In days of yore, young farming men were lured from the hills and valleys of Britain to join the Crusades against the Muslim armies of the Holy Lands. No doubt some had a belief in the mission of waging bloody war in the name of enforcing a Christian belief of goodwill and peace to all, but others were lured, as soldiers often were, simply by the experience of an adventure to foreign lands with a bit of sex and plunder along the way. Whatever the motivation, it was an international organisation of humans travelling to foreign lands with a common purpose. Crusaders in the 21st century still travel to foreign lands albeit under a different banner.
Some time ago I had a Greenpeace crusader knock on my door. A pleasant enough young lady who had flown in from Canada to warn me about the devious way my government had conspired to expose me to the risks of deep-sea oil drilling off the South Island coast. A nice but not a memorable graphic presentation on a smart new iPad apparently explained why I should be demanding the Government choose the alternative of wind power development rather than drilling for oil which she claimed would quite possibly destroy life as we know it.
Perhaps, being from Canada, she was not up with the fact that New Zealand had been investing in renewable hydro power for 90 years and now, like many other countries, we have been investing in wind-power generation for a few years now to supplement that energy source. Wind power supplements existing renewable hydro-sourced energy for domestic electricity in this part of the world but the Greenpeace concept being that wind generated electricity would be stored in batteries to power electric motor vehicles. Sounds ideal.
However, more to the point, wind turbine power generation stored in batteries, as with solar powered energy, comes with its own environmental price tag due to the need for mining of rare earth elements. Ironically the smart new i-pad that she was using to prick my conscience had its own human rights price tag being reliant on the ongoing slave labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo to mine 60% of the world’s cobalt, essential for powering that i-pad’s battery. But that is another story for another time.
But aside from that, looking at the alternatives as a global rather than local issue, by promoting wind turbines and battery power this Greenpeace representative is effectively promoting exploration for rare earth elements, such as Neodymium, essential in the manufacture of the powerful electro-magnets for the wind turbines’ magnets and lithium & cobalt for lithium batteries, as a preference to exploring for oil.
There are serious and considerable environmental concerns connected with sourcing rare earth elements. Extracting rare earth elements begins with mining, followed by the refining process and then disposal. All of the stages of mining, refining and disposal come with unique issues. Most rare earth elements are mined through open pit mining, which involves heavy equipment and machinery. This disruption on the surface of the earth disrupts ecosystems. Furthermore, mines are the point source of release for very serious contaminants. Rare earth elements contain radionuclides (radioactive isotypes), Once radionuclides are in an ecosystem, they accumulate in plants, where the higher concentrations are ingested and ascend the levels of the food chain (Paul & Campbell, 2011). Radioactive contamination has become such a problem that monazite mining has now been banned by China.
The other major contaminant is dust and metal. When mining operations break up materials, the dust can release a variety of heavy metals commonly associated with health problems. As dust, these minerals (such as the asbestos-like mineral riebeckite) can be absorbed into lung tissue, causing problems like pneumoconiosis and silicosis, commonly known as “Black Lung” (Paul & Campbell, 2011). Another example of harmful dust generated is flue dust, a by-product of mining fluorine. According to the Chinese Society of Rare Earths, every ton of rare earth element produced generates 8.5 kilograms of fluorine and 13 kilograms of flue dust, waste materials which contain the heavy metals discussed above (Schuler et al, 2011).
The goal of mining is to end up with a mostly pure and usable element that can be utilised in whatever way necessary. However, the ore that is extracted from the earth does not come out pure, instead they need to undergo a refining process. This refining process introduces another set of environmental concerns, mostly revolving around the release of metal by-products into the environment. It is very easy for metals to enter the air, ground or waters in an environment, and once there it is nearly impossible to remove them.
The metals in an environment can also prove devastating to organisms. The by-product of mining rare earth elements is usually waste that is full of further threats to the environment. Generally, waste is categorised into two different types: tailings and waste rock stockpiles. It is the tailings that are of particular concern as they are full of small, fine particles that can be absorbed into the water and ground surrounding a particular mine. Regardless of whether a contaminant is deemed tailings or waste rock stockpiles, the contamination of the water is the main concern. Water can be contaminated in three ways: sedimentation, acid drainage and metals deposition, and once contaminated is difficult to restore to its original quality.
