Saturday, February 09, 2008

That "melting" Arctic -- not so much

Alaska: Interior deep-freeze approaches minus 70. Yes. I do know that Alaska is only partly within the arctic circle

Even for Alaska's Interior, this is cold.The National Weather Service reports the coldest spot in the state Wednesday morning was minus 67 at O'Brien Creek, a spot on the Taylor Highway nearly 200 miles east of Fairbanks. There was also an unofficial reading of minus 70 in Tok, but residents were treating it as just another winter day. "We're generally close to this temperature at this time of the year," said Sgt. Freddie Wells of the Alaska State Troopers post in Tok.

But troopers are placing a priority on responding to calls from stranded motorists, and there is heightened concern for the community's older residents. Otherwise, Wells says, it seems people are staying inside more.

Readings of minus 50 to minus 60 were common throughout the Interior overnight, including minus 65 at Chicken, a tiny community on the Taylor Highway east of Fairbanks. Chicken also holds the distinction of having the last official temperature in the state of minus 70 or colder - 72 below on Jan. 1, 2000. The state's second-largest city also wasn't immune from the cold. The noontime high Wednesday in Fairbanks was minus 45.

There doesn't appear to be any warming in immediate sight; the Weather Service says the extreme cold should stick around until early next week.

Source Note also that Kashmir is now another of the many places in Asia that have recently received record snowfalls.


Every day, scientists hoping to see an increase in solar activity train their instruments at the sun as it crosses the sky. This is no idle academic pursuit: A lull in solar action could potentially drive the planet's temperature down, or even prompt a mini Ice Age.

For millennia, thermonuclear forces inside the star have followed a regular rhythm, causing its magnetic field to peak and ebb, on average, every 11 years. Space weathermen are watching for telltale increases in sunspots, which would signal the start of a new cycle, predicted to have started last March and expected to peak in 2012. "When the sun's active, it's a little bit brighter," explains Ken Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada's National Research Council.

So far, Tapping reports no change in the magnetic field strength, as measured by radio telescopes. On the more positive side, last month NASA reported a small, earth-sized sunspot with a magnetic field pointing in the opposite direction from those in the previous cycle; qualities that designate the spot as a signal of a new upturn in activity. At the solar maximum, scientists expect to see between 75 and 150 such sunspots per day.

Tapping oversees the operation of a 60-year-old radio telescope that he calls a "stethoscope for the sun." Recent magnetic field readings are as low as he's ever seen, he says, and he's worked with the instrument for more than 25 years. If the sun remains this quiet for another a year or two, it may indicate the star has entered a downturn that, if history is any precedent, could trigger a planetary cold spell that could bring massive snowfall and severe weather to the Northern Hemisphere.

The last such solar funk corresponded with a period of bitter cold that began around 1650 and lasted, with intermittent spikes of warming, until 1715. While there were competing causes for the climatic shift-including the Black Death's depopulation of tree-cutting Europeans and, more substantially, increased volcanic activity spewing ash into the atmosphere-the sun's lethargy likely had something to do with it.

Just how much influence the sun has on global temperatures has been the subject of sometimes acrimonious debate. While an upswing in solar activity may cause a warming trend, it was discounted in the mid-1990s as the sole driver of current climate change. And for anyone hoping that a solar downswing might bail us out of our current dilemma: Solar influence on climate is slight compared to the impact of man-made greenhouse gases, a National Academy of Sciences report concluded in 1995.

The planet's climate is a messy picture, with all sorts of influences and feedback cycles that need to be taken into account. In order to build more accurate computer models, scientists need to understand both anthropogenic factors and the link between the sun and our planet, Tapping says. To help get at the sun's influence, he and other researchers connect Earth's temperature with historic sunspot records of sky watchers from Europe and China, as well as with carbon-14 isotopes--residue from cosmic rays delivered by the sun's magnetic field-found in tree rings. To understand our role in climate change," he says, "we need to understand the natural process."


British Airways blasts EU emissions plan

The European Union is aiming too high with proposals to make all airlines flying into and out of the bloc buy pollution permits and risks a backlash from other countries, the chief executive of British Airways said. Under plans being drawn up in Brussels to fight climate change, airlines using EU airports would be included in the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme from 2012, with a cap on their emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Airlines would gradually have to buy emissions certificates at auction, starting with 20 per cent of permits in 2013 and rising to 100 per cent in 2020.

From three per cent of mankind's total contribution to global warming in 2005, aviation's emissions are set to rise by a factor of two to five by 2050, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a report last year. "What we're saying is by all means be ambitious but don't put the whole system at risk by trying to impose it on other nations at a completely different point in their whole thinking on climate change," BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh said. Walsh said emissions trading within the EU is the best way for the bloc's aviation industry to respond to climate change but extending it further risks undermining the scheme.

The United States and many other countries are deeply opposed to the plan by Brussels, arguing that the move would illegally extend EU jurisdiction outside European territory. "I think to go in and say here's the solution, we're applying it everywhere, you must do what we tell you... You're going to get a backlash," he told Reuters in an interview. "The warning signals are loud and clear."

European airlines could be at risk of retaliation in the form of restricted access to third countries or punitive taxes and non-European airlines might shun the region as a hub for long-haul flights, Walsh said. "We need to be careful that we don't encourage air transport to move away from Europe and move into other hub airports like the Middle East where Dubai is perfect example," he said.

The European Parliament and the council of member states approved a plan late last year for all airlines flying in and out of the EU to join the ETS early in the next decade. The plan has yet to be put to a second vote in the European Parliament, giving airlines such as British Airways a chance to lobby for changes to the final text. Walsh was in Brussels for a series of meeting with EU officials.



