Friday, May 01, 2009

Homeostatic mechanisms help make the modern day climate stable, compared with the geologic past

An email from Steve Short [] starts with an argument that increased atmospheric CO2 leads to global COOLING and then goes on to ridicule the exaggerations currently being made about the significance of the small changes that are currently being observed

It just so happens that I am of the view that increased atmospheric CO2 leads to increased global photosynthetic biomass (both land-based and oceanic) which leads to increased production of biogenic aerosols which produces an increased global density of CCN (cloud condensation nuclei) which produces increased cloud cover which produces increased albedo. Been rather wet and/or very cold all over lately I notice.

We originally thought the planet had only a 'mere' 2.8 Gyr to have evolved this intricately biogenic system. Now the most recent studies on hematite formation from Western Australia suggest oxygenation of Earth's atmosphere commenced around 3.46 Gyr (Hoashi et al. Nature Geoscience, Vol. 2, 301 - 306, 2009).

Nevertheless, such trivialities don't stop the AGW orthodoxy attempting to argue there is something wholly unique about modern climate sensitivity to (just) the carbon cycle such that it is higher even than the last 'mere' 400 Myr (Goodwin et al. Nature Geoscience, Vol. 2, 145 - 149, 2009): "Our study suggests that the influence of changes to the carbon cycle on climate is stronger now than over much of the last 400 Myr and will remain strong in the near future....".

Strangely, the Goodwin et al (2009) study completely ignores the known profound consequences of (for example) opening of the Drake Passage about 41 Myr ago, inception of glacial/interglacial cycles about 2.5 Myr ago (and their effect on weathering rates) and (last but not least perhaps) massive human intervention in the global available nitrogen and phosphorus cycle, especially over the last few hundred years, on global photosynthetic biomass.

I get a sense of rising desperation in modern 'consensual' climate and earth sciences, emboldened as it was (is) by weak academic educations and post-modernist thinking, to be short on humility.

Solar Energy Meets Greenies and Big Labor

In practice, the real Greenie aim is for NO energy, not clean energy

It was a squirrel, a labor group and an environmental group along with California's tough environmental regulations, which helped kill a hybrid solar power plant project for a Mojave Desert city. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The City of Victorville prides itself on being a green city. They recently bought a number of hybrid vehicles for their city fleet. And they are located in the Mojave Desert which receives large amounts of sunshine every year.

When California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), signed legislation that requires a portion of additional electric power generation to be sustainable, the City proposed a hybrid solar electric power plant. The plant would combine a solar thermal powered system along with a natural gas fired system.

After much fanfare at the start, the project began to run into problems during the permitting phase. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) imposes a strict review process. The California Energy Commission (CEC) is the state agency that conducts the environmental review.

The first problem was the squirrel, or more specifically, the Mohave ground squirrel, which is considered to be threatened. While the squirrel has never been found at the project site, nor was there any evidence it had ever lived there, it could decide sometime in the future to live there. As a result, the California Department of Fish and Game decided that the squirrel required a mitigation ratio of 3:1. This means that 3 acres of the desert needs to be purchased and set aside for the squirrel for every acre of project site. This increased costs dramatically since there were few parcels available for set aside.

Next was the labor union group called CURE, which is an acronym for California Unions for Reliable Energy. CURE is supported by various construction unions. It has a history of fighting new projects in California unless the applicant agrees to use union labor for the project. In February 2008, the Sacramento Bee editorialized:
Labor unions are an even larger abuser of CEQA. In recent years, labor groups have used environmental lawsuits, or the threat of such suits, to stop or slow down power plant construction, hospital expansions and housing developments. The unions' lawyers always seem to disappear once a developer has signed an agreement to hire only union labor...

For several years, a group called California Unions for Reliable Energy has used CEQA to slow or block power plants, including a geothermal plant in Imperial County. As it happens, CURE employs a law firm founded by Tom Adams, the current president of the California League of Conservation Voters.

CURE petitioned the CEC to become an intervenor in the review process and it was granted. CURE then began to request a lengthy data request of 152 items about the project. For example, they inquired "whether the City would implement a noxious weed preventive program"

When the CEC finally ruled against the various objections that CURE raised, the labor group then filed suit against the local air quality district in Superior Court which eventually ruled against CURE.

Then the Natural Resources Defense Council gets involved. The City tried to purchase pollution credits from the Los Angeles air basin for the natural gas portion of the plant since there were not enough local credits for purchase. But the NRDC filed suit against the purchase and prevailed. The NRDC bills itself at "The Earth's Best Defense".

The delays and burdensome requirements were costly to the City. For a while they tried to sell the project, but there were no buyers. Finally, the City ran into cash flow problems and could not pay General Electric for the steam turbines for the plant. Right now, GE is seeking to find ways to recover its costs. A couple of weeks ago, GE terminated its contract with the City and demanded immediate payment. According to the Daily Press in Victorville:
Those terms allow GE to keep Victorville's $50 million deposit on the equipment, plus either demand a $108 million termination fee or take control of the Victorville 2 power plant.

The City has few options at this point, but the price tag GE demands could force the City into bankruptcy. It is possible that the project could still be built if GE decides take control over it, but the stiff environmental conditions would still have to be met. In addition to these woes, the City is under investigation by a grand jury for financial dealings and S&P has downgraded several City bonds to junk status.

This story about going green in California may be repeated elsewhere in the state under the burdensome California requirements. While Gov. Schwarzenegger restates his commitment to going green, the reality is that the State's regulatory climate discourages green energy.

The unions and the environmental groups purportedly support green projects, but they in fact, often oppose them for environmental reasons. And Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) recently expressed opposition to solar panels in the Mojave Desert which is ideally suited for solar power in the state.

The green energy projects were supposed to create jobs for California workers according to Schwarzenegger. However, while there were jobs created for this project, many of those jobs went to lawyers.

Without these green projects, California may eventually face more blackouts. If it happens, the blame will fall squarely on the green lobby which advocates out of both sides of their collective mouths. They say they want green energy, but they will not support green energy.

The Main Stream Media are also complicit since they have been silent about the Victorville fiasco and similar projects. The only news coverage is in the local newspaper and in trade journals.



Some "green jobs" may well be created but most of them will be in China

International wind-turbine maker Vestas has announced that it will lay off 1900 employees including 600 in the UK. The news was well received by markets, with Vestas raising £700m in a Danish share issue the next day and announcing investments in Chinese plants.

The job cuts will be a blow to the British government, which has recently announced plans to boost investment in UK offshore wind by tinkering with the Renewables Obligation Scheme. This would have the effect of raising electricity prices, and directing the extra revenue to offshore British windfarm projects.

Treasury estimates suggest that as much as £525m of new private investment might result: and the government is known to hope for many new British "green-collar" jobs to appear on the back of this. It's felt by the government that Blighty might surge to prosperity manufacturing green tech such as wind turbines, and selling them around the world for big payola.

Unfortunately Mr Engel makes it very clear that it's only worth making wind turbines using well-paid, highly regulated British workers for sale in the British market. (The same seems to be true of Danes.)

In other words it's a hell of a lot cheaper to make wind turbines in India or China, just like most manufactured goods (no surprise, wind turbines are quite simple equipment). So forget about a glorious future of British windmill makers winning orders from around the globe. The only place British factories can sell turbines is in Britain, it seems, and even this will require massive further subsidy.



“Predictions of global warming in the foreseeable future may not be justified." This opinion was expressed today in an interview with Professor Lev Karlin – the director of the St. Petersburg Hydro-Meteorological University, a regional hub of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The most widely held view among scientists is that the climate during the past 150 years had a tendency to gradually warm. Mathematical modelling suggests, some advocates claim, that inevitably there will be further warming of the planet. Even apocalyptic scenarios of planetary temperature rises by two to three degrees Celsius over the next few decades, with all the ensuing consequences for the environment, are not excluded.

However, an analysis of geophysical evidence leads some scientists to believe that all these factors have subsided during the last three or four years and that the global warming trend is on its way to reverse into gradual cooling. "There is every reason to assume that the projections of future warming may not be justified: in the next decade we are likely to return to the climatic norm of the 1970s", the director of the University of Hydrometeorology claims.

SOURCE [Google transl.]


A massive natural-gas discovery here in northern Louisiana heralds a big shift in the nation's energy landscape. After an era of declining production, the U.S. is now swimming in natural gas.

Even conservative estimates suggest the Louisiana discovery -- known as the Haynesville Shale, for the dense rock formation that contains the gas -- could hold some 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That's the equivalent of 33 billion barrels of oil, or 18 years' worth of current U.S. oil production. Some industry executives think the field could be several times that size.

"There's no dry hole here," says Joan Dunlap, vice president of Petrohawk Energy Corp., standing beside a drilling rig near a former Shreveport amusement park.

Huge new fields also have been found in Texas, Arkansas and Pennsylvania. One industry-backed study estimates the U.S. has more than 2,200 trillion cubic feet of gas waiting to be pumped, enough to satisfy nearly 100 years of current U.S. natural-gas demand.

The discoveries have spurred energy experts and policy makers to start looking to natural gas in their pursuit of a wide range of goals: easing the impact of energy-price spikes, reducing dependence on foreign oil, lowering "greenhouse gas" emissions and speeding the transition to renewable fuels.


The efficiency paradox

by Jeff Jacoby

ON EARTH DAY last week, Consumer Reports offered some recommendations to motorists looking for ways to make "greener automotive choices." At the top of its list: "drive a more fuel-efficient car or SUV."

Consumer Reports wasn't the only one making that suggestion.

In his Earth Day proclamation, President Obama advised Americans to "drive fuel-efficient cars" and stressed his own commitment "to increasing fuel economy standards" as part of a campaign to "reduce greenhouse gases" and "lessen our dependence on foreign oil." To underscore the point, US automakers were invited to exhibit fuel-efficient vehicles on the White House grounds.

The editors of National Geographic, fielding questions online, heard from one reader troubled by the fact that "transportation is our largest consumer of oil and thus our largest emitter of carbon." Editor Dennis Dimick replied that "buying and driving cars that get better fuel efficiency can only help" in cutting US fuel consumption, along with "driving less and using mass transit more."

At the Huffington Post website, prolific commenter Philip Taylor listed what he called "the equations of conservation," including this one: Autos [Get] 40-65 MPG = Oil Demand Goes Way Down = Oil Prices Go Down.

NASCAR announced that a Toyota Camry Hybrid would be the pace car for the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway next month. "I'd prefer a stock car, knowing how exciting it is to hear the engine roar," said driver Denny Hamlin, "but I think NASCAR drivers are embracing the green outlook of hybrids."


It seems intuitive: Increasing the fuel-efficiency of automobiles -- or anything else that runs on gas -- should lower the demand for oil. If one driver can cut his consumption of gasoline by switching to a higher-mileage vehicle, doesn't it stand to reason that getting millions of drivers to make the switch would sharply reduce the nation's appetite for oil?

It was with precisely that expectation that Congress enacted the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in 1975, following the Arab oil embargo. At the time, US oil imports amounted to a little more than one-third of consumption. Today we import two-thirds. After more than three decades of CAFE standards, intensified environmental awareness, and steady improvements in fuel efficiency and engine technology, America's demand for oil is greater than ever. In 1975, highway fuel consumption amounted to 109 billion gallons, according to the Federal Highway Administration. By 2006 it had climbed to 175 billion.

"It seems obvious that rising efficiency in cars, furnaces, and lawn mowers should, in the aggregate, significantly curb demand for energy," write Peter Huber and Mark Mills in The Bottomless Well, their perceptive 2005 book on the supply, demand, and pricing of energy. "Sad to say, however . . . efficiency doesn't lower demand, it raises it."

Why? Because improvements in fuel economy are tantamount to making fuel less expensive, and when costs fall, demand tends to rise. As driving has grown cheaper in recent decades, people have done more of it -- choosing to drive to work instead of taking the bus, for example, or buying a second car, or moving to a house requiring a longer commute, or sending the kids to college with cars of their own. Between 1983 and 2001, data from the Energy Information Administration show, the annual amount of driving by the average American household rose from 16,800 vehicle-miles to more than 23,000.

"Efficiency may curtail demand in the short term, for the specific task at hand," Huber and Mills acknowledge. "But its long-term impact is just the opposite. When steam-powered plants, jet turbines, car engines, light bulbs, electric motors, air conditioners, and computers were much less efficient than today, they also consumed much less energy. The more efficient they grew, the more of them we built, and the more we used them -- and the more energy they consumed over all."

This counterintuitive phenomenon -- greater efficiency leads to greater consumption -- is sometimes called the Jevons Paradox, after the 19th-century mathematician who first articulated it. In his 1865 book, The Coal Question, Jevons explained that more efficient use of coal would increase -- not decrease -- the demand for coal. "It is a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption," he wrote. "The very contrary is the truth."

Does this mean you shouldn't drive a more fuel-efficient automobile? Not at all: If you crave better mileage or you want to make an environmental statement or you think a hybrid can save you money, by all means get a more efficient car. Just don't expect to see fuel consumption decrease. New technology is often wondrous, but that's one miracle it can't perform.

