Wednesday, June 20, 2018

On the Impossibility of the Ultimate Climate Catasrophe

This week’s good news is that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), by far the world’s biggest ice mass, was largely intact during the entire Pliocene epoch.  The Pliocene was slightly less than three million years in length, and preceded the Pleistocene, the epoch of the ice ages.

The implications for human-caused warming from enhanced carbon dioxide are enormous.  The good news was published in the same issue of Nature that carried an article about the loss of slightly less than three trillion metric tons of Antarctic ice since 1992.

These things are best viewed in a larger perspective.  By itself, that ice loss would raise sea level by about a third of an inch, something probably impossible to detect with land-based tidal gauges.  But it was also likely somewhat balanced by the probability of enhanced snowfall over the continent thanks to a (very) slightly warmed surrounding ocean. But the melting of the EAIS would be apocalyptic, itself raising sea level by 175 feet.

Even though this seemed like a very remote possibility, we can now confidently say that human-induced climate change cannot make it happen.

Here’s why.

Global temperatures during the Pliocene averaged around 2-3⁰C higher than the 20th century average.  But the massive thermal inertia of Antarctica means it probably wasn’t that much warmer there.  Let’s be very conservative and say it was about one degree warmer.

The Pliocene heat load over the EAIS then becomes:

3,000,000 years X 1⁰ = 3,000,000 degree-years.

Now let’s also be conservative about how long human-induced climate change might last, say, 1000 years.  But again, climate change is attenuated over the vast ice-covered continent, so let’s posit we induce a global warming of 5⁰ (which is probably too large), and Antarctica warms half as much.

The maximum heat load over Antarctica then is:

1,000 years X2.5⁰ = 2,500 degree-years.

The Pliocene heat load was 1,200 times what humans could possibly exert on the EAIS, and it still remained largely intact.  Because of that, fears about the ultimate climate catastrophe can no longer even be entertained.


AP Claims That Global Warming ‘Is Making Us Dumb’, Gets Debunked

University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke, Jr. called out a lengthy AP story claiming that global warming created “a different world” over the past 30 years — the time frame scientists typically use to account for natural climatic variations.

“We were warned,” is what the AP says about the supposed changes,”large and small,” that have happened in the last 30 years. The story is full of anecdotal evidence, official figures and alarming quotes from scientists.

“The statistics tracking climate change since 1988 are almost numbing,” the AP reported in its story.

Pielke points to the article’s illogical claim that climate “change has been so sweeping that it is easy to lose sight of effects large and small,” focusing on the AP’s citing of hurricane damage data to insinuate that storms were becoming more intense.

The AP’s article makes several claims that are misleading. The Daily Caller News Foundation has listed the three most misleading claims made in the AP’s article on “numbing” global warming statistics.

1. Hurricanes

The AP’s story notes that “[t]he 14 costliest hurricanes in American history, adjusted for inflation, have hit since 1988, reflecting both growing coastal development and a span that included the most intense Atlantic storms on record.”

Pielke, however, took issue with AP’s use of hurricane damage statistics to imply storms had become more intense in the last 30 years. Pielke noted that hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. have changed little over time, meaning increased damages come from inflation and economic growth.

2. Wildfires

The AP reports that “wildfires in the United States now consume more than twice the acreage they did 30 years ago.”

While this is true, the AP’s narrowing of its analysis to just the past 30 years leaves presents a misleading picture. Wildfires may be burning more acreage today than the 1980s, but that pales in comparison to the great fires of the early 20th Century.

The scale of U.S. wildfires has decreased dramatically since 1930, according to government estimates. That year, wildfires burned more than four times the amount of acreage burned in 2012.

In 1930, for example, wildfires consumed more than 50 million acres of land, but in 2012 wildfires only burnt up 9.2 million acres.

3. Record Heat

Again, the AP’s use of a 30-year timeline presents a skewed picture on heat records set across the U.S.

“[D]aily heat records have been broken more than 2.3 million times at weather stations across the nation, half a million times more than cold records were broken,” the AP reported, but a longer view of the century puts record heat in perspective.

“The Dust Bowl era of the 1930s remains the peak period for extreme heat,” reads the National Climate Assessment special report released in late 2017.

“In fact, all eastern regions experienced a net decrease, most notably the Midwest (about 2.2°F [1.2°C]) and the Southeast (roughly 1.5°F [0.8°C])” that are “mainly tied to the unprecedented summer heat of the 1930s Dust Bowl era,” according to the special report.


Streamlining Infrastructure Environmental Review


Many roads, bridges, sewers, pipelines, and other infrastructure need repair. New facilities should also be built where economic and social conditions warrant. Yet even where money is not an obstacle, the reviews that are required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) can be a significant source of delay. The average time to complete a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), for example, was 5.1 years in 2016. Only 16% of them were completed in two years or less.

Lengthy reviews introduce uncertainty, add to the costs, and threaten the viability of infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, existing facilities continue to deteriorate as proposed upgrades or replacements wind their way through federal and state regulatory bodies. The problem is long-standing, and Congress has taken a number of steps over the last several years to streamline the process.

This paper assesses their effectiveness and proposes some additional changes, including:

Updating rules and procedures at the agency level to exempt additional infrastructure projects from lengthy and complex review requirements.

Expanding eligibility and giving agencies more flexibility to make use of NEPA’s “categorical exclusion” provisions.

Assigning more environmental review duties to states. For more than a decade, a program called NEPA Assignment has allowed states to take the lead on shepherding certain highway and transit projects through environmental review. The states that have done so report reduced time required to complete environmental reviews. More states should be encouraged to participate. The federal government should expand the number of projects and actions that are eligible under existing authority, and Congress should expand the program to cover more kinds of infrastructure.

With the implementation of these recommendations, federal agency resources would be freed to deal with the complex projects that require more comprehensive review, reducing the time for projects that pass muster to begin.


Dumb Energy

Wind and solar electricity are renewable energy.  How nice to pluck energy out of the air and the sky.

It's a scam.  Big money men and screwball dreamers, otherwise called environmentalists, are behind the scam.

Apparently, it has not dawned on the believers in the scam that solar does not work at night, and wind works only when the wind is blowing.  The core characteristic of wind and solar is that they are erratic sources of electricity.  The supply is randomly intermittent.  Who in Hell thinks this dumb energy is a good way to supply electricity?

The wind and solar promoters, in order to accommodate their dumb energy, demand that the electric grid be re-engineered to become a "smart" grid.  Perhaps the idea is that if the grid is smart enough, the dumb energy will be canceled by the smart grid.  That's actually what the smart grid people have in mind.  The smart grid is supposed to be agile enough to fill in the gaps when the wind or solar is playing hooky.

The intellectual mind values an elegant theory over a messy reality.  The result is tension between ivory tower thinkers and practical men working in the trenches of the economy.  The practical men easily see the weaknesses in abstract theories, weaknesses that are invisible to the ivory tower thinkers.  But the practical men are not equipped to assert or defend their reality in political, media, or academic circles.  If they try, they are patronized and ignored.  A seductive theory trumps pedestrian and annoying facts in the intellectual mind.  For this reason, ridiculously impracticable renewable energy finds wide support in academic, environmental, and government circles – circles populated by thinkers accustomed to mobilizing the power of the state to promote impractical ideas with the taxpayers' money.  For these thinkers, evidence that contradicts their beliefs must be bad evidence.

In the supposedly hard-headed Wall Street Journal, Russell Gold writes that "global investment in wind and solar energy is outshining fossil fuels."  He claims that Alberta is getting subsidy-free wind electricity for $37 a megawatt-hour.  That's $28 U.S.  Since real subsidy-free wind electricity costs about $10 Canadian, something is wrong here.  What's wrong is that the media have lost their minds.  Five minutes with Google is enough to discover that Albertan electricity is indeed subsidized.  What we have here is a mania and a suspension of critical judgment.  No lie about renewable energy is too big to be believed, even by the Wall Street Journal.  There are 600 comments to the Journal article.  The commentators, evidently practical men, point out the errors and fallacies in the article.

In the U.S., it is hard to keep track of all the subsidies for renewable energy.  I'd be surprised if it is very different in Canada.  Some subsidies are blatant, like a $24-per-megawatt-hour payment from the federal treasury for the production of wind electricity, or a 30% tax credit for the construction of a solar energy farm.  Some subsidies are buried in accounting complexities like rapid depreciation that allows for complicated tax gimmicks that effectively take money from the federal treasury and give it to renewable energy investors.  Then there are renewable portfolio laws in 30 states setting goals for renewable energy.  The result is that wind and solar installations get long-term guaranteed markets at high prices for their electricity.  Grid operators are required to accept all wind and solar electricity offered unless they, more or less, declare an emergency.