Europe is facing an energy crisis because of green-influenced legislation and regulation, and difficulty in obtaining planning approval for key projects, energy companies warned yesterday. Europe needs to spend 2 trillion euros on upgrading power networks in the next 25 years but leading energy companies have cancelled investments in new power plants worth billions of euros because of increased regulatory uncertainty, a senior executive claimed yesterday. Johannes Teyssen, chief operating officer at E.ON, Germany's biggest energy group, blamed the European commission's plans to make companies pay for all their pollution permits from 2013, huge delays in approving planning applications and confusion among national regulators for the cancellations.

Teyssen, vice-chairman of the World Energy Council (WEC) Europe, said: "We see now every week a new investment project being cancelled across the EU." He cited at least four multibillion-euro projects to build power plants in Germany and said thousands of kilometres of new power lines were "lying on the table" because of planning delays.

The pan-European industry lobby, Eurelectric, says the EU will need about 520 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity by 2030. But the WEC, in a report handed to the commission yesterday, said investments had slowed in recent years and Europe was now twice as vulnerable to external shocks as it was in the 1960s. It would be 70% dependent on imports by 2030 without a change in policy.

Teyssen said the commission's plans to scrap free emission permits and move to a full auction system would further blight investment decisions. He also said it took longer to approve planning applications than to build a nuclear power station. "I hardly know of any EU nation where it's easy to build a high-voltage transmission line or new gas pipeline."

Centrica, owners of British Gas, said delays in planning applications were holding up projects for onshore wind farms and new gas-storage facilities. But, officials said, the group backed commission plans to auction pollution permits, creating greater regulatory clarity and offering incentives to invest in new low-carbon or carbon-free plants.

Teyssen urged the EU to avoid putting all its eggs into the renewables basket, arguing that they could cause more harm than good if national and cross-border grids were incapable of meeting the growth in their use. "You need a broader picture; you can't just say green is good," he said.

However, the British government rejected the suggestion and said its energy market was the most competitive and liberalised in the EU and G7, encouraging investment from firms such as E.ON. John Hutton, the business secretary, said: "We are legislating to speed up the planning system and to put in place incentives for energy companies to bring forward the investment we need. This will mean a dramatic expansion in renewables, new investment in nuclear power and technologies to clean up how we use fossil fuels."

Companies are also resisting the commission's drive to open the EU energy market to more competition, saying that uncertainty put them off investing in new projects. Eight countries, led by France and Germany, have attacked the central pillar of the commission's liberalisation package. This involves forcing the big continental players to "unbundle", or sell their gas and electricity transmission networks/pipelines to independent operators and allow new players to enter a more competitive market.

The eight, backed by big groups such as E.ON, France's EDF and GDF, and Italy's Eni, have formed a "blocking minority" within the council of ministers. They are proposing instead, in a letter to the EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs and MEPs, that national regulators draw up 10-year investment plans that the companies would be obliged to follow.

In the letter, seen by the Guardian, they say the "unbundling" plans are unconstitutional and inappropriate to "guarantee an adequate level of investment in the networks and foster the integration of our national networks". The Piebalgs plan faces growing internal opposition within the commission itself, with one senior official saying that it would break up big companies capable of competing in global markets and force the EU to be more dependent on huge foreign players.


BRITISH GOVERNMENT (formerly known as "world leaders" in climate change policy) REVIVES COAL INDUSTRY

Coal power generation is crucial for the growth of the British economy, Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said on Wednesday. But he said the government could not yet release a specific policy document on coal-fired electricity. "We can't afford to forget coal which contributes about 35 percent of UK power and has an important part to play in UK power policy," Wicks said.

The fuel source is controversial because it produces more of the planet-warming gas carbon dioxide than any other power source. Protesters from environmental group Greenpeace interrupted Wicks as he addressed a coal conference at the Lord's cricket ground in London. "Coal power stations are out-of-date climate-wreckers," the group said in a statement.



The state-of-the-art British-sponsored fasttrack assessment of the global impacts of climate change, a major input to the much-heralded Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, indicates that through the year 2100, the contribution of climate change to human health and environmental threats will generally be overshadowed by factors not related to climate change. Hence, climate change is unlikely to be the world's most important environmental problem of the 21st century.

Analysis using both the Stern Review and the fast-track assessment reveals that notwithstanding climate change, for the foreseeable future, human and environmental well-being will be highest under the "richest-but-warmest" scenario and lower for the poorer (lower-carbon) scenarios. The developing world's future wellbeing should exceed present levels by several-fold under each scenario, even exceeding present wellbeing in today's developed world under all but the poorest scenario. Accordingly, equity-based arguments, which hold that present generations should divert scarce resources from today's urgent problems to solve potential problems of tomorrow's wealthier generations, are unpersuasive.

Halting climate change would reduce cumulative mortality from various climate-sensitive threats, namely, hunger, malaria, and coastal flooding, by 4-10 percent in 2085, while increasing populations at risk from water stress and possibly worsening matters for biodiversity. But according to cost information from the UN Millennium Program and the IPCC, measures focused specifically on reducing vulnerability to these threats would reduce cumulative mortality from these risks by 50-75 percent at a fraction of the cost of reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs). Simultaneously, such measures would reduce major hurdles to the developing world's sustainable economic development, the lack of which is why it is most vulnerable to climate change.

The world can best combat climate change and advance well-being, particularly of the world's most vulnerable populations, by reducing present-day vulnerabilities to climate-sensitive problems that could be exacerbated by climate change rather than through overly aggressive GHG reductions.



For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: