Friday, May 13, 2011

Fifty days to save the world -- in 2009

Published Date: 20 October 2009

GORDON Brown has warned there are fewer than 50 days left for world leaders to set a course of action to save the planet from devastating climate change. The Prime Minister said there would be a global "catastrophe" if action to tackle climate change was not agreed at United Nations talks in Copenhagen in December. He also insisted "there is no plan B".

The conference will bring together environment ministers from 192 nations to try to reach an agreement on a deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Brown said the economic cost of failing to address global warming would be greater than the impact of the two world wars and the Great Depression. And he warned Britain could be hit by heatwaves, droughts and flooding if climate change was allowed to rise unchecked.

It is widely accepted that a global temperature rise of more than 2C will cause environmental chaos.

The Copenhagen summit, which begins in 49 days, on 7 December, is seen as the last chance for world leaders to agree how to tackle the crisis.


It must by now be more like 500 days from that prophecy and the world still seems OK

Crabs Love Warmer Water!

Decreasing crab populations indicate COOLING

Who would ever guess that in 2011, one of the most popular television shows in the world is about fishing for crabs in “the vast Bering Sea.” Deadliest Catch premiered on the Discovery Channel on April 12, 2005 and currently airs in over 150 countries. If you don’t know, the show portrays the real life events aboard fishing vessels in the Bering Sea during the fall Alaskan king crab and the winter Opilio crab fishing seasons. With so much interest in the show and so much concern about climate change in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, it was just a matter of time before we explored the world of crabs and climate change.

Our interest in this subject actually came about given a recent article in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. The article was produced by three scientists from Oregon; Stoner et al. acknowledge that “This study was conducted as part of the AKCRRAB Program (Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation, and Biology) funded by the NOAA Aquaculture Program and the Alaska Sea Grant College Program.” They note in their introduction that “Red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) (RKC) was the most economically valuable crustacean fishery in Alaska from the late 1960s, until the population collapse in the early 1980s. Both over-harvest and unfavorable environmental conditions probably contributed to low fishery recruitment. Various fishing closures have been imposed in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea for more than two decades, but the stocks have not recovered substantially.”

Regarding any link to climate change, Stoner et al. state “Temperature is a dominant environmental factor that mediates the behavior, physiology, growth, survival, distribution, and recruitment of ectothermic animals living in temperate and high latitudes. Consequently, climate-driven changes in ocean conditions can cause significant fluctuations in the distribution and abundance of marine populations....

Fair enough! To test how the red king crabs respond to various water temperatures, Stoner et al. reared red king crabs for 60 days with water temperatures ranging from 1.5ºC to 12ºC. Some of the crabs were cultured in populations while others were grown in isolated cells. The key figure below tells much of the story – the red king crabs grow best in warm water … the warmer the better from their perspective! Not only are the growth rates in terms of size impressive at high temperatures, but the growth rates in terms of weight are just as impressive. Weights for red king crabs at 12ºC averaged nearly seven times more than the weights for the crabs reared at 1.5ºC.

Figure 1. Growth rates of red king crabs cultured in populations and individually (in cells) for 60 days at four experimental temperatures. Values are mean ± standard deviation for all of the surviving crab. Curves were fit to the data with two-parameter exponential functions (from Stoner et al., 2010).

In discussing their findings, Stoner et al. note “There is little doubt that variation in growth rate associated with temperature is related to differential rates of metabolism and food intake, as observed in other crustaceans. We have observed that the general activity of age-1 RKC doubles between 2° and 10 °C and that feeding rate increases 2.8 times.” The warmer they get the more they eat!

Surely something must come along and spoil this story? Consider the following concluding comments from the Stoner et al. team. They state “The significance of temperature-related growth and metabolism for RKC aquaculture is obvious. Exponential increase in growth rate with temperature means that crabs can be reared to release stage in a shorter time, reducing costs for facilities and labor. In this experiment there was no apparent disadvantage of high temperature in terms of crab survival; however, at some point above 12°C survival will decline as the crabs reach their upper range of physiological tolerance. Also, we predicted that cannibalism would increase with increasing temperature as indicated in at least one field study with Callinectes sapidus Rathbun 1896. Such a result was not observed in this study”. By the way, you know “Callinectes sapidus Rathbun 1896” as blue crabs.

