Sunday, February 11, 2018

GWPF Newsletter - False Alarm: 'Sinking' Pacific Nation Is Getting Bigger, Scientists Confirm








Peter Ridd: Science or Silence?

In this newsletter:

1) 'Sinking' Pacific Nation Is Getting Bigger, Scientists Confirm
AFP, 9 February 2018

2) Peter Ridd: Science or Silence? My Battle To Question Doomsayers About The Great Barrier Reef
Fox News, 8 February 2018

3) U.S. State Dept Sued For Not Handing Over Paris Accord Docs
The Daily Caller, 7 February 2018

4) Bret Stephens: Apocalypse Not
The New York Times, 8 February 2018

Full details:

1) 'Sinking' Pacific Nation Is Getting Bigger, Scientists Confirm
AFP, 9 February 2018

The Pacific nation of Tuvalu — long seen as a prime candidate to disappear as climate change forces up sea levels — is actually growing in size, new research shows.



A University of Auckland study examined changes in the geography of Tuvalu’s nine atolls and 101 reef islands between 1971 and 2014, using aerial photographs and satellite imagery.

It found eight of the atolls and almost three-quarters of the islands grew during the study period, lifting Tuvalu’s total land area by 2.9 percent, even though sea levels in the country rose at twice the global average.

Co-author Paul Kench said the research, published Friday in the journal Nature Communications, challenged the assumption that low-lying island nations would be swamped as the sea rose.

“We tend to think of Pacific atolls as static landforms that will simply be inundated as sea levels rise, but there is growing evidence these islands are geologically dynamic and are constantly changing,” he said.

“The study findings may seem counter-intuitive, given that (the) sea level has been rising in the region over the past half century, but the dominant mode of change over that time on Tuvalu has been expansion, not erosion.”

It found factors such as wave patterns and sediment dumped by storms could offset the erosion caused by rising water levels.

The Auckland team says climate change remains one of the major threats to low-lying island nations.

But it argues the study should prompt a rethink on how such countries respond to the problem.

Rather than accepting their homes are doomed and looking to migrate to countries such as Australia and New Zealand, the researchers say they should start planning for a long-term future.

“On the basis of this research we project a markedly different trajectory for Tuvalu’s islands over the next century than is commonly envisaged,” Kench said.

“While we recognise that habitability rests on a number of factors, loss of land is unlikely to be a factor in forcing depopulation of Tuvalu.”

The study’s authors said island nations needed to find creative solutions to adapt to climate change that take into account their homeland’s evolving geography.

Suggestions included moving populations onto larger islands and atolls, which have proved the most stable and likely to grow as seas rise.

Full story

2) Peter Ridd: Science or Silence? My Battle To Question Doomsayers About The Great Barrier Reef
Fox News, 8 February 2018

I have been served with a gag order by my university. I am now having to sue for my right to have an ordinary scientific opinion. I am fighting for academic and scientific freedom, and the responsibility of universities to nurture the debate of difficult subjects without threat or intimidation.




Around the world, people have heard about the impending extinction of the Great Barrier Reef: some 133,000 square miles of magnificent coral stretching for 1,400 miles off the northeast coast of Australia.

The reef is supposedly almost dead from the combined effects of a warming climate, nutrient pollution from Australian farms, and smothering sediment from offshore dredging.

Except that, as I have said publicly as a research scientist who has studied the reef for the past 30 years, all this most likely isn’t true.

And just for saying that – and calling into question the kind of published science that has led to the gloomy predictions – I have been served with a gag order by my university. I am now having to sue for my right to have an ordinary scientific opinion.

My emails have been searched. I was not allowed even to speak to my wife about the issue. I have been harangued by lawyers. And now I’m fighting back to assert my right to academic freedom and bring attention to the crisis of scientific truth.

The problems I am facing are part of a “replication crisis” that is sweeping through science and is now a serious topic in major science journals. In major scientific trials that attempt to reproduce the results of scientific observations and measurements, it seems that around 50 percent of recently published science is wrong, because the results can’t be replicated by others.

And if observations and measurements can’t be replicated, it isn’t really science – it is still, at best, hypothesis, or even just opinion. This is not a controversial topic anymore – science, or at least the system of checking the science we are using, is failing us.

The crisis started in biomedical areas, where pharmaceutical companies in the past decade found that up to 80 percent of university and institutional science results that they tested were wrong. It is now recognized that the problem is much more widespread than the biomedical sciences. And that is where I got into big trouble.

I have published numerous scientific papers showing that much of the “science” claiming damage to the reef is either plain wrong or greatly exaggerated. As just one example, coral growth rates that have supposedly collapsed along the reef have, if anything, increased slightly.

Reefs that are supposedly smothered by dredging sediment actually contain great coral. And mass bleaching events along the reef that supposedly serve as evidence of permanent human-caused devastation are almost certainly completely natural and even cyclical.

