Thursday, July 04, 2013
SEA LEVEL CHANGES PAST RECORDS AND FUTURE EXPECTATIONS
by Nils-Axel Mörner
The history and development of our understanding of sea level changes is reviewed. Sea level research is multi-facetted and calls for integrated studies of a large number of parameters. Well established records indicate a post-LIA (1850–1950) sea level rise of 11 cm. During the same period of time, the Earth’s rate of rotation experienced a slowing down (deceleration) equivalent to a sea level rise of about 10 cm. Sea level changes during the last 40-50 years are subjected to major controversies. The methodology applied and the views claimed by the IPCC are challenged. For the last 40-50 years strong observational facts indicate virtually stable sea level conditions. The Earth’s rate of rotation records a mean acceleration from 1972 to 2012, contradicting all claims of a rapid global sea level rise, and instead suggests stable, to slightly falling, sea levels. Best estimates for future sea level changes up to the year 2100 are in the range of +5 cm ±15 cm.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT, VOLUME 24 No. 3 & 4 2013
Inhospitable Earth -- Compared to What?
You just can't out-gloom an environmentalist. The Atlantic invited some luminaries to answer the question, "How and when will the world end?" Some contributions were funny. Others simply plausible -- a volcanic eruption from underneath Yellowstone National Park is frightfully overdue. But only an environmentalist like Bill McKibben could be a killjoy about the apocalypse itself.
The environmental activist and writer declares the question moot: "In a sense, the world as we knew it is already over. We have heated the Earth, melted the Arctic and turned seawater 30 percent more acidic. The only question left is how much more fossil fuel we'll burn, and hence how unfamiliar and inhospitable we'll make our home planet."
It's difficult to imagine a more absurd overstatement. I'm not referring to the exaggerated claim the Arctic has "melted." And the acidification of the oceans is a real concern (though there's reason to believe it's not as bad as some say). But even Chicken Little wouldn't call it proof the world is already over.
What's truly ludicrous is McKibben's use of the word "inhospitable."
For something like 99 percent of human history, the world was really inhospitable. Strangers everywhere were greeted with bloodshed and attacked with cruelty. Dying from premature violence was more commonplace than dying from heart disease or cancer is today. In his classic, "War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage," Lawrence Keeley provides mountains of data documenting that modern humans live on a mountain of murder. In prehistoric societies, up to half of the population died from homicide, though 10 percent to 20 percent was closer to the norm.
In "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined," Steven Pinker shows that the world has become immeasurably more hospitable since the Industrial Revolution. Even World War II was an improvement. If the death toll had been equal to that of tribal societies, 2 billion lives would have been lost instead of a "mere" 60 million to 100 million. In the United States, violent crime is the lowest it's been in nearly half a century.
Of course, McKibben is speaking of the physical environment. But by any conceivable measure -- save, arguably, outdoor temperatures -- the Earth is a vastly more hospitable place for humanity thanks to the hard work of humanity. When Pilgrims came to North America, it was often described as an inhospitable wilderness. Malaria, smallpox and yellow fever decimated immigrants (not to mention untold millions of Native Americans). Backbreaking labor was the only means of subsistence for millions of Americans for generations. Drudgery and toil -- have you ever tried to churn butter? -- were necessary for even the simplest pleasures. And does anyone dispute the improved lot of blacks and women?
Ironically, as global warming fears have risen, America and the Earth have gotten more, not less, hospitable. Since 1990, global poverty has been cut in half, and since 1970, extreme poverty has dropped 80 percent.
Rich and poor alike are eating better, despite global population growth. According to UNICEF, more than 2 billion people gained access to improved water sources between 1990 and 2010. In the developing world, meat consumption has more than doubled since the 1990s (after having doubled already since the 1960s). That's because new technologies allow us to grow more with less. From 1940 to 2010, U.S. corn production quintupled while the land used for the crop shrunk.
"Globally," writes Matt Ridley, "the production of a given crop requires 65 percent less land than it did in 1961." And, he notes, the acreage required for all crops is falling 2 percent a year.
OK, things have gotten a wee bit warmer outside. But economic growth and innovation have made the world vastly more hospitable. We live longer, eat better, have more leisure time and have fewer deadly occupations. The environment in the developed world has gotten vastly cleaner, healthier and more enjoyable since the 1970s because rich countries can afford to make things more hospitable. We can only hope poor countries get similarly wealthy as quickly as possible.
Well, most of us can hope for such things. Others seem to think such gains come at too high a price.
The snow that isn't vanishing
Ski resorts are concerned that global warming will reduce snowfall and hurt the skiing industry.
Skiing executive Auden Schendler said, “Aspen Skiing Company joined the climate declaration because if there is an industry that ought to care about climate change, it’s the ski industry.” The 2007 Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns of a difficult future for the industry: “…snow cover area is projected to contract…mountainous areas will face glacier retreat, reduced snow cover and winter tourism…shifting of ski slopes to higher altitudes.”
There’s just one problem. Continental snowfall has been increasing. According to the Rutgers University Global Snow Laboratory, North American snowfall extent has been gradually rising over the last 40 years. The year 2010 showed the largest continental land area covered by winter snow since the data set began in 1967.
What makes otherwise sensible people fear that snow is disappearing when snowfall is actually increasing? It’s the ideology of Climatism, the belief that man-made greenhouse gases are destroying Earth’s climate. Belief in this same ideology causes people to purchase light bulbs that are slow to light and to buy electric cars that can’t go very far. Climatism causes state governments to mandate erection of wind turbine towers that often stand idle.
But if snowfall is changing, why do people believe that government action can change such a climatic trend? In the fall of 2009, the mayor of Moscow declared that the Russian Air Force was now able to “keep it from snowing.” Five months later, in February of 2010, Moscow received 21 inches of snow in a single storm. Last winter, Moscow received the most snow in a century.
Nevertheless, we probably have bipartisan support in Congress for regulation of snowfall. Save the polar bears and the snow.
American Geophysical Union Scraps Science, Now Faith Based
I recently attended a 3-day science policy conference sponsored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU). The AGU is an association of 62,000 scientists who study the Earth. Although the conference was allegedly about science policy, it resembled a cross between a Scientology rally and a workshop for lobbyists from the Mohair Council of America.
The euphemisms for lobbying by people who aren't supposed to be lobbying are "communication" and "outreach." The AGU believes, in a secular way, that God is on their side and the reason why they are being ignored, and not being given enough money, is that they haven't done enough communicating. They think that if only the government understood the importance of their work, things would change for the better. It absolutely never crosses their mind that if the government and the people understood what they are really doing, their money might be cut off.
What they are doing is howling at the moon that the sky is falling. The president of the AGU, Carol Finn, who, incidentally, is employed by the federal government, opened the lobbying/communications workshop on the first day of the conference with this:
"AGU's mission is to promote discovery ... for the benefit of humanity[.] ... I live in Colorado[.] ... [L]ast week's Black Forest fire ... was the worst wildfire in Colorado's history[.] ... I live in Boulder County[.] ... [T]he county and the city of Longmont have just outlawed fracking[.] ... [A]ll these communities need to be able to try to figure out how to balance energy development and putting drill rigs next to schools[.]"
The subtext here, repeated over and over at the conference, is that global warming causes forest fires and that hydrocarbon development is undesirable, if not dangerous. But perhaps forest fires are started by matches. Maybe hydrocarbon development is preferable to riding around on horses.
How trustworthy is an organization that claims to be organized for the "benefit of humanity," anyway?
The illogical thinking and ever-changing stories about global warming doom are puzzling. What motivates the global warming proselytizers? Is there a root belief that explains their behavior? My suggestion is that their behavior is religious in nature and can be explained if we postulate that they believe in the following commandment:
"Thou shalt not add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere"
If you realize that the story is not really about global warming, but rather about changing the composition of the atmosphere, it becomes easy to understand why the believers are not disturbed by the fact that global warming, as measured by surface temperature, stopped 16 years ago. They easily find other scientific theories to buttress their faith. They ignore or discredit any science that challenges their faith. They tell us that if we don't stop adding carbon dioxide to the air, we will have extreme weather and the oceans will become acidified. The polar bears will die. The wine will lose its flavor. We will catch exotic diseases.
If one theory of doom is refuted, or becomes boring, there are plenty of others to take its place. Embarrassing information, such as the fact that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere makes plants grow faster, with less water, is dismissed. They say plants grow faster, but they are less nutritious, or they grow faster, but they deplete the soil of its nutrients.
What we have is an obsession with the evil of carbon dioxide -- a carbon cult.
The great majority of people who are members of the AGU are interested in science, not in a new religion centered on carbon. They have not woken up to the fact that their organization has been infiltrated by a carbon cult.
The carbon cult formulation does explain a lot. Chesterton's insight -- "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe in anything" -- seems relevant in this discussion. Compared to traditional religion, the carbon cult is naive and emotionally thin.
Missionaries for a well-organized religion are intensely practical and often extremely diligent. Much of the science of linguistics has been created not by professors, but by Christian missionaries who want to learn the languages of illiterate peoples so that they can spread the gospel and translate the Bible. Of course, they also have to devise an alphabet and teach the people to read the newly translated Bible. Thus you have an example of the civilizing influence of Christianity.
What is the civilizing influence of missionaries who want to take practical sources of energy away from poor peoples?
The missionaries of the carbon cult are gradually becoming better-organized. In the United States, religions are financed by their followers. The government is not supposed to support religions financially, at least not if one religion is favored over another. But the carbon cult masquerades as a scientific discipline, enabling it to receive government funding. The carbon cult is financed partly by government support of science, and partly by the contributors to the big-budget environmental organizations.
The ability to influence government policy is as good as cash in the bank, and the ways in which influence over government policy can be turned into cash are endless. For example, a few years ago, the natural gas industry gave $25 million to the Sierra Club for their "beyond coal" campaign that is trying to destroy the coal industry. The natural gas people thought that the Sierra Club through its influence over the government would kill the coal industry, thereby helping the alternative fuel, natural gas. The natural gas industry did not understand that you can't buy off ideological fanatics. The Sierra Club later turned on its benefactor and launched an attack on fracking. The Sierra Club is an important church in the carbon cult.
The AGU has received large contributions from, of all people, oil companies. Global warming orator Bill McKibben, the leader of an organization whose purpose is to lower the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, said that the business plan of the oil companies is to wreck the Earth. Carbon cultists consider fossil fuel companies to be extremely evil, but apparently they are willing to suspend that judgment when cash is available. In this case the dictum attributed to Lenin seems relevant: "The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." Oil company executives are casting themselves in the role of the people to be hanged.
The first day of the AGU Science Policy Conference was devoted to an excellent tutorial on how to lobby the government and on how to present the doctrines of the carbon cult in an effective way. The organizational structure of a typical congressional office was explained. The attendees were treated to skits showing an effective and ineffective way to approach a congressional staffer. The attendees were cautioned about the use of scientific jargon. Susan Hassol, a prominent writer for the global warming establishment, made the point that the word aerosol should be banned. To scientists, aerosols are small particles floating in the atmosphere, but to the public, they are aerosol spray cans and always will be.
The attendees were told to explain why the weather would be more extreme by comparing carbon dioxide to steroids. If an athlete takes steroids, he will still play the game, but his performance will be more extreme.
One difference between a cult and a legitimate religion is that the cults usually hide their true nature. The more bizarre the cult, the greater the imperative to hide its doctrines. The general public must not be allowed to realize that the advocates of global warming alarmism are in reality making up the story to propagate a fanatical faith that carbon dioxide is bad.
The science behind global warming is very shoddy. Yes, there is a nugget of real science buried in all the alarmist, made-up stuff. Carbon dioxide does absorb infrared radiation, and increased carbon dioxide probably will warm the Earth by a small amount. The mechanism is quite complicated, involving the atmospheric lapse rate and a slight relocation of the tropopause.
The complicated and jargon-laden science is reduced, by the missionaries of the carbon cult, for public consumption, to "carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas." The formal predictions of global warming from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are the product of an opinion poll of computer models that disagree with each other and that have been manipulated to make them look better than they really are. The carbon cultists accept those predications as serious and profound scientific truth, because the predictions provide support for their faith.
New British nuclear plant could be running by 2020
Britain could have a new nuclear reactor generating by 2020, the energy secretary has said, dismissing fears the timescale for the planned Hinkley Point plant had slipped further into the next decade.
EDF Energy has refused to give an up-to-date timetable for building reactors at the site in Somerset, which it originally planned to be producing power before the end of 2017.
Ed Davey told MPs that he did not recognise a claim that Hinkley wouldn’t be running until 2023. He said: “We are still hopeful we could see new nuclear generating in maybe 2020, 2021. I’m not going to say it will definitely be there because we haven’t signed a deal yet.”
The project, the costs of which are estimated to have risen to £14bn, will only proceed if the French-owned company can agree with the government over a decades-long contract to provide billions of pounds in subsidies.
Mr Davey said the two sides were yet to agree on the crucial 'strike price’ - a guaranteed price for the power Hinkley will produce, paid for through levies on consumer energy bills.
But he insisted the negotiations with EDF had been “going incredibly well” and were “very constructive”, despite the fact the French company had hoped to take an investment decision before the end of last year. Last week ministers offered EDF £10bn in financing guarantees as a sweetener for the project.
Centrica, which abandoned its 20pc stake in the project in February, stoked fears over possible delays to the project in May when chief executive Sam Laidlaw said that “instead of taking four to five years to build, EDF were telling us that it was going to take nine to 10 years to build”.
EDF is thought to have extended the timetable for Hinkley after a reactor in France took longer than expected, and after the Fukushima disaster.
Why a bet on shale gas will transform Britain
Forget the scare stories - we can cut carbon emissions and boost our economic fortunes
The Government last week published the British Geological Survey’s estimate of 1,300 trillion cu ft of natural gas stored within the shale rock deep beneath northern England. It is becoming clearer that the potential to transform our energy provision lies underneath our feet.
If only 10 per cent of northern England’s shale resources can be extracted, that would meet the UK’s current gas demand for more than 40 years. And at today’s prices, it would have a market value of almost £1 trillion, without considering the gas and oil deposits elsewhere in the country.
Some people argue we should generate more electricity using renewables instead of falling back on fossil fuels. After all, the Government has confirmed that renewables’ share of generation (around 9.6 per cent) will continue to grow. Decarbonising electricity generation is a key part of our energy policy.
But electricity generation accounts for only about a third of UK gas consumption. The remaining two thirds is taken up in heating our homes, firing our cookers and fuelling industry. So even if all our electricity demand could be generated without gas we would, without domestic shale gas, increasingly rely on expensive and potentially insecure imported gas. Clearly, gas and renewables will both form part of our energy mix for a long time to come.
There are other compelling reasons for us to be exploring for and developing shale gas. First, as a nation, we need sustained economic growth, the key to which is job creation. Britain’s recent performance in this regard, particularly for young people, has been very poor. However, in a recent report, the Institute of Directors predicts that shale gas development could create 74,000 new jobs, spanning geology, drilling, accounting, IT, and construction.
Second, communities will benefit financially. The prospect of them receiving £100,000 for every exploration well site that is hydraulically fractured, in addition to one per cent of revenues from future shale gas production, is fantastic news. More than £1 billion over a 20 to 30-year production period could be returned to Lancastrian communities in the Bowland Basin licence area alone.
The third point is that shale gas will make a major contribution to the Exchequer. In real terms, Deloitte estimates tax revenues from North Sea production will decline from £11.2 billion in 2011-12 to £3.7 billion in 2017-18. Onshore gas production could fill that gap, providing money to pay for health care, education, defence and other public services.
Predictions of production sites proliferating across densely populated areas are wide of the mark. Within 20 to 30 years, a successful Lancashire development could have up to 100 production sites in commercial operation across 1,200 square km. But put them together, these sites – each the size of a football pitch – would cover a total area of two sq km. After drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations are finished, each site would only contain a few low-rise processing facilities, together with valves and pipes inside units the size of post boxes, with the site screened by trees.
Of course, not everyone shares our belief about the potential of shale gas, but as long as the debate involves scientific data, that’s fine with us. There’s no place for ill-founded assertions about industrialisation, major earthquakes, contaminated drinking water or cancer, to name just some of the outcomes we hear propagated as “inevitable”. Britain has the engineering, health, safety and environmental expertise, together with a robust regulatory framework, to develop shale resources safely. To suggest that as a country we are incapable of doing this and must rely on the Middle East, Russia, North Africa or elsewhere to supply our gas is ill-judged.
We should also be wary of an artificial split between shale gas and renewables. Together, they represent the best opportunity we have to bring down the UK’s carbon emissions while maintaining competitiveness. There is little evidence from the US that shale gas undermines the case for investment in renewables, as long as the government and the electorate want them.
We need to demolish unfounded scare stories and tackle red tape so as to generate long-lasting benefits for the UK through the safe and responsible extraction of shale gas. Let’s start by stripping away guesswork, so we can understand exactly how much gas stored in shale rocks thousands of feet underground can be recovered.
Right now, we are on the verge of a historic opportunity to transform the UK’s energy supplies and economic fortunes for decades to come. Success means a stronger Britain, with better opportunities for our children, and lasting economic and environmental benefits for all.
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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
Posted by JR at 6:36 PM