Category Archives: climate

Have local climate pseudosceptics come to the end of the road?

This from Radio New Zealand today:

Climate deniers ordered to pay court costs

A group of climate-change sceptics has been forced to pay court costs over their unsuccessful legal challenge against the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa).

The New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust took Niwa to court saying its science was faulty and that was unacceptable because its findings guided national policymaking.

The case was abandoned when judges ruled scientific argument was not appropriate for determination by a court of law.

The High Court awarded costs of about $80,000 against the trust, which then asked the Court of Appeal for a discount arguing its members had acted in the public interest.

But the court has concluded the trust was mounting a crusade against Niwa and was not acting reasonably.

via Radio New Zealand : News : National : Climate deniers ordered to pay court costs.

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NZ climate change “sceptics” abandon appeal

global-warming-skeptics-Small

Credit: Rod Quantock: global warming’s just not funny

Most of us by now have moved on and forgotten the NZ High Court ruling which rejected attempts by local climate change “sceptics” to get a judicial review of the climate change data held by the National Insitute of Water and Atmospheric Research  (NIWA) (see High Court ruled on integrity – not science). But these “sceptics” were persistent and the “New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust” had decided  to challenge the ruling in the Court of Appeal

But this week the group withdrew the appeal:

“Barry Brill, who acted as solicitor for the trust, said his clients could not see a way forward after coming upon a procedural issue. The judges had noted two scientists involved in the reports were not cross-examined – something his clients were unaware could be done during the earlier court process.”

Sounds like sour grapes, or the group had gone into the original court case unprepared.

I guess they didn’t want to throw good money after bad. Although there will be further costs related to the aborted appeal (see Sceptics bail on climate court case).

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Our Far South – time we learned about it

I am spending some time dealing with family business so I am reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days. These could be useful with Christmas coming up.

This is Gareth Morgan’s second to last book. It is very relevant to new Zealanders – and timely – because it deals with part of the world, our Far South, which is very important but often ignored. Well written and informative.


Book review: Ice, Mice and Men: The Issues Facing Our Far South by Geoff Simmons & Gareth Morgan

Price: NZ$35; Epub/Mobi NZ$15.
ISBN: 9780987666628
Barcode: 9780987666628
Published: 12 July 2012 by Public Interest Publishing Ltd

Antarctica brings to mind nature documentaries and penguins. Beautiful snowscapes and adventure. Maybe even of science and scientists working in harsh conditions.

But what about its ecological and political importance? Well, some climate change deniers/contrarians/sceptics/cranks have lately turned their attention to Antarctica in an attempt to “balance” the record breaking summer ice loss in the Arctic. I guess that’s a start – but what role do the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean really play in climate change. What about its natural resources and unique species? What are the governance issues – so many countries are interested in the area and many have a presence? And what does this all mean for New Zealand?

The first figure in this book (see below) shows our political and economic territorial interests in this area and suggest why we should perhaps pay more attention. Especially as the rest of the world is.

Territory of our Far South (All figures from book)

But there is also climate change – which interests all of us. Geoff Simmons & Gareth Morgandescribe the Southern ocean as:

“the engine room of the global ocean, and of the world’s climate. That is what many of us don’t realise and in our ignorance we’re complacent about the changes it is undergoing.”

So it’s about time the world, and New Zealand in particular, learned more about this region because the political, economic and ecological changes will eventually effect all of us. That makes this book very timely.

The book proves to be successful in its aim. It provides a very readable overview of the important issues: the history of the region; its resources and the battle to exploit them; international governance – the nature of the treaties covering the region and their problems; the ecology of the region – the threats to rare species, management of fisheries and problems with introduced species; climate change – the key role of the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) in circulating nutrients around the world’s oceans and as an important sink for heat and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Climate change

The book describes the formation of the ACC this way:

“Some 34 million years ago, Australia and Zealandia separated from Antarctica, and along with a mobile South America created a passage of deep water all the way around the Southern Hemisphere. The opening of this last gap, between the tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula (known as the Drake Passage) allowed the westerly winds and currents an unimpeded romp around the globe. This accident of geography created the world’s greatest current system – the ACC. And it was the inauguration of the ACC that directly contributed to a massive shift in the Earth’s climate from hot to cold, . . “

