-- R.G. Menzies
LIBERTARIAN/CONSERVATIVE DIGEST AND COMMENTARY FROM AN ACADEMIC PSYCHOLOGIST in Brisbane, Australia. My academic publications are widely read
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I have largely discontinued posting here -- for the moment
The lockdowns have been very distressing to me for personal reasons so I don't have the strength to do my usual thing here
I hope to be back when the lockdowns end JR
Trump officials reject stricter air quality standards, despite link between air pollution, coronavirus risks
The "link" they refer to is this study ("Exposure to air pollution and COVID-19 mortality in the United States")
What the study actually found was that number of hospital beds was the chief predictor of Coronavirus deaths: "This suggests that number of hospital beds is a strong confounder". Getting hospital treatment helps you to survive. That finding should surprise nobody.
So when the effect of hospital beds is allowed for, the correlation between Coronavirus deaths per million and level of PM2.5 in the air shrinks to negligibility, in line with other studies of PM2.5 effects.
The existing research on particulate air pollution (PM2.5.)shows effects that range between no effect and effects that are so weak that no confidence can be placed in them. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here
Wheeler was right to ignore the study
The Trump administration opted Tuesday not to set stricter national air quality standards, despite a growing body of scientific evidence linking air pollution to lethal outcomes from respiratory diseases such as covid-19.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced Tuesday that the agency would maintain the current standards for fine particulate matter, otherwise known as soot, the country’s most widespread deadly pollutant.
The EPA’s staff scientists recommended lowering the annual particulate matter standard to between 8 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter in a draft report last year, citing estimates that reducing the limit to 9 could save roughly 12,200 lives a year. The EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) was split on the question, with some members calling for tighter standards and others saying the current one is sufficient.
“The United States has some of the cleanest air in the world, and we’re going to keep it that way,” Wheeler told reporters in a phone call. “We believe the current standard is protective of public health.”
Soot comes from smokestacks, vehicles, industrial operations, incinerators and burning wood. The current standards limit annual concentrations to 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air and daily concentrations to 35 per cubic meter. These fine particles enter the lungs and bloodstream, causing inflammation that can lead to asthma, heart attacks and other illnesses.
Poor and minority communities in the United States tend to be exposed to greater air pollution, including soot, because they often live closer to highways or industrial facilities. A 2019 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that on average, communities of color in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic breathe 66 percent more air pollution from vehicles than white residents.
This long-term exposure has increased the risks Americans of color face when it comes to heart and respiratory illness, including covid-19, which is disproportionately killing African Americans.
The decision regarding particulate matter is the administration’s latest effort to ease industrial regulation. In recent weeks, the White House has rolled back automobile emissions standards, despite projections that it would increase premature deaths. Citing the national emergency sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, the EPA has stopped policing pollution from factories and power plants for an indefinite period. And the agency has weakened emissions limits for coal-burning plants.
But several big business groups in Washington, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Petroleum Institute, cheered the administration for retaining the existing standards, with both noting that annual concentrations of fine particulate matter are down by 39 percent since 2000. Most areas of the country have now met the annual standards, with the exception of spots including Southern and Central California and parts of Pennsylvania and Idaho.
“We think this strikes the right balance,” said API’s Frank Macchiarola.
Wheeler cited “uncertainties” in existing studies about the impact of lower particulate matter on human health, and the fact that the EPA’s advisory panel was split, as reasons to retain the current pollution limits.
But some scientists say even a slight shift in pollution levels, either up or down, can impact the health of those most vulnerable to respiratory problems.
One study published this month from researchers at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health concluded that even a small increase in long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution causes a large increase in the risk of dying of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The study, which examined 3,080 U.S. counties, found that an increase in long-term exposure to fine particulate pollution of just one microgram per cubic meter is associated with a 15 percent greater likelihood of dying of covid-19. This stark difference may be explained by the lung damage such pollution causes over time.
“The study results underscore the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health both during and after the COVID-19 crisis,” the study’s authors wrote.
“If you’re breathing polluted air and your lungs are inflamed by the disease, you’re going to get very, very sick,” a senior author of the study, Harvard biostatistician Francesca Dominici, told The Washington Post last week.
Wheeler said that while the findings were “interesting,” it was “premature” to draw conclusions. “We look forward to reviewing the Harvard study once it’s completed and peer reviewed,” he said.
Ozone hole three times the size of Greenland opens over the North Pole
What!!?? The evil refrigerant gases -- CFCs -- that eat up ozone and produce ozone holes have been banned and the result is said to be an increase in ozone and reduced ozone holes.
So where does this new hole come from? CFCs in the air should affect ozone at both poles. But now that we have holes at both poles it follows in Greenie logic that CFCs must be more plentiful than ever, not eliminated as Greenies claim. CFCs do appear to have been reduced by the Montreal treaty so could it be that CFCs do not affect ozone at all?
Combining the holes at both poles produces a bigger hole than ever so ozone must be vanishing at a great rate rather than slowly increasing. Atmospheric ozone would appear to be less plentiful than ever -- not increasing as Greenies predicted
And the Antarctic hole was at its greatest extent in 2015 -- which is hardly consistent with something that is gradually fading away. The Greenie story is a crock
Ozone holes open over the South Pole every year. Holes at the North Pole are much, much rarer.
Scientists have detected what may be the largest hole in the ozone layer ever recorded over the North Pole.
The ozone hole covers an area roughly three times the size of Greenland, scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA) said in a statement, and could expose people living at far northern latitudes to high levels of ultraviolet radiation if it grows much larger. Fortunately, the hole looks likely to close on its own in the next few weeks, the ESA researchers said.