These allegedly major catastrophic effects that recent science says were almost unknown before the 1980s are mainly the result of a simple fact: large-scale marine science did not get started on the reef until the 1970s.

By a decade later, studies of the reef had exploded, along with the number of marine biologists doing them. What all these scientists lacked, however, was historical perspective. There are almost no records of earlier eras to compare with current conditions. Thus, for many scientists studying reef problems, the results are unprecedented, and almost always seen as catastrophic and even world-threatening.

The only problem is that it isn’t so. The Great Barrier Reef is in fact in excellent condition. It certainly goes through periods of destruction where huge areas of coral are killed from hurricanes, starfish plagues and coral bleaching. However, it largely regrows within a decade to its former glory. Some parts of the southern reef, for example, have seen a tripling of coral in six years after they were devastated by a particularly severe cyclone.

Reefs have similarities to Australian forests, which require periodic bushfires. It looks terrible after the bushfire, but the forests always regrow. The ecosystem has evolved with these cycles of death and regrowth.

The conflicting realities of the Great Barrier Reef point to a deeper problem. In science, consensus is not the same thing as truth. But consensus has come to play a controlling role in many areas of modern science. And if you go against the consensus you can suffer unpleasant consequences.

The main system of science quality control is called peer review. Nowadays, it usually takes the form of a couple of anonymous reviewing scientists having a quick check over the work of a colleague in the field.

Peer review is commonly understood as painstaking re-examination by highly qualified experts in academia that acts as a real check on mistaken work. It isn’t. In the real world, peer review is often cursory and not always even knowledgeable. It might take reviewers only a morning to do.

Scientific results are rarely reanalyzed and experiments are not replicated. The types of checks that would be routine in private industry are just not done.

I have asked the question: Is this good enough quality control to make environmental decisions worth billions of dollars that are now adversely affecting every major industry in northeast Australia?

Our sugar industry has been told to make dramatic reductions in fertilizer application, potentially reducing productivity; our ports have dredging restrictions that threaten their productivity; scientists demand that coal mines be closed; and tourists are scared away because the reef is supposedly almost dead – not worth seeing anymore.

Last August I made this point on Sky News in Australia in promotion of a chapter I wrote in “Climate Change: The Facts 2017,” published by the Australian free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

“The basic problem is that we can no longer trust the scientific organizations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies … the science is coming out not properly checked, tested or replicated and this is a great shame because we really need to be able to trust our scientific institutions and the fact is I do not think we can any more,” I said.

The response to these comments by my employer, James Cook University, was extraordinary.

Rather than measured argument, I was hit with a charge of academic serious misconduct for not being “collegial.”

University authorities told me in August I was not allowed to mention the case or the charges to anybody – not even my wife.

Then things got worse. With assistance from the Institute of Public Affairs, I have been pushing back against the charges and the gag order – leading the university to search my official emails for examples of where I had mentioned the case to other scientists, old friends, past students and my wife.

I was then hit with 25 new allegations, mostly for just mentioning the case against me. The email search turned up nothing for which I feel ashamed. You can see for yourself.

We filed in court in November. At that point the university backed away from firing me. But university officials issued a “Final Censure” in my employment file and told me to be silent about the allegations, and not to repeat my comments about the unreliability of institutional research.

But they agreed that I could mention it to my wife, which was nice of them.

I would rather be fired than accept these conditions. We are still pursuing the matter in court.

This case may be about a single instance of alleged misconduct, but underlying it is an issue even bigger than our oceans. Ultimately, I am fighting for academic and scientific freedom, and the responsibility of universities to nurture the debate of difficult subjects without threat or intimidation.

We may indeed have a Great Barrier Reef crisis, but the science is so flawed that it is impossible to tell its actual dimensions. What we do know for certain is that we have an academic freedom crisis that threatens the true life of science and threatens to smother our failing university system.

Professor Peter Ridd leads the Marine Geophysical Laboratory, James Cook University, Australia and has authored over 100 scientific papers.

3) U.S. State Dept Sued For Not Handing Over Paris Accord Docs
The Daily Caller, 7 February 2018
Chris White

The State Department is being sued for concealing documents and information related to the agency’s use of outside groups and individuals to promote the Paris climate deal during the Obama-era.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a free market group based in Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuitWednesday alleging the State is refusing to act on a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for more information regarding backstage work on the agreement.

“Americans should know the extent to which the State Department orchestrated outside experts and groups in pushing talking points about the need for the Paris Agreement and its alleged nontreaty status,” CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman said in a press statement.

CEI already has evidence that the “State Department has something serious to hide regarding its attempts to grease the skids for the energy-crippling climate plan that President Trump has rejected,” he added. The lawsuit would buttress some documents the group has acquired about the climate agreement.

The group has spent the past two years targeting remnants of the previous administration. CEI analysists Chris Horner and Marlo Lewis, for instance, published a paper last year arguing former President Barack Obama ignored the U.S. Constitution during the signing phase of the deal to make his climate policies immune to legal challenges.

