Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Super Pesky! New CO2 research

New data show that the balance between the airborne and the absorbed fraction of carbon dioxide has stayed approximately constant since 1850, despite emissions of carbon dioxide having risen from about 2 billion tons a year in 1850 to 35 billion tons a year now.

This suggests that terrestrial ecosystems and the oceans have a much greater capacity to absorb CO2 than had been previously expected.

The results run contrary to a significant body of recent research which expects that the capacity of terrestrial ecosystems and the oceans to absorb CO2 should start to diminish as CO2 emissions increase, letting greenhouse gas levels skyrocket. Dr Wolfgang Knorr at the University of Bristol found that in fact the trend in the airborne fraction since 1850 has only been 0.7 ± 1.4% per decade, which is essentially zero.

The strength of the new study, published online in Geophysical Research Letters, is that it rests solely on measurements and statistical data, including historical records extracted from Antarctic ice, and does not rely on computations with complex climate models.

This work is extremely important for climate change policy, because emission targets to be negotiated at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen early next month have been based on projections that have a carbon free sink of already factored in. Some researchers have cautioned against this approach, pointing at evidence that suggests the sink has already started to decrease.

So is this good news for climate negotiations in Copenhagen? “Not necessarily”, says Knorr. “Like all studies of this kind, there are uncertainties in the data, so rather than relying on Nature to provide a free service, soaking up our waste carbon, we need to ascertain why the proportion being absorbed has not changed”.

Another result of the study is that emissions from deforestation might have been overestimated by between 18 and 75 per cent. This would agree with results published last week in Nature Geoscience by a team led by Guido van der Werf from VU University Amsterdam. They re-visited deforestation data and concluded that emissions have been overestimated by at least a factor of two.


The paper: "Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing?" by Wolfgang Knorr. Geophysical Research Letters, VOL. 36, L21710, doi:10.1029/2009GL040613, 2009.

Airborne Fraction of Human CO2 Emissions Constant over Time

Another comment below on the findings above, noting that Joe Romm's empty assertions have been demolished again. I have just realized that I have the same initials as Joe Romm. How grievious! -- JR

A couple of months back, there was a discussion taking place over at Joe Romm’s ClimateProgress blog concerning a report that the earth’s ability to take-up atmospheric carbon dioxide was declining. A declining CO2 sink, of course, meant that things climatological were going to be even worse than expected, because a growing proportion of anthropogenic CO2 emissions were going to remain in the atmosphere, thus pushing the rise of CO2 concentrations and the degree of climate change higher.

At the time, an alert reader pointed out to Joe Romm that there was in fact, no indication from data and observations that a larger percentage of human CO2 emissions were ending up in the atmosphere. In fact, the data showed that the fraction of CO2 emitted into the atmospheric by human activities has remained constant for the past 40 years.

This fact runs directly counter to the idea that the earth’s natural CO2 sinks are weakening—instead it indicates that natural sinks have been expanding as anthropogenic CO2 emissions have increased. After all, in order to keep the airborne fraction of CO2 emissions constant over time, increasing anthropogenic CO2 emissions must be countered by an increasing CO2 sink.

Joe Romm was a bit dismissive (to say the least) of this line of argument. Here was one such exchange (Comment 13 of this thread):
Comment 13. Chip Knappenberger says: Mr. Romm,

I am not sure how you justify this statement:

“At the same time that CO2 emissions are soaring, CO2 sinks are saturating.”

Take your numbers for the rate of CO2 increase each year and divide them by the numbers for the annual global CO2 emissions each year (available from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, ftp/ ndp030/ global.1751_2005.ems) and see what you get.

Hint: the ppm/emissions ratio shows no trend at all which means that there is no decline in the CO2 sink—otherwise, this ratio would be increasing.

-Chip Knappenberger

[JR: It is Dr. Romm, Chip, and, hint, it is what the scientific literature says. Try reading it, some time. Start with the Global Carbon Project.]

Just in case JR (Dr. Romm) really is interested in what the latest scientific literature on the topic says, there is a new paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that directly examines this issue. The paper is by Wolfgang Knorr a senior researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at the U.K’s University of Bristol, and is aptly titled with the question “Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing?”

Dr. Knorr carefully analyzed the record of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and anthropogenic land-use changes for the past 150 years. Keeping in mind the various sources of potential errors inherent in these data, he developed several different possible solutions to fitting a trend to the airborne fraction of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. In all cases, he found no significant trend (at the 95% significance level) in airborne fraction since 1850. (Note: It is not that the total atmospheric burden of CO2 has not been increasing over time, but that of the total CO2 released into the atmosphere each year by human activities, about 45% remains in the atmosphere while the other 55% is taken up by various natural processes—and these percentages have not changed during the past 150 years)

The Abstract of the paper directly addresses Romm’s concerns, but, unfortunately, Knorr finds no support for Romm’s take on the issue:
Several recent studies have highlighted the possibility that the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems have started loosing part of their ability to sequester a large proportion of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions. This is an important claim, because so far only about 40% of those emissions have stayed in the atmosphere, which has prevented additional climate change. This study re-examines the available atmospheric CO2 and emissions data including their uncertainties. It is shown that with those uncertainties, the trend in the airborne fraction since 1850 has been 0.7 ± 1.4% per decade, i.e. close to and not significantly different from zero. The analysis further shows that the statistical model of a constant airborne fraction agrees best with the available data if emissions from land use change are scaled down to 82% or less of their original estimates. Despite the predictions of coupled climate-carbon cycle models, no trend in the airborne fraction can be found.

....Further, Knorr noted that we still have a good bit of work to do to completely understand why this is the case, especially if we want to be able to predict the future course of atmospheric CO2 concentrations (a necessity if we want to predict future climate change). Knorr concludes:
Given the importance of the [the anthropogenic CO2 airborne fraction] for the degree of future climate change, the question is how to best predict its future course. One pre-requisite is that we gain a thorough understand of why it has stayed approximately constant in the past, another that we improve our ability to detect if and when it changes. The most urgent need seems to exist for more accurate estimates of land use emissions. Another possible approach is to add more data through the combination of many detailed regional studies such as the ones by Schuster and Watson (2007) and Le Quéré et al. (2007), or using process based models combined with data assimilation approaches (Rayner et al., 2005). If process models are used, however, they need to be carefully constructed in order to answer the question of why the AF has remained constant and not shown more pronounced decadal-scale fluctuations or a stronger secular trend.

In other words, like we have repeated over and over, if the models can’t replicate the past (for the right reasons), they can’t be relied on for producing accurate future projections. And as things now stand, the earth is responding to anthropogenic CO2 emissions in a different (and perhaps better) manner than we thought that it would. Despite what Joe Romm would have you believe.

More HERE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)


By Reinhold Leinfelder (Leinfelder is a geoscientist. He is the director of Berlin's Natural History Museum and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Federal Government on Global Climate Change)

What the heads of Germany’s major Geo-Research Institutes presented at a conference in Berlin last week was reminiscent of the climate debate a decade ago. It seems as if we have made a big step backwards.

The conference "Climate and the Earth System - Answers and Questions from the Earth Sciences" yielded no answers, but raised even more questions as well as strong criticism of the political focus on the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Reinhard Hüttl, the director of the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) in Potsdam more or less accused climate researchers of being alarmist, but without offering clear evidence for it.

Many relationships within climate processes were not scientifically understood and natural factors should be much more considered, it was stressed at the conference, which was also supported by the Alfred Wegener Institute Foundation for Polar & Marine Research , Bremerhaven and the Senckenberg Society for Nature Research in Frankfurt/Main. The audience was presented with talks about plate tectonics, land elevations after the Ice Age, cosmic rays, and even the earth's magnetic field was considered as climate-relevant. Only: hardly anything was said about the relevant time scales and extent, and their relevance to current climate change.

The truism was repeatedly emphasized that CO2 is not the most important greenhouse gas - it is water vapour - or that current climate models fail to reproduce the global warming of 50 million years ago. The reason is that computer models underestimate the enormous heat dynamics in times of global warming, which is, in fact, anything but a reassuring message. And, even more a truism was the message that the climate has always been changing. That is what every geologist learns in the first semester.

Not mentioned, however, was the essential fact: the CO2 emitted by us is now gathering in the atmosphere, unlike other greenhouse gases over thousands of years, where it now exceeds all historical values for at least a million years. Therefore, the CO2 increase in the main driver of the processes warming.

Our civilization, based on agriculture, the division of labour and a vulnerable infrastructure, relies on a stable climate. So far, we have been lucky: In the last 5000 years, the climate at a global (not regional) level has only varied by a few tenths of a degree per 100 years. Only the 20th Century, with its warming of 0.8 degrees, is an exception.

Planet Earth did not care three million years ago that the climate was about three degrees warmer and sea level was 25 to 35 feet higher. For our civilization today, a rise by just one meter rise would have negative consequences. The objective of limiting global warming to a maximum rise of two degrees by 2100, is, scientifically speaking, a very reasonable upper limit. It minimises the risk of large and uncontrollable climate change. Only such a limit of global warming makes the technologies that were strongly advocated at the conference for adapting to climate change meaningful.

To demand more research on climate change and technological countermeasures, such as flood control, reforestation, or carbon capture and storage are an old hat yet necessary. But if these misleading claims are used in the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit for the purpose of questioning the two-degree target and delaying science-based action now, it would be a disservice by geoscientists not only for themselves but for society as a whole .

SOURCE [transl. BJP]

India rejects Himalayan glacier panic

For the first time, the Indian government has challenged western research that says global warming has hastened the melting of Himalayan glaciers. On Monday, environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh released a paper saying there was no evidence of such a link.

V.K. Raina, a former deputy director general of the Geological Survey of India, wrote the paper, Himalayan Glaciers. "The health of Himalayan glaciers is poor," Ramesh said. "But according to the paper, the doomsday prediction of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore is also not correct. I want scientists to critique the report."

The government’s view goes against the IPCC’s claims that most Himalayan glaciers will vanish by 2035. "Our prediction [in 2007] was based on government data, and a peer review was done by all countries before our report was released," IPCC chief R.K. Pachauri said. "I disagree that there’s no evidence of impact of global warming, but agree there’s a need to do more research on Himalayan glaciers."

The IPCC’s forecast was based on Indian Space Research Organisation data that said 1,000 Himalayan glaciers had retreated by 16 per cent between 1962 and 2004.

Raina’s paper is based on previously classified information — going back more than 100 years — that was provided to researchers recently to generate a debate on the state of Himalayan glaciers. "Nothing abnormal is happening to Indian glaciers," said Raina. "They’re retreating because of negative mass balance. There’s no evidence of climate change." Mass balance is primarily determined by annual snow precipitation. Raina could not give reasons for the decrease in snowfall in the Himalayas. "It is for the weather departments to tell," he said.

Government bodies such as the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, have blamed climate change as one of the reasons for weather changes in the Himalayas. "Our studies of glaciers in Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim over 10 years have shown that temperature rise (caused by climate change) is a big reason for the melting of glaciers," said Delhi-based glaciologist Syed Iqbal Hasnain.

L.M.S. Pani, director, GB Pant Institute for Himalayan Environment and Development, Dehradun, said it was difficult to understand weather changes in the Himalayas when there was just one weather station (in J&K) for the 2,500-km-long range. The Himalayan range is said to have between 9,000 and 12,000 glaciers.


BritGov surrenders to reality

Ten nuclear stations to be built in bid to prevent energy shortage. But will they be ready in time?

Ten nuclear power stations are to be built in Britain at a cost of up to £50 billion as the Government tries to prevent the threat of regular power cuts by the middle of the coming decade. The nuclear industry welcomed the plans, but critics said that ministers had acted too late to avoid an energy crunch caused by the closure of ageing coal-fired stations.

Although the sites were known to be in line for development, the announcement signals the Government’s increasing ambition for nuclear power. Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, intends that construction of the stations should be quick enough to help to meet Britain’s 2050 target of reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent while bolstering energy security as North Sea gas supplies decline.

The announcement comes after a radical shake-up in planning laws. Under powers awarded to the Government last month, local authorities have been stripped of the right of veto over new nuclear plants and other key energy projects. Decisions will instead be taken by the Infrastructure Planning Commission, which was created to slash the period required to secure consent for energy projects from seven years to one year.

Mr Miliband said: "The current planning system is a barrier to this shift. It serves neither the interests of energy security, the interests of the low-carbon transition, nor the interests of people living in areas where infrastructure may be built."

The reactors should meet at least a quarter of electricity demand by 2025. "New nuclear is right for energy security and climate change and will be good for jobs too," Mr Miliband said. "The threat of climate change means we need to make a transition from a system that relies heavily on high-carbon fossil fuels to a radically different system that includes nuclear, renewables and clean coal power."

None of the plants, which will cost at least £4 billion each, will be ready before 2017 — too late to replace eight coal-fired stations earmarked for closure by 2015.

Greg Clark, the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, branded Mr Miliband’s statement a "declaration of a national emergency for our energy security". He said: "Every one of the measures contained in this statement should have been brought forward ten years ago when they had the chance to secure the investments that are so desperately needed to keep the lights on, keep prices down and cut carbon emissions. Why did they leave it so late?"

Last month Ofgem, the energy regulator, warned that Britain may face blackouts within four years owing to a supply shortage.

Sam Laidlaw, the chief executive of Centrica, owner of British Gas, which is a partner with EDF, welcomed the changes. He said: "Britain has a power generation gap looming from 2015 onwards which will need to be filled by new low-carbon replacements, particularly nuclear, and speed of decision making is very important. The current planning system has been a significant barrier so moves to streamline the process are welcome."

Each new reactor will generate up to 1.6 gigawatt-hours — enough to power a city the size of Manchester — and should last for 60 years. The first is likely to be built by EDF Energy at Hinkley Point, Somerset, and should come into service by the end of 2017. New reactors at Sizewell, Suffolk, Wylfa, Anglesey, and Oldbury, Gloucestershire, are also likely to be among the first wave. Hartlepool, Co Durham, Bradwell, Essex, Heysham, Lancashire and three sites near Sellafield, West Cumbria, were also named. Ministers have ruled out construction of a new plant at Dungeness, Kent, citing the risk it faced from rising sea levels.

Mr Miliband indicated three greenfield sites that might be suitable later on, although he cautioned that there were "serious impediments" to all of them. They are Kingsnorth, Kent, and Owston Ferry and Druridge Bay, both in the North East.

About 13 per cent of Britain’s electricity was generated from nuclear power reactors last year and the Government wants to raise this to 25 per cent by 2025.

Ben Ayliffe, the head of Greenpeace’s nuclear campaign, rejected the plans. "Miliband can name as many sites as he likes for new nuclear power stations, but the fact remains that the figures simply don’t add up," he said. "Our lawyers will be examining this announcement very closely. You can’t justify building more nuclear power stations when there is no solution to radioactive waste and when international regulators are saying there are huge uncertainties surrounding the basic safety of new reactor designs," he said.

A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change confirmed last night that the Government was studying an exemption for electricity produced from nuclear reactors from the Climate Change Levy, a tax on energy use imposed on industrial companies. The levy, which was introduced in 2001, raises an estimated £1 billion per year for the Treasury.

Jeremy Nicholson, a spokesman for the Energy Intensive Users Group, an industry association that has lobbied for the tax break, estimated an exemption would be worth between £160 and £300 million per year to the nuclear power industry. Last week EDF told The Times that it was unclear if the plants would be built without fresh government support.


At last I've been singled out by the PM

By Andrew Bolt, writing from Australia

I HAD no idea I was a corrupt, reckless, arrogant, dangerous and gutless conspirator who'd rather put my children in danger than help the Prime Minister stop global warming. But so Kevin Rudd has told the nation, naming me as one of just four Australians who've joined a global cabal plotting to stop him from saving you.

Never have I heard such a mad speech from a prime minister as the one Rudd gave on Friday at the Lowy Institute, when he exposed an alleged "legion of climate change sceptics" who were "active across the world" and had "tentacles" deep in the Opposition. These "deniers", now a "major force", "simply do not care" that "the clock is ticking for the planet" since "the vested interests at work are simply too great". So "well resourced" were we "political cowards" that we were "prepared to destroy our children's future".

And four times Rudd singled out the four villains at the heart of this plot, as in: "Malcolm, Barnaby, Andrew and Janet - stop gambling with our future." From the left, that's Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull (actually a climate change dupe), Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, me and Australian columnist Janet Albrechtsen.

Has any past prime minister singled out just four people - two mere journalists - as part of a conspiracy to hurt the Australian way of life? It is grotesque, a misuse of Rudd's authority. But it also shows how fatally weak is Rudd's reason - or at least his reason for wanting to hit us with a colossal tax on our emissions that will shut power stations, throw thousands out of work and yet do nothing to lower the world's temperatures.

Rudd's speech also confirmed he had no answer to my challenge last week: to tell us how much he'll pay of the $7 billion a year the United Nations asks from us under the draft Copenhagen treaty he wants to sign next month.

Let me make a few things clear to Rudd. First, no one pays me a cent to be sceptical; in fact, my boss suggests I "give the planet the benefit of the doubt". Your claim that I argue from just a "vested interest" is a despicable lie.

Second, the real "vested interests" in this debate are behind the alarmists, not the sceptics, which is why your Government has just given a $90 million grant to a trial "green" energy plant whose shareholders include doom-preacher Tim Flannery - even though all three wells of the company's first geothermal plant have broken down.

Third, what threatens my children's future is not my scepticism but your mad plans to waste billions of dollars on a threat that seems not to exist.

Fourth, you deceive when you say "4000 scientists" wrote the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on which you base your claim man is heating the world to hell.

In fact, just 60 of those (actually fewer than 3000) scientists specifically endorsed that claim, and even they admitted they were just 90 per cent sure. Moreover, their finding has been rejected by petitions signed by thousands of other scientists.

Lastly, I'm in no conspiracy, and until a year ago fought almost alone here as a sceptic. The real "political cowards" are those of your own ministers who know your global warming plan is a hoax fix to a hoax scare, but dare not speak.

Now this, Prime Minister, is how to argue. By citing evidence. Checking predictions against reality. Your attempt to instead demonise me as a menace to even my own children proves nothing but that you have no facts to justify your megalomaniacal plan - and that you may be unworthy of your office.


Rudd's hysteria is certainly telling -- JR


For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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