science

Education Emergency: Our Children (and US) at Risk

This is a guest post by John Droz, jr.

As an independent physicist I’ve spent 40± years on environmental advocacy, and energy education. In the later part of this journey I’ve become increasingly distressed about what is happening in our education system.

After speaking out about this several times, in 2013 I was asked to put on a presentation to the US House Science, Space and Technology Committee, as well as to the North Carolina Legislators. The unabridged version of both of those talks is online at ScienceUnderAssault.info.

Since then, most of what I’ve seen indicates that the situation is getting worse, rather than remedied. This is a summary of key education parts that need to be immediately addressed. Hopefully it will encourage citizens to get more involved with rectifying this extraordinarily important matter.

1 – We can not effectively fix anything until we are on the same page. I believe that the place to start here, is that we need to fully agree on the overall objective of the education system. Exactly what is the product we expect to get at the end of a laborious 12+ year assembly line?

In my view, the number one criteria for determining whether the educational system has been a success or not is: do these graduates have the ability and inclination to do Critical Thinking?

Google founder Vint Cerf says that there is no more important skill to teach than Critical Thinking. He calls it the one tool we have to defend ourselves from the onslaught of misinformation we are saturated with today. He argues that Critical Thinking would enable citizens to be more thoughtful about what information they accept, then process, and then use. That skill is a major benefit in literally every aspect of life.

My experience is that while the education system gives lip-service to Critical Thinking, when the rubber-meets-the-road, it’s not really happening. An easy test is to ask any college or high school student today what they think about global warming. Do they provide a thoughtful, thorough analysis — or simply regurgitate propaganda?

My first recommendation is that this be adopted by every state education department, every local school board, every academic institution, etc:

It is our obligation to produce critically thinking graduates.”

2 – I’m a zealous defender of my profession, Science. Most people are not aware of it, but Science is under a ferocious attack, worldwide. The reason is that individuals and organizations promoting political agendas, or their own economic interests, are acutely aware that real Science is not their friend — as it will expose them for what they are.

Those self-serving parties realize that even though most citizens have faith in Science, very few actually understand what Science is. So they take advantage of that discrepancy, by purposefully making false Science claims. They are fully aware that only a small number of people will understand the fraud — and even fewer will say anything public about it.

From what I’ve seen, the most egregious assaults on Science are taking place in such newbie science branches such as Environmental Science, Earth Science, Ecology, etc.

This campaign is being supported by slick internet video “science” series like Crash Course, Bozeman Science, etc. Listen carefully to the Crash Course founder explaining why they made over 200 education videos. He says “We don’t really have a coherent answer.” SAY WHAT?! I call these QVC Science, as (IMO) they are effectively polished sales pitches.

Propagandizing Science starts in our local schools. The good news is that the solution is also there — and is entirely under our control (see #3).

Recommendation number two is that I’m advocating that every state education department, every local school board, every academic institution, formally adopt and implement this standard:

Science education will be apolitical.”

3 -In my countrywide travels and correspondences I’ve heard from many parents of students. Quite a few have complained about various matters going on in their district. I asked them what response they got when they expressed their concerns to the teacher, principal, school board or superintendent? Most said essentially the same thing: they were reluctant to speak out for fear of retribution to their child. What a wonderful system.

The remaining citizens are those with no school children. Those people understandably believe that the school system is being held accountable by those with the most at stake: parents of current children. But no! My wife and I are in the second group. We were warned that because we had no kids in the system, that defenders of the status quo would instead attack us personally if we spoke up publicly about the secondary school system. We’d be accused of being anti-superintendent, anti-school board, anti-teacher, and/or anti-children.

It seems rather hypocritical that school districts who pride themselves for enforcing a “no tolerance” bullying policy between students, would actually tolerate intimidation of citizens who have the temerity to speak up about school system improvements…

Most people (including us) would like the federal government to stay out of the education business. Additionally we would also prefer that the state have minimal involvement in the education process. We want the ability to locally decide what is best for our children and our community.

We rarely hear about the flip side to this freedom: responsibility. If we want to control things ourselves, for our interests, then that means that there has to be real community involvement which includes unfettered and unpenalized inputs from parents and citizens.

So my third suggestion is that every state education department and school district officially adopt the following position for their interfaces with parents and the public (prominently putting it on their websites, letterhead, etc):

Please tell us how we can do a better job!