Holes form in the ozone layer — which is a sheet of gas in Earth's atmosphere that absorbs much of the harmful ultraviolet light emitted by the sun — every year over Antarctica due to seasonal changes in cloud cover. Ozone holes over the Arctic, however, are rarer. The last time an Arctic ozone hole opened was in 2011, and it was significantly smaller than the hole seen now, the researchers said.
"From my point of view, this is the first time you can speak about a real ozone hole in the Arctic," Martin Dameris, an atmospheric scientist at the German Aerospace Center, told Nature.
The Antarctic ozone hole opens every year due to the combination of frigid temperatures and man-made pollution. When temperatures plummet at the start of Antarctica's winter, high-altitude clouds form over the South Pole. Industrial chemical pollutants, including chlorine and bromine, trigger reactions in these clouds that eat away at the surrounding ozone gas.
The Arctic, which has more variable temperatures, doesn't usually see the same ozone-depleting conditions, the researchers said. But this year, powerful winds trapped cold air in a "polar vortex" above the Arctic. That led to colder temperatures and more high-altitude clouds than normal. Hence, North Pole ozone-depletion began.
Fortunately, with the sun slowly getting higher over the Arctic, atmospheric temperatures are already beginning to increase, which means the conditions causing the ozone hole should soon change, the researchers said. However, if the hole continues to expand south, Arctic residents — like those living in southern Greenland — may need to apply sunscreen to prevent UV damage.
The much larger Antarctic ozone hole will remain a seasonal feature, as it has for roughly four decades, though that hole has begun shrinking in size. A 2018 assessment by the World Meteorological Organization found that the southern ozone hole has been shrinking by about 1% to 3% per decade since the year 2000, with the 2019 hole measuring smaller than it ever has since 1982. The shrinking of the southern ozone hole is thanks largely to a global ban on ozone-depleting chemicals initiated in 1987, though some key nations still do not appear to be participating. According to a 2018 investigation, factories in China still appeared to be pumping large quantities of ozone-depleting chemicals into the atmosphere.
The American Left is as authoritarian as ever
The great slogan of the Nazis and most of the early 20th century German Left was "Alles muss anders sein" (Everything must be different). That attitude lives on the the current American Left.
How can any politically person be unaware of Obama's endorsement of that idea when he said (in 2008) that he wanted to "fundamentally transform" America?
Now in a recent dialog between Sanders and Biden we read that: "Biden concluded by promising that if he beats Donald Trump, he would "transform this nation" as much as Franklin Delano Roosevelt"
And Biden is the presumptive Presidential candidate of the Democratic party. He speaks for it.
The impertinence of the Leftist program for change is breathtaking. There's nothing voluntary about it. They intend to upend many people's lives by sweeping legislation. The great inert bloc of Congress prevented Obama for doing much but his many regulatory initiatives showed he had no respect for the importance of consent He had no compunction at all about pushing around large numbers of people. His policies have their clearest 20th century precursors in the policies of Benito Mussolini, the Italian Fascist dictator.
What gives the Left this authority to make sweeping changes in our society? They don't even ask that. If they want to do it, that is enough. Might is right is their only authority. What could make them more authoritarian than that?
Coronavirus triggers Australian self-sufficiency push
Austraia would be greatly impoversished if we had to make everything ourselves. China will always be way cheaper at making most things. But giving local industries with good prospects a bit of a push to get them going would make some sense. But that would give the government the job of picking winners -- and they have no expertise at that.
It is very hard to see any one thing that we should stop importing and start making ourselves. At the moment there would be some justification for producung more face masks etc but the next emergency might be quite different and generate different shortages. We just don't have the predictive power to make any changes that would be reliably useful
Australia's reliance on imported products will be put under the microscope by the federal government as it pushes the economy to become more self-sufficient in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has started quietly pulling together a policy roundtable from the public and private sectors so agriculture is the industry "best placed" to thrive after COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed as rain soaks into drought-baked paddocks of eastern Australia.
Mr Littleproud said even though agriculture delivered just 2 per cent of GDP, the industry would be crucial in helping the nation rebound after this crisis.
"Growing the industry is going to be so important to helping our nation repair. It's the bedrock of our nation's economy and our nation's security," he said.
He was circumspect about bringing back food manufacturing jobs, but said there were opportunities for “new jobs in innovation and science” to boost livestock and crop yields with new farming techniques and technology.
Richard Heath, executive director of the think tank Australian Farm Institute, said there was potential to look at job creation through food manufacturing, provided the government brought in "very different policies".
"This is where it gets really complicated," Mr Heath said, explaining that post-coronavirus "Australia will still have really high processing, energy and labour cost".
"We'd have to add some sort of economic stimulus, or export and import restrictions, to create a competitive processing sector," he said.
Moves to wind back Australia's free trade policies would meet resistance from the government.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Sunday said that even the current demand for locally made medical equipment "should not be seen as an argument for protectionism" and Australia didn't "need to engage in mass national subsidies of industries".
Mr Frydenberg said there would have to be a "proper assessment" of global supply chains and that while Australia was self-sufficient in terms of agriculture, other areas such as fuel security would need to be closely considered.
Grattan Institute household finances program director Brendan Coates said while there were benefits of having global supply chains and not being overly reliant on domestic supplies, there should be careful consideration about concentrating too much risk in one place.
"The crisis has clearly exposed that Australia did not have adequate domestic supplies or productive capacity for critical health equipment like masks, respirators and some of the reagents for producing tests for COVID-19," Mr Coates said.
"We've maybe relied more heavily on China than we should've," he said, adding that firms had started diversifying outside of China in the past decade into other countries.
