Thursday, May 01, 2014

Did global warming cause the tragedy on Everest?

This is so brain-dead as not really to deserve reply but maybe I should nonetheless point out the obvious.  Since there has been no global warming for 17 years, any recent warming in the Himalayas can only be due to local changes, not global ones.  At any one time glaciers across the world are both retreating and advancing due to local effects  -- mostly changes in precipitation.   Geoffrey Lean is an old Greenie propagandist from way back so the fact that he felt the need to write the tosh below shows how desperate the Warmists now are

It hasn't been much remarked upon during the anguished coverage in Europe and the United States of the deaths of 16 Sherpas in an avalanche on Mount Everest last week, but there is growing concern in the Himalayas that global warming may have played a part in the tragedy – and that it may go on to make the world's highest mountain unclimbable.

Both Sherpas and western climbers are increasingly sounding the alarm, saying that climate change is seriously destabilising the way up the mountain and making its ascent even more dangerous than before.

Concern about melting snow and ice in the Himalayas has been distinctly out of fashion for then past four years or so, following the discovery of a gross error in the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which predicted that the giant mountain chain's glaciers would disappear by 2035. But the melting has continued, albeit at a much smaller pace, all the same.

Research published by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu last year concluded that Nepal's glaciers have shrunk by 21 per cent over three decades. And studies on the Tibetan side of the range by the Chinese Acadamy of Science have reported that glaciers on Everest have declined ten per cent in the last 40.

"The legendary Apa Sherpa, who jointly holds the record of 21 ascents of the mountain, has long been warning of the effects on the ground. “In 1989, when I first climbed Everest, there was a lot of snow and ice, but now most of it has just become bare rock” he said back in 2012.


New skeptic publication in Nature Climate Change rebuts Åström et al. claims of increased deaths due to heat waves

I do not normally reproduce articles from the Anthonly Watts blog  -- on the grounds that anybody reading this blog would already have read the better-known Watts blog.  Anthony has however specifically asked for the findings below to be as widely disseminated as possible so I am doing what I can by posting it here -- JR

Rebuttal to Åström et al. Attributing mortality from extreme temperatures to climate change in Stockholm, Sweden., published in Nature Climate Change by Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger, Patrick J. Michaels, and Anthony Watts

Last fall, the press pounced on the results of a new study that found that global climate change was leading to an increasing frequency of heat waves and resulting in greater heat-related mortality. Finally a scientific study showing that global warming is killing us after all! See all you climate change optimists have been wrong all along, human-caused global warming is a threat to our health and welfare.

Not so fast.

Upon closer inspection, it turns out that the authors of that study—which examined heat-related mortality in Stockholm, Sweden—failed to include the impacts of adaptation in their analysis as well as the possibility that some of the temperature rise which has taken place in Stockholm is not from “global” climate change but rather local and regional processes not related to human greenhouse gas emissions.

What the researchers Daniel Oustin Åström and colleagues left out of their original analysis, we (Chip Knappenberger, Pat Michaels, and Anthony Watts) factored in. And when we did so, we arrived at the distinct possibility that global warming led to a reduction in the rate of heat-related mortality in Stockholm.

Our findings have just been published (paywalled) in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change as a Comment on the original Oustin Åström paper (which was published in the same journal).

We were immediately skeptical because the original Oustin Åström results run contrary to a solid body of scientific evidence (including our own) that shows that heat-related mortality and the population’s sensitivity to heat waves was been declining in major cities across America and Europe as people take adaptive measures to protect themselves from the rising heat.

Contrarily, Oudin Åström reported that as a result of an increase in the number of heat waves occurring in Stockholm, more people died from extreme heat during the latter portion of the 20th century than would have had the climate of Stockholm been similar to what it was in the early part of the 20th century—a time during which fewer heat waves were recorded. The implication was that global warming from increasing human greenhouse gas emissions was killing people from increased heat.

But the variability in the climate of Stockholm is a product of much more than human greenhouse gas emissions. Variations in the natural patterns of regional-scale atmospheric circulation, such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), as well as local impacts associated with urbanization and environmental changes in the direct vicinity of the thermometer are reflected in the city’s temperature history, and the original Oudin Åström et al. publication did not take this into account. This effect is potentially significant as Stockholm is one of Europe’s fastest growing cities.

But regardless of the cause, rising temperatures spur adaptation. Expanded use of air conditioning, biophysical changes, behavior modification, and community awareness programs are all examples of actions which take place to make us better protected from the dangers associated with heat waves. Additionally, better medical practices, building practices, etc. have further reduced heat-related stress and mortality over the years.

The net result is that as result of the combination of all the adaptive measures that have taken place over the course of the 20th century in Stockholm, on average people currently die in heat waves at a rate four times less than they did during the beginning of the 20th century. The effect of adaptation overwhelms the effect of an increase in the number of heat waves.

In fact, it is not a stretch to say that much of the adaptation has likely occurred because of an increased frequency of heat waves. As heat waves become more common, the better adapted to them the population becomes.

Our analysis highlights one of the often overlooked intricacies of the human response to climate change—the fact that the response to a changing climate can actually improve public health and welfare.


Reality Check: Coal To Fill China's Nuclear Gap

Though China is pushing nuclear energy and renewables hard, coal will be the fuel of the world's most populous, and polluted, country into the foreseeable future.

To combat worsening greenhouse-gas emissions and pollution, China aims to raise its nuclear capacity to 200 gigawatts by 2030, from only 14.6 gigawatts last year.

But it probably won't reach that goal, energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie forecast in a report Monday—which will mean opportunities for miners to supply huge amounts of additional coal to make up the power shortfall.

Shortages of qualified personnel, technology constraints, inadequate infrastructure for uranium-fuel fabrication and disposal, and public opposition to inland nuclear plants all mean a more realistic nuclear capacity in 2030 will be 175 gigawatts.

"China's nuclear capacity will account for 30% of the world's total nuclear fleet," said Gavin Thompson, head of Asia Pacific gas and power research at the consultancy. "Putting things into context, in 2013 China made up a mere 4.5% of the global nuclear fleet. Therefore the growth we expect in this time frame is phenomenal, even if targets are not met."

A shortfall of 25 gigawatts would equate to additional annual coal demand of 63 million tons by 2025, falling to 55 million tons by 2030, with gas and renewables filling the rest of the gap, he said.

Coal produced 65% of the electricity used by China last year, with hydropower second at less than 20%, Fitch Ratings said in March, adding that coal plants represent about 70% of national power capacity. Wood Mackenzie puts coal's share of China's energy mix last year higher, at close to 75%, and forecasts it will ease to 64% by 2030.

While such forecasts can be affected by many factors, "our nuclear outlook for China reinforces Wood Mackenzie's view that coal will continue to play a dominant role in power generation in the foreseeable future, even with the successful implementation of new environmental measures," Mr. Thompson said.


Reality Check II: Post-Fukushima Japan Chooses Coal Over Renewable Energy

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing Japan’s coal industry to expand sales at home and abroad, undermining hopes among environmentalists that he’d use the Fukushima nuclear accident to switch the nation to renewables.

A new energy plan approved by Japan’s cabinet on April 11 designates coal an important long-term electricity source while falling short of setting specific targets for cleaner energy from wind, solar and geothermal. The policy also gives nuclear power the same prominence as coal in Japan’s energy strategy.

In many ways, utilities are already ahead of policy makers. With nuclear reactors idled for safety checks, Japan’s 10 power companies consumed 5.66 million metric tons of coal in January, a record for the month and 12 percent more than a year ago, according to industry figures.

“You cannot exclude coal when you think about the best energy mix for Japan to keep energy costs stable,” said Naoya Domoto, president of energy and plant operations at IHI Corp., a developer of a technology known as A-USC that burns coal to produce a higher temperature steam. “One way to do that is to use coal efficiently.”

Japan’s appetite for coal mirrors trends in Europe and the U.S., where the push for cheaper electricity is undermining rules limiting fossil fuel emissions and supporting cleaner energy. In the U.S., a frigid winter boosted natural gas prices, providing catalyst for utilities to extend the lives of dirtier coal plants. Germany, Spain and Britain are slashing subsidies for renewables to rein in the cost of electricity.


How Britain Is Wasting Its Real Shale Potential

One of the world's most sclerotic bureaucratic states shows its form

WITH the Ukraine crisis intensifying and concerns growing over its impact on energy security, the government has responded this week with rather inconsistent messages: it announced more multi-billion subsidies for unreliable renewable energy projects and another promise to speed up shale gas extraction in Britain.

Speaking at a conference in Blackpool, and with a new report finding that shale could attract £33bn in investment and create 64,000 jobs, energy minister Michael Fallon claimed that this week will see the “kick off” in the development of shale gas in the UK. We’ve heard similar pronouncements before. Exactly one year ago, Fallon announced that Britain was “on track to accelerate” its shale gas programme. Yet there has been no progress in actually getting shale gas out of the ground.

In Texas, it takes seven days to get a permission for hydraulic fracturing of shale. In Britain, the wait has been going on for a whopping seven years. In 2007, Cuadrilla was granted a licence for shale gas exploration in Lancashire. Seven years later, not a single cubic foot of gas has been extracted.

Compare this with the Vaca Muerta shale basin in Argentina, discovered just over three years ago. The first horizontal well was drilled within 12 months. One year on, it produced over 20,000 barrels of shale oil per day.

For too long, the coalition has been talking the talk. Chris Wright, a leading US shale investor, told a parliamentary committee last year that he won’t invest in UK shale exploration because green tape and bureaucratic hurdles are making the approval process far too long and convoluted.

The government has promised a new, fast-track regulatory framework for fracking licences. Whether it will remove the existing obstacles remains to be seen. But in any case, the government seems far more concerned with speeding up the approval of costly green energy projects. This week, energy secretary Ed Davey announced generous subsidies for new offshore wind farms and other renewable projects. They will cost consumers more than twice the amount they have to pay for the current wholesale price of electricity, increasing household electricity bills by 2 per cent.

Interestingly, Davey no longer denies the growing burden of his subsidies, but argues that renewable energy is essential to boost energy security in light of Ukraine. In reality, wind and solar energy have become a serious energy security risk in a number of European countries, because they are intermittent and thus an unreliable way to generate electricity. Preferential support for green energy projects and environmental opposition to fracking have also slowed or stopped shale exploration in many parts of Europe.

Only now that the Ukraine crisis is intensifying by the day are European leaders calling for the EU to speed up the development and exploitation of shale resources. They have identified shale gas as one of the “indigenous” sources of energy that will help reduce dependency on gas imports from an increasingly erratic Russia.

In light of this, and the need to bring down (rather than drive up) energy prices, the UK would be well advised to proceed as rapidly as possible with its domestic shale development.


Big Win for Obama's EPA, As SCOTUS Upholds Cross-State Pollution Rule

The SCOTUS majority just made the law up as they went along

In a major anti-pollution ruling, the Supreme Court on Tuesday backed federally imposed limits on smokestack emissions that cross state lines and burden downwind areas with bad air from power plants they can't control.

The 6-2 ruling was an important victory for the Obama administration in controlling emissions from power plants in 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states that contribute to soot and smog along the East Coast.

It also capped a decades-long effort by the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that states are good neighbors and don't contribute to pollution problems elsewhere. The rule upheld Tuesday was EPA's third attempt to solve the problem.

The rule, challenged by industry and upwind states, had been cast by foes as an attempt by the Obama administration to step on states' rights and to shut down aging coal-fired power plants. Opponents said the decision could embolden the agency to take the same tack later this year when it proposes rules to limit carbon pollution. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said the agency will be flexible and work with states on the first-ever controls on power plants for the gases blamed for global warming.

On Tuesday, the court upheld a rule adopted by the EPA in 2011 that would force polluting states to reduce smokestack emissions that contaminate the air in downwind states. Power companies and several states sued to block the rule, and a federal appeals court in Washington agreed with them in 2012.

The Supreme Court reversed that decision. Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged the complexity of the problem before EPA.  "In crafting a solution to the problem of interstate air pollution, regulators must account for the vagaries of the wind," Ginsburg wrote.

The high court said the EPA, under the Clean Air Act, can implement federal plans in states that do not adequately control downwind pollution. But the court also ruled that the EPA can consider the cost of pollution controls and does not have to require states to reduce pollution by the precise amount they send to downwind states.

McCarthy called the court's ruling "a resounding victory for public health and a key component of EPA's efforts to make sure all Americans have clean air to breathe."

But Justice Antonin Scalia, in a vigorous dissent from the outcome, said, "Today's decision feeds the uncontrolled growth of the administrative state at the expense of government by the people." Reading part of his dissent from the bench, Scalia said the result "comes at the expense of endorsing, and thereby encouraging for the future, rogue administration of the law."

Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia in dissent. Justice Samuel Alito took no part in consideration of the case.

The new downwind pollution rule was triggered by a federal court throwing out a previous Bush administration regulation. The Bush-era rule has remained in effect while the courts have weighed challenges to the latest version, and EPA officials said the Bush rule would remain in place while they digested the Supreme Court's opinion.

The new rule would cost power plant operators $800 million annually, starting in 2014, according to EPA estimates. Some $1.6 billion per year has been spent to comply with the 2005 Bush rule.

The EPA says the investments would be far outweighed by the hundreds of billions of dollars in health care savings from cleaner air. The agency said the rule would prevent more than 30,000 premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses each year.

"The Supreme Court today laid to rest the well-worn issue of how to regulate air pollution that is transported hundreds of miles throughout the eastern U.S. and that makes it nearly impossible for states acting alone to protect the health and welfare of their citizens," said Bill Becker, the executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents air pollution control agencies in 45 states and territories and 116 major metropolitan areas nationwide.

Texas led 14 states and industry groups in challenging the rule. Most downwind states support it.

States had argued, and the lower court had agreed, that they deserved a chance to figure out how much they were contributing to pollution in other states and how to reduce it before the EPA prescribed fixes. The lower court also faulted the EPA for requiring states to reduce pollution through a complex formula based on cost that did not exactly match how much downwind pollution a state was responsible for.

Agreeing with the EPA, Ginsburg wrote that the realities of interstate air pollution "are not so simple." She wrote, "Most upwind states contribute to pollution to multiple downwind states in varying amounts."

The lower court will still have to decide if the EPA acted properly when it rejected state plans that had been approved under an earlier version of the rule.

Opponents of the decision Tuesday said it violated the intent of the Clean Air Act, which envisions states and the EPA working cooperatively to reduce air pollution.

"The Supreme Court majority has refused to allow the states to have any voice in the practicalities of determining the impact of their emissions on neighboring states," said Richard Faulk, senior director at George Mason Law School's Energy and Environment Initiative.

As for legal grounds, Scalia said the majority had "zero textual basis" in the Clean Air Act for justifying the EPA's approach, and he mocked its analysis as "Look Ma, no hands!"

Ginsburg said Scalia's approach would result in "costly overregulation" and called it "both inefficient and inequitable."



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