When inputs from the public are received the choice is very simple. The recipients can be genuinely appreciative that citizens take the time to make constructive suggestions to improve student education — or they can circle the wagons, and defend the status quo. Ironically, it’s the later action that necessitates more higher level intervention…

Whether you have children in the education system or not, is irrelevant. The future of our country, is literally at stake here. We all are going to sink or swim based on whether we have an effective education system. Please carefully investigate what is happening in your community.

John Droz, jr has a website dealing with renewable energy: http://wiseenergy.org/

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Climate Change Reconsidered II – Biological Impact

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), a coalition of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), and The Heartland Institute has just released its new volume of real climate science that opposes the science fiction of the UN’s IPCC. The documents can be obtained from the NIPCC main website: http://climatechangereconsidered.org/

Last fall they released a report on the physical science of climate change. That report may be downloaded as a Summary for Policy Makers (22 pages) and CCR-II Physical Science (Ca. 1,000 pages, 20Mb) are available for free download. I summarized this report in a previous post.

The new report concerns the biological impact of climate change. The full report is more than 1000 pages (19.5Mb) and available here:

http://heartland.org/media-library/pdfs/CCR-IIb/Full-Report.pdf

 There is a 20-page Summary for Policy Makers here:

http://heartland.org/media-library/pdfs/CCR-IIb/Summary-for-Policymakers.pdf

 Later this month, NIPCC will publish another volume concerning human welfare, energy, and policies.

 Below are very brief summaries of these two volumes, physical science and biological impacts taken from the Summary for Policy Makers:

Physical Science Summary

 • Global climate models are unable to make accurate projections of climate even 10 years ahead, let alone the 100-year period that has been adopted by policy planners. The output of such models should therefore not be used to guide public policy formulation.

 • Neither the rate nor the magnitude of the reported late twentieth century surface warming (1979–2000) lay outside the range of normal natural variability, nor were they in any way unusual compared to earlier episodes in Earth’s climatic history.

 • Solar forcing of temperature change is likely more important than is currently recognized.

 • No unambiguous evidence exists of dangerous interference in the global climate caused by human-related CO2 emissions. In particular, the cryosphere is not melting at an enhanced rate; sea-level rise is not accelerating; and no systematic changes have been documented in evaporation or rainfall or in the magnitude or intensity of extreme meteorological events.

 • Any human global climate signal is so small as to be nearly indiscernible against the background variability of the natural climate system. Climate change is always occurring.

 • A phase of temperature stasis or cooling has succeeded the mild warming of the twentieth century. Similar periods of warming and cooling due to natural variability are certain to occur in the future irrespective of human emissions of greenhouse gases.

Biological Impacts Summary

• Atmospheric carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. It is a non-toxic, non-irritating, and natural component of the atmosphere. Long-term CO2 enrichment studies confirm the findings of shorter-term experiments, demonstrating numerous growth-enhancing, water-conserving, and stress-alleviating effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on plants growing in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

 • The ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content is causing a great greening of the Earth. All across the planet, the historical increase in the atmosphere’s CO2 concentration has stimulated vegetative productivity. This observed stimulation, or greening of the Earth, has occurred in spite of many real and imagined assaults on Earth’s vegetation, including fires, disease, pest outbreaks, deforestation, and climatic change.

 • There is little or no risk of increasing food insecurity due to global warming or rising atmospheric CO2 levels. Farmers and others who depend on rural livelihoods for income are benefitting from rising agricultural productivity throughout the world, including in parts of Asia and Africa where the need for increased food supplies is most critical. Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels play a key role in the realization of such benefits.

 • Terrestrial ecosystems have thrived throughout the world as a result of warming temperatures and rising levels of atmospheric CO2. Empirical data pertaining to numerous animal species, including amphibians, birds, butterflies, other insects, reptiles, and mammals, indicate global warming and its myriad ecological effects tend to foster the expansion and proliferation of animal habitats, ranges, and populations, or otherwise have no observable impacts one way or the other. Multiple lines of evidence indicate animal species are adapting, and in some cases evolving, to cope with climate change of the modern era.

 • Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels do not pose a significant threat to aquatic life. Many aquatic species have shown considerable tolerance to temperatures and CO2 values predicted for the next few centuries, and many have demonstrated a likelihood of positive responses in empirical studies. Any projected adverse impacts of rising temperatures or declining seawater and freshwater pH levels (“acidification”) will be largely mitigated through phenotypic adaptation or evolution during the many decades to centuries it is expected to take for pH levels to fall.

 • A modest warming of the planet will result in a net reduction of human mortality from temperature-related events. More lives are saved by global warming via the amelioration of cold-related deaths than those lost under excessive heat. Global warming will have a negligible influence on human morbidity and the spread of infectious diseases, a phenomenon observed in virtually all parts of the world.