Assuming a windy or a sunny place, wind or solar electricity costs around $70 a megawatt-hour to produce.  Even though no fuel is used, the capital cost spread over the electricity produced makes the renewable energy more expensive than using fossil fuel.  With natural gas, you can produce electricity for around $50 per megawatt-hour.  Those numbers are the cost at the plant fence – not a fair comparison.  It's not a fair comparison because when you build a wind or solar plant, you don't get to take away the natural gas plant.  It's still there to back up the wind or solar.  Wind or solar is an add-on to the grid, not a real part of the grid.  All the wind or solar does that is useful is to save some fuel at the backup plant, usually a natural gas plant, during moments when the wind or solar is actually generating electricity.  That fuel for a gas plant costs about $20 per megawatt-hour.  So wind or solar costs $70 per megawatt-hour in order to save $20's worth of fuel per megawatt-hour.  The net loss to the economy is $70 minus $20, or $50 for every megawatt-hour of wind or solar electricity produced.  That $50 has to come from someplace.  That loss to the economy is a subsidy.  Someone has to pay for it.  It comes from blatant subsidies, sneaky subsidies, and higher prices for electricity.

Some advocates of renewable energy claim that the extra cost is worth it, because wind and solar don't emit CO2, thus helping in the fight against global warming.  There are numerous holes in that argument.  The bulk of the CO2 emissions are from Asia, where they burn an ever increasing amount of carbon-rich coal to generate electricity.  U.S. CO2 emissions have been declining due to the substitution of natural gas for coal.  Spending fantastic sums to decrease U.S. emissions will have a very minor effect unless something is done about Asia.  The bigger picture is that there has been little global warming during the last 20 years in the face of rapidly increasing CO2 emissions.  The obvious conclusion is that the global warming scare is more propaganda than substance.  Of course, the scientific organizations with huge budgets based on the scary prospect of global warming can't let it go because they would lose the justification for their big budgets.  Did you ever hear of a scientific organization shrinking because the problem it was formed to solve does not, after all, exist?  If you really want to seriously reduce CO2 emissions, the solution is nuclear power.  The sincerest believers in global warming, like James Hansen and Stewart Brand, are advocating nuclear power.

Environmental groups, particularly the Sierra Club, run scare campaigns against fossil fuels.  Everything they don't like either causes cancer or does something bad to children.  They don't like coal; they don't like nuclear.  They even don't like hydro if a dam is involved.  The environmental outfits relentlessly spread scare propaganda.  They promote the basically useless wind and solar.  They pretend and perhaps actually believe that wind and solar represent some sort of energy salvation.  They are modern-day crackpots and snake oil salesmen.


Australia: renewables have beaten common sense

This may sound strange but the renewable energy industry — I prefer to call it the unreliable energy industry — is overjoyed by the public discussion about the need for new coal-fired electricity plants to be built here.

The rent-seekers — the owners of wind farms and solar installations — know there will be no investment in coal-fired electricity, certainly not in terms of new plants. Even investment in maintaining or extending the lives of existing coal-fired plants is rationed.

New coal-fired plants are unbankable, given the policy settings. They cost a lot, their economic lives are too long and the risks are too high.

The only scenario in which a new high-efficiency, low-emissions plant can be built — and plenty are overseas — is government ownership. Even then, the delay before commissioning would be three to five years. There are no circumstances under which the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull will agree to the government building, owning and operating a HELE plant.

As for Labor, it doesn’t even know what a HELE plant is; its intention is to head in the nonsensical direction of 50 per cent renewables (globally, wind and solar account for 8 per cent of electricity generation) and a higher emissions reduction target.

So why are the renewables players so excited about the ongoing discussion of investment in new coal-fired plants that will never happen? It diverts attention from the main game, which is the definition of reliability that will apply in the new policy framework, the national energy ­guarantee.

They also are seeking to have other features of the final design favour renewable energy, including the restrictions on the use of carbon offsets, both local and international, to meet the emissions reduction target. There is even a possibility that there will be no allowance for offsets in the final version.

While Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg feels pleased with himself that he has secured reasonably broad support for the national energy guarantee — there are a few exceptions — everyone knows that it will come down to the detail. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the latest iteration of the guarantee was released last Friday at 5pm.

Let me outline three key weaknesses in it. They are: the lack of a defensible definition of reliability; the way the emissions reduction target is put into effect; and the use of offsets. (I apologise for the technical nature of some of this discussion — it’s unavoidable.)

The most appropriate way of defining reliability — supply meeting demand when and where it is required — is to map out scenarios in which renewable energy sources plus other sources will not be able to meet the needs of the market and to identify the back-up arrangements that can be relied on. It can’t be an averaging process; extremes must be considered.

Note, for example, that extended wind droughts can occur; witness Germany and Britain recently. It also can be cloudy for extended periods. These back-up options include battery, pumped hydro, gas peaking or even diesel generators.

They may be uncommon events, but because Australia’s electricity grid is self-contained (we can’t import electricity from other countries, as is the case in Europe) we must plan for them.

One of the papers released last Friday simply states that “a reliable system is one with enough energy (generation and demand side participation) and network capacity to supply consumers — this implies that there should be enough energy to meet demand, with a buffer known as reserves”. A key carve-out is “demand side participation”.

The game that the renewable energy sector is playing is to define the scenario for which back-up is required on terms that suit it. Instead of meeting demand when and where it is required, its preferred alternative is to assume that demand is managed down (all big industrial users are expected to reduce their use of power as well as some households) before there is any need to provide back-up.

In this way, the renewable energy industry will be able to point to a motley collection of diesel generators and a few batteries (which provide power for a few hours at most), which will allow the retailers to meet the reliability requirement under the terms of the national energy guarantee. It’s a neat trick because it avoids the expensive exercise of providing or contracting for true back-up

This sort of demand management is Third World stuff and the clear danger is that these big users will just power down forever, particularly as they are also being told they have to provide back-up themselves. They have made it very clear that they cannot rely on renewable energy. So when contracts expire, they will simply shut up shop and relocate overseas.

When it comes to how the national energy guarantee will work, demand forecasts will be made out to 2030. The renewable energy industry will seek to have these forecasts low-balled because this will accelerate the exit of older baseload coal-fired plants as well as reduce the need for back-up.

These demand forecasts will then translate into an abatement number by 2030 (the reduction in tonnes of CO2) and from this an emissions intensity target will be calculated. It will be of the order of 0.4 per megawatt hour, which knocks out all coal, and gas will be used only as a peaker. The national energy guarantee is effectively an emissions intensity scheme.

An abatement trajectory will have to be set for the decade, but the minister already has ruled out back-ending the emissions reduction task even though it would be very sensible to wait to see what the rest of the world does. Note that last year global emissions rose by 1.6 per cent. There may be some scope for small overs and unders from year to year, but this doesn’t really address the problem.

Having made our commitment to the Paris climate agreement and fallen into the trap of not subtracting the emissions of energy-intensive exporters as other nations have — the target would be 21 per cent to 23 per cent, rather than 26 per cent to 28 per cent, if we had done this — the best way forward is to allow retailers to acquit their emissions reduction requirements by buying carbon offsets.

These can be local — Australian carbon credit units (think local carbon farming) — and international. Either way, it is a far cheaper way of making our contribution to emissions reduction than through the labyrinthine national energy guarantee. (We will have to stop calling it the National Electricity Market; it simply won’t meet any definition of a market given the heavy-handed regulation, excessive direction and high penalties.)

The bottom line is the renewable energy industry has won. And this includes the big three vertically integrated players since they are heavily invested in renewables but will be able to milk their baseload assets in the ­interim.

Prices may be plateauing at the moment, but they will continue their upward path soon. Liddell will close in 2022, but it is in such a shocking state of disrepair its output will be unreliable in the meantime. The grid is regularly close to breaking point now. Large-scale, energy-intensive plants will close across time, leaving an economy dominated by the service sector and government. We will have thrown away one of our greatest sources of comparative advantage: cheap, reliable electricity.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Global warming may have ‘devastating’ effects on rice

This is a lulu of a study.  They didn't actually study warming at all.  They just studied CO2 levels.  They thus ignored that warming would produce more rice per acre.  In warm Indonesia, they get two crops a year. The extra CO2 also produced more rice, of course.  But the average nutrient content of the rice grains decreased -- which is what you would expect from  bigger crops using the same amount of land.

So the only interesting question was the TOTAL amount of nutrients captured from the given acreage by the expanded crops.  It was most unlikely to be less and was probably more.  In summary, this eccentric study tells us nothing about the total amount of nutrients that would be provided by a crop under natural conditions

The change could be particularly dire in southeast Asia where rice is a major part of the daily diet, said the report in the journal Science Advances. “We are showing that global warming, climate change and particularly greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide — can have an impact on the nutrient content of plants we eat,” said co-author Adam Drewnowski, a professor at the University of Washington.