While most of the Neodymium is currently mined in China, it is readily available elsewhere on the planet and very possibly available in economic quantities in New Zealand. Areas in New Zealand that have been identified as possibly containing mineable quantities of rare earth elements are in Northwest Nelson, Westland, Fiordland, and Rakiura/Stewart Island. Fortunately, many of these places are off-limits to such mining under schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991 (when, incidentally, the National Government held 70% of the seats in Parliament) or because they are in World Heritage areas.
However, Greenpeace, in spite of these environmental issues, are asking for my financial support to pressurise the Government to develop this wind-turbine industry as their alternative to oil exploration. The Greenpeace young lady then presented me with a very legal-looking direct debit form that apparently gave Greenpeace the right to dip into my bank account every month and extract the agreed amount to help them put this pressure on the government to cease and desist from oil as an energy source and invest instead in the business of wind turbines.
When I raised my concerns over the problems in extracting rare earth elements, I was surprised to be told by the young Canadian lady that she had absolutely no knowledge that there even was such a problem. She did not even know what Neodymium was. Given that she also did not even seem to realise that windfarms were already existing and expanding rapidly in NZ it was a little alarming that a front-of-house representative of Greenpeace, sent all the way from Canada on a jet plane which would have consumed around 200,000 litres of jet fuel each way, to inform me about the benefits of wind turbine energy, knew so little about them. There ended that discussion. So, short story even shorter, she didn’t get my signature on the direct debit form.
That however did not discourage Greenpeace from a follow up attempt at getting access into my bank account to help halt this oil exploration, this time from an English-accented young lady. I tried the amicable fob-off: “haven’t you got big enough environmental issues closer to England?” I don’t look for confrontation, but there seems to have been a lot of oil drilling underway in the seas around Europe, but she insisted she was actually calling from Auckland, as if that made any difference; as if flying halfway around the world to make a phone call was something with which Greenpeace was ecologically comfortable. She really did want me to contribute to the Greenpeace funding campaign.
I explained that I know full-well that oil drilling companies are primarily interested in profits, and I have no doubt they are negotiating with a government that is equally keen on making our country a profitable economic entity, and yes I am aware what happened in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and have some idea of the risks of a worst case scenario in NZ. I assured her that if there was a viable alternative, I would endorse it. But so, I believed, would the corporates and Governments which are also very averse to risk taking. The corporates for the impact on their profits, the governments for the impact on their next election.
But the massive and growing demand for energy sources including oil, wind, solar, hydro, gas, coal and nuclear means that we still need to keep sourcing new deposits of oil in addition to developing alternatives if the rapidly growing world population is to be fed, provided with homes and hospitals, schools and libraries, offices and factories and with a transport infrastructure to connect everything.
And frighteningly the earth’s population grows exponentially. While it took over 150,000 years for the earth’s human population to reach its first billion, it took only another 150 years to reach its second billion and now, in less than a further 100 years, it is moving quickly towards eight billion. I am not surprised if the earth is complaining loudly.
So, I pointed out that increased drilling for oil with the consequential increase in CO2 levels in our atmosphere is actually a symptom of our problem, not the problem itself. The core problem is that our population is rapidly expanding out of control. If Greenpeace were somehow successful in significantly reducing oil drilling, then that would be a solution of sorts, but only because it would lead to global economic collapse, massive unemployment, starvation, disease and would put the human species on the path back to the stone age and possibly beyond.
I wondered aloud whether the Greenpeace organisation might wish to focus its resources on humanely resolving the crisis of over-population as a means of reducing the human impact on the environment rather than asking me for money to travel around the world fundraising and sailing protest banners to oil rigs. For if we do not resolve the population explosion problem then, sooner or later, mother nature will develop an unbeatable virus and do the job for us. For while they are so convinced that we are the species in control of the planet, consider this: we were created by the earth, we are raised and nourished by the earth and when we die the earth consumes us, flesh and bones. The earth is really just farming us for its own survival. When she needs to cull the herd, she will do so.
