Saturday, July 03, 2010
It's been known since the 18th century that solar changes and climate changes on earth are correlated. Two centuries ago, the astronomer William Herschel was reading Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations when he noticed that quoted grain prices fell when the number of sunspots rose. Gales of laughter ensued, but he was right. At solar maxima, when the sun was at its hottest and sunspots showed, temperature was warmer, grain grew faster and prices fell.
But since the climate changes were much larger than the solar changes, no causal mechanism was apparent and the correlation was therefore ignored by climate scientists. While feedback mechanisms were enthusiastically proposed to predict amplificatory effects of rising CO2 levels, any search for amplificatory mechanisms on solar change was sedulously ignored. In recent years, Svensmark has finally found one amplificatory mechanism but that may not be the end of the story -- JR.
In the early 1990's a paper by Christensen was published that showed a striking correlation between the length of the sun's sunspot cycle and the global average annual temperature, Fig 1. The shorter the cycle (short cycles are more intense) the higher was the earth's annual temperature. It seemed to indicate that the sun was the dominant influence on the earth's temperature variations.
It is certainly striking that since the later part of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century there has been a general increase in the Earth's global average temperature at the same time that the strength of the solar cycle was increasing in intensity as measured by the number of sunspots. In the last half of the 20th century four out of the five most intense solar cycles occurred (the second largest cycle was around 1780) including the strongest ever which was in the 1950's.
Christensen linked these two together in what appeared to be a pleasing way. However, a few years after the work was published others found flaws in the way the final four (out of 24) data points were plotted. In Christensen's paper the length of the solar cycle decreased between 1950 - 1990 with the last data point showing that the cycle length shortened at the same time that the recent global warming period started (post 1980). When this was corrected the concordance between the solar cycle length and the earth's rising temperature broke down as it became apparent that the length of the solar cycle showed no trend as the earth's temperature rose post-1980.
It was heralded as proof of the hypothesis that the recent, post-1980 warming spell could not be due to the sun. Whereas many argued that the sun was the dominant factor prior to this period, the rate of warming was recently too great to be accounted for without a human influence.
It is now clear that in the past decade or so our sun has been behaving differently from the way it did during the 20th century. The current sunspot minimum has gone on for far longer than was expected. It did begin to show signs of an upturn in activity earlier this year, but has since faltered again. Some have suggested that this is a sign of the start of a new Dalton-like minimum - a period of low solar activity that occurred about 1800.
Since the invention of the telescope and with it the ability to monitor the frequency of sunspots there has been two periods when sunspots were lacking. They are the Dalton Minima, which lasted about 20 years and the much longer Maunder Minimum of approx 1640 -1710. Both periods are coincident with cooler conditions on earth though we do not have a satisfactory explanation for how this occurs. Some believe that the Maunder Minimum can be explained by a combination of a reduction in solar radiation combined with volcanic effects, other are not so sure.
It is interesting to see that as time goes by more and more solar scientists are expressing the possibility that it might be the start of a period similar to the Maunder Minimum. Only time will tell.
The important point is that in previous periods of relatively low solar activity the solar cycle behaved differently than it did when solar activity was stronger.
In broad agreement with the Christensen relationship, during the Dalton Minimum the period of the solar cycle increased. The longest cycle ever recorded was during the Dalton period. Also as sunspot numbers declined at the start of the period the solar cycle became more symmetrical and cycle rise and fall times converged at about 6 years.
The last complete solar cycle, number 23 lasted 12.6 years (May 1996 - Dec 2008). Only four solar cycles have lasted longer than 12 years. Two of them, cycle 4 (1784 - 1798: 13.7 years) and cycle 5 (1798 - 1810: 12.6 years) occurred just before and during the Dalton Minimum.
What's more cycle 22 was unusually short (Sept 86 - May 1996: 9.7 years). There have been only two other solar cycles that have been shorter, Cycle 2 and cycle 3 which occurred immediately prior to the lengthy cycles of the Dalton Minimum.
Scrutinising the gradient of sunspot cycle rise and falls it is obvious that usually the cycle rise is more rapid than the fall. During the Dalton Minima however they became equal. Then they resumed their normal relationship only to move once more to equality around 1910 when there were a few relatively weaker sunspot cycles. It is possible that the same thing is happening again. If so this would imply an approx 100 year periodicity, though this is only am impression, as we only have reliable sunspot records since about 1750.
It is possible that changes in solar cycle lengths take place before periods of low solar activity, like the one we may be entering at present, and that might influence the later part of figure 1. If this is the case then the breakdown in the Christensen relationship post 1980 cannot be said with certainty to be due to the rise of human influences on the climate above solar ones.