EY Asia Pacific supply chain reinvention leader Nathan Roost said there was an opportunity for a rethink of the Australian manufacturing strategy and supply chain at a national level.
"There is an effort by corporate enterprises and government departments to identify additional suppliers in different countries, including Australian sources of supply, to limit future input disruption or shortages," he said.
Former NSW primary industries minister Niall Blair, who retired from politics last year and started a new role as professor of food sustainability at Charles Sturt University, is bullish about the prospect for new jobs in agriculture, particularly exporting food products to the growing Asian middle classes.
"There are enough people, with enough disposable income, for us to be able to make a lot of money out of our higher quality, clean and green, value-added food and fibre products," Mr Blair said.
"I've seen people in China pay $11 for a litre of Australian milk. They just don't trust their own produce in some cases and they've got the income to afford it."
Mr Blair said new food processing systems, where food waste was recycled in biodigesters to produce heat and methane for power, could reduce ongoing operating costs.
"Some of the smarter farming and processing businesses are starting to generate their own electricity, their own heat and their own fertiliser, which can make them a lot more sustainable."
Carolyn Creswell, founder and owner of Australian muesli brand Carman's, said local production had enabled the company to meet a 50 per cent rise in demand during coronavirus restrictions.
"So many times I've had conversations that we could have had packaging printed in China and saved a bit of money. What happened to a lot of companies, they could actually make the product, they just didn't have the packaging," Ms Creswell said.
Why Australia is printing money
It is and that may concern many Australians. But the UK and te USA have been doing it on a large scale for years with no obvious ill effects.
It goes back to a recommendation by John Maynard Keynes that the government should spend more money than it takes in during a recession or depression. And that is exactly the situation today. We are in a situation where a Keysnesian stimulus is appropriate. When people are not spending because they have lost their jobs, it would normally send lots of businesses broke. Businesses need people to keep spending. So it makes sense for the government to do their spending for them.
Usually, of course, the government would spend on their own projects but this time governments are actually putting a lot of the new money directly into the pockets of those who have lost their normal income. But either way the government can and should spend up big on keeping people and businesses afloat.
Unfortunately, governments really like spending money without first taking it in and Keynes has legitimated that. Keynes said to print money in a recession but government have ignored that restriction and printed some money regularly. So there is usually a small amount of money printing going on. That is why prices are usually rising. The extra money leads to extra demand for goods and services and that pushes prices up -- which we refer to as "inflation".
The interesting question, these days is how much you can get away with printing without causing inflation to "roar". Economists always thought that inflation would roughly mirror the amount of new money printed. But in recent years we have seen that you can print a large amount of money and get only a small amount of inflation. First Obama and now Trump have used that extensively in that they have spent far more than the government has raised in taxes. We have yet to see where that will end up
Hundreds of billions has been spent to help the economy and interest rates have tumbled. But the central bank has also splashed on another plan
The Federal Government has splashed more than $200 billion in support packages to keep the economy ticking over as the coronavirus halts trading for nearly all industries.
The central bank has chipped in, too, recently slashing interest rates to a record level of 0.25 per cent at an emergency meeting.
It has also injected a huge amount of cash into the economy by purchasing $36 billion worth of government bonds since March 19 “to do what is necessary” to help ease the burden on the suddenly surging jobless Australians.
“The Bank has injected substantial liquidity into the financial system through its daily open market operations to support credit and maintain low funding costs in the economy,” the Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe said in his statement this week.
“It will continue to ensure that the financial system has sufficient liquidity.”
The central bank will continue to buy government bonds but this will be pulled back and done on a smaller scale in the near term.
But what does this all mean?
Also known as quantitative easing, an avenue to inject money into the economy is by creating extra cash and using that to buy government bonds or other financial assets, AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said.
“They could buy mortgages or corporate debt, which is what the Federal Reserve does in the US, or they could buy shares, which is what the Bank of Japan sometimes does,” he told news.com.au.
The process of buying and selling bonds is part of the RBA’s standard monetary operations to maintain liquidity in the financial system, though this is isn’t usually done through printing money.
SO THE RBA IS PRINTING MONEY? Essentially, yes, says Dr Oliver.
“For all intents and purposes, they physically print it because they engage in a transaction with a bond holder — which could be a bank, it could be a fund manager, or it could be a foreign organisation,” he said.
“They're going into what you call secondary market for Australian government bonds, when a bond has already been issued by the government and someone has already bought it.
“That bond holder can then sell it on or trade it. So the reserve bank goes into these secondary markets, buys those bonds and in the process transfers money into the account of the person selling the bond. “And to do that, they obviously have the cash backing that.”
The money used to purchase the bonds is electronic but the central bank would have needed to back that up by creating more cash. “Money doesn't just get created in thin air, the Reserve Bank would use printed money to buy that,” Dr Oliver said.
“The RBA is actually increasing the size of its balance sheet and the asset it gets is a government bond. But the liability is, in principle, cash.”
BUYING BONDS IS A GOOD THING
The process has become a popular economic policy move across the globe in the recent months as the coronavirus cripples supply chains and halts business. The United Kingdom and the US have embarked on similar schemes.
“The problem facing Australia right now is a supply shock with people stuck at home and can't work in some cases,” Dr Oliver said.
“But there's also a demand shock so anything the Reserve Bank can do to make it easier for the government to borrow money to finance things like wage subsidies, higher unemployment benefits and payments to companies to help them through this period is a good thing.”
WILL AUSTRALIA SUFFER LATER ON?
Like any of the stimulus packages being hurled at the frontline of the economic crisis caused by the deadly pandemic, it is increasing the nation’s debt.