Lewis said Obama should have submitted the Paris agreement to the Senate for approval. The Obama administration argued the Paris agreement did not need Senate approval because it was an extension of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was ratified in the 1990s.

Paris meets the Department of State’s criteria to be called a “treaty by virtue of its costs and risks, ambition compared to predecessor climate treaties, dependence on subsequent legislation by Congress, intent to affect state laws, U.S. historic practice with regard to multilateral environmental agreements,” reads Horner and Lewis’s report.

4) Bret Stephens: Apocalypse Not
The New York Times, 8 February 2018

In 1919, the director of the U.S. Bureau of Mines offered a dire warning for the future. “Within the next two to five years the oil fields of this country will reach their maximum production, and from that time on we will face an ever-increasing decline.”

Nearly a century later, in July 2010, The Guardian ran a story with an ominous headline: “Lloyd’s adds its voice to dire ‘peak oil’ warnings.” Citing a report by the storied London insurer, the newspaper warned that businesses were “underestimating catastrophic consequences of declining oil,” including oil at $200 a barrel by 2013, a global supply crunch, and overall “economic chaos.”

I thought of these predictions on seeing the recent news that the United States is on the eve of breaking a 47-year production record by lifting more than 10 million barrels of crude a day. That’s roughly twice what the U.S. produced just a decade ago, and may even put us on track to overtake Saudi Arabia and even Russia as the world’s leading oil producer. As for global production, it rose by some 11 percent just since the Lloyd’s report, and by almost 200 percent since 1965.

Call it yet another case of Apocalypse Not. In his fascinating new book, “The Wizard and the Prophet,” Charles C. Mann notes that President Roosevelt — Teddy, not Franklin — called the “imminent exhaustion” of fossil fuels and other natural resources “the weightiest problem now before the nation.” Prior to that, Mann adds, there were expert forecasts that the world would soon run out of coal. Later on, the world became fixated on the fear of running out of food in the face of explosive population growth.

The wizard and the prophet of Mann’s title are, respectively, Norman Borlaug and William Vogt, the former the agronomist widely credited as the father of the Green Revolution, the latter the founder of what Hampshire College’s Betsy Hartmann calls “apocalyptic environmentalism.”

“In best-selling books and powerful speeches, Vogt argued that affluence is not our greatest achievement but our biggest problem,” Mann writes. “Our prosperity is temporary, he said, because it is based on taking more from than earth than it can give. If we continue, the unavoidable result will be devastation on a global scale, perhaps including our extinction.”

In our own day, people like Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein have made careers saying more or less the same thing. This is a world where the clock is permanently set at two minutes to midnight, and where only a radical transformation of modern society (usually combining dramatic changes in personal behavior along with a heavy dose of state intervention) can save us. Above all, the Vogtians say, we need less: less consumption, less stuff, fewer people, and so on.

Borlaug and the Borlaugians take a different view. It’s not that they see environmental threats as bogus: The world really would have suffered catastrophic famines if Borlaug hadn’t developed high-yield, disease-resistant varieties of wheat. Oil is a finite resource, but whether reserves last 50 or 500 years will probably depend less on overall supply than on technologies to extract and use those reserves more efficiently.

The same goes for climate change, which will not be helped by some centrally planned, Chinese-style “Green Leap Forward,” but by a multitude of technological advances that in turn require a thriving capitalist economy to fund, develop, commercialize and make affordable.

The foolish idea that capitalism is the enemy of the environment misses the point that environmentalism is itself a luxury that few poor countries can adequately afford. If you doubt this, contrast the air and water quality in New York City with that of any similar-sized city in the developing world.

I fall in the Borlaugian camp. That’s worth noting because one of the more tedious criticisms by the environmental left is that people like me “don’t care about the environment.” But imputing bad faith, stupidity or greed is always a lousy argument. Even conservatives want their children to breathe.

It also misses the point. As Mann notes, Borlaugians are environmentalists, too. They simply think the road to salvation lies not through making do with less, but rather through innovation and the conditions in which innovation tends to flourish, greater affluence and individual freedom most of all.

There’s also this: So far, the Borlaugians have mostly been right. To the extent that starvation is a phenomenon of recent decades — as in places like North Korea and Venezuela — it is mainly the result of gross political mismanagement, not ecological disaster. Peak oil keeps being defeated by frackers and deepwater explorers. As my colleague Nick Kristof recently pointed out, by most metrics of human welfare, the world keeps getting better with every passing year.

If environmental alarmists ever wonder why more people haven’t come around to their way of thinking, it isn’t because people like me occasionally voice doubts in newspaper op-eds. It’s because too many past predictions of imminent disaster didn’t come to pass. That isn’t because every alarm is false — many are all too real — but because our Promethean species has shown the will and the wizardry to master the challenge, at least when it’s been given the means to do so.

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at www.thegwpf.com.

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