People for the West -Tucson
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Newsletter, April, 2015
Pine Beetles Killing US Forests, But….
by Jonathan DuHamel
In the last 15 years, bark beetles in the western U.S. have killed pine forests over more than 140,000 square miles.
It has been claimed that the beetles make the forests more susceptible to wildfires and that the infestation is caused by mild winter due to global warming. New research shows that both claims are not true.
According to a study by the University of Colorado:
Western U.S. forests killed by the mountain pine beetle epidemic are no more at risk to burn than healthy Western forests.
The CU-Boulder study authors looked at the three peak years of Western wildfires since 2002, using maps produced by federal land management agencies and ground, airplane and satellite data from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to produce maps of both beetle infestation and the extent of wildfire burns across the West.
The researchers superimposed maps of areas burned in the West in 2006, 2007 and 2012 on maps of areas identified as infested by mountain pine beetles.
The area of forests burned during those three years combined were responsible for 46 percent of the total area burned in the West from 2002 to 2013.
The bottom line is that forests infested by the mountain pine beetle are not more likely to burn at a regional scale. The study found that alterations in the forest infested by the mountain pine beetle are not as important in fires as overriding drivers like climate and topography. Drought seems to be the most controlling factor in wildfires in the Western U.S.
A new study from Dartmouth claims that mild winters are not fueling all pine beetle outbreaks in the western United States. The study findings appear in the journal Landscape Ecology. According to the press release:
The researchers examined the long-term trend in minimum air temperatures across 23 ecoregions in western U.S. forests that have had bark beetle outbreaks and assessed whether increased beetle survival due to warming winters permitted the outbreaks. The results show the coldest winter night has warmed by about 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1960 across Western forests. “This amount of warming could be the difference between pests surviving in areas that were historically unfavorable and could permit more severe and prolonged pest outbreaks in regions where historical outbreaks were halted by more frequent cold bouts,” says first author Aaron Weed, a former postdoctoral researcher at Dartmouth and now an ecologist at the National Park Service.
Despite the trend for warming winters across western U.S. forests, not all beetle populations between 1997 and 2010 have responded to winter warming. In the 11 coldest ecoregions, winter temperatures lethal to the mountain pine beetle have become less frequent since the 1980s and beetle-caused tree mortality has increased significantly in these regions. But in the 12 warmer ecoregions, recent beetle epidemics cannot be attributed to warming winters because earlier winters were rarely cold enough to kill the beetles.
The material from Dartmouth above seems rather equivocal to me, indicating that the researchers still do not have a good handle on the effects of climate change on the spread or survival of pine beetles.
Also, the story below shows that much of the alleged warming in the Western U.S. is due to instrumental error.
Artificial amplification of warming trends across the mountains of the western United States
by Jared W. Oyler et al.
Observations from the main mountain climate station network in the western United States (U.S.) suggest that higher elevations are warming faster than lower elevations. This has led to the assumption that elevation-dependent warming is prevalent throughout the region with impacts to water resources and ecosystem services. Here we critically evaluate this network’s temperature observations and show that extreme warming observed at higher elevations is the result of systematic artifacts and not climatic conditions. With artifacts removed, the network’s 1991–2012 minimum temperature trend decreases from +1.16°C per decade to +0.106°C per decade and is statistically indistinguishable from lower elevation trends. Moreover, longer-term widely used gridded climate products propagate the spurious temperature trend, thereby amplifying 1981–2012 western U.S. elevation-dependent warming by +217 to +562%. In the context of a warming climate, this artificial amplification of mountain climate trends has likely compromised our ability to accurately attribute climate change impacts across the mountainous western U.S. (Source)
The “systematic artifacts” in the story above are sensor changes that have significantly biased temperature observations from the Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) station network. Equipment was switched at SNOTEL sites in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s. (See story)
“In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the prediction of a specific future climate state is not possible.”
— Final chapter, TAR 2000 (Third Assessment Report), IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
Monarch butterfly doesn’t need so much help
Some environmentalists are calling doom and gloom for the monarch butterfly, but some entomologists take a difference view. The following is a excerpt from an article by Dr. Daniel Rubinoff, professor of entomology specializing in insect conservation at the University of Hawaii. (Read the whole article here.)
