Another stupid prophecy
The fact that the area under wine grapes worldwide has been expanding steadily for decades must not be mentioned, I guess. Even New Zealand is now a major exporter of good stuff (particularly sauvignon blanc). Why mention facts when an unfounded prophecy will do?
WHICH is more important, pandas or pinot? Researchers say that is a question conservationists and wine-growers will have to answer in the coming years as climate change sparks a hunt for cooler places to grow wine grapes, even if those places are home to sensitive animal populations.
Already, big players in the global wine industry are eyeing land in northern climes as rising temperatures force them to consider growing in places other than the most popular spots in the Mediterranean, Australia and California.
But an anticipated 25 to 73 per cent loss in suitable growing area in the current major wine producing parts of the world by 2050 may put water resources and wildlife on a collision course with vineyards, researchers say.
The regions of Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley in France along with Tuscany in Italy are expected to experience big declines in suitable land area, said the study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Meanwhile, much more land area to grow vineyards is anticipated to open up in western North America and northern Europe.
"When we started out, we thought this was science fiction and now we are pretty sure it is science fact," said Lee Hannah, lead author of the study that maps how wine-making regions around the world will change as temperatures heat up.
"Mediterranean Australia and Mediterranean Europe are the places that get hit the hardest," Hannah told AFP. "Those areas are experiencing a loss of about two-thirds of the area that is currently suitable for wine growing."
Faced with a loss of millions of acres, some growers are switching to different grape varieties, but by 2050 many places will be simply too hot and dry for any varieties, Hannah says.
Irrigation and micro-misters could be a last resort, but they are also a concern because "vineyards may be needing to tap freshwater resources in regions where there is often not enough freshwater to go around as it is right now," he said.
"Southern France will see a lot of declining suitability," Hannah said, estimating an 80 per cent loss in land that is suitable for wine-growing there as growers move north, shifting the basis of the country's region-based wine industry.
Another big concern is how China will cope with the changes without harming pandas by infringing on their natural habitat, researchers said.
"Ironically, China - which is the world's fastest growing wine-producing region - happens to have all of its best wine suitability in panda habitat," Hannah said.
China's forest tenure reforms that hand over control of forests to local communities could be a danger to panda habitat if those localities chose to clear the way for agriculture, including wine-growing, he said.
While most European-style wine currently grown in China originates from a peninsula near Beijing, conservationists hope China's government will take steps to protect panda habitat in the central mountains from wine-growers, Hannah says.
Geoffrey Lean is slowly reversing his lean
An environmentalist from way back, Mr. Lean is finding it hard to justify climate alarm these days. So he is starting to air some doubts. Even since last January (second article), he has come a long way. Under the heading "time to rein back on doom and gloom?" he writes in the London Telegraph as follows:
There are important, and possibly hopeful, developments in the complex, contentious world of climate science that might finally give us all a sense of spring. For some recent research suggests that climate change might not be as catastrophic as the gloomiest predictions suggest.
The research, moreover, comes at a time when many experts are beginning to despair that warming can be prevented from running out of control. Six weeks ago, for example, Prof Sir Robert Watson – the deeply respected former chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – said he believed the world had now missed its chance to keep the average rise in global temperature to less than 2C – the level at which dangerous effects are thought inevitable. But if the new research is right, it might be held below this ominous threshold after all, if determined worldwide action is taken.
Prediction, as they say, is tough, especially when it’s about the future – and that’s especially true when it comes to the climate, whose complexity we only partially understand. It is, as we all know, naturally immensely variable. And the effect of human intervention is subject to long timelags: it will be decades, even centuries, before the full consequences of today’s emissions of carbon dioxide become clear.
As a result, scientists and policymakers draw on the past to predict the future. Until now, they have therefore placed much weight on the rapid temperature increases in the Eighties and Nineties. But for at least a decade, these have dramatically slowed, even as carbon dioxide emissions have continued to increase.
None of this justifies the frequent claim by climate sceptics that global warming has stopped, and may now reverse. Long lulls have occurred before, only for temperatures to resume their relentless rise. And eight of the nine hottest years on record have still all occurred since 2000. But it does suggest that the rapid recent warming may have been as anomalous as the present pause.
It also raises the possibility that carbon dioxide may be less potent than has been thought in heating the planet. Again, this is not to say, as some sceptics attest, that it is innocent – the science showing that it is a greenhouse gas has been established for more than 150 years and accords with the very laws of physics. But it may be less guilty than once supposed. And this is reinforced by recent findings that emissions of soot, or black carbon – which patient readers may remember I have been banging on about for years – are causing twice as much warming as previously estimated, meaning that the contribution of CO2 must be correspondingly less.
The new research focuses on the arcane but crucial issue of “climate sensitivity”. This is normally expressed as the amount of warming that would eventually result from doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from its level before the Industrial Revolution – something which, on present trends, we will achieve in the next few decades.
The resulting increase has long been put at between 1.5C and 4.5C (the threefold range itself gives some idea of how little is known): the best guess has been 3C, which would be likely to have devastating effects on the climate. But the latest findings – which stretch over several papers from different, well-established scientists – suggest that the rise may be towards the lower end of that big range, possibly less than the 2C danger level.
The researchers themselves are quick to emphasise that their results should not diminish attempts to combat climate change. Their research could be wrong; after all, other equally distinguished scientists have concluded that climate sensitivity is much greater. Even if it is right, their new estimates for temperature rise still range widely, and the upper end still exceeds the danger mark.
Furthermore, the actual effects of temperature rises in the real world can blow away such calculations. Sea ice in the Arctic, for example, has already shrunk to levels not expected to occur for decades – and has done so during the current slowdown in overall global temperature rises.
Besides, a broader problem remains: on present policies, atmospheric CO2 levels will not stop rising when they reach the doubling point, but go on soaring past it – meaning that the world will still reach the danger point, even if more slowly.
So while governments must urgently adopt measures to cut emissions of black carbon – mainly from diesel engines and inefficient Third World cooking stoves – they will also have to do much more to control carbon dioxide.
The new research might just give the world a much-needed breathing space. But it would be foolhardy to breathe out for long.
Wooden heads in Europe
WHICH source of renewable energy is most important to the European Union? Solar power, perhaps? (Europe has three-quarters of the world’s total installed capacity of solar photovoltaic energy.) Or wind? (Germany trebled its wind-power capacity in the past decade.) The answer is neither. By far the largest so-called renewable fuel used in Europe is wood.
In its various forms, from sticks to pellets to sawdust, wood (or to use its fashionable name, biomass) accounts for about half of Europe’s renewable-energy consumption. In some countries, such as Poland and Finland, wood meets more than 80% of renewable-energy demand. Even in Germany, home of the Energiewende (energy transformation) which has poured huge subsidies into wind and solar power, 38% of non-fossil fuel consumption comes from the stuff. After years in which European governments have boasted about their high-tech, low-carbon energy revolution, the main beneficiary seems to be the favoured fuel of pre-industrial societies.
The idea that wood is low in carbon sounds bizarre. But the original argument for including it in the EU’s list of renewable-energy supplies was respectable. If wood used in a power station comes from properly managed forests, then the carbon that billows out of the chimney can be offset by the carbon that is captured and stored in newly planted trees. Wood can be carbon-neutral. Whether it actually turns out to be is a different matter. But once the decision had been taken to call it a renewable, its usage soared.
In the electricity sector, wood has various advantages. Planting fields of windmills is expensive but power stations can be adapted to burn a mixture of 90% coal and 10% wood (called co-firing) with little new investment. Unlike new solar or wind farms, power stations are already linked to the grid. Moreover, wood energy is not intermittent as is that produced from the sun and the wind: it does not require backup power at night, or on calm days. And because wood can be used in coal-fired power stations that might otherwise have been shut down under new environmental standards, it is extremely popular with power companies.
The upshot was that an alliance quickly formed to back public subsidies for biomass. It yoked together greens, who thought wood was carbon-neutral; utilities, which saw co-firing as a cheap way of saving their coal plants; and governments, which saw wood as the only way to meet their renewable-energy targets. The EU wants to get 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020; it would miss this target by a country mile if it relied on solar and wind alone.
The scramble to meet that 2020 target is creating a new sort of energy business. In the past, electricity from wood was a small-scale waste-recycling operation: Scandinavian pulp and paper mills would have a power station nearby which burned branches and sawdust. Later came co-firing, a marginal change. But in 2011 RWE, a large German utility, converted its Tilbury B power station in eastern England to run entirely on wood pellets (a common form of wood for burning industrially). It promptly caught fire.
Undeterred, Drax, also in Britain and one of Europe’s largest coal-fired power stations, said it would convert three of its six boilers to burn wood. When up and running in 2016 they will generate 12.5 terawatt hours of electricity a year. This energy will get a subsidy, called a renewable obligation certificate, worth £45 ($68) a megawatt hour (MWh), paid on top of the market price for electricity. At current prices, calculates Roland Vetter, the chief analyst at CF Partners, Europe’s largest carbon-trading firm, Drax could be getting £550m a year in subsidies for biomass after 2016—more than its 2012 pretax profit of £190m.
With incentives like these, European firms are scouring the Earth for wood. Europe consumed 13m tonnes of wood pellets in 2012, according to International Wood Markets Group, a Canadian company. On current trends, European demand will rise to 25m-30m a year by 2020.
Europe does not produce enough timber to meet that extra demand. So a hefty chunk of it will come from imports. Imports of wood pellets into the EU rose by 50% in 2010 alone and global trade in them (influenced by Chinese as well as EU demand) could rise five- or sixfold from 10m-12m tonnes a year to 60m tonnes by 2020, reckons the European Pellet Council. Much of that will come from a new wood-exporting business that is booming in western Canada and the American south. Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada, calls it “an industry invented from nothing”.
Prices are going through the roof. Wood is not a commodity and there is no single price. But an index of wood-pellet prices kept by the Argus Biomass Report rose from $116 a tonne in August 2010 to $129 a tonne at the end of 2012. Prices for hardwood from western Canada have risen by about 60% since the end of 2011.
This is putting pressure on companies that use wood as an input. About 20 large saw mills making particle board for the construction industry have closed in Europe during the past five years, says Petteri Pihlajamaki of Poyry, a Finnish consultancy (though the EU’s building bust is also to blame). Higher wood prices are hurting pulp and paper companies, which are in bad shape anyway: the production of paper and board in Europe remains almost 10% below its 2007 peak. In Britain, furniture-makers complain that competition from energy producers “will lead to the collapse of the mainstream British furniture-manufacturing base, unless the subsidies are significantly reduced or removed”.
But if subsidising biomass energy were an efficient way to cut carbon emissions, perhaps this collateral damage might be written off as an unfortunate consequence of a policy that was beneficial overall. So is it efficient? No.
Wood produces carbon twice over: once in the power station, once in the supply chain. The process of making pellets out of wood involves grinding it up, turning it into a dough and putting it under pressure. That, plus the shipping, requires energy and produces carbon: 200kg of CO2 for the amount of wood needed to provide 1MWh of electricity.
This decreases the amount of carbon saved by switching to wood, thus increasing the price of the savings. Given the subsidy of £45 per MWh, says Mr Vetter, it costs £225 to save one tonne of CO2 by switching from gas to wood. And that assumes the rest of the process (in the power station) is carbon neutral. It probably isn’t.
Over the past few years, scientists have concluded that the original idea—carbon in managed forests offsets carbon in power stations—was an oversimplification. In reality, carbon neutrality depends on the type of forest used, how fast the trees grow, whether you use woodchips or whole trees and so on. As another bit of the EU, the European Environment Agency, said in 2011, the assumption “that biomass combustion would be inherently carbon neutral…is not correct…as it ignores the fact that using land to produce plants for energy typically means that this land is not producing plants for other purposes, including carbon otherwise sequestered.”
Tim Searchinger of Princeton University calculates that if whole trees are used to produce energy, as they sometimes are, they increase carbon emissions compared with coal (the dirtiest fuel) by 79% over 20 years and 49% over 40 years; there is no carbon reduction until 100 years have passed, when the replacement trees have grown up. But as Tom Brookes of the European Climate Foundation points out, “we’re trying to cut carbon now; not in 100 years’ time.”
In short, the EU has created a subsidy which costs a packet, probably does not reduce carbon emissions, does not encourage new energy technologies—and is set to grow like a leylandii hedge.
Climatologists are no Einsteins, says his successor
Freeman Dyson is a physicist who has been teaching at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton since Albert Einstein was there. When Einstein died in 1955, there was an opening for the title of "most brilliant physicist on the planet." Dyson has filled it.
So when the global-warming movement came along, a lot of people wondered why he didn’t come along with it. The reason he’s a skeptic is simple, the 89-year-old Dyson said when I phoned him.
"I think any good scientist ought to be a skeptic," Dyson said.
Dyson came to this country from his native England at age 23 and immediately made major breakthroughs in quantum theory. After that he worked on a nuclear-powered rocket (see video below). Then in the late 1970s, he got involved with early research on climate change at the Institute for Energy Analysis in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
"I just think they don't understand the climate," he said of climatologists. "Their computer models are full of fudge factors."
That research, which involved scientists from many disciplines, was based on experimentation. The scientists studied such questions as how atmospheric carbon dioxide interacts with plant life and the role of clouds in warming.
But that approach lost out to the computer-modeling approach favored by climate scientists. And that approach was flawed from the beginning, Dyson said.
"I just think they don’t understand the climate," he said of climatologists. "Their computer models are full of fudge factors."
A major fudge factor concerns the role of clouds. The greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide on its own is limited. To get to the apocalyptic projections trumpeted by Al Gore and company, the models have to include assumptions that CO-2 will cause clouds to form in a way that produces more warming.
"The models are extremely oversimplified," he said. "They don't represent the clouds in detail at all. They simply use a fudge factor to represent the clouds."
Dyson said his skepticism about those computer models was borne out by recent reports of a study by Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading in Great Britain that showed global temperatures were flat between 2000 and 2010 — even though we humans poured record amounts of CO-2 into the atmosphere during that decade.
That was vindication for a man who was termed "a civil heretic" in a New York Times Magazine article on his contrarian views. Dyson embraces that label, with its implication that what he opposes is a religious movement. So does his fellow Princeton physicist and fellow skeptic, William Happer.
"There are people who just need a cause that’s bigger than themselves," said Happer. "Then they can feel virtuous and say other people are not virtuous."
To show how uncivil this crowd can get, Happer e-mailed me an article about an Australian professor who proposes — quite seriously — the death penalty for heretics such as Dyson. As did Galileo, they can get a reprieve if they recant.
I hope that guy never gets to hear Dyson’s most heretical assertion: Atmospheric CO-2 may actually be improving the environment.
"It’s certainly true that carbon dioxide is good for vegetation," Dyson said. "About 15 percent of agricultural yields are due to CO-2 we put in the atmosphere. From that point of view, it’s a real plus to burn coal and oil."
In fact, there’s more solid evidence for the beneficial effects of CO-2 than the negative effects, he said. So why does the public hear only one side of this debate? Because the media do an awful job of reporting it.
"They’re absolutely lousy," he said of American journalists. "That’s true also in Europe. I don’t know why they’ve been brainwashed."
I know why: They’re lazy. Instead of digging into the details, most journalists are content to repeat that mantra about "consensus" among climate scientists.
The problem, said Dyson, is that the consensus is based on those computer models. Computers are great for analyzing what happened in the past, he said, but not so good at figuring out what will happen in the future. But a lot of scientists have built their careers on them. Hence the hatred for dissenters.
"It was similar in the Soviet Union," he said. "Who could doubt Marxist economics was the future? Everything else was in the dustbin."
There’s a lot of room left in that bin for the ideas promulgated by people dumber than Dyson. Which is just about everyone.
The Attack of the Global Warming Islamist
John Ransom has fun blasting Green/Left critics who email him. Three of the emails and his replies below
Undocumented Intelligence wrote: Ransom wants to make climate change concern all about being liberal. Actually, it's all about being rational and not blinded–as Ransom is--by an ideology that is highly inconvenienced by an overwhelming body of expert scientific evidence.
Dear Comrade Undoc:
Look, I’m not the one who declares every weather event a product of climate change. What I object to is that many scientists and most members of the media write ill-informed opinion pieces that they wrap in the fish paper of scientific discourse. And then if one disagrees with them, they pretend like we’re just too stupid to understand basic science.
For example, last year I wrote about scientists who were trying to make the case that polar bear cannibalism was more prevalent than previously understood – thanks to our friend, global warming. The basis of these “scientific” assertions was 3 (three) pictures that were taken “from the decks of ecotourism and research boats anchored a few hundred yards away.”
Getting past the fact that the scientist in question was the guy who waaaaay undercounted polar bears, setting off the “Oh my God. Those cute polar bears will ALL die!” hysteria, I don’t think you can actually make a scientific case of increased polar bear cannibalism without an underpinning of science.
But that doesn’t stop Global Warming Islamists from argue on behalf of utterly stupid science.
I don’t doubt that the earth is warmer than at some time in the past; and there likely is some man-caused component to it. But the dire predictions, based on flawed models of the alarmists, which have been going on three decades now, frankly have not come to fruition. It’s time for the global warming crowd to admit that there is something about their science that they have fundamentally wrong.
As my 5th grade science teacher, Ms. Gallaghan, would have recognized, three pictures of polar predation makes a hypotheses not a conclusion.
But too many scientists and practically all the media don’t recognize the difference between hypotheses and facts. I’m guessing the Associated Press has outlawed the use of the word hypotheses as too offensive because it calls their religion into question.
Remember: Never let science interfere with a good pro-global warming opinion.
Global Warming Islamist wrote: Ransom makes much of "the most accurate map ever" how vegetation could change in the region.” Yet he never points out that the actual paper makes no such claim. The Daily Mail added that hyperbole.
Dear Comrade Global Warming Islamist:
I didn’t have to mention that the paper makes no claim to be “the most accurate map ever!” The Daily Mail, one of your propaganda rags, does it for them.
And here’s the question that I always ask you Islamist: Since you yourself have admitted that the newspaper inserted the hyperbole, why don‘t you condemn the hyperbole?
It undermines your case by allowing people like me to point out the ridiculousness of the mainstream media when it comes to global warming. They huff and puff, taking things out of context and generally misinform people what the scientific conclusions mean.
And that’s not the worst of it. You then allow the conversation to be hijacked by ALGORE, Inc. who is nothing but a con man and whose only interest is in making money off of hysteria- all because he couldn’t be president.
Think of this: He lost to George W. Bush. You have to live with THAT.
Until you rid yourself of these fools, you’ll be a loser. And an Islamist. You practice a religion, not science.
Myer2 wrote: I see you have a much better grasp of science than all the people who actually know something. What changes in the "universe" make it hot or cold on our planet? The av temp is higher today than anytime in recorded history despite the "snow in central Europe" -Combat Global Warming: Be Gay for a Day
Dear Comrade Number 2,
No, it’s not actually hotter now than anytime in recorded history.
“Our results indicate that global mean temperature for the decade 2000–2009 has not yet exceeded the warmest temperatures of the early Holocene (5000 to 10,000 yr B.P.),” writes researchers from Harvard and Oregon State.
I understand your confusion though because the study quoted above was used by the media to say: “We’re right. Pass the Carbon Tax! Ban automobiles. Ban Big Gulps.”
But, as usual their hyperbole has turned to hyperventilation. As the site RealClimate.org acknowledges: “This discussion needs to be conducted in a sober and unexcited manner; it does not help to overburden the [debate] with symbolic meaning. In some media reports, [some data] has even been hyped as “a pillar of the Kyoto protocol” …or as “proof that humans are warming the Earth”. This is a serious misunderstanding of the scientific meaning of these data.
And before you send email or make comments that point out that RealClimate.org and I have disagreements about global warming, I’ll make the simple observation that we can disagree about some things and still agree about others.
I agree with them that you guys aren’t sober.
Obama regime ramps up teaching of global warming in schools
New science curriculum standards for United States schools, expected to be unveiled this week, include an increased emphasis on man-made climate change from kindergarten through 12th grade. Climate change is already a part of many schools’ science curriculum, but the new guidelines significantly expand the topic and are expected to be adopted by 41 states.
The Next Generation Science Standards teach that “Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (‘global warming’),” according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute.
At the same time, British schools are moving away from teaching climate change to kids under 14, causing alarm among British climate activists.
The New York Times highlighted the contrast:
New science teaching standards in the United States will include extensive lessons on human-made climate change. Expected to be unveiled this week, the guidelines will bring the subject to classrooms in up to 40 states, in many cases for the first time.What the Times fails to note is that man-made global warming is hardly a consensus theory among scientists. Several new studies show the earth hasn’t gotten any warmer in at least the last decade.
Eighth-grade pupils should understand that “human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming),” according to the Next Generation Science Standards. …
The new U.S. science standards — which are far more extensive than just an inclusion of climate change in school curricula — have been put together by a wide-ranging number of stakeholders, including 26 states, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as Andrew C. Revkin reported last year.
In the United Kingdom, a proposal by the Department of Education would have the subject be stricken from the geography curriculum for pupils up to the age of 14. Under the proposal, which is still under review, climate change would be mentioned just once, in the chemistry section, the Guardian reported last month.
“It’s a shame that American school kids are being taught claims of certitude on an isse that continues to unravel before our eyes,” Marc Morano, communications director for Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, told The Washington Examiner.
The U.K. newspaper The Daily Telegraph, German magazine Der Spiegel, and The Economist have all recently acknowledged the evidence suggesting global warming isn’t the catastrophe climate change advocates want school children to think it is.
He noted that for kids under 15, global warming isn’t even something they’ve experienced, if the studies on global temperatures are correct. Some of them are learning climate change as scientific fact it in school, and others are hearing two sides of the story, but none of them have firsthand knowledge of the issue.
The Next Generation standards are voluntary, but with 40 states expected to adopt them, students aren’t likely to hear anything in their science classes. The standards seek to codify climate change and man’s role in the problem as a part of students’ education, Morano said.
“To teach kids there’s a consensus… is a major disservice to children, and a disservice to education,” he said.
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Preserving the graphics: Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility. From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site. See here and here