Friday, April 10, 2009


An email from geologist Paul Driessen []

Regarding the recent AP story about UN climate talks stalling over emission cuts by rich countries:

I am astonished at how casually activists, bureaucrats and politicians toss out these carbon dioxide reduction targets – as though cutting US (or EU, Canadian, Australian, et cetera) emissions by some essentially random amount by 2020 or 2050 is actually within the realm of possibility. Unless we assume major technological advancements … and even if we accept the risk of widespread social and economic upheaval … these targets land somewhere along the spectrum of fanciful, absurd, irresponsible and disastrous.

The group of 130 developing countries wants a 40% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020. A faction of this group wants a 45% cut by 2020. President Obama wants to slash US CO2 emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Earlier congressional proposals talked about 60% cuts by 2050. Greenpeace and other Climate Armageddonites insist that the world must get global CO2 levels well below 450 ppm (0.045% of the Earth’s atmosphere) by 2050 or earlier, despite expanding emissions from China and India – which means “guilty” developed nations must slash their emissions by some 90% by that date.

To illustrate the absurdity of these demands, one need only look at US carbon dioxide emissions data assembled by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, for the years 1800 through 2004. The following summary shows how far back in time the United States would have to travel, to achieve these various emission targets.

40% below 1990 levels = CO2 emission levels last seen in 1957

45% below 1990 = 1951

60% below 1990 = 1929 or 1940 (emissions fell during the intervening years of the Great Depression)

80% below 1990 = 1905

90% below 1990 = 1897

Barring major technological breakthroughs, a massive shift to nuclear power – or blanketing America’s wild, scenic, desert, grassland, agricultural and coastal areas with hundreds of thousands of wind turbines and solar arrays – the only way I see to achieve these goals is via enormous reductions in industrial output, air and auto transportation, food production, internet server use, heating and air conditioning, and living standards. (Right now, the United States is 85% dependent on hydrocarbon energy, and twenty states get 60-98% of their electricity from coal. The repercussions of cutting off access to that energy – or pricing it out of reach of poor families, small businesses and manufacturers – would be intolerable and immoral. And let’s not forget that every wind and solar “farm” needs CO2-producing natural gas-fired generators for backup.)

Perhaps millions of Americans would be willing to go part way along this route if Al Gore, James Hansen, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, John and Teresa Kerry, Henry Waxman, Nick Rahall and every warming alarmist environmental group would lead the way – beginning right now – by slashing their (private) jet travel, limousines, mansions, 78-degree White House offices, Bali and Bonn excursions, and big-carbon-footprint eco-lobbying offices. And perhaps millions of Africans would be content to continue living in poverty and deprivation – when elite eco-activists move into their own electricity-free, disease-ridden huts. But until then, I don’t foresee a citizens’ stampede to the lifestyles of 50 to 110 years ago.

As my grandmother always told me, “The only good thing about the ‘good old days’ is that they’re gone.” She grew up doing backbreaking labor on a Wisconsin farmstead, and didn’t have running water, indoor bathrooms or electricity until after she was married. I think her perspective is much more valuable than that of the climate alarm activists just mentioned.

Somehow I don’t see any of them adopting the lifestyle of the deprived and unfamous. They have no business imposing it on anyone else, especially by telling impoverished Africans (et cetera) that they must continue living “indigenous” lifestyles, to save the planet.

This is where the hysteria about “runaway global warming” and “catastrophic sea level rise” has taken us.

Before we head any further down this path, we (and our putative leaders) need to take a long, cold, honest look at scientific, energy and economic realities … our planet’s history of climate change … the absence of global warming over the past decade, even as CO2 levels continued to climb … the views and findings of 700-plus climate scientists who do not agree with the IPCC Summaries for Policy Makers … the enormous adverse impacts associated with biofuels … the speculative worst-case scenarios conjured up by abjectly unreliable computer models … the allegations, headlines and special effects that substitute for actual evidence in many circles … and the unwillingness of too many climate alarmists to engage in debate or even valid peer review with climate realists and skeptics.

Only then will we have anything remotely approaching ethical, responsible, reality-based policies on energy, economic, health, living standards and developmental issues that right now are governed far too much by an unsupported assumption that catastrophic, anthropogenic, CO2-driven global warming threatens our planet.


An email from Prof. Cliff Ollier [], School of Earth and Geographical Sciences, University of Western Australia

ELECTRIC POWER is used for different purposes at different times, and we have to distinguish between average load and peak demand. Sometimes the peak demand occurs in winter evenings (heating loads) and sometimes in the middle of summer (air-conditioning loads).