SOURCE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

NASA: Clean air regulations a major cause of Arctic warming

I mentioned this on 12th March but below is the actual NASA article

Though greenhouse gases are invariably at the center of discussions about global climate change, new NASA research suggests that much of the atmospheric warming observed in the Arctic since 1976 may be due to changes in tiny airborne particles called aerosols. Emitted by natural and human sources, aerosols can directly influence climate by reflecting or absorbing the sun's radiation. The small particles also affect climate indirectly by seeding clouds and changing cloud properties, such as reflectivity.

A new study, led by climate scientist Drew Shindell of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, used a coupled ocean-atmosphere model to investigate how sensitive different regional climates are to changes in levels of carbon dioxide, ozone, and aerosols.

The researchers found that the mid and high latitudes are especially responsive to changes in the level of aerosols. Indeed, the model suggests aerosols likely account for 45 percent or more of the warming that has occurred in the Arctic during the last three decades. The results were published in the April issue of Nature Geoscience.

Though there are several varieties of aerosols, previous research has shown that two types -- sulfates and black carbon -- play an especially critical role in regulating climate change. Both are products of human activity.

Sulfates, which come primarily from the burning of coal and oil, scatter incoming solar radiation and have a net cooling effect on climate. Over the past three decades, the United States and European countries have passed a series of laws that have reduced sulfate emissions by 50 percent. While improving air quality and aiding public health, the result has been less atmospheric cooling from sulfates.

At the same time, black carbon emissions have steadily risen, largely because of increasing emissions from Asia. Black carbon -- small, soot-like particles produced by industrial processes and the combustion of diesel and biofuels -- absorb incoming solar radiation and have a strong warming influence on the atmosphere.

In the modeling experiment, Shindell and colleagues compiled detailed, quantitative information about the relative roles of various components of the climate system, such as solar variations, volcanic events, and changes in greenhouse gas levels. They then ran through various scenarios of how temperatures would change as the levels of ozone and aerosols -- including sulfates and black carbon -- varied in different regions of the world. Finally, they teased out the amount of warming that could be attributed to different climate variables. Aerosols loomed large.

The regions of Earth that showed the strongest responses to aerosols in the model are the same regions that have witnessed the greatest real-world temperature increases since 1976. The Arctic region has seen its surface air temperatures increase by 1.5 C (2.7 F) since the mid-1970s. In the Antarctic, where aerosols play less of a role, the surface air temperature has increased about 0.35 C (0.6 F).

That makes sense, Shindell explained, because of the Arctic's proximity to North America and Europe. The two highly industrialized regions have produced most of the world's aerosol emissions over the last century, and some of those aerosols drift northward and collect in the Arctic. Precipitation, which normally flushes aerosols out of the atmosphere, is minimal there, so the particles remain in the air longer and have a stronger impact than in other parts of the world.

Since decreasing amounts of sulfates and increasing amounts of black carbon both encourage warming, temperature increases can be especially rapid. The build-up of aerosols also triggers positive feedback cycles that further accelerate warming as snow and ice cover retreat.

In the Antarctic, in contrast, the impact of sulfates and black carbon is minimized because of the continent’s isolation from major population centers and the emissions they produce.

"There's a tendency to think of aerosols as small players, but they're not," said Shindell. "Right now, in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere and in the Arctic, the impact of aerosols is just as strong as that of the greenhouse gases."

The growing recognition that aerosols may play a larger climate role can have implications for policymakers. "We will have very little leverage over climate in the next couple of decades if we're just looking at carbon dioxide," Shindell said. "If we want to try to stop the Arctic summer sea ice from melting completely over the next few decades, we're much better off looking at aerosols and ozone."

Aerosols tend to be quite-short lived, residing in the atmosphere for just a few days or weeks. Greenhouses gases, by contrast, can persist for hundreds of years. Atmospheric chemists theorize that the climate system may be more responsive to changes in aerosol levels over the next few decades than to changes in greenhouse gas levels, which will have the more powerful effect in coming centuries.

"This is an important model study, raising lots of great questions that will need to be investigated with field research," said Loretta Mickley, an atmospheric chemist from Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. who was not directly involved in the research. Understanding how aerosols behave in the atmosphere is still very much a work-in-progress, she noted, and every model needs to be compared rigorously to real life observations. But the science behind Shindell’s results should be taken seriously.

"It appears that aerosols have quite a powerful effect on climate, but there's still a lot more that we need to sort out," said Shindell.

NASA’s upcoming Glory satellite is designed to enhance our current aerosol measurement capabilities to help scientists reduce uncertainties about aerosols by measuring the distribution and microphysical properties of the particles.



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