dissolved carbon dioxide from the water around them, used it to form calcium carbonate for their shells, which then fell to the ocean floor to form the limestone we see today. All that prehistoric CO2 is now found locked up in limestone, and we are left with dangerously low levels in our atmosphere today. (Read more) ☼

What are atmospheric rivers?

In Janurary, California and other parts of the west coast were inundated with heavy rain and snowfall. Alarmists blamed “climate change.” However, the weather was produced by an “atmospheric river” which is a common phenomenon.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics. These columns of vapor move with the weather, carrying an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow. A well-known example is the “Pineapple Express,” a strong atmospheric river that is capable of bringing moisture from the tropics near Hawaii over to the U.S. West Coast. Atmospheric rivers are a key feature in the global water cycle and are closely tied to both water supply and flood risks — particularly in the western United States.” (Read more from NOAA) ☼

IPCC Climate Models Grossly Exaggerate ‘Global Warming’

By Jerome Corsi

Several recently published studies have provided methodological objections to alarmist IPCC global climate models that predict catastrophic global warming will result from anthropogenic CO2 atmospheric concentrations from burning hydrocarbon fuels. These studies indicate that a more accurate reading of the earth’s surface temperatures suggests global climate warming over the next few decades will be moderate. The studies further indicate that more precise surface temperature readings would seriously dampen the hysterical mass media demand for radical public policies requiring radical decarbonization to achieve Net Zero Emissions (NZE) as quickly as possible.

In November 2022, meteorologist Roy Spencer, Ph.D., a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, published a ground-breaking study demonstrating that 36 climate models used to guide national policy may have exaggerated “global warming” over the last 50 years by as much as 50 percent. Spencer’s research shows that increased urbanization, not increased CO2, is responsible for exaggerating the temperature measurements recorded in the NOAA homogenized surface temperature dataset.

In August 2022, meteorologist Anthony Watts found that 96 percent of the temperature stations in the United States used to measure global warming and climate change did not “meet what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) considers to be ‘acceptable,’ uncorrupted placement.” (Read more) ☼

To End Climate Lunacy, Stop Treating Warming & C02 Hysterically

by David Simon

Those who oppose economically destructive “climate” policies – like those promoted by the Biden administration and at the recent United Nations COP27 conference – will continue to fail to stop the advance of these policies so long as they continue to accept the false claim that warming of the planet and carbon dioxide emissions are harmful.

They are not. On balance, global warming and CO2 emission are beneficial.

Before getting to why that is, however, it is crucial to understand why accepting the false climate claim is so harmful.

When the destructiveness of climate policies is shown, the response is that the policies nevertheless are necessary to address what President Biden refers to as the “existential threat” of global warming and increased CO2 emissions.

When it is noted that these climate policies will at most microscopically and insignificantly reduce temperatures and CO2 emissions, climate policy mandarins push for even more draconian policies.

The result has been that since the 1990s, climate policies have become increasingly destructive and wasteful. Even worse, their continued intensification appears unlikely to be stopped until the public and policymakers are persuaded that global warming and CO2 emissions are not harmful. To win this argument, it is necessary to focus on the scientific facts. (Read more) ☼

Antarctica Has Not Warmed For Over 70 Years

By Kenneth Richard

New studies affirm Antarctica has not been cooperating with either the global warming or “polar amplification” narratives. The Antarctic continent has not warmed in the last seven decades, despite a monotonic increase in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases. (Read more) ☼

Top Ten 2022 Media Climate Stories – Fact Check

This summary serves as a fact check on the top ten disasters that mainstream media attributes to climate change. (link) ☼

According to media reports, 2022 was the Hottest coldest driest wettest year ever (link) ☼

Despite Media Hype, 2022 Global Wide Hurricane Season Ends with Weakest Storm Levels of the Last 42 Years

According to NOAA, measured worldwide hurricane season science data for all year 2022 tropical storms shows that global wide storms were at their lowest strength levels in the last 42 years. Additionally, NOAA’s science measured tropical storm data through year 2022 clearly demonstrates that global hurricanes are not trending stronger in numbers, duration or intensity. The number and strength of tornados were also below average. (Read more) ☼

Record Agricultural Yields Should Allay Climate Fear

by Vijay Jayaraj

Countries all over the world are surpassing previous records for production of food crops. This is good news that stands in stark contrast to the apocalyptic picture that the media paints daily in reports on climate and weather. (Read more) ☼

CLIMATE MADNESS

Let Them Eat Bugs!

By Janet Levy

Give up cheeseburgers, and eat bugs instead. That’s what the Davos elite want you to do, while they dine on $50 burritos and slabs of steak. They would even have you feel good about being a meat- and diary-free insectivore. To this end, they have carefully manufactured the cult of environmental alarmism, whose virtue-signaling adherents have been duped into thinking an ecological disaster is at hand. The cult’s latest scapegoat is agriculture. The wise global leaders of the World Economic Forum (WEF) have decreed that farming must be restricted to “save the planet.” By 2030, they dictate, plebs must adopt the ecologically sound practice of entomophagy, or insect-eating. (Read more) ☼

A Rebuttal From Doctors for Disaster Preparedness

Eating bugs can be dangerous

Using insects as a main source of animal protein is a big part of the World Economic Forum’s plans for us. But that may have some bad side effects on your body (Read report) ☼

ENERGY ISSUES

NRC Certifies First U.S. Small Modular Reactor Design

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has certified NuScale Power’s small modular reactor (SMR). The company’s power module becomes the first SMR design certified by the NRC and just the seventh reactor design cleared for use in the United States. The design is an advanced light-water SMR with each power module capable of generating 50 megawatts of emissions-free electricity. (Read more) ☼ [Note: these installations should be used to replace wind and solar generation which is unreliable and require huge land footprints.]

The Gas Stove Gambit

by Ron Clutz

Is it really a “bait and switch” gambit so that government can monitor indoor air quality and/or get rid of fossil fuels? (Read more) ☼

Biden admin quietly admits canceling Keystone XL Pipeline cost thousands of jobs, billions of dollars

by Thomas Catenacci

The Biden administration published a congressionally mandated report highlighting the positive economic benefits the Keystone XL Pipeline would have had if President Biden didn’t revoke its federal permits.