The Antarctic Circumpolar Current –
The ACC area is shaded orange (All figures from book)

This current, together with churning of the sea by wind, resulted in removal of carbon dioxide and heat from the atmosphere as well as transport of nutrients from the sea bed. The result, a cooling of the global climate, appearance of ice sheets in Antarctica, and a key role for the ACC in nutrient supply to the world oceans. As the authors say: without the ACC “we would have a much warmer planet, which means higher sea levels, and less land – and frankly, it’s quite likely we wouldn’t exist.”

The key role of the ACC in global climate, the world’s weather systems and insulation of the Antarctica continues today. The churning of sea by the wind and the low temperature of the water enables the current to carry heat and CO2 to middle depths and transport them around the world. The result: “40% of the carbon stored in the ocean is taken in between 30 degrees south and 50 degrees south.”

The ACC needs to be monitored closely – it’s important and climate change seems to be changing the workings of the ACC itself. There have been changes of wind and current speed and of location of the ACC which could have global consequences

Simmons and  Morgan summarise it this way:

Our Far South “is a place of incalculable importance to New Zealand and to the entire world. The ecosystem, climate and the actions of humankind are irrevocably intertwined – maybe here more than anywhere else on the planet. . . having a continent on our southern pole, surrounded by ocean and carrying an immense quantity of ice is part of what makes our planet’s current climate so hospitable”

Even from the perspective of climate change alone we need to be more aware of what is happening in our Southern Oceans.

Ecology

Although the sea floor of the Ross Sea and similar places are exceptions, most of Our Far south is not very diverse biologically. This makes it sensitive to losses of even a few species. Differences between the Southern Ocean and Northern Hemisphere add to this sensitivity. For example the lack of land mean there are no terrestrial sources of iron, no dust blowing of deserts. Algae require iron and even trace amounts make a huge difference to biological production. Circulation of nutrients to the global ocean by the ACC means conservation and study of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica is important. Unfortunately scientific research is under pressure to support commercial exploitation of the resources, rather than conservation.

One area New Zealand scientists has had success is in eradication of introduced pests from islands to our south. And this work is continuing. One of the authors, Gareth Morgan, supports this work through a charitable trust. So it’s fitting that he gives an invitation to readers at the end of the book:

“If you would like to help make a difference to Our Far South you can contribute to the Million Dollar Mouse project at www.milliondollarmouse.org”

The rush to exploit resources

Antarctica and the Southern Oceans have probably fared better than the Arctic region in the race for territory and resources. Nevertheless, there has been a rush here and New Zealand has contributed to this, as well as benefited from it:

“Thanks to our rapacious sealing, whaling and farming in the subantarctic islands (a legacy from which they are still recovering), New Zealand was able to secure sovereignty over those rocky isles. This in turn gained us one of the largest areas of EEZ (Extended Economic Zone) in the world.

I am old enough to remember the scientific activity and the cooperative spirit behind it during the International Geophysical Year in 1957. This enthusiasm provided political support for an international agreement on management of Antarctica and a Treaty was signed in 1959.

The Antarctic Treaty temporarily resolved territorial disputes on that continent by agreeing to disagree over sovereignty. This Treaty has proved incredibly successful at ensuring the continent is dedicated to peace and science. This is in our interest: we are just too small to get into a turf war. It left New Zealand with the Ross dependency. That, together with our EEZ, one of the largest in the world, and our extended continental shelf (see first figure) makes us an important player in the region, politically and economically. But the Treaty simply froze the status quo from the 1950s and the balance of world power is changing.

Of course this means New Zealand also has huge responsibilities in the political future of the region and exploitation of its natural resources. We really should be paying more attention here.

