LED Streetlights Killing Insects Misleading Headline

The Misleading Headline

The Misleading Headline reads: LED streetlights kill off insect populations by half, study finds. Oh no! LED Streetlights are killing off half the population of insects in the world! This is important information. Get rid of LED streetlights immediately! Put back in the old bulbs. We must save the insects.

Why it is Misleading

You have to read past a plethora of advertisements and down to the seventeenth and eighteenth paragraph to determine why the headline is basically lying. The study was done on three locations, areas with LED streetlights, areas with old style streetlights, and areas with no streetlights at all.

I think you see where this going. The fifty percent drop-off in insect life is between the area with no lighting at all and LED streetlights. The drop-off comparison for old style lighting and no lights is forty-one percent.

The reason suspected for the much smaller drop-off between LED and old streetlights is also easy to figure out, the LEDs are brighter. The solution seems simple enough, tone down the brightness slightly and all is good.

The reality is that LED streetlights are not the problem at all. The problem is heavily lit areas tend to cut down on insect populations because they like dark areas to breed, just like most of the rest of us.

The Possible Harm

The particular problem with this misleading headline is that it suggests older streetlights are better for the environment than LED streetlights. Those who oppose the environmentally friendly agenda which includes LED streetlights, will pounce on this article as a way to discredit the movement.


Be skeptical. When I saw the headline, it immediately aroused my suspicions. I almost instantly thought the comparison might be between unlit streets and LED streetlights. The fifty percent sounded way too high to me. My skepticism proved correct.

Tom Liberman

Will Vegetarians Eat Cultured Meat?

Cultured Meat

Have you heard of cultured meat? It’s a process of growing meat from the cells of animals. Cultured meat is coming to a market near you probably within the next five to ten years. There are a number of questions about the product but I’m mainly curious about the attitude of Vegans and Vegetarians; although everyone’s comments are welcome.

There are any number of benefits that cultured meat provides and one of these is that animals don’t suffer in the process. I think even animal husbandry die-hards will admit animals suffer in their industry. We have to admit billions of male chicks being summarily tossed into the incinerator isn’t a pleasant thought, even for those of us that enjoy eating the animals. I will not venture further down that path as it is not the point of my article.

Certainly, many vegetarians don’t eat meat for health reasons rather than concern for the welfare of animals but I think most people who eschew eating meat do so, at least partially, because of the suffering animals must endure. People also do so because of the negative environmental impacts associated with raising so many animals. Both of these concerns are at least largely removed if we eat such meat.

That leads to the question I posed in the title of this post. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, would you eat cultured meat? Naturally, I’d like to hear from those who eat meat regularly also. I’m sure there are meat eaters out there who see cultured meat as a threat to the livelihood of those who raise cattle and chickens and would refuse to eat it for that reason. The situation is somewhat muddy as to who will partake in cultured meat and why they would be willing to do so.

One thing seems certain, like it or not, cultured meat is coming to a grocery shelf near you and it’s coming pretty quickly.

Will you eat Cultured Meat?

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Tom Liberman

Anita Krajnc and Giving Water to Pigs

anita-krajnc-water-pigsThere’s an interesting case about to be adjudicated in Ontario, Canada in which a woman named Anita Krajnc poured water into a truck full of pigs heading to slaughter from Fearmans Pork. She is only charged with a misdemeanor charge of mischief and the case is not exactly earth shattering but it demonstrates a fundamental problem, as I see it, with our general society these days.

What we have is two groups who seem to be, at a cursory glance, at complete and total opposite ends of a spectrum. Krajnc belongs to a group called Toronto Pig Save and Fearmans Pork makes a living off raising and slaughtering pigs.

I don’t think I need to go into details as to why these two groups are facing off in court. Nor do I want to spend time talking about the merits of the case against Krajnc. I won’t extoll on the virtues of the cause nor talk about the value of bringing the pigs to slaughter or even of a free market and supply side economics. All of those things are worth discussing but not by me and not today.

What do I want to talk about? Good question.

What I want to talk about is how people on opposite sides of the spectrum all too often, and as a first response, resort to antagonistic behavior when there is actually common ground upon which they could join.

Common ground? Between Pig Save activists and Fearmans Pork? Yes, indeed. There is far more common ground on a lot of issues than people realize.

Krajnc would like to give the pigs some water while they are in the truck heading to slaughter. That’s a nice sentiment to be honest. Animals heading to slaughter are sometimes not properly cared for near the end of their life because to feed and water them at such a late stage is an expense. It’s cheaper not to do so.

What Krajnc did was climb on the truck and pour water from a bottle onto the pigs. The truck driver and pig owners were naturally worried that something more nefarious is going on and want to protect their property.

A better choice from my perspective would be Toronto Pig Save simply asking Fearmans Pork if they could pay for the expense of giving the pigs one last drink of water before heading to slaughter. When Fearmans Pork found out what Krajnc was up to they could have offered some sort of system by which she was allowed to water the pigs more effectively.

