Sunday, July 07, 2013

NASA satellite no longer measuring sea levels – Why? Because they’re falling?

Jason-1, a satellite that for more than a decade precisely tracked rising sea levels across a vast sweep of ocean has ended its useful life after circling the globe more than 53,500 times, NASA announced Wednesday.

Since its launch, Jason-1 recorded a rise of nearly 1.6 inches in global sea levels that are “a critical measure of climate change and a direct result of global warming,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

I question that statement.

According to the European Space Agency satellite Envisat*, sea levels declined in both 2010 and 2011.

See: Sea Level Continues Inexorable Decline
See also: Sea levels dropped in 2010

Who is telling the truth here? Unfortunately, I don’t trust NASA’s interpretation of the numbers.

* What is Envisat?

According to the European Space Agency (ESA) website, Envisat is the largest Earth Observation spacecraft ever built. Launched in 2002, it carries ten sophisticated optical and radar instruments to provide continuous observation and monitoring of the Earth’s land, atmosphere, oceans and ice caps. Envisat data collectively provide a wealth of information on the workings of the Earth system, including insights into factors contributing to climate change.

“Evidently NASA doesn’t want to continue reporting falling ocean levels, so they shut down their measuring satellite,” says Bob.

SOURCE  (See the original for links)

Dutch government dissatisfied with the IPCC

Goverments around the world have been asked by IPCC to think about the future of the IPCC. The Netherlands now sent their submission to the IPCC and made it available on the website of KNMI.

I would say Holland is fairly critical about how IPCC is operating right now. This part struck me as most interesting:

    "The IPCC needs to adjust its principles. We believe that limiting the scope of the IPCC to human induced climate change is undesirable, especially because natural climate change is a crucial part of the total understanding of the climate system, including human-induced climate change. The Netherlands is also of the opinion that the word ‘comprehensive’ may have to be deleted, because producing comprehensive assessments becomes virtually impossible with the ever expanding body of knowledge and IPCC may be more relevant by producing more special reports on topics that are new and controversial."

I agree with both points. The (almost) obsession of IPCC with greenhouse forcing has greatly limited progress in climate science in my opinion, so I am glad my government now raises this point. And in my (Dutch) book De Staat van het Klimaat I concluded that IPCC in AR4 had not succeeded to come up with a “comprehensive” report. I also agree IPCC should pay much more attention to controversial topics. The treatment of controversial topics in AR4 and also AR5 was and is unsatisfactory for two reasons: there is not enough space reserved to go into the necessary details and the author teams are almost always biased in favor of the consensus view and therefore not giving enough credit to minority views.

The Netherlands also want to make an end to the huge volumes IPCC is producing and replace it by shorter web based (special) reports:

    "The IPCC needs more transparent, focused and up-to-date assessments. The use of the internet continues to expand. It would be easier to keep IPCC assessments up to date if they would be fully web-based. Digitalisation also increases the transparency of the reports. For example, in addition to internal links in the SPM to the underlying chapters (already done for AR4), links can be added in the chapters to the relevant parts of scientific publications to simplify the accessibility to the sources.

    The assessment should be more dynamic by regular updates of the chapters, with only one round of expert review, and by shortening the assessment cycle. The reports are currently perceived to be quite dated already a few years after they have been published."

Again I agree with the new format. Also Holland wants to merge WGI and WGII into one working group:

    "two working groups instead of three. For example, it is possible to expand WGI to include WGII subjects that are closely connected to the information in WGI. An example is the SREX special report, where climate extremes and risk-based information are combined. WGIII would then include adaptation and mitigation measures and their environmental impacts. In this way there would be two working groups, which would shorten the cycle but will also to improve the consistency in the assessment cycle and facilitates the synthesis. A separate Synthesis Report would not be needed if the second WG would synthesize its information with the first WG, also in its summaries."

Pachauri:  Without mentioning his name The Netherlands make clear that they would like to see Pachauri retire. They prefer “having an organization that is led by an Executive Director” instead of an elected chair. “An Executive Director could also more easily be a policy-neutral spokesperson than an elected Chair”, they write, thereby implicitly referring to Pachauri who is renowned for making policy statements.


Beating the Heating

The other day Barack Obama was about to hop in his private 747 and jet off with his massive entourage to tour Africa. Carbon footprint? Elephantine.

So he was, understandably, in a hurry. “We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat-earth society,” Obama warned in a speech on the supposed dangers of a human-changed climate. No, indeed. We need to get started fighting global cooling -- I mean warming -- I mean “climate change.” Straightaway. Immediately. The day before yesterday. Etc. Because, Obama says, “the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late.”

Somebody needs to stop this climatic high-speed train before it jumps the rails. So let’s review a few facts about the environment in the United States today.

It’s become a cliché, but whenever a twister touches down in Oklahoma, somebody’s going to warn us that such storms are driven by human action. And yet: “The past 12 months have set a record for the fewest tornadoes ever in a similar period, and there has been no trend since 1950 in the frequency of strong (F3 to F5) tornadoes in the United States,” writes Benjamin Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute.

Well, how about hurricanes? They’re fueled by warm water, so clearly warmer temperatures would lead directly to more powerful, more deadly storms. Case closed, alarmists insist. Except, well, that theory doesn’t hold water very well.

“It has been over seven and a half years since a Category 3 or higher hurricane landed on the U.S. coast; such a long period devoid of an intense hurricane landfall has not been observed since 1900,” Zycher adds. “There has been no trend in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones over the last 70 years.”

Still, we’re told after every storm that it was made worse by climate change. And media coverage would lead one to believe that such storms are getting worse. But the problem isn’t the storms, it’s that too many Americans live so close to the ocean.

“In the United States, counties directly on the shoreline constitute less than 10 percent of the total land area (not including Alaska), but account for 39 percent of the total population,” NOAA reports. “From 1970 to 2010, the population of these counties increased by almost 40 percent and are projected to increase by an additional 10 million people or 8 percent by 2020.”

It’s no coincidence that more people are moving into harm’s way. It’s federal policy to encourage us to live by the sea.

A few years ago, journalist John Stossel explained that federal flood insurance makes it easy to build in a flood plain. So he did so. “The insurance premiums were a bargain. The most I ever paid was a few hundred dollars. Federal actuaries say if the insurance were realistically priced, it would cost thousands of dollars,” he wrote.

When a storm destroyed his beach, the Army Corps of Engineers paid to bring in new sand. When another storm washed away his house, the federal government paid for the house and its contents. That’s when Stossel gave up and moved further inland. But the federal government still guarantees hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of other people’s property.

So if we account for the storm damage and subtract the supposedly greater risk of twisters and hurricanes (Zycher notes that fires and droughts are in decline as well), there’s not much left to worry about.

Still, the president has made it clear he intends to take action. He says he’ll use executive orders to supposedly reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by power plants, to encourage the use of more renewable sources, and to make appliances more efficient.

There are real questions about whether he has the constitutional power to take such actions. But even if he was permitted to, he shouldn’t. We need to encourage human creativity, instead of slowing it down by punishing ourselves for supposedly using too much energy.

“If we are serious about climate change, we must seriously factor in the accelerating rate of technological change already in our society,” explains Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal. “Let us also appreciate how little we can know about how people will live a century from now, what energy sources they will use, and the strong likelihood that any sacrifices we make on their behalf today will be of zero value to them.”

When you clear away the smoke, the facts are clear: Climate change isn't causing harm in the U.S. So, Mr. President, there’s no worry. Enjoy your safari. Our healthy environment will be waiting for you when your flight touches down.


China hits the EU at a weak spot  -- French wine

In retaliation for ridiculous EU tariffs on solar panels

    The Chinese government has decided to launch an investigation into the European wine sector with the later intention to apply a punitive tax if necessary, as China authorities accuse wine producers in the European Union (EU) of unfair trade tactics such as dumping and subsidies.

    The temporary imposition of a tariff on Chinese solar panels by the EU started a trade war whose greatest victim is wine.

    "This is a thorough research on European wines for export, in all formats, is bottled in barrels or in bulk," say sources familiar with the process, which warned that the wineries are going to have to face a complicated process and urgent administrative that could derail Asian exports. And that is bad news for an industry whose sales in their home markets is already complicated by the financial crisis.

    Chinese authorities have given wine exporters 20 days to register as companies subject to investigation, and if they are not registered before July 21, China will automatically apply a punitive percentage.

Should the EU be stupid enough to press the matter further, China would likely respond in kind.

For example China could threaten to place tariffs on cars from Germany or better yet Airbus planes (manufactured in a consortium of countries including France).

Strong retaliation might drive home the point, but don't count on it. Never underestimate the stupidity of EU bureaucrats who think they can impose their wishes on the market.


Australia has shale too

SOUTH Australia is sitting on oil potentially worth more than $20 trillion, independent reports claim - enough to turn Australia into a self-sufficient fuel producer.

Brisbane company Linc Energy yesterday released two reports, based on drilling and seismic exploration, estimating the amount of oil in the as yet untapped Arckaringa Basin surrounding Coober Pedy ranging from 3.5 billion to 233 billion barrels of oil.

At the higher end, this would be "several times bigger than all of the oil in Australia", Linc managing director Peter Bond said.

This has the potential to turn Australia from an oil importer to an oil exporter.

"If it comes in the way the reports are suggesting, it could well and truly bring Australia back to (oil) self-sufficiency," Mr Bond said.

State Mineral Resources Development Minister Tom Koutsantonis said there were exciting times ahead for SA's resources industry.
Australian oil strike

"Shale gas and shale oil will be a key part to securing Australia's energy security now and into the future," he said.

Linc has hired Barclays Bank to find an investment partner for the next stage of the project, costing $150-$300 million.

The company aims to drill up to six horizontal wells to further confirm its figures, but Mr Bond is confident the region will be home to oil production.

The need to build another oil and gas hub, like the Santos production facility at Moomba, depends on the size of the discovery.  "If it really takes off, that's when you start to look at Moomba-type pipelines."

Mr Bond said there was the potential for a US-style "shale oil" boom in SA.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week the US could pass Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer this year, thanks to the shale oil explosion.

Mr Bond said the potential in SA was "massive", but even at the lower end of estimates - about 3.5 billion barrels - it was still very large.  "If you look at the upper target, which is 103-233 billion barrels of oil, that's massive," he said.  "The opportunity of turning this into the next shale boom is very real.

"If the Arckaringa plays out the way we hope it will, and the way our independent reports have shown, it's one of the key prospective territories in the world at the moment." Mr Bond said each well could flow at 1000-2000 barrels per day.

"You put in 50 of them and that's a lot of oil," he said. "We have a very good idea that this will be an oil-producing asset."

Mr Bond said Linc had so far spent about $130 million in the Arckaringa Basin, drilling four deep wells and "a couple of dozen" shallower wells.


The Top 5 Lies About Fracking

Explosions, poisons, pollution, cancer, and global warming all considered

Gasland Part II, the sequel to director/activist Josh Fox's earlier anti-fracking docudrama Gasland, will run on HBO next Monday. It appears to have rounded up the usual corporate villains and appealing victims of profit-hungry capitalist skullduggery, rather than telling the more substantial story: that fracking combined with horizontal drilling has unleashed a bonanza of cheap natural gas.

Fracking involves injecting pressurized water combined with sand and small amounts of chemicals to crack open shale rocks so that they will release trapped natural gas. Generally, the shale rocks are thousands of feet below the aquifers from which people draw drinking water. No doubt to the dismay of activists, President Barack Obama appears to endorse the process. "Sometimes there are disputes about natural gas," he said at his climate change speech last week at Georgetown, "but let me say this: We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions."

The president gets it, but a lot of activists don't. To help bring them around, I thought I'd take a look at some of the misleading claims made by opponents of fracking. Fortunately I just got a fundraising letter from fine folks at foodandwaterwatch (FWW) urging me to sign and send in a petition to the president to ban fracking. The letter is a nice compendium of anti-fracking scaremongering.

Falsehood 1: You can light your tap water on fire. Fox made this claim famous in the first Gasland movie when he showed a resident of Colorado striking a match as water came out of his tap; the natural gas dissolved in the water burst into flame. Yet the water was tested by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which reported to the resident: "There are no indications of any oil & gas related impacts to your well water." The agency concluded that the natural gas in his water supply was derived from natural sources—the water well penetrated several coal beds that had released the methane into the well.

The FWW letter warns, "When fracking loosens gas, it can cause methane to migrate into nearby household wells and drinking water." It adds, "Your home could explode, like the house that blew up in Pennsylvania and killed three people." This appears to be a reference to the 2004 case of Charles and Dorothy Harper and their grandson Baelee, in which natural gas migrated into their basement from some new nearby wells being drilled by the Snyder Brothers production company.

This artfully constructed section of the letter wants readers to conclude that fracking caused the deaths of the Harpers. Yet the wells in question were conventional gas wells; no fracking was taking place. The Harpers were killed by negligence: The company had not made sure that the casings on the wells were properly sealed with cement. (Cement is poured down around the well's steel piping to prevent gas or fluids from traveling upward and coming in contact with exposed rock along the borehole, where it can leach into drinking water aquifers.) Fracking technology had nothing to do with the tragedy, for which the Snyder Brothers made court-ordered restitution to the Harper family.

Another house exploded—fortunately without significant injury—when natural gas seeped in from a well in Ohio in 2007. In this case, the Ohio Valley Energy Systems Corporation was fracking an old conventional well whose cement casing was inadequate to block new supplies of highly pressurized natural gas from migrating into nearby water wells. Once the company fixed the casing, the problem was solved.

As A. Scott Anderson, a senior policy adviser with the Environmental Defense Fund, told The Wall Street Journal last year, "The groundwater pollution incidents that have come to light to date have all been caused by well construction problems." As the number of wells increase, so too will the chances that some will not be properly cemented, but that's not a problem inherent to fracking. Meanwhile, it is worth noting that the vast majority of natural gas explosions do not involve wells at all.

Falsehood 2: Fracking fluid "could seep into groundwater and poison drinking water." (The underlining is the FWW's.) The letter also asserts that fracking fluid is "full of poisonous chemicals."

Of course, the cabinet underneath your kitchen sink is also likely to be "full of poisonous chemicals." What matters to your health is the amount of exposure you have to them, not the mere fact of their existence.

A new study by researchers at Duke University, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in June, did find higher concentrations of methane in water wells that were within a kilometer of gas wells. But like earlier reports, the new paper concluded that the two simplest explanations for the higher levels of dissolved gas were faulty steel casings and improper cement sealing of the wells, not fracking. In addition, this study and two earlier ones done by the same team found no indication that well water has been contaminated by fracking fluids. (About 99.5 percent of fracking fluids, I should add, consist of water and sand.)

Is Pavillion, Wyoming, the exception? At the request of the remote community's residents, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigated to see if their wells had been contaminated by fracking fluids. The agency's draft report in December 2011 reported that water taken from sampling wells had found "synthetic chemicals, like glycols and alcohols consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids." But as the EPA turned over further investigation to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, the federal agency noted that the source of these "constituents of concern" had "not been determined," and that the EPA's efforts to figure how the contaminants got into the water wells had been "inconclusive."

The Wyoming investigators' report is due next year. Needless to say, if a natural gas producer does contaminate someone's water, the company must be held fully accountable for it.

Falsehood 3: Fracking increases air pollution. The FWW letter warns that fracking "contains high levels of neurotoxins and carcinogens and contains compounds that can create smog."

Almost any industrial activity will involve the production of noxious fumes at least some of the time. So how does the air pollution associated with producing natural gas compare to other industrial processes? A 2013 report from RAND Corporation researchers, published in Environmental Research Letters, calculates the regional air quality damages from gas production in Pennsylvania. Their reckoning of total damages takes into account harms both to physical health and the environment, including mortality, morbidity, crop and timber loss, visibility, and effects on anthropogenic structures and natural ecosystems.

They conclude that air quality damages from all natural gas production in the state amounted to between $7.2 million and $32 million in 2011. By contrast, the four largest coal-fired electricity generation plants in the state were the sources of nearly $1.5 billion in damages in 2008. The whole natural gas industry is responsible for just 2 percent of Pennsylvania's smog-causing volatile organic compounds, 5 percent of its nitrogen oxides, and 1 percent of the small particulates emitted by all industry in the state in 2008. (The RAND researchers could not get comparable 2011 data for the total air-pollution damage, so they used the closest year with available information.) That's not nothing, but converting just one coal-fired plant to burn natural gas would do far more to improve Pennsylvania's air quality than shutting down the state's entire gas industry.

Falsehood 4: Fracking causes cancer. The FWW letter hints at this, but the most incendiary claim along these lines was made by Josh Fox in his short "emergency film," The Sky Is Pink (2012). Fox intones, "In Texas, as throughout the United States, cancer rates fell. Except in one place: in the Barnett Shale. The five counties where there was the most drilling saw a rise in breast cancer throughout the counties."

The claim is entirely specious. Fox apparently based his lightly sourced assertion on a single newspaper article. Even that article garbled the data, reporting that six counties in the western Dallas-Fort Worth area have the highest rates of invasive breast cancer in Texas, rising all the way from 58.7 cases per 100,000 people in 2005 to about 60.7 per 100,000 in 2008. Typically breast cancer rates are reported as per 100,000 women, which would roughly double the rates cited in the article to 117.4 and 121.4. Meanwhile, the incidence of breast cancer among all Texas women hovered around 116 per 100,000 between 2005 and 2009. The U.S. rate was 125.7 per 100,000 women.

To fact-check Fox's claims, the Associated Press turned to two Texas researchers, Simon Craddock Lee, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and David Risser, an epidemiologist with the Texas Cancer Registry. Both said that there was no evidence of an increase in breast cancer in the counties cited by Fox.

Falsehood 5: Natural gas is worse than coal. This particular claim was launched in 2011 with a hastily cobbled-together study by three anti-fracking researchers at Cornell. Their argument is that leaking methane, whose global warming potential is much greater than that of carbon dioxide, more than entirely offsets whatever reductions in carbon dioxide emissions would be achieved by, for example, switching from coal to gas to generate electricity. The FWW letter claims that calling natural gas "clean" energy is "misleading," but unlike the Cornell researchers the group concedes that burning natural gas "emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal."

The FWW came much closer to the truth than the Cornell crew did. A comprehensive analysis published in November 2012 by researchers associated with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that "the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generated from Barnett Shale gas extracted in 2009 were found to be very similar to conventional natural gas and less than half those of coal-fired electricity generation." With respect to global warming, producing and burning natural gas from fracked wells is much better than burning coal.

Make no mistake: Any industrial process can go awry, usually through human error. And not everybody is a saint: Venal people will try short cuts that end up harming the innocent. When mistakes are made or short cuts taken, the culprits should be punished and the victims fully compensated for their losses.

But don't assume those villains are the norm. Over 500,000 gas wells are currently operating in the United States. Most of them manage to avoid blowing up houses, poisoning drinking water, making it hard to breathe, causing cancer, or being worse than coal.




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


1 comment:

Gort Newton said...

Hello and thank you for your website which I like. Does anyone here recall the greeenie 'scale' where it described on a scale of one to ten, what greenie attitudes are?

For example, a greenie 1 is someone who will replace the plants in their garden with natvie species (throwing out the non-natives like roses etc.). While a ten is a greenie who wants to see the entire human race destroyed because they infest mother Gaia (mother Earth). A five is someone who will kill an intensive chicken farmer because the chickens are suffering. I've seen this scale once only on the net and I'd like to get this scale with its definitions again... Anyone?

I can be contacted at

Thanks all