Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ALL Greenie scenarios lead to disaster

So eat, drink and be merry?

Sometimes we need to think the unthinkable, particularly when dealing with a problem as dangerous as climate change - there is no room for dogma when considering the future habitability of our planet. It was in this spirit that I and a panel of other specialists in climate, economics and policy-making met under the aegis of the Stockholm Network thinktank to map out future scenarios for how international policy might evolve - and what the eventual impact might be on the earth's climate. We came up with three alternative visions of the future, and asked experts at the Met Office Hadley Centre to run them through its climate models to give each a projected temperature rise. The results were both surprising, and profoundly disturbing.

We gave each scenario a name. The most pessimistic was labelled "agree and ignore" - a world where governments meet to make commitments on climate change, but then backtrack or fail to comply with them. Sound familiar? It should: this scenario most closely resembles the past 10 years, and it projects emissions on an upward trend until 2045. A more optimistic scenario was termed "Kyoto plus": here governments make a strong agreement in Copenhagen in 2009, binding industrialised countries into a new round of Kyoto-style targets, with developing countries joining successively as they achieve "first world" status. This scenario represents the best outcome that can plausibly result from the current process - but ominously, it still sees emissions rising until 2030.

The third scenario - called "step change" - is worth a closer look. Here we envisaged massive climate disasters around the world in 2010 and 2011 causing a sudden increase in the sense of urgency surrounding global warming. Energised, world leaders ditch Kyoto, abandoning efforts to regulate emissions at a national level. Instead, they focus on the companies that produce fossil fuels in the first place - from oil and gas wells and coal mines - with the UN setting a global "upstream" production cap and auctioning tradable permits to carbon producers. Instead of all the complexity of regulating squabbling nations and billions of people, the price mechanism does the work: companies simply pass on their increased costs to consumers, and demand for carbon-intensive products begins to fall. The auctioning of permits raises trillions of dollars to be spent smoothing the transition to a low-carbon economy and offsetting the impact of price rises on the poor. A clear long-term framework puts a price on carbon, giving business a strong incentive to shift investment into renewable energy and low-carbon manufacturing. Most importantly, a strong carbon cap means that global emissions peak as early as 2017.

This "upstream cap" approach is not a new idea, and our approach draws in particular on a forthcoming book by the environmental writer Oliver Tickell. However, conventional wisdom from governments and environmental groups alike insists that "Kyoto is the only game in town", and that proposing any alternative is dangerous heresy.

But let's look at the modelled temperature increases associated with each scenario. "Agree and ignore" sees temperatures rise by 4.85C by 2100 (with a 90% probability); for "Kyoto plus", it's 3.31C; and "step change" 2.89C. This is the depressing bit: no politically plausible scenario we could envisage will now keep the world below the danger threshold of two degrees, the official target of both the EU and UK. This means that all scenarios see the total disappearance of Arctic sea ice; spreading deserts and water stress in the sub-tropics; extreme weather and floods; and melting glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas. Hence the need to focus far more on adaptation: these are impacts that humanity is going to have to deal with whatever now happens at the policy level.

But the other great lesson is that sticking with current policy is actually a very risky option, rather than a safe bet. Betting on Kyoto could mean triggering the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet and crossing thresholds that involve massive methane release from melting Siberian permafrost. If current policy continues to fail - along the lines of the "agree and ignore" scenario - then 50% to 80% of all species on earth could be driven to extinction by the magnitude and rapidity of warming, and much of the planet's surface left uninhabitable to humans. Billions, not millions, of people would be displaced.

So which way will it go? Ultimately the difference between the scenarios is one of political will: the question now is whether humanity can summon up the courage and foresight to save itself, or whether business as usual - on climate policy as much as economics - will condemn us all to climatic oblivion.



Leaves are nearly as homeostatic as people! "Hockeystick" Mann hangs his hat on three rings. Goodbye hat! There is now yet another source of error in already shaky estimates. No doubt he will make the best of it by adding in yet another layer of assumptions, however

Trees in warm places might be able to shrug off global warming better than those in the UK and colder climes because they contain a remarkable "thermostat" that keeps them the same temperature. The temperature inside a healthy tree leaf is affected much less by outside temperature than originally believed, from England to the Caribbean, according to biologists at the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers found that all tree leaves maintain a near constant temperature

They are concerned that trees in colder regions, such as Britain, could overheat as the climate warms as a result of this hitherto unrecognised mechanism. However, species adapted to warmer climates are likely to take their place. Surveying 39 tree species ranging in location from subtropical to northerly climates, researchers found a nearly constant temperature in tree leaves.