Would this have solved the issue from Toronto Pig Save’s perspective? No, naturally not. They don’t want pigs going to slaughter at all, but at least they could have given the animals some water before the inevitable. Can Fearmans Pork simply have such activists arrested for such behavior? Yes, of course, and they did. But couldn’t they also have suggested a system by which the pigs did get a last drink of water at the expense of Toronto Pig Save?

No solution is going to make everyone happy but it seems to me that we can get more accomplished if we work together, even with those who are apparently on the opposite side of an issue.

What if abortion foes and supporters worked together, spent their time and money, on preventing unwanted pregnancies? What if Animal Activists and Factory Farm owners worked together to improve the life and health of the animals?

How much time, passion, and money is spent on activities that don’t do anything to make the problem better, but simply caress the egos of the parties on both sides. “We’ll put those animal nutcases in prison!” “We’ll show the world the horror of factory farms!”

The comment sections of every story are filled with people who live in this black and white world. My way or no way at all.

I’ll end my post in the same way President Trump often does. However, unlike him; I don’t mean it as in pathetic. I mean it as so much wasted energy, effort, time, and money.


Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray


Does Banning the Sale of Horns Help Rhinos?

rhino-poachingA South African court ruled on Nov 26, 2015 that a legal market for Rhinoceros horns can be implemented. Until that ruling a moratorium placed by the South African government prevented the legal sale of the horns.

Naturally those interested in saving Rhinos are horrified by this ruling. They are misguided although well-meaning. Let me explain.

The reality to this awful situation gives us an excellent opportunity to examine the nature and effectiveness of government in attempting to control human behavior through legislation.

There is a large demand for the horns, primarily in Vietnam and China where they are considered useful as a medicinal product. A single horn can sell for as much as $250,000.

The ban was implemented as prices for the horns started to rise and poachers began to kill more and more of the animals. The idea being that demand would diminish if it was illegal to sell horns. Naturally this failed. I need not explain that making something illegal does not remove the market for that product. It is self-evident.

After the ban came into effect poaching rose quickly with the number of animals killed growing larger each year. I think it can be argued that, with or without the banning, the market would have grown. That being said, it’s clear that banning the sale of rhino horns has done nothing to slow the slaughter of the animals and might well have increased the pace. It drove the market directly into the hands of criminals.

The new legislation will allow the legal sale of the horns. I’m not convinced that will save the animals because of the extremely limited nature of the supply and the massive level of demand. Even if a few hundred horns are legally harvested each year that will not fulfill demand. But at least it’s recognizing the reality of the situation. The ban makes us feel good. It gives us the illusion that we’re doing something to help. I’m opposed to such sugar-pills. I don’t want to feel good while rhinos are driven to extinction in South Africa as they were in Vietnam. I want to help save rhinos!

The only viable solution is to harvest horns from living animals. Sell them on a legal market. License hunts of aging animals. This will raise money which will, hopefully, be used to help protect the rhinos. Even that’s not guaranteed. When millions of dollars are at stake the unscrupulous are always attracted to it.

A market might arise for rhino bones. Who can say?

The point is that the original ban had no chance of working, just as banning alcohol or marijuana simply drives the suppliers into becoming illegal operatives.

My larger point is that we should not applaud useless solutions simply because they make us feel good. We should not cheer nice sounding ideas that are completely impossible to implement, will most certainly not return any of the results promised, and will likely make the original issue worse.

Politicians love to offer useless platitudes and ineffective solutions with absolute certitude of conviction. If we cheer and vote for such politicians, well, we deserve what we get. Bigger problems.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Mt. McKinley or Denali?

mckinley-versus-denaliIt’s not exactly the most major news story in the world but the Department of the Interior just changed the official name of Mt. McKinley to Denali.

The mountain is the tallest in North America and to say it is majestic is not to give it full credit. There has been dispute over it’s name virtually ever since it was officially named Mt. McKinley. This was done by the United States government in 1917 to honor the recently assassinated President, William McKinley.

Before that it was largely known as “The Great One”  or “Big Mountain” in various languages. The word for this used by the natives in the region was Denali. Despite the official renaming of the mountain it has generally been called Denali by people in Alaska and starting in 1975 they asked the government to change the official name. This was steadfastly blocked by Ohio Congressman Ralph Regula. Regula retired in 2009. McKinley was from Canton, Ohio, which is in the home district of Regula, thus the unwillingness to make the change.

I’ve been to Denali National Park and I recommend to you without reservation that you should visit Alaska and the park at first opportunity. It is a magnificent state and park. You will see whales breaching, grizzly bears, the mountain itself, and much more.

But on to the question at hand. Did President Obama and the Department of the Interior do the right thing? Opinion, not surprisingly, seems divided along partisan lines. Why this is so baffles me but I no longer question the reality that some people will oppose an idea simply because of the person suggesting it rather than the nature of the idea itself. This sort of blind antipathy or support is foreign to me, something to which my mind cannot submit. To me an idea has merit or lacks the same simply based on facts, not the person presenting it.