“It will come at a cost but providing it's managed well and the Reserve Bank, when the time comes, puts an end to money printing before inflation becomes an issue, then I don't think it's a major problem,” the leading economist said.
“It’s similar to federal government borrowing money to pay wage subsidy and other supportive measures through this period in that it will come at a cost down the track if it’s not withdrawn. “The trick is that once the need is over, then it’s brought to an end.”
Arts funding in decline
And the pips are squeaking. Arts personalities are not only reliably Leftist themselves but they also abuse conservtives. And they expect a conservative government to keep giving them money?
The basic point at issue is WHY should the government fund the arts? They are enjoyed by only a small minority of the population. The average Joe follows sport, not the Arts. But as an elite pursuit, the political elite, particularly on the Left, are sympathetic to the Arts and cheerfully divert the taxes of the average Joe into the pockets of people who have nothing but contempt for the average Joe.
There is always some pretence that the Arts are "uplifting" in some way but I have never seen any solid evidence to that effect. Hitler was devoted to the Arts. Was he uplifted by them?
Hitler at Bayreuth
And the arts were well supported by the brutal Soviet system. So reducing subsidies to the recreations and entertainments of the elite is a proper activity of a democratic government
As any performer or comedian will tell you, timing is everything.
The cliché was never more painful than last Friday, when the Australia Council for the Arts handed down the results of its four year funding round for smaller cultural organisations.
The results were heartbreaking. Some of Australia’s most important and innovative arts organisations have lost their federal funding: the lifeline that they had counted on to try and ride out these extraordinary times. The list of organisations being “transitioned out” of Australia Council funding includes the Sydney Writers’ festival; many of the nation’s literary magazines, including Australian Book Review, Overland and the Sydney Review of Books, and a long string of theatre and dance companies, such as Sydney’s Australian Theatre for Young People, Adelaide’s Restless Dance Theatre, Perth’s Blue Room and Melbourne’s famous small theatre La Mama.
For perennially hard-pressed cultural organisations, funding cuts would be difficult in any climate. Unfortunately for Australia’s small cultural organisations, this is the very worst time of all.
The coronavirus outbreak has heralded wrenching changes to all sectors of our economy. But with the possible exception of aviation, no sector has fared worse than culture.
This is not a “recession” or a “downturn” by any normal definition. In response to coronavirus, whole sectors of the cultural industries have completely ceased operating.
By government fiat, every single performing arts company in the land has shut down in recent weeks. Every festival. Every theatre, opera house and music hall. Every public address or panel of speakers. The majority of art galleries and museums.
The arts minister, Paul Fletcher, argues that arts organisations affected by the restrictions can apply for the government’s jobkeeper package – indeed, he wrote in a media release that the stimulus could total billions of dollars across the cultural sector when finally totted up. “Most organisations in the arts sector are expected to meet the eligibility requirement of revenue having fallen by 30% or more, given that performances have been suspended and venues closed,” Fletcher’s statement notes.
This is scant consolation for the organisations that lost their funding late last week. The jobkeeper package is not even legislated yet, and there are many questions as to how it might apply.
The answers are depressingly familiar. The current funding round is the tortuous outcome of years of creeping austerity levelled on the Australia Council by successive Coalition governments. The pain began in Joe Hockey’s first budget of 2014, and was followed by the notorious “Excellence Fund” raid sortied by George Brandis, in which $105 million was ripped out of the Australia Council to pay for a parallel funding program dreamed up by the former arts minister in a flight of vainglory.
Some of the excellence funding was eventually returned, but in real terms Australia Council funding has declined by nearly 20% since Labor left office in 2013.
To compound matters, most of the Australia Council’s funding is quarantined for a group of larger performing arts companies co-funded with the states and territories, known as the Major Performing Arts organisations. These big companies, such as Opera Australia, the Australian Ballet, and the various state orchestras and theatre companies, soak up three-fifths of the Australia Council’s total budget. There simply isn’t much funding left to go round.
The dilemma is made even more painful by the fact the smaller companies (often known as the “small-to-medium” sector) have double the audiences of the majors, and produce around four times as much work each year. However, they get about a quarter of the funding.
There is enough money to fund Australian culture properly, of course. It’s simply a matter of political will
As a result, the Australia Council has been left in an invidious situation. As a matter of policy, it is not allowed to take money from the major companies. But it doesn’t have the money to fund the small-to-medium sector properly.
The inevitable result was Friday’s bloodbath.
For a lover of culture, going over the list of who missed out is shocking. Companies of the calibre of La Mama, Australian Theatre for Young People, Polyglot, Liquid Architecture, Australian Book Review, Overland, Information and Cultural Exchange, the Sydney Writers festival, St Martins, Restless Dance Theatre, The Blue Room Theatre, Barking Gekko, the Sydney Review of Books and Ensemble Offspring are some of the most significant cultural organisations in the country. There can be no pretence that they have failed to win funding because they lack merit. They aren’t getting funding because there isn’t enough money.
There is enough money to fund Australian culture properly, of course. It’s simply a matter of political will. While the Australia Council’s annual budget is less than $200 million, the government has announced economic stimulus measures worth nearly $200 billion in recent weeks. Yes, some cultural organisations will benefit from the stimulus measures. But we are now throwing nationally significant arts companies to the wolves.
Aren’t there bigger priorities than arts funding in a pandemic, you might ask? Yes, of course there are. Everyone in Australian culture agrees that social distancing is necessary and that the festivals and theatres must shut. No one argues that arts funding should take priority over hospitals. But surely we can now agree that culture matters too.
As Benjamin Law pointed out in a perceptive article last week, what are the locked-down citizens of Australia doing in their time of crisis? They are reading, watching Netflix, listening to podcasts, singing and dancing at home. They are making culture.