A group of organizations and individuals has petitioned the Interior Department to protect the monarch by having it listed under the Endangered Species Act. I strongly support insect conservation and the organizations behind this effort, but I don’t support an endangered listing for the monarch.
It’s true that monarch populations in eastern North America are down about 90 percent in the past 20 years — a serious decline. Monarch watchers across the country report far fewer sightings than in the past. So why not list the species?
To begin, the overwintering population in Mexico still totals more than 30 million. Most insect conservationists would be thrilled to record numbers even a tenth of that for many rare species around the country. And that total doesn’t include the millions of monarchs in populations wintering in California, or those that live year-round in Central America and the Caribbean, or the introduced populations thriving across the Pacific islands and in Australia.
The monarch is one of the most widespread species of butterfly in the world. Its ability to find and colonize even isolated patches of milkweed — the host plant for their larvae — is renowned. Monarchs came to Hawaii more than 150 years ago, after milkweed was introduced, and they are now one of the most common and familiar insects in the state. They’ve moved through Tahiti, the Society Islands and New Caledonia. Once an occasional vagrant, the butterfly flourished after ornamental milkweed was brought to Guam and Australia. This is not a globally rare insect.
While the monarch is not an endangered species, the winter congregations of monarchs in Mexico are an “endangered phenomenon.” Their decline, thought initially to have been caused by the deforestation of the Oyamel firs they rely on for winter roosting, may have been accelerated by the increased use of genetically modified crops resistant to herbicides that are lethal to milkweed. But we are unlikely to lose even the migratory phenomenon; the gene governing their predilection for migrating is an ancient one, and we’d have trouble breeding the migration out of them if we tried. In fact, migratory overwintering by monarchs is not unique to North America. Introduced Australian and New Zealand monarchs migrate to the coast and gather en masse to ride out the austral winter. As long as there are monarchs in North America, they will migrate.
Unfortunately, species conservation can be very much a zero-sum game. Pouring additional resources into bolstering the monarch is sure to come at the expense of their less famous, less charismatic, but far rarer brethren. An endangered listing should be reserved for animals much closer to the brink, such as the Mariana wandering butterfly, which hasn’t been seen in more than 20 years. This species is known only from the Mariana Islands, where, incidentally, the monarch introduced itself and is thriving. Virtually nothing has been spent to protect the Mariana wanderer.
The Fish and Wildlife Service dedicated $3.2 million just to grow more milkweed for the monarch. The millions in funding that the government is spending on the monarch (not counting the resources expended by the many private groups dedicated to the species) is money that is lost to the conservation of the unsung multitudes of rare insects that will never get their day in the sun, especially not now.
“It seems to me that climate science is currently dominated by computer modelers, with little comprehension of the natural climate cycles which have driven climate change throughout the Holocene.”
-David Middleton, geologist
The Tip Of The Climate Spending Iceberg
by Paul Driessen
The multi-billion-dollar agenda reflects the Obama Administration’s commitment to using climate change to radically transform America. It reflects a determination to make the climate crisis industry so enormous that no one will be able to tear it down, even as computer models and disaster claims become less and less credible – and even if Republicans control Congress and the White House after 2016.
But Climate Crisis, Inc. is using our tax and consumer dollars to advance six simultaneous strategies.
1) Climate research. The US government spends $2.5 billion per year on research that focuses on carbon dioxide, ignores powerful natural forces that have always driven climate change, and generates numerous reports and press releases warning of record high temperatures, melting icecaps, rising seas, stronger storms, more droughts and other “unprecedented” crises. The claims are erroneous and deceitful.
2) Renewable energy research and implementation grants, loans, subsidies and mandates drive projects to replace hydrocarbons that are still abundant and still 82% of all US energy consumed.
3) Regulatory fiats increasingly substitute for laws and carbon taxes that Congress refuses to enact, due to concerns about economic and employment impacts, and because China, India and other countries’ CO2 emissions dwarf America’s. EPA’s war on coal has already claimed thousands of jobs, raised electricity costs for millions of businesses and families, and adversely affected living standards, health and welfare for millions of families. The White House and EPA are also targeting oil and gas drilling and fracking.