The conversion of light into chemical energy - photosynthesis - most likely occurs when leaf temperatures are about 21øC, and the outside temperature plays little, if any, role. This means that in colder climates leaf temperatures are elevated and in warmer climates tree leaves cool to keep the temperature just right. "It is not surprising to think that a polar bear in northern Canada and a black bear in Florida have the same internal body temperature," says Dr Brent Helliker, who reports the work with Suzanna Richter in the journal Nature. "Like us, they generate their own heat.

"However, to think that a black spruce in Canada and a Caribbean Pine in Puerto Rico have the same average leaf temperature is quite astonishing. "Our research suggests that they use a combination of purely physical phenomena - like the cooling from water evaporation or the warming caused by packing a lot of leaves together - to maintain leaf temperature, a phenomenon we call homeostatisis."

He stresses that this does not mean tree canopies maintain a constant temperature through a day or a season, but rather that this ideal temperature is a long-term target value.

However, the study suggests a new theory for how and why trees in the north will suffer from global warming, by overheating due to the mechanisms they have evolved to 'keep their leaves warm.' Additionally, weather forecasting models rely on accurate estimates of surface water evaporation, a lot of which comes from tree leaves. Knowing the temperature of these leaves is crucial to accurate predictions of future climate scenarios.

The research contradicts the longstanding assumption that temperature in a healthy leaf are coupled to ambient air conditions. For decades, scientists studying climate change have measured the oxygen isotope ratio in tree-ring cellulose to determine the ambient temperature and relative humidity of past climates.

This new work challenges the potential to reconstruct climate through tree-ring isotope analysis, since it suggests the method does not provide direct information about past climate, providing misleadingly warm estimates. The discovery will be a boon for ecologists because it opens the potential for the reconstruction of tree responses to both average climate and climate change over the last couple of centuries.



The "apocalyptic visions" of environmentalists are not justified by the evidence about global warming, according to a Midland MP. John Maples (Con Stratford) told the House of Commons he did not believe scientists really understood what was happening to the earth's climate. He sounded a note of scepticism in a debate which highlighted the lack of consensus among Britain's politicians about the environment.

Black Country MP Rob Marris (Lab Wolverhampton South West) told colleagues to "wake up and smell the coffee" and accept the world was not going to stop creating the pollution believed to cause global warming. Most MPs and staff failed even to turn the lights off in the Commons toilets, he said. Britain should focus on how it was going to cope with global warming, instead of hoping it could avoid the problem by cutting back on carbon emissions, he said.

They were speaking during a debate on the Climate Change Bill, which will set a legally binding target for reducing UK carbon dioxide emissions by at least 26 per cent by 2020. Mr Maples said: "Until a couple of months ago, I was happily riding this consensus and accepted the received wisdom. I thought it was probably being exaggerated a bit, but then people usually do that. However, I then made the mistake of reading a few books and quite a lot of analysis ... that has led me to a couple of conclusions that trouble me a lot.

"I do not believe that the science is anything like as settled as the proponents of the Bill are making out. In fact, the scientists hedge their predictions with an awful lot of qualifications and maybes that those who invoke them often omit. "The science is a bit like medicine in the 1850s. The scientists are scratching the surface of something that they do not really understand, but no doubt will. "They are probably on to something, but nothing like the whole story. What they say does not justify any of the apocalyptic visions that we have heard set out."

He said none of the models scientists had developed to predict how carbon emissions might affect the environment could account for the climate change that had actually taken place. "The record shows that the climate warmed from 1920 to 1940, cooled from 1940 to 1975, rose again from 1975 to 2000, and since 2000 ... has not risen at all. In the past seven years, global temperatures have not increased."

Mr Marris was also sceptical about plans to reduce carbon emissions, but for different reasons. He said: "I welcome the Bill and I accept that human activity is affecting the climate adversely. I am not a flat-earther." But he did not accept the "cosy consensus" that everything would be fine if plans were made to cut carbon dioxide emissions, he said. Emissions were currently going up rather than down, he added.