“This can have devastating effects on the rice-consuming countries where about 70% of the calories and most of the nutrients come from rice.” Protein and vitamin deficiencies can lead to growth-stunting, birth defects, diarrhoea, infections and early death.

Countries at most risk include those that consume the most rice and have the lowest gross domestic product (GDP), such as Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, Mr. Drewnowksi said.

The findings were based on field studies in Japan and China, simulating the amount of CO2 expected in the atmosphere by the second half of this century — 568 to 590 parts per million. Current levels are just over 400 ppm.

For the experiments, 18 different strains of rice were planted in open fields, surrounded in certain areas by 56-foot wide octagons of plastic piping that released extra CO2.

Researchers found that iron, zinc, protein, and vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 — which help the body convert food to energy — were all reduced in the rice grown under higher CO2 conditions. “Vitamin B1 (thiamine) levels decreased by 17.1%; average Vitamin B2 by 16.6%,” said the report.


British reliance on French nuclear energy increases by more than quarter

The UK’s reliance on importing French power to keep the lights on has increased by almost a quarter this year in further evidence of Britain’s energy cost crunch.

Energy prices in Britain are now around a fifth higher than they were this time last year on the wholesale market.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, nuclear power plants have flooded France with cheap electricity which is being sold at a tidy profit to struggling British suppliers.

“French nuclear plants have been far more reliable this year to date than last year,” said Jamie Stewart, the ICIS Energy analyst, “which has kept a firm lid on French power prices.”

The stark fundamental differences between the UK and its biggest electricity trade partner have nudged British imports, via twin high-voltage sub-sea cables, to a total of 6.4 terawatt hours so far this year. Last year Britain imported less than 5TWh over the same period. Energy brokers at Marex Spectron told The Sunday Telegraph that the “anomalously strong” imports from France are closer in line with Britain’s winter appetite for foreign energy than typical summer trends. The trend has also re-energised industry debate over Britain’s energy trading future once it leaves the EU next year.

Even with the bumper imports of cheap French nuclear power, Britain’s energy prices remain around 20pc higher than last year in a major threat to energy companies braced for the Government’s price cap to descend on the market at the end of the year.

In response, suppliers have drawn the ire of ministers by raising the price of energy tariffs to survive the cost crunch. Many of the cheapest suppliers have shown signs of existential strain.

Iresa Energy, the energy minnow, slipped into default on the wholesale market for a third time last week, according to Elexon, the market administrator. Meanwhile, Bulb and First Utility, the Shell-owned supplier, have been forced to raise prices in the wake of tariff hikes from the “big six” suppliers.

UK power prices hit 10-year highs in March following the freezing temperatures brought by the “Beast from the East” and show no sign of returning to typical summer prices due to the strong price of gas. The Siberian storm drained gas from storage facilities across Europe in the final weeks of winter, making it more difficult for suppliers to replenish the stocks over the summer.

On the ICIS Power Index, a key benchmark for energy trends, the three-week rolling average price of wholesale power stands at £52.70/MWh after spending much of last year fluctuating between £42 and £48 per megawatt hour.


Global Warming has Stopped And A Cooling Is Beginning”

Written by Henrik Svensmark

The star that keeps us alive has, over the last few years, been almost free of sunspots, which are the usual signs of the Sun’s magnetic activity. Last week [4 September 2009] the scientific team behind the satellite SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) reported, “It is likely that the current year’s number of blank days will be the longest in about 100 years.” Everything indicates that the Sun is going into some kind of hibernation, and the obvious question is what significance that has for us on Earth.

If you ask the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which represents the current consensus on climate change, the answer is a reassuring “nothing”. But history and recent research suggest that is probably completely wrong. Why? Let’s take a closer look.

Solar activity has always varied. Around the year 1000, we had a period of very high solar activity, which coincided with the Medieval Warm Period. It was a time when frosts in May were almost unknown – a matter of great importance for a good harvest. Vikings settled in Greenland and explored the coast of North America. On the whole it was a good time. For example, China’s population doubled in this period.

But after about 1300 solar activity declined and the world began to get colder. It was the beginning of the episode we now call the Little Ice Age. In this cold time, all the Viking settlements in Greenland disappeared. Sweden surprised Denmark by marching across the ice, and in London the Thames froze repeatedly. But more serious were the long periods of crop failures, which resulted in poorly nourished populations, reduced in Europe by about 30 per cent because of disease and hunger.

It’s important to realise that the Little Ice Age was a global event. It ended in the late 19th Century and was followed by increasing solar activity. Over the past 50 years solar activity has been at its highest since the medieval warmth of 1000 years ago. But now it appears that the Sun has changed again, and is returning towards what solar scientists call a “grand minimum” such as we saw in the Little Ice Age.

The match between solar activity and climate through the ages is sometimes explained away as coincidence. Yet it turns out that, almost no matter when you look and not just in the last 1000 years, there is a link. Solar activity has repeatedly fluctuated between high and low during the past 10,000 years. In fact the Sun spent about 17 per cent of those 10,000 years in a sleeping mode, with a cooling Earth the result.

You may wonder why the international climate panel IPCC does not believe that the Sun’s changing activity affects the climate. The reason is that it considers only changes in solar radiation. That would be the simplest way for the Sun to change the climate – a bit like turning up and down the brightness of a light bulb.

Satellite measurements have shown that the variations of solar radiation are too small to explain climate change. But the panel has closed its eyes to another, much more powerful way for the Sun to affect Earth’s climate. In 1996 we discovered a surprising influence of the Sun – its impact on Earth’s cloud cover. High-energy accelerated particles coming from exploded stars, the cosmic rays, help to form clouds.

When the Sun is active, its magnetic field is better at shielding us against the cosmic rays coming from outer space, before they reach our planet. By regulating the Earth’s cloud cover, the Sun can turn the temperature up and down. High solar activity means fewer clouds and and a warmer world. Low solar activity and poorer shielding against cosmic rays result in increased cloud cover and hence a cooling. As the Sun’s magnetism doubled in strength during the 20th century, this natural mechanism may be responsible for a large part of global warming seen then.

That also explains why most climate scientists try to ignore this possibility. It does not favour their idea that the 20th century temperature rise was mainly due to human emissions of CO2. If the Sun provoked a significant part of warming in the 20th Century, then the contribution by CO2 must necessarily be smaller.

Ever since we put forward our theory in 1996, it has been subjected to very sharp criticism, which is normal in science.

First it was said that a link between clouds and solar activity could not be correct, because no physical mechanism was known. But in 2006, after many years of work, we completed experiments at DTU Space that demonstrated the existence of a physical mechanism. The cosmic rays help to form aerosols, which are the seeds for cloud formation.

Then came the criticism that the mechanism we found in the laboratory could not work in the real atmosphere, and therefore had no practical significance. We have just rejected that criticism emphatically.

It turns out that the Sun itself performs what might be called natural experiments. Giant solar eruptions can cause the cosmic ray intensity on earth to dive suddenly over a few days. In the days following an eruption, cloud cover can fall by about 4 per cent. And the amount of liquid water in cloud droplets is reduced by almost 7 per cent. Here is a very large effect – indeed so great that in popular terms the Earth’s clouds originate in space.

So we have watched the Sun’s magnetic activity with increasing concern, since it began to wane in the mid-1990s.

That the Sun might now fall asleep in a deep minimum was suggested by solar scientists at a meeting in Kiruna in Sweden two years ago. So when Nigel Calder and I updated our book The Chilling Stars, we wrote a little provocatively that “we are advising our friends to enjoy global warming while it lasts.”

In fact global warming has stopped and a cooling is beginning. Mojib Latif from the University of Kiel argued at the recent UN World Climate Conference in Geneva that the cooling may continue through the next 10 to 20 years. His explanation was a natural change in the North Atlantic circulation, not in solar activity. But no matter how you interpret them, natural variations in climate are making a comeback.

The outcome may be that the Sun itself will demonstrate its importance for climate and so challenge the theories of global warming. No climate model has predicted a cooling of the Earth – quite the contrary. And this means that the projections of future climate are unreliable. A forecast saying it may be either warmer or colder for 50 years is not very useful, and science is not yet able to predict solar activity.

So in many ways we stand at a crossroads. The near future will be extremely interesting. I think it is important to accept that Nature pays no heed to what we humans think about it. Will the greenhouse theory survive a significant cooling of the Earth? Not in its current dominant form. Unfortunately, tomorrow’s climate challenges will be quite different from the greenhouse theory’s predictions. Perhaps it will become fashionable again to investigate the Sun’s impact on our climate.


