Archive for the ‘Science’ Category
Once more unto the breach …
This is an important issue – for Kangaroo Island and for the state as a whole. I am still hopeful it will be possible to have a harmonious discussion focussing on the facts.
Why would anyone want oil and gas exploration near Kangaroo Island?
Our society, and every modern liberal democracy, depends on cheap energy. The primary sources of that energy are oil, coal and gas. These energy sources enable us to travel, to heat our homes, to run industry and agriculture, to provide health and education services. No energy means none of these things.
Developing countries need this energy too, to provide these same services, including basic health care, to their people. While foreign aid might be helpful in emergencies, what developing nations really need is power stations, cheap energy. And that depends on cheap fuel.
We all rely on oil and gas, KI residents more than most. While we might prefer oil development to take place somewhere else, it would be immoral to deny developing countries the energy sources Western nations have used to pull themselves out of poverty over the last centuries. Responsible energy development is an important part of our commitment to being part of a global community.
In addition, developing energy resources within Australia improves national security, and reduces our dependence on, and financial contributions to, corrupt and frequently brutal Middle-eastern regimes. It also helps to preserve forests and wildlife. If you are worried about your child starving, or dying because you have no access to clean water or cannot obtain basic medical care, you are not going to be concerned about the state of forests in Indonesia, or the whale hunt at the Faroes. The more prosperous a country or people, the more time and resources go into preserving and caring for the environment.
So private energy resource development should be encouraged unless in a particular situation there are pressing reasons why it should not.
Are there pressing reasons why oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight should not proceed?
There are three main reasons opponents to development have put forward.
1. Oil rigs and other equipment near Kangaroo Island will spoil the landscape, reduce the natural beauty of the area, and consequently reduce its appeal to visitors.
The nearest practical development point for an oil rig within Bight Petroleum’s exploration zones is approximately one hundred and fifty kilometres west of the West coast of KI. If this is on KI or even near KI, then so are Gawler and Keith. If the Eiffel Tower was perched at Cape Borda, and you were standing at the top with a telescope, you would still not see an oil rig at that distance.
2. Acoustic imaging used to map geological structures on the sea floor is harmful to whales, dolphins and other marine sea life.
Acoustic imaging has been used for the last forty years. One of the reasons for this is that it helps developers pinpoint likely productive sites, reducing unnecessary drilling and environmental impact. The possible effects of acoustic imaging on marine life have been extensively researched during this time. No university or other study has ever found any correlation between acoustic imaging and increased beachings, or any other negative effect, for example on reproductive rates or migration patterns. Recent intensive study conducted in Australia by Woodside Petroleum, the CSIRO and Penn State University likewise found no negative effects on sessile and territorial marine life.
Anti-development activists have sometimes suggested that the hearing of whales and dolphins could be permanently damaged by the noise of acoustic imaging. Sperm whales vocalise at about 235dB. The average acoustic array produces about 230dB. Even if the whales were 2 metres from an active array, the sound they heard would be less than the sound of their own vocalisations. To suggest that their hearing could be damaged by this is equivalent to claiming our hearing would be permanently damaged by listening to chatter at a tea party.
3. The possibility of a serious spill.
Spills are far more likely during handling and transportation than during exploration and development. The most significant risk of a serious oil spill near Kangaroo Island is from the transport of oil products to the island.
Australia’s worst development spill, and third worst oil spill overall, was at the Montara well in the Timor Sea. The two worst, from the Princess Anne Marie oil tanker in 1975 and the Kiriki tanker in 1991, were both transport spills. Prevailing winds and currents pushed the oil slick from Montara one hundred and eighty kilometres from the well site. At that distance, the slick was patchy, intermittent, and a few microns thick – less than the almost invisible amount of oil left behind by a well-maintained outboard motor. A spill of this magnitude occurs about once in every 100,000 years of well operation.
If a similar spill occurred at the closest point for any development in the Bight, a few streaks of oil a few microns thick could just reach the Western shores of KI, if wind and currents were behind it. But during the calmer months when development would be taking place, prevailing upwellings would push any spilt oil away from, not towards Kangaroo Island. Oil even from a one in one hundred thousand year spill would not approach Kangaroo Island. In addition, safety standards are improving all the time. The worst year for oil spills in the nineties was better than the best year in the seventies.
In other words, even if a spill occurred, no oil would reach the shores of Kangaroo Island, and the chances of such a spill occurring at all are tiny – one in one hundred thousand years of operation.