The Capacity factor is used to compare the relative merits of different types of power supply. It is the ratio of the average load to the peak demand.


There are basically three types of generating plant:

a) Base load that operates ~90% of the time generating efficient low-cost electricity. Coal and nuclear plants are prime examples.

b) Mid-range plants that are often shut down in the early hours of morning and generate maximum power during the day and during peak demand periods. Hydropower and gas-fired stations, are examples.

c) Peak load stations that operate for between 1% and 20% of the time during peak demand periods. Gas turbines, hydropower stations and pumped storage hydropower are examples.

All these plants can be relied upon to operate when needed - unless they break down or fail to start, which can also happen in alternative energy production. Most conventional power systems have a capacity factor of between 50% and 70%.


The currently popular renewable energy technologies add to the problems of operating a power system because they are unpredictable and their output changes rapidly.

Wind power. A change in the output of 50% in a few minutes is not unusual. Attempts to predict the output of wind farms more than an hour ahead have not been successful. Capacity factors vary from 18% to 37%. Wind power costs about US$2200 per KW. This transfers to a cost of 8 -10c /kWh.

Solar power. The output varies predictably every day and unpredictably every time a cloud passes over the sun. A cloud can drop the output by as much as 60%. The capacity factor is around 20%. The capital cost is in excess of $5000 per KW. This transfers to a cost of around 40 c/kWh.

Marine power. Suggestions for using marine power come in many forms but all are very expensive to build, more or less unpredictable, and in most reliability is likely to be low. Operation and maintenance costs are unknown but likely to be very high. The much-touted Pelamis wave power generator project off the coast of Portugal has been abandoned because of financing and technical problems. In the UK the Severn Barrier project to use tidal forces is on hold. It would be the most expensive alternative energy project, and makes a barrier to shipping and fish migration. The tides are reliable, but occur at a different time every day.

None of these renewable energy technologies would exist without grants and massive subsidies.


Two further considerations are essential in power supply, though they are almost always ignored.

Frequency keeping . Power systems have a need for frequency keeping because the amount of electricity generated must always match the demand exactly. Generating plant must be available that can increase or decrease its output very rapidly to avoid system collapse. This is necessary if there is a sudden large change in load -- the beginning and end of a popular TV programme is a classic example. Frequency keeping stations are designed to cope with these fluctuations.

Energy storage. Renewable energy like wind or solar is not produced when needed, so storage is needed, and this is expensive. All the promoters of renewable energy ignore the need for storage.

What is needed is a large-scale, efficient, low-cost technology that can store huge amounts of electrical energy for weeks or months. No suitable technology exists or has even been contemplated. Hydro-pumped storage is the best we have. It is expensive - at least $1500 /kW – and requires two very large storage lakes not far from each other and with one lake something like 700 m higher than the other. The losses are 25%. The cost, the losses, and the difficulty of finding a suitable site are insuperable barriers to large-scale adoption of hydro-pumped storage.

So people who tell us that it is possible to run modern power systems from wind power, solar power and marine energy are not telling the truth.


The world’s wealthiest nations failed to offer more ambitious carbon-dioxide cuts, stalling United Nations climate talks as developing countries called for funding help and technology to combat global warming.

“Progress has been very slow in Bonn,” Amjad Abdulla, director-general of the Maldives Environment Ministry, said today as 10 days of UN climate talks wrapped up. “Developed countries have been very reluctant to put numbers on the table” for emissions cuts and financial aid to poorer nations.

Delegates from 175 countries in Bonn were working to reach an agreement on a new climate treaty in Copenhagen in December. With two more meetings already scheduled before then, negotiators agreed to add sessions in August and October to enable both sides to work out their differences.

Countries are divided over the scale of emissions cuts necessary to avert dangerous effects of warming temperatures, and the Maldives was among 43 low-lying nations demanding that the U.S., Japan and other wealthier countries slash emissions at least 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

“The industrialized countries have not yet shown the necessary leadership,” Danish Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard said. “Not leadership when it comes to reduction commitments. Not leadership when it comes to finance.” …

“Numbers are still a significant distance from that range so more ambitious targets are needed from industrialized countries,” UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said today.

The other issue that developing countries want to see progress on is how wealthier nations will help them to develop clean technology and adapt to the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and decreased rainfall.