More directly to the climate change issue, Stoner et al. conclude “Increases in water temperature associated with climate change have already been observed in Alaska, and it is clear that these changes will have direct effects on the growth and age-at-recruitment for RKC as well as other taxa. No apparent adverse effects of temperatures as high as 12 °C were observed on the growth and condition of juvenile RKC in this study, and accelerated growth might have a positive, indirect effect on survival. Depending upon temperature, the size of RKC juveniles could easily span <4 mm to >10 mm one year post-settlement. Larger size associated with high temperature could provide for earlier refuge in size from the typical fish and invertebrate predators on RKC.”

Once again, we find a situation where most would believe that warming would have a devastating effect on the red king crabs in “the vast Bering Sea.” But when a scientific experiment is conducted, we find evidence that the crabs love the warmer water. Having seen fishermen on Deadliest Catch nearly freezing to death show after show, a bit warmer water would probably go over pretty well with them as well!

Stoner, A.W., M.L. Ottmar, and L.A. Copeman. 2010. Temperature effects on the molting, growth, and lipid composition of newly-settled red king crab. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 393, 138–147.


The EPA ignores jobs in its rush to regulate

How important are jobs to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency? Not very, according to recent testimony from EPA Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. After Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., asked whether an EPA economic analysis of new coal ash regulations took into account potential job losses, Stanislaus replied: "Not directly, no." Gardner then followed up: "Is it standard procedure for an economic analysis to ignore the impact on jobs?" Stanislaus could only manage the following in return: "Well I can get back to you on the specific details of how we do economic analysis." It has been over three weeks since that exchange, yet Stanislaus has yet to answer Gardner's question satisfactorily.

The EPA should have been ready for this line of questioning. On Jan. 18, Obama issued Executive Order 13563, which directed the regulatory agencies to "protect pubic health, welfare, safety, and our environment, while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation." Is the EPA ignoring EO 13563?

Gardner is continuing to seek answers. Last week, he sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking for details on how the EPA analyzes the effects of new regulations on job creation. Gardner is also asking for a list of all past regulations that were put into effect without any economic analysis of their impact on job creation. Finally, Gardner questions whether the EPA is purposefully ignoring Executive Order 13563 by failing to conduct periodic reviews of existing regulations with an eye toward job creation.

Last Friday, the Department of Labor released the April Employment Summary showing the nation's unemployment rate had risen to 9 percent. Despite White House promises that, if enacted, the Obama $825 billion economic stimulus program would prevent unemployment from rising above 8 percent, April marked the 27th straight month that unemployment was above that mark.

At a time of economic stringency, Obama would be doing everything in his power to allow the private sector to create jobs. He says he is. In his weekly radio address last Saturday, he told Americans: "Not a day that goes by that I'm not focused on your jobs, your hopes and your dreams." But you can't focus on what you don't measure. How can the Obama administration claim to be promoting job creation when the EPA isn't even analyzing what effect its regulations will have on jobs?

Despite strong public and congressional opposition, Obama's EPA is moving forward with its plan to vastly and unilaterally expand its regulatory reach, using the pretense of fighting global warming. The regulations will touch every aspect of the U.S. economy. The EPA needs to answer Gardner's letter in full, and it needs to do so before the agency does any more damage to the economy.


Environmentalists Were For Fracking Before They Were Against It

The world’s projected natural gas supplies jumped 40 percent last year. How is such a thing possible? Until a decade ago, experts believed that it would be technically infeasible to exploit the potential resource base of natural gas locked in 48 shale basins in 32 countries around the world. Then horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, was perfected. The shale gas rush was on, and last year the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) issued an analysis revising its estimates of available natural gas dramatically upward.

The ability to produce clean burning natural gas from shale could transform the global energy economy. Right now we burn about 7 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas to generate about 24 percent of the electricity used in the United States. The U.S. burns a total of 23 tcf annually to heat homes and to supply industrial processes as well produce electricity. Burning coal produces about 45 percent of U.S. electricity.

A rough calculation suggests that 100 percent of coal-powered electricity generation could be replaced by burning an additional 14 tcf of natural gas, boosting overall consumption to 37 tcf per year. The EIA estimates total U.S. natural gas reserves at 2,543 tcf. This suggests that the U.S. has enough natural gas to last about 70 years if it entirely replaced the current level of coal-powered electricity generation.

Similarly, it would be notionally possible to replace the entire current U.S. gasoline consumption with about 17 tcf of natural gas per year. So replacing coal and gasoline immediately would require burning 54 tcf annually, implying a nearly 50 year supply of natural gas.

