Saturday, October 04, 2008

Is This The Beginning of Global Cooling?

Many scary stories have been written about the dangers of catastrophic global warming, allegedly due to increased atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from the combustion of fossil fuels. But is the world really catastrophically warming? NO. And is the warming primarily caused by humans? NO.

Since just January 2007, the world has cooled so much that ALL the global warming over the past three decades has disappeared! This is confirmed by a plot of actual global average temperatures from the best available source, weather satellite data that shows there has been NO net global warming since the satellites were first launched in 1979.

Since there was global cooling from ~1940 to ~1979, this means there has been no net warming since ~1940, in spite of an ~800% increase in human emissions of carbon dioxide. This indicates that the recent warming trend was natural, and CO2 is an insignificant driver of global warming.

Furthermore, the best fit polynomial shows a strong declining trend. Are we seeing the beginning of a natural cooling cycle? YES. Further cooling, with upward and downward variability, is expected because the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) has returned to its cool phase, as announced by NASA this year.

Global warming and cooling have closely followed the phases of the PDO. The most significant pattern of PDO behavior is a shift between "warm" and "cool" phases that last 20 to 30 years. In 1905, the PDO shifted to its "warm" phase. In 1946, the PDO changed to its "cool" phase. In 1977, the PDO returned to its "warm" phase and produced the current warming. In 2007-8, the PDO turned cold again, so we can expect several decades of naturally-caused global cooling.

Some scientists are predicting that this cooling will be severe, and is a greater threat to humanity than global warming ever was. Meanwhile, politicians are still obsessing about global warming.



The biggest problem in energy supplies today is that politicians think it is a problem with a solution. And by that I mean they seem to think it has exactly one solution.

We can't drill in the Arctic because the solution is conservation. We can't build nuclear because the solution is solar. Offshore is not needed because the solution is biofuel. Natural gas, clean coal, coastal wind, oil shales, tar sands, tidal turbines, biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric - all in turn are argued against, because something better, or bigger, or cleaner, or cheaper, or more philosophically correct can be supported instead.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of our current energy "shortage" is the sheer number of options we have available to us - none of which is apparently the one perfect solution, and so all of which are delayed and obstructed.

America's leaders and would-be leaders are pursuing our future energy policy with all the finesse of a child who believes the game must be won by a single home run. Who needs base hits? Because of this, America may be the first country in history to run out of energy due to too many options.

A rational approach to energy would be simple: it's good, so let's have more of it. But then nobody would be able to take credit for making the grand choice, would they? So instead we have an interminable debate over what best form energy should take.

That we have a small number of people making the choice at all is an even bigger problem. If energy were treated as an economic issue, rather than a political or moral one, the exact modality used to power any region or industry would be left to those actually using the energy. This is known as "the free market." In its place, a system of energy evolves that is allocation by grand national committee.

The most frustrating thing about a democracy in which government plays a huge role in energy policy is that no portion of the solution can proceed until a majority in Congress says it's OK. So little is done.

If market forces were given more weight, we could drill for oil wherever it's found. We could build a wind farm wherever it's windy. We could ship natural gas wherever it's needed. We could install solar panels wherever they are profitable, guaranteeing them a deserved place on calculators and satellites.

Instead, we sit famished at a feast in which some group has a grievance against every possible dish. And since we can't just eat individually, we starve as a group. Imagine Thanksgiving being run the same way: We can only eat cranberry sauce! No, the solution is stuffing! But turkey has always been the mainstay. Are you mad? Turkey causes global napping we'll all die if we don't transition to tofurkey. And we certainly can't baste our way out of this! Meanwhile, the food gets colder and colder and the guests get hungrier and hungrier. Eventually some will tire of the whole thing and just outsource the meal to the Chinese restaurant down the road.

Beyond the egotistical need of politicians to be great deciders, there's a second reason markets are currently restricted: many would be deeply unhappy with the obvious winners chosen by the marketplace.

Biofuels, solar, and the like are all touted as ways to save us from high oil prices. But even with oil at $120, these technologies cannot compete without steep subsidies. The supporters and beneficiaries of these technologies may feed the public a line about fighting high oil prices, but they know better than anyone how cheap oil is, compared to their alleged bargains.

It's true that there is not enough oil in the Arctic to solve all our energy needs. There is not enough gas off the coast of Florida to solve all our energy needs. Neither can our needs be filled with nuclear or coal or wind alone. And yet all these facts are beside the point.

The solution to our energy needs is to stop looking for a grand solution to our energy needs. If we just let the market find many small solutions to many small problems, we will find the larger problem brought down to size.



