Category: International Issues

Human Waste Provides Water and Energy to Poor

Recent efforts have advanced philanthropic efforts to help those that are needy around the globe. Third world nations with extremely poor populations with 1.2 to 2.4 billion people are an easy target for these groups. Over 95 countries have renewable energy support polices compared to 15 countries in 2005.

The climate conferences, such as the Lima Climate Negotiations, had a focus on providing energy resources and other resources to communities with existing infrastructure. However, the rural communities or “off-the-grid” populations are left out. More efforts are needed to give access to these communities so that they can also receive these resources.

Innovative projects, such as a next generation steam engine Omniproccessor, that converts human waste from 100,000 people into 86,000 liters of drinkable water and 250 kilowatts of electricity, are planning to reach these communities.

Climate conferences must be more human centered and less climate centered. Otherwise, too many “off-the-grid” communities around the globe will continue to suffer. Projects like the Omniproccessor have a chance to achieve what the governments continue to fail to do for the extreme poor around the globe, faster and more efficiently.

 

2014 Omnibus Has Good Provision for Endangered Species’ Conservation

Whatever other good or bad provisions the 2014 Omnibus Budget bill that President Obama has now signed contains, it has one excellent provision: good for sportsmen and good for species facing extinction in their native lands. 

The 2014 Omnibus removes endangered species protection from three select species: the scimitar horned oryx, the Dama gazelle and the addax.  How can this be good for species you say?  Let me give you some background. 

  800px-Oryx_dammah_-Marwell_Wildlife,_Hampshire,_England-8a[1]

 

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 addax

In 2005, the FWS listed three foreign species: the Dama Gazelle, the Scimitar-Horned Oryx and the Addax as endangered, at the same time the agency adopted a rule that would exempt captive members of the three species in the United States from ordinary ESA restrictions. Though nearly extinct throughout the various ranges of their native country’s (where they are supposedly protected by law), these three species thrived on private ranches in Texas where — treated as private property, indeed, livestock —  they were raised on spreads large and small, for hunting and breeding.  Their populations had done so well, in fact that a number of them were shipped back to their native lands for restocking.  Unfortunately, this success was threatened by the  misguided and inane efforts of animal rights wackos using a poorly written law – the Endangered Species Act. 

HSUS and Friends of Animals filed suit to challenge that rule. Their goal was to prevent the hunting of individual animals, regardless of the cost to the species as a whole.  The court found find that hunting these species was legal and rejected HSUS and Friends’ assertions that hunting in the U.S. encouraged poaching or brought any other harm to members of the species outside of the U.S. The court also rejected the animal rights groups’ allegations that they were harmed by the hunting of the species in the United States.   That should have been the end of the case since neither group was found to have standing, the lawsuit should have be summarily dismissed.  Unfortunately, this did not occur.

The Court did ruled in the two groups’ favor on one critical point. The judge decided that the ESA does not allow a blanket exemption to endangered species prohibitions and that those who wish to hunt or otherwise conduct activities that amount to a “taking” of these three antelope species, must apply for an individual enhancement of survival permit from the FWS. The judge ruled that because the permit applications must be published in the Federal Register, the notice of the application makes it possible for individuals and groups to comment on the proposed activities.  As a matter of law, the judge may have been correct, I’m not a lawyer and cannot say.  As a matter of policy, this was potentially disastrous — for the species, and, to some extent for the ranchers who now own what became nothing more than expensive living lawn ornaments. 

Hunting is technically still legal but the additional bureaucracy and delays introduced by the application and Federal Register notice procedures will made it more difficult and more expensive for ranchers to raise these animals. Many ranchers with existing herds no longer wished to raise and breed these animals. Many ranchers offered discount (basically cull) hunts for the species in order to clear them from their properties and the cost of continuing to feed them (they compete with the other “valuable” wildlife and domestic livestock for feed and browse — and Texas is in a serious drought) before the ruling became final.  Three is some evidence that others contemplated capturing and gelding or neutering, their remaining stock of these species so they wouldn’t breed.  As a result, in just two years since the ruling there a dramatic decline in the number of herds and ultimately the number of animals in the U.S.  For instance, The Exotic Wildlife Association estimates that scimitar horned oryx numbers in Texas are now at nearly half of their 2010 levels.