“The progress achieved so far has been disappointing,” India’s Saran told reporters. “There is still no clarity over the scale of financial and technological resources that would be available to developing countries.”

In order to give negotiators more time to iron out differences, delegates this week agreed to hold additional talks from Aug. 10-14 in Bonn and from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4 at a location yet to be decided. That’s on top of already-scheduled meetings in Bonn in June and in Bangkok for late September.

A final debate concerns how to draw together the two negotiating forums in Copenhagen. Dovland and his counterpart Michael Zammit Cutajar, who chairs the wider group that includes the U.S., both said they intend to produce negotiating texts by the next meeting in June.

It’s even possible Copenhagen won’t result in a single treaty, Cutajar told reporters.



At the start of the United Nations climate talks here 12 days ago, the Obama administration’s chief climate negotiator, Todd Stern, received a round of rowdy applause. It was the first appearance of the new negotiating team at any global meeting.

But by Wednesday, as the meetings drew to a close, some delegates — and even some United Nations officials — were grumbling that the United States was not moving fast enough to take action on global warming.

On Wednesday, Mr. Stern’s team offered the first broad hints of a new international climate policy for the United States, noting that more details would be submitted in a proposal to the United Nations later this month. But even in its broadest brush strokes, the American proposal differs significantly from other plans to curb carbon dioxide emissions enacted by the United Nations and the European Union.

The Obama administration’s plan would require all countries, including developing nations like China and India, to curb greenhouse gas emissions, said Jonathan Pershing, the deputy special envoy for climate change, at a news conference. The plan’s main focus is on long-range goals — as distant as 2050 — for greenhouse gas reduction.

Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, initial emission-reduction targets for the developed nations that signed the agreement were set for 2012. And most other proposals to lower emissions, including the plan in use in the European Union, focus on 2020 as an initial target. Though he praised Europe’s efforts, Mr. Pershing said, “U.S. policy is something we’re developing at home, according to what we see as the science and political capacity.”

But many officials here were clearly impatient. “We are still waiting for the U.S. to put its position on the table,” said Michael Zammit-Cutajar, a top official of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “They have asked us to keep the door open, and it is,” he said.



Tinkering with Earth's climate to chill runaway global warming — a radical idea once dismissed out of hand — is being discussed by the White House as a potential emergency option, the president's new science adviser said Wednesday. That's because global warming is happening so rapidly, John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month.

The concept of using technology to purposely cool the climate is called geoengineering. One option raised by Holdren and proposed by a Nobel Prize-winning scientist includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays.

Using such an experimental measure is only being thought of as a last resort, Holdren said. "It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury ... of ruling any approach off the table."

His concern is that the United States and other nations won't slow global warming fast enough and that several "tipping points" could be fast approaching. Once such milestones are reached, such as complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, it increases chances of "really intolerable consequences," he said….

While the idea could strike some people as too risky, the Obama administration could get unusual support on the idea from groups that have often denied the harm of global warming in the past.

The conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute has its own geoengineering project, saying it could be "feasible and cost-effective." And Cato Institute scholar Jerry Taylor said Wednesday: "Very few people would rule out geoengineering on its face."

Holdren didn't spell out under what circumstances such extreme measures might ever be called for. And he emphasized they are not something to rely on. "It would be preferable by far," he said, "to solve this problem by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases."

Yet there is already significant opposition building to the House Democratic leaders' bill aimed at achieving President Barack Obama's goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.



There is no evidence that industrial wind power is likely to have a significant impact on carbon emissions. The European experience is instructive. Denmark, the world’s most wind-intensive nation, with more than 6,000 turbines generating 19% of its electricity, has yet to close a single fossil-fuel plant. It requires 50% more coal-generated electricity to cover wind power’s unpredictability, and pollution and carbon dioxide emissions have risen (by 36% in 2006 alone).

Flemming Nissen, the head of development at West Danish generating company ELSAM (one of Denmark’s largest energy utilities) tells us that “wind turbines do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” The German experience is no different. Der Spiegel reports that “Germany’s CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a single gram,” and additional coal- and gas-fired plants have been constructed to ensure reliable delivery.

Indeed, recent academic research shows that wind power may actually increase greenhouse gas emissions in some cases, depending on the carbon-intensity of back-up generation required because of its intermittent character. On the negative side of the environmental ledger are adverse impacts of industrial wind turbines on birdlife and other forms of wildlife, farm animals, wetlands and viewsheds.



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