Enviro Group Lawsuits, Cost Concerns, Climate Regulation Uncertainty Cited As Major Obstacles To Grid Improvements

A new study released this week highlights what experts have been saying for years: the U.S. faces significant risk of power brownouts and blackouts as early as next summer that may cost tens of billions of dollars and threaten lives.

The study, "Lights Out In 2009?" warns that the U.S. "faces potentially crippling electricity brownouts and blackouts beginning in the summer of 2009, which may cost tens of billions of dollars and threaten lives."

"If particularly vulnerable regions, like the Western U.S., experience unusually hot temperatures for prolonged periods of time in 2009, the potential for local brownouts or blackouts is high, with significant risk that local disruptions could cascade into regional outages that could cost the economy tens of billions of dollars," the report warned.

U.S. baseload generation capacity reserve margins "have declined precipitously to 17 percent in 2007, from 30-40 percent in the early 1990s," according to the study. A 12-15 percent capacity reserve margin is the minimum required to ensure reliability and stability of the nation's electricity system. Compounding this capacity deficiency, the projected U.S. demand in the next ten years is forecast to grow by 18 percent, far exceeding the projected eight percent growth in baseload generation capacity between now and 2016.

The study, which can be downloaded here, estimated that the U.S. will require about 120 gigawatts (GW) of new generation just to maintain a 15 percent reserve margin. That will require at least $300 billion in generation and transmission facility investments by 2016.

More here


The European Union is struggling to deliver on its promises to cut carbon emissions

JUST 18 months ago the European Union promised to save the world from climate change. A final plan to deliver on those promises must be finished soon. But it is in deep trouble.

The conclusions of the March 2007 summit proclaiming the EU's "leading role" on climate change make for wistful reading today. They begin "Europe is currently enjoying an economic upswing," and add that growth forecasts are "positive". Back in that long-lost golden age, the EU's leaders were in heroic mood. They offered binding promises known as the 20/20/20 pledges. By the year 2020, they would cut Europe's carbon emissions by at least a fifth over 1990 levels; derive 20% of all energy from renewable sources; and make energy-efficiency savings of 20%.

The heroic mood is gone now. In March 2007 Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and chairman of the summit, was a green champion. Today she sounds like a lobbyist for German business, listing the industries that must be shielded from the full costs of her package. In truth, almost every country has found reasons why the climate-change promises may be impossible to meet in their current form. Britain is gloomy about its renewable-energy targets. Ireland says its farmers must be protected (grass-fed Irish cows emit a lot of methane).

Dig into most "impossible" problems on the table, and they come down to money. In the EU, rows about money are usually settled, albeit acrimoniously. But another problem is harder to fix. Countries that use a lot of coal, such as Poland, fear that the climate-change package will force them to abandon it. The quick and easy alternative is natural gas, but the fear is that this means Russian gas. Russia made its neighbours nervous even 18 months ago; after its war on Georgia it frightens them even more.

Poland gets over 90% of its electricity from coal. The giant Siekierki power station in Warsaw provides electricity and heating to two-thirds of the Polish capital each winter. A mountain of coal next to its turbine hall holds 180,000 tonnes, enough for 18 days' winter production. Ignore climate change, and it is an oddly comforting place. Almost all the coal is Polish, and more arrives on trains from Silesia every day. On an autumn afternoon, the only smells are of fallen leaves and the sweet tang of fresh coal. The only noise comes from a bulldozer smoothing the coal-mound and the cawing of rooks. Its three chimneys run clear: you cannot see the carbon dioxide pouring into the sky.

The heart of the EU's climate-change package is an emissions-trading scheme (ETS) that will make factories and power plants like Siekierki pay for emitting carbon. The higher the price of carbon in the ETS, the stronger the signal to switch away from coal. Polish ministers have been galvanised by recent reports that the carbon price will be much higher than European Commission estimates. A February 2008 paper from UBS, a Swiss bank, caused alarm by predicting that 43% of Europe's coal-fired power generation will switch to gas because of EU emissions targets.

In the long term, Poland is pinning its faith on clean-coal technologies, including carbon capture and storage. But that will take years. (Polish officials say nuclear power is another option, but that would take years too.) What worries them is the medium term, when they want to keep burning coal. "Coal is our energy security," says Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, Poland's Europe minister. On September 26th ministers from Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia signed a joint declaration expressing concern that the climate-change plan would "significantly increase" the dependence of some countries on imported gas. With the package "in its current form", there is no chance of an agreement among the 27 EU countries, concludes Mr Dowgielewicz.