These reports are supported by thousands of peer-reviewed papers.

Book Review – Budding Biologist, Am I an Insect?

This book is the first in a planned series of children’s books intended to promote accurate science. This short, well-illustrated, simply-written book is appropriate for pre-school and grammar school children.

The book is written by Kristine Callis-Duehl and illustrated by Katy Castronovo, both young mothers. The book was produced because Kristine found many misconceptions about science in existing children’s books, such as classifying spiders as insects. Kristine is a PhD candidate at the University of Florida in the Department of Biology who has published in the academic literature for both her research in plant-insect interactions and for science education. Katy has a BFA in Painting and Drawing from Ohio State University.

The format of the book is simple: one page shows an illustration and asks a question. The following page shows another illustration and answers the question and usually provides some additional information. Besides teaching science to children, the book could be used to teach them to read and to think analytically. You could use the book as part of practical projects such as examining insects outdoors. This is a very interesting concept that will engage children.

For more information, go to the author’s website: www.BuddingBiologist.com where you can watch a short video to see the authors explain the book’s concept and get free lesson plans.

The planned second book in the Budding Biologist series,”Where Do I Live?” is about animals’ adaptations to their environment.

You can purchase the book from the author’s website and it is also available at Amazon.

Mesquite Trees Provide Food and a Pharmacy

The ethnobotany of Mesquite trees is extensive. The trees provide food, medicine, beverages, glue, hair dye, firewood, and furniture. Mesquites coevolved with large herbivores such as mammoths, mastodons, and ground sloths, which ate the pods and dispersed them widely. When these Pleistocene animals became extinct, mesquites retreated to flood plains and washes where water and weathering scarified the seeds and aided germination. The introduction of cattle helped to expand the range of mesquites once again.

IMG_0347-550x412

Use as food

Mesquite beans are usually harvested after they turn hard and golden. Both the pods and the seeds (which are very tough) are ground into meal. The native people sprinkled the ground meal with a little water to form small, round cakes. Later, slices of dried cake were fried like mush, used to thicken stews, or eaten raw. The meal is also used as flour to make flat bread. Mesquite meal is gluten free.

The pods of mesquite beans are very sweet and the sweetness comes from fructose which doesn’t require insulin to be metabolized. The seeds contain about 35% protein, much more than soybeans. Mesquite pods contain about 25% fiber. Some research suggests that mesquite meal, with a low glycemic index of 25, helps regulate blood sugar.

Mesquite flour is used to make a refreshing drink. If allowed to ferment, a mixture of water and mesquite flour produces a fizzy alcoholic drink.

Mesquite flowers are collected and boiled to make tea. The flowers are also roasted and pressed into balls as another food source.

The pharmacy

The black tar or sap of mesquite trees can be boiled and diluted with water to make eye wash and an antiseptic for open wounds. It was also used on sore lips, chapped skin, as a sunburn lotion, and as a treatment for venereal disease.

A liquid made from boiling the inner bark of the tree was used as a laxative and as an emetic.

Tea made from mesquite leaves was used for headaches and stomach trouble. This tea also was used to cure conjunctivitis and to heal painful gums.

Other uses

The Pima Indians used the black tar as a hair dye. This involved boiling the tar and applying the mixture to the hair, covering the hair with mud over night, then thoroughly washing the next morning. Resin from the tree was used as glue to mend pottery, or when boiled and diluted, as paint for pottery. The inner bark of the tree was used for basketry.

General information

There are several species of mesquite trees. Within the desert southwest, the Velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina), the Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), and the Screwbean mesquite (Prosopis pubescens) are most common. These deciduous plants form shrubs and trees up to 30 feet tall. The branches contain spines. Most of the roots of mesquite trees are within the upper three feet of soil where most of the oxygen and water are. However, mesquite roots can go very deep. The deepest live root, found in a copper mine, extended 160 feet below the surface.

If you collect fallen bean pods, you may notice small holes in the pods. These holes are made by bruchid beetles, which infested the fallen bean as larvae, when it was green and tender. The holes were made by the mature beetle getting out of the bean. Don’t worry, the beetles just add more protein. Another insect found commonly with mesquite trees is the Giant Mesquite Bug.

For a description of the common mesquite species see here.

For more natural history and photos, see here.

For recipes using mesquite, see here.