What are the facts here?

The mountain was called Denali by the people who lived there at the time. The people who currently live there have continued to use that name all along. The name McKinley has no actual association with the mountain. President McKinley did not visit the mountain nor have any special attachment to it.

It’s an easy call for me. The name changing was long overdue and the appropriate action to take.

Was President Obama Right or Wrong to Change the Name to Denali?

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

Parks Department Wants to Stop Selling Bottled Water – Lobbyist Convince Congress Otherwise

parks service water stationYet another example of who actually runs this country was in display when the National Parks Service found that the clean-up cost associated with plastic water bottles was eating up their budgets and the bottles themselves were becoming a fairly large trash problem.

Many of the parks in question decided to stop selling plastic water bottles and install watering stations where visitor can fill up their own containers. An elegant solution that solves the trash problem, the recycling problem, and also allows park visitors to keep hydrated at a significantly lower cost.

Apparently not. The lobbyist for  the bottled water industry have spent half a million dollars bribing … er … lobbying Congress to prevent the Parks Service from stopping sales of bottled water.

I want to be clear. The Parks Service is not banning bottled water if people want to bring their own. They are simply not selling it anymore. They are providing a cheaper and clearly better system. They will sell reusable containers for people to use at the water stations or simply allow people to use their own.

Congress is now in the process of preventing the Parks Service from implementing the change. The arguments they use are laughable. Basically that by not selling bottled water they are encouraging the drinking of soda which is unhealthy. That park patrons might die of dehydration because they can’t afford a reusable container as opposed to a bottled water. The reality is much more obvious. The bottled water companies have lucrative sales of their products at our National Parks. They don’t want to lose those sales to water stations.

This is the country in which we live. Congress members do not care about this country. They do not care about you. They simply care about who is going to pay for them to be elected so they can enjoy the graft associated with being a politician.

Representative Keith Rothfus of Pennsylvania, where the bottled water industry is quite large, is leading the charge to prevent the Parks Service from making the change. Hmm, I wonder why?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition – Release date: late August 2015

Mysterious Hole not Mysterious – Disappointment Predictable

Siberia HoleI read a lot of science and nature stories in my endless quest to find something to blog about and I noted a plethora of stories about a mysterious hole that was spotted deep in Siberia. I didn’t bother to read about it because I figured that eventually they would get some observers out there and find out there was something perfectly natural going on.

When news surfaced today to that very effect I decided to check out the story, not so much to find out the actual cause but to read the comments on the story. I was not disappointed although those who predicted or were hoping for a conspiracy or world-wide disaster type explanation certainly were. I pretty much expected there to be a lot of denial and cover-up claims and, again, wasn’t disappointed.

It does make me wonder, again, why people want their to be sinister explanations, why they so desire a terrible conspiracy, and why they dream of world-shattering consequences every time such a story makes headlines. It’s certain that such stories attract interest because people click on them in huge numbers thus feeding the frenzy of more stories about what turns out to be a perfectly natural occurrence.

What’s really going on? A natural gas event likely created the crater and such processes formed the many lakes in the region with similar topology. Not too exciting although I find it interesting and will read eagerly the full report of what the scientists at the site find. I also expect to read many comments about how the government of Russia is covering up a much more dastardly explanation.

I’m actually a little concerned with the large number of people who are predicting such disaster with a fervor that seems fanatical. It’s not like they are analyzing the facts carefully and coming to a reasoned conclusion, it’ s like they desperately want there to be some horrible disaster in which millions if not billions of people are killed. They are combing the news looking for any story that gives the remotest whiff of potential danger and immediately begin to hope it is true.

I really like my life, my friends, my family, the games I play, writing novels, my work, and my co-workers. I don’t want there to be a zombie apocalypse or an apocalypse of any kind for that matter.  I don’t want the United States to crumble and then be forced to give up Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream. I mean, who’s going to mass produce that when the people of the world are all falling into an ever-growing hole in the middle of Siberia?

I like my computer, my phone, my car, my food-service (down 16 lbs and feeling good, thanks My Metabolic Meals), and all the other luxuries of modern life brought to us by great innovators and unavailable in the world before now.

I want the world to prosper and become more magnificent. I want scientific breakthroughs in medicine, energy, transportation, and food. I want a world where everyone is free to make their own way, where there is less suffering, more energy, more food, more happiness, and more friendships.

So, that’s my question, I guess. Why all the euphoria and desire for disaster? Anyone?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
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Increased Fees for Solar Panel Homes in Arizona

Rooftop Solar PanelsAs alternative energy sources like solar become more affordable it is only natural that people will want to use them as a way to both save money and be environmentally friendly. This is particularly true for solar power in western regions like the Grand Canyon state of Arizona that see a large amount of sunshine over the course of the year. This presents a problem to utility companies who derive their revenue from the monthly fee that customers pay to get their electrical services.