4) A new UN climate treaty would limit fossil fuel use by developed countries, place no binding limits or timetables on developing nations, and redistribute hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries that claim they have been harmed by emissions and warming due to rich country hydrocarbon use. Even IPCC officials now openly brag that climate policy has “almost nothing” to do with protecting the environment – and everything to do with intentionally transforming the global economy and redistributing its wealth.
5) Vicious personal attacks continue on scientists, businessmen, politicians and others who disagree publicly with the catechism of climate cataclysm.
6) Thought control. In addition to vilifying climate chaos skeptics, alarmists are determined to control all thinking on the subject. They are terrified that people will find realist analyses and explanations far more persuasive. They refuse to debate skeptics, respond to NIPCC and other studies examining natural climate change and carbon dioxide benefits to wildlife and agriculture, or even admit there is no consensus. Read full article
Official Fake Temperatures By Climate Agencies: The Temperature Fabrication Issue Bigger Than Thought
“Consensus” climate science temperature adjustments by various national climate agencies has pretty much destroyed the credibility of government funded climate researchers…currently, it has gotten so bad that hardly anyone takes seriously the predictions of the climate-doomsday cult…in fact, the only remaining believers are the die-hard fringe cult leaders who prosper nicely from doing so…..
Recent examinations by analysts Paul Homewood, Tony Heller and others confirm that a wide variety of official temperature datasets have been excessively manipulated by climate “scientists” – to the point where policymakers can no longer be sure if climate records can be trusted.
The blatant temperature manipulation perpetrated on the public has been, for the most part, an esoteric issue discussed by individuals familiar with temperature record analyses. (Peer reviewed research indicates that the fake-warming likely represents 25 to 50% of reported global warming by the climate agencies.) Read more
Obama Administration’s New Fracking Rules Hurt The Poor
Investors Business Daily
The administration’s new rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal lands will add to the cost of shale oil and gas drilling operations and hamper an industry that’s been front and center in the economic recovery.
Given this president’s allegiance to the environmental lobby, this may be the whole point of the new rules — to stop fossil-fuel development in order to make expensive renewable energy the only alternative.
But a new study from the Brookings Institution — hardly conservative in its orientation — suggests the biggest victims of these new rules will be the poorest Americans, who’ll have to pay higher energy costs.
Titled “Welfare and Distributional Implications of Shale Gas,” the study finds that the annual per-family savings from shale gas are in the hundreds of dollars.
“The shale gas revolution has led to an increase in welfare for natural gas consumers and producers of $48 billion per year,” Brookings concludes, while also acknowledging “more data are needed on the extent and valuation of the environmental costs of shale gas production.”
It also finds that the 47% decline in natural gas prices due to shale gas has meant the “residential consumer gas bills dropped $13 billion a year from 2007-2013, thanks to the fracking revolution, amounting to $200 per year for gas-consuming households.” Read more
Green Energy Causes Record Spike In Electricity Prices
by Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller
In 2014, American households saw the largest electricity price increases in 6 years, according to government data, as utilities are forced to use more green energy and invest in energy efficiency and grid improvements.
Energy Information Administration data shows that U.S. residential electricity prices “experienced large increases in retail electricity prices during 2014, with the average U.S. residential price increasing 3.1% over the previous year.” Last year’s price increase was the highest of any year since 2008 when prices rose 5.7 percent.
But why did electricity prices skyrocket last year?
EIA says “increased investment in transmission and distribution infrastructure, rising requirements to generate electricity from renewable energy sources, and utility investment in demand-side efficiency” combined have increased prices. Read full article
Test at Tonopah solar project ignites hundreds of birds in mid-air
by Anthony Watts
“It’s no secret that solar power is hot right now, with innovators and big name companies alike putting a great deal of time, money, and effort into improving these amazing sources of renewable energy. Still, the last thing you’d likely expect is for a new experimental array to literally light nearly 130 birds in mid-flight on fire.
And yet, that’s exactly what happened near Tonopah, Nevada last month during tests of the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project.”
“According to Rudy Evenson, Deputy Chief of Communications for Nevada Bureau of Land Management (NBLM) in Reno, as reported by Re Wire, a third of the newly constructed plant was put into action on the morning of Jan. 14, redirecting concentrated solar energy to a point 1,200 feet above the ground.”