The report, which the Department of Energy (DOE) completed in late December without any public announcement, says the Keystone XL project would have created between 16,149 and 59,000 jobs and would have had a positive economic impact of between $3.4-9.6 billion, citing various studies. A previous report from the federal government published in 2014 determined 3,900 direct jobs and 21,050 total jobs would be created during construction which was expected to take two years.

But immediately after taking office in January 2021, Biden canceled the pipeline’s permits, effectively shutting the project down. (Read more) ☼

China to accelerate approval of new coal projects to ensure energy supply

By Global Times

China reiterated its focus on energy security, vowing to ensure the supply of energy and electricity, coordinate resources and accelerate approval of new coal projects, while asking coal enterprises to expand production as peak season approaches. Power generation companies should store more high-quality coal to ensure power generation during peak times. (Read more) ☼

Let’s Take the Final Step to Reshore U.S. Mining for Battery Metals

By Danny Ervin

The U.S. depends on China for more than half of the minerals and metals deemed critically important for our nation’s economic health and military readiness. While China has made mineral production and processing a strategic priority, the U.S. has done the reverse. Mining in the U.S. has been pushed to the margins.

As recently as the 1990s, the U.S. was the world’s largest producer of rare earth minerals. Today we have just one rare earth mine remaining and the U.S. must ship its ore to China for processing. Demand for rare earths is massive and growing. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology says a wind turbine rated at 3.5 megawatts of electricity contains 1,300 pounds of rare earths.

There is just one lithium mine left in the U.S., one for nickel, one for cobalt, one for manganese. These raw materials are vital to the manufacture of batteries used in electric vehicles and the transmission of solar and wind power on the nation’s electricity grid.

The problem isn’t a lack of mineral resources in the U.S. The National Mining Association says the U.S. is home to $6.2 trillion worth of mineral reserves.

Despite the enormous stakes, nothing has been done to make America’s own minerals on public lands more accessible to mining companies. A complex permitting process is the problem, requiring companies to wait 10 years or more to get government approval to mine in public lands. This is shackling the transition to EVs and clean energy technologies with huge, growth-killing costs. (Read more) ☼

Green Energy Failed To Meet Power Demand During Winter Storm

by Jack McEvoy

Renewable energy was unable to generate sufficient power to meet elevated energy demand during Christmas Eve snowstorms, forcing utilities in the northeastern U.S. and Texas to burn more fossil fuels to prevent outages.

Although wind turbines, solar panels and other forms of green energy have been consistently touted by the Biden administration as reliable alternatives to fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, renewables accounted for a small percentage of grids’ power output after snowstorms and a “bomb cyclone” nearly caused power outages in New England and Texas. Grid operators in both areas were forced to burn oil, a fuel that is significantly less efficient than natural gas, to avoid power outages as renewable energy sources were stymied by the harsh weather. (Read more) ☼

A Quiet Refutation of ‘Net Zero’ Carbon Emissions

Two energy reports show the U.S. is burdening and dismantling its grid to achieve an impossible goal.

By Steve Milloy

‘Net zero by 2050” is more than a slogan of climate activism. It has become a chief organizational principle for multinational corporations and the BlackRock-led cartel pushing environmental, social and corporate governance investing.

In September, the Electric Power Research Institute, the research arm of the U.S. electric utility industry, released a report titled “Net-Zero 2050: U.S. Economy-Wide Deep Decarbonization Scenario Analysis.” The EPRI report concludes that the utility industry can’t attain net zero. “This study shows that clean electricity plus direct electrification and efficiency . . . are not sufficient by themselves to achieve net-zero economy-wide emissions.” In other words, no amount of wind turbines, solar panels, hydropower, nuclear power, battery power, electrification of fossil-fuel technologies or energy-efficiency technologies will get us to net zero by 2050.

The other recent report is “2022 Long-Term Reliability Assessment” from the North American Electric Reliability Corp., a government-certified grid-reliability and standard-setting group. NERC concluded that fossil-fuel plants are being removed from the grid too fast to meet continuing electricity demand, and that is putting most of the country at risk of grid failure and blackouts during extreme weather. The U.S. just got another taste of this during the Christmas electric grid emergency. So there you have it: We are dangerously dismantling our electric grid while burdening it with more demand in hope of attaining the goal of “net zero by 2050,” which the utility industry has admitted is a fantasy. (Read full article) ☼

ENVIRONMENT

The Recycling Religion Is Garbage

by John Stossel

For decades, we’ve been told: recycle! “If we’re not using recycled paper, we’re cutting down more trees!” says Lynn Hoffman, co-president of Eureka Recycling. Recycling paper (or cardboard) does save trees. Recycling aluminum does save energy. But that’s about it. The ugly truth is that many “recyclables” sent to recycling plants are never recycled. The worst is plastic.

Even Greenpeace now says, “Plastic recycling is a dead-end street.” Most of the material ends up in landfills. (Read more) ☼

ECONOMY

How to tell that the climate alarmists aren’t serious

By Maker S. Mark

[The “globalists” want western nations to decrease/eliminate carbon dioxide emissions, but are okay with China increasing emissions.]

“….allowing China to increase emissions at a time that you are asking other countries to sacrifice with proposed reductions is a totally ridiculous and unserious solution to the man-made climate change problem. The real question then becomes, why are Western nations being asked to sacrifice in this way? I think we have to “follow the money” to find out. China increases manufacturing capability to produce the green products needed by the West. It increases this capacity while significantly increasing emissions of the very gases the rest of the world are trying to cut. Cutting Western energy consumption will hurt Western economies, and allowing China to increase energy consumption will allow its economy to expand. This solution to man-made climate change is nonsensical, unless this solution is really a financial reordering. China seems to be the only country truly benefitting from the current green plans.” (Source) ☼

THE EPA

EPA Reinstates Dubious Waterway Regulation

Joe Biden’s bureaucrats bring back an Obama-era power grab just for fun. The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers effectively resurrected the dubious redefinition of the “waters of the United States” found within the 1970 Clean Water Act. The EPA broadly expanded the definition of “waters of the United States” to include nearly any body of water — virtually down to the size of a puddle. (Read more) ☼

The Supreme Court Case That Could Upend the Clean Water Act

If SCOTUS finds in favor of a small-town Idaho couple in Sackett v. EPA, it could end the federal government’s jurisdiction over millions of acres of land. (link) ☼