Stop Trying to Get Workers Out of Their Cars

"Smart growth" is dumb about commuting.

If you hate urban sprawl, you're probably familiar with the complaints of the "smart growth" movement: Roadways blight cities. Traffic congestion is the worst. Suburbanization harms the environment. Fortunately, say these smart growthers, there is an alternative: By piling on regulations and reallocating transportation-related tax money, we can "densify" our urban communities, allowing virtually everyone to live in a downtown area and forego driving in favor of walking or biking.

Smart growth proponents have been gaining influence for decades. They've implemented urban growth boundaries (which greatly restrict the development of land outside a defined area), up-zoning (which tries to increase densities in existing neighborhoods by replacing single-family homes with apartments), and "road diets" (which take away traffic lanes to make room for wider sidewalks and bike lanes).

Alas, there are inherent flaws in the "smart growth" approach—beginning with the idea that it makes sense for everyone to live and work in the same small area. In fact, that idea flies in the face of what economists call urban agglomeration.

Urban agglomeration is why there are more jobs in and around big cities. Job seekers have access to a large number of potential employers, which increases each person's likelihood of finding one that can make the best use of her unique talents and skills. The same is true for business owners, who have a much better chance of finding people in a large populous urban area who match their needs.

Transportation turns out to be a key factor in enabling these wealth-increasing transactions. Imagine drawing a circle around the location of your residence, defined by how far you are willing to commute to get to a satisfying job. The larger the radius of that circle, the more potential work opportunities you have. Likewise, a company's prospective-employee pool is defined by the number of people whose circles contain that company's location.

Most people measure that radius in time rather than distance; studies show they are generally unwilling to spend much more than 30 minutes commuting each way on a long-term basis. That means the size of their opportunity circle is critically dependent on how quickly they can get around.

Despite urban sprawl and ever-increasing congestion levels, economists Peter Gordon and Harry Richardson of the University of Southern California have documented, using census data, that average commute times in various metro areas have hardly changed at all over several decades. More recently, Alex Anas of the University of Buffalo modeled what would happen as a result of a projected 24 percent increase in Chicago's metro area population over three decades. He estimated that auto commute times would increase only 3 percent and transit trip times hardly at all. The reason is that people tend to change where they live or work in order to keep their travel times about the same. But this happy result comes about only if the transportation system expands accordingly.

A recent empirical study from the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University likewise found that, on average, the labor market of an urban area (defined as the number of jobs reachable within a one-hour commute) nearly doubles when the workforce of the metro area doubles. The commute time increases by an average of only about 7 percent, however—assuming an efficient region-wide transportation network. To achieve higher economic productivity, they recommend fostering speedier rather than slower commuting; more rather than less commuting; and longer rather than shorter commutes.

These policies would expand the opportunity circles of employers and employees, enabling a more productive urban economy. But these are exactly the opposite of the policy prescriptions of smart growth, which generally seek to confine people's economic activity to a small portion of a larger metro area.

One early manifestation of this was the attempt by urban and transportation planners in the '80s and '90s to promote "jobs-housing balance," where each county of a large metro area has comparable percentages of the region's jobs and of its housing. The rationale was that this would reduce "excessive" commuting by enabling people to find work close to their homes. But urban agglomeration theory makes it clear that that is a recipe for a low-productivity urban economy. Census data show that many suburban areas are now approaching jobs-housing balance on their own, but this does not necessarily reduce commute distances—to get to the jobs they want, many people still travel across boundaries.

A fascinating example is Arlington County, Virginia. Since 2000, the number of jobs and the number of working residents in the county have been approximately equal. But it turns out that only 52 percent of those working residents have jobs in the county. Out of 582,000 resident workers, 280,000 commute to adjacent counties or the District of Columbia. And out of 574,000 jobs in the county, 272,000 are filled by workers from other places.

A less extreme version of smart growth says that we should discourage car travel and shift resources heavily toward transit. People should be encouraged to live in high-density "villages" where they can easily obtain transit service to jobs elsewhere in the metro area. The problem with this vision is the inability of transit to effectively compete with the auto highway system.

Simply put, cars work better for workers. A 2012 Brookings study analyzing data from 371 transit providers in America's largest 100 metro areas found that over three-fourths of all jobs are in neighborhoods with transit service—but only about a quarter of those jobs can be reached by transit within 90 minutes. That's more than three times the national average commute time.

Another study, by Andrew Owen and David Levinson of the University of Minnesota, looked at job access via transit in 46 of the 50 largest metro areas. Their data combined actual in-vehicle time with estimated walking time at either end of the transit trip, to approximate total door-to-door travel time. Only five of the 46 metro areas have even a few percent of their jobs accessible by transit within half an hour. All the others have 1 percent or less. Within 60 minutes door-to-door, the best cities have 15–22 percent of jobs reachable by transit.

Meanwhile, Owen and Levinson found that in 31 of the 51 largest metro areas in 2010, 100 percent of jobs could be reached by car in 30 minutes or less. Within 40 minutes, all the jobs could be reached by car in 39 of the cities. Within an hour, essentially every job in all 51 places could be reached by car. The roadway network is ubiquitous, connecting every possible origin to every destination. The contrast with access via transit—let alone walking or biking—is profound.


The darkness of the Green/Left

The new movie "First Reformed" is being lauded by critics and described as the magnum opus of director and screenwriter Paul Schrader. He found fame with his screenplay for the 1976 classic Taxi Driver, and his movies often feature alienated protagonists who grapple with the evil in society and in themselves. This film is one of Schrader’s most personal, and charts the disillusionment, despair and apostasy of a pastor from the Dutch Reformed tradition — the style of Protestantism in which Schrader was raised, but later abandoned.

The symbolism of First Reformed is complex and open to interpretation. But if comments made by Schrader are any indication, his latest work is a sobering testament to the dark, increasingly dangerous religion of leftist politics.

Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) lives in quiet agony, preaching to the smattering of parishioners who attend his church on Sunday morning. Throughout the week he gives tours of the austere 18th-century sanctuary, which is derided as “the museum” by the pastor (Cedric Kyles) of the local megachurch that funds him. Toller lives like a lonely monk in his unfurnished rectory, scribbling thoughts of hope and despair in his journal between shots of whiskey. At length we learn he had been a military chaplain, whose marriage collapsed when he lost a son in Iraq, and whose faith is likewise threatening to buckle. Often he wanders the church graveyard and repairs its fallen tombstones — the emblems of a dying faith in which he is losing hope.

“If only I could pray,” he laments to himself.

When a pregnant congregant named Mary (Amanda Seyfried) seeks counsel for her troubled husband Michael (Philip Ettinger), Toller finds an alternative to his decrepit traditional Christianity. Michael introduces him to the catechism of climate change — a faith that addresses the contemporary political issues Schrader cares about, and comes complete with its own prophets of doom, its own activist martyrs and its own unquestioned orthodoxy. Like Schrader, who has claimed he does not believe humanity will survive the century, Michael believes the end is nigh. The original sin incurring this looming judgment is corporate capitalism, which has merged with right-wing American evangelicalism to render them indistinguishable. Against these Schrader uses his film to issue a snarling indictment.

When Toller discovers that his own church is underwritten by a major polluter, he obtains an epiphany. Terminally ill from the pollution he has inflicted upon himself, he embraces the dogma of despair. His great dilemma becomes the choice between suicide and the mass killing of those he deems guilty. Having lost faith in the traditional Christian God, Toller dethrones Him and seeks to install himself as the judge and executioner of those heretics that transgress his new environmentalist gospel. “I have found another form of prayer,” he says, overlooking a ravaged landscape while strapped in a suicide vest. The movie’s cryptic, unsatisfying ending will leave many viewers scratching their heads, wondering if Schrader is actually saying what he seems to be saying.

Is Schrader hiding behind his art a radical political message? It may be telling that his protagonist shares his name with Ernst Toller, a Marxist revolutionary and playwright. Three days after the 2016 presidential election, Schrader posted on Facebook that Trump’s victory was a call to arms. “I felt the call to violence in the 60s and I feel it now again,” he wrote. “This attack on liberty and tolerance will not be solved by appeasement. Obama tried that for eight years. We should finance those who support violence [sic] resistance. We should be willing to take arms.” Schrader closed his comments by commending to his readers the example of John Brown, the radical 19th-century abolitionist whose bloody solutions to social ills helped plunge the nation into civil war. (It is likely not a coincidence that Rev. Toller reflects upon his church’s abolitionist past when plotting his murderous vengeance.)