Red Ink and Green Jobs
Citizens of the Golden State get nervous about carbon rationing plans made in flusher times
When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law mandating a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gases, California's economy was in a very different place. It was 2006. Unemployment was 4.5 percent. Thanks to inflated home values, residents felt rich. Today 12.5 percent of Californians are out of work, the government is in a budgetary meltdown, and a movement is brewing to stop those carbon cuts from kicking in.
The Global Warming Solutions Act, a.k.a. AB 32, seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a mix of policies, including a cap-and-trade carbon market, fuel efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, a requirement that 33 percent of the state's energy be produced from renewable sources, a low-carbon fuel standard for vehicles, and zoning changes to discourage automobile travel.
AB 32's proponents say it will create a plethora of new "green jobs." Cynthia Verdugo-Peralta, founder of VPC Energy and of Strategic Energy, Environmental & Transportation Alternatives, recently declared, "When it comes to job growth, there is substantial, irrefutable evidence that growing more efficient and greener will create jobs, not kill them." That, she explained, is "why I am heartened that CARB's new economic analysis reaffirms the benefits of implementing California's Global Warming Solutions Act."
Verdugo-Peralta was referring to a March report from the California Air Resources Board, the agency that will oversee carbon rationing. Its analysis finds that implementing emission cuts will increase the price of electricity by up to 20 percent, the price of natural gas by 13 percent to 76 percent, and the price of gasoline by 6 percent to 47 percent.
Though it uses the same data, a competing analysis by the global consulting firm Charles River Associates finds the costs of carbon rationing are likely to be higher. This is primarily because measures such as the requirement that 33 percent of California's electricity come from renewable sources will boost overall costs. By 2020, Charles River Associates estimates, the 2006 law will increase California's electricity prices by 11 percent to 32 percent, while gasoline and diesel prices will rise by 14 percent to 51 percent.
The CARB best-case analysis estimates that the new mandates and carbon market will increase employment slightly by 2020 and that per capita income will rise by about $30 per person, by 2020. In its worst-case scenario, incomes would be reduced by about $300 per capita.
By contrast, the Charles River analysis finds that implementing AB 32 will reduce incomes by $200 to $500 per person by 2020.
The cost differences between the two analyses arise largely from how they treat the mandates. The CARB report suggests that the higher energy prices will be completely offset by conservation and energy efficiency requirements embedded in the law because they will force Californians to reduce the amount of electricity and fuel they use. The Charles River study concludes that the costs of implementing those mandates more than outweigh their benefits.
With regard to "green jobs," the CARB's best-case analysis estimates that implementing AB 32 will add 10,000 jobs by 2020; its worst case projects 330,000 fewer jobs than there would otherwise have been. Just before the release of the new CARB report, the California Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) issued an analysis of the law's net impact on jobs in California. While it did not offer firm figures, the LAO analysis took into account increases in "green jobs" and job losses in other sectors, especially fossil fuel industries, and found that "the aggregate net jobs impact in the near term is likely to be negative." It added that "in a relative sense, however, [the law's] effect on jobs in both the near term and longer term will probably be modest in comparison to the overall size of the state's economy." Even under the best of circumstances, California's carbon rationing scheme will not produce enough "green jobs" to make a significant dent in the state's very high unemployment rate.
Surprisingly, the Golden State's green-economy boosters seem to agree. Consider the report issued in December 2009 by Next 10, an environmental think tank in San Francisco. The media widely quoted this upbeat claim from the report: "California green jobs increased by 36 percent from 1995-2008 while total jobs expanded only 13 percent. As the economy slowed between 2007-2008, total employment fell 1 percent, but green jobs continued to grow by 5 percent." A 36 percent increase sounds impressive. But when you look at the actual numbers, green jobs increased from 117,000 in 1995 to 159,000 in 2008 and currently constitute about 1 percent of California's total employment. A 5 percent increase in green employment amounts to about 8,000 jobs.
These numbers are trivial in the context of California's current economic troubles. Between January 2007 and January 2008, some 182,000 Californians lost their jobs. Currently, some 2.3 million Californians are looking for work. In a December interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Next 10 founder F. Noel Perry admitted, "Green tech is not a panacea. We believe green jobs are going to be a significant part of future jobs growth in California. But at the same time, we know they are a small proportion of the total jobs we have now."
Meanwhile, the AB 32 Implementation Group, a coalition of California businesses concerned about the law's effect on their competitiveness, commissioned a preliminary analysis of CARB's new study from the consulting group T2 and Associates. The consulting group is headed by Tom Tanton, a senior fellow at the libertarian Pacific Research Institute. The T2 analysis estimates that AB 32 will reduce California's gross state product by 2 percent (about $700 per person) and result in a net loss of about 485,000 jobs by 2020.
