Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hoerling To Hansen : Facts Do Matter …. To Some People

NOAA’s extreme weather expert, Martin Hoerling, slammed Hansen on Andy Revkin’s blog yesterday.
“Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.”

He doesnt define “several decades,” but a reasonable assumption is that he refers to a period from today through mid-century. I am unaware of any projection for “semi-permanent” drought in this time frame over the expansive region of the Central Great Plains. He implies the drought will be due to a lack of rain (except for the brief, and ineffective downpours). I am unaware of indications, from model projections, for a material decline in mean rainfall. Indeed, that region has seen a general increase in rainfall over the long term during most seasons (certainly no material decline). Also, for the warm season when evaporative loss is especially effective, the climate of the central Great Plains has not become materially warmer (perhaps even cooled) since 1900. In other words, climate conditions in the growing season of the Central Great Plains are today not materially different from those existing 100 years ago. This observational fact belies the expectations from climate simulations and, in truth, our science lacks a good explanation for this discrepancy.

The Hansen piece is policy more than it is science, to be sure, and one can read it for the former. But facts should, and do, matter to some. The vision of a Midwest Dustbowl is a scary one, and the author appears intent to instill fear rather than reason.

The article makes these additional assertions:

“The global warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather…”

This is patently false. Take temperature over the U.S. as an example. The variability of daily temperature over the U.S. is much larger than the anthropogenic warming signal at the time scales of local weather. Depending on season and location, the disparity is at least a factor of 5 to 10.

I think that a more scientifically justifiable statement, at least for the U.S. and extratropical land areas is that daily weather noise continues to drum out the siren call of climate change on local, weather scales.

Hansen goes on to assert that:

“Extremely hot summers have increased noticeably. We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events — they were caused by human-induced climate change.”

Published scientific studies on the Russian heat wave indicate this claim to be false. Our own study on the Texas heat wave and drought, submitted this week to the Journal of Climate, likewise shows that that event was not caused by human-induced climate change. These are not de novoevents, but upon scientific scrutiny, one finds both the Russian and Texas extreme events to be part of the physics of what has driven variability in those regions over the past century. This is not to say that climate change didn’t contribute to those cases, but their intensity owes to natural, not human, causes.

The closing comment by Hansen is then all the more ironic, though not surprising knowing he often writes from passion and not reason:

“The science of the situation is clear — it’s time for the politics to follow. ”

Let me borrow from a recent excellent piece in New Scientist by tornado expert Dr. Harold Brooks regarding the global warming and tornado debate, and state:

“Those who continue to talk in certain terms of how local weather extremes are the result of human climate change are failing to heed all the available evidence.”


Green power failure

Global-warming-related catastrophes are increasingly hitting vulnerable populations around the world, with one species in particular danger: the electricity ratepayer. In Canada, in the U.K., in Spain, in Denmark, in Germany and elsewhere the danger to ratepayers is especially great, but ratepayers in one country — the U.S. — seem to have weathered the worst of the disaster.

America’s secret? Unlike leaders in other countries, which to their countries’ ruin adopted policies as if global warming mattered, U.S. leaders more paid lip service to it. While citizens in other countries are now seeing soaring power rates, American householders can look forward to declining rates.

The North American exemplar of acting on the perceived threat of global warming is Ontario, which dismantled one of the continent’s finest fleets of coal plants in pursuit of becoming a green leader. Then, to induce developers to build uneconomic renewable energy facilities, the Ontario government paid them as much as 80 times the market rate for power. The result is power prices that rose rapidly (about 50% since 2005) and will continue to do so: Ontarians can expect power prices that are 46% higher over the next five years, according to a 2010 Ontario government estimate, and more than 100% higher according to independent estimates. The rest of Canada may not fare much better — the National Energy Board forecasts power prices 42% higher by 2035, while some estimates have Canadian power prices 50% higher by 2020.

The story throughout much of Europe is similar. Denmark, an early adopter of the global-warming mania, now requires its households to pay the developed world’s highest power prices — about 40¢ a kilowatt hour, or three to four times what North Americans pay today. Germany, whose powerhouse economy gave green developers a blank cheque, is a close second, followed by other politically correct nations such as Belgium, the headquarters of the EU, and distressed nations such as Spain.

The result is chaos to the economic well-being of the EU nations. Even in rock-solid Germany, up to 15% of the populace is now believed to be in “fuel poverty” — defined by governments as needing to spend more than 10% of the total household income on electricity and gas. Some 600,000 low-income Germans are now being cut off by their power companies annually, a number expected to increase as a never-ending stream of global-warming projects in the pipeline wallops customers. In the U.K., which has laboured under the most politically correct climate leadership in the world, some 12 million people are already in fuel poverty, 900,000 of them in wind-infested Scotland alone, and the U.K. has now entered a double-dip recession.

The U.S., in contrast, will see power rates decline starting next year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, dropping by more than 22% by the end of the decade and then staying flat to 2035. Why the fall? Mainly because the U.S. will rely overwhelmingly on fossil fuels in the years ahead, not just coal, which dominates the current power system, but increasingly natural gas, which is expected to account for 60% of all new generating capacity in the future. Thanks to fracking, the U.S. effectively has limitless amounts of inexpensive natural gas to add to its limitless coal.

While the rest of the developed world was in thrall to global-warming rhetoric, the U.S. talked the talk but balked at following through. In 1997, then president Bill Clinton and his vice-president, Al Gore, happily signed on to the Kyoto Treaty, which coerced the countries of the developed world into compromising their economies in order to save the planet. While other nations then dutifully complied, the U.S. Senate — as Clinton and Gore knew it would — refused to ratify Kyoto by a 95-0 vote. Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, did an equally superb job of talking but balking at taking economy-killing measures. Bush successor Barack Obama, although a global-warming true believer, also put global warming on the back burner, preferring to make Obamacare, rather than climate change, his signature issue.

With the Republicans all but certain to control the purse strings following the November elections by dint of a majority in the House of Representatives, European-style legislation in the U.S. in aid of global warming will be impossible, even if the Republicans don’t also capture the Senate and the White House, as polls now indicate they will. In the event of a Republican sweep, the gap between power prices in the U.S. and the rest of the developed world will increase even more as “Drill, baby, drill” Republicans remove the existing restraints on the U.S. fossil-fuel industry, and slash the remaining subsidies on the U.S. renewable-energy industry.


Germany Faces Energy Disaster Next Winter

Last winter, on several occasions, Germany escaped only just large-scale power outages. Next winter the risk of large blackouts is even greater. The culprit for the looming crisis is the single most important instrument of German energy policy: the "Renewable Energy Law."

The dramatic tone of the report by the Federal Network Agency (FNA) on the near-blackouts last winter is hard to overestimate: although the cold spell was short and mild, the situation in the German electricity network was “very precarious” according to the Agency.

Several times, the pre-ordered reserve power plants in Austria and Germany were fully utilized. On several occassions, the network operators were not even able to mobilize additionally needed emergency reserves abroad. The number of short-term emergency interventions in network and power plant operating shot up by more than 30,000 percentage points on some network portions.

"Had a failure of a large power plant taken place in this situation, there would have been hardly any room for maneuver available." This quote from the FNA report is translation for "We narrowly escaped a catastrophe."

There is no reason for a sigh of relief, however: Next winter, which will possibly be even more severe, everything could get much worse, officials warn. Because then even less base-load gas- and coal-fired power plants will be available to reliably compensate for wind lulls and the almost complete absence of solar power for months.

Disastrous side effects

The culprit for the looming crisis is the single most important instrument of German energy policy: the "Renewable Energy Law" (EEG). It stipulates the priority of green electricity supply. What was once useful as an aid for the market introduction of wind and solar power, has today, 12 years later, disastrous side effects.

It pushes those plants which alone can guarantee a stable power supply, i.e. gas- and coal-fired power plants, out of the market far too early. More and more facilities are being decommissioned. The result is a significantly higher risk of large-scale power outages, so-called blackouts, whose duration and propagation is hard to predict.

The economic cost of a wide-scale blackout are measured in billions of Euros per day. If power outages last longer, one has to expect a high number of deaths. The most important test of energy policy is now the stability of power – so far only the cost of the green energy transition has been focused upon.

Because the federal government does not have the guts to start an overdue and fundamental debate about the usefulness of a 12-year-old, now totally outdated, "launch aid" called EEG, it now threatens to over-steer, with the green energy transition ending up in a crash. Fasten your seat belts.


Germany's Energy Fiasco: Desperate Greens Call For Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Winfried Kretschmann (Green Party), the prime minister of the state of Baden Wuerttemberg, is urging Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) to encourage the construction of new gas-fired power plants. Especially in southern Germany energy security is at risk, according to Kretschmann.

"I am firmly convinced that the market in its current form is not suitable to meet the challenges of the energy revolution," he wrote in a letter to the Chancellor seen by the Financial Times Deutschland. It lacked both the incentives for building new power plants and for the maintenance of existing ones.

Especially in southern Germany energy security is at risk, according to Kretschmann. Germany is heavily dependent on flexible gas power plants to compensate for intermittent green energy. At the same time, however, the green energy boom is having a fatal side effect: Because the production of wind and solar power have been given priority in the electricity market, the building of gas-fired power plants is no longer profitable. Often, it does not even pay to maintain existing power plants. Analysts at Goldman Sachs are already warning of a large-scale demise of power plants in 2013. Grid operators, on the other hand, fear nothing more than the loss of additional power plants in southern Germany, which is particularly affected by the nuclear phase-out.


Australia: Western Sydney Liberal Party MPs reject climate 'scare tactics'

You would think that the Warmists would be embarrassed to use Flannery as spokesman, given his unbroken record of false prophecies. But it is the big lie at work here so I suppose he fits in well with that

LIBERAL MPs in western Sydney electorates say predictions the region will suffer more ill-effects from climate change than the city's east are "alarmist" and politically motivated.

Member for Macarthur Russell Matheson said the Tim Flannery-headed Climate Commission was trying mount a favourable case for the government's looming carbon tax.

“They're trying to justify the carbon tax,” said Mr Matheson, whose seat takes in parts of Campbelltown and is one of Sydney's most westerly urban electorates.

He said the “doom and gloom” prediction was not borne out by recent experience. “I think people are waking up to the fact that we're actually going through a cooling period at the present time,” Mr Matheson said.

“You've only got to look at aerial photographs of aerial Sydney to know we've been progressively greening the area.”

Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who represents the neighbouring electorate of Hughes, branded the Climate Comission's findings as “nonsense”. “It's just more of the alarmist scare tactics we've heard from Mr Flannery,' he said. “That's what he seems to be employed for. He is just ramping the scare tactics al the time.”

He said while western Sydney suffered during hot weather, it also experienced colder conditions than other areas of Sydney because it was further from the coast.

The Climate Commission report finds heatwaves are increasing in length and intensity and that the number of hot days in western Sydney rose by 60 per cent since the 1970s.

This was making the state more susceptible to bushfires and putting coastal areas at risk from sea level rises, it warns.

Mr Flannery, launching the report in Sydney, acknowledged the report had drawn criticism. “Look, this is a hot political issue in Australia, there's no doubt about that,” he said. “I hope people will take a common sense approach to this and see that this is something we need to do.”

Fellow climate commissioner Professor Lesley Hughes said the report's aim wasn't to scare people but to prepare the public for the health risks associated with climate change.

Acting NSW Premier Andrew Stoner said the state government would consider the report, but said most people would view the commission's findings as “alarmist”.


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