Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Week That Was (To August 28, 2010)

Excerpts from Ken Haapala, Executive Vice President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

What a difference 5 days can make:

For those concerned about the environmental impact of oil exploration and development, perhaps the biggest news are studies of the impact of the BP spill on the Gulf of Mexico. On August 19, the New York Times reported that a new study by the venerable Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, being published in Science, indicates that the earlier NOAA studies of the disappearance of the oil plume were far too optimistic. According to the Woods Hole study, the oil plume was not breaking down quickly and effects will remain indefinitely. This confirmed suspicions by other groups.

On August 24, the New York Times reported a new study by the Energy Biosciences Institute, a partnership led by the University of California Berkeley and the University of Illinois, stated that the oil plume is being depleted quickly by a previously undiscovered microorganism that appears closely related to Oceanospirillales.

Readers may recall that TWTW previously reported that the Gulf of Mexico is home to a great number of microorganisms that thrive in cold water (about 5°C) at oil seeps and that these microbes depend upon chemosynthesis rather than photosynthesis. The newly discovered microbe appears to be one such creature. Very importantly, it appears that the microbe is anaerobic - it does not consume oxygen. The oxygen levels are remaining high (59% inside the plume as compared with 67% outside the plume). Thus the feared dead zone from oxygen depletion is not occurring.

It should be noted that the Energy Biosciences Institute was created by a $500 Million, 10 year grant from BP for which Stephen Chu, now Secretary of Energy, was a grateful recipient. If the research holds, then this is another example that in science, it is the quality of the work, not the funding, that is important.


In what appears to be alarming news to the environmental industry, acting US Solicitor General Neal Katyal, representing the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal agency, filed a brief with the US Supreme Court requesting it throws out a decision by the 2nd Court of Appeals permitting lawsuits brought by the State of Connecticut and other northeast states against utilities using coal to generate electricity. The entire situation is logically bizarre.

The Attorney General for Connecticut, backed by environmental groups and other northeastern states, is claiming that public utilities using coal to generate electricity are public nuisances. According to the article in the New York Times, the environmental industry thought it had a deal with the Obama administration to allow the lawsuits to proceed as a means of forcing Congress to accept some form of cap-and-trade. Now the environmental industry feels betrayed. Has a bit of logic and reason hit the administration?


The hot summer weather over Russia, and elsewhere, has broken. But the chorus of alarmists, particularly politicians, blaming the unusual weather events on global warming continues. Of course, some of the politicians, including Rep. Markey and Hillary Clinton, claim these events demonstrate "climate change" which government regulations such as cap-and-tax will be able to control.

By contrast, meteorologists such as Joe D'Aleo and others write that the events, though not normal (average), are not unique or particularly exceptional - once again confirming the adage that to those ignorant of history, every event is unprecedented.


The National Science Foundation announced "powerful new computer software" by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) called the Community Earth System Model (CESM) that others can use to make regional climate projections. If the models were well tested and validated to discern the difference between natural cause of climate change and human induced changes, then it would be a valuable addition to our understanding of climate change. However, based upon the announcements it appears that the software will do little more than intensify the errors of the past. Expanding the detail of models that have not been validated does not expand knowledge.


SEPP Corrections and Amplifications: The August 14 TWTW discussed the largest iceberg to break off a Greenland glacier since 1962. Alarmists immediately took this to be a sign of global warming that would cause sea levels to rise by up to 23 feet. Alert readers immediately picked up that TWTW committed a typo and misstated the metric equivalent to 23 feet is about 3 meters, rather then the correct 7 meters. Admitted - 23 feet is approximately equal to 7 meters!

Other readers pointed out that none of the articles they read on the event mentioned that the larger break in 1962 came more than two decades into a global cooling period that, later, some alarmists claimed was the start of a new ice age. There you have it - global warming causes huge icebergs from Greenland and global cooling causes huge icebergs from Greenland.


With only 1.1% of US Electrical Power Generation coming from petroleum, there is little logical basis those who claim the nation needs to subsidize electricity from wind and solar to reduce its dependence on "foreign oil." This revelation leads to:

The Book of the Week: Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future by Robert Bryce.