To summarise: The proposed oil exploration and development is not “on KI.” It is not even “near” KI in any normal meaning of that word. No oil rigs or other development would be visible from anywhere on Kangaroo Island. Forty years of research has shown no harm to any form of marine life from acoustic imaging. There is no correlation between acoustic imaging and increased beachings, and no evidence of hearing loss in any marine species. Even if a spill equal to the worst in Australia’s history occurred at the development site, oil would not reach the shores of KI. The chances of such a spill’s occurring are approximately one in 100,000 years of well operation.
There are good economic, humanitarian and environmental reasons why responsible oil and gas development should proceed. There are no compelling, truthful, reality-based reasons it should not.
I have been a fan of Professor Elizabeth Loftus’ work for many years, so I am pleased to see her getting a hearing in the press at last.
From the Australian ABC news site:
When an eyewitness gives evidence in a trial, how much faith should we place in their testimony? At first brush the answer would seem to be, why not trust them? After all, if an impartial witness says with certainly they saw something—why be sceptical?
However, Elizabeth Loftus, a renowned professor of both law and psychology based at the University of California’s Irvine campus, urges caution. Professor Loftus has been at the forefront of complex and controversial debates around the nature of memory for many years, and her research has made her a much sought-after expert witness in both criminal and civil trials. In fact, she has testified in over 250 trials.
Professor Loftus says eyewitness testimony is the major cause of wrongful convictions in the USA. In one project where more than 300 cases of wrongful conviction were established using DNA testing, the major cause of these wrongful convictions was faulty eyewitness testimony.
One of four.
Andrew Wakefield and the faked link between MMR vaccinations and autism.
Andrew Wakefield is one of the heroes of the anti-vaccination crusaders. In 1998 prestigious British medical journal The Lancet published a paper by Wakefield and others which implied a link between autism and the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination. Not only was there no such link, but Wakefield’s data was faked. The article was retracted by The Lancet on February 2, 2010.
Wakefield must have known the likelihood that his faked research would reduce vaccination rates and lead to increased levels of preventable infectious childhood diseases. That is, he must have known than faking data so as to suggest a link between MMR vaccinations and autism would lead to increased child deaths.
Whatever Andrew Wakefield is, he is no hero of child health.
Apart from faking the results, there were several other ethics violations. These included failing to disclose cash payments from a lawyer representing families claiming MMR caused their children’s autism, failure to disclose financial interests in patents for MMR alternatives, failure to include data which contradicted his conclusions, and the use of contaminated samples to support his conclusions.
On January 28, 2010, Wakefield and two of his co-authors, John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch, were found by the UK’s General Medical Council to have acted irresponsibly, dishonestly and not in the clinical interests of the children involved in the study. The Medial Council found, amongst other things, that Wakefield had used colonoscopies, MRIs and lumbar punctures when such procedures were not clinically indicated. On May 24, 2010, the General Medical Council issued a determination that Wakefield and Walker-Smith were guilty of professional misconduct and should be struck from the Medical Register in the U.K. His license to practice medicine has been revoked.
There is no moral difference between this faking of medical research with foreseeably lethal consequences, and adding Melamine (a poison) to milk with foreseeably lethal consequences.
Some supporters of the MMR/autism theory claim that just because a few bad apples faked their results doesn’t necessarily mean there is no connection between vaccination and autism. No it doesn’t. But there isn’t. Not a speck. Not a jot nor a tittle.
In the next few days I will explain exactly how scientists know this. I’ll also examine the story that when Japan stopped vaccinating children, SIDS (cot death) stopped completely. It didn’t.
Ninety per-cent of Facebook and Twitter causes are based on false information, bigotry or both.
From scare stories about preservatives in food, to stories of dogs being hooked alive and used as shark bait, to stories about how people who don’t look like us eat something we don’t like eating and it’s disgusting and they are horrible and it should be stopped, almost every “Please pass this on, this must be stopped” story turns out to be based on false or misleading information, or cultural bigotry so blatant that it verges on racism.
These campaigns have real consequences. A campaign against the use of lean beef trimmings was bulldust from beginning to end. But the facts fell before a tidal wave of disgusting pictures of pink slime, and assertions the slime was loaded with ammonia and other deadly chemicals used as preservatives. None of the slimy pictures had anything to do with lean beef trimmings, and claims about high levels of preservatives were false.
It didn’t matter. The US beef industry responded with factual information, photos of the real product and descriptions of production methods. No one cared. Lean beef trimmings are high in protein, reduce the overall fat content of burgers and other meat products to which they are added, and in blind taste tests, were found by a majority of people to improve the tenderness of processed meats. It didn’t matter. The facts had no weight compared to the emotional fervour and manufactured horror of the pink slime campaign.
