Wednesday, December 05, 2012

MINUS 20C? Britain faces coldest winter for 100 years as Big Freeze follows floods with wind so strong it blows water upwards

More evidence of global cooling

Britain will shiver tonight as temperatures plummet in the first taste of what promises to be one of our coldest winters for a century.

The cold snap is expected to last until the end of the week, creating dangerous conditions on the roads and adding to the misery of those already battling floods.

Temperatures could fall to as low as minus 3°c (27°f) in some places, with snow already falling in the Pennines. In Saltburn, North Yorkshire, northerly winds have become so strong that they are pushing water back up a cliff.

The torrential rain which has deluged the country for the last week is expected to ease at last but the clearer skies, coupled with northerly winds, will send the mercury plummeting.

Tonight’s cold snap heralds a freezing winter ahead with long-range forecasters warning that temperatures could fall to as low as minus 20°c (4°f) in some areas through December and January.

Local authorities say they are prepared for a harsh winter and have taken steps to avoid a repeat of two years ago, when a lack of gritters and snowploughs caused roads and transport networks to grind to a halt.


UK to build 30 new gas power plants by 2030:

Aaargh!  Gas is a "fossil fuel"

Britain could have 30 new gas-fired power stations running by 2030 under a dramatic expansion of generation plans to be unveiled this week.

A Department of Energy and Climate Change gas strategy is expected to say 26 gigawatts (GW) of new gas capacity is needed - up to 30 plants - an increase from current plans for up to 20GW.

In a coup for the Chancellor, it will also show a scenario in which 37GW of gas plants could be built, making gas account for nearly half of the UK energy mix by 2030.  That would require amending carbon emissions plans enshrined in law last year.

Mr Osborne has indicated he does not want to see Britain move faster than the rest of Europe in cutting emissions, while the 37GW scenario would be closer to European plans.

Gas expansion will horrify environmentalists, who already questioned how 20GW of new gas would square with Britain’s legally-binding long-term goal of an 80pc reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 from 1990 levels.

It will also raise questions about Britain’s dependence on potentially expensive imported gas at a time when rising gas costs have been blamed for soaring household energy bills.

But the plans will cheer those who believe a shale gas boom could keep prices down in Europe and make a cheaper alternative to renewables and nuclear.

Mr Osborne will this week confirm he is consulting on tax breaks for shale gas in the UK and will establish an Office for Shale Gas.

Adding to fears over costs of nuclear, EDF said on Monday that the price of its much-delayed Flamanville reactor in France had risen by a further €2bn, to €8bn.  EDF plans to build the same reactor design at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

EDF said that its cost estimate for Hinkley Point – which it has provided to the Government for subsidy negotiations but has not publicly disclosed – “already include the lessons learned from Flamanville”.


Is Africa in an emissions arm lock?

First World industrialized nations are trying to prevent African development says  Dr Kelvin Kemm (Dr. Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and business strategy consultant in Pretoria, South Africa)

The latest world environment and climate change conference (COP-18) is taking place in Doha, Qatar. One of the prime issues under discussion is the attempt to force countries all over the world to adopt binding agreements to limit “carbon emissions.”

The term “carbon emissions” really refers to emissions of carbon dioxide gas – but “carbon” and “carbon dioxide” are two totally different things. Carbon is a solid (think coal and charcoal) and the central building block of hydrocarbons, whereas carbon dioxide is the gas that all humans and animals exhale and all plants require to grow. Without carbon dioxide, all life on Earth would cease.

It is thus not just silly to talk of “carbon emissions.” It is also simplistic and grossly inaccurate – except when referring to carbon particulate matter released during the combustions of wood, dung, hydrocarbons and other carbon-based materials. Saying “carbon emissions” also reflects the appalling lack of scientific knowledge so prevalent today. But never mind.

The real issue is that some people insist that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations is leading to an increased greenhouse effect, which in turn is leading to dangerous global warming.

However, the graph of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last century fails to match the graph of measured temperature increases. In fact, average global temperatures have been essentially stable for 16 years, even as the carbon dioxide (CO2) level has continued to rise.

Henrik Svensmark and other scientists have shown that global temperature is much more accurately correlated to observed sunspot activity. Sunspots reflect solar activity, specifically the sun’s magnetic field, that affects the quantity of cosmic rays entering Earth’s atmosphere from outer space. That in turn is linked to the proposition that particles in the cosmic rays cause clouds to form, and varying cloud cover on earth has a great influence on global temperatures.

Fewer cosmic rays mean fewer clouds, more sunlight reaching the Earth, and a warmer planet. More cosmic rays mean more clouds, more reflected sunlight, and a cooler planet.

Indeed, historical sunspot records correlate quite well with warming and cooling trends on Earth, whereas carbon dioxide and climate trends do not correlate well – except in one respect. Warm periods are typically followed several centuries later by rising CO2 levels, as carbon dioxide is released from warming ocean waters, increasing terrestrial plant growth. Cooling periods eventually bring colder oceans, which absorb and retain greater amounts of CO2 – and less plant growth.

Thus the CO2 argument for global warming is very much in doubt – whereas there is a very viable, and more plausible, alternative.

However, CO2 is largely produced by automobiles and electricity generating power stations, which burn the fossil fuels so loathed by Deep Ecology environmentalists. That makes these energy, transportation and economic development sources the target of “carbon emission” reduction schemes.

I was a delegate at COP-17 in Durban, South Africa in 2011. As a scientist and resident of Africa, I walked around the Africa pavilion, discussing these issues and gauging the opinions of many people from African countries. To put it bluntly, the African representatives were not happy.

Their general feeling was that the First World is trying to push Africa around, bully African countries into accepting its opinions and, even worse, adopting its supposed “solutions.”

The “solutions” include moving away from fossil fuels and implementing supposed alternatives like wind, solar and biofuel power. Africans were unhappy about this. They still are. They can intuitively see that large scale wind or solar power is not practical – and biofuels mean devoting scarce cropland, water and fertilizer to growing energy crops, instead of using the crops for food. What Africa needs now is abundant, reliable, affordable electricity and transportation fuel, which means producing more of the Earth’s still abundant oil, coal and natural gas.

It is all well and good if highly variable, expensive wind power makes up ten percent or less of an already industrialized nation’s enormous electricity supply. If it varies significantly, or fails entirely, even on the hottest and coldest days (as it is prone to do), the loss of ten percent is not a disaster.

But First World countries have been telling poor African countries to base their futures on wind power as major portions of their national supplies.

What this implies is that, if the wind power fails, whole sections of a country can grind to a halt. “Oh, no problem,” say climate campaigners. “Just install a smart grid and longer transmission lines, so that when wind is blowing somewhere in the country the smart grid will do all the fancy switching, to make sure electricity flows to critical functions.” In theory, maybe.

But meanwhile, in the real world, in August 2012, industrialized Germany’s wind power was under-performing to such a degree that the country decided it must open a new 2,200-megawatt coal-fired power station near Cologne – and announced the immediate construction of 23 more!

Moreover, installing a smart grid assumes that the country concerned wants to develop a major complex national grid – and has the money to do so – or has one already. Bad assumption.

Africa is huge. In fact, Africa is larger than China, the United States, Europe and India added together. So it’s a mistake to assume African countries will want to implement major national grids, following European historical examples – or will be able to, or will have the vast financial and technical resources to do so, or will have the highway or rail capability to transport all the necessary components to construct thousands of miles of transmission lines.

Even in the USA, the electricity system in the state of Texas is not connected to the rest of the country, and the issue of building thousands of miles of new transmission lines and smart grids is generating controversy and serious funding questions.

In South Africa we already run major power lines, for example from Pretoria to Cape Town, which is the same distance as Rome to London. We need to ask:

Is it wise to keep doing this, or should smaller independent grids be developed as well? If compulsory carbon emissions come into force, will this limit African economic growth and African electricity and transportation expansion?

Should Africans be told to “stay in harmony with the land” – and thus remain impoverished and wracked by disease and premature death – by continuing to live in an underdeveloped state, because a dominant First World bloc believes its climate alarmism is correct, suppresses alternative evidence, and is more than willing to impose its views on the poorest, most politically powerless countries?

The promised billions in climate change “mitigation” and “reparation” dollars have not materialised yet, and are unlikely to appear any time soon. Even worse, the energy, emission and economic growth restrictions embodied in the proposed climate agreements would prevent factories and businesses from blossoming, perpetuate poverty, limit household lighting and refrigeration, and impede human rights progress on our continent.

Africa should resist the psychological and “moral” (actually immoral) pressure being exerted on it to agree to binding limits on carbon dioxide emissions. Any such agreement would place African countries at the mercy of bullying First World countries, put them in a crippling emissions arm lock, and bring no health, environmental or other benefits to Africa.

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Carson Was Wrong

Agrochemicals' Benefit to Human Health and the Environment

This year marks the 50th anniversary of biologist Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, which argued that man-made chemicals represented a grave threat to human health and the environment. Using harsh and unscientific rhetoric—which was rebuked in the journal Science magazine shortly after its publication—Carson postulated that man-made chemicals affect processes of the human body in “sinister and often deadly ways.”

History has proven Carson’s claims wrong. Contrary to her admonitions, a chemically caused cancer epidemic never came to pass. Researchers who identified environmental factors did not simply target trace chemical exposures as significant, but instead focused on major cancer causes such as tobacco and poor diets. In fact, people are living longer and healthier lives, cancer rates have declined even as chemical use has increased, and chemicals are not among the key causes of cancer.