State Attorneys General, Other Groups, File Petition Opposing U.S. EPA Greenhouse Gas Rule

by Bethany Blankley, Heartland Institute

Sixteen state attorneys general, 15 state associations, and multiple organizations are fighting against another Environmental Protection Agency rule they argue jeopardizes American energy and national security. The AGs, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to halt the EPA from implementing “radical climate regulations.” At issue is the EPA’s “Revised 2023 and Later Model Year Light Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards.” (Read more) ☼

PROPERTY RIGHTS

Environmental Groups Deal Another Blow To Key Alaska Mine, Undermining Biden’s Green Energy Dreams

by Jack Mcevoy, Daily Caller

Two environmental groups spent $20 million to make lands and waters close to Southern Alaska’s Bristol Bay off-limits to economic development, a move that will hinder the construction of a mine that produces minerals that are needed to expand renewable energy production. Pebble Mine sits on top of 80.6 billion pounds of copper and 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum, highly conductive metals which are crucial to producing solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal energy facilities.(Read more) ☼

WATER

Desalination of Sea Water Can Augment Our Water Supply Without Harming Sea Life

by Jonathan DuHamel

Desalination of sea water can produce the freshwater we need to augment our natural supplies. The most common method is reverse osmosis where the sea water is forced through a semi-permeable membrane which removes the salt. However, the process is energy intensive which some environmentalists claim will put more dread carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if the electricity comes from fossil-fuels. That can be solved by powering the plants with small, dedicated nuclear generators. The other claim by some environmentalists is that the effluent from the desalinization process, very salty brine, is harmful to wildlife. A new study shows this concern is overblown. A seven-year study, jointly conducted by Southern Cross University and the University of New South Wales at the Sydney (Australia) desalination plant found that when the plant was in operation, fish population in the area almost tripled. (Read more) The state of Arizona is currently considering building a desalination plant in Sonora, Mexico.☼

California’s Mega Water Wasters

by Edward Ring

Californians are squandering millions of acre-feet of storm runoff at the same time as they face permanent water rationing. (Read more) ☼

STATE OF THE UNION

“Stability in government is essential to national character and to the advantages annexed to it, as well as to that repose and confidence in the minds of the people, which are among the chief blessings of civil society.” —James Madison (1788)

The Economic Cost Of The Pandemic: State By State

by Eric Hanushek, Hoover Institution

Abstract: Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) now shows the significant impact of the pandemic on learning. The abstract nature of test score declines, however, often obscures the huge economic impact of these learning losses. NAEP results indicate large differences in learning losses across states, and this analysis provides state-by-state estimates of the economic impacts of the losses. Students on average face 2-9 percent lower lifetime incomes depending on the state in which they live. By virtue of the lower skilled future workforce, the states themselves are estimated to face a GDP that is 0.6 to 2.9 percent lower each year for the remainder of the 21st Century compared to the learning expectations derived from pre-pandemic years. The present value of future losses for states depends directly on the size of each state’s economy. At the extreme, California is estimated to have lost $1.2 trillion dollars because of learning losses during the pandemic. These losses are permanent unless a state’s schools can get better than their pre-pandemic levels. (Read full paper, 12 pages)

How Green Investors Pay the Media to Promote ‘Climate Change’

by Daniel Greenfield

The Associated Press revealed last year that it had scored $8 million to promote claims of global warming. The AP impartially described this massive conflict of interest as an illustration of “how philanthropy has swiftly become an important new funding source for journalism”.

“This far-reaching initiative will transform how we cover the climate story,” its executive editor claimed. That is no doubt true. And an incredibly damaging admission.

The philanthropic quid-pro-quo saw five organizations fund the AP’s dedicated team of “more than two dozen journalists” to cover “climate issues” that the wire service would then plant in papers around the country to terrify Americans into supporting ‘green’ taxes and subsidies.

The Associated Press did not bother to explain to its readers or the newspapers that run its stories why these organizations were impelled to throw millions at it except sheer benevolence.

Nor did it explain why they might be particularly interested in convincing Americans that the climate sky is falling and that our economy must be dismantled and ‘greened’: raising energy prices and putting millions out of work. (Read more) ☼

Citizens! The Declaration of Independence: Now Read It, and Learn

By Frederick Melchiorre

The Declaration of Independence makes clear points regarding tyranny, points now particularly applicable to the Biden administration given the current state of the federal government.

The very first American document reads:

All men… are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security. The sole role of the government, to secure our unalienable rights, is no longer the goal. Our “civil servants” show no concern for our safety, they trod on our civil rights and decry human rights for the most vulnerable, and desecrate our economic rights for affordable property-ownership. Where is “the pursuit of happiness?” There remains no vestiges of the ideals the founders created, especially that pertaining to “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” God is an anachronism and anathema to modern society; especially to progressive Democrats. (Read more) ☼

Biden Throwing Taxpayer Dollars Down The Climate Change Rathole

by James Rogan

President Joe Biden pledged to the United Nations in 2021 that the U.S. would give $11.4 billion annually to international climate change funds. Biden repeated that pledge at the recent COP27 climate conference. Biden’s climate change pledges are hot air, and he knows it.

Under the Constitution, Biden does not have the authority to commit U.S. funds to overseas development projects. In fact, under the Constitution, only Congress can commit such funds and only Congress has the authority to make binding international agreements. (Read more) ☼

5 Infuriating Ways People Got the First Amendment Wrong in 2022

As free speech becomes an increasingly important part of the culture war, people won’t stop misinterpreting—and outright violating—the First Amendment.

by Emma Camp, Reason Magazine

1. Yes, you can yell “fire” in a crowded theater.

2. The Stop WOKE Act stops speech.

3. No, it is not a First Amendment right to shut down your critics.

4. Filming police is a First Amendment right.

5. Heckler’s vetoes are not protected speech.

Read an explanation of each point. ☼

ESG’s Perverse, Narrow, Fraudulent Ethical Principles

by Paul Driessen

Warning: Your retirement fund may have been Shanghaied by BlackRock or other Wall Street asset managers who’ve unilaterally decided that the tens of trillions of dollars of other people’s money they control should be used to advance political causes they favor – to “make the world a better place.”

As most people know, ESG stands for Environmental protection, Social justice, and Governance of corporate and societal affairs. They’re all noble-sounding causes.