Customers who install rooftop solar panels reduce the amount of their monthly fee by a large amount both in limiting the amount of electricity they use but also in selling power during sunshine hours, when they are using nothing from the power plants, while others are at peak demand. They only use power when there is no sunshine and then at a reduced rate.

The reason this is a problem for utility companies is because the fees they charge for their electricity include upkeep on their vast distribution network. This includes the installation of power lines and poles as well as the constant upkeep on those items. Those who use solar panels are both receiving and sending electricity through this infrastructure.

In Arizona there was a proposal by the utility companies to charge anyone who put solar panels on their roof up to $100 a month in excess of their normal bill. The rational being that solar producers reduce their monthly rates by about $100. This fee would cover the difference so that solar panel owners would pay their share of the upkeep and maintenance of the infrastructure. The real reason for the massive fee is, of course, to discourage people from purchasing solar panels and keep them dependent on the power companies.

The power companies spent $4 million on a campaign to convince people the fee was justified. The argument being that if there was no fee that the companies would have to charge more in general to cover the revenue gap. The regulatory committee decided on a $5 a month surcharge to anyone with solar panels.

In my opinion the utility companies are acting disingenuously. The reality is that solar power is becoming increasingly economically affordable without any subsidies. As this happens more and more people will install such panels. Batteries are becoming more sophisticated so that such people will be able to store energy accumulated during the day and rely even less on utility companies.

Those who get solar panels and reduce their costs should not be punished for such a move. Power companies that try to disrupt the future of solar energy are fighting a losing battle. They must recognize this coming trend and adjust their business model rather than trying to regulate competition out of business. One suggestion in the comments that made sense to me was to break the bill into sections for actual electricity use and infrastructure. Everyone would pay the infrastructure portion of the bill equally but payment for use would be based on … use.

This attempt to disrupt natural capitalistic processes via regulations stands against everything for which a libertarian stands. Let the market dictate. If solar becomes viable then it will produce its own economic winners in an organic fashion. If it is not viable, then it will not.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne


Wild Horse Roundups a Difficult Problem

Wild Horse RoundupThe rounding up and penning of wild horses in western states has gotten both a great deal of national news and personal Facebook postings of late. One of my good friends is an animal activist from Colorado and I’ve been reading about this activity, thanks to her links, for several years now. It seems to be finally getting some national attention as I spotted a lengthy story on the subject yesterday.

The reason I want to write about it today has to do with the complexities of the issue and the difficulties of finding solutions. Let me first describe the problem. Wild horses are not actually wild horses at all, they are feral horses. That’s not really pertinent to the issue but interesting nonetheless. These animals are the descendants of domesticated horses that escaped captivity long ago. In the western states there is a population estimated at about 82,000. Of these, 32,000 are free in the wild while another 50,000 are held in pens. These 50,000 horses were largely captured in annual roundups. According to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) own statistics about 1% of all horses captured this way end up dying because of injuries sustained in the operation. One percent doesn’t seem like a lot but it’s a significant number. Many other horses are badly hurt being driven into barbed wire fences among other things.

After roundup the horses are offered for adoption but the number taken in has been dropping and those in captivity rising. Capture operations and ongoing housing and feeding costs an estimated $78 million dollars a year. The costs are rising as more animals are being held. That’s taxpayer money.

We’ve got animal cruelty and big expenses. So, why is it happening?

The western lands where the horses roam is also home to sheep and cattle ranches. These animals need the grass to breed and survive. The ranchers who own these animals depend on the land for their livelihoods.

Environmentalists and animal lovers want the animals to roam free. Ranchers want to kill them all. The roundup as it stands is a compromise solution but it’s beginning to fail. So, we need to figure out something else.

The biggest problem is the BLM refuses to sell the horses for slaughter. Animal activists regard such a solution for the horses as anathema. So, to appease the ranchers we keep rounding them up and to appease those who love the horses we don’t kill them.

I know I’m not going to be popular here but the fact is we need a hunting season on horses. Sell permits and let people go out there and shoot them. Horse meat largely isn’t eaten in the United States but it is elsewhere in the world and for good reason. It is lean, low-fat, high-protein meat. Yes, we love horses, yes we find watching them roam the western lands beautiful. Here’s the reality, if we’re willing to compromise we can have it all.

Hunt the horses to keep numbers at a level satisfactory to ranchers and activists. Eat the meat and enjoy it. Allow thousands of the animals to roam the western landscape for the enjoyment of endless generations to come. The horse lives a life free to roam until it is killed. That’s a good life, maybe not as long a life as they would have naturally but better than being in a pen.

The best solutions generally don’t make anyone perfectly happy. That’s often the sign of a good compromise.

As for me, I’m digging my bunker and getting my food and water supply ready for what will surely be an assault by my horse-loving Facebook friend!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (full-length fantasy fun for $2.99)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Drugs in the Water Supply

Clean WaterThere was an interesting study performed by a group of Swedish scientists involving fish living in waters contaminated by pharmaceutical drugs. While the study itself is fascinating it’s the implications of the study that are most worth examining.