Three Desert Squirrels

There are three common squirrels in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert: the rock squirrel, the round-tailed ground squirrel, and Harris’ antelope ground squirrel. I happen to have all three in my yard, although Harris’ is just a visitor.

rock-squirrel

The rock squirrel (Spermophilus variegatus) is the largest of the three, up to 1.5 pounds. It resembles eastern tree squirrels. This squirrel is grey with reddish to brownish tinge, usually on its back. It has a large bushy tail. Rock squirrels are found in many habitats, except for the driest part of the desert. They are true omnivores, feeding on seeds, mesquite beans, insects, eggs, birds, carrion, as well as cactus fruit.

I have seen them kill and eat snakes. Upon encountering a snake, a rock squirrel will stamp its feet and wave its tail from side to side while facing the snake. It also tries to flick sand or dirt in the snake’s face with its front paws. This behavior is called mobbing. Researchers in California note that rock squirrels can distinguish between venomous and non-venomous snakes, and change their mobbing behavior accordingly. Yes, they will attack rattlesnakes. Apparently, adult rock squirrels can at least partially neutralize rattlesnake venom. Rattlesnakes have heat-sensing organs which can detect a difference in temperature as little as 0.01 F at one foot. There is some research that suggests that rock squirrels take advantage of this. The squirrel can pump extra blood into its tail to make the tail warmer than its body, thereby fooling the snake into striking at the tail rather than the body.

Rock squirrels dig burrows and may be colonial or solitary. They can be very territorial. They mate in early spring and produce a liter in March. Sometimes a second litter appears in August or September. The rock squirrel may become dormant, holed up in its burrow during cold times, but it is not known to hibernate.

round-tailed

The round-tailed ground squirrel (Spermophilus tereticaudus) resembles a miniature prairie dog, and like them, is a very social animal that lives in small colonies. It is usually grey to beige with a long, black-tipped tail. Adults weigh 6- to 7 ounces. They inhabit valleys and alluvial fans. The round-tails are primarily herbivores, feeding on grass seed, cactus, and other nearby vegetation such as spring flowers, but they will eat carrion. They may sleep for a few weeks in summer until the monsoon arrives. The round-tailed ground squirrel hibernates in the winter. The round-tails are champion small miners. They may have an extensive tunnel network with multiple entrances. They too breed in early spring with pups born in March or April. The pups usually emerge with their mother by May.

Harris

The Harris’ antelope ground squirrel (Ammospermophilus harrisii) resembles a chipmunk, but it has a white stripe on its side that chipmunks lack (but chipmunks have white stripes on their faces). Also, chipmunks live at higher elevation, not on the desert floor. This squirrel seems to prefer rocky areas. The Harris’ antelope squirrel usually feeds on cactus fruit, seeds, and mesquite beans, but it will take insects and mice. They will climb a barrel cactus to get the fruit in spite of the spines. The Harris’ antelope squirrel is active all year. During hot days, it uses its busy tail to provide some shade. They did burrows about three feet deep where conditions allow.

All three squirrels have sharp, strong claws used for digging. All three are diurnal, that is, they are most active during the daytime. They all have cheek pouches to store food as they gather it. These squirrels have a variety of vocalizations, some quite loud. You might mistake the sound for a bird call.

African Lake Study Leaves Some Questions

The headline from the University of Arizona News, and many other news outlets said, “Twentieth-Century Warming in Lake Tanganyika is Unprecedented.” The headline from Brown University press release (home of the lead author) said, “Brown Geologists Show Unprecedented Warming in Lake Tanganyika.”

Well, not exactly. The title of the study referred to is “Late-twentieth-century warming in Lake Tanganyika unprecedented since AD 500,” published in Nature Geoscience (16 May 2010). Even that more modest claim doesn’t tell the whole story.

First some background. Lake Tanganyika occurs within the East African Rift, which is a divergent tectonic plate boundary that is gradually separating East African countries from the main continent. The rift contains both active and dormant volcanoes. The lake is 418 miles long and 45 miles wide. Its average depth is 1,870 feet with a maximum depth of 4,820 feet. Portions of the lake are claimed by Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia. Fishing the lake provides a major food source for people in the surrounding lands. There is concern that lake warming will disrupt the fish supply.

The abstract of the paper concludes, “Our records indicate that changes in the temperature of Lake Tanganyika in the past few decades exceed previous natural variability. We conclude that these unprecedented temperatures and a corresponding decrease in productivity can be attributed to anthropogenic global warming, with potentially important implications for the Lake Tanganyika fishery.”

The questions I had upon reading this were: 1) Are the temperatures really unprecedented? 2) Do they exceed natural variability? 3) What is the evidence that the warming was caused by anthropogenic global warming? 4) Could there be some other cause of fish decline?