What about the greenhouse gas implications? The EIA estimates that the U.S. emitted 5.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2009 (the last year for which figures are available). Burning coal emitted 1.75 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Similarly, burning petroleum in the transportation sector emitted 1.7 billion metric tons of CO2, of which about two-thirds came from consuming gasoline. By comparison, the natural gas burned to generate electricity emitted 373 million metric tons of CO2. A rough calculation suggests that replacing coal and gasoline with natural gas would reduce overall U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by about 25 percent.

Given its greenhouse gas benefits, environmental activists initially welcomed shale gas. For example, in August 2009 prominent liberals Timothy Wirth and John Podesta, writing on behalf of the Energy Future Coalition, hailed shale gas as “a bridge fuel to a 21st-century energy economy that relies on efficiency, renewable sources, and low-carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas.” The same year, environmentalist Robert Kennedy, Jr., head of the Waterkeeper Alliance, declared in the Financial Times, “In the short term, natural gas is an obvious bridge fuel to the ‘new’ energy economy.”

That was then, but this is now. Practically en masse, the herd of independent minds that constitutes the environmentalist community has now collectively decided that natural gas is a “bridge to nowhere.” Why? In his excellent overview, The Shale Gas Shock [download], published last week by the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation, journalist Matt Ridley explains: “As it became apparent that shale gas was a competitive threat to renewable energy as well as to coal, the green movement has turned against shale.”

And indeed natural gas is cheaper than renewable sources of energy even if one includes the costs of carbon capture and sequestration. The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook for 2011 calculates the levelized costs of electric power generation for various fuel sources. Levelized costs include all capital, operating and maintenance, fuel, and transmission costs for building plants now that would switch on by 2016.

In cost terms, natural gas is the clear winner. Electricity produced using natural gas in a combined cycle generating plant comes in at $66 per megawatt-hour. If one includes carbon capture and sequestration, basically burying carbon dioxide underground, the cost rises to $89 per megawatt-hour. In contrast conventional coal costs $95 per megawatt-hour rising to $136 using carbon capture and sequestration.

How does natural gas compare with various carbon-free and renewable energy sources? Nuclear clocks in at $104 per Mwh, offshore wind at $243 per Mwh, photovoltaic at $211 per Mwh, solar thermal at $312 per Mwh, geothermal at $102 per Mwh, and biomass at $113 per Mwh. The only renewable sources that are close to competitive with natural gas are onshore wind at $97 per Mwh and hydroelectric at $86 per Mwh. With regard to transportation, the price of compressed natural gas currently hovers around the equivalent of $2 per gallon of gasoline.

Keep in mind that the above is just a thought experiment. Junking coal-fired plants and dramatically expanding natural gas production as well as the infrastructure to burn it to generate electricity and dispense it as transport fuel would be costly. Increased demand for natural gas would also tend to boost its price.

Since renewables come off so badly in comparison with natural gas and offer energy independence as well, once-enthusiastic activists evidently began to search for other reasons for opposing it. Ridley cites five claims: fracking fluids contain dangerous chemicals that might contaminate groundwater; wells allow gas to escape into aquifers; well waste water is contaminated with salt and radioactive elements that pollute streams; it uses too much freshwater; and drilling damages landscapes.

First, the shale that contains natural gas lies below thousands of feet of impermeable rock so that the fracking process itself will not contaminate drinking water aquifers that are generally only a few hundred feet below the surface at most. A 2010 Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection report “concluded that no groundwater pollution or disruption of underground sources of drinking water have been attributed to hydraulic fracturing of deep gas formations.”

On the other hand, the drilling companies did their industry no favors by keeping their proprietary fracking fluid formulas secret. The cloak-and-dagger approach alarmed the sorts of folks who are easily alarmed. But as Ridley points out, the fracking fluids are actually 99.9 percent water and sand. The small amounts of added chemicals reduce friction, fight microbes, and prevent scaling. In any case, many states are now requiring companies to reveal their formulas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue a report on the safety of fracking in 2012. In the meantime, the Obama administration appointed a new panel last week to look into fracking and make recommendations in 90 days on how to improve on the safety of the technique. It is unlikely that whatever new regulations that emanate from these bureaucracies will derail the shale gas industry.


Weak Warming of the Oceans 1955-2010 Implies Low Climate Sensitivity

by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Assuming that the Levitus record of global oceanic heat content increase is anywhere near accurate, what might it tell us about climate sensitivity; e.g., how much global warming we might expect from increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations? As we will see, the oceans have not warmed nearly as much as would be expected if the climate system really is as sensitive as the IPCC claims.