“Unfortunately, about two hours into the test, engineers and biologists on site started noticing “streamers” – trails of smoke and steam caused by birds flying directly into the field of solar radiation. What moisture was on them instantly vaporized, and some instantly burst into flames – at least, until they began to frantically flap away. An estimated 130 birds were injured or killed during the test.” Read more
This is Your President’s Science Advisor
by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
A President’s political appointees are chosen because their views support the President’s political leanings. This is to be expected.
One might expect the Science Advisor position to be more politics-free, but not these days. The President’s choice of John Holdren, previously a professor at Berkley, to be his science advisor tells us something about his policies.
Holdren wrote this 1975 newspaper article, entitled Too Much Energy, Too Soon, a Hazard, about the dangers of having too much energy available for human use.
Among some of the gems of wisdom there, we find this:
Finally, less energy can mean more employment. The energy producing industries comprise the most capital intensive and least labour intensive major sector of the economy. Accordingly, each dollar of investment capital taken out of energy production and invested in something else, and each personal consumption dollar saved by reduced energy use and spent elsewhere in the economy will create more jobs than are lost.
Now, one doesn’t need to be an economist to see the problem with this position. Holdren thinks that because the energy sector generates so much energy so efficiently with so few people and with so much capital investment, that must be a bad thing. He is either unaware (he can’t be that stupid) or he chooses to hide the fact that all of that energy is demanded by the rest of the country for everything we do. Energy enables people to make things and provide services.
As I’ve said before (and I’ve asked some of the nation’s top economists about the validity of my views), if you really want full employment, just put everyone to work digging holes in the ground and filling them up again. Just having “jobs” is not the desired goal; what we do in those jobs makes all the difference. Jobs must efficiently provide goods or services desired by the rest of society in order for everyone, poor and rich alike, to prosper.
And abundant, affordable energy is required for all of those productive jobs.
It literally scares me that people like this have so much influence in our country. (Source)
A little-noted masterpiece of constitutional scholarship by Justice Thomas
By Mark J. Fitzgibbons, American Thinker
[Note: this article is about separation of powers.]
From Justice Thomas, highlights:
When the Government is called upon to perform a function that requires an exercise of legislative, executive, or judicial power, only the vested recipient of that power can perform it.
For example, Congress improperly “delegates” legislative power when it authorizes an entity other than itself to make a determination that requires an exercise of legislative power.
An examination of the history of those powers reveals how far our modern separation-of-powers jurisprudence has departed from the original meaning of the Constitution.
The function at issue here is the formulation of generally applicable rules of private conduct. Under the original understanding of the Constitution, that function requires the exercise of legislative power. By corollary, the discretion inherent in executive power does not comprehend the discretion to formulate generally applicable rules of private conduct.
The idea has ancient roots in the concept of the “rule of law,” which has been understood since Greek and Roman times to mean that a ruler must be subject to the law in exercising his power and may not govern by will alone.
…it became increasingly apparent over time that the rule of law demanded that the operations of “making” law and of “putting it into effect” be kept separate…. But when the King’s power was at its height, it was still accepted that his “principal duty . . . [was], to govern his people according to law.”
…it was generally thought that the King could not use his proclamation power to alter the rights and duties of his subjects…. but he could not of his own accord “make a law or impose a charge.”
King James I made a famous attempt…prompting the influential jurist Chief Justice Edward Coke to write that the King could not “change any part of the common law, nor create any offence by his proclamation, which was not an offence before, without Parliament….” Coke associated this principle with Chapter 39 of the Magna Carta, which he understood to guarantee that no subject would be deprived of a private right—that is, a right of life, liberty, or property—except in accordance with “the law of the land,” which consisted only of statutory and common law….. When the King attempted to fashion rules of private conduct unilaterally, as he did in the Case of Proclamations, the resulting enforcement action could not be said to accord with “the law of the land.”
It followed that this freedom required that the power to make the standing rules and the power to enforce them not lie in the same hands.