However, under ESG they’re centered around progressive, woke agendas, with the prevention of “man-made climate cataclysms” uppermost. Fund assets are used to drive “net zero” climate agendas and punish or de-fund fossil fuel companies.

That narrow focus creates serious problems. (Read more) ☼

The War Against We the People

By Jeff Crouere

In the preamble of the U.S. Constitution, our Founding Fathers declared that the brilliant centerpiece of our government was created by “We the People of the United States.” It was clearly not, “We the Politicians” or “We the Bureaucrats.”

Unfortunately, our federal government has utterly abandoned “We the People.” It was never more apparent than in the disgusting spectacle of the recently passed $1.7 trillion monstrosity known as the omnibus spending bill. (Read more) ☼

INTERESTING EDITORIALS

Under Wokeism, Animal Farm Comes to Life (link) ☼

The Globalist Scourge (link) ☼

Our government ‘protectors’ are releasing savages onto our streets! (link) ☼

A Mandate for the GOP House (link) ☼

TUCKER CARLSON: World Economic Forum exists to ‘destroy national economies’

Tucker Carlson compares attendees of the World Economic Forum to ‘supervillains’ (link) ☼

CLIMATE SCIENCE BACKGROUND:

by Jonathan DuHamel

Geologic evidence shows that Earth’s climate has been in a constant state of flux for more than 4 billion years. Nothing we do can stop that. Much of current climate and energy policy is based upon the erroneous assumption that anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, which make up just 0.1% of total greenhouse gases, are responsible for “dangerous” global warming/climate change. There is no physical evidence to support that assumption. Man-made carbon dioxide emissions have no significant effect on global temperature/climate. In fact, when there is an apparent correlation between temperature and carbon dioxide, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been shown to follow, not lead, changes in Earth’s temperature. All efforts to reduce emissions are futile with regard to climate change, but such efforts will impose massive economic harm to Western Nations. The “climate crisis” is a scam. U.N officials have admitted that their climate policy is about money and power and destroying capitalism, not about climate. By the way, like all planetary bodies, the earth loses heat through infrared radiation. Greenhouse gases interfere with (block) some of this heat loss. Greenhouse gases don’t warm the Earth, they slow the cooling. If there were no greenhouse gases, we would have freezing temperatures every night.

For more on climate science, see my Wryheat Climate articles:

Climate Change in Perspective (30 pages)

A Review of the state of Climate Science

The Broken Greenhouse – Why Co2 Is a Minor Player in Global Climate

A Summary of Earth’s Climate History-a Geologist’s View

Problems with wind and solar generation of electricity – a review

The High Cost of Electricity from Wind and Solar Generation

The “Social Cost of Carbon” Scam Revisited

ATMOSPHERIC CO2: a boon for the biosphere

Carbon dioxide is necessary for life on Earth

Impact of the Paris Climate Accord and why Trump was right to drop it

New study shows that carbon dioxide is responsible for only seven percent of the greenhouse effect

Six Issues the Promoters of the Green New Deal Have Overlooked

Why reducing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuel will have no effect on climate ☼

END

Comments on the alleged megadrought

During the past few weeks, media have been hyping alarm about a new study  that claims that the Southwestern US is entering a megadrought and that the drought is made more severe by human-caused global warming. That claim is based on tree-ring analysis and computer modeling speculation.

Droughts have occurred due to natural cycles, but there is no physical evidence that carbon dioxide emissions play a significant role is controlling global temperature or precipitation. The new paper presents no evidence that alleged “human-caused” global warming is making the drought worse, it is just speculation. In fact, many droughts are associated with cooler periods.

Let’s put things in perspective. Here are the data for the past 1,200 years. It seems that “megadroughts” have occurred naturally, without any human influence.

These data show that the 20th century was wetter than normal. However, the next graph shows that there have been droughts. But, rather that entering a megadrought, we seem to be emerging from a dryer period according to NOAA.

The graph above comes from a 4-minute video posted by Tony Heller, on his “Real Climate Science” blog. This video destroys claims that the western United States is currently experiencing a nearly unprecedented megadrought. Video: https://youtu.be/W9xCWDZmUT4

 

Related:

Evidence that CO2 emissions do not intensify the greenhouse effect

The Broken Greenhouse – Why CO2 is a minor player in global climate

A Review of the state of Climate Science

Drought in the West

Desalination of Sea Water Can Augment Our Water Supply Without Harming Sea Life

Since the Colorado River may not supply us with all the water we need, we should turn to the oceans.

Desalination of sea water can produce the freshwater we need to augment our natural supplies. The most common method is reverse osmosis where the sea water is forced through a semi-permeable membrane which removes the salt.

However, the process is energy intensive which some environmentalists claim will put more dread carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if the electricity comes from fossil-fuels. That can be solved by powering the plants with small, dedicated nuclear generators. (Powering such plants with wind or solar energy will make freshwater production intermittent and unpredictable.)

The other claim by some environmentalists is that the effluent from the desalinization process, very salty brine, is harmful to wildlife. A new study shows this concern is overblown.

A seven-year study, jointly conducted by Southern Cross University and the University of New South Wales at the Sydney (Australia) desalination plant found that when the plant was in operation, fish population in the area almost tripled. Fish populations decreased to normal when the plant was not operating. The Sydney plant has a capacity of producing 74,000 acre-feet of water per year.

Lead researcher Professor Brendan Kelaher said, “At the start of this project, we thought the hypersaline brine would negatively impact fish life. We were surprised and impressed at the clear positive effect on the abundance of fish, as well as the numbers of fish species. Importantly, the positive effects on fish life also included a 133 per cent increase in fish targeted by commercial and recreational fishers. As to why fish like it so much, we think they might be responding to turbulence created by dynamic mixing associated with the high-pressure release of the brine. However, more research is needed.” (Source) The report mentions no detrimental effects on fish or other sea life. The research was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.9b03565

I did try to find information on negative impacts to marine life of concentrated brine being pumped into the ocean, but all I could find was speculation, no actual physical evidence. Apparently harm is minimal. As noted by marine biologist Daniel Cartamil of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, intake water may contain tiny organisms (plankton), including the eggs and larvae of marine life. None of these organisms survive their journey through the plant. However, this entrainment typically accounts for only about 1 percent or 2 percent of plankton mortality in a given area. Cartamil says this about the salty brine discharge: “In theory, marine life (particularly plankton) could be harmed by prolonged exposure to salinity levels higher than those they normally cope with. The most common solution to this problem is to mix the brine back into the seawater with high-speed jets, a process so efficient that salinity levels are effectively back to normal within 100 feet of the release point.” (Source)

Perhaps Arizona, California, and Mexico will take heart and build more modern desalination plants near the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean to help ease our dependence on the Colorado River. Some of the salt could be recovered for industrial applications. There is a desalination plant in Yuma, built in 1992 to treat agricultural runoff and conserve water in Lake Mead. But its technology is outdated. There is also a desalination plant just north of San Diego with a capacity of 56,000 acre-feet per year. Building more and bigger desalination plants powered by nuclear generators is technologically feasible but politically problematic.