Further reflection led Schrader to delete his post and blame it on “a couple of cabernets and half an Ambien.” But the dark themes of First Reformed call into question his repentance. On the contrary, it is one of the clearest depictions yet that some on the progressive left have replaced Christianity with a new religion. Fueled by raging despair and an apocalyptic fear of climate change, this radical new faith possesses the same self-assured dogmatism exhibited by the severest strains of the one Schrader fled in his youth. But it is untempered by mercy, hope or the humble reluctance to cast the first stone.

At the very least, First Reformed acknowledges that the end of this new religion is madness and blood.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


Monday, June 18, 2018

Rebellion in Canada: Ontario’s New Premier Announces End Of Cap-and-Trade Carbon Tax

Incoming government will use every power available to challenge federal government’s authority to impose a carbon tax on Ontario families, individuals and small businesses

TORONTO — Premier-designate Doug Ford today announced that his cabinet’s first act following the swearing-in of his government will be to cancel Ontario’s current cap-and-trade scheme, and challenge the federal government’s authority to impose a carbon tax on the people of Ontario.

“I made a promise to the people that we would take immediate action to scrap the cap-and-trade carbon tax and bring their gas prices down,” said Ford. “Today, I want to confirm that as a first step to lowering taxes in Ontario, the carbon tax’s days are numbered.”

Ford also announced that Ontario would be serving notice of its withdrawal from the joint agreement linking Ontario, Quebec and California’s cap-and-trade markets as well as the pro-carbon tax Western Climate Initiative. The Premier-designate confirmed that he has directed officials to immediately take steps to withdraw Ontario from future auctions for cap-and-trade credits. The government will provide clear rules for the orderly wind down of the cap-and-trade program.

Finally, Ford announced that he will be issuing specific directions to his incoming attorney general to use all available resources at the disposal of the government to challenge the federal government’s authority to arbitrarily impose a carbon tax on Ontario families.

“Eliminating the carbon tax and cap-and-trade is the right thing to do and is a key component in our plan to bring your gas prices down by 10 cents per litre,” said Ford. “It also sends a clear message that things are now different. No longer will Ontario’s government answer to insiders, special interests and elites. Instead, we will now have a government for the people. Help is here.”


Zwally doubles down

Zwally appears to be a Warmist but he is standing by his research findings about Antarctica -- which are in stark contrast to the model-driven and assumptions-filled conclusions discussed here yesterday

Antarctica Not Losing Ice, NASA Researcher Finds.  NASA glaciologist Jay Zwally says his new study will show, once again, the eastern Antarctic ice sheet is gaining enough ice to offset losses in the west.

Is Antarctica melting or is it gaining ice? A recent paper claims Antarctica’s net ice loss has dramatically increased in recent years, but forthcoming research will challenge that claim.

NASA glaciologist Jay Zwally first challenged the “consensus” on Antarctica in 2015 when he published a paper showing ice sheet growth in eastern Antarctica outweighed the losses in the western ice sheet.

Zwally will again challenge the prevailing narrative of how global warming is affecting the South Pole. Zwally said his new study will show, once again, the eastern Antarctic ice sheet is gaining enough ice to offset losses in the west.

Much like in 2015, Zwally’s upcoming study will run up against the so-called “consensus,” including a paper published by a team of 80 scientists in the journal Nature on Wednesday. The paper estimates that Antarctic is losing, on net, more than 200 gigatons of ice a year, adding 0.02 inches to annual sea level rise.

“Basically, we agree about West Antarctica,” Zwally told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “East Antarctica is still gaining mass. That’s where we disagree.”

Reported ice melt mostly driven by instability in the western Antarctic ice sheet, which is being eaten away from below by warm ocean water. Scientists tend to agree ice loss has increased in western Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula has increased.

Measurements of the eastern ice sheet, however, are subject to high levels of uncertainty. That’s where disagreements are.

“In our study East Antarctic remains the least certain part of Antarctica for sure,” Andrew Shepherd, the study’s lead author and professor at the University of Leeds, told TheDCNF.

“Although there is relatively large variability over shorter periods, we don’t detect any significant long-term trend over 25 years,” Shepherd said.

However, Zwally’s working on a paper that will show the eastern ice sheet is expanding at a rate that’s enough to at least offset increased losses the west.

The ice sheets are “very close to balance right now,” Zwally said. He added that balance could change to net melting in the future with more warming.

So, why is there such a big difference between Zwally’s research and what 80 scientists recently published in the journal Nature?

There are several reasons for the disagreement, but the biggest is how researchers make what’s called a glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA), which takes into account the movement of the Earth under ice sheets.

Scientists use models to measure the movement of land mass in response to changes the ice sheet sitting on top. For example, Zwally said eastern Antarctica’s land mass has been going down in response to ice sheet mass gains.

That land movement effects ice sheet data, especially in Antarctica where small errors in GIA can yield big changes ice sheet mass balance — whether ice is growing or shrinking. There are also differences in how researchers model firn compaction and snowfall accumulation.

“It needs to be known accurately,” Zwally said. “It’s an error of being able to model. These are models that estimate the motions of the Earth under the ice.”

Zwally’s 2015 study said an isostatic adjustment of 1.6 millimeters was needed to bring satellite “gravimetry and altimetry” measurements into agreement with one another.

Shepherd’s paper cites Zwally’s 2015 study several times, but only estimates eastern Antarctic mass gains to be 5 gigatons a year — yet this estimate comes with a margin of error of 46 gigatons.

Zwally, on the other hand, claims ice sheet growth is anywhere from 50 gigatons to 200 gigatons a year.


British fire disaster caused by Warmist rules

Though the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry has only just begun, a leaked interim report makes clear that one of the principle reasons for the fire was the use of flammable cladding added to the outside of the building by the contractors Rydon.

The cladding was there to shield insulation from weather damage. But, tragically, it carried the initial fire, which started in one flat, between the floors of the tower block.

Former housing secretary, now home secretary, Sajid Javid has claimed that the cladding that the developers used was in breach of fire regulations, because it was flammable. But he was trying to pass the buck. The fire regulations only state that the insulation should be fire resistant, not the cladding that protects it.

In hindsight, it is easy to see that Grenfell’s refurbishment made the building unsafe. But why was the building refurbished in this way in the first place?

The ‘policy context’ for the Grenfell Tower Regeneration Project, according to its ‘sustainability and energy statement’, is the Climate Change Act of 2008. ‘The council recognises the government’s targets to reduce national carbon dioxide emissions’, and ‘to deliver this, the council will’ carry out its plan for ‘conversions and refurbishments of 800m2 or more of residential developments’.

In its 2013-17 housing strategy, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea boasted that it had ‘agreed to clad a high-rise block in the north of the borough’ – Grenfell Tower – as part of the ‘greener housing’ strategy to ‘mitigate the causes of and adapt to the effects likely to occur due to climate change’.

The Climate Change Act was passed as part of the government’s commitment to meet the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, which came into effect in 2005, to reduce greenhouse gases.

The Kyoto targets and those of the Climate Change Act are ambitious. Even before 2008, developers and architects were worried about environmental impact. On his election to the presidency of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Paul Hyett announced ‘a crusade through which British architects and the RIBA address both their obligations to future generations – with respect to the delivery of a truly sustainable environment’.

At first, climate campaigners looked at industry. But the evidence showed that homes were a major source of carbon emissions. ‘They’re responsible for 31 per cent of energy consumed here’, protested environmentalist George Monbiot in his 2006 book Heat, arguing that the answer was government-enforced refurbishment.

In 2010, environment secretary Ed Miliband published a report, Warm Homes, Greener Homes, which identified social-housing projects as key to saving energy and reducing carbon emissions. It identified social housing as having ‘the potential to make a big contribution in… reducing carbon emissions from homes’. Because social housing is generally ‘in large purpose-built blocks, or on large estates, where social tenants remain the majority tenure’, it offers ‘carbon-reduction measures at scale’, it argued.

Note that Miliband identified social tenants as being more likely to support such measures. That is not because they are necessarily more supportive of carbon reduction, but because they have fewer rights than homeowners, and so are more easy to direct. Miliband wanted to ‘kickstart the installation of more ambitious eco-upgrades, with social housing providing particular leadership to stimulate the industry and reduce costs’. Now that social housing was on the frontline of the carbon-reduction campaign, social tenants were targeted for refurbishment measures, including cladding insulation.

Overall, the trend in building was to put much greater stress on reducing carbon emissions. Part L of the Building Regulations covers energy and has been successively expanded to oblige developers to make savings. As a consequence, many more ‘new materials’, often different kinds of plastics, have been fixed to the exterior of buildings. At the same time, Part B of the Building Regulations, which deals with fire safety, has not kept pace – so that the kind of cladding that Rydon put around its insulation was not prohibited. The shift in the Building Regulations betrays official thinking regarding residents: reducing their carbon emissions is a priority, but their safety is not.