The AB 32 Implementation Group wants to put an initiative on California's November ballot that would delay the law's carbon rationing scheme until California's unemployment rate drops below 5.5 percent. The measure was originally called the California Jobs Initiative, but state Attorney General Jerry Brown has given it a somewhat less catchy name: the "Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws Requiring Major Polluters to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions That Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops Below Specified Level for Full Year" Initiative. Supporters of carbon rationing point out that the initiative is backed by out-of-state oil companies.
The initiative probably will get on the ballot. Next 10 has released a poll that found a majority of Californians still support AB 32, especially if the funds collected through the cap-and-trade scheme are mostly rebated to state residents. Support has eroded a bit, falling from 83 percent in 2007 to 69 percent today; it remains to be seen how Californians will react once the campaign against the 2012 implementation of carbon rationing takes off. Already, the two leading Republican candidates for governor, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner, are urging a go-slow approach to implementing AB 32. If economically dispirited voters follow their lead, the prospects of Congress passing a similar national carbon rationing plan this year will be bleak.
China ignores the nonsense
China will build 20 large coal mines each with capacity of 10 million to 40 million tons by 2015, reports Shanghai Securities, citing He Youguo, deputy director of the China Coal Industry Development Research Center.
According to He, the coal output of large mines with production capacities of more than 50 million tons will account for 65 percent of China's total coal output by 2015.
The mining industry will focus on open pit mines of 10 million tons during the 12th Five-Year Plan. The current total output of open pit mines is 250 million tons.
Shares of Henan Shenhuo Coal Industry and Electricity Power (000933) dropped 3.71 percent to close at 16.09 yuan today.
Britain's Labour government shafted Britain's huge finance industry with taxes and now the Tories are shafting Britain's huge tourist industry by making it hard for people to get to Britain
Is there any hope for Batty Britain? Those were the only two big industries that they were good at
In a bold if lonely environmental stand, Britain's coalition government has set out to curb the growth of what has been called "binge flying" by refusing to build new runways around London to accommodate more planes.
Citing the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, abruptly canceled longstanding plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport in May, just days after his election; he said he would also refuse to approve new runways at Gatwick and Stansted, London's second-string airports.
The government decided that enabling more flying was incompatible with Britain's oft-stated goal of curbing emissions. Britons have become accustomed to easy, frequent flying - jetting off to weekend homes in Spain and bachelor parties in Prague - as England has become a hub for low-cost airlines. The country's 2008 Climate Change Act requires it to reduce emissions by at least 34 percent by 2020 from levels reached in 1990.
"The emissions were a significant factor" in the decision to cancel the runway-building plans, Teresa Villiers, Britain's minister of state for transport, said in an interview. "The 220,000 or so flights that might well come with a third runway would make it difficult to meet the targets we'd set for ourselves." She said that local environmental concerns like noise and pollution around Heathrow also weighed into the decision.
Britain is bucking a global trend. Across North America, Asia and Europe, cities are building new runways or expanding terminals to handle projected growth in air travel and air freight in the hope of remaining competitive.
That growth in traffic has been damped but not halted by hard economic times, and in the current global recession, business concerns have generally prevailed over worries about climate change. In the United States, Chicago-O'Hare, Seattle-Tacoma and Washington-Dulles all opened new runways in 2008.
On Tuesday, Kennedy International Airport in New York reopened its Bay Runway - one of four, and the airport's longest - after a four-month, $376 million renovation that included the creation of two new taxiways to speed plane movements between runways and terminals.
Airport expansion plans have sometimes been modified or canceled because of concerns about noise or ground-level pollution. But Peder Jensen, a transportation specialist at the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, said that as far as he knew, Britain "is the only country that had made a conscious decision based on climate considerations."
Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports and a major connection point for destinations in Europe, South Asia and the Middle East, is already notorious for its flight delays and endless lines. It is the only airport of its size with just two runways; Paris-Charles de Gaulle has four and O'Hare has seven.
So even though the Conservative Party had been expressing growing reservations about the planned expansion since 2008, many businessmen were shocked when Mr. Cameron canceled the plan after coming to power in a coalition with Liberal Democrats.
"This is a new government that claimed to be business friendly, but their first move was to eliminate one of the best growth opportunities for London and the U.K. and British companies," said Steve Lott, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association. "We've run into a shortsighted political decision that will have terrible economic consequences." ....
The temptation to expand airports is great for cities in search of new business and tourism. Airports in Europe are now mostly run by private companies, and for them, the more traffic, the more profit.
Some critics say the British government's principled stand is pointless because airlines and travelers will respond not by forgoing air travel but by flying through a different airport. Instead of emissions being reduced, the critics say, they will simply be transferred to places like Barajas Airport in Madrid or Frankfurt International Airport, which have recently been expanded.
"My personal opinion is that the decision concerning Heathrow's third runway was highly politicized and outpaced the science of what that runway might or might not do in terms of emissions," said Christopher Oswald, a vice president of Airports Council International, an industry group. He suggested that a third runway might actually reduce emissions above Heathrow, because with less congestion, planes would spend less time idling on runways or circling in holding patterns.
EPA classifies milk as a pollutant
They say that the air we breathe out is a pollutant so why not?
Having watched the oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico, dairy farmer Frank Konkel has a hard time seeing how spilled milk can be labeled the same kind of environmental hazard.
But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is classifying milk as oil because it contains a percentage of animal fat, which is a non-petroleum oil.
The Hesperia farmer and others would be required to develop and implement spill prevention plans for milk storage tanks. The rules are set to take effect in November, though that date might be pushed back. "That could get expensive quickly," Konkel said. "We have a serious problem in the Gulf. Milk is a wholesome product that does not equate to spilling oil."
But last week environmentalists disagreed at a Senate committee hearing on a resolution from Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, calling for the EPA to rescind its ruling. "The federal Clean Water Act requirements were meant to protect the environment from petroleum-based oils, not milk," he said. "I think it is an example of federal government gone amuck."
But Gayle Miller, legislative director of Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, said agricultural pollution probably is the nation's most severe chronic problem when it comes to water pollution. "Milk is wholesome in a child's body. It is devastating in a waterway," Miller said. "The fact that it's biodegradable is irrelevant if people die as a result of cryptosporidium, beaches close for E. coli and fish are killed."
Miller said "big agriculture" is constantly trying to be exempted from environmental regulations at the state and federal level. She was disappointed to learn the EPA told The Press it "expects shortly to issue a notice to extend the date for milk storage tanks to comply with SPCC (Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure) regulations." Also, the International Dairy Foods Association said it has learned the EPA will exempt the industry from the rule.
But state lawmakers say they won't let up until that is official.... In May, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mount Clemens, introduced legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, that prohibits enforcement of the EPA's regulations on dairy and dairy product producers, processors, handlers and distributors.
"This is an example of where we have overreach by the department that defies common sense," said Matt Smego, legislative counsel for Michigan Farm Bureau.
Greenie Puritans want to ban fireworks
Apparently the "rockets' red glare" isn't "green" enough for some environmentalists. Fourth of July fireworks displays have been deemed "ecologically hazardous" by some eco-warriors, who are urging environmentally-conscious Americans to shun the tradition.
"Fireworks shows spray out a toxic concoction that rains down quietly into lakes, rivers and bays throughout the country," wrote the Mother Nature Network's Russell McLendon on June 30. "Many of the chemicals in fireworks are also persistent in the environment, meaning they stubbornly sit there instead of breaking down."
McLendon suggested avoiding fireworks and finding other ways to celebrate Independence Day. "The most eco-friendly alternative to fireworks is to forgo explosions altogether - go to a parade, go fishing, grill out, or help out," he wrote.
According to the writer, those stubborn traditionalists who insist on seeing "the sky festively illuminated" can always "try a laser light show" - which McLendon says is the eco-friendly - albeit, lame - way to celebrate the Fourth.
The Mother Nature Network is an environmental news service that covers "the broadest scope of environmental and social responsibility issues on the internet." It was founded in 2008 by Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell. Its advisory board includes former Weather Channel star Heidi Cullen and Barbara Pyle, the co-creator and producer of the eco-cartoon "Captain Planet and the Planeteers."
But while McLendon's Mother Nature article simply recommends that people opt out of fireworks celebrations, one environmental group in California is taking a more heavy-handed approach.
The Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation is suing the city of La Jolla, CA to stop its fireworks display, claiming that the Independence Day tradition is perilous to the area's sensitive maritime resources.
"The entire shoreline in La Jolla per the La Jolla community plan is a sensitive resource. It's highly protected," Marco Gonzalez, an attorney for the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, told News10. Gonzalez's group launched its suit against the city on June 25.
According to the organization's lawsuit, the city of La Jolla did not apply for a Coastal Development permit or comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, two steps the group says are legally necessary before the city can host a fireworks display.
The foundation also alleged that the ecological impacts of the Fourth of July show, including traffic and the pollutants from firework debris entering the region's coastal resources, have not been considered in an environmental review.
The environmental group's suit will be heard on Wednesday, but another organization called the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation says it is battling to keep the annual city fireworks show going forward. "The 4th of July celebrates our country's freedoms, and we intend to vigorously defend those freedoms here," said the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation on its website.
The Fireworks advocacy group insisted that the show will go on, in spite of the lawsuit. "The City of San Diego has issued us the necessary permits to continue the fireworks display and we intend to continue with the event," said the statement on the organization's website.
Fireworks displays are just the latest great American tradition to get caught in the cross-hairs of the environmental "green" movement, joining the long-despised hamburgers, SUVs, and indoor air conditioning.
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Posted by JR at 6:06 PM