A pause and then an exasperated young English lady told me that she was just wasting her time with me and so she hung up. I guess you can’t travel all over the globe on Greenpeace donations if you are only coming to tell us about birth control. The dire threat of offshore drilling is a much easier sell.
But we need to also challenge the ‘scientific’ basis for their concern about global warming. Is the average temperature on earth higher today than it was a century ago when industrialisation expanded throughout the globe to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population? It is actually not as easy as you might expect to find the answer to that obvious question amongst the plethora of years of press releases from the climate alarmists. From all the micro data that the climate alarmists are extracting, analysing and dispensing, why is it so hard to find a simple list of actual seasonal temperature recordings over the last one-hundred-year period in any given location? Instead, we get charts of variations of temperature from the norm (although rationalising what ‘the norm’ is and when the norm supposedly happened seems to be just ignored). They provide charts of ‘moving averages over years’ with the years selected to ‘prove’ a trend entirely at the writer’s discretion. And while the internet is absolutely overwhelmed with alarmist headlines, actual temperature data over 100 years, separated by season is very, very hard to find. But I eventually did find one. It was from Britain. Have a look at these actual temperature recordings below, over the last hundred years in the country that birthed and led the coal-powered industrial revolution and tell me where you see any temperature trends that would alarm you.
So as a brief scan, in Central England in 1912, the year the Titanic sank and the coal miners went on strike, the average winter temperature was 5.36, spring 8.53, summer 17.55 and autumn 10.39.
At the start of the ‘Boomer’ generation in 1948, winter was 5.13, spring 8.75, summer 17.5 and autumn 11.15.
In swinging 1965, the year Gen. X was born, winter was 3.28, spring 8.43, summer 15.71 and autumn 10.40
In 1981 the year the ‘Millennials’ arrived on earth, winter was 4.33, spring 9.17, summer 15.0nand autumn 10.12
And at the dawn of the 21st century winter was 5.35, spring 9.49, summer 16.45 and autumn 11.57.
|100 years of Central England temperatures by season|
|Source: Met Office|
I could look at the average summer temperature of 1912 at 17.55 degrees and compare it with 100 years later at 16.68 and tell you that the summers are cooling in central England. I could even take three summers spread over this period of 2000, 1948 and 1912, draw a connecting line and claim that the climate has since cooled by 1 degree over the century. I would not do that of course, two or three points over a 100 year span does not make a valid data base. Yet the alarmists fill the media and internet with no more than micro data snippets to make their claims. So just look over the above 100 year chart as a total group or a random handful and just ask yourself, do these temperatures alarm me?
According to the best astrophysics information we have, our temperatures are, unsurprisingly, linked with the natural orbit of the earth around the sun, which is a changing environment and by no means a perfect circle as we might have assumed. Militutan Milankovic, a contemporary of other mathematics and physics geniuses Einstein, Minkowski and Tesla, demonstrated the way our solar system works.
In brief, Milankovic identified that there are three cycles contained in the way earth orbits the sun: elliptic, tilt and precession. The elliptical plane changes shape quite dramatically every 100,000 years. It moves from an orbit of being more round to becoming more elliptical. In its more elliptical phase earth spends a longer time further away from the sun. Unsurprisingly the cycles of glaciation of the planet also have a 100,000-year cycle, or at least have done so over the past 600,000 years that Milankovic was able to include in his calculations.
Milankovic’s calculations connecting solar radiation levels with glaciation, even in temperate climate zones, remain valid today having been constantly reviewed with all the computing support to which modern astrophysicists have access. According to NASA’s earth observatory, Earth’s orbit changes its eccentricity over the course of 100,000 years from nearly 0 to 0.07 and back again.
When the Earth’s orbit has a higher eccentricity, the planet’s surface receives 20 to 30 percent more solar radiation when it’s closest to the sun than when it is furthest. During a glacial period, the planet cools as the earth spends less time closer to the sun and more time further away from it; so the air dries out and water levels fall as liquid is transformed to ice. Land bridges start to become available, and islands appear where before they were part of the seabed. If the cycle repeats the pattern of the the past 600,000 years, then we are now at the peak of the warming cycle and will, over the next few thousand years begin the cooling slide back to glaciation when in 90,000 years’ time, ice sheets will again cover North Europe and North America,
The second change is in the tilt of earth. This moves between 22.1 degrees and 24.5 degrees over a period of 41,000 years and this tilt effects the severity of the seasons. Earth is currently in the middle of this range.