The Climate Change Act was taken on board by successive London mayors and integrated into London’s housing plan. The 2014 housing plan said, ‘the mayor is committed to a targeted programme of retrofitting and upgrading the capital’s existing housing stock’. Then mayor Boris Johnson promised to ‘work with partners towards the environmental retrofitting of all London’s affordable housing’, leading to reductions of ‘up to 600,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum’.

In its 2009 Carbon Management Plan, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea set out its commitment to the Climate Change Act: ‘The Act sets the UK’s domestic targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 60 per cent by 2050… under the Act local authorities will have a duty to reduce their carbon emissions.’

The planning application for the Grenfell Tower Regeneration Project set out the borough’s goals, principally ‘the complete overcladding of the exterior’. The ‘overcladding works are an integral part of the upgrade of the heating of the building’ and its ‘energy efficiency’, it said.

Why overcladding, you might ask? Energy was at the forefront of the council’s thinking. In its consultations with the tenants, the council saw the cladding as offering ‘a dramatic improvement in heat loss’ that would ‘generate significant energy savings’. As the application explained, ‘this project targets the main environmental deficiency of Grenfell Tower at its root: it is hugely wasteful of energy’. ‘The improved envelope performance and proposed replacement heating system reflect current energy standards for new residential buildings’, it said.

Grenfell Tower was not the only London block that was refurbished to meet the ideals of reducing carbon emissions. In Newham, the 23-storey Ferrier Point was also refurbished by contractors Rydon. According to the council’s sustainability strategy, the refubishment was ‘proposed to adopt a target of 60 per cent carbon reductions… in line with the government’s emission-reduction target’. In Camden, the Chalcots estate was also refurbished by Rydon, ‘a refurbishment designed to improve the estate’s carbon footprint’.

Since the fire, the London mayor’s office has lost its enthusiasm for retrofitting: ‘The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire has raised urgent and wide-ranging questions that must be answered over the safety of many older high-rise residential buildings, particularly those built in the 1960s and 70s that have been retrofitted’, reads the 2017 Housing Strategy.

The refurbishments at Ferrier Point and the Chalcots estate are under review, and will most likely be reversed, as will the three refurbishments at Mount Wise in Plymouth, and in all likelihood a great many more. Currently, the government has admitted that some 299 buildings have failed to meet fire standards. Refurbishment, it turns out, was a false economy.

Refurbishment, of course, does not have to make buildings dangerous. In the end, the use of flammable panels was the problem – whether or not the fault for that lies at the door of Rydon or with the government for permitting it. But extensive refurbishment was bound to introduce greater complexity and therefore greater risks. On the whole, it would be better to rebuild older estates from scratch. Refurbishment is the conservative option. On this point, we have to agree with mayor Sadiq Khan: ‘If it is not possible to safely retrofit existing buildings, the mayor believes government should ensure resources are made available to demolish them and replace the social housing like for like.’

But there are barriers to such an approach. First, councils’ spending and borrowing is capped, which makes it difficult for them to rebuild without involving private developers. Second, tenants – and leaseholders – do not trust rebuilding programmes, and with good reason. Their experience is that they are priced out of the new developments, either through much higher rents or, if they are leaseholders, because the compulsory purchase price is much less than the cost of a comparable flat on the newly built estate. Partnerships between councils and private developers generally lead to a substantial loss of original tenants, between the ‘decanting’ and the opening of the new block.

The country’s housing has for too long been dominated by excessive caution about building, coupled with indifference to safety.


UK: Scandal of 'killer' wood burning stoves and the question - is the political class’s obsession with global warming rotting their brains?

Amazing backflips show they have no clue about what they are doing

The Government earned plaudits from the green lobby yesterday for its new plan to crack down on the craze for wood-burning stoves.

As the Mail reported on its front page, the stoves chuck out lethal pollution, particularly from wet wood, and contribute to thousands of early deaths from lung and heart disease.

But hang on! One reason Britain burns more wood than it has done for decades — a 2016 survey found 7.5 per cent of households in London burn wood — is that only recently, the Government and the greens told us burning wood to heat our homes was the best thing we could do for the environment.

Wood is ‘sustainable’, we were told. It gives off less CO2 than any other heating. It will help us save the planet and meet CO2 reduction targets under the Climate Change Act.

As a result of these persuasive arguments, about 1.5 million British homes have wood-burning stoves and 200,000 more are sold every year.

Now we learn that wood-burning is the single biggest source of tiny soot particles called PM2.5s — they are also emitted by burning coal and diesel — which go into our lungs and are said to be responsible for an estimated 37,800 premature deaths a year.

Given these horrific facts, why have governments in recent years made wood-burning such a core part of energy policy? For there is no doubt ministers have been desperate to encourage it.

There is just one issue. Health problems apart, the whole thing is an economic disaster.

Only last week we had a withering report from MPs on the Public Accounts Committee about the failings of something called the ‘Renewable Heat Incentive’, a scheme launched in 2011 by Chris Huhne when he was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

The idea was to offer lavish subsidies to businesses and homeowners to cut their ‘carbon emissions’, and save on energy bills, by centrally heating their premises by burning wood pellets. Participants could only qualify if they installed specific expensive renewable heating systems — as opposed to wood-burners bought by homeowners simply trying to be eco-friendly.

The MPs found that, although the scheme will cost taxpayers a staggering £23 billion in subsidies in the next 20 years, the high upfront costs meant take-up has been shamefully low.

Just 35,000 households have invested in it since its launch, while 6.2 million have installed very much cheaper gas heating over the same period.

The committee declared that the Government utterly failed to take account of the serious health risks posed by wood burning, while, thanks to the subsidies on offer, too many unscrupulous people had ‘gamed’ the system just to make money.

But last week’s report was far from the first time the Renewable Heat Incentive has given rise to a major scandal.

A version of the scheme — with even more lavish subsidies — ran so totally out of control in Northern Ireland in 2016 that it led to the downfall of the government there, sparking a political crisis that, 17 months later, is not resolved.

The crisis arose from the discovery that its subsidy bill had already hit £500 million and by 2020 was due to top £1 billion.

So generous was the Northern Irish scheme to businesses, offering £160 for every £100 they spent on wood chips, that firms used it to heat disused warehouses and long-empty offices, knowing the more they spent on wood chips the greater their profit would be.

Some users of the scheme kept heating systems running flat out night and day because they made such a profit from the subsidy scheme.

But even this disgracefully wasteful affair is dwarfed by what has become one of the most controversial green energy schemes of all: the conversion of boilers at the giant Drax power station in Yorkshire from coal to wood pellets, costing us all £800 million a year in subsidies.

Millions of tonnes of wood pellets are now needed by Drax every year, and since it is impossible to supply that quantity domestically, vast amounts of pellets are shipped 3,500 miles to Yorkshire from the U.S., where forests are destroyed to supply them.

As with the Government’s endorsement of wood-burning stoves and its Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, the idea behind Drax’s conversion to wood pellets is that burning trees or ‘biomass’ is ‘carbon neutral’ because eventually new, CO2-absorbing trees will grow to replace the ones that have been felled.

Yet a series of studies has confirmed what should have been obvious. It takes decades to grow a mature CO2-absorbing tree to replace a CO2-producing tree that can be cut down in seconds. Far from cutting Drax’s CO2 emissions, the largest power station in Britain gives off even more CO2 than when it just burnt coal.

Even the most ardent green activist groups have protested that chopping down millions of acres of forest in America to fuel a system that ends up chucking out more CO2 is an absurd ecological disaster.

This was even endorsed in a report last year by Duncan Brack, who had been a special adviser to Chris Huhne when this scheme was first being discussed.

The bitter truth is that these fiascos caused by our obsession with wood-burning are just a part of a larger disaster that taints almost every green scheme governments have foisted on Britain in the quest to reduce carbon emissions.

Remember why the Blair government in 2001 encouraged millions of motorists to switch to driving diesel cars through offering tax subsidies. It was because Blair’s chief scientific adviser Sir David King had decided that diesel gives off much less CO2 than petrol.

Eventually, it turned out that the pollution (in the form of those PM2.5 particles and toxic nitrogen oxides) emitted by diesels posed such a serious health risk it could be causing thousands of premature deaths in Britain every year.

And so, with a screeching U-turn, all the tax incentives encouraging us to buy diesel cars were reversed and diesel drivers were penalised. In this week’s latest proposed measures, the Government plans to clamp down not just on wood-burning stoves, but also even further on diesel vehicles.

The real question is why do our gullible politicians constantly deceive themselves and the rest of us with their endless, ever-more costly ‘green’ schemes which turn out to be nothing of the kind and actually increase pollution?

It is all very well MPs coming out with yet another report on yet another green energy fiasco. But why is it always only after the damage has been done? Why can’t they properly evaluate these green initiatives before they happen?