In this case, scientific management (FWS did approve of managing the species as private property) and markets combined for the good of the species, it seems, only to be undone by the courts.

Now thanks to the efforts of Rep. John Carter (R-TX-31), the author of the provision and his colleagues in the House and Senate, especially Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX-32) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA-42), and John Cornyn in the Senate (who insisted that this provision remain part of the bill), the court’s ruling and the foolish efforts
 
The antelope were exempt from the Endangered Species Act from 2005 until 2012 during which time populations experienced dramatic growth in the United States. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was forced to remove the exemption due to legal action that prompted a cumbersome and lengthy permitting process all of which led to a dramatic decrease in populations.  For example, Scimitar horned oryx numbers in Texas are now at nearly half of 2010 levels.
 
As Representative Carter has stated, “This legislation gets big government out of the way so that ranchers can begin working to bring these rare antelope populations back to former levels.  This has been a long time in coming – but we got it done.”

Congress got this one right and one can hope they use it to help all other foreign endangered species as well.

Genetically modified organisms: NYT/Grist gets it right; Hawaii County Council gets it wrong!

I have written extensively concerning the benefits of GMO/Biotech foods. As I have argued at length, the best available evidence shows that they are safe and have the potential to be tremendously beneficial to present and future generations. 

Sadly, on the topic of GMO foods, even more than on most other environmental scare stories hyped by environmental alarmists, the scare has won the day in Hawaii.  The state has a thriving GMO industry that employs thousands of people.  Yet, despite testimony by noted scientists and the hard work of some responsible public servants, as reported by the American Council for Science and Health, the county council for the main island voted to ban the cultivation of GMO crops except for two already established crops.

An interesting piece in the New York Times points out that even the environmentally beyond reproach online publication Grist has now released a series of reports largely supporting the safety and efficacy of GMO crops.  The Times report also examines the psychology of GMOphobes and discusses why, even when a source they usually trust verifies the value of biotech foods to the world, they will be unlikely to change their minds.

Another false bio-tech claim busted

The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology retracted a study claiming a link between genetically modified corn and cancer in laboratory rats. Scientists pointed out several flaws in the study, which was published in 2012.

Scientists showed the study used a strain of rats particularly susceptible to cancer, with or without genetically modified corn. The study also evaluated too small a rat population, rendering it prone to random disparities. Moreover, the study did not present control group information sufficient to rule out other cancer-causing factors.

The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) praised the retraction of the study.

“We here at ACSH have weighed in on this study in the past” said Dr. Ruth Kava in an ACSH press statement. “We congratulated the European food safety agency on rejecting this study almost immediately upon its publication, and now we must congratulate the journal for retraction of the paper. But we would have been even more pleased to see this study rejected from publication in the first place — it doesn’t speak well for their peer review process that this study was published at all. However, it is encouraging to see that scientific integrity was upheld — even if it took a year to happen!”

Scientists and public health officials have never documented any instances of genetically modified foods causing cancer or other negative health impacts.

ACSH provides a more detailed assessment of the flaws in the study here

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly… (read full bio)

“Nobel “ in agriculture goes to Biotech food manufacturers

A short while ago, largely under the radar, the World Food Prize – the equivalent of a Nobel prize for the field of agriculture — was awarded to two of the world leaders in the world of genetically modified organisms for food: a Vice-President of Monsanto and the founder of Syngenta ‘s biotech research center.

Of course, ill-informed, anti-biotech activists are up in arms over the selection.

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing — without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs — the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The Prize recognizes contributions in any field involved in the world food supply — food and agriculture science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership and the social sciences.

The World Food Prize emphasizes the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people, by honoring those who have worked successfully toward this goal.  Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in world agriculture, envisioned a prize that would honor those who have made significant and measurable contributions to improving the world’s food supply. Beyond recognizing these people for their personal accomplishments, Borlaug saw The Prize as a means of establishing role models who would inspire others. His vision was realized when The World Food Prize was created in 1986.