The third cycle is the precession of Earth caused by a slight wobble similar to that of a spinning top. Currently Earth’s axis has been pointed north towards Polaris, also known as the North Star. But Earth’s gradual processional wobble means that in approximately 2,000 years the north star will be a dimmer star called Errai. As the Earth progresses through its a precession cycle, the orientation of the planet is altered. This wobble also effects the level of solar radiation striking different hemispheres of earth as it proceeds around the 360 degrees.
In the chart comparing C02 levels and temperature we can see there is a connection between the two, but what we cannot see is whether it is changing temperature that causes changing C02 levels or the other way around. Nor can we see such a precise correlation as the alarmists are claiming over the past 100 years. What is also obvious is that high levels of C02 have been reached regularly in the past, long before the industrial age of humans. The last time C02 levels were the same as today was 125,000 years ago which natural state then, when humans were only a minority hunter-gatherer species, precipitated the falling of the temperature cycle back to an ice age 25,000 years later. This cycle had repeated in 250,000 BC and 325,000 BC. Peak Carbon levels preceding a falling temperature towards an ice age.
This scientific graph clearly demonstrateds that the warming and cooling of the planet is cyclical which tends to confirm it is a result of the cyclical relationship between the earth and sun as Milankovic demonstrated. The other obvious point is that such movements occur over thousands of years not over dozens of years.
The reason for the heightened anxiety of the alarmists is that today our scientists are micromanaging data and constantly tweeting bite size doomsday headlines that simply are not supported by the bigger picture trends. The climate works in tens of thousands of years, not in months. The last time humans went through this climate cycle they were blissfully unaware of the fact that there even was a cycle; it was a pleasant and warm time and they probably just enjoyed it; a few hundred generations later the climate was comparatively much colder, but they did not know it was colder because they had no records to analyse; it just was what it was. Too much micro analysis of climate data on a month-by-month basis is just creating hyper anxiety and panic.
The problem with such micro analysis is that, even as they march on their Friday strikes and fly around the globe in their thousands to attend conferences in order to draft resolutions, they are just plucking temperature levels and deadlines out of the air about when we may reach the point of no return, which target seems to be a shifting landscape. In 2008 the tipping point was predicted to be 1 August 2016; in 2016, following the Paris Agreement which set 2 degrees as the tipping point, IIASA (science institute) policy brief said we had until to Dec 31, 2020, to keep warming under 2 degrees. As that date approached the 2018 climate summit in September they said we could still get under the 2-degree tipping point within 12 years so that takes us out to 2030. Prince Charles is a little more optimistic and thinks we have until 2050 and he has a feel for these things. But with the doomsday event being a moving feast the alarmist movement decided to up the ante. Now the tipping point was reduced to 1.5 degrees and target dates had to be agreed.
Fossil fuel over-use is not a problem of climate, it is a problem of health. Instead of talking about the ‘Mad Max’ scenario, all because of the industrial sins of our grandfathers, we need to be talking about investing in better technology to reduce lung-damaging air pollution in our larger industrial cities. But the ‘green energy’ options being demanded at these summits only result in air pollution being replaced by the toxic pollution of our farming soils and our water table that poison our food and water sources. When we get rid of the climate doomsday message and focus on health solutions then we might start making some progress. Right now, the climate alarmists are only creating a climate of doom and hopelessness. And that carries the risk of being a self-fulfilling prophesy.
They also cause significant alarm that the global warming is causing catastrophic sea rise which also is unsupported by science. Changing weather and wind patterns will change how and where the oceans encroach on the land, but satellite imagery is showing as many Pacific Islands growing in size as opposed to shrinking. The major ocean rise occurred in the few thousand years immediately ending the last ice age, and for many thousand years the oceans have been stable.
Incidentally, in 2017 climate alarmists claimed that the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia was on its deathbed because of our carbon emissions. But, with no reduction in atmospheric carbon, the reef has since returned to full health and is now happily running half marathons on the weekends. It must have been just a bit of a bug.