Covid-19 is an opportunity to ask ourselves as a nation why we take our artists and cultural organisations for granted. Why, even in an emergency, can’t we find the money to fund a couple of hundred of the most important arts organisations in the country properly?
The answers are both complex, and simple. Historical precedent, conservative antipathy to arts funding, and enduring beliefs that artists are not really deserving and that culture is not a real industry all play a part.
But the simpler explanation is a failure of imagination.
Great Barrier Reef: Same old same old scares
Every couple of years we get the whines we read below: The reef is being destroyed by global warming and farming. But the reef is still there. The prophecies of doom don't eventuate.
One should in fact gravely doubt the findings below. Peter Ridd has shown that the JCU people routinely exaggerate reef damage. There are always bare spots on the reef and these are attributed to global warming.
But that is not so. It is the Crown of Thorns starfish that is responsible for most reef damage. But from an aircraft you can't see starfish so the damage is all put down to global warming. What you read below is therefore a travesty of science. No effort was made to exclude competing explanations -- which is utterly basic in science. They are propagandists, not scientists.
In another sad blow for the Australian environment, it has now been confirmed that once again climate change has taken its toll on one of its greatest natural wonders - the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, home to some 600 species of coral.
But a recent aerial study has confirmed scientists' worst fears, concluding that the reef is experiencing its third large-scale bleaching event in five years.
Coral bleaching is the direct result of warming sea temperatures, which causes corals to become stressed. In this situation, coral expels the symbiotic algae which lives within its tissues, which is responsible for its bright colour.
Usually bright and colourful jewels among the reef, bleaching leaves a stripped-bare skeleton of the coral behind.
Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, led a team of researchers to assess the extent of coral bleaching across the reef.
Professor Hughes said: “We surveyed 1,036 reefs from the air during the last two weeks in March, to measure the extent and severity of coral bleaching throughout the Barrier Reef region.
“For the first time, severe bleaching has struck all three regions of the Great Barrier Reef – the northern, central and now large parts of the southern sectors."
Aerial surveys concluded that while some areas of the reef have remained unscathed, large swathes in other regions have been severely bleached, casting ominous doubt over the reef's future.
The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has described the phenomenon as a “matter of huge concern”.
So in order to preserve and protect the Great Barrier Reef for years to come, what is the solution?
How can the Great Barrier Reef recover?
Dr Mark Eakin, Coordinator of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch program, said while people “continue to spew carbon dioxide” the current phenomenon will become a much more common occurrence.
He said: “This is the third widespread, severe coral bleaching in less than five years.
“As long as we continue to spew carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, corals will continue to bleach and die.
“Local efforts to reduce pollution on the reef and to restore reefs piecemeal help keep corals alive.
“If we want to save the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs around the world, we have to move off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.”
According to Dr Richard K.F. Unsworth, Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology at Swansea University, farming practices needs a significant overhaul in order for the reef to survive.
He said: “Although climate change is the primary cause of bleaching, the capacity of the reef to recover after bleaching events is improved when the water quality is high.
“This means low levels of nutrients, sediments and contaminants such as herbicides.
“The water quality in many areas of the inshore Great Barrier reef remains poor principally because of poor farming practices, reducing the capacity of the reef to recover after bleaching.”
Dr Unsworth added: “For the reef to have any chance of survival in the long-term, the water quality of the Great Barrier Reef region needs to improve through better farming practices, and global carbon dioxide emissions need to reduce rapidly.
Phil North at Dive Worldwide said some divers fear it “is not what it once was”, but all is not lost for the reef yet.
He added: “This having been said, the reef is vast. It is the largest living structure on earth that can be viewed from space.
“Not all of it is destroyed and there are some parts that are still quite beautiful.”
While the current bleaching event is undoubtedly a setback for the reef, Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said the reef is a “resilient ecosystem” which can still recover.
She added: “We know that on mildly or moderately bleached reefs, there is a good chance most bleached corals will recover and survive.
“It’s heartening to hear that some of the key tourism reefs in the north and central areas are amongst those likely to bounce back from lesser levels of bleaching.”
UK: Leading educationalist ANTHONY SELDON has a stark warning about the uncharted waters of home-schooling
This is a rather strange article. Homeschooling in Britain is far from uncharted. It goes back to the 19th century. So what is the problem Seldon sees with it? Let me mention what he is really on about.
It is black children. They get some discipline while in school but out of school they tend to run riot. And an extended riot of black criminal behavior is what Seldon reasonably fears
I met Seldon in 1977 and had some interesting chats with him. So I know him as a realistic man. So I am confident that I am not getting it wrong in saying what he cannot say
There are many drastic changes being made to our lives as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But what few people appreciate is that Britain has embarked on one of the greatest educational and social experiments in our history.
In any normal year, schools would reconvene in two weeks' time after the Easter holidays for the summer term. Not this year.
Millions of children of school age, with the exception of those who are considered vulnerable or whose parents are in key jobs, will have to adjust to working from home for as long as six months.
It is an eventuality for which we have had next to no time to prepare, the risks are beyond the imagination, and of all the toxic legacies bequeathed by this coronavirus crisis this one may prove to be the most devastating.
It is true that some 50,000 young people are already home-schooled, but their parents long ago worked out how to do it. In educational terms, the vast majority of young people have been abandoned in unknown territory.
Let me make this very clear. When it comes to home-schooling en masse, we have no collective memory of best practice, no historical evidence of the most effective techniques, and no bank of psychological research.
In short, we are embarking on a road without maps.