The researchers studied lake sediment cores going back 60,000 years and by using proxies deduced a temperature record for the lake surface temperature. In the current study, the researchers said that during the last 1,500 years, temperature varied between 22.5º C and 25.7º C, and that in the last 50 years the temperature rose by 1.6º C.

However, in 2008, these same researchers published a paper in Science (Vol. 322. no. 5899, pp. 252 – 255) which said the lake surface temperature fluctuated between 27° and 29°C over the last 60,000 years according to their interpretation of lake sediment cores.

I emailed a co-author of the paper, a UofA professor, asking for an explanation of this apparent discrepancy. He replied by referring me to the website of the lead author at Brown University. There, she explained that there was a problem in calibration of the temperature proxies. She presents a graph showing the records after recalibration. It is reproduced below. It should be noted that there are two separate core sample locations. The more recent core was taken closer to shore than the older, longer record. The more recent record initially shows cooler temperatures where the two records overlap. The researchers attribute this discrepancy to upwelling cold water from deeper in the lake. So which record is closer to the real surface temperature?

TanganyikaTemp

According to the lead author’s own data as shown on the graph, it is obvious that the current temperatures are not unprecedented, nor do they exceed natural variability. The title of their paper is technically correct only if one accepts cherry-picking start dates.

That leaves the question about the cause of the warming. The UofA scientist replied to my email, “our record only demonstrates a lake surface temperature history, not the cause of that history.” The allegation of an anthropogenic cause, a major conclusion of the paper, was made without any supporting evidence, just speculation.

I am wondering why the paper abstract contains the conclusions it does. Is it time for some scary scenarios to promote more study and more funding?

This whole study purports to be about lake surface temperatures, but it contains very few such measurements from the lake surface. From my reading, the researchers deduce surface temperatures from only two core sample locations. As the NOAA satellite graphic below shows, on any given day, at any given time, the variation in lake surface temperature can be as much as 4º C in different parts of the lake, and that equals or exceeds the entire range of temperatures found in the studies. It would seem, therefore, that any temperature record derived from sediment cores could vary greatly depending on location. Since this study had just two sample locations, it makes one wonder if it gives a true representation of actual conditions.

satellite_tanganyika

And about the fish. The current paper says that warming is causing a decline in fish abundance. Yet an earlier study, of which the UofA scientist was a co-author, says the fish decline is caused by land disturbance. “Watershed deforestation, road building, and other anthropogenic activities result in sediment inundation of lacustrine habitats.” “Our faunal analyses suggest that all three taxonomic groups are negatively affected by sediment inundation but may have varying response thresholds to disturbance.” (Citation: Conservation Biology, vol. 13, no. 5, Oct. 1999).

Obama administration still clueless on energy

After a year on the job, the Obama administration has learned little about energy. They still claim that “green” jobs will be created in the electrical generation sector if only we switch to more wind and solar energy projects.

Their claim that 5 million new jobs will be created in the energy sector over the next ten years is just not credible. Consider that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the entire electrical generation industry, from mining, manufacturing equipment, power generation, and transmission, currently employs just under one million people. Where is Obama going to put 5 million more people? Will he have platoons of people peddling bicycles hooked to small generators? And in the State of the Union speech, he pushed for job-killing climate legislation in spite of recent events showing that the data have been fudged. During the speech, Obama was laughed at after referring to the “overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.” First the audience laughed, then Pelosi and Biden, and finally Obama himself smirked at the insanity of his remark. Maybe his speech writers should read the news.

So called “green” energy is more expensive than fossil-fuel generated electricity, so energy costs would necessarily increase. Our economy is very sensitive to energy costs, so rising costs would more likely result in job losses rather than more employment.

According to a Cato Institute study (Policy Analysis 280), wind generation costs are 6-7¢ per KWh vs. 3¢ for natural gas, 2.2¢ for coal, and 1.7¢ for nuclear. Solar power costs 38¢ to 53¢ per KWh. The Cato report also said that the materials required for thermal-solar projects were 1,000 times greater than for a similarly sized fossil-fuel facility, and therefore would create substantial incremental energy consumption and industrial pollution. A major environmental cost of photovoltaic solar energy is toxic chemical pollution (arsenic, gallium, and cadmium) and energy consumption associated with the large-scale manufacture of photovoltaic panels. The installation phase has distinct environmental consequences, given the large land masses required for solar farms–some 5 to 10 acres per MW of installed capacity.”

 The Administration touts “fast-tracking” solar development in the west, but has limited permits to 670,000 acres of more than 30 million suitable acres available.