The irony is that energy security was key in persuading the east Europeans to sign up to the climate-change package in March 2007. Their leaders were assured that a shift to renewable energy would help them avoid excessive dependence on imports. The March 2007 conclusions pledged more EU "solidarity" in the event of a supply crisis (eg, Russia turning the taps off). There were pledges to diversify supplies, and support for named projects like the Nabucco pipeline that would bring Caspian gas to central Europe, bypassing Russia.

Accommodating a Russian bear

But most of these promises were hollow. EU countries continue to sign deals with Russia that undermine Nabucco. Germany still defends the Nord Stream gas pipeline, a joint project with Russia's Gazprom. The war in Georgia showed how the EU maintains unity when dealing with Russia: by accommodation. And Russia's leaders have been busy all around the EU's periphery, defending Russian transit routes, and seeking to invest in new pipelines that will bring gas to Europe (including one from Nigeria), but under their influence or control.

Earlier this year, Russia said it would build a nuclear complex in Kaliningrad, an exclave between Poland and Lithuania. Too large for Kaliningrad's domestic needs, it has export potential, Russian nuclear chiefs said. That poses a dilemma for the neighbours. Once it is open, some time after 2015, it will offer zero-carbon electricity-but also more dependence on Russian energy.

Poland wants fiddly changes that might make it easier to keep burning coal and not be bankrupted by the ETS. But nobody can blame the ETS for pushing generators away from coal. It is designed to make high-carbon fuels unattractive, after all.

There is a bigger solution available. The EU could deliver on some of the promises of March 2007 about energy security. That means fewer cosy bilateral deals with Russia, planning more terminals for liquefied natural gas imports, supporting pipeline projects that bypass Russia, linking up power grids and pressing ahead with energy liberalisation. The east Europeans will not accept a climate-change package that does not offer them greater energy security-and who can blame them?



The [British] Government will fail to reach its goal of producing 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, a group of academics has predicted.

According to figures contained in Cambridge Econometrics' UK Energy and the Environment report, renewables will account for only approximately 5 per cent of UK electricity sales to final users by 2010, just half of the 10 per cent target.

The report argues that, even if electricity demand were to grow at around 1 to 1.5 per cent per annum between 2010 and 2020 and fossil fuel prices were to remain relatively high, the share of renewables in UK electricity sales is only expected to increase to around 10.25 per cent by 2015.

This is still short of the 15 per cent target set by the Government under its renewable obligation scheme.

Cambridge Econometrics' researchers put the forecast failure down to the expectation that fossil fuel generation will remain an important contributor towards meeting the UK's electricity needs over the next 12 years.

Professor Paul Ekins of King's College London, a senior consultant to Cambridge Econometrics and co-editor of the report, said: "These forecasts provide a timely reality check about the progress that the UK is likely to make over the next twelve years towards achieving its goal of at least a 26 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 and at least a 60 per cent reduction by 2050.

"The headline message from these forecasts is that, despite all the rhetoric about the urgency of tackling climate change, the Government has seemingly still not understood the stringency of policies required to move the UK towards a low-carbon economy.

"The forecasts also indicate that, despite high energy prices, the Government's policies to promote a low-carbon future are not yet sufficient to meet the carbon challenge restated most recently in the May 2007 Energy White Paper and the Climate Change Bill."


Australian federal government's climate change modelling 'flawed, outdated'

This shows how vulnerable models are to the guesses fed into them. They are just Potemkin facades with nothing solid behind them. And it's Greenies who are stressing that!

The Greens have rubbished the Federal Government's highly anticipated economic modelling on climate change. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and Treasurer Wayne Swan yesterday released some of the Treasury Department's modelling. The figures include population, technology and trade estimates.

Greens leader Bob Brown says base load solar power is ignored in favour of carbon capture and storage technology which is not yet available. "Treasury is too locked into old mould of what it thinks will be cheap oil and clean coal and neither of those are solidly foreseeable options," he said. "This is modelling is bias towards the old polluting fossil fuel industries. "If the Government's policy response is based on this Treasury modelling, it's going to be not only outdated, but deeply flawed."

In the documents, the Treasury says it has judged the estimates to be plausible. But its the modelling's productivity figures that concerns the Opposition's environment spokesman Greg Hunt. He is concerned they show slowing. "It's absolutely clear they've let the cat out of the bag on their national productivity," he said. The Opposition is eagerly awaiting the full set of Treasury modelling to be released later this month.



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