I write not as a psychologist nor a scientist, but as someone who was a school teacher for 30 years, 20 years of them as a head.
And for the past five years I have been running a university, which makes me the only person in Britain to have run both schools and a university — and I am worried.
In the worst-case scenario, too many of the most vulnerable children who are no longer in school under the watchful eye of teachers will, I fear, fall through the cracks. They are at risk of becoming victims and perpetrators of crime.
They will be easy prey for the equivalent of the spivs and criminals who were spawned by the upheaval of British life during World War II — only their contemporary successors are far more sinister.
Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner, has already voiced her fear that criminal gangs will exploit school closures to recruit children as drug mules and street fighters.
She describes the drug-selling networks known as county lines as 'sophisticated enterprises that have well-established hierarchies and use intense violence as part of their business model'.
We know already that these gangs are practised at targeting susceptible children and woo them initially by offering friendship, then money, then drugs. Many such children — and there is an estimated one million of them — live in households affected by violence and addiction.
'For those kids, school is the place where they get their safety, stability and structure in their lives,' says Longfield. Without this support, the Children's Society believes that more and more young people 'will put their lives at risk, rob rival gangs for [drug] supplies'.
Let's face it, schools find it hard enough to keep the disengaged in school and to secure their attention under normal conditions.
Imagine how much more difficult it will be to keep young people studying — and safe — without a structure that combines registration, routine and the threat of sanctions. The fear is that many of them will run amok.
After all, what is to stop young people leaving their homes, congregating out of sight, out of mind, and falling into all kinds of danger?
We have only a limited number of police, they are already overstretched and their new powers to exercise control during this crisis are even now being questioned by judges.
Mental health problems will also proliferate. The past ten years have seen a steady rise in depression among the young, as well as an increase in suicide attempts.
And, only this week, the mental health charity MIND reported seeing a rise in concerns from those with existing conditions.
Even children lucky enough to live in secure and loving families often find that schools are unique in adding meaning and structure to their often anxious lives, as they negotiate the transition from childhood to adolescence.
The reassuring rhythm of the school year, the challenges it provides, and the aspiration it breeds all go towards engendering a sense of community and belonging. All that will be stripped away.
As for those who have worked for years to prepare for GCSE and A-level exams, suddenly hearing that those exams are to be scrapped has proved deeply traumatic.
And children are not the only vulnerable groups. Parents and guardians will be increasingly at risk of mental health problems, too, as they struggle to deliver home-schooling and to keep their children occupied and safe.
Tensions at home will become unbearable for some, leading to sky-rocketing rates of separation and divorce, and the pressures of living in lockdown could even spark an epidemic of domestic violence.
Meanwhile, social inequality will only be enhanced because not all children have parents equally willing and capable of overseeing lessons at home.
The tools they have at their disposal will vary, too, depending upon the resources they have at their disposal.
While many middle-class households will be able to draw upon a wide range of tech devices to enable access to digital technology at home, others on low incomes will find it hard to give their children the equipment they need.
In the same way, children whose families live in cramped high-rise flats may struggle to find quiet spaces in which to study.
Thanks to factors such as these, it may take years to make up the social disadvantages embedded by the loss of the long summer term's study at school.
I visit the Australian Antarctic Division, a sprawling space station-like complex on Hobart’s southern fringe, for a briefing from its director, Kim Ellis
Most of the article excerpt reproduced below is devoted to prophecy of disaster from Antarctic melting. The melting is seen as an ongoing process that will eventually "tip" into disaster
When we get to the actual facts however, it is a different story. Note in the last two paragraphs reproduced below that the senior antarctic scientist stresses how random are the actual changes in the Antarctic. They are so far from a steady progression towards disaster that he prefers "term “climate strange” to “climate change”.
Clearly, what is actually going on is nothing more than the random walk that we would expect from natural changes in the weather. Global warming is not only completely superfluous as an explanation, it does not fit the facts at all.
Though the effects of climate change are less visible across the Australian Antarctic Territory on the east of the continent, which Ellis administers, than on the western Antarctic Peninsula, where I’m headed, he has no doubt that warming on the continent is a concrete and not a spectral thing. The Antarctic is estimated to have lost three trillion tonnes of ice over the past 25 years and Ellis holds grave fears of an approaching tipping point.
“As ocean salinity changes due to the melting ice sheet and freshwater run-off, so do ocean currents,” says the 64-year-old former army officer in a bright bureaucratic tone that conceals the gravity of this grim scenario.
“The currents around the Antarctic are a major cooling factor. The Antarctic is the Earth’s airconditioner.”
If and when it tips – a moment unlikely to be discernible until it’s already past – Antarctica will become an aggressive driver of climate change. A warming, melting Antarctic would likely propel global sea levels one to two metres higher by 2100, washing an erstwhile frozen continent to the doorstep of many coastal communities.
Experts believe it would also stimulate a change in the direction and strength of the world’s big currents, and deplete oceanic oxygen levels and nutrition to the point where the Earth’s surface water would resemble a “marine desert”.
In the same facility I meet the Australian Antarctic Division’s acting chief scientist, Dirk Welsford, who is dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt bearing a cartoon of a rather wan-looking penguin. He’s a marine ecologist and like his boss, bearded.
Ellis sports a trimmed, almost Elizabethan beard; Welsford’s whiskers are more bearish. He stresses the dramatic temperature fluctuations on the continent between years, seasons and regions, preferring the term “climate strange” to “climate change”.
“The key thing we’re seeing is that everything is less predictable than it used to be,” he explains. “The ice might break out earlier than normal, or later than normal. That’s the big message for us from climate change – it’s not a steady upward swing. It’s pulsing in unpredictable ways.” The new normal, for Welsford, is the abnormal.