It turns out that much of the water we drink here in the United States and in Europe is contaminated by tiny amounts of pharmaceutical residue. By tiny we are talking about parts per billion. This is truly a small amount but it also means that every sip of water, every bite of food soaked in water, or every drink that uses water as it’s base most likely has tiny amounts of pharmaceutical drugs like oxazepam in it. Oxazepam is an ingredient in most benzodiazepines drugs like Valium and Librium. These are commonly prescribed medications and people get rid of them in various ways including flushing expired pills and defecating and urinating unprocessed drugs.

One of the problems is that water processing plants do not even attempt to filter out these impurities; they go directly into the system. A group of studies is now underway to determine the contamination level and if it is detrimental to our health.

I do not want to be an alarmist. The amount of drugs we are talking about is extremely small and there isn’t any evidence yet as to its affect on humans. However, it is affecting the behavior of fish. These drugs are designed to interact with the human body in certain ways and apparently everyone is on a prescription, whether they knew it or not.

We have been pouring pollutants of one kind or another into the air and water in vast quantities. These include greenhouse gases along with toxic substances. All of this cannot be good or right. On the other hand, the results of all these chemicals is the modern world. The very basics of what we consider a comfortable life are largely thanks to plastics, metallurgy, electronics, chemistry. The question becomes at what point are we creating such a toxic environment that we are actually killing ourselves?

This is a question that has been in the public eye since the beginning of the industrial revolution and one that largely remains unanswered.

We continue to pump chemicals into our air and water but we enjoy a lifestyle of tremendous wealth because of these scientific advances. Is there a solution? Can we simply turn off the spigot when billions of dollars in profits are at stake, jobs, livelihoods, comfort, luxury, transportation, energy?

We are moving towards greater awareness of these problems and trying to green our processes. I think almost everyone who reads this will agree that both of these are noble goals. Will we look back at this time and rue our shocking disregard for our own health, the health of our species? Or will we solve all these problems and remember it as a necessary albeit dark part of what will be a golden future?

I’m encouraged that such studies are taking place. I’m encouraged by the apparent majority that want clean energy, clean food, and good water. I’m optimistic but I can’t help but see the naysayers, the angry voices against science, the ever-present lethargy defined by fear of change.

What’s the future? I can’t say. I imagine a utopia where we have defeated disease, death, and toxicity on this beautiful planet. Where every person lives eternally with their life dedicated to achievement. Where the view from space is a beautiful blue marble, perfect and clean. That’s my dream. What’s yours?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Rare Earth Elements and China

Irare earth elementsn my daily perusal of news stories I’ve noted a recent trend in misinformation about China’s monopoly on what are called rare earth elements and the danger this represents to the United States. I thought I’d take a quick look at what these elements are, how they are used, and how China’s cutback on shipment of the elements will affect the world. It’s not a particularly exciting story but I found it interesting and I thought some others might as well.

The Wikipedia article is extremely thorough and you should look at it for more details but I’ll try to summarize quickly.

Rare Earth Elements are not rare. They are fairly common although they encompass a wide variety of elements. Seventeen to be exact. Some are much rarer than others and they have many varied uses including with lasers, alloys, superconductors, magnets, and even chemical reducing agents.

The big controversy seems to be that China controls the total world output as almost a monopoly, currently about 90% . This is true but deceiving. China controls about 23% of the proven reserves of the elements although even this is a high figure because China has done far and away the most searching for the elements.

Up until 1980 the United States was the leading producer of these elements and even as late as 1990 China only produced about 27% of the total amount. However, they were undertaking a massive program to mine these elements and soon flooded the market with cheap product. This immediately wiped out all competition and lead to them reaching as high total contribution of about 95%.

A lesson about monopolies is in order here. I’m a Libertarian and I do think capitalism is the best economic strategy but there are anti-trust laws for a reason. Monopolies are dangerous not only to the general public but to nations as well. When one company or nation controls the vast majority of a highly sought after commodity only ill can follow.

Anyway, enough of that talk for now. This is about rare earth elements.

For various reasons China is now reducing its exports of the elements and the last few years have seen ramped-up efforts to resume mining in the United States and other countries for fear of shortages. This is a natural evolution of capitalism and perfectly normal. The thing to keep in mind is that there are actually plenty of these elements available. It is only because of the monopolistic practices of China that they are not being mined in more places, it simply wasn’t profitable. If it becomes profitable then the mines will spring up.

One more quick aside and then I’ll be done. The mining of these elements usually releases something called Thorium which is radioactive and has been blamed for a number of health problems around the mines, particularly in China and other countries that don’t have regulations against pollution. One reason China is reducing output is because of popular unrest over the rise in toxic waste in the water supply from unregulated, illegal operations.

So, I don’t foresee a rare earth element panic because other nations will begin to mine once China reduces output. It might take a few years to ramp up production but there is, in my opinion, no serious danger. Surveys of the seabeds near hydrothermal vents seem to indicate massive reserves are available for eventual exploitation. Health concerns are legitimate but that’s what limited governmental regulations are all about. Keep an eye on the mines and make sure they aren’t dumping Thorium and all should be well.