Some MPs were calling for an 80 per cent cut, he said. "I say to honourable members, `wake up and smell the coffee'. We are not going to achieve 80 per cent - it will be hard to reach 60 per cent, if we consider the number of air trips our constituents make."

Global warming would affect Britain's plans, wildlife and food production, he said. "They will affect issues such as building design and planning regulations; roads and railways, with rails buckling in the heat; water supply, with a need for new reservoirs; what we have to do about coastal defences with rising sea levels; inland flooding, which we saw dramatically last year and which will only get worse; possible civil unrest and its security implications, which other countries and, potentially, we will face; and international development."



There has been a mixed reaction to East Antrim representative Sammy Wilson's appointment as Environment Minister, following a reshuffle of the DUP's Stormont team. Amid the back-slapping over the Assemblyman and MP's elevation to the Executive has come sharp criticism from leading environmentalists over the local politician's "sceptical" views on climate change.

Mr. Wilson, who replaces DUP colleague Arlene Foster in the post, said he was "very happy" to take on a job in which he could deal with issues affecting the people of East Antrim. He cited in particular the planning system which had caused "much frustration for many people". Mr. Wilson added: "I am also keen to ensure that we protect the beauty of Northern Ireland and keep it in its current state for future generations to enjoy. "There is also an important job be done with local government: I want to see efficient councils in Northern Ireland which provide good services and are accountable for what they do." ...

Mr. Wilson's promotion brought a less favourable response from other quarters. The Green Party expressed disappointment at Mr. Wilson's "climate change sceptic views" and urged him to refrain from commenting on the subject until he has acquainted himself with the findings of the Inter-governmental Panel on climate change.

Said Green Party MLA Brian Wilson: "Sammy Wilson has a duty to the people of Northern Ireland and the environment to ensure that his comments are evidence-based and not the uninformed babble of someone who should be spending more time reading his First Day briefs." He urged the East Antrim politician to attend UN talks on climate change, adding: "No serious scientist has attributed all climate change to human activity. "Even the school children of Northern Ireland understand the distinction."

Mr. Wilson's appointment also caused raised eyebrows within environmental group, Friends of the Earth. Describing the move as "a mistake," the organisation's Northern Ireland director, John Woods, commented: "Mr Wilson is well known for his sceptical views on climate change. "It is difficult to see how a Minister who holds such views in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence could be a credible protector of our environment. But the test will be how Sammy Wilson approaches his new responsibilities. "The jury is out on this appointment - he has a good deal to prove."

Responding to the criticism, the new Environment Minister said: "I am not convinced and I don't think that there is any firm evidence to show that all climate change is due to CO2 emissions. "I think we have to make sure we do not allow the agenda for NI to be dominated by the people who can sometimes be described as green fanatics."

More here


There is more than twice as much oil in the ground as major producers say, according to a former industry adviser who claims there is widespread misunderstanding of the way proven reserves are calculated.

Although it is widely assumed that the world has reached a point where oil production has peaked and proven reserves have sunk to roughly half of original amounts, this idea is based on flawed thinking, said Richard Pike, a former oil industry man who is now chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Current estimates suggest there are 1,200 billion barrels of proven global reserves, but the industry's internal figures suggest this amounts to less than half of what actually exists. The misconception has helped boost oil prices to an all-time high, sending jitters through the market and prompting calls for oil-producing nations to increase supply to push down costs.

Flying into Japan for a summit two days after prices reached a record $139 a barrel, energy ministers from the G8 countries yesterday discussed an action plan to ease the crisis.

Explaining why the published estimates of proven global reserves are less than half the true amount, Dr Pike said there was anecdotal evidence that big oil producers were glad to go along with under-reporting of proven reserves to help maintain oil's high price. "Part of the oil industry is perfectly familiar with the way oil reserves are underestimated, but the decision makers in both the companies and the countries are not exposed to the reasons why proven oil reserves are bigger than they are said to be," he said. Dr Pike's assessment does not include unexplored oilfields, those yet to be discovered or those deemed too uneconomic to exploit.

The environmental implications of his analysis, based on more than 30 years inside the industry, will alarm environmentalists who have exploited the concept of peak oil to press the urgency of the need to find greener alternatives. "The bad news is that by underestimating proven oil reserves we have been lulled into a false sense of security in terms of environmental issues, because it suggests we will have to find alternatives to fossil fuels in a few decades," said Dr Pike. "We should not be surprised if oil dominates well into the twenty-second century. It highlights a major error in energy and environmental planning - we are dramatically underestimating the challenge facing us," he said.