Whaling, and the threat of extinction to some species, has reached the attention of the New Zealand public which has an awareness of its relevance to our region and the Southern Ocean. While international negotiation and political protest action concentrate on whaling itself, and those nations which still kill whales, there is also a threat to whales in the region from climate change. The subtle change in nutrient flows influence the populations of species which whales feed on.

Many of us are also vaguely conscious of an ongoing struggle between conversation and exploitation of fish in Our Far South.* This is hugely controversial because science is used to manage fisheries, but also to exploit the same fisheries. It’s often hard to know who is winning – but most of us suspect commercial and not conservation interests prevail. On the other hand it is true that sensible conservation must often allow for controlled exploitation.

Toothfish in the Southern oceans has been very much in the news lately. Some scientists are very critical of it’s commercial exploitation because so little is known about the species. However, others believe it to be one of New Zealand’s  success stories. The authors discuss the controversy and their sympathies lie with the fisheries. They say

“Our fishing industry is by no means perfect, but the toothfish fishery really is an example of them at their best”

Despite the success of the Antarctic Treaty it does present problems because of the presence of so many countries and interests in the region and unresolved differences over sovereignty. The book discusses these current problems as well as the future problems we must grapple with as treaties and agreements are renegotiated.

Conclusions

This book provides an excellent resource for information on the Southern Oceans, our subarctic islands and Antarctica. It will provide students and layperson New Zealanders with an access to wide-ranging material on the history, politics, economics, ecology and natural and mineral resources of the region. References provide avenues for deeper study.

But it’s also very readable. There is an absolute minimum of technical language – and what there is often gets treated with humour. Mind you, it’s Kiwi humour so some overseas readers may miss the occasional digs against the Aussies.

Some advice for the reader, though. I read this book on an eReader and learned again that such devices are currently not always suitable for technical books, even those written in a popular style like this one. In this case only because many of the figures are colour coded. I can see a real need for colour eInk screens in eReaders – which can’t be far off anyway. And tablets such as the iPad are ideal for this book.

In summary, this book is important because it’s about an important region of the world which influences the globe. It’s especially important for New Zealanders because it’s our backyard – we have territorial rights to large parts of it. And finally it’s important because most of us, including most New Zealanders, are ignorant of the important role it plays.  It’s the most important place you didn’t know about.

Fortunately this readable and informative book will help overcome that problem.

*See also:
Prime TV: The Last Ocean  Next Tuesday 8:30 pm
“The Ross Sea, Antarctica, is the most pristine stretch of ocean on Earth. But the fishing industry is targeting the lucrative Antarctic toothfish, and unless stopped, will destroy its ecosystem.”

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New “evidence” for global cooling?

The climate change pseudo-sceptics/deniers/contrarians are at it again – claiming the earth is cooling. This time their “evidence” is the extent of ice in the Arctic ice cap. Of course they have to cherry pick the data. The MailOnLine (see Global cooling: Arctic ice caps grows by 60% against global warming predictions ) declares:

“A chilly Arctic summer has left nearly a million more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year – an increase of 60 per cent.”

And

“Some eminent scientists now believe the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century – a process that would expose computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming as dangerously misleading.”

You can “prove” anything with statistics, can’t you? Suitably cherry picked of course.

To save you the trouble of searching out the real situation for yourself Skeptical Science provides us with Arctic Escalator. This puts the MailOnLine “evidence” into context. (Animated gif – if it doesn’t work for you click to show the graphic.)

ArcticEscalator2012_med

Don’t believe everything you read on these climate pseudo-sceptic/denier/contrarian web sites.

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Dentists you can trust?

billboard2

Credit: Making Sense of Fluoride Facebook page.

Looks like the Fluoride Free Hamilton activists have managed to find 3 dentists who they agree with. None of them work in Hamilton – one is from Northland, one from Wellington and the other is from Dunedin. So they literally searched far and wide to locate them.

Never mind, Fluoride Free Hamilton and its network is trusted by the Hamilton City Council when it comes to health matters. So they can continue to ignore the advice from local and national health experts. However, it might be harder for the incoming council to ignore the advice coming from voters during the upcoming local body elections and fluoridation referendum in the city.

The activist’s claim that their 3 dentists are the informed ones carries the implication that all other New Zealand dentists are uninformed! In fact Grant et al (2013) survey New Zealand dentists on the opinions of fluoridation (see New Zealand dentists’ views on community water fluoridation). Their finding were that:

“Most practitioners (93.5%) reported supporting community water fluoridation; the other 6.5% either were unsure or did not support it. Higher proportions of more recent graduates supported CWF. Some 85.6% of practitioners thought that drinking fluoridated water was a harmless way to prevent dental caries, but 6.2% felt that fluoridated water may cause other health problems.”

And they concluded:

“Most New Zealand dental practitioners support community water fluoridation, although a very small proportion believe that it is harmful and/or does not prevent caries.”

The fluoridation issue is turning out like the controversy around scientific issues like climate change and biological evolution. Just as scientists supporting creationism or climate change denial turn out to be a very small fraction of the numbers on those fields, dentists opposing community water fluoridation are also a very small fraction of all dentists.

Mind you – Fluoride Free Hamilton seems to be making a virtue out of that embarrassingly small support for their views. I am expecting to hear them come out with the Galileo Gambit some time soon.

Thanks to Dan from Making Sense of Fluoride for bringing my attention to the paper.

See also:

Similar articles on fluoridation
Making sense of fluoride Facebook page
New Zealanders for fluoridation Facebook page

Michael Mann’s defamation lawsuit on track

Anyone interested in the political struggles around the science of climate change will be aware of the attacks made on climate scientist Michael Mann. These go back a long time and are detailed in his book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (see The truth about the hockey stick for my review of this book). Despite a number of enquiries clearing Mann of any wrong-doing these attacks have continued.

Screen-shot-2009-11-24-at-03.03.162

But the National Review and Competitive Enterprise Institute went too far when they accused him of illegal acts, (like manipulating data and outright fraud). Mann filed a defamation suit against them. This week the Washington DC Superior Court came down with its first ruling in the case – and it’s not good news for those attacking Mann. It refused to throw out Mann’s on the grounds that the plaintiff’s statements were protected speech under the First Amendment, mere “opinion,” “rhetorical hyperbole,” or “fair comment.”

The ruling said that CEI defendants had produced:

“numerous articles that characterize Plaintiff’s work as fraudulent, combined with the assertions of fraud and data manipulation”

and this went beyond free speech. It added

” In Plaintiff’s line of work, such an accusation is serious. To call his work a sham or to question his intellect and reasoning is tantamount to an accusation of fraud (taken in the context and knowing that Plaintiff’s work has been investigated and substantiated on numerous occasions).”

The defamation case will now go ahead with the next hearing at the end of August.

It’s heartening to see this progress being made as many commentators were cynical about Mann’s chance of success.

As one commentator, Dan Satterfield, said – Wearing A Tinfoil Hat Is Getting Expensive

via DC Court affirms Michael Mann’s right to proceed in defamation lawsuit against National Review and CEI .

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Communicating climate science – Michael Mann comments

Here’s a relatively short talk by Michael Mann talking about his own experiences in communicating climate science, and the political attempts to intimidate him. He is an interesting speaker and his story is important.

via AGU Chapman Conference — Climate Science: Michael Mann – YouTube.

Mann is the author of the book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. It’s very informative and easy to read. Essential reading for anyone interested in the science and politics of climate change.

See “Good faith” science – and its enemies for my review of Mann’s book.

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The victim mentality of conspiracy theorists

bob-carter

Bob Carter, formerly an adjunct professor at James Cook University

Conspiracy theorists seem to see conspiracies in even the most innocent things.  Then again, politically motivated activists will invent conspiracies if they think this will present them as a victim. This appears to be happening around Bob Carter, one of the darlings of the local climate change deniers/contrarians/pseudosceptics.

Just look at the (unattributed) conspiracy story local climate change pseudosceptic Richard Treadgold is attempting to promote in his blog post Heated climate debate continues.

