Friday, May 15, 2009

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza

Sea rise from ice melt 'overestimated'

A bit of encroaching realism here. They admit that the main mass of the Antarctic ice will never melt but they have a new scare to make up for that. They think that over the next 500 years enough ice will melt to throw the earth's rotation out of balance! But it is all speculation which ignores the fact that Antarctic ice is if anything growing overall. There is no evidence since measurements began of Antarctice ice loss on anything like the scale projected. And as a prediction of what could happen in 500 years' time, it is pure hubris and imagination.

And the projections seem to rely on some very optimistic calculations. Melting of the seaborne ice will of course have no effect on sea-level and nor will that part of the inland ice that is based below sea-level, UNLESS the inland ice concerned has a huge overburden that is way above sea level. I don't doubt that it has some overburden but that much? The authors themselves seem to be very wobbly on that, discussing rises of between one meter and three. But it's all hypothetical anyway as there is no sign of the huge warming that would be required for any such effect.

It deserves a very old and cynical response: "If ifs and ans were pots and pans, there'd be no room for tinkers". I learnt that as a nursery rhyme when I was aged about 2 but I doubt that there are even many college graduates today who would understand it. Hint: In Middle English. "an" meant "if" -- also sometimes still encountered in the expression: "An I were you". Tinkers were people who fixed holes in pots and pans, still remembered in the verb "to tinker"

WHILE a collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet will have devastating impacts on global sea levels, a study has found the anticipated impact has been seriously overestimated. Using new measures of the ice sheet's geometry, British and Dutch researchers predict its collapse would cause sea levels to rise by 3.2m, rather than previous estimates of five to seven metres.

But the study published in the journal Science today, found that even a one metre rise in sea levels would be significant enough to weaken the Earth's gravity field in the southern hemisphere and affect the Earth's rotation.

That rotational shift would cause water to pile up in the northern oceans and could result in dramatic regional differences in sea levels, with the largest rise on the east and west coast of the United States.

"The pattern of sea level rise is independent of how fast or how much of the (Western Antarctic Ice Sheet) WAIS collapses," said lead author Jonathan Bamber of the University of Bristol in England. "Even if the WAIS contributed only a metre of sea level rise over many years, sea levels along North America's shorelines would still increase 25 per cent more than the global average."

Antarctica holds about nine times the volume of ice as Greenland and is considered a sleeping giant when it comes to sea levels. The western ice sheet is of particular concern because enormous sections sit in inland basins on bedrock that is entirely below sea level. Vast floating ice shelves currently limit ice loss to the ocean but scientists fear the sheet could collapse if the floating ice shelves break free.

The study authors based their predictions on the assumption that only ice on the downward sloping and inland-facing side of the basins would be lost, while ice grounded on bedrock that is above sea level or slopes upward would survive.

Researchers do not know how quickly the shelf would collapse. But if such a large amount of ice melted steadily over 500 years it would raise sea levels by about 6.5 millimetres per year. That's about twice the current rate due to all sources. "Though smaller than past predictions, the scale of the fully manifested instability is enormous," said Erik Ivins of the California Institute of Technology in an accompanying article.

"The total mass gained by the oceans ... would be roughly equal to the mass showered to Earth by the impact of about 2000 Halley-sized comets."

Further complicating the situation is the fact that Greenland seems to be losing as much or more ice than Antarctica, even though it doesn't have the same unstable configuration. "Greenland needs only half the mass loss rate of Antarctica to have an equivalent effect on polar motion due to its less polar position," he wrote.

Even "more ominous" are the current accelerations of ice flow into the Amundsen Sea Embayment in Antarctica, he wrote. "Should the ice sheet grounding line migrate farther inland, ice resting on bedrock well below sea level could become unstable."



Below is the journal article referred to above

Reassessment of the Potential Sea-Level Rise from a Collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

By Jonathan L. Bamber et al.


Theory has suggested that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be inherently unstable. Recent observations lend weight to this hypothesis. We reassess the potential contribution to eustatic and regional sea level from a rapid collapse of the ice sheet and find that previous assessments have substantially overestimated its likely primary contribution. We obtain a value for the global, eustatic sea-level rise contribution of about 3.3 meters, with important regional variations. The maximum increase is concentrated along the Pacific and Atlantic seaboard of the United States, where the value is about 25% greater than the global mean, even for the case of a partial collapse.

Science (2009), Vol. 324. no. 5929, pp. 901 - 903


Cold water ocean circulation doesn't work as expected

The familiar model of Atlantic ocean currents that shows a discrete "conveyor belt" of deep, cold water flowing southward from the Labrador Sea is probably all wet.

New research led by Duke University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution relied on an armada of sophisticated floats to show that much of this water, originating in the sea between Newfoundland and Greenland, is diverted generally eastward by the time it flows as far south as Massachusetts. From there it disburses to the depths in complex ways that are difficult to follow.

A 50-year-old model of ocean currents had shown this southbound subsurface flow of cold water forming a continuous loop with the familiar northbound flow of warm water on the surface, called the Gulf Stream.

"Everybody always thought this deep flow operated like a conveyor belt, but what we are saying is that concept doesn't hold anymore," said Duke oceanographer Susan Lozier. "So it's going to be more difficult to measure these climate change signals in the deep ocean."

And since cold Labrador seawater is thought to influence and perhaps moderate human-caused climate change, this finding may affect the work of global warming forecasters.



Japan's power firms paid a combined 100.1 billion yen, or $1 billion, for carbon credits in the year that ended on March 31, their annual earnings reports showed, giving investors a rare glimpse into how much utilities are spending to offset their own carbon emissions.

The sector is one of the biggest buyers of carbon credits from abroad and is expected to buy more as it struggles to meet its voluntarily set targets, which were based on a model in which its carbon-free nuclear plants run at 80 percent or more of their capacity -- well up from 60 percent now.

The inclusion of carbon credit figures in earnings statements, effective from 2008/2009, gives investors information that is otherwise largely hidden, on how each firm strikes a balance among burning relatively cheap coal, funneling money abroad through carbon credits and investing in costlier but cleaner alternatives at home.

Japan's No.1 utility, Tokyo Electric Power Co, and five others, spent a combined 75.6 billion yen on credits for redemptions in the past year as part of efforts to help Tokyo to meet its goals for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.



The political and international divide over green energy politics is growing. Not only are the prospects of over ambitious plans such as Koyoto II getting gloomier in the ongoing financial crisis, it is becoming increasingly clear that the green renewable energy issues could create problems of the same magnitude as our present oil-dependency. As the Atlantic reports in its May issue, the exploding demand for hybrid cars and windmills is likely to create a bottle neck in the supply of a commodity with the exotic name of neodymium.

Neodymium is a crucial material for build lightweight permanent magnets "that make the Prius motors zoom" and are needed for the generators of wind mills as well. In fact, the present production of neodymium would have to be doubled in order to make just a few million electric cars. The main pit for neodymium in the US, California's Mountain Pass, has recently been closed after a series of leaks released hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive waste into the environment. The dirty little secret of green cars and windmills is that the neodymium has to be yielded from rare-earth ore, which are regularly contaminated with radioactive thorium.

So much for the green ideologues and main stream media hypocrites who don't accept nuclear energy with zero CO2 emission as clean energy.


Rep. Barton: Even Democrats Divided on Climate Change

As if running a marathon isn’t taxing enough, runners now have to worry about whether their breathing would violate Obama administration pollution standards and close down the New York and Boston marathons, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas tells Newsmax.

The ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Barton says that under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency can impose limits on any source of pollution emitting more than 250 tons a year. The EPA technically should not consider an emission a pollutant unless it is listed as such by the act, he says. But the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, has said that since the Clean Air Act didn’t specifically exclude carbon dioxide, the EPA potentially could regulate it.

“The EPA could have just come out and said that for the following reasons carbon dioxide shouldn’t be regulated,” Barton says. “But what the Bush administration did was say we’re going to conduct a notice of proposed rule making. We’re going to go out and open a record, accept public comments, and then make a decision. Well they left, and the Obama administration came in, and they immediately said yeah, we think it should be regulated.”

Under Obama, the EPA has issued an endangerment finding saying that carbon dioxide is a hazard to public health. “Of course, they’ve not really given any explicit examples of that, because they can’t,” Barton says. “There’s never been anybody who’s been treated in an emergency room for CO2 poisoning. It doesn’t cause asthma; it doesn’t cause your eyes to water; it doesn’t cause cancer.”

Barton says the average healthy adult exhales between four-tenths of a ton and seven-tenths of a ton of CO2 a year. “So if you put 20,000 marathoners into a confined area, you could consider that a single source of pollution, and you could regulate it,” Barton says. “The key would be whether the EPA said that 20,000 people running the same route was one source or not.”

One indication that the EPA likely would consider 20,000 runners a single source of pollution is that the agency is trying to regulate waste-water runoff and emissions of drilling rigs in oil fields by attempting to define entire areas as a single source of pollution, Barton says. “So if you have 10 wells, they try to amalgamate those wells into one single source,” Barton says. “Now the courts have rejected that, but the EPA has attempted to do that.”

By the same token, the EPA could consider a truck stop on an interstate highway, a shopping mall, or an apartment complex a single source of unacceptable carbon dioxide emissions. “Those definitely emit over 250 tons of CO2 a year, and they could be regulated as point sources under the Clean Air Act under the EPA’s standards,” Barton says.

The EPA says carbon dioxide endangers the population because worldwide temperatures are going up, causing droughts, Barton says. While carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have gone from 250 parts per million to around 385 parts per million since the Industrial Revolution, and average global temperatures have increased, no one knows for sure whether man-made carbon dioxide emissions have anything to do with global warming, he says. “The United Nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most definitive statement is that there’s 90 percent consensus that man-made CO2 is a probable cause of global warming,” Barton says. “That’s pretty weak.”

Based on that conclusion and a projection that the atmosphere will increase in temperature by a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit by 2050, President Obama wants to levy a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, Barton says. “The Al Gores of the world say that the scientific debate’s all over,” Barton says, “Well, we never really had a scientific debate, number one. They jumped to a conclusion kind of ex post facto, and so now they’re in heat to put the U.S. economy in a straitjacket by putting these rigid caps and cap-and-trade controls on.”

Thankfully, Barton says, “The country’s waking up and fighting back a little bit, because somebody in Pennsylvania or Ohio says, ‘Well let me get this straight. If we put this CO2 cap-and-trade program into effect, I’m going to lose my job right now. And the temperature worldwide is not going to change enough in the next hundred years that it’ll even be measurable. I don’t think I like that.’”

To capture carbon dioxide from a coal-burning power plant now requires about 40 percent of the power of the plant, Barton notes. That raises the cost of generated electricity “somewhere between 50 percent and 100 percent.” Consumers would pay the higher cost, both in higher electric bills and in higher prices for almost every product that requires electricity to produce. “If you’re a manufacturing facility where energy cost is a big part of your costs —and in the steel industry and the aluminum industry and some of those industries, energy is 25 to 50 percent of their cost — you raise the costs 25 to 50 percent or 50 to 100 percent, you go out of business,” Barton says. “They just shut down, move to Mexico, move to India, move to China.”

Obama seems oblivious to the potential impact on the economy. “President Obama has never worked in a for-profit situation,” Baryon says. “His support groups have tended not to be the business groups that really create the jobs, and he has focused on listening to the environmental groups who really don’t care too much about the cost, and they’re interested in it purely from the possible negative effects on the environment. And they think whatever the cost, we need to act, and we need to act now. When he was a senator and when he was a candidate, he accepted that.”

The good news is that when Democrats on Barton’s committee met with Obama last week, Barton says, the president did not seem as ardent about passage of cap-and-trade legislation. “He made the statement that he wouldn’t oppose them moving a bill on climate change, which is pretty weak, because it’s a major part of his domestic agenda,” Barton observes. “If they can have a secret ballot, I bet 90 Democrats — maybe 100 — would vote against it,” Barton says. “There are 36 Democrats on the energy committee, and 18 of them are undecided. That tells you something.”

Still, environmental groups could bring in the big guns, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “So,” Barton says, “it’s yet to be seen how much pressure the more junior members of the committee in the caucus can withstand if Pelosi says, I want this done, and you’re going to do it.”


Ireland: Green energies give rise to 'eco-bling'

ATTEMPTS TO make buildings more energy-efficient by installing expensive “green technologies” have resulted in the rise of “eco-bling”, a symposium in Trinity College heard yesterday.

Academics and practitioners of sustainable energies said much money was being spent on micro-renewable energy systems when extra insulation and draught-proofing would be more effective.

The symposium heard some expensive technologies such as photo-voltaic cells, which take energy from sunshine, can take up to 50 years to pay for themselves in saved energy costs. However, photo-voltaic cells often have a useful life of just 20 years, making them effectively “eco-bling”.

Howard Liddell of Gaia Architects, which has been working on eco-design in Scotland and Norway since 1984, said heat pumps, photo-voltaic cells, solar panels, even in some instances wind turbines, were types of renewable energies which frequently did not stand up to “crunching the numbers”.

In his lecture, “Nega Watts – the antidote to Eco-bling” Mr Liddell said preventing heat loss was by definition among the best ways to achieve energy efficiency. He said he had never seen a heat pump in operation which offered a return as good as three units of energy output for each unit which went in, yet these were regularly advertised as “four units of output for one unit in”.

Photo-voltaic cells which make energy from sunshine offered a 50-year payback, but all too often have a 20-year useful life.

He was critical of new housing schemes which advertised “10 percent of energy from renewables” when research showed clearly the best way to achieve energy efficiency was simply to reduce waste.

The optimum measure was “super insulation”, making a house air-tight, “instead of heating the sky”. However, he asked, “How do you make insulation and air-tightness sound as sexy as 10 per cent from renewables?”

He said “green” buildings with micro-renewable energies tended to be lived in by environmentalists, and cost more to build. Super-insulated buildings with only air tightness and passive solar gain tended to be lived in by “ordinary people” and did not cost more to build.

In his address, “Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air” Prof David MacKay of the department of physics at Cambridge University, England, asked whether renewable energy has the capacity to meet society’s demands. He concluded that Britain, as an example, could survive on renewable energies alone – but only with massive societal changes and most of its land mass utilised by biofuel crops, alongside tidal, wind and wave energy farms.



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1 comment:

Spurwing Plover said...

Don(Oabama)quoety and Sancho(Gore)Panza freezing their toes off and their mounts are shivering from the cold