Proven oil reserves are likely to be far larger than reported because of the way the capacity of oilfields is estimated and how those estimates are added to form the proven reserves of a company or a country. Companies add the estimated capacity of oil fields in a simple arithmetic manner to get proven oil reserves. This gives a deliberately conservative total deemed suitable for shareholders who do not want proven reserves hyped, Dr Pike said.

However, mathematically it is more accurate to add the proven oil capacity of individual fields in a probabilistic manner based on the bell-shaped statistical curve used to estimate the proven, probable and possible reserves of each field. This way, the final capacity is typically more than twice that of simple, arithmetic addition, Dr Pike said. "The same also goes for natural gas because these fields are being estimated in much the same way. The world is understating the environmental challenge and appears unprepared for the difficult compromises that will have to be made."

Jeremy Leggett, author of Half Gone, a book on peak oil, is not convinced that Dr Pike is right. "The flow rates from the existing projects are the key. Capacity coming on stream falls fast beyond 2011," Dr Leggett said. "On top of that, if the big old fields begin collapsing, the descent in supply will hit the world very hard."


Global Warming Alarmists Like High Gas Prices

Gas has finally hit $4 a gallon. Most Americans are upset about the cost, but to some journalists, environmental activists and politicians, high gas prices are good news. Even though the media have complained about "sky-high" gas prices, reporting the pain caused at the pump, they have declared energy conservation the "clear winner" from rising prices and have even called for higher prices to boost the "green" movement, as The New York Times did as early as 2005.

Not very long ago, CNNMoney.com Managing Editor Allen Wastler called for "a tax to make it $4 a gallon right now." At the time - April 30, 2007 - gas averaged $2.95 a gallon, meaning Wastler called for more than $1 in extra gasoline taxes "because when you saw us flirting with $3, all the sudden we got a burst in hybrid production, we got a burst in ethanol production."

Meanwhile, elected officials have offered short-term proposals to lower gas prices - like Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) summer "gas tax holiday" - and long-term proposals to hike gas prices, like Rep. John Dingell's (D-Mich.) idea to raise the federal gas tax by 50 cents per gallon. And environmental activists overtly praise pain at the pump and lobby for more federal taxes on fuel. "The biggest lie in America [sic] politics today is to say you care deeply about global warming and advocate for the price of gas to go down. Those are mutually exclusive concepts," AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson said in the April 25 Newsweek, pointing out the great hypocrisy of anyone in the "green movement" complaining about high gas prices.

The media have had it both ways, bashing Big Oil for allegedly making prices high while praising the same high prices for the effect they may have on warming-related emissions. "[I]t's time to pay a price to curb global warming," the Christian Science Monitor declared in a May 12 editorial. "Rather than prevent $4-a-gallon gas now, legislators should welcome it." "Congress must impose a `carbon' tax on fossil-fuel use," the newspaper's editors said, "from electric utilities to home furnaces to gas-guzzling vehicles." Brian O'Connor, the Money & Life editor for the Detroit News, wrote in a May 31 column that high gas prices would be good for Michigan's struggling economy. In its "Conventional Wisdom" feature May 22, Newsweek declared energy conservation "the clear winner as oil creeps toward $200 a barrel."

The media have been pushing for more expensive gas for years - all while complaining about high gas prices, as CNN did on "American Morning" May 23 when host John Roberts repeated a viewer's complaint that high gas prices forced him to abandon satellite television. Wastler wasn't the first to suggest more gas taxes on CNN. In April 2006, Miles O'Brien said there "could be a good argument for a gas tax in all of this to help pay for these alternative fuels." "I hope gas prices go as high as they have to go to get the rest of these morons off the road in these big Hummers," CNN's Jack Cafferty said on "In the Money" March 25, 2006.

Members of the media have been waiting a very long time for prices to hit $4. "For anyone with a fresh idea, expensive oil is as good as a subsidy - with no political strings attached," Wired.com contributing editor Spencer Reiss wrote in December 2005. "And smile when you see a big black $3 or $4 out in front at the gas pump. Those innovators need all the encouragement they can get. Shale oil, uranium, sunlight - there's enough energy out there for a dozen planets."

