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Expert: Climate report stokes unwarranted fear

Grim predictions are still standard, but climate models are not as definitive as they seem

Protesters outside the White House in June 2017 Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh

Expert: Climate report stokes unwarranted fear

The U.S. government’s 1,700-page National Climate Assessment, released Friday, unsurprisingly blamed human activity for global warming and forecasted gloom and doom unless people took drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But skeptics of catastrophic man-made global warming caution that this report, like those that preceded it, relied on computer climate models that lack credibility and make predictions that do not match observations in the real world.

According to the report, global warming is poised to bring adverse effects to nearly every area of life in the United States: loss of property, economic hardship, new and more diseases spread by insects, and decreased availability of food and water, just to name a few. But David Legates, a climatologist and a senior fellow at the Cornwall Alliance, told me people should take these dire predictions “with a grain of salt” because the report aims to frighten the average citizen into accepting the drastic measures alarmists propose.

“Unfortunately, climate change isn’t about the science, and it never was,” he said, noting it’s instead about pushing a political agenda. Legates said computer models overestimate climate warming, and when scientists compare the predictions to real-life satellite and balloon data, the models suggest more than twice as much warming than the data show.

“I have often marveled at creation and how God has put such an intricate system in place that has kept temperatures in a very small window despite changes that are considerable,” he said. “Computer models, by contrast, represent our pitifully small understanding of climate science.” Legates noted that the models always provide only extreme scenarios and cannot identify whether temperature changes are due to fossil fuel emissions or natural variability.

Almost none of the models’ predictions have come true, noted Legates, including a world famine by 1985, more than 50,000 climate refugees per year by 2010, and a snow-free England by 2012. The world also experienced a hiatus in air temperature rise between 1999 and 2017 that the models did not foresee.

But Legates said reports like National Climate Assessment have deeper problems than faulty predictions and costly policy proposals, pointing out that the drastic actions global warming alarmists propose would hurt the poor. He said inexpensive energy makes clean drinking water, disease prevention and treatment, and ample food, clothing, and shelter possible, and securing those should be the priority.

“Then, and only then, can countries turn their attention to environmental stewardship,” Legates said.


New treatment for children with severe peanut allergies

For people with severe peanut allergies, safety is not as simple as just not eating the nut (or, more correctly, the legume). Many manufacturers process foods on equipment or in plants that also process products containing peanuts, making accidental exposure a high risk. But help may be on the way.

Aimmune Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company that develops treatments for potentially life-threatening food allergies, just completed clinical trials of a product called AR101. The capsule contains carefully measured amounts of peanut powder designed to help desensitize people with severe allergies. The study appears in the Nov. 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

During the 12-month trials, researchers gave 372 participants, most of whom were children and adolescents, gradually increasing doses of peanut powder until they reached a dose of 300 milligrams per day, equivalent to about three to four peanuts, for 24 weeks. At the end of the study, 250 of the volunteers, about 67 percent, were able to ingest 600 milligrams or more of peanut protein. AR101 did not appear to offer any benefit to the adults in the study, but only 10 percent of the children and adolescents suffered a reaction severe enough to require epinephrine, the life-saving drug contained in EpiPens many allergy sufferers carry. Overall, the need for epinephrine decreased by 81 percent.

AR101 may offer help for many allergy sufferers, but it is not a magic solution. “Desensitization was not easy on the patients,” and “is not something to start at home” without a carefully manufactured product, Michael Perkin, an allergy researcher from the Population Health Research Institute at St. George’s University of London, told Medscape. Ninety-five percent of the participants evidenced some reaction, 3.5 percent suffered severe or serious reactions, and one case resulted in a rapid onset of life-threatening symptoms.

Perkin also noted scientists don’t know the longer-term side effects of allergic individuals consuming daily doses of peanut powder, and the experiment will require careful follow-up.

Aimmune plans to submit applications for marketing approval in the United States next month and in Europe in the middle of 2019. —J.B.


Ghost galaxy lurks on the fringe of Milky Way

GAIA, the European Space Agency’s galaxy-mapping satellite, has plotted nearly 1.7 billion stars in exquisite detail. As astronomers pore over the data released in the spring, they continue to make discoveries. Researchers just published a study online this month that details one of those surprises: a gigantic ghost galaxy lurking mysteriously on the fringes of our Milky Way.

Astronomers consider the galaxy, called Ant 2, a dwarf galaxy. But compared to the other known dwarf satellite galaxies orbiting ours, it is immense—a third the size of the Milky Way. It poses a conundrum for scientists because, despite its huge size, it is dim. Ant 2 is 10,000 times fainter than the relatively similar-sized Large Magellanic Cloud, the biggest satellite galaxy that orbits ours. And Ant 2 has a much lower mass than scientists would expect for an object of its size. The researchers call Ant 2, which stays at least 130,000 light-years away from the Milky Way, a ghost galaxy because its low density and dim light have allowed it to hide behind the disc of our galaxy.

Current astronomy models cannot account for the size, mass, and dimness of Ant 2. “Compared to the rest of the 60 or so Milky Way satellites, Ant 2 is an oddball,” said Matthew Walker, one of the researchers. —J.B.


4,000-year-old termite mounds still active

Researchers in Brazil just discovered a region of regularly spaced termite mounds covering an area the size of Great Britain. In the study, published in Current Biology on Nov. 19, the scientists dated the mounds, which still house active termites, to around 2000 B.C.

Over thousands of years, the insects have excavated a huge network of interconnected underground tunnels, depositing approximately 200 million cone-shaped mounds of dirt, each more than 2.5 yards tall and nearly 10 yards wide.

“The amount of soil excavated is over 10 cubic kilometers, equivalent to 4,000 great pyramids of Giza, and represents one of the biggest structures built by a single insect species,” Stephen Martin, one of the U.K. researchers, said in a statement.

The mounds, mostly hidden from view in the semiarid forests of Brazil, only became visible when people cleared some of the land for pasture in recent decades.

“It’s incredible that, in this day and age, you can find an ‘unknown’ biological wonder of this sheer size and age still existing, with the occupants still present,” Martin said. —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a WORLD contributor who covers science and intelligent design. A clinical psychologist and a World Journalism Institute graduate, Julie resides in Dayton, Ohio.

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