The end result was that factories were closed, businesses were forced into bankruptcy, hundreds of workers lost their jobs, and hundreds of families their incomes.
It may feel like you are doing a good thing when you click ‘Like’ to some circulating campaign against something, or pass it on to your friends. But when ninety per-cent of such campaigns are simply wrong, then clicking ‘Like’ or passing it on is not good, or even morally neutral. It is wrong.
At very least, we should check, every time, that what we are being told is true. Look for opinions opposed to those expressed in the message. Ask yourself “Is this reasonable?” “Is it really likely to be true?” Even if it is true, local governments may have the matter in hand, and demands for action in a Twitter campaign may be counter-productive or insulting.
Don’t pass on alarm stories without checking first, and if you have any doubts about the accuracy or fairness of a story, don’t pass it on at all. The truth matters. Don’t be a party to lies.
There is a point, though, at which the merely lazy, ignorant or bigoted nature of most Facebook campaigns tips over into actual evil. This point is the ongoing campaign against vaccination, and especially vaccination against childhood diseases such as measles and polio.
Over the next week I will write four articles explaining why this opposition is based on false, and in some cases deliberately false or misleading information. I will explain why the campaign is not just misguided but evil. And I will explain what you can do to help the truth be heard.
Green activists are once again turning Japan’s annual dolphin hunt to their financial advantage, deep-sixing facts in favour of fund-raising propaganda. Sure, the slaughter at Taiji Cove is not for the squeamish, but neither is any Australian abattoir …
Lies, damned lies and dolphins
Villagers in Taiji in Japan are halfway through their annual dolphin harvest, which runs from September to May. Villagers in Australia are halfway through their annual feeding frenzy of self-righteous indignation. Twitter accounts gurgle with rage. Facebook pages quiver with fury. Post after post proclaims the Japanese to be vile, murderous, and deserving of the same fate as the dolphins.
There are clear emotional benefits to participating slacktivists. A scrumptious sense of moral superiority. The feeling of purpose that flows from with aligning oneself with a righteous cause. Being part of a community of like-minded believers.
But the hunt continues. The Japanese are disinclined to change their behaviour on the basis of what they see as the petulant posturing of a group of ignorant, hypocritical, glory seekers.
Read the rest at Quadrant Online.
In March a group of forty-nine NASA scientists wrote to Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, expressing their concern that NASA’s climate alarm advocacy is not based in science and is undermining NASA’s credibility:
The Honorable Charles Bolden, Jr. NASA Administrator NASA Headquarters Washington, D.C. 20546-0001
We, the undersigned, respectfully request that NASA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) refrain from including unproven remarks in public releases and websites. We believe the claims by NASA and GISS, that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data. With hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts, coming particularly from the GISS leadership, it is clear that the science is NOT settled.
The unbridled advocacy of CO2 being the major cause of climate change is unbecoming of NASA’s history of making an objective assessment of all available scientific data prior to making decisions or public statements.
As former NASA employees, we feel that NASA’s advocacy of an extreme position, prior to a thorough study of the possible overwhelming impact of natural climate drivers is inappropriate. We request that NASA refrain from including unproven and unsupported remarks in its future releases and websites on this subject. At risk is damage to the exemplary reputation of NASA, NASA’s current or former scientists and employees, and even the reputation of science itself.
For additional information regarding the science behind our concern, we recommend that you contact Harrison Schmitt or Walter Cunningham, or others they can recommend to you.
Thank you for considering this request.
A month ago the journal Nature Climate Change published a paper by a group of German scientists demonstrating that the world’s temperature has been declining for the last 2.000 years:
How did the Romans grow grapes in northern England? Perhaps because it was warmer than we thought.
A study suggests the Britain of 2,000 years ago experienced a lengthy period of hotter summers than today. German researchers used data from tree rings – a key indicator of past climate – to claim the world has been on a ‘long-term cooling trend’ for two millennia until the global warming of the twentieth century.
This cooling was punctuated by a couple of warm spells. These are the Medieval Warm Period, which is well known, but also a period during the toga-wearing Roman times when temperatures were apparently 1 deg C warmer than now. They say the very warm period during the years 21 to 50AD has been underestimated by climate scientists.
Lead author Professor Dr Jan Esper of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz said: ‘We found that previous estimates of historical temperatures during the Roman era and the Middle Ages were too low.