In October 2005, when gas was around $2.85 a gallon, The New York Times called expensive gas "the best solution" to terrorist, environmental and economic threats. "The best solution is to increase the federal gasoline tax, in order to keep the price of gas near its post-Katrina high of $3-plus a gallon," the newspaper's editors wrote in an editorial.

In his 2000 book "Earth in the Balance," former Vice President Al Gore advocated increasing energy taxes on consumers to decrease the incentive to pollute. Seven years earlier, in 1993, Gore cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate to increase the federal gas tax to 18.4 cents, where it stands today. Elected officials in Congress are still working to harness the power of federal taxes to fund the "green" agenda and have been working to raise the price of gas even as it rises due to market forces.

In August 2007, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., floated the idea of increasing the federal gas tax by 50 cents per gallon. The Christian Science Monitor called him "courageous." Dingell shelved the plan in April 2008, when gas was nearing $3.50 a gallon, saying "now is not the time for us to put any additional burden on the working families of Michigan or this nation."

In January 2008, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, a group created by Congress in 2005 to study surface transportation needs, recommended a 40-cent increase in the gas tax spread out over five years for infrastructure upgrades.

Recently the Senate rejected the Lieberman-Warner "cap-and-trade" bill, legislation aimed at reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Opponents warned the measure would lead to increases at the pump of anywhere from $1.50 to $5 per gallon.

Politicians like Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Republican nominee for president, have publicly supported efforts to reduce the cost of gasoline. McCain proposed a widely criticized "gas tax holiday" that would have eliminated the federal gas tax for the summer. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., formerly a contender for the Democratic nomination, supported a similar plan that would have added a "windfall profits" tax on oil companies. Her opponent, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), now the Democrats' candidate, opposed the gas tax holiday and also supports taxing oil companies more.

But all three support global warming-related energy control legislation that would increase the cost of energy, leading some - like AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson in Newsweek - to point out the mutual exclusivity of global warming legislation and lower energy prices.

Alternative forms of energy are less efficient and usually less attractive to an open market than oil and coal, but higher gas prices give environmentalists an opportunity to exploit pain at the pump. NBC's Anne Thompson noted on the March 12 "Nightly News" that higher energy prices would be good for alternative forms of energy like solar and wind power, which can cost two to four times as much as coal and oil.

In May 2006, Earth Policy Institute president Lester Brown proposed a gasoline tax hike of 30 cents per gallon every year for the next 10 years. He said higher prices would spur investment in alternative energy and public transportation and decrease dependence on foreign oil. In March 2008, as gas prices rose closer and closer to $4, Brown maintained that an increased tax was a good idea, telling Fox News that "a tax on gas is a way to reduce dependence on import oil, reduce traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions."



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In the Feynman sense of wanting to understand something by putting it in words a child could understand, I'm playing with numbers.

We live on a water planet, so I want perspective on how much of The Ocean is exposed to air compared to that of a glass of beer.

The average depth of The Ocean is 3.7 km or about 25,000 stacked beers, so the ocean has 25K less surface VERSUS volume than a beer, so should take about 25K longer to equilibrate with atmospheric CO2, and dividing by 10 to roughly adjust for the fact that beer is highly OVER saturated with CO2, equilibration ends up relying not on the two hour timescale of a pub, but more like a lifetime.

So if we double CO2 to a bigger trace amount, remembering that equilibration speed of most anything depends on energy (in this case pressure) differences, another division by 10 gives us about ten lifetimes, which with frightening exactitude matches the 800 year lag in ice core samples between ocean warming and actual release of slightly oversaturated CO2 back into the atmosphere.

Talk about grass roots. You've got a benchtop chemist doing your math. Where's our oil industry funding already and skyrise offices?


P.S. I'll lie, cheat, steal, assassinate, extort, or publish junk science as funding dictates. Am I not worthy of helping to further politicize junk science? I even know how to program multi-variable computer models, especially given enough funding to hire computer majors with no experience in experimental science. Take me, oh Devil, for I hear you pay good hooker money for evil doctors, er, I mean "concerned" scientists. Just because I left academic science because funding and publishing success had become hype-based instead instead of curiosity-based, shouldn't rule me out any more, since I have grown weak and old and vice ridden, having developed a strong affection for top reviewed brothels. Send me young girls and I'll crush this John Ray nuisance with Machiavellian craftsmanship.