The following now-familiar plot of ocean heat content change for the surface – 700 meter depth layer is the result of a layer average temperature increase of about 0.17 deg. C over the 55 year record:

In the meantime, global average sea surface temperatures have reportedly increased at about 3.5 times this rate, about 0.6 deg. C, based upon the HadSST2 data.

As Bob Tisdale has pointed out, the above plot expressing heat content in terms of gazillions of Joules sounds dramatic (if you didn’t know, 1022 is 1 gazillion) — but the 0.2 deg. C warming upon which it is based?…maybe not so much.

Nevertheless, what is useful about the heat content data is that it is relatively easy to then calculate from the yearly changes in ocean heat content how much of an energy imbalance (energy flow rate into the ocean) is required to achieve such changes.

This ends up being an average of 0.2 Watts per sq. meter for the 55 year period 1955-2010…a calculation that Levitus also made. Here’s what the yearly energy imbalances look like which are required to cause the yearly changes in ocean heat content:

Note that with considerable smoothing of the data, we see a peak imbalance around 0.6 W m-2 during the maximum warming rate around the year 2000.

Now, by way of comparison, how much radiative forcing does James Hansen (GISS) estimate the climate system has undergone during the same period of time? The following plot shows the various forcings Hansen has assumed:

Let’s assume, for the sake of illustration, that Hansen is correct for all of these forcings. In that case, the average of the all-forcings curve over the period 1955-2010 is about 0.8 W m-2. Now let’s compare these 2 numbers for the period 1955-2010:

Average Radiative Forcing from CO2, aerosols, volcanoes: 0.8 W m-2
Average Radiative Imbalance from increasing ocean heat content: 0.2 W m-2

Assuming the ocean heat content data and Hansen’s forcing estimates are accurate, how could the average radiative forcing be 4 times the average radiative imbalance? The answer is FEEDBACK:

Radiative Imbalance = Forcing – Feedback

As the system GAINS energy (and warms) from forcing, it LOSES energy from feedbacks: e.g., changes in clouds, water vapor, and most importantly the extra loss of IR energy directly to space from warmer temperatures (which is usually not considered a feedback per se, but it is THE main climate stabilizing influence, and for purposes of discussion I will treat it as a “feedback”).

If there was no feedback (which would indicate a borderline unstable climate system), then the ocean heat content-inferred radiative imbalance (0.2 W m-2) would equal the forcing (0.8 W m-2), which it clearly doesn’t since there is a 4x difference.

Of course, some believe that CO2 forcings do not even exist (although I’m not one of them). Here I am simply trying to determine what might be concluded about climate sensitivity if we assume Hansen’s forcings and the OHC increases are correct. As we will see, the large difference between forcing (0.8) and radiative imbalance (0.2) implies an insensitive climate system. [ie. CO2 rises are not having much effect]

More HERE (See the original for links)

Australia: Greenie house of straw goes up in flames

IF THE story of the Three Little Pigs showed how vulnerable straw houses can be, the point was again illustrated in a recent case before the NSW Court of Appeal.

In 2007 Ian Reed was building a house near Orange, in the state's central west, using compressed straw bales for the external walls.

An owner-builder, he brought in tradespeople for more specialised jobs. One, a plumber, inadvertently set fire to the structure on January 12.

The court heard Bruce Warburton was soldering copper piping when his oxyacetylene torch ignited hand-packed straw behind a bathroom wall, burning down the building.

Mr Reed sued Mr Warburton in the District Court for negligence. After his claim was dismissed last year he appealed.

In the Court of Appeal, Justices John Basten and David Hodgson, and Acting Justice Kenneth Handley, overturned the earlier judgment, finding errors in the way the judge determined the issues in the case.

They ruled Mr Warburton was negligent, but only awarded Mr Reed $105,000 in damages - half the amount he sought - because he failed to tell the plumber about the hand-packed straw in the internal wall.

The court heard a straw bale had ignited when Mr Warburton was working in the kitchen, but was quickly extinguished with a bucket of water the men had on hand.

It was a different story when Mr Warburton worked on the bathroom, where Mr Reed had filled a gap in an internal wall with loose straw.

"It burnt back into the wall and roared,"' Mr Warburton told the District Court. "It just all ignited and flew straight up like a chimney."

Justice Basten said while Mr Warburton failed "to take reasonable care to avoid the risk of setting fire to the straw", there had been contributory negligence by Mr Reed.

Martin Urakawa, an architect with expertise in environmental design, said building with straw was part of a movement towards environmentally friendly building materials.

"People use it because they can build and shape it themselves and it's quick for them to put up," he said - but fire was, obviously "a drawback".



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, 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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