Thanks for listening to this boring blog. I hope someone finds it interesting!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Hammer of Fire
Upcoming Release: The Sword of Water

Wolf Hunting in Wyoming

Yellowstone WolfThere is a great success story in the environmental world taking place in Wyoming and surrounding Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. The reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone has been so successful that it is now possible to open a hunting season on the species. I’m of the opinion that we should be proud as Americans of our efforts to reintroduce the wolf and allow hunting of the noble beasts.

I know that there are many who remain opposed both to the reintroduction of the predator and to opening hunting of it. However, it’s this sort of enlightened compromise that leads to real solutions. Originally most ranchers were opposed to the reintroduction efforts assuming the wolves would prey upon their cattle. These animals represent a threat to the livelihood of ranchers and their fears were somewhat justified although I think largely mistaken. Wolf depredation of cattle is fairly minimal and with increasingly aggressive control actually reduced in recent years. Let’s not kid ourselves though, wolves do kill cattle and ranchers are entitled to compensation. That being said, the wolves certainly increase tourism dollars to the state and in some ways increase said ranchers revenue.

The beauty of a wild wolf pack is undeniable and I hope to someday take a ranch vacation in Wyoming or the region for horseback riding and hopefully wolf spotting. The United States suffers when we let such creatures become extinct. I think it is our duty to protect animals like this even if it means certain compromises.

My main thought here is that wolves were given protection, multiplied, and now can be hunted which is a win/win for everyone. Environmentalist win, hunters win, and to some degree even ranchers win when they are fairly compensated for their losses.

I wish we could see this spirit of compromise in all our political endeavors. It is obvious to me that the tendency to push through legislation without compromise because one party has sufficient votes is detrimental to our nation. Those of us in the middle would well benefit from compromise with our counterparts on the opposite side of the divide. When we in the middle refuse to compromise we only empower those who hold extreme views. Perhaps we could even forge some real solutions to this nation’s problems.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Human Caused Climate Change – Conclusions

Climate ChangeToday I take an actual position. I’ve waited all week and tried to examine the various issues of human driven climate change from a critical thinking perspective. I think the evidence goes both ways to some extent but, by and large, the model that resonates with me is the idea of a bathtub filling with water.

Non-human, “natural causes”, pour huge amounts of CO2 into the environment but in response non-human forces pull it out of the system. These “sources” and “sinks” largely balance one another although catastrophic events in history, super volcanos and meteor strikes, have sent them disastrously out of equilibrium for tens of thousands of years or longer. Naturally it is impossible to always say why there was an imbalance but it seems fairly obvious to me that a preponderance of CO2 in the atmosphere bodes ill for life on the planet.

So, we have a bathtub filling with CO2 from the spigot at a rate of X and emptying from the drain at a rate of Y. Human activity is both increasing X and decreasing Y albeit by a small percent of the total. Still, a 1% change at both ends is going to eventually result in the tub overflowing.

It is always going to be impossible to say for certain that the small human effect on CO2 is solely, partially, or not at all responsible for the corresponding rise in CO2 content in the atmosphere and there will be always be reasonable arguments that other forces are in play. It is also impossible to prove that CO2 amounts in greater quantities is solely or partially responsible for climate change.

That being the case I really don’t understand the argument that we shouldn’t make an attempt to stop our flow of CO2 into the atmosphere. I’m not suggesting that we immediately turn off the coal-fired powerplants or stop using the oil infrastructure that is currently in place. But, it seems wise to hedge the bets a little. If we can cut down on the various things we do that release CO2 into the atmosphere and it’s not catastrophically expensive, why not do it?

One important thing I’ve noticed is that we are, in fact, doing it. People are making purchases with a cleaner environment in mind. Large companies, huge companies, like Wal-Mart change their truck fleets to be green and this has a large impact on the problem. This is capitalism and free thought. In China, where much of the CO2 is produced, they are making huge strides in increased green technology.

Europe leads the world in development in solar and wind energy. The United States wind farms are massive and growing better everyday. I see little windmills all over St. Louis now. This is capitalism in action. There are companies out there trying new things because they realize that whomever comes up with clean and cheap energy solutions will make a ton of money! What is amazing is that these things are happening with relatively minor government interference. We still continue to give subsidies to the oil industry and tax breaks to people who purchase large vehicles for work. Yet, companies and individuals are lining up to purchase green technology. President Obama has initiated a green initiative which is, I suppose, fine as a counter to the oil initiatives but I’d just like to see government get completely out of the tax break business, oil, green, whatever.

