Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Climate change and air pollution will lead to famine by 2050, study claims

Garbage predictions like this are common, even though they run against all plant science.  To put it in simple language, plants LIKE warmth and they REALLY like CO2.  If there ever is global warming, plantlife, including crops, will boom!  I grew up in the tropics, which are really warm, and I know how plantlife flourishes there.   Creepers almost reach out and grab you, for instance.  And glasshouse farmers deliberately pump up the CO2 content in their glasshouses to more than double the general atmospheric level.  CO2 is plant food.

And warming should open up more of Canada to agriculture, and Canada is already a major producer of grain crops.  Give Canadian farmers more usable land to work with and Canada will be a cornucopia.

And there is an area in Australia, Cape York peninsula, that is about the size of Britain but which produces no food crops at the moment because most crops are usually in glut worldwide.  But the rain there is adequate and Chinese farmers in the goldrush days grew all sorts there

The world is expected to need 50 per cent more food by 2050, with around four billion more mouths to feed.

But this food could soon be in short supply due to increasing temperatures and ozone pollution, according to a U.S. study.

As a result, rates of malnourishment in the developing world could increase from the current 18 per cent to 27 per cent within the next four decades.

Previous research has shown that both higher temperatures and ozone pollution can damage plants and reduce crop yields, but until now, nobody has looked at these together.

And while rising temperatures are widely studied, the impact of air quality on crops is less recognised, the study's authors claim.

The latest research looked in detail at how both these changes affect global production of four leading food crops - rice, wheat, corn, and soy.

These crops currently account for more than half the calories humans consume worldwide.

It predicts that effects will vary considerably from region to region, and that some of the crops are much more strongly affected by one or the other of the factors.

For example, wheat is very sensitive to ozone exposure, while corn is much more adversely affected by heat.

A separate study by the the IPCC warned that as well as lack of food supply, climate change would cause storm surges, flooding and heatwaves in the coming decades.

In the U.S, tougher air-quality regulations are expected to lead to a sharp decline in ozone pollution, mitigating its impact on crops.

But in other regions, the outcome 'will depend on domestic air-pollution policies,' Professor Heald said. 'An air-quality cleanup would improve crop yields.'

Overall, with all other factors being equal, warming may reduce crop yields globally by about 10 per cent by 2050, the study found.

The research was carried out by Colette Heald, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at MIT, former CEE postdoc Amos Tai, and Maria van Martin at Colorado State University.

Ozone pollution can be tricky to identify, Professor Heald says, because its damage can resemble other plant illnesses, producing flecks on leaves and discoloration.

And while heat and ozone can each damage plants independently, the factors also interact.

For example, warmer temperatures significantly increase production of ozone from the reactions, in sunlight, of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.

Because of these interactions, the team found that 46 per cent of damage to soybean crops that had previously been attributed to heat is actually caused by increased ozone.

Under some scenarios, the researchers found that pollution-control measures could make a major dent in the expected crop reductions following climate change.

For example, while global food production was projected to fall by 15 per cent under one scenario, larger emissions decreases projected in an another scenario reduce that drop to nine per cent.

Agricultural production is 'very sensitive to ozone pollution,' Professor Heald says, adding that these findings 'show how important it is to think about the agricultural implications of air-quality regulations.

‘Ozone is something that we understand the causes of, and the steps that need to be taken to improve air quality.'

Earlier this year, the IPCC warned that as well as lack of food supply, climate change would cause storm surges, flooding and heatwaves in the coming decades.

It argued that rising temperatures will exacerbate poverty and damage land and marine species.

It also claimed that the world is in ‘an era of man-made climate change’ and has already seen impacts of global warming on every continent and across the oceans.

And experts warned that in many cases, people are ill-prepared to cope with the risks of a changing climate.


New paper finds 'high correlation between solar activity and Earth's temperature over centuries'

The article is in Chinese but there is an English abstract. On the longer time scales, the correlations are quite high.  The Warmist dismissal of solar influence is thus absurd

Periodicities of solar activity and the surface temperature variation of the Earth and their correlations