The fact is that not one of these schemes comes into being without having been nodded through Parliament.  In that sense our MPs are as much a party to these disasters as the ministers who propose them.

It’s as if the political class’s obsession with global warming rots their brains — for which the rest of us have to pay a very heavy price.


Prominent Swiss Meteorologist Says Blaming Weather Events On Climate Change “Unscientific Idiocy”

No one understands the causes of weather better than highly experienced meteorologists. And so when it comes to questions about extreme weather events, there is no one better to ask than prominent Swiss meteorologist Jörg Kachelmann (or Joe Bastardi in the US).

Yesterday at Twitter the veteran, high-profile Swiss meteorologist Kachelmann tweeted about an interview he had given with Austrian online magazine on the topic of extreme weather in Europe, and how the interview was withdrawn before publication.

The main reason behind the withdrawal was Mr. Kachelmann taking issue with what he viewed as low-blow journalism by, who in the introduction needlessly brought up the phony rape charges lodged against Kachelmann 8 years ago by a scornful ex-girlfriend.

Though the former German flagship ARD television meteorologist was cleared of the charges and got through the legal ordeal, his reputation tragically did not survive the media feeding frenzy and gutter journalism.

To make a long story short, Kachelmann yesterday simply posted a draft of the unpublished interview at Twitter, before later taking it down.

But I managed to read it and so now report on its content.

In the interview, questioned Kachelmann about the warmer European springs, weather extremes, serious scientists, and other issues.

On the subject of the recent warmer springs and more severe thunderstorm activity, Kachelmann responded that it has gotten warmer, but that the alleged higher frequency and intensity of extreme weather events has more to do with hype coming from places like Facebook and click-hungry Internet sites.

Kachelmann added it’s normal for large weather patterns “to act up” and that it “has nothing to do with climate change”.

However he does attribute the warmer temperatures and higher humidity to climate change and that it is “statistically significant”, but then reminds that the statistics for weather extremes have yet to be shown as being significant.

When asked about climate denialism and why people like Donald Trump get votes with climate change denialism, the Swiss meteorologist says: “There’s a lack of scientific knowledge on both sides.”

Next he cited examples from on social media:

"Over the last weeks I’ve seen so many completely senseless tweets from Greenpeace and green politicians, who wish to blame without any doubt the daily weather on climate change, often with fake statistics, and so climate deniers are not alone. Serious scientists are working quietly between the embarrassing megaphones on both sides.”

Blame measurement instruments?

"As an example of just how absurd the media can be, in the interview unwittingly displayed a remarkable ignorance of climate (which all-too often prevails among the climate-ambulance-chasing-media) in posing the question: “Are there reliable instruments today that would allow us to determine if a weather event can be attributed to climate change, or indeed to the weather pattern at hand?”

Blaming weather on climate change “idiocy”

Kachelman answers by telling that weather events unfortunately don’t come with a certificate of origin, and any claim that they do needs to be viewed as “unscientific idiocy”.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Antarctica Still Doing Just Great, Shock!

In his article below James Delingpole has provided a good demolition of the latest scare story.  I dismissed the story rather peremptorily a couple of days ago so Delingpole adds some welcome mockery of the claims. I note from the journal abstract that a sea level rise of 3.7 mm (7.6 - 3.9)is within the range of their estimates of sea-level rise over the last 25 years.  That is just a small fraction of one inch, probably unnoticeable

This has been the global warming scare story of the week, heavily promoted by the usual suspects, including Time, CBS, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the New York Timesand, inevitably, the BBC. Here is the BBC version:

"Antarctica is shedding ice at an accelerating rate.

Satellites monitoring the state of the White Continent indicate some 200 billion tonnes a year are now being lost to the ocean as a result of melting.

This is pushing up global sea levels by 0.6mm annually – a three-fold increase since 2012 when the last such assessment was undertaken.

Scientists report the new numbers in the journal Nature.

Governments will need to take account of the information and its accelerating trend as they plan future defences to protect low-lying coastal communities.

The researchers say the losses are occurring predominantly in the West of the continent, where warm waters are getting under and melting the fronts of glaciers that terminate in the ocean.

“We can’t say when it started – we didn’t collect measurements in the sea back then,” explained Prof Andrew Shepherd, who leads the Ice sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (Imbie).

“But what we can say is that it’s too warm for Antarctica today. It’s about half a degree Celsius warmer than the continent can withstand and it’s melting about five metres of ice from its base each year, and that’s what’s triggering the sea-level contribution that we’re seeing,” he told BBC News."

So it’s over, right? The Warmunists were right, the deniers were wrong and global warming is a super serial crisis we need to deal with NOW not the day after tomorrow…

Actually no.

The first thing to note is that the study is published in Nature, which is alarmist central and therefore to be treated with a degree of skepticism.

If you read the abstract, it’s actually pretty dry and unexciting.

"The Antarctic Ice Sheet is an important indicator of climate change and driver of sea-level rise. Here we combine satellite observations of its changing volume, flow and gravitational attraction with modelling of its surface mass balance to show that it lost 2,720 ± 1,390 billion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, which corresponds to an increase in mean sea level of 7.6 ± 3.9 millimetres (errors are one standard deviation). Over this period, ocean-driven melting has caused rates of ice loss from West Antarctica to increase from 53 ± 29 billion to 159 ± 26 billion tonnes per year; ice-shelf collapse has increased the rate of ice loss from the Antarctic Peninsula from 7 ± 13 billion to 33 ± 16 billion tonnes per year. We find large variations in and among model estimates of surface mass balance and glacial isostatic adjustment for East Antarctica, with its average rate of mass gain over the period 1992–2017 (5 ± 46 billion tonnes per year) being the least certain."

But such is the way of climate alarmism is that the scientists involved have to talk up their findings and make them sound scary. Then the mainstream media adds its spin to make them scarier still.

The reality is more prosaic. Those dramatic sea level rises, for example.

Despite the apocalyptic headline, ice loss has only been contributing about 0.3mm a year to sea level rise, about an inch per century. Given that sea levels have been rising at around 8 inches a century since the 19thC, there is no evidence that this is not a long term phenomenon we are seeing.

Then, again per Homewood, there’s the issue of reliability.

Then there is the question of the accuracy of measurements. A major study by NASA in 2015 discovered that Antarctic ice mass has actually been increasing since 1992, basically because of greater snowfall, and not decreasing as this new study claims.

In reality, measurements of ice mass are not exact and are subject to huge margins of error.

And it’s not as though scientists have records going back long enough (Antarctica is a big, inhospitable place: remember Captain Scott?) to get any proper historical perspective:

Indeed as Shephard himself is forced to admit, we did not start collecting data until 1992. This sort of melting could have been going on for centuries or longer. In fact, another paper published this month by Kingslake et al finds that there has been  extensive retreat and re-advance of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet during the Holocene.

As Shephard also remarks, the melting in West Antarctica is due to the intrusion of warmer water, and therefore nothing at all to do with GHGs or “global warming”. It is highly unlikely that such changes in ocean currents have not happened many times before.

Just to repeat that key point: scientists only been collecting data since the year REM released Automatic for the People. Not really that long ago in the great scheme of things.

Finally, there’s the awkward matter – awkward if you’re a warmist trying to generate climate alarm, that is – of context.

“Antarctica loses three trillion tonnes of ice in 25 years” sounds like a serious problem.

Until you realize how big Antarctica is. As David Middleton has calculated at Watts Up With That? three trillion metric tons is something the Antarctic can lose quite comfortably.

In a story headlined ‘Good News! 99.989% of the Antarctic Ice Sheet Didn’t Melt!’, Middleton reminds us that most of the Antarctic is still there.

One of his readers below has done the math on what three trillion metric tons of ice-melt-caused sea rise looks like.

3 Trillion Metric Tons of mass equates to 7.6mm Sea Level Rise. (2.54mm per inch is 7.62 for 3″)
3T Tons sounds like a lot but reality is, 1 trillion tons equates to 1″ of sea level rise.

Not very much.

Big global warming scare story over. Until they come up with a new one next week.

More HERE  (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Federal Judge Stumps Trial Lawyers Handling NYC’s Climate Lawsuit With One Question

A federal judge posed a question to lawyers representing New York City in its global warming lawsuit against five major oil companies — does the city invest in fossil fuels?

The answer is an unambiguous yes, but attorneys representing the city told U.S. District Court Judge John Keenan they “don’t know,” further arguing that fact was “beyond the scope of the pleadings” during a court hearing on Tuesday.

Keenan didn’t seem to buy it and pressed attorney Matthew Pawa on whether or not New York City was trying to relitigate failed attempts to get a monetary judgment on damages allegedly caused by man-made warming.

New York City filed its lawsuit against oil companies in January, demanding compensation for damages allegedly caused by global warming, including future damages. The city hired the firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP to handle its suit in exchange for a share of any winnings — potentially billions of dollars.

Keenan heard arguments on Tuesday on whether or not New York City’s lawsuit should be dismissed. Pawa argued carbon dioxide emissions from oil companies products constituted a “nuisance,” but Keenan didn’t seem to buy it.

“I don’t think it’s hard to take judicial notice of the fact the city police department has a lot of cars, that the firehouse has trucks,” Keenan said. “Isn’t the plaintiff using the product that is the subject of this lawsuit?”

Pawa admitted the city used fossil fuels, but said the question wasn’t pertinent to defendants’ — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell — motion to dismiss the case.

After huddling with co-counsel, Pawa also said: “We don’t know the answer to that your honor” when asked about the city’s fossil fuel investments.

Pawa’s answer was odd given New York City announced earlier this year it would divest from fossil fuel assets within five years. The announcement was made the same time Mayor Bill De Blasio announced their lawsuit against oil companies — the very case Pawa was arguing in court.

“In total, the City’s five pension funds hold roughly $5 billion in the securities of over 190 fossil fuel companies,” reads the city’s January news release on divestment. “The City’s move is among the most significant divestment efforts in the world to date.”

Pawa did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment on why he told Judge Keenan he did not know if the city was invested in fossil fuel companies.

Hagens Berman is handling lawsuits for at least three other local governments — San Francisco, Oakland and King County, Wa. All these suits are against the same five oil companies. The firm handles these cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning they get a percentage of any winnings.

The firm Seeger Weiss LLP is also handling New York City’s lawsuit, and the firm Sher Edling LLP is handling lawsuits for six California cities and counties against fossil fuel companies. These firms are also working for a percentage of any winnings.

The suits allege global warming violate state nuisance and trespassing laws, which have sometimes been applied to pollution. Trial lawyers also accused energy companies of trying to downplay the harms their products allegedly cause.

In March, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said plaintiff’s attempts to show oil companies conspired to cover up global warming science “shows nothing of the sort,” according to a journalist present at the hearing.


GM golden rice gets approval from food regulators in the US

GOLDEN rice, which has been genetically modified to prevent blindness in undernourished children, was judged safe to eat last week by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The rice contains extra genes that make a precursor to vitamin A, which is vital for preventing childhood blindness. A single helping can supply half the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, according to its developers at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. The genes also give it its distinctive golden hue.

The nod by the FDA makes the US the fourth country to approve the rice this year, behind Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Having the rice cleared in these countries means there would be no regulatory issues if they imported food containing small quantities of the rice.

But its developer says the most important approvals are still awaited in the Philippines and Bangladesh, where the rice could have the greatest impact. Applications were lodged there last year.


Natural gas pipelines key to U.S. energy policy

 Today we need a rational discussion on energy policy that isn’t run by a single group or agenda. There aren’t any perfect solutions, because we don’t live in a perfect world. We need to evaluate and manage the risks and rewards from different energy sources; and we need consumers, business owners, energy companies and environmentalists to let their voices be heard.

What form of energy is abundant, easy to transport and store and burns cleaner than oil or coal? Flummoxed? It’s natural gas. But because it’s not a “green” energy source, environmentalists have waged war against new natural gas pipelines across the country — especially in the Northeast. This opposition is misguided and harmful to individuals, business owners, the environment and our national security.

To maintain a first-world standard of living, a nation needs abundant, affordable and reliable sources of energy, and natural gas checks all boxes. It’s abundant, with U.S. natural gas production more than 28.8 million mcfs (million cubic feet), according to the Energy Information Administration. At less than $3/mcf, it’s affordable; and the United States had marketed production of 73.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in 2017. Production for 2018 and 2019 is forecast to be over 10 percent and 12 percent higher, respectively.

It’s also the cleanest burning fossil fuel. Natural gas produces almost 50 percent less CO2 than anthracite coal, and more than 25 percent less than diesel fuel and heating oil. Some utility companies are forced to use coal or heating oil as substitutes when there’s not enough available natural gas. When environmental activists stop construction of natural gas pipelines, this increases carbon emissions and air pollution — contrary to their stated goals.

While there are inherent risks with pipelines, it’s in a natural gas company’s best interest to make it as safe as possible. Energy companies don’t want to see a pipeline break and have to reimburse a property owner or individual for damages. They just want energy to flow from Point A to Point B with a minimum of expense.

The state of Massachusetts imports liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Yemen, instead of allowing pipelines to be built. Other Northeast states have similar anti-pipeline policies. This is why the cost of electricity is 19-20 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), compared to a national average of 12-13 cents/kWh, versus 9 cents/kWh in Texas. This keeps America more dependent on foreign energy and gives Middle Eastern nations and Russia an advantage in the world energy marketplace. In my opinion, it also compromises our national security.

Environmental activists who oppose natural gas pipelines because they blindly hate all fossil fuels, and/or President Donald Trump, are acting contrary to their stated interests of lower carbon emissions. And the unintended consequences are higher energy prices and a lower standard of living. However, there are some who understand the consequences of this misguided opposition. Patrick Moore, the co-founder and former leader of Greenpeace, said this:

“… I do not accept that the environmental movement should be given a veto over national energy or economic policy. That is for elected governments.

“My strong conviction on who should, and should not, have a veto on environmental issues stems from years of international sustainability work. I’ve had several meetings lately in India on issues around energy and agriculture. About 300 million people, mostly farmers, are without electricity in India. Yet environmental scientists have blocked virtually every hydroelectric project recently proposed to provide electricity, irrigation and flood control.

“As a result of this effective environmental veto, India has embarked on a massive build-out of coal-fired power plants that blacken the skies and provide no irrigation or flood control. This is what results from misguided campaigns led by ill-informed activists who do not think about the consequences of their wrong-headed positions, and demand veto power.

“Let’s avoid this notion of providing a single interest group with a veto over important aspects of energy policy, including pipelines. And while we’re at it, let’s avoid making decisions on crucial energy infrastructure on the basis of sensationalism, misinformation and fear.”

Today we need a rational discussion on energy policy that isn’t run by a single group or agenda. There aren’t any perfect solutions, because we don’t live in a perfect world. We need to evaluate and manage the risks and rewards from different energy sources; and we need consumers, business owners, energy companies and environmentalists to let their voices be heard. We should all work toward the goal to keep the United States economically strong and secure. Regardless of your political views or affiliations, on this we should all agree.


Antarctica’s Ice May Be More Durable Than We Thought

One of the biggest potential dangers of increasing climate change is sea level rise caused by the melting of the polar ice caps. As our planet heats up, large ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica will melt, potentially triggering several feet of increased sea level rise. If the entire Antarctic ice sheet melts into the ocean, it could lead to dozens of feet of sea level rise, likely enough to wipe out entire cities.

Of course, it’s important to remember that ice sheets are complex and predicting how they will react is difficult—there’s a wide range of possibilities. Perhaps the best way for scientists to predict how ice sheets will behave in the future is by learning how they behaved in the past, so one group of scientists traveled to the East Antarctic Ice Sheet to learn its history.

Specifically, the researchers were interested in what happened to the ice sheet during the Pliocene epoch, the geologic period from about 5.4 million years ago to around 2.5 million. During the Pliocene, global temperatures were a few degrees warmer than they are today, which means this era is a good model for what our world might look like in a few decades if climate change remains unchecked.

To determine just what happened to the ice sheet during this period, the researchers drilled deep into the rock beneath it. The scientists were looking for samples of certain isotopes, beryllium-10 and aluminum-26. These particular isotopes are created from the impact of cosmic rays from space. When these cosmic rays hit the atoms in the soil, they trigger atomic reactions that produce these isotopes.

The key fact here is that cosmic rays can’t penetrate the ice. If there was ice over the ground during the Pliocene, the cosmic rays wouldn’t have reached the ground and these isotopes shouldn’t be present in the soil. But if the ice sheet melted significantly, the researchers would find higher levels of these isotopes.

This scientific task is not as easy as it sounds. “Isolating these rare isotopes from grains of ancient sand is like finding a very small needle in a very large haystack,” said study author Paul Bierman. “But measuring them gives us a powerful view of Antarctica’s past that has never been seen before.”

In the end, the researchers found only trace amounts of the isotopes, suggesting that the ice sheet was present throughout the entire Pliocene. This is good news for us because it means the ice sheet will also likely survive the next few decades of climate change as well.

“Based on this evidence from the Pliocene, today’s current carbon dioxide levels are not enough to destabilize the land-based ice on the Antarctic continent,” said study author Jeremy Shakun.



Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here