Marc Morano and Lord Monckton explain why the whole notion of climate refugees is bunk:
And if you need more, try the NIPCC 2011 interim report which lists dozens of peer reviewed papers published in the last two years questioning the science of man made global warming.
Consensus? Pull the other one.
Anthony Watts’s blog has not been updated for past couple of days. Anthony says he has something big to post in the next day or so.
There are rumours that Richard Muller of the University of California has prepared another article based on the temperature studies about which he wrote last year in the Wall Street Journal.
Basically, Muller said his work proved the world really was warming, so there was no excuse for global warming scepticism.
Sadly for Muller, he had missed the point. He, like most global warming alarmists, seemed to have no idea what the sceptics were actually saying. No one denies the world has warmed over the last one hundred and fifty years. No one denies that human activity can influence climate. The argument is about the extent of human influence, whether current climate change is unusual or dangerous, and if it is, what are the most economical and effective ways to deal with it.
Marc Morano summarised the scientific responses to Muller’s earlier article at Climate Depot.
This is a capture from Steven Goddard’s blog Real Science:
Anthony’s major post has nothing to do with any new work by Muller, but is a ‘pre-release’ of an important paper by Watts, Jones, McIntyre and Christy on NOAA station siting problems and post measurement adjustments.
A reanalysis of U.S. surface station temperatures has been performed using the recently WMO-approved Siting Classification System devised by METEO-France’s Michel Leroy. The new siting classification more accurately characterizes the quality of the location in terms of monitoring long-term spatially representative surface temperature trends. The new analysis demonstrates that reported 1979-2008 U.S. temperature trends are spuriously doubled, with 92% of that over-estimation resulting from erroneous NOAA adjustments of well-sited stations upward.
These factors, combined with station siting issues, have led to a spurious doubling of U.S. mean temperature trends in the 30 year data period covered by the study from 1979 – 2008.
Two reports came out recently making wildly inaccurate claims about sea level.
The first claimed that sea level was going to rise 12 inches in California over the next twenty years. Yet satellites show that sea level has been falling in California for the past twenty years.
A paper published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research finds that current global climate models make “very large” errors in determining solar radiation at the surface of the Earth “due to ignoring the effects of clouds.” According to the authors, these very large errors can exceed 800 Watts per meter squared, which by comparison is about 216 times more than the alleged effect of doubling CO2 concentrations (3.7 Watts per square metre).
In other words, those wild scary claims by IPCC scientists about runaway positive feedback causing catastrophic climate change were based entirely on not having a clue what they were talking about.
A pill to reduce the risk of HIV infection in members of at risk groups sounds good, but I would put money on HIV infection rates increasing, rather than decreasing, where this drug is made available. Labor and the Greens will press for its early introduction.
But a genetically modified bacterium designed to destroy malarial parasites before they can infect anyone bitten by a parasite-carrying mosquito could save hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Wait for the Greens to start protesting about the use of GM organisms.
By Andrew Bostom in American Thinker, and worth quoting in full:
Notwithstanding the latest hysterical claims from the sadly politicized climate scientologists of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), insisting 2011 was somehow “a year of extreme weather,” serious investigators at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have just published a sobering analysis in Nature Climate Change which reconstructs 2000 years of climate within northern Europe. Utilizing tree-ring density measurements from sub-fossil pine trees in northern Scandinavia, the investigators created a sequence dating back to 138 BC. The density measurements are closely correlated with the summer temperatures in a targeted region on the edge of the Nordic taiga, enabling them to create a temperature reconstruction of unprecedented quality. Their high-resolution representation confirmed temperature patterns in the Roman and Medieval Warm periods, but also demonstrated the cold phases that occurred during the Migration Period and the later Little Ice Age. (See image, below)
In addition to depicting these cold and warm phases which were not influenced at all by anthropogenic warming, but rather “by solar output and (grouped) volcanic activity changes” – the new climate reconstruction curve also reveals a striking if unexpected phenomenon. Professor Dr. Jan Esper of the investigative team provided this apt summary assessment of the main findings:
We found that previous estimates of historical temperatures during the Roman era and the Middle Ages were too low. Such findings are also significant with regard to climate policy, as they will influence the way today’s climate changes are seen in context of historical warm periods.
What we really need to be concerned about is the possibility that we are drawing near to the end of the current interglacial. Deliberately increasing the volume of CO2 in the atmosphere may help delay this, even if only a little. More importantly, it will result in higher crop outputs. Carbon taxes and emission targets are the opposite of what the world needs.