By ZHAO XinHua  & FENG XueShang


Based on the well-calibrated systematiCmeasurements of sunspot numbers, the reconstructed data of the total solar irradiance (TSI), and the observed anomalies of the Earth’s averaged surface temperature (global, ocean, land), this paper investigates the periodicities of both solar activity and the Earth’s temperature variation as well as their correlations on the time scale of centuries using the wavelet and cross correlation analysis techniques. The main results are as follows. (1) Solar activities (including sunspot number and TSI) have four major periodic components higher than the 95% significance level of white noise during the period of interest, i.e. 11-year period, 50-year period, 100-year period, and 200-year period. The global temperature anomalies of the Earth have only one major periodic component of 64.3-year period, which is close to the 50-year cycle of solar activity. (2) Significant resonant periodicities between solar activity and the Earth’s temperature are focused on the 22- and 50-year period. (3) Correlations between solar activity and the surface temperature of the Earth on the long time scales are higher than those on the short time scales. As far as the sunspot number is concerned, its correlation coefficients to the Earth temperature are 0.31-0.35 on the yearly scale, 0.58-0.70 on the 11-year running mean scale, and 0.64-0.78 on the 22-year running mean scale. TSI has stronger correlations to the Earth temperature than sunspot number. (4) During the past 100 years, solar activities display a clear increasing tendency that corresponds to the global warming of the Earth (including land and ocean) very well. Particularly, the ocean temperature has a slightly higher correlation to solar activity than the land temperature. All these demonstrate that solar activity has a non-negligible forcing on the temperature change of the Earth on the time scale of centuries.


Developers To Clear 850,000 Sq M Of Virgin Forests On UNESCO Nature Reserve To Make Way For 700-Foot Turbines

The days of an open welcome to “environmentally-friendly” wind parks in Germany are over.

When the turbines were small-scale and novel, people were generally open to them. But now that they have reached skyscraper dimensions, have proven to be unsightly, and have demonstrated poor performance, they are not welcome anymore.

Palantinate Forest

German developers plan to install 60 wind turbines, each 700-foot tall, in one of Central Europe’s last remaining untouched regions, the Palantinate Forest, a UN designated natural monument.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the picturesque southwest German region of Palatinate, where the online Die Welt here reports on the mounting fierce opposition that wind turbine developers are facing. The developers have their sights aimed at the hilltops of Germany’s fairy-tale-like Palatinate forest…an area that has been designated by UNESCO as a natural treasure and biosphere reserve. Here they hope to install wind parks with skyscraper-dimensioned turbines. Die Welt writes of the area:

It was the first cross-border natural reservation of this type in all of Europe because it also includes the Alsatian mountain range. Not very many Germans know that it is the largest uninterrupted landscape in Central Europe. Whoever wishes to see it, had better hurry up.”

850,000 sq m of virgin forest to be cleared

According to Die Welt, hungry wind park developers with deep pockets plan to install 60 wind turbines, each 209 meters (700 feet) tall in the area. Unsurprisingly this looming large-scale green industrialization of this particularly idyllic landscape has become too much to take, even for the most avid climate activist groups. Die Welt writes that for the first time all ten local environmental groups have closed ranks against the project, says Bernd Wallner of the Pfälzerwald-Verein (Palantinate Association). Opponents are rallying, calling it a matter of “homeland defense”.

Die Welt provides the technical details of the monster-size turbines: Each blade is 60 meters long and they will need elaborate roads to allow their transport to the site where they are to be installed. Each turbine will require 3000 tonnes of concrete and 100 tonnes of steel. In total 200,000 tonnes of concrete and 130,000 cubic meters of gravel will have to be hauled in by 60,000 trips by heavy cargo vehicles, which will involve the burning of 600,000 liters of diesel fuel and the clearing of 850,000 square meters of virgin forest.

Like putting turbines on Ayer’s Rock!

Environmentalists are fuming. Opponents accuse the wind turbine developers and the local and state authorities of covering up the environmental costs and impacts of the project and misleading the public. Critics say the senselessness of the project is tantamount to putting wind turbines on Ayers Rock.

Unrealistic profit projections used to “bait the public”

Opponents also accuse the wind park developers of putting out overly optimistic figures for expected wind turbine performance in order to bait the public. Die Welt writes:

Ernst Gerber believes the promises of profitability, with which investors and local representatives are being baited, are estimates from a naïve milkmaid: ‘Despite the subsidies, things are moving towards the lower limits of profitability.’”

Die Welt itself characterizes the promise of profitability made by the wind park developers as “rotten”, and that the region is one that is “low in wind”.

Threat to wildlife…violates the law

The wind park opponents also say that the monster turbines are a threat to wildlife and birds. What’s more, turbine critic Rainer Becker thinks they would violate the law, “The construction of the wind parks are clearly in violation of the existing laws and the international species protection act“.