Wind-generated electricity, especially, is intermittent and unreliable, so that it requires conventional backup generating capacity. Energy companies will have a hard time monitoring and switching between generation sources to meet demand and prevent blackouts or brownouts.

The Interior Department policy does not help wind-power. The Cape Wind Project in Nantucket was to be the first off-shore venture, but Interior will allow the area to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, thus precluding development.

During the State of the Union speech, Obama gave lip service to off-shore petroleum exploration. During the Bush administration, Congress lifted a moratorium on off-shore exploration, but Obama’s Interior Department has imposed a de facto moratorium while they “study” a leasing program. In 2009, the administration leased less land for energy development than that of any other year on record, according to the American Energy Alliance. And government revenues from leasing in 2009 were just one-tenth that in 2008. Meanwhile China is buying up all the leases it can get, some close to American shores.

The Interior Department has withdrawn most of the offered leases for natural gas in Utah, delayed oil shale research and demonstration projects in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, and blocked uranium mining in Arizona. Obama proposed development of nuclear energy. But, last year, in a sop to Senator Harry Reid, the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository was closed, so nuclear waste will continue to be stored in barrels near the generating plants rather than safely underground.

Biofuels such as ethanol require heavy government subsidies. According to the Journal of Environmental Monitoring, ethanol subsidies amount to the equivalent of $1.95 per gallon on top of the gasoline retail price. At present, no automobile manufacturer will extend an engine or parts warranty for vehicles that use more than 10 percent of ethanol content in fuel, except for vehicles specifically designed to run on E- 85 fuel. This means that the majority of cars on the road today in the United States are not under warranty for anything other than gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol or less. Currently, ethanol displaces about 2% of gasoline and saves relatively little in petroleum imports. Ethanol is not as energy efficient as gasoline. A 2006 study by Consumer Reports found that an E-85 vehicle delivered 27% less mileage than a similar gasoline-powered vehicle. A study from Stanford University found that ethanol-powered E-85 vehicles significantly increased ozone, a prime ingredient of smog.

While the Obama administration is all starry-eyed over “green” energy, it is unlikely that solar, wind, and biofuels taken together would ever account for more that 2- to 3% of total energy use. For the next few decades, at least, fossils fuels with continue to provide about 85% of energy.

What the government should do is remove restrictions to exploration and development of our domestic resources. For instance, in 2007, the Department of the Interior inventoried 99 million acres of federal land which it estimated to contain 21 billion barrels of oil and 187 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. DOI found that due to restrictive regulations “just 3 percent of onshore Federal oil and 13 percent of onshore Federal gas are accessible under standard lease terms.”

The Department of Energy estimates that the Green River formation in NW Colorado, SE Utah, and SW Wyoming contains 1.8 trillion barrels of oil in shale that could be economically produced. That is more than three times the total reserves of all Mid-East oil fields.

Off-shore resources are also restricted. The Minerals Management Service (of DOI) estimated that there are about 86 billion barrels of undiscovered, recoverable oil and about 420 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, recoverable natural gas in the Federal Outer Continental Shelf of the United States, but 85% of this resource is off limits due to federal and state restrictions.

The U.S. has vast coal supplies which could be turned into gasoline, diesel, and other fuels. Coal reserves in Illinois alone, for instance, have the energy equivalent of all the oil in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined. The process was invented by the Germans in 1920 and perfected more recently by Sasol in South Africa. According to Business Week, Sasol “churns out 160,000 barrels of gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel a day, enough to cover 28% of South Africa’s needs, without using a single drop of crude oil, imported or otherwise.” Cost is equivalent to about $30- to $35 per barrel of oil. This source alone could end our dependence on Mid-East oil.

Investors Business Daily (IBD) points out that China is attempting to lock up oil reserves throughout the world, including “in America’s backyard, Argentina, Venezuela, and Canada, and in a country America presumably dominates, Iraq.” At the same time, American oil companies are being discouraged by government, from exploring and exploiting domestic reserves. IBD opines that “What the world is witnessing is the largest peaceful transfer of power in history. Energy means power, and while the U.S. is consumed by environmental ideologies and climate rhetoric, it is committing economic hara-kiri in the process. China, riding on energy acquisitions with little competition, will propel itself into the economic stratosphere.” Obama’s stated goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil seems to be based on a green fantasy, blinded by ideology.

The State of our Surface Temperature Records

The Science and Public Policy Institute has published a paper on Surface Temperature Records, in which the authors document the following points:

1. Instrumental temperature data for the pre-satellite era (1850-1980) have been so widely, systematically, and unidirectionally tampered with that it cannot be credibly asserted there has been any significant “global warming” in the 20th century.