Bob Carter was a Professor and Head of School of Earth Sciences at James Cook University (Townsville) between 1981 and 1999. Subsequently he was an adjunct research professor at the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at the James Cook University from 1998 to 2005 and a visiting research professor in geology and geophysics at the University of Adelaide from 2001 to 2005. And an adjunct research professor again at the James Cook University until the end of last year. According to Brisbane-based journalist Graham Readfearn:

“Professor Paul Dirks, head of school at JCU’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences where Bob Carter’s affiliation was held, has told me that since 1 January 2013, Bob Carter has had “no official status” at JCU. He said Bob Carter’s previous adjunct status ceased on that date.”

What is an adjunct research professor?

You can find out at the James Cook University’s web page Adjunct Appointments. In this case it’s a bit like an emeritus professor. An unpaid position at the university for a retired academic. They are not open-ended –“Appointments will be normally be made for periods of up to three years and may be renewed.”

So, in summary Carters unpaid adjunct position expired at the end of last year. It was not renewed. And he had long before (1999) retired from his job as a Professor at that university.

Mind you, that has not stopped people like Treadgold and other climate change psuedosceptics referring to Carter as a Professor at James Cook University. You would think these sources would have stopped using that title and affiliation by now. As Readfern says:

“Several of these groups still describe Bob Carter as having an affiliation with James Cook University, which, as I’ve just clarified, ended six months ago. I’m sure they will all be diligently edited to reflect Bob Carter’s actual non-status with James Cook University.

I mean, we wouldn’t want anyone being misled now would we?”

Well, perhaps some of these people have decided to stop misleading and admit Carter is no longer holds affiliated to James Cook University. But why waste the opportunity to present themselves as persecuted and victims?

A “contemptible, poisonous  blatant act of bureaucratic bigotry”

Treadgold decides to treat expiration of Carter’s adjunct status as a “dismissal:”

“Professor Bob Carter (an expatriate Kiwi) lost his job the other day at James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville. He had worked there for 31 loyal years, . . . . . Significantly, because it led to his dismissal, Bob made an honourable name for himself and earned a world-wide reputation for remaining faithful to scientific principles while analysing the outrageous predictions from global warming alarmists. He was never afraid to speak out against the alarmists and their dubious claims.

Dismissing him with a blatant act of bureaucratic bigotry will deepen the shame of its perpetrators whenever the history of “man-made” climate change is recalled.”

He goes on to call the expiry, sorry “dismissal,” of the adjunct position a “contemptible action” arising from “poisonous, irrational thinking.”

Although Treadgold doesn’t attribute his story or give any sources he clearly relies on fellow climate change pseudosceptic Jo Nova’s blog article JCU caves in to badgering and groupthink — blackballs “politically incorrect” Bob Carter. That article is similarly challenged by lack of reliable sources or attribution.

But despite the normal rapidity with which the climate change pseudosceptic/contrarian/denier internet echo chamber circulates such stories of victimhood this one doesn’t seem to have any legs. It was half-heartedly tweeted by Christopher Monckton, the Galileo Movement and a Sydney journalist Micky Mantell.

Bit of  a fizzer this time Richard?


NOTE: Some information on Bob Carter’s links in the climate change pseudosceptic movement (thanks to Graham Readfearn):

Bob Carter is the Science Policy Advisor at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, the chief science advisor to the International Climate Science Coalition, a director at the Australian Environment Foundation, a member of the academic advisory council of the UK’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, an adviser to the Australia-based Galileo Movement, science adviser to the Science and Public Policy Institute, a patron of the UK’s anti-climate legislation group Repeal The Act, an advisor to the European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE), an advisor to the Australian Climate Science Coalition and an inaugural founder of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition.

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What is global temperature?

When I write here about climate change you can be sure one or more trolls will pop up and tell me about the snow in the UK. Or accuse scientists of relying on this year’s New Zealand drought in their claims of climate change. It seems surprising that no matter how many times we point out the climate is not the same as weather, and global climate change is not the same as local or regional weather, some people seem to think such arguments are valid.