The idea here is that government agencies are trying to steer technology towards an end or towards the company that pays for their campaigns. If we just let capitalism do its job then we’ll get a green world. Meanwhile, I see my friends, be they Libertarian, Democrat, Republican, non-voter, buying vegetables they think are healthy and light bulbs that last longer. Make a better product and you will succeed. And, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone who has worked with the filth that is oil, arguing that green energies are not objectively better. Currently more expensive, yes, but worse? In time, as technology continues to improve and buying habits continue to change, this problem will be solved.

Who knows, someone may come up with a way to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere.

Anyway, that’s my final take on it. We have largely recognized the problem and solutions are being attempted. It’s a complex issue, there are a number of solutions available, the practical ones are being used, the impractical investigated, technology explored. Why all the hate?

Tell me what you think in the comments and share away!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Arguments against Human Driven Climate Change

Global Warming SkepticismI’ve spent a few days talking about Greenhouse Gases, water movement through the oceans, tornados and other topics along with the idea that increased production of CO2 through human driven sources might be responsible for these changes in our climate. I want to spend today talking why they may not be responsible.

First we have to get a few of the ridiculous arguments against human driven climate change out-of-the-way:

There is one faction that claims temperatures on earth are not rising. In the early days of Global Warming, as it was called back then, there were a number of people who doubted the data about rising temperature. At this point all but the most hardcore deniers admit that the statistic show that temperatures are rising.

Related to this is the argument that antarctica is cooling. This little doozy came from a Michael Crichton novel in which he cited a real report but twisted it to suit the fictional novel. All indications are that antarctica is warming.

Another thing we must accept is that human activity can affect the global climate. The idea that humans cannot affect the climate is utter nonsense. Let me give you a simple example. Every time you take a step you are either increasing or decreasing the spin of the earth on its axis. It is a ridiculously tiny amount but it is real. This sort of statement makes me want to punch people. It’s akin to saying man can’t fly because he doesn’t have wings.

Ok, now let’s get onto some realistic objections. Here is the full Wiki article but I’ll try to sum it up.

There isn’t as much scientific consensus as the media portrays. This is true. There are some scientists who are more lukewarm on the topic than in absolute agreement. They tend to get lumped in the majority who agree human activity is a major driving force of climate change. This gives the percentage number of scientist an unrealistically high value.

The agency that is making up the rules, the IPCC, is biased towards climate change. This is a hard one to prove as the evidence indicates human increases in CO2 production has contributed to climate change. I would suggest there is probably some bias in the process even if not a large amount.

Another argument is that humans are not behind the increases in CO2 parts per million in the atmosphere. Records indicate that CO2 levels have been higher in the past and global temperatures have changed dramatically in the past. This is all absolutely true. There is a possibility that the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere is through natural causes as human contribution is only a small percentage of the whole, about 5% perhaps. It has been suggested that solar activity, not fully understood volcanic activity, and even some source that we do not understand or know about at all is behind the increase.

Ice core samples don’t seem to indicate an exact correlation between high CO2 levels and high temperatures. There is a strong correlation between the two but it is not absolute and there appears to have been times of high temperature when CO2 levels have not been correspondingly high although there is some doubt about this evidence as a whole because not enough core samples have been taken. More sampling, which is currently underway, should establish a more direct causal relationship although there is a chance the current correlation is merely coincidence and further evidence will disprove it.

There is an argument that the temperature taking devices are not sensitive enough and their results are inaccurate. This has largely been disproven but still makes the rounds.

The decrease in sulphate aerosols after they were banned in many nations is an important consideration. These aerosols have a cooling effect and their limitation since the 1970s would seem to necessarily remove that cooling effect and generate an apparent warming trend.

It is argued that the climate is not as sensitive to CO2 increases as suggested. This is perfectly reasonable although it’s possible the climate is more sensitive than models suggest. It’s a tough one to prove or disprove.

Some argue that CO2 is not at all that is responsible for the increased temperature but another source, perhaps radiation or cloud movement, is responsible. The Iris Hypothesis is one such supposition although unproven.

Another reasonable argument is that climate change models are just that models. They are not 100% accurate and there is plenty of room for errors.

One of the biggies is that scientists are financially motivated to produce models that support human driven climate change to finance their researches. There are certainly scientists with agendas and good peer review is always necessary. There are examples of scientists fudging numbers although this seems to be not at all widespread and numbers are largely peer-reviewed and accurate. The Hockey Stick graphs generated the most controversy recently but reviews seem to indicate nothing untoward was done to falsify charts.

The final argument we often see is that the cure for climate change is too expensive and the results of changed human behavior might have no effect in any case. There is a great deal of legitimacy to this argument although if we are going to look it from a purely financial perspective we should also look at the cost of climate change as well.

I’ve gone on a fair bit here and I’ll save my final observations for tomorrow. Hopefully those of you who believe in human driven climate change have a better idea of the arguments arrayed against the concept.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Tornadoes and Climate Change

I was wondering what to write about tomorrow and I’m now watching events unfold in the Dallas/Fortworth region of Texas. I am aware that climate change is related in some way to tornadoes but I don’t know much about the link to be honest about it. So, tomorrow I’ll examine how the two are tied together and we’ll learn together!