2. All terrestrial surface-temperature databases exhibit very serious problems that render them useless for determining accurate long-term temperature trends.

3. All of the problems have skewed the data so as greatly to overstate observed warming both regionally and globally.

4. Global terrestrial temperature data are gravely compromised because more than three-quarters of the 6,000 stations that once existed are no longer reporting.

5. There has been a severe bias towards removing higher-altitude, higher-latitude, and rural stations, leading to a further serious overstatement of warming.

6. Contamination by urbanization, changes in land use, improper siting, and inadequately-calibrated instrument upgrades further overstates warming.

7. Numerous peer-reviewed papers in recent years have shown the overstatement of observed longer term warming is 30-50% from heat-island contamination alone.

8. Cherry-picking of observing sites combined with interpolation to vacant data grids may make heat-island bias greater than 50% of 20th-century warming.

9. In the oceans, data are missing and uncertainties are substantial. Comprehensive coverage has only been available since 2003, and shows no warming.

10. Satellite temperature monitoring has provided an alternative to terrestrial stations in compiling the global lower-troposphere temperature record. Their findings are increasingly diverging from the station-based constructions in a manner consistent with evidence of a warm bias in the surface temperature record.

11. NOAA and NASA, along with CRU, were the driving forces behind the systematic hyping of 20th-century “global warming”.

12. Changes have been made to alter the historical record to mask cyclical changes that could be readily explained by natural factors like multidecadal ocean and solar changes.

13. Global terrestrial data bases are seriously flawed and can no longer be trusted to assess climate trends or VALIDATE model forecasts.

14. An inclusive external assessment is essential of the surface temperature record of CRU, GISS and NCDC “chaired and paneled by mutually agreed to climate scientists who do not have a vested interest in the outcome of the evaluations.”

15. Reliance on the global data by both the UNIPCC and the US GCRP/CCSP also requires a full investigation and audit.

A PDF file of this 111-page report is available here:

http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/surface_temp.pdf

Drought in the West

Pima County and the City of Tucson have a cooperative project to study the regional water supply and demand. “The ultimate goal of this effort is to assure a sustainable community water source given continuing pressure on water supply caused by population growth.”

Water is vital to life, so there is concern about the current drought in the Western U.S. and its impact on our water supply. In Arizona, our supply from the Lower Colorado River system stands at just 56% capacity as of Jan. 19, 2010, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. The Salt River system, supplying Phoenix, stands at 79% capacity, and the Verde River system is at 34%.

Some claim that the current drought is the result of human-induced global warming; others blame the ozone hole. However, droughts are naturally occurring and cyclic.

According to NOAA, “Droughts occur throughout North America, and in any given year, at least one region is experiencing drought conditions.” “Droughts similar to the 1950s, in terms of duration and spatial extent, occurred once or twice a century for the past three centuries (for example, during the 1860s, 1820s, 1730s). However, there has not been another drought as extensive and prolonged as the 1930s drought in the past 300 years. Longer records show strong evidence for a drought that appears to have been more severe in some areas of central North America than anything we have experienced in the 20th century, including the 1930s drought.”

In the Pacific northwest, Knapp et al, found that widespread and extreme droughts were concentrated in the 16th and early 17th centuries when the planet was considerably colder than the 20th century.

In a separate study of mean water-year flow on the Columbia River, Gedalof et al. found that “persistent low flows during the 1840s were probably the most severe of the past 250 years,” and that “the drought of the 1930s is probably the second most severe.” They say also that ” recent droughts were not exceptional in the context of the last 250 years and were of shorter duration than many past events.”

In Montana and Idaho, Gray et al. (2004) found that “both single-year and decadal-scale dry events were more severe before 1900,” and that “dry spells in the late thirteenth and sixteenth centuries surpass both the magnitude and duration of any droughts in the Bighorn Basin after 1900.”

Researchers working in the Pyramid Lake area of Nevada found that for the past 2,740 years “intervals between droughts ranged from 80 to 230 years; while drought durations ranged from 20 to 100 years.” Another study in the same area found that the longest of these droughts occurred between 2,500 and 2,000 years ago and between 1,500 and 1,250, 800 and 725, and 600 and 450 years ago, with none recorded in more recent warmer times.

In the Rocky Mountains, Gray et al. (2003) found a pattern of droughts that they say “may ensue from coupling of the cold phase Pacific Decadal Oscillation with the warm phase Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.”