Articles on small nuclear reactors:

A New Type of Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor

Small Modular Reactor by Westinghouse

What are small modular nuclear reactors, and why are three provinces uniting to build them?

Advanced Small Modular Reactors

Water and Irrigated Agriculture in Arizona

The Water Resources Research Center of the University of Arizona has just published “Arroyo 2018″ which is devoted to the title subject. You can download the 16-page report at:

https://wrrc.arizona.edu/sites/wrrc.arizona.edu/files/attachment/Arroyo-2018-revised.pdf

Here are some excerpts and highlights:

Archeological evidence suggests that irrigated agriculture first arrived along the Santa Cruz River in southern Arizona around 1200 BCE. During this time, irrigation canals were constructed along the river near the current Interstate-10 corridor just west of Tucson. These early farmers irrigated corn, tobacco, and squash.

Between 300 BCE and 1450 AD, native people constructed a network of canals near the Salt and Gila Rivers in South Central Arizona, where they developed a distinct culture known as “Hohokam”. Evidence of these canals exists today near the sites of the Pueblo Grande Village on the east side of Phoenix, and the Casa Grande village west of Florence. The disappearance of this civilization may have been due to changes and variability of the local climate.

Following the demise of the Hohokam, the Xalychidom Piipaash (Maricopa) and Onk Akimel O’odham (Pima) tribes became established in southern and central Arizona. These tribes continued using irrigated agriculture, but with simpler canal systems.

By the mid-19th century, when American and Europeans made the trip across the deserts of the Southwest to reach the California gold fields, the Gila River people diverted water from the river to agricultural fields in the valley of the Middle Gila, creating a virtual breadbasket in Arizona. They supplied large quantities of wheat to the U.S. military and traded farm products, such as beans and squashes, to travelers and newcomers.

By the late 1800s, American settlers had diverted much of the water of the Gila and Salt Rivers that supported native agriculture, causing the Pima and Maricopa tribes to lose their livelihood and ushering in an era of extreme hardship for the tribes.

According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, agriculture accounts for 68 percent of water use in Arizona. A 2017 study by University of Arizona economists estimated that agriculture contributes $23.3 billion to the Arizona economy.

Arroyo 2018 discusses the milestones in water use and development:

The Reclamation Act of 1902 allowed the federal government to fund construction of dams and other irrigation projects.

The Central Arizona Project (CAP), initiated in 1968, diverts water from the Colorado River for use in agriculture and municipalities.

The Groundwater Management Act of 1980 regulated extraction of groundwater. Southern Arizona was divided into Active Management Areas where extraction of groundwater for agricultural use is limited. Agriculture has transitioned to more CAP water. By 2014, groundwater accounted for 40 percent of the state’s annual water use.

Arroyo 2018 notes that farmers have been able to reduce water use, while increasing yields, by making improvements to irrigation systems. Several of those improvements are discussed.

Also, the introduction of genetically modified crops that are resistant to herbicides has made possible the adoption of no-till farming in Arizona. With no-till agriculture, farmers can leave biomass from harvested crops on fields, which lowers soil temperature, reducing soil evaporation and soil salinity. It can also prevent soil erosion.

Arizona farmers are also exploring new crops which use less water: Agave can be marketable for tequila, fiber, and biofuel. Industrial hemp can provide fiber. Guayule can yield rubber and biofuel.

The report concludes:

The agricultural industry has a significant impact on Arizona’s economy, and it is a dominant force in many rural communities across the state. Because different regions have different water conditions, farmers must consider location-specific factors in their water management decisions. Along the Colorado River and Lower Gila River, growers hold some of the oldest and most secure water rights in the state. With this water they have developed a nationally important region for vegetable production. In Central Arizona, CAP water has alleviated groundwater overdraft problems, but the potential for shortage in CAP’s supply is increasing uncertainty in this region. Here, farmers and irrigation districts face the real possibility of being forced to go back to the groundwater pumps or to take lands out of production. Beyond the reach of the CAP, agriculture reliant on groundwater is watching water levels fall as communities struggle to find acceptable regulatory solutions to the threat of depletion.

Growing demands for water, food, and fiber, coupled with near-term likelihood of Colorado River shortage, have led to increased focus on Arizona’s agricultural water use. Water efficiency gains have been substantial in recent decades, reducing total water use while increasing agricultural production statewide. There is still room for efficiency improvements, with the help of science and technology and financial assistance. As they continue to grow, cities and other water users will continue to look for ways to supplement their water supplies through voluntary water transactions with farmers that include attention to impacts on rural communities. Although sometimes contentious, this process can yield mutual benefits. The need for food and fiber will grow locally and globally; and because it is more reliable and productive than dryland farming, irrigated agriculture will supply this need. Finding the right balance among competing water demands in Arizona will take continued collaborations among growers, government, the scientific community, and concerned citizens.

Related articles:

Tucson transitioning to a renewable water supply

Guayule, a desert rubber plant

USGS claims that mercury and selenium are accumulating in the Colorado River

A study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) claims to have found “relatively high -compared with other large rivers” concentrations of mercury (Hg) and selenium (Se) in the food web along the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and the Grand Canyon, The study was done in the summer of 2008, but curiously, results were just published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in August 2015. Perhaps they were taking advantage of publicity associated with the toxic spill from the Gold King mine in Colorado earlier this month.