Though a relatively new field, the development of bioengineered crops holds the most promise of any ongoing line of research to feed the worlds growing, increasingly wealthy, population.  I, among others, have written about the promise of and threats to the ongoing development of genetically modified crops on a number of occasions.

It’s good to see productive science recognized and rewarded even in the face of unfounded, but increasingly publicized, fears of new technology.

Every scientific body worth counting has judged biotechnology to be safe and necessary, but still many environmental radicals play on fears of the unknown to get the public and sadly, all too often successfully, public officials to come out against and even restrict or prohibit the introduction of nutritious, high-yield, vitamin enhanced biotech crops.

For ecoradicals, it’s evidently better that millions of people in developing countries die of starvation or suffer the effects of malnutrition now than consume bioengineered crops on the off chance that some small percentage of people could somehow, through some unexplained mechanism , suffer some as yet unobserved harm that the radicals theorize could be a reaction to biotech foods at some later date.

 

The Global Environmental Facility: Another Failed, Corrupt International Boondoggle

A new paper by the NCPA examines the U.N.’s Global Environmental Facility.  The United States has donated $1.24 billion to the GEF. Over the past five years, U.S. contributions have increased 61 percent.  The GEF was established to fund international projects to preserve biodiversity, prevent global warming, protect international waters, stop land degradation, save the ozone layer and remove persistent organic pollutants in less developed countries.

However, as with so many well-meaning, international efforts as the study details, the GEF is rife with corruption, sends most of its funding to wealthier, fast growing countries that could fund their own environmental efforts rather than the poorest countries that could really use the help, has little accountability, and appears immune to reform.

Concerning corruption, The GEF has been scandal-ridden. For instance:]

  • In 2007, the GEF was caught in procurement fraud in Africa worth $8 million; but when an official reported it, the United Nations retaliated against the whistleblower.
  • In the Philippines, the GEF was reportedly operated by an official who awarded grants to her own local nongovernment organization (NGO); then, diverted funds to enrich her family. When a U.N. employee blew the whistle, the United Nations covered it up.
  • The U.N. Development Program, which oversees the GEF, was investigated for illicitly giving funds to North Korea, and for their inability to account for $100 million designated for sustainable development projects.

The GEF has proven adept at one thing, transferring money from some rich countries to other rich countries – while leaving those countries most in need of environmental help begging for scraps.  The U.S. should not continue to throw good money after bad. This is not a program in need of reform – rather it needs to be scrapped entirely.

What you need to know about the main problem with climate science

Over the years I have written a number of pieces critiquing the state of climate science.  I’ve examined the missed predictions, the contrary evidence and the contradictory models.  However, an overarching criticism of the way climate science has been practiced by U.S. government agencies and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has been that it has been practiced as more political science or a religion than as a real scientific endeavor.

For instance, for a symposium by the National Review I wrote concerning climate gate:

Twenty years ago, Steve Schneider of Stanford stated that to be effective advocates on the issue of global warming, scientists would have to “offer up scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.” His disciples have tried to suppress criticism of the “hockey stick” graph; when that proves impossible and researchers such as Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick expose the graph’s deep flaws, they settle for ignoring or downplaying the problem.

And all of this with the cooperation of the mainstream media. Even when errors are found and admitted to, “legitimate journalists” such as those at the New York Times and the Washington Post, rather than asking hard questions of the scientists who have made the errors or conducting independent investigations, have simply given these scientists a platform to say, “Yeah, we were wrong, but the error was not important.” The reporters never question the claim that the errors aren’t important.

Then again I wrote about climate science as being akin to a religion since it seems to be unfalsifiable:

I placed the word “theory” in quotes because I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the idea that humans are causing global warming is really more akin to a religious belief–a revealed truth about human sins (fossil fuel use) and their consequences (all manner of calamities)–rather than a testable scientific explanation.

A couple of points lead me to this conclusion: the way climate scientists skeptical of the claims that humans are causing climate change are treated, and the fact that the theory seems to violate the scientific method by being unfalsifiable.

The term “skeptic” has historically been a badge of honor proudly worn by scientists as indicating their commitment to the idea that, in the pursuit of truth, nothing is beyond question, every bit of knowledge is open to improvement and/or refutation as new evidence or better theories emerge.

However, in the topsy-turvy field of climate science, “skeptic” is a term of opprobrium and to be labeled a skeptic is to be dismissed as a hack. Being a skeptic concerning global warming today is akin to being a heretic in the Middle Ages–you may not be literally burned at the stake, but your reputation will be put to flames.

Concerning the scientific method, progress is made in science by proposing a hypothesis, and developing a theory, to explain or understand certain phenomena and then testing the hypothesis against reality. A particular hypothesis is considered superior to others when, through testing, it is shown to have more explanatory power than competing theories or hypotheses and when other scientists running the same testing regime can reproduce the results of the original test. Every theory or hypothesis must be disconfirmable in principle, such that, if the theory predicts that “A” will occur under certain conditions, but instead, “B” and sometimes “C” result, then the theory has problems.  The more a hypothesis’s predictions prove inconsistent with or diametericaly opposed to the results that occur during testing, the less likely the hypothesis is to be correct.

The theory that humans are causing global warming does not work this way. No matter what the climate phenomenon, if it can in someway be presented as being unusual by global warming alarmists, it is argued to be “further evidence of global warming,” even if it contradicts earlier phenomena that were pointed to by the same people as evidence of global warming.

What the effects will be seem to depend on which scientist one consults and which model they use. In realm of climate change research, different models looking at the same phenomenon applying the same laws of physics with the same inputs produce dramatically varied results.

 

Also there is the little noted fact that the only some of the “scientists” on the IPCC are actual climate scientists rather than economist and other social scientists.  Indeed, the IPCC is made up of leaders appointed by politicians and their work is ultimately edited by politicians.

Recently, another scholar has picked up on the same theme and his views are worth reading.  Dr. Timothy Ball recently wrote:

A major reason the science isn’t settled is because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) never practiced science. They didn’t even look at climate change, only the possible human causes of climate change. Now they are victims of what T. H. Huxley identified over 100 years ago,

 “The great tragedy of science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”

Most often the “ugly fact” is that the predictions derived from the hypothesis are wrong.

He continues:

Science has specific rules. It requires you determine the error in the work and either make adjustments or accept the null hypothesis. This does not mean you are wrong, it just means that the opposite to what you hypothesized is occurring.

A hypothesis is generally defined as “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) created what is generally known as the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) hypothesis. All hypotheses are based on a set of assumptions and are only as valid as those assumptions. For AGW they are;

- CO2 is a so-called greenhouse gas that reduces rate of heat energy escape to space.

- If atmospheric CO2 increases the global temperature will increase.

- CO2 will increase because of human activities, especially industrial processes.

- this will cause devastating global warming.

Scientific method requires scientists act as skeptics to disprove the hypothesis by challenging the assumptions. Karl Popper referred to this as “Science as Falsification”. With the IPCC they chose to prove their hypothesis because it was for a political rather than scientific agenda. They began with a very narrow definition of climate change as only those changes caused by humans. The dilemma is you cannot determine human causes unless you know and can explain natural changes. They built computer models designed to “prove” their hypothesis. In a classic circular argument, they programmed temperature to increase with a CO2 increase then argued that the model output proved their assumption.

His broadside is worth reading in full.

I leave you with Eisenhower after warning of the military-industrial complex, he warns of the scientific-government complex. (approx. 9 min. 5 sec. in the speech).

Gun Control through the International Terminal

Ambassador John Bolton and UC-Berkeley legal scholar John Yoo have written a timely piece in the Wall Street Journal concerning the Obama Administration’s efforts to get gun control through to back door after his failure to ram it through Congress earlier this year.  To quote:

Even before his most ambitious gun-control proposals were falling by the wayside, President Obama was turning for help to the United Nations. On April 2, the United States led 154 nations to approve the Arms Trade Treaty in the U.N. General Assembly. While much of the treaty governs the international sale of conventional weapons, its regulation of small arms would provide American gun-control advocates with a new tool for restricting rights.

I wrote about similar efforts previously.  The Bush administration had rejected the treaty, but with a few minor tweaks and a new administration, the U.S. is on board – or at least the executive branch is.  Thankfully, it takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate to ratify the treaty and give it the actual force of law; something that is highly unlikely to happen with the current make-up of the Senate.  However, until a vote the Obama administration is likely to treat it as law via executive orders.  Much mischief can be done and vigilance for those who actually believe that the Constitution means what it says, as in “ . . . the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, ” is necesessary.

Environmentalists against humans: Green is the Color of Misanthropy

I have long noted a virulent strain of rabid misanthropy among the intelligentsia of the environmental movement.  From professors longing for the next deadly infectious disease strain to come along to philosophers who peg the ideal human population at 100 million, only 1.4 percent of the present population of 7.1 billion, hatred of humanity is not uncommon.

In a short but insightful article in 1990 Robert James Bidinotto quoted a number of environmental though leaders – and those down in the trenches – who displayed outright contempt for human aspirations, achievements and life.  For instance:

““Is it not perverse to prefer the lives of mice and guinea pigs to the lives of men and women?” asks philosopher Patrick Corbett. Not really, because “if we stand back from the scientific and technological rat race for a moment, we realize that, since animals are in many respects superior to ourselves, the argument collapses.”

“Man,” snarls Michael W. Fox in his book, Returning to Eden, “is the most dangerous, destructive, selfish and unethical animal on earth.” David Graber, a biologist for the National Park Service – [yes, he’s on the public payroll, authors observation], expressed his own hopes thusly:

Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line—at about a million years ago, maybe half that—we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth . . . . Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.

Mr. Graber isn’t alone in his death wish for the human race, as Earth First! leader David Foreman makes dear: “We advocate bio-diversity for bio-diversity’s sake. That says man is no more important than any other species . . . . It may well take our extinction to set things straight.” Or how about this: “An ice age is coming, and I welcome it as a much needed cleansing. I see no solution to our ruination of Earth except for a drastic reduction of the human population.”

Foreman therefore finds a silver lining in the horrible Ethiopian famines: they are, he says, Mother Earth’s natural defense against overpopulation. Likewise, his group’s official publication has cheerfully suggested that, from an ecological perspective, the AIDS epidemic might mean the end of industrialism, which is “the main force behind the environmental crisis . . . . [Thus] as radical environmentalists, we can see AIDS not as a problem but a necessary solution.””

All of this came to mind as a read of the more subtle but no less deadly strain of misanthropy detailed in Larry Bell’s review of Robert Zubrin’s book, Merchants of Despair.  I haven’t had the pleasure and likely, disgust, of reading Zubrin’s book yet, but based on Bell’s recommendation, I’d guess is serves as a powerful indictment of much of the modern day environmental movement – in which case, it’s a must read.

Climate Change politics, that’s all it ever was anyway

And so comes the beginning of the end the Kyoto Protocol, with whimper rather than a bang or the sounding of a gong.  The year 2013 is fast arriving and the Kyoto protocol on climate change has no successor.

Though almost no one has noticed, the United Nations is holding its annual “We’ve got to save the planet this year or it’s too late and we’re all doomed — no really, this time we mean it,” Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Doha, Qatar this year.  Despite having representatives from more than 200 countries, and despite Kyoto expiring this year, it is the least well attended UN climate conference meeting in a decade.  In part this is due to waning public and thus political attention.  But it is also due to the fact that for the first time in the Framework’s 18 year history the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was neither invited to address nor attend the meeting.  The UN Framework convention has alway argued that our understanding climate science, not politics was driving the need for carbon restricting policies — and they argued that the IPCC was the gold standard for climate science, and the scientific body that has consistently argued that human actions are warming the globe and must be curtailed to prevent all manner of calamities.  I, among others, have consistently argued otherwise, that it was politics, not science that was driving the international climate policy agenda.  So what’s a climate conference sans climate scientists — a political meeting.

At least now the UN is being open about what the Climate Convention is all about.