Air quality improving: Will it help with global warming?
The Greenies want huge economic shutdowns to halt global warming. Courtesy of the response to the coronavirus we now have such shutdowns. So what difference is that making to the climate? None, apparently. Global carbon dioxide levels are not budging.
It's logical that a short period would not do much to a level built up over many years but the fact that we are seeing no response at all despite the huge changes in human activities does suggest that the CO2 reduction that Greenies want may be far greater than could ever be achieved in reality
In terms of the article below, all that Greenie policies could achieve would be "noise": too small to detect above natural variability
Seattle-area air quality is a bit better as the novel coronavirus shuts down economic activity and travel.
Levels of nitrous oxide (NOX), a pollutant produced by tailpipe emissions and other sources, are being detected at generally lower values in local air-monitoring devices. And a satellite that detects emissions in the atmosphere linked to cars and trucks shows declines in pollution over the Seattle area in March 2020 compared with March 2019.
But efforts to “flatten the curve” – the rate of spread of the coronavirus — have not even dented a different curve also of great importance to humanity around the world: The Keeling Curve.
The Keeling Curve is a record of global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration maintained by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego. Over the past 62 years since measurements began, the curve has gone, except for seasonal variation, in only one direction: relentlessly upward. Right through the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. Through the global economic turndown of 2008. To record levels, without stopping. And so it continues, even now as public life grinds to a near standstill.
Ralph Keeling – his late father, Charles, invented the measurement — said even greater declines in fossil fuel use than we are presently seeing would need to be sustained for at least a year to show up clearly in global carbon dioxide levels.
But in the short term, it’s not enough to make a difference in global warming.
“A lot of people are saying this is good for the climate problem. No, not really,” said Pieter Tans, senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Monitoring Division. To bend the Keeling Curve, emissions from fossil-fuel burning would need to be cut by half, and then continue to decrease, Tans said. Even a 25 percent reduction would result in only a few tenths of one part per million decrease.
“It would be hard to see it in the record, to pick it out of the noise of natural variability. Maybe if we have a long downturn, maybe we begin to see something above the noise.”
Does warm weather inhibit the Coronavirus?
A study suggests the coronavirus outbreak could be stifled by warm English weather in May. Researchers from University College London found infections from three common coronaviruses followed a seasonal pattern in England, with large numbers in winter at the same time as influenza.
The academic study below is a one of a number that suggest that coronaviruses may be destroyed by heat. And if the mild heat of an English summer destroys them, how much greater must be the effects of a warmer climate?
Heat is in fact the only good explanation of the extraordinarily low coronavirus death toll in Australia. Australia is an advanced Western society very similar to Britain and the USA but differs in that it is located in the Southern hemisphere. For that reason, Australia is only now coming out of a very hot summer. And in any case Australia has a hot climate, with around a third of it being in the tropics
So for just about the whole period of the coronavirus outbreak, Australia has been distinctly hot. And there is no obvious other way in which Australia differs from other advanced countries
It may be noted that Singapore is also an advanced economy in the tropics -- and so far, its infection and death rates have been lower than most other countries, despite schools and universities remaining open.
Seasonality and immunity to laboratory-confirmed seasonal coronaviruses (HCoV-NL63, HCoV-OC43, and HCoV-229E): results from the Flu Watch cohort study
Robert W. Aldridge et al
Background: There is currently a pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The intensity and duration of this first wave in the UK may be dependent on whether SARS-CoV-2 transmits more effectively in the winter than the summer and the UK Government response is partially built upon the assumption that those infected will develop immunity to reinfection in the short term. In this paper we examine evidence for seasonality and immunity to laboratory-confirmed seasonal coronavirus (HCoV) from a prospective cohort study in England.
Methods: In this analysis of the Flu Watch cohort, we examine seasonal trends for PCR-confirmed coronavirus infections (HCoV-NL63, HCoV-OC43, and HCoV-229E) in all participants during winter seasons (2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2008-2009) and during the first wave of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic (May-Sep 2009). We also included data from the pandemic and ‘post-pandemic’ winter seasons (2009-2010 and 2010-2011) to identify individuals with two confirmed HCoV infections and examine evidence for immunity against homologous reinfection.
Results: We tested 1,104 swabs taken during respiratory illness and detected HCoV in 199 during the first four seasons. The rate of confirmed HCoV infection across all seasons was 390 (95% CI 338-448) per 100,000 person-weeks; highest in the Nov-Mar 2008/9 season at 674 (95%CI 537-835). The highest rate was in February at 759 (95% CI 580-975). Data collected during May-Sep 2009 showed there was small amounts of ongoing transmission, with four cases detected during this period. Eight participants had two confirmed infections, of which none had the same strain twice.
Conclusion: Our results provide evidence that HCoV infection in England is most intense in winter, but that there is a small amount of ongoing transmission during summer periods. We found some evidence of immunity against homologous reinfection.
The Swedish alternative to ferocious shutdowns
Note that the death toll below becomes comparable with other countries only if we take Sweden's small population into account -- 10 million. So the 105 deaths reported below amount to less than 1 per capita, which is less than almost anywhere except Australia
There have been recent prophecies that Sweden will have to crack down soon. But so far they are just that: Prophecies. The basis of the claim is that deaths in Sweden have risen a bit recently. They are however still very low by world standards
In the bright spring sun, flaxen-haired families held barbecues on the beach. Crowds in this provincial Swedish town shopped in designer boutiques and in supermarkets laden with toilet paper and pasta.
As much of the world hunkered down at home to hide from the coronavirus, life in Sweden was — for many — carrying on almost as normal last week.