USGS Hg Se study map

Some excerpts from the press release:

“The study, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, found that concentrations of mercury and selenium in Colorado River food webs of the Grand Canyon National Park, regularly exceeded risk thresholds for fish and wildlife. These risk thresholds indicate the concentrations of toxins in food that could be harmful if eaten by fish, wildlife and humans. These findings add to a growing body of research demonstrating that remote ecosystems are vulnerable to long-range transport and bioaccumulation of contaminants.”

“The study examined food webs at six sites along nearly 250 miles of the Colorado River downstream from Glen Canyon Dam within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park in the summer of 2008. The researchers found that mercury and selenium concentrations in minnows and invertebrates exceeded dietary fish and wildlife toxicity thresholds.”

“Although the number of samples was relatively low, mercury levels in rainbow trout, the most common species harvested by anglers in the study area, were below the EPA threshold that would trigger advisories for human consumption.”

See full paper: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/etc.3077/epdf

From the paper:

“Sampling occurred from 12 to 28 June 2008. At each site, we collected representative basal resources (organic matter and primary producers), macroinvertebrates, and fishes. Basal resources included fine benthic organic matter, seston (suspended organic matter), epilithon (benthic biofilm), attached algae (Cladophora sp.), and epiphyton (diatoms attached to Cladophora). We collected fine benthic organic matter from sandy depositional habitats using a Ponar dredge (0.052 m2 ) deployed from a boat.”

As far as I can determine, the study analyzed fewer than 25 samples of each group along 250 miles of river. That is indeed a very low number upon which to form conclusions.

“In the present study we found no significant differences in Hg and Se accumulation among sites throughout the Grand Canyon.”

“There is a well-documented antagonistic interaction between Se and Hg, whereby Se protects animals from Hg toxicity when Hg:Se molar ratios are approximately 1 or less. The Hg:Se molar ratios were typically much lower than 1 in the present study, ranging from 0.04 (rainbow trout) to 0.38 (fathead minnow) among fish species. Assuming that Se and Hg in prey are equally transferred to consumers, this large excess of Se in this system suggests that the risks of Hg toxicity could be considerably lower than the Hg wildlife risk values alone would indicate.”

From the press release:

“The good news is that concentrations of mercury in rainbow trout were very low in the popular Glen Canyon sport fishery, and all of the large rainbow trout analyzed from the Grand Canyon were also well below the risk thresholds for humans,” said one of the study authors.

“We also found some surprising patterns of mercury in rainbow trout in the Grand Canyon. Biomagnification usually leads to large fish having higher concentrations of mercury than small fish. But we found the opposite pattern, where small, 3-inch rainbow trout in the Grand Canyon had higher concentrations than the larger rainbow trout that anglers target.”

Regarding mercury: “Airborne transport and deposition — with much of it coming from outside the country — is most commonly identified as the mechanism for contaminant introduction to remote ecosystems, and this is a potential pathway for mercury entering the Grand Canyon food web.” Selenium is derived from “irrigation of selenium-rich soils in the upper Colorado River basin contributes much of the selenium that is present in the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.”

The paper abstract notes that “consistent longitudinal patterns in Hg or Se concentrations relative to the dam were lacking.” That would seem to cast in doubt the proposed source of selenium from upstream irrigation of agricultural land. The “relatively high” concentrations they were talking about in fish are 0.17–1.59 ppm Hg and 1.35–2.65 ppm Se.

END

How Tucson Water spends Conservation Fund money and a suggestion for a better way

If you are a Tucson Water customer, you may have noticed an item on the back page of your water bill listed as: “CONSRV FEE $.07/CCF.” This means you are contributing seven cents per cubic foot of water used to a conservation fund. That may not sound like much, but according to an article by Tim Steller, that added up to $2.95 million last year. By the way, this “contribution” to the conservation fund will rise to eight cents per CCF on July 15.

So, how is that money being used? The answer to that question is the objective of a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request filed last January by Mark Lewis, one of five members of the City’s Conservation and Education Subcommittee of the Citizens Water Advisory Committee.

Tucson Water has to date refused to provide the information requested by Mr. Lewis. According to Mr. Lewis, the information requested is “to gather the documentation and information necessary to ensure the funds collected from Tucson Water customers under the Conservation Fee program has been properly accounted for, audited, and expensed.” Mr. Lewis has expressed concern, in his role as an appointed advocate for the Rate Payers of Tucson Water, that the millions of dollars which have been spent through this fund have not been properly tracked or audited and that more recent uses of this fund are not consistent with the purpose of the fund: conserving water.

One conservation program promoted by Tucson Water is the replacement of old toilets with new low-flow models. Tucson Water will give you a $75 rebate toward the cost. According to Steller’s article, “water-wasting toilets remain in around 150,000 Tucson homes, and the program to replace them saved almost 11 million gallons in the first eight months of this fiscal year alone.” Mr. Lewis supports this program, but points out that the small rebate may be insufficient, especially for older homes which may have complicated plumbing issues that would make replacement more expensive.

Another conservation program is rainwater harvesting. Tucson Water will provide a rebate of up to $2000 for installing a system. Steller points out that “those rebates have mostly benefitted wealthier residents and so far have resulted in no measurable reduction in water use.” Mr. Lewis notes that the $900,000 in rain water rebates to date saved no water, but had the same money been spent on wasteful toilets it would have saved 173 million gallons of water to date.

You can read about the program in a brochure provided by Tucson Water: http://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/water/docs/Rainwater_Harvesting_Rebate_brochure.pdf

In that brochure, Tucson Water claims that “45% of the water we use goes to outdoor irrigation.” That number surprises me; I wonder if it is true. The brochure also notes that in order to qualify for the rebate, you have to take a free class. And here is where it gets interesting.

The qualifying class is run by Watershed Management Group, a consulting firm that, for a fee, will design a rainwater harvesting system for you. Three board members of Watershed Management Group, Catlow Shipek, Mark Murphy, and Amy McCoy, comprise three of the five members of the City’s Conservation and Education Subcommittee of the Citizens Water Advisory Committee. The classes are also given by a company that sells rain gutters according to Mr. Lewis. This situation has the appearance of crony capitalism and conflict of interest.