As the world reexamines Carson’s anti-pesticide legacy, this paper focuses on the importance of chemicals designed for crop production. These agrochemicals represent a subset of the many technologies and practices designed to promote high-yield farming— making it possible for farmers to increase food production per acre. Other technologies include biotechnology, better soil and water management, among other things. Policies that allow strategic development and application of such tools will continue to facilitate the Green Revolution and increase agriculture’s ability to feed the world’s growing population. In addition, high-yield agriculture reduces the amount of land necessary to meet those needs, thereby providing more land for conservation and biodiversity. The adverse impacts of pesticides on human health and the environment are often greatly exaggerated and history shows that these risks can be managed to ensure substantial net benefits.

Unfortunately, these benefits are at risk as Carson’s legacy of misinformation lives on within the politically organized environmental movement. Green activists oppose strategic pesticide spraying to control deadly diseases like the West Nile virus and advocate “organic farming” using “natural chemicals,” even though there is little evidence that organic farming makes food any healthier. As a result, regulatory trends around the world have supplanted wise management with heavy regulations and product bans. The cost and risks associated with bureaucratic regulations alone dampens the market for innovative new products, diminishes the supply of pest control options for farmers, and reduces their efficiency. The result is lower food production, higher food prices, and fewer environmental benefits.


To Stop Climate Change, Students Aim at College Portfolios

Rather good to have them wasting their time on such pointless activity  -- but it doesn't say much for the intellectual standards at Swarthmore or among Warmists generally.  If a college sells its shares, it can only do so if someone else buys them!  But I guess that that is too profound for the diseased intellects of the Green/Left

A group of Swarthmore College students is asking the school administration to take a seemingly simple step to combat pollution and climate change: sell off the endowment’s holdings in large fossil fuel companies. For months, they have been getting a simple answer: no.

As they consider how to ratchet up their campaign, the students suddenly find themselves at the vanguard of a national movement.

In recent weeks, college students on dozens of campuses have demanded that university endowment funds rid themselves of coal, oil and gas stocks. The students see it as a tactic that could force climate change, barely discussed in the presidential campaign, back onto the national political agenda.

“We’ve reached this point of intense urgency that we need to act on climate change now, but the situation is bleaker than it’s ever been from a political perspective,” said William Lawrence, a Swarthmore senior from East Lansing, Mich.

Students who have signed on see it as a conscious imitation of the successful effort in the 1980s to pressure colleges and other institutions to divest themselves of the stocks of companies doing business in South Africa under apartheid.

A small institution in Maine, Unity College, has already voted to get out of fossil fuels. Another, Hampshire College in Massachusetts, has adopted a broad investment policy that is ridding its portfolio of fossil fuel stocks.

“In the near future, the political tide will turn and the public will demand action on climate change,” Stephen Mulkey, the Unity College president, wrote in a letter to other college administrators. “Our students are already demanding action, and we must not ignore them.”

But at colleges with large endowments, many administrators are viewing the demand skeptically, saying it would undermine their goal of maximum returns in support of education. Fossil fuel companies represent a significant portion of the stock market, comprising nearly 10 percent of the value of the Russell 3000, a broad index of 3,000 American companies.

No school with an endowment exceeding $1 billion has agreed to divest itself of fossil fuel stocks. At Harvard, which holds the largest endowment in the country at $31 billion, the student body recently voted to ask the school to do so. With roughly half the undergraduates voting, 72 percent of them supported the demand.

“We always appreciate hearing from students about their viewpoints, but Harvard is not considering divesting from companies related to fossil fuels,” Kevin Galvin, a university spokesman, said by e-mail.

Several organizations have been working on some version of a divestment campaign, initially focusing on coal, for more than a year. But the recent escalation has largely been the handiwork of a grass-roots organization,, that focuses on climate change, and its leader, Bill McKibben, a writer turned advocate. The group’s name is a reference to what some scientists see as a maximum safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million. The level is now about 390, an increase of 41 percent since before the Industrial Revolution.

Mr. McKibben is touring the country by bus, speaking at sold-out halls and urging students to begin local divestment initiatives focusing on 200 energy companies. Many of the students attending said they were inspired to do so by an article he wrote over the summer in Rolling Stone magazine, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.”



Three current articles below

Green/Left desalination plant to cost Victorians heavily

Desalination plants are the Greenie alternative to building dams, for which Australia still has plenty of sites.  But Greenies loathe dams with a passion.

MELBOURNE water chiefs have admitted they expect Victorians to struggle to meet the added cost to skyrocketing water bills caused by the Wonthaggi desalination plant.

Releasing details of water price reviews that will see the average household bill rise steeply, water retailers said they expected hardship claims to soar.

The heads of Melbourne Water, City West Water, Yarra Valley Water and South East Water all blamed the desal plant for major price rises forecast for customers from July 1 next year.

They said their hands were tied because of the contract requiring them to pay $650 million to the project's consortium, AquaSure.

But not one would say whether they thought the $3.5 billion plant was too big for Melbourne's water needs, as the French boss of the project revealed in yesterday's Herald Sun.

City West Water yesterday estimated an average annual water and sewerage bill for its residential customers would increase from $793 this financial year to $1060 in 2013-14.

The same bill would rise from $829 to $1118 for South East Water customers, from $910 to $1220 for Yarra Valley Water clients and from $956 to $1014 for Western Water users.

Melbourne Water managing director Shaun Cox said its prices were likely to rise by 60.4 per cent next year, with customers bearing the brunt of desalination plant costs.

Yarra Valley Water managing director Tony Kelly said hardship claims from Victorians unable to pay their bill had already increased from about 1700 five or six years ago to 3000.

"It is very difficult to predict how that number will increase, but we are expecting it to rise because of the significant price rise and we have spoken to a number of community groups about the best way to handle that," he said.


Queensland households with solar panels likely to be hit with tariff to pay for 'poles and wires'

THOUSANDS of households with rooftop solar systems are set to be stung with significant fixed-tariff fees.

A report ordered by the Newman Government has recommended a special tariff for all solar households to force them to pay their share for the "poles and wires" network.

The tariff fees would be a bitter blow for households that shelled out thousands of dollar to fit solar systems to reduce their electricity bill.  However, households without solar are being forced to wear the cost of subsidising those with such systems, as well as pay for the over-priced power they produce.

Solar households still need the electricity network to be capable of meeting their demands when their panels don't produce power.

However, they mostly avoid contributing to network costs, which account for about 50 per cent of electricity prices, because they regularly don't access the common household tariff.

Recent modelling showed the 44-cent solar feed-in tariff, currently paid by distributors for the power produced by more than 200,000 households, would add an extra $240 to average power bills.

Power bills would also rise by a further $40 to recover network costs avoided by solar households.

In a draft report, the Queensland Competition Authority recommended fixed fees be applied to solar households.

"Network tariff reform is a further option to be considered as a means of more equitably sharing the costs of the scheme," the QCA said.  "Specifically, there may be scope for distribution businesses to establish new, cost-reflective network tariffs for PV customers which ensure that these customers are charged their full fixed-network costs, which are largely avoided under the present network tariff arrangements."

The QCA also recommended retailers, rather than state-owned distributors, pay for the power produced by solar households.

The report said the current system was so profitable for retailers that they were offering solar households up to 10 cents extra per kilowatt hour for the power they produce.

While the Government has committed to keep the 44-cent tariff for existing solar owners, the QCA said 6.8 cents per kWh was more realistic but prices should be unregulated in the southeast.

Queensland Greens Senate candidate Adam Stone said the QCA's reforms would take away the incentive for households to invest in solar.

"The recommended tariffs are solely based on the financial value of household solar to electricity retailers and do not even factor in the cooling effect household solar has on wholesale electricity prices," he said.


Another "Green" business collapses

A FIRM that touted itself as one of Australia's most established solar supply and installation companies has gone under owing more than $3 million.

Solagex Australia Pty Ltd ceased trading in early September and went into liquidation on October 29.

Customers and businesses from Queensland, Victoria, NSW and South Australia - including many who paid deposits between $500 and $5000 - never received systems.

Solagex was a national company, with its Queensland headquarters in Southport.

A creditor list compiled by liquidator David Ross, of Hall Chadwick, outlined 179 parties owed a total of $3.129 million.

Leading wholesale distributor Conergy Pty Ltd is out of pocket $2.5m, while other creditors include the Australian Taxation Office, AAPT, Workcover Queensland and the Office of State Revenue.

Mr Ross told The Courier-Mail that another company, Freetricity, had bought the business and was working with deposit holders to try to complete installations.

Noosa builder Peter Collins is among those waiting to see if they will recoup deposits

handed to Solagex before it hit hard times in a market that went into overdrive in the dying days of the State Government's 44 cents solar feed-in tariff, which ended on July 9.

Mr Collins said he paid $1210 last March but approached the firm a few months later to get his deposit back after having second thoughts.

"I had a big holiday planned so I asked for my money back. They stalled me and said that's no worries, we will delay your job until after you come home," he said.  "Now they've gone belly up and I'm not real hopeful of recouping my money.

"I've had two in my life - where companies have gone broke owing me money - and never seen a cent."

"Pro-solar" Chinchilla mum Joanna Embry said she decided to sign with Solagex in June before the government incentives were reduced.

She paid a 10 per cent deposit of $1531.20 and was annoyed to learn the firm had gone into liquidation.

"It could have been worse as they wanted a much bigger deposit than I agreed to.  "I paid by credit card and have checked with the bank to see if there is anything they can do. They have asked for more information and we'll just have to see what happens."


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