Swedish public health experts argue that the virus can be stopped solely by vaccination or by herd immunity.
Since a vaccine for widespread use is still at least a year away, they say, the only possible way to stop the epidemic is by isolating vulnerable people while allowing the virus to spread as slowly as possible through the healthy population as they build resistance.
Scientists at Sweden’s public health agency say this will also prevent a harsh resurgence in infections. “It’s important to think how long can you keep these measures going,” said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.
“What we’re doing now we think we can do for a long time. Of course it slows down many things in society but we can make it work. We all know that this is going to go on for months. You can’t keep schools closed for months.”
There were 3447 infections in Sweden and 105 deaths by Sunday. Some restrictions have been imposed to slow the spread of the virus and protect the vulnerable.
Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned and colleges and universities are closed. Those over 70, or with pre-existing health problems, have been asked to stay at home except for a daily walk. But restaurants and bars are open and children are going to school.
The authorities say Swedes can be trusted to follow recommendations to socially distance and do not need draconian laws to slow the spread of the virus.
“If the public health agency goes out and says stay home, people do stay home,” Dr Tegnell said. “My feeling is that the actual impact of having a law in another country and a recommendation in Sweden isn’t that different.”
Last week The Netherlands, which has been aiming for herd immunity, announced a ban on almost all gatherings amid public fears over a large projected number of deaths.
In Sweden, scientists at the public health agency are shaping the national response to the virus together with the government, but — by law — politicians cannot intervene in the details of its implementation.
“The agencies have the technical and scientific expertise. The government has the expertise in policies and politics,” Dr Tegnell said. “Most experts in the world agree that there’s no way of stopping this any more. It hits almost every country in the world. We can’t get rid of it, that never happened in history — only with smallpox after decades of vaccination.”
Anders Bjorkman, a leading epidemiologist who spent years at the forefront of malaria research, challenges the model used by researchers at Imperial College London, which estimated that about 1 per cent of those who contracted the virus would die. He argues that the estimate is misleading as it does not include those with the virus who exhibit no symptoms.
“They say there’s 1 per cent mortality. That’s not true. They completely discard the asymptomatics,” he said. “In all these groups there are some who don’t have symptoms and aren’t reported. In Sweden the average age of all reported corona cases is 56 years roughly. The average age of the population is 40 … and I believe that all age groups have been more or less equally exposed. Among the younger population, those under 40, there are so many non-symptomatics.”
The death rate in Sweden, he said, was likely to be closer to 0.1 per cent than 1 per cent. Hundreds, rather than tens of thousands, would die before herd immunity was achieved.
The public health agency said that in tests of about 5000 people who had returned to Sweden from visits to Italy, the few hundred that were positive all exhibited mild symptoms — implying that there could be a large number of people in Sweden who are asymptomatic — with mild or no symptoms — who have not sought medical treatment.
Study: The Ozone Layer Is Repairing Itself, Affecting Wind Flows
This is a curious study. Changes in the ozone layer may indeed be affecting wind flows but are those changes traceable to the Montreal protocol? The protocol entered into force on 1st January 1989.
The fact that the hole was at its largest extent in 2015 would indicate that the protocol had done nothing even by that stage. A quarter of a century is a long time to have an effect
I add the journal abstract to the article below. Note that they attribute the ozone change to the year 2000. So by even their reckoning that Montreal agreement is pretty laggard in having any effect
While most people’s focus remains directed at the coronavirus pandemic, some good news has emerged: a hole in our ozone layer is now in recovery.
The hole—located above Antarctica—is continuing to recover and bringing changes in atmospheric circulation as a result, according to New Scientist.
Many dangerous changes are being brought to a halt in the atmosphere of the Southern Hemisphere due to the ongoing recovery.
Ozone depletion began to bring air currents in the Southern Hemisphere further south in the 1980s. This caused a change in ocean currents and rainfall patterns.
Global News reported that the new changes suggest that a ban on producing ozone-depleting substances, called the 1987 Montreal Protocol, is now having a positive effect on the world.
On Wednesday, a research paper released in Science Daily showed that the ozone layer has started recovery due to changing wind patterns.
Antara Banerjee and her colleagues at the University of Colorado Boulder did the research and noted that the ozone layer in the Northern Hemisphere is on track to fully recover to its 1980s levels sometime in the 2030s.
They added that in the Southern Hemisphere should return to that state by the 2050s. The Antarctic hole is expected to take longer and is estimated to recover by the 2060s.
A pause in Southern Hemisphere circulation trends due to the Montreal Protocol
Antara Banerjee et al.
Observations show robust near-surface trends in Southern Hemisphere tropospheric circulation towards the end of the twentieth century, including a poleward shift in the mid-latitude jet1,2, a positive trend in the Southern Annular Mode1,3–6 and an expansion of the Hadley cell7,8. It has been established that these trends were driven by ozone depletion in the Antarctic stratosphere due to emissions of ozone-depleting substances9–11.
Here we show that these widely reported circulation trends paused, or slightly reversed, around the year 2000. Using a pattern-based detection and attribution analysis of atmospheric zonal wind, we show that the pause in circulation trends is forced by human activities, and has not occurred owing only to internal or natural variability of the climate system.
Furthermore, we demonstrate that stratospheric ozone recovery, resulting from the Montreal Protocol, is the key driver of the pause. Because pre-2000 circulation trends have affected precipitation, and potentially ocean circulation and salinity, we anticipate that a pause in these trends will have wider impacts on the Earth system. Signatures of the effects of the Montreal Protocol and the associated stratospheric ozone recovery might therefore manifest, or have already manifested, in other aspects of the Earth system
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