An accomplished journalist, Bryce addresses the important issues of power in a style that should be readily understood by journalists, politicians, policy makers, and the reading public. According to Bryce, the grand schemes created by politicians, and others, to replace coal fired electrical generating plants with wind and solar demonstrate an educational weakness among the proponents - innumeracy, numerical illiteracy. Simply put, they do not grasp the scope of what they are demanding and the inability of solar and wind to meet the demand. Unless there are drastic breakthroughs in affordable, commercial scale storage of electricity, alternative energy mandates from governments promise only a bleak economic future for younger generations.

Brice identifies what he terms the "Four Imperatives" to evaluate energy sources: power density, energy density, cost, and scale. Power density is the amount of power that can be harnessed per unit; and energy density is amount of energy that can be contained in a given volume or mass. Bryce states the key concept is power density which can be described as energy flow, the ability to do work. Energy in itself is of little value unless it can be turned into power. Herein is the crucial weakness of solar and wind. These sources are not dispatchable, that is, one cannot state, with high confidence, that the necessary power will be available in, say, New York City at 5 pm on August 26, 2010 - yet, without it the city stops.

Using easily understood graphs and charts, Bryce establishes that replacing coal, and oil will be a long, difficult process. The proposed sources of wind and solar simply fail due to the enormous cost and the scale of the projects to generate the necessary power, which remains unreliable. Few appreciate the enormous quantities of land that wind turbines require and that every where they have been tried, they increase the cost of electricity rather than reduce it. Unfortunately, many journalists reporting on solar and wind confuse nameplate capacity (ideal potential) with power density - what is actually delivered.

Bryce demonstrates that the US is an energy giant with enormous resources of coal and natural gas. Private ventures in hydraulic fracturing of shale rock containing natural gas and horizontal drilling have made the US an energy giant in natural gas. [Today, in the eastern US where coal is more expensive than in the west, the cost of generating electricity from natural gas is roughly comparable to that of coal.] Yet, the advances in natural gas production are virtually ignored by alternative energy proponents in Washington, who seem to be stuck in the mania of the 1970's when the Federal Government banned the use of natural gas for generation of electricity.

In the view of Bryce, absent of government edicts, the 21st Century will see a slow transition from coal to natural gas and finally to nuclear as the basic suppliers of power for the nation. To support his hypothesis, Bryce discusses the work of Nakicenovic, Grubler, Ausubel, Marchetti, and others who have identified a mega trend of several centuries of decarbonization of fuels shifting from fuels with high ratios of carbon to hydrogen (wood) to those with low ratios carbon to hydrogen (natural gas) as consumers demand denser and cleaner fuels.


Surface Temperature Records: Policy Driven Deception?

Authors veteran meteorologists Joe D’Aleo and Anthony Watts analyzed temperature records from all around the world for a major SPPI paper, Surface Temperature Records – Policy-driven Deception?

The startling conclusion that we cannot tell whether there was any significant “global warming” at all in the 20th century is based on numerous astonishing examples of manipulation and exaggeration of the true level and rate of “global warming”.

That is to say, leading meteorological institutions in the USA and around the world have so systematically tampered with instrumental temperature data that it cannot be safely said that there has been any significant net “global warming” in the 20th century

Executive summary

1. Instrumental temperature data for the pre-satellite era (1850-1980) have been so widely, systematically, and uni-directionally tampered with that it cannot be credibly asserted there has been any significant “global warming” in the 20th century.

2. All terrestrial surface-temperature databases exhibit signs of urban heat pollution and post measurement adjustments that render them unreliable for determining accurate long-term temperature trends.

3. All of the problems have skewed the data so as greatly to overstate observed warming both regionally and globally.

4. Global terrestrial temperature data are compromised because more than three-quarters of the 6,000 stations that once reported are no longer being used in data trend analyses.

5. There has been a significant increase in the number of missing months with 40% of the GHCN stations reporting at least one missing month. This requires infilling which adds to the uncertainty and possible error.

6. Contamination by urbanization, changes in land use, improper siting, and inadequately-calibrated instrument upgrades further increases uncertainty.

7. Numerous peer-reviewed papers in recent years have shown the overstatement of observed longer term warming is 30-50% from heat-island and land use change contamination.

8. An increase in the percentage of compromised stations with interpolation to vacant data grids may make the warming bias greater than 50% of 20th-century warming.

9. In the oceans, data are missing and uncertainties are substantial. Changes in data sets introduced a step warming in 2009.

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

Southwest Drought?

As we have covered in previous essays, global warming alarmists insist that the southwestern United States is getting drier and will get substantially drier in the future due to the buildup of greenhouse gases. They bolster their claims by results from a relatively large number of articles in the professional scientific literature and countless comments in various UN IPCC reports. Throw in pictures of declining water levels at Lake Mead, some fountains in Las Vegas and golf courses in Phoenix, and just like magic, a scary scenario is produced.

As with virtually every other element of the climate change issue, the literature produces some surprises, and the drought in the Southwest claim runs up against some interesting realities. The latest article on this subject appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research and once again, the results are at odds with the popular perception of increased drought in the Southwest.

This recent work was produced by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Delaware and had to survive the peer-review process for this respected journal of the American Geophysical Union. The final two sentences reveal where this is going as McCabe et al. conclude “El Niño events have been more frequent, and this has resulted in increased precipitation in the southwestern United States, particularly during the cool season. The increased precipitation is associated with a decrease in the number of dry days and a decrease in dry event length.”

What? More rain and fewer dry periods? We knew right away this would be featured in World Climate Report.

The authors focused on the Southwest “because (1) it has the highest consumptive use of water as a percentage of renewable supply in the United States and (2) dry event conditions in this region during the early 21st century have increased awareness of its vulnerability to water shortages.” There is no doubt that a lot of people have chosen to live in the Southwest and there is no doubt the desert climate of the region is prone to drought. In many respects, and depending on how one defines drought, the area is permanently in a state of drought (Phoenix has 7” of rain a year, Las Vegas averages about half of that amount).

McCabe et al. gathered data from 22 Weather Bureau-Army-Navy (WBAN) stations in the region “for water years (October through September) 1951 through 2006”. They explain that “During this period, 22 sites have nearly complete (99% complete) daily precipitation data. WBAN stations were selected because of the completeness of data record and the relative consistency of observational procedures.” They conducted their analysis for water years (October through September), cool seasons (October through March), and warm seasons (April through September).

They report that “trends in the fraction of dry days for water years, cool seasons, and warm seasons indicate that most trends are negative [i.e. towards more wet days, -eds.]. For water years, 18 sites exhibit negative trends in the fraction of dry days, and eight of these trends are statistically significant at a 95% confidence level. In contrast, only four sites indicate positive trends in the fraction of dry days for water years, and none of these trends is statistically significant at p = 0.05. For the cool season, 19 sites exhibit negative trends (12 are statistically significant at p = 0.05), and only 3 sites indicate positive trends (none are statistically significant).”

In this desert environment, cool season rain is far more important than rain in the summer. Rain falling in the hot summer season quickly evaporates and plays a relatively small role in water storage in the region. Nonetheless, the authors note that “For the warm season, 14 sites exhibit negative trends (seven are statistically significant), and 8 sites exhibit positive trends (six are statistically significant).” ...

Furthermore, they conclude “Since the mid-1970s, El Niño events have been more frequent, and this has resulted in increased precipitation in the southwestern United States, particularly during the cool season. The increased precipitation is associated with a decrease in the number of dry days and a decrease in dry event length.”

As with so many other articles we feature, had this group found general trends toward drier conditions, you would have heard about it already. They clearly did not, and their results are counter to the claims that the region should be trending to increased drought.

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

My Holiday is Being Ruined by Global Cooling. Try Telling That to the 'Scientists'

From James Delingpole in Britain

I’m writing this in Salcombe, Devon on a rainy, miserable summer’s day which, I fear, may be all too symptomatic of the climatic rubbish we can all expect for the next 30 years as – thanks to changes in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation combined with a solar minimum – we enter a period of global cooling. Let’s hope I’m wrong, eh?

Well, among those who seems to be hoping just that is an amiable fellow called Sir Paul Nurse, the Nobel prize winning geneticist and president-to-be of the Royal Society, who came round to my house last week to film part of a BBC Horizon documentary on why it is that people are losing their faith in scientists.

I told him people aren’t losing their faith in “scientists”. Just the “scientists” who are behind the junk science being advanced in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s four increasingly tendentious and misleading assessment reports.

Over the next three hours, Sir Paul and I had a long, friendly, on-camera argument in which he tried to make a distinction between “skepticism” [good] and “denialism” [bad] – an entirely specious distinction, in my book – while I tried to focus on the details of the Climategate emails because it’s only on details that an arts graduate journalist is ever going to win a debate like this with a (feisty, bright, delightful but not a little combative) Nobel genetics laureate.

A trick I noticed Sir Paul trying to perform throughout our debate was to move away from specifics to the general. So, for example, he would keenly assert that “the majority” of the world’s scientists agreed with a thing called a “consensus” on man-made global warming, and whenever I got down to grimy and tedious detail suggestive of the contrary – eg Ben Santer’s outrageous rewriting of the Summary for Policy Makers in the Second Assessment Report, which seriously exaggerated the unanimity of scientific opinion on AGW – he’d either politely brush it off as if it were far too involved to be of much interest or he’d airily cite the three whitewash enquiries into Climategate as “proof” that the scientists had done nothing wrong.

Perhaps he was just playing devil’s advocate. The impression I got that Sir Paul is a thoroughly decent, very clever man who wants to be as open-minded as possible on the whole AGW debate. But the impression I also got is that, as you would entirely expect of a future president of the Royal Society (which for years has been one of the great cheerleaders for AGW theory, even to the point of writing an official letter to Exxon demanding that it cease funding “deniers”) is that Sir Paul’s view of what is reasonable and balanced has been heavily colored by that of the scientific Establishment. And, unfortunately, the scientific Establishment’s views on AGW are about as neutral and unbiased and reliable as, say, the BBC’s are about Israel. Or the European Union. Or, indeed, “Man Made Global Warming.”


Blowhard film director hearts ecoterrorism

James Cameron, king of the box office once more, is speaking out against critics of his film “Avatar.” It’s clear the director really should stay quiet.

The man behind “Aliens,” “Titanic” and now the blue-skinned creatures inhabiting his latest hit, tells Entertainment Weekly that he digs ecoterrorism. And no, that’s not taken out of context.

EW asked Cameron to respond to some of the criticisms aimed at “Avatar.” Check out how he responded to this one:

EW: “Avatar” is the perfect eco-terrorism recruiting tool.”

JC: Good, good. I like that one. I consider that a positive review. I believe in ecoterrorism.”

Is he joking (there’s no – laughs – insert included in the text)?

Would he like it if someone bombed a McDonald’s selling some of his “Avatar” goodies? Surely they’re clogging the planet’s ecosystem, right?Heck, some have accused the burger chain of treating its food source inhumanely, too.

Is a blue-skinned Na’vi toy biodegradable?

What if someone dies during an ecoterrorist attack? Or if people lose their jobs because of it?

Not all acts of eco-terrorism are created equal. Some are enhanced forms of civil disobedience. But surely someone as smart as Cameron knows not to endorse such tactics without a significant disclaimer.

So where is the follow up question? And has success turned Cameron’s mind to mush?


Australia: Vast area to be locked away from development in Queensland

The pretext is to protect farmland but there is no threat to farmland. It is just the usual Greenie hatred of development

MORE than 70,000sq km of Queensland could be subject to new legislation that would lock away areas from housing, mining and even forestry, according to business. Land from the NSW border to Cairns and west to central Queensland will be investigated under a plan aimed at identifying and protecting important cropping areas.

One industry source said the area under review was about as big as Ireland and "enough land to have its own flag and compete in the Olympics".

The State Government's draft policy includes restricting the controversial underground coal gasification on strategic cropping land, adding another hurdle for trials under way in Kingaroy and other food-producing parts of the state.

It would mean a paddock-by-paddock assessment that will delay resource development, cost millions and cause companies to question whether it is worthwhile, according to the Queensland Resources Council.

And the resources minister will be given "arbitrary" powers to grant approval to developments, even on important cropping land, raising concerns about the impact of vested interests.

Urban Development Institute Australia chief executive Brian Stewart said the policy could add to the cost of housing. "Uncertainty adds risk and risk adds to the cost," Mr Stewart said.

QRC chief executive Michael Roche said mining projects will need to be assessed to see whether they sit on the best of the best cropping land or not. "The maps put a question mark over projects, many of which have already spent tens of millions of dollars," he said.

A company at the centre of the issue, Ambre Energy, yesterday rejected suggestions its $3.5 billion coal-to-liquids project at Felton was not put in doubt by the new policy, but said an assessment would have to be made.

The Friends of Felton farming group said the policy was a step in the right direction. FOF president Rob McCreath said he hoped the policy meant the end to Ambre's scheme. "We can't see any way the development could possibly be allowed in the Felton Valley," he said.

He said the most crucial issue from the policy paper was that coal-seam gas mining would still be allowed on good cropping land and could potentially affect it by depleting water.



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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