I have illustrated the difference before here – but here’s another example I picked up from Real Climate (see Response by Marcott et al.). The illustration is in response to the question of what is meant by global Temperature. Here’s what they say:

“Global average surface temperature is perhaps the single most representative measure of a planet’s climate since it reflects how much heat is at the planet’s surface. Local temperature changes can differ markedly from the global average. One reason for this is that heat moves around with the winds and ocean currents, warming one region while cooling another, but these regional effects might not cause a significant change in the global average temperature. A second reason is that local feedbacks, such as changes in snow or vegetation cover that affect how a region reflects or absorbs sunlight, can cause large local temperature changes that are not mirrored in the global average. We therefore cannot rely on any single location as being representative of global temperature change. This is why our study includes data from around the world.

We can illustrate this concept with temperature anomaly data based on instrumental records for the past 130 years from the National Climatic Data Center (http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cmb-faq/anomalies.php#anomalies). Over this time interval, an increase in the global average temperature is documented by thermometer records, rising sea levels, retreating glaciers, and increasing ocean heat content, among other indicators. Yet if we plot temperature anomaly data since 1880 at the same locations as the 73 sites used in our paleotemperature study, we see that the data are scattered and the trend is unclear. When these same 73 historical temperature records are averaged together, we see a clear warming signal that is very similar to the global average documented from many more sites (Figure 1). Averaging reduces local noise and provides a clearer perspective on global climate.”

ProxySites_vs_Global1-1024x907

Temperature anomaly data (thin colored lines) at the same locations as the 73 paleotemperature records used in Marcott et al. (2013), the average of these 73 temperature anomaly series (bold black line), and the global average temperature from the National Climatic Data Center blended land and ocean dataset (bold red line) (data from Smith et al., 2008).

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I was wrong about Lord Monckton

I must admit I was wrong about Lord Monckton. I thought his speaking tour of New Zealand, which started on April Fools day, would be a huge yawn. Local climate scientists have learned that debating the man may be a huge plus for Monckton’s CV, but it was a negative for their own. So what interest could there be in a speaking tour where the audiences were basically fellow climate change deniers, conspiracy theorists and extreme political libertarians – all singing from the same hymn sheet.

After all, even his own publicity makes clear that his message is political, not scientific. That he is here to tell us all about the international conspiracy of greenies, fascists, communists, capitalists, imperialists and the United Nations to impose a single world government, put us in concentration camps, etc. Those horrible climate scientists are only a small part of Monckton’s international conspiracy.

Monckton-posters

But I should have learned from Monckton’s Australian tour. His antics there managed to keep his name in the public eye – and give Australians something to laugh at. He threatened climate scientists with court action and called prominent Australians Nazis!

Well, he seems set to do the same for us. He’s only been here a few days and he is threatening (“in the first instance”) a complaint to the New Zealand Press Council (yes he is not happy with the way his beliefs are reported). He expects the press Council to investigate not only a recent Herald article about his tour but also “whether the Herald has given balanced coverage to both sides of the debate on the climate, having regard not only to the present article but to its previous record of publication on the climate “science” issue.” He expects (or demands) a lot, doesn’t he?

Monckton  also promises to invite “authorities in the United Kingdom to remove the name of one of [our] universities . . .from the list of academic institutions whose degrees are recognized in Britain.” No, he is not happy with what our climate scientists tell us about their findings (or indeed the findings themselves), or what they think of his scientific credibility. So we are all going to be punished.

It’s enough to make us shiver in our boots – he must be such a powerful man. Our scientist’s degrees won’t be recognised in the UK in future.

I think we are shivering – but out of laughter, not fear.

The man is certainly good for a laugh. I look forward to more of this humour as his speaking tour, and threats against our media, scientists and educational institutes, progresses over the next few weeks.

If you want to read his letters and threats they are recorded at VISCOUNT MONCKTON’S RESPONSE TO DENIGRATORY ARTICLE IN NZ HERALD). Looks like they will also be faithfully repeated at the Climate Conversation Group’s blog (see, for example  Herald, APNZ find Monckton no easy target).

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