There is another scheme afoot. Tucson City Councilwoman Regina Romero has proposed that $300,000 be used to provide interest free loans to low-income residents so they can plant trees and have them watered by rainwater harvesting systems. Romero is concerned about the “unequal distribution of tree canopy in Tucson…” and its effect on the Urban Heat Island Effect (cities are warmer than surrounding countryside because all the asphalt and concrete absorb heat which makes nighttime cooling much slower). I see two potential problems with this scheme. First, we would have to cover a large part of the city with trees to have any significant effect. Second, all those trees will transpire water, losing moisture to the atmosphere rather than conserving water for reuse.

Given the information above, do you think your forced subsidy is being well-spent?

I have a suggestion on how the money could be spent to actually conserve water.

One of the eco-fads promoted by Tucson Water is rainwater harvesting at residences. So far, that program has resulted in no measurable reduction in water use. But perhaps, if that idea was used on a larger scale, it could help recharge our aquifers. Why don’t we collect storm-water runoff from city streets and in ephemeral flows in the Santa Cruz River and pump that water back into the aquifers via dry wells?

That idea is discussed by Chuck Graf, Senior Hydrologist, Arizona Department of

Environmental Quality in a short article in the Spring Issue of Arizona Water Resource Newsletter (link to article).

This idea is not new. Phoenix began recharging storm-water in the 1930s and now has more than 50,000 wells in operation. Many other communities also use this recharge method. Why not in Tucson and Pima County?

The practice of dry well recharge in Phoenix went largely unregulated until 1987 when legislature directed the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to license dry well installers and establish a registration program for existing and newly constructed dry wells. The law expressly limited the use of dry wells to the disposal of storm water. This limitation was intended to prevent disposal of hazardous chemicals into dry wells, which in the past had caused severe groundwater contamination plumes (some of which are still under remediation).

Graf explains the dry well method as follows:

“The dry well borehole is drilled in alluvial sediments, through any intervening fine-grained and cemented zones, into a permeable layer of clay-free sand, gravel, and cobbles. The permeable layer serves as the injection zone for the storm water. ADEQ requires at least 10 feet of separation between the bottom of the injection zone and the water table. Because groundwater commonly occurs at great depth in Arizona’s alluvial basins, installers often have considerable leeway to find an exceptionally permeable zone above the water table that maximizes dry well performance while maintaining a much greater separation distance than the 10-foot minimum.”

Graf goes on to write:

“Potential adverse groundwater quality impact is the biggest concern about dry wells. Although the definitive water quality study probably remains to be done, a number of studies, including a 10-year study in Los Angeles conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation and others, found little evidence for groundwater contamination. A 1985 study in Phoenix found that dry wells had a beneficial effect on groundwater quality with respect to major chemical constituents”

This idea should be considered. Perhaps then, our involuntary contribution to the “Conservation Fund” would actually conserve some water.

END

Free the Land from the Feds

The federal government owns more than 623 million acres of land, mostly in the western states. The recent defense spending bill included designation of new National Parks, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Heritage areas. How much land is enough?

Most federal land is administered by four agencies: the Bureau of Land management, 258.2 million acres; the Forest Service, 193 million acres; the Fish & Wildlife Service, 93 million acres; and the National Park Service, 79 million acres. Other federal land ownership includes military bases and land held in trust for Indian reservations. The map below shows the concentration of federal lands in the west.

Western federa lands

The State of Utah wants 31.2 million acres of its land back. “In an unprecedented challenge to federal dominance of Western state lands, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert in 2012 signed the ‘Transfer of Public Lands Act,’ which demands that Washington relinquish its hold on the land, which represents more than half of the state’s 54.3 million acres, by Dec. 31, 2014.” (Washington Times) We are still awaiting the outcome of this probably quixotic endeavor. But it sets a precedent and more western states should take up the quest.

Besides outright ownership, the feds are wreaking havoc on private property rights through the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.

In Arizona, for example, the right of Phoenix, the Salt River Project, and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District to divert Colorado River and Salt River water to Phoenix and Tucson is being threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife Service because those diversions allegedly endanger everything from gila topminnows, and chiricahua leopard frogs, as well as willow flycatchers.

The Town of Tombstone was forbidden to fix part of its water supply after it was destroyed in a forest fire because the source is in a wilderness area. (See Tombstone versus the United States)

The EPA and Corps of Engineers are attempting to expand the definitions in the Clean Water Act to include the most tenuous connection to “navigable waters” that would encompass private irrigation ditches, ponds, and puddles in order to gain more control over private property.

Perhaps the new Congress can address some of these abuses of federal regulations and free the land from Big Brother and allow states and private property owners to put the land to productive use.

See also:

Repeal the Endangered Species Act

Endangered Species paperwork to cost $206,098,920

Endangered species act could halt American energy boom

How NEPA crushes productivity

Forest thinning may increase runoff and supplement our water supply

Thinning of southwestern forests, partly to curb devastating forest fires, has long been a controversial subject. In general, forest thinning has been opposed by environmental groups.

Now, however, a new study (“Effects of Climate Variability and Accelerated Forest Thinning on Watershed-Scale Runoff in Southwestern USA Ponderosa Pine Forests” published October 22, 2014) conducted by The Nature Conservancy and Northern Arizona University recommends accelerated forest thinning by mechanical means and controlled burns in central and northern Arizona forests. The study estimates that such thinning will increase runoff by about 20 percent, add to our water supply, and make forests more resilient. You can read the entire study here.

Forest thinning study area

The study abstract reads:

The recent mortality of up to 20% of forests and woodlands in the southwestern United States, along with declining stream flows and projected future water shortages, heightens the need to understand how management practices can enhance forest resilience and functioning under unprecedented scales of drought and wildfire. To address this challenge, a combination of mechanical thinning and fire treatments are planned for 238,000 hectares (588,000 acres) of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests across central Arizona, USA. Mechanical thinning can increase runoff at fine scales, as well as reduce fire risk and tree water stress during drought, but the effects of this practice have not been studied at scales commensurate with recent forest disturbances or under a highly variable climate. Modifying a historical runoff model, we constructed scenarios to estimate increases in runoff from thinning ponderosa pine at the landscape and watershed scales based on driving variables: pace, extent and intensity of forest treatments and variability in winter precipitation. We found that runoff on thinned forests was about 20% greater than unthinned forests, regardless of whether treatments occurred in a drought or pluvial period. The magnitude of this increase is similar to observed declines in snowpack for the region, suggesting that accelerated thinning may lessen runoff losses due to warming effects. Gains in runoff were temporary (six years after treatment) and modest when compared to mean annual runoff from the study watersheds (0–3%). Nonetheless gains observed during drought periods could play a role in augmenting river flows on a seasonal basis, improving conditions for water-dependent natural resources, as well as benefit water supplies for downstream communities. Results of this study and others suggest that accelerated forest thinning at large scales could improve the water balance and resilience of forests and sustain the ecosystem services they provide.

The study also notes that in “ponderosa pine forests of central Arizona, stand densities range from 2 to 44 times greater than during pre-settlement conditions” and all that extra foliage sucks up water and loses it through evapotranspiration, thereby decreasing the availability of water for downstream users and wildlife.

Congress has authorized a program called the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) that will accelerate the use of mechanical thinning and prescribed burns across four national forests, treating 238,000 ha (588,000 acres) in the first analysis area over the next 10 years. That program should be expanded.

Tucson transitioning to a renewable water supply

The state of Tucson’s water supply is always a concern. So how are we doing? Recently, Docents at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum had an update by Wally Wilson, chief hydrologist at Tucson Water. The reason is that we Docents often have to explain to museum visitors what all those rectangular ponds are doing in Avra Valley just west of the museum. The following material is taken from his talk.

Tucson gets water from four sources: pumped groundwater, water transported from the Colorado River via the Central Arizona Project canal (CAP), water reclaimed from sewers, and water treated from former industrial usage (Tucson Airport Reclamation Project, TARP). Water is measured in Acre-feet (AF). One AF is 325,851 gallons and one acre-foot will serve four residences in Tucson for a year. Mr. Wilson presented the following graph on water usage (as of 2011):

Transition-to-renewable-supplies

Notice that total water usage has been declining and has reached the level it was in 1994.  That was surprising to me. Perhaps our conservation efforts are paying off. Mr. Wilson noted that average residential use in Tucson is about 90 gallons per day per capita (versus 200 in Scottsdale). Tucson is conserving groundwater by using more and more CAP water. This graph shows that our groundwater use has declined to what it was in 1959 in spite of our increasing population.

In 2011, CAP supplied 64% of our water while groundwater supplied 20%. The remainder was made up of reclaimed water. Total production in 2011 was 120,350 AF. In 2013, Mr. Wilson expects CAP will supply 80% of our needs allowing us to decrease primary groundwater pumping.

Below is a map of the CAP system. It consists of ponds to recharge the aquifer, wells to pump the water, a treatment plant, and a reservoir which stores 60 million gallons.

Clearwater-map

There are three recharge areas which Tucson Water fondly calls CAVSARP, SAVSARP, and PMRRP. These are the areas featuring recharge ponds filled with CAP water and wells to reclaim the water after it recharges the aquifer.

Why put the water in ponds to sink into the aquifer rather than treating it and pumping it directly to consumers? There are several reasons. When we first began to receive CAP water it was treated and sent to households, but the water wreaked havoc with some of our old plumbing. The current system is plan B and it has several advantages besides being kinder to plumbing.

Water from the ponds sinks into the ground at the rate of about 1.5 feet per day. As it travels 300- to 400 feet to the water table, soil filters out any viruses and bacteria that may be in the water. This filtering method is much less expensive than disinfecting the water in a treatment plant. The water still goes through the Hayden-Udall treatment plant for filtering and chlorination.

Some numbers: CAVSARP recharges 70,000 to 80,000 AF/year and recovers 70,000 AF/year. SAVSARP is permitted to recharge 60,000 AF/year and recovers about 15,000 AF/year. We are still ramping up to use our total CAP allocation. PMRRP is permitted to recharge at the rate of 30,000 AF/year and recovers water at 14,000 AF/year.

Tucson Water claims that it loses about less than 2% of the water due to evaporation from the recharge ponds. The overall CAP system loses about 5% of its water due to evaporation. Most of that occurs in Lake Pleasant which acts as a storage buffer between supply and demand.

Mr. Wilson says Tucson will have plenty of water through 2050 and beyond because we are banking water in the recharge system (and we still have the groundwater). Tucson Water is also pursuing additional sources of renewable water such as water owned by Indian Tribes. For more information see http://cms3.tucsonaz.gov/water .

See also my older posts on our water supply:

Water Supply and Demand in Tucson

How much water is there?

Trends in groundwater levels around Tucson

EPA war on coal threatens Tucson water supply

Arizona may have larger potable groundwater resource

Southern Arizona gets about 43% of its water by pumping groundwater aquifers.  The geology is well-suited for this because Southern Arizona is in the Basin and Range province which contains very deep, fault-bounded valleys.  In some places, bedrock is as much as 15,000 feet below the surface.   Portions of the Tucson and Avra valleys are over 8,000 feet down to bedrock.  Such valleys are filled with alluvium and water.

Figure-1-salinity-statewide-map-v3

Currently, water for drinking exploits aquifers down to a depth of about 1,200 feet.  Generally water below that depth is too salty for drinking.

Following up on two previous studies, Estimated Depth to Bedrock in Arizona and Preliminary evaluation of Cenozoic Basins in Arizona for CO2 sequestration Potential, the Arizona Geological Survey in a new study, examined the salinities of Arizona groundwater.  The study is A Summary of Salinities in Arizona’s Deep Groundwater, Arizona Geological Survey Open-File Report, OFR-12-26.

As part of that study, geologists of the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) reviewed geophysical well logs to catalog the concentration of total dissolved solids (TDS, i.e., salinity) of 270 water wells.  This included all water wells that penetrated deeper than about 2,600 feet, which is the minimum depth necessary to sequester carbon dioxide.

Among the results of that study, AZGS found that on the Colorado Plateau and in the Basin and Range province, there are some areas where “Fresh water can extend as deep as 5,000 feet (1,500 m), but below 6,600 feet (2,000 m) only brackish or saline groundwater was encountered..”   Water is considered “fresh” if it contains less than 1,000 ppm (parts per million) TDS.  Water is “brackish” if TDS are 1,000- to 30,000 ppm.  “Saline” water contains greater than 30,000 ppm TDS.  Sea water is about 35,000 ppm TDS.

This means that we may be able to extract drinking water from deeper aquifers in some areas.

See also:

Water Supply and Demand in Tucson

How much water is there?

Trends in groundwater levels around Tucson