Research on the Upper Colorado River Basin shows “a near-centennial return period of extreme drought events in this region.” The major drought of 2000-2004 was not as severe as 1844-1848, and was similar to droughts in the early 1500s and early 1600s. They conclude, “these analyses demonstrate that severe, sustained droughts are a defining feature of Upper Colorado River hydroclimate.” And the results show that more severe droughts are associated with colder cycles.

Work in Arizona and New Mexico shows that “sustained dry periods comparable to the 1950s drought occurred in “the late 1000s, the mid 1100s, 1570-97, 1664-70, the 1740s, the 1770s, and the late 1800s.”

Drought cycles are most closely correlated with various solar cycles of 1,533 years (the Bond cycle), 444 years, 170 years, 146 years, and 88 years (the Gleissberg cycle). Asmerom,et al. report that periods of increased solar radiation correlate with periods of decreased rainfall in the southwestern United States (via changes in the North American monsoon). These solar cycles control the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the El Nino system which control weather and climate in the southwest. We are just entering solar cycle 24 and it seems very sluggish. That could mean that we will be spared from an intensifying drought.

For specifics on Tucson’s water supply see:

https://wryheat.wordpress.com/2009/06/21/water-supply-and-demand-in-tucson/

For a primer on drought see:

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/drought/drght_home.html

To understand the proxies used in paleoclimate research see:

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/primer_proxy.html

References:

Papers reviewed by http://www.co2science.org/subject/d/summaries/droughtusawest.php

Asmerom, Y., Polyak, V., Burns, S. and Rassmussen, J. 2007. Solar forcing of Holocene climate: New insights from a speleothem record, southwestern United States. Geology 35: 1-4.

Benson, L., Kashgarian, M., Rye, R., Lund, S., Paillet, F., Smoot, J., Kester, C., Mensing, S., Meko, D. and Lindstrom, S. 2002. Holocene multidecadal and multicentennial droughts affecting Northern California and Nevada. Quaternary Science Reviews 21: 659-682.

Gedalof, Z., Peterson, D.L. and Mantua, N.J. 2004. Columbia River flow and drought since 1750. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 40: 1579-1592.

Gray, S.T., Betancourt, J.L., Fastie, C.L. and Jackson, S.T. 2003. Patterns and sources of multidecadal oscillations in drought-sensitive tree-ring records from the central and southern Rocky Mountains. Geophysical Research Letters 30: 10.1029/2002GL016154.

Gray, S.T., Fastie, C.L., Jackson, S.T. and Betancourt, J.L. 2004. Tree-ring-based reconstruction of precipitation in the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, since 1260 A.D. Journal of Climate 17: 3855-3865.

Hidalgo, H.G., Piechota, T.C. and Dracup, J.A. 2000. Alternative principal components regression procedures for dendrohydrologic reconstructions. Water Resources Research 36: 3241-3249.

Knapp, P.A., Grissino-Mayer, H.D. and Soule, P.T. 2002. Climatic regionalization and the spatio-temporal occurrence of extreme single-year drought events (1500-1998) in the interior Pacific Northwest, USA. Quaternary Research 58: 226-233.

Mensing, S.A., Benson, L.V., Kashgarian, M. and Lund, S. 2004. A Holocene pollen record of persistent droughts from Pyramid Lake, Nevada, USA. Quaternary Research 62: 29-38.

Ni, F., Cavazos, T., Hughes, M.K., Comrie, A.C. and Funkhouser, G. 2002. Cool-season precipitation in the southwestern USA since AD 1000: Comparison of linear and nonlinear techniques for reconstruction. International Journal of Climatology 22: 1645-1662.

Woodhouse, C.A., Gray, S.T. and Meko, D.M. 2006. Updated streamflow reconstructions for the Upper Colorado River Basin. Water Resources Research 42: 10.1029/2005WR004455.

Climategate Analysis

The Science and Public Policy Institute has published an analysis of the leaked climategate emails. This 149-page document takes the emails in chronological order and shows, with comments on each message, how science was perverted.

In the introductory material the report says:

The entire industry of “climate science” was created out of virtually nothing, by means of a massive influx of funding that was almost universally one-sided in its requirement that its recipients find evidence for man-made climate change—not investigate whether or how much mankind had caused climate change.

Many “climate scientists” built their entire careers on this funding; and so it is not surprising that they became so completely reliant on this conditional lifeline, that they became single-mindedly focused on achieving the ends for which they were commissioned—and viciously attacking any intruders who may threaten that lifeline.

The PDF file may be download from either of these links:

http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/reprint/climategate_analysis.pdf

or http://tinyurl.com/yl8o3t8