William Blackstone….defined a tyrannical government as one in which “the right both of making and of enforcing the laws, is vested in one and the same man, or one and the same body of men,” for “wherever these two powers are united together, there can be no public liberty.”…Thus, although Blackstone viewed Parliament as sovereign and capable of changing the constitution, … he thought a delegation of lawmaking power to be “disgrace[ful]” ….
… in The Federalist 47, Madison wrote that “[n]o political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value, or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty than” the separation of powers…. “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” …
This devotion to the separation of powers is, in part, what supports our enduring conviction that the Vesting
Clauses are exclusive and that the branch in which a power is vested may not give it up or otherwise reallocate it. The Framers were concerned not just with the starting allocation, but with the “gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department.” The Federalist No. 51, at 321 (J. Madison). It was this fear that prompted the Framers to build checks and balances into our constitutional structure, so that the branches could defend their powers on an ongoing basis….
In this sense, the founding generation did not subscribe to Blackstone’s view of parliamentary supremacy. Parliament’s violations of the law of the land had been a significant complaint of the American Revolution…. even the legislature must be made subject to the law.
At the center of the Framers’ dedication to the separation of powers was individual liberty…. This was not liberty in the sense of freedom from all constraint, but liberty as described by Lo. I do not mean to suggest here that the Framers believed an Act of the Legislature was sufficient to deprive a person of private rights; only that it was necessary.
The “check” the judiciary provides to maintain our separation of powers is enforcement of the rule of law through judicial review.
We have been willing to check the improper allocation of executive power, see, e.g., Free Enterprise Fund,… although probably not as often as we should…. Our record with regard to legislative power has been far worse.
Implicitly recognizing that the power to fashion legally binding rules is legislative, we have nevertheless classified rulemaking as executive (or judicial) power when the authorizing statute sets out “an intelligible principle” to guide the rulemaker’s discretion…. Although the Court may never have intended the boundless standard the “intelligible principle” test has become, it is evident that it does not adequately reinforce the Constitution’s allocation of legislative power. I would return to the original understanding of the federal legislative power and require that the Federal Government create generally applicable rules of private conduct only through the constitutionally prescribed legislative process.
We have overseen and sanctioned the growth of an administrative system that concentrates the power to make laws and the power to enforce them in the hands of a vast and unaccountable administrative apparatus that finds no comfortable home in our constitutional structure. The end result may be trains that run on time (although I doubt it), but the cost is to our Constitution and the individual liberty it protects.
“Without justice being freely, fully, and impartially administered, neither our persons, nor our rights, nor our property, can be protected. And if these, or either of them, are regulated by no certain laws, and are subject to no certain principles, and are held by no certain tenure, and are redressed, when violated, by no certain remedies, society fails of all its value; and men may as well return to a state of savage and barbarous independence.”
–Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
From Eisenhower’s farewell address:
“Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”
More urban heat; less summer fog, on California coast
By Larry O’Hanlon
The summer fog that shrouds coastal southern California – what locals call the June Gloom – is being driven up into the sky by urban sprawl, according to scientists who have studied 67 years of cloud heights and urban growth in the region. Less fog may, at first, seem like a good thing. But less fog is bad news for native plants in the coastal hills and mountains, which depend on the cool fog as their only source of water during the rainless summer months. So less fog means warmer, drier, less healthy hillsides and potentially more fires. Read more
Obama’s 2010 Economic Estimate For 2014 Off By $1 Trillion
by Neil Munro, Daily Caller
The U.S. economy produced $1 trillion less in 2014 than President Barack Obama promised in his February 2010 financial plan.
The missing $1 trillion adds up to $3,053 less for every American man, woman and child.
It highlights the huge gap between Obama’s promise that his progressive, big-government economic policies would jump-start the economy, and the hard reality of America’s complex society and economy.
The failure of Obama-economics was highlighted March 28, when the federal government admitted that the economy grew only 2.2 percent in 2014.
That’s a little more than half the inflation-adjusted growth of 3.9 percent predicted for 2014 by Obama when he submitted his first economic plan to Congress in February 2010. Read more
“The measure of good science is neither the politics of the scientist nor the people with whom the scientist associates. It is the immersion of hypotheses into the acid of truth. That’s the hard way to do it, but it’s the only way that works.” – Ted Koppel
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