It should be interesting,

See you then,

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Thermohaline circulation

Thermohaline CirculationThermohaline Circulation is a fancy term but it is an important factor in the climate of the earth. The basic ideas is that the oceans of world circulate water in relatively stable patterns and this movement of water dramatically affects the weather.

These patterns can be disrupted by a number of factors and such events seem to be related to large weather change in previous time periods. Cold water from the polar regions moves into warmer areas causing cooling while hotter water from equatorial regions moves to the poles in a warming pattern.

This movement is created by wind on the surface and differences in salinity and temperature below the surface at depth. Tides also play a role in certain places of the world. There is a lot of technical type information about salinity, temperature, tides, and wind but I don’t want to get into that. I simply want to suggest that this global movement of water is a fact and it has a profound effect on our climate.

It sends warm water to the poles which has a tremendous effect on melting sea ice and it is a component in the oceanic sink which removes a large percentages of CO2 from the atmosphere. The amount this affects removal of CO2 is not fully understood at this stage. I spoke about Greenhouse Gases and the importance of the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere yesterday. The effect of water temperature on weather patterns is clear to anyone who has lived near a large body of water. Again, I don’t want to get all technical on that topic.

It is thought that Ice Ages are counter intuitively related to warmer temperatures because the influx of fresh water from glacial melt stops the flow of warm water to the poles which causes fast drops in temperature.

The main idea though is that if there is an influx of fresh water from melting ice that this thermohaline circulation will be disrupted and have a dramatic effect on our climate.

Again, I’m not trying to argue for or against human influenced climate change … yet. I’m just talking about the dynamics involved and hopefully the next time you discuss this highly volatile topic you’ll be slightly better informed.

Tell me what you think!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Thermohaline Circulation

In what is surely going to be one of the most talked about blog entries of my career; tomorrow I take on Themohaline Circulation and its effect on the global climate. I know, it’s a crazy topic filled with exciting and controversial subjects. You might ask, am I mad? You might, rightly, suspect that no sane person could take on such a perilous topic but I aim to take the plunge!

See you tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

P.S. It’s the circulation of water through the oceans.

P.P.S Take the plunge, get it? Hee hee hee.

Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse GasThe topic of the day is trying to define what greenhouse gases (GHG) are and what they mean to the climate of the world. Whenever people start talking about climate change I often find they don’t have a lot of knowledge about the science behind their arguments, either pro or con. One of the main concepts behind the climate change science is the increase of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Now, let’s start with what a GHG is considered. Technically they are gases that can absorb and emit infrared radiation. These gases have an important role in regulating the temperature on earth in that they reflect heat in all directions. Some of this reflection is back towards the earth thus creating what is called a greenhouse effect. The more of these gases in the atmosphere the more reflection takes place.

Primary among these gases is water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. These actually make up a small fraction of the gases in the atmosphere but the others, Nitrogen and Oxygen predominantly, do not reflect infrared radiation and thus do not play a role in the greenhouse effect.

At question in the climate change issue is the amount of these gases in the atmosphere. The idea is that a higher amount creates more reflection which in turn keeps more heat in the planet.

The amount is controlled by something called “sources” and “sinks”. Sources produce greenhouse gases and sinks remove them.

There are numerous sources and sinks of these gases interacting in what is called the Carbon Cycle. The two major sinks are forests and the oceans. Both, through various chemical processes, absorb the vast majority of these gases. The decay of plants is the largest contributor or source of CO2 although there are other sources as well including cows, insects, volcanic activity, and human activity.

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen by a fairly startling amount since 1958 from 320 parts per million to 391 ppm. At the time of the industrial revolution around 1750 to 1850 it was at 280 ppm. That calculates out to about a 40% increase in 200+ years since the industrial revolution or an increase of about 22% in the last 50 years.

The idea, again, is that more greenhouse gases reflect more radiation and the earth gets hotter.

The argument that this increase is caused my human activity is centered around the idea that the Carbon Cycle is a relatively closed system except for catastrophic events like super volcanos and meteor strikes. Barring these major events even a small increase in source activity without a corresponding increase in sink activity will eventually cause the system to become out of balance. Imagine filling your bathtub with water and the spigot puts in exactly as much as the drain lets out. Now, add 1% more to the spigot output and decrease the drain size by 1%. The eventual result is easy to predict, it’s just a matter of time.

That humans have increased the source output of greenhouse gases through their various activities is not in dispute nor is the idea that we have decreased the sink amount. But, both changes are quite small. The question then becomes does the earth have the ability through natural sinks to rebalance the system without changing human behavior? Or, perhaps the increase in CO2 is not related to the relatively small impact of humans at all but is caused by some other, as yet not fully understood, dynamic of the planet?

Anyway, that’s GHG for you. I hope this at least clarified some of the things you hear when talking about the volatile topic of climate change and gives you information to use in your arguments, pro or con.

See you tomorrow and if you want to clarify or correct anything please do so in the comments below!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist