Tag: "endangered species"

Favoring Wind Power Endangers Birds and Bats

The Obama Administration has used subsidies and regulation to promote wind power. Yet the deaths of thousands of birds and bats from wind turbines, and the misappropriation of funds shows the danger of endless government subsidies and rules that are enforced only when they benefit certain industries.

Wind turbines kill approximately 600,000 birds a year. The American Bird Conservancy thinks that the Golden Eagle will wind up on the endangered species list because so many are being killed by turbines. Wind turbines also kill an estimated 900,000 bats each year. According to National Geographic bat-friendly turbine designs exist, but the wind-power industry has been slow to install the new turbines.

More disturbingly, the administration seems to be selectively enforcing laws. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Endangered Species Act prescribe strict penalties for killing eagles and condors respectively. But the administration has given an exemption from prosecution to a California wind company if the company is responsible for the death of the California Condor, one of the rarest birds in the world. The administration wants to grant a similar exception to birds on the 1,500-mile Texas to North Dakota migratory corridor. And the administration seems to be ignoring bat deaths altogether.

Other businesses that inadvertently harm protected animals face hefty consequences. Shooting or electrocuting the Bald Eagle can lead to a $250,000 fine and two years in jail. Harming the bird can also lead to legal fees incurred in federal prosecution. Further, the wind industry is allowed to build wind farms on protected lands despite the danger to native animals.

No power source is perfect. Coal and oil power produce emissions. Nuclear power plants require a site to store used fuel rods. Solar power panels use large amounts of land, displacing native animals. But the wind power subsidies and selective enforcement of laws shows the government is deliberately distorting the market to favor a certain industry. Eliminating subsides and uneven enforcement of rules would allow energy companies to produce high-quality low-cost energy. Further it would improve not worsen the lives of birds and bats.

Endangered Species Act: The Semantics of Being “Endangered”

If you are a land owner, pour yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or favorite adult beverage and have a seat. I want you to imagine yourself in a difficult personal scenario and then ask you a seemingly simple but important question that may take some time and focus to comprehend and answer… Now then, take a sip. Ready?

Assume you are about to face a serious loss of economic prosperity due to a federal or state “cease and desist” order on the economic activity you were performing whilst using your privately held land or other natural resource. Assume further that you weren’t causing any harm to anyone else’s health, welfare or private property. Instead, you were found to be causing harm to a protected and endangered wildlife species that is listed under section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973.

OK… This would be a very undesirable financial situation for you and your family to be in, to be sure. But it also would be a very understandable public concern over your causing the possible elimination of an entire species. Pondering a heavy moral dilemma such as this may just require another sip from your cup.

Yet, as you begin to contemplate rearranging your whole life just to save a species of small, furtive bird, or seldom seen fish, wouldn’t you want to at least be assured that the government has made certain that your economic actions were indeed harming a distinguishable “species” that was rare enough, and had a projected future fragile enough, to warrant all the economic harm that will surely descend upon you?  

Certainly, all human activity has some impact on the world’s flora and fauna. The least the government could do is assure you that their taxonomy of “species” to determine the relative scarcity that they claim is being aggravated by your economic activity was adequately defined and broadly accepted within the scientific world. Right?

OK… Take another sip — you’ll need it. The federal legal process for listing or delisting a species as endangered is clearly written, assuming the definition of what constitutes a separate species is well defined. However, it happens that any definition of “species” that the government might choose to use for assessing which ones are scarce enough to warrant listing as “endangered” will garner little consensus from across the biological sciences. Why? Because there is no real agreement among scientists as to what constitutes the proper definition of a distinct “species.”

Oh, my. I’ll give you a moment to clean up that sudden burst of drink sprayed all over your video screen…

Yes, this is true. The “species problem” is an ongoing argument amongst scientists for the past century. It seems the problem of speciation, or finding a universally accepted taxonomy of what actually differentiates the various species, has been roiling in the biological sciences for over one hundred years. That certainly isn’t what we were taught in high school biology with the rusty scalpels and dead, smelly frogs.

Which begs the question: If scientists cannot agree as to what defines a distinct “species,” then how can the government determine as to what defines an “endangered” one? The ESA defines an endangered species as being “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” However, it never defines what separates one species one from another, to determine the relative scarcity of a given species. It presumes this definition is commonly understood and broadly supported by science, which it is not.

Take another sip and bear with me, as an example will illustrate my point. The Baltimore Oriole and the Bullock’s Oriole were each once considered to be the same species. They were referred to collectively as the species Northern Oriole. Changes in how scientists perceived the definition of species led biologists to now consider them as distinct and separate species. What if the strain of birds now known as Bullock’s Oriole was rare and nearly extinct, while the strain now known as Baltimore Oriole was vibrant and ever present. Should the ESA stifle economic activity that endangers the Bullock’s Oriole if the “acceptable” definition of species were still considered inclusive, rather than exclusive of the two strains?

I can see you are almost finished with your drink. I’ll let you think about that question for a while, because who knows? Maybe the definition of the Oriole species will again change soon. Go on. Take another sip…

U.S. Press AWOL on Climate Skepticism

I’ve noticed something curious, not a new revelation, because I’ve thought about it for a while, but phenomena which I haven’t heard anyone really talking about – and that’s part of the curiosity. 

Recently, various public opinion polls show that climate skepticism is growing among the general public.  By climate skepticism I mean to varying degrees people reject or question the truth of one or more of four different but related ideas that make up climate orthodoxy: that the earth is unequivocally warming, that this warming is due primarily or wholly due to human activities, and that such warming will cause apocalypse type disasters, and that we should take drastic action to prevent warming from continuing (even if it hurts the economy). 

Skepticism has regularly been higher among the U.S. public than in Europe but even in Europe skepticism about one or more of the above tenets or climate change faith has grown in the past two years. 

This is not the curious part.  Indeed, it would be curious if the general public hadn’t grown more jaded with the climate dogma in the aftermath of the various climate imbroglios that have been exposed in the last year.  From “Climategate,” to the IPCC disaster claims that were exposed as lacking any evidence whatsoever for their accuracy, one domino after another has fallen exposing the climate emperors as having no clothes (or at least going around threadbare). 

The curious part is this, in the U.S., while the general public has remained much more skeptical of climate alarmism than their European brethren, the American press has drunk the whole plastic jug of climate kool-aid.  By contrast, while Europeans have by and large bought into the climate disaster hype, the European press has maintained its valued, traditional role of skeptic and public scold, challenging orthodoxy coming from on high. 

This was brought home to me once again last week when noted physicist, Harold Lewis, very publicly resigned from the American Physical Society, a group of which he had been a member of and served in various capacities for 67 years. He resigned over the APS’s official statements concerning climate change and the fact that it refused to take the significant proportion of its members who are climate skeptics concerns more seriously, especially in the light of the numerous problems that have come to light with “mainstream” climate science over the past year.  Lewis’s letter merits quoting at length since I can’t state his concerns better myself:

“. . . For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:

1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate

2. The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. (They did admit that the tone was a bit strong, but amazingly kept the poison word incontrovertible to describe the evidence, a position supported by no one.) In the end, the Council kept the original statement, word for word, but approved a far longer “explanatory” screed, admitting that there were uncertainties, but brushing them aside to give blanket approval to the original. The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. It is not, and I am embarrassed that our leaders seem to think it is. This is not fun and games, these are serious matters involving vast fractions of our national substance, and the reputation of the Society as a scientific society is at stake.

3. In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.

4. So a few of us tried to bring science into the act (that is, after all, the alleged and historic purpose of APS), and collected the necessary 200+ signatures to bring to the Council a proposal for a Topical Group on Climate Science, thinking that open discussion of the scientific issues, in the best tradition of physics, would be beneficial to all, and also a contribution to the nation. I might note that it was not easy to collect the signatures, since you denied us the use of the APS membership list. We conformed in every way with the requirements of the APS Constitution, and described in great detail what we had in mind—simply to bring the subject into the open.<

5. To our amazement, Constitution be damned, you declined to accept our petition, but instead used your own control of the mailing list to run a poll on the members’ interest in a TG on Climate and the Environment. You did ask the members if they would sign a petition to form a TG on your yet-to-be-defined subject, but provided no petition, and got lots of affirmative responses. (If you had asked about sex you would have gotten more expressions of interest.) There was of course no such petition or proposal, and you have now dropped the Environment part, so the whole matter is moot. (Any lawyer will tell you that you cannot collect signatures on a vague petition, and then fill in whatever you like.) The entire purpose of this exercise was to avoid your constitutional responsibility to take our petition to the Council.

6. As of now you have formed still another secret and stacked committee to organize your own TG, simply ignoring our lawful petition.

APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?

I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people’s motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.

I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.

Professor Lewis is not the first noted scientist who felt he had to take such dramatic action to make his point concerning the “global warming scam.”  Indeed, in recent years noted scientists including Claude Allegre, Freeman Dyson and Christopher Landsea have all made public their disputes with what is passing as mainstream climate science; with Landsea offering a public letter resigning from the IPCC over its unsubstantiated claims concerning the threat of more and more powerful hurricanes – a field in which he has particular expertise. 

In the U.S. Lewis’s resignation didn’t even merit a mention in most of the mainstream media, rather it was relegated to the blogsphere to highlight and publicize this important schism within the scientific community.  By contrast, Europe’s papers picked up on this story almost immediately, set in the proper context and gave it the importance it deserved. 

When and if a prominent skeptic had switched sides or at least appeared to (see Bjorn Lomborg), the mainstream media is all over it with newspapers across the U.S. trumpeting the decision.  So much for the press’s objectivity.  Whence its commitment to informing and educating the public, to providing fair, balanced, accurate coverage of the important affairs of the day and it role in a free  society is to hold the powers-that-be accountable.

The public’s waning faith in the truthfulness of the media and the trust it places in journalists may be a reflection of the decline in journalists adherence to the ideal espoused by Dragnet’s Joe Friday: “Just the facts, only the facts.”  And one might add, “all the facts no matter how inconvenient they may be.”