Other opponents claim that big business and power companies in Luxemburg are ramming the projects through and ignoring the wishes of the local inhabitants, Die Welt writes.


Wind and solar power are even more expensive than is commonly thought

SUBSIDIES for renewable energy are one of the most contested areas of public policy. Billions are spent nursing the infant solar- and wind-power industries in the hope that they will one day undercut fossil fuels and drastically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere. The idea seems to be working. Photovoltaic panels have halved in price since 2008 and the capital cost of a solar-power plant—of which panels account for slightly under half—fell by 22% in 2010-13. In a few sunny places, solar power is providing electricity to the grid as cheaply as conventional coal- or gas-fired power plants.

But whereas the cost of a solar panel is easy to calculate, the cost of electricity is harder to assess. It depends not only on the fuel used, but also on the cost of capital (power plants take years to build and last for decades), how much of the time a plant operates, and whether it generates power at times of peak demand. To take account of all this, economists use “levelised costs”—the net present value of all costs (capital and operating) of a generating unit over its life cycle, divided by the number of megawatt-hours of electricity it is expected to supply.

The trouble, as Paul Joskow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has pointed out, is that levelised costs do not take account of the costs of intermittency.* Wind power is not generated on a calm day, nor solar power at night, so conventional power plants must be kept on standby—but are not included in the levelised cost of renewables. Electricity demand also varies during the day in ways that the supply from wind and solar generation may not match, so even if renewable forms of energy have the same levelised cost as conventional ones, the value of the power they produce may be lower. In short, levelised costs are poor at comparing different forms of power generation.

To get around that problem Charles Frank of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, uses a cost-benefit analysis to rank various forms of energy. The costs include those of building and running power plants, and those associated with particular technologies, such as balancing the electricity system when wind or solar plants go offline or disposing of spent nuclear-fuel rods. The benefits of renewable energy include the value of the fuel that would have been used if coal- or gas-fired plants had produced the same amount of electricity and the amount of carbon-dioxide emissions that they avoid. The table summarises these costs and benefits. It makes wind and solar power look far more expensive than they appear on the basis of levelised costs.

Mr Frank took four sorts of zero-carbon energy (solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear), plus a low-carbon sort (an especially efficient type of gas-burning plant), and compared them with various sorts of conventional power. Obviously, low- and no-carbon power plants do not avoid emissions when they are not working, though they do incur some costs. So nuclear-power plants, which run at about 90% of capacity, avoid almost four times as much CO{-2} per unit of capacity as do wind turbines, which run at about 25%; they avoid six times as much as solar arrays do. If you assume a carbon price of $50 a tonne—way over most actual prices—nuclear energy avoids over $400,000-worth of carbon emissions per megawatt (MW) of capacity, compared with only $69,500 for solar and $107,000 for wind.

Nuclear power plants, however, are vastly expensive. A new plant at Hinkley Point, in south-west England, for example, is likely to cost at least $27 billion. They are also uninsurable commercially. Yet the fact that they run around the clock makes them only 75% more expensive to build and run per MW of capacity than a solar-power plant, Mr Frank reckons.

To determine the overall cost or benefit, though, the cost of the fossil-fuel plants that have to be kept hanging around for the times when solar and wind plants stand idle must also be factored in. Mr Frank calls these “avoided capacity costs”—costs that would not have been incurred had the green-energy plants not been built. Thus a 1MW wind farm running at about 25% of capacity can replace only about 0.23MW of a coal plant running at 90% of capacity. Solar farms run at only about 15% of capacity, so they can replace even less. Seven solar plants or four wind farms would thus be needed to produce the same amount of electricity over time as a similar-sized coal-fired plant. And all that extra solar and wind capacity is expensive.

A levelised playing field

If all the costs and benefits are totted up using Mr Frank’s calculation, solar power is by far the most expensive way of reducing carbon emissions. It costs $189,000 to replace 1MW per year of power from coal. Wind is the next most expensive. Hydropower provides a modest net benefit. But the most cost-effective zero-emission technology is nuclear power. The pattern is similar if 1MW of gas-fired capacity is displaced instead of coal. And all this assumes a carbon price of $50 a tonne. Using actual carbon prices (below $10 in Europe) makes solar and wind look even worse. The carbon price would have to rise to $185 a tonne before solar power shows a net benefit.

There are, of course, all sorts of reasons to choose one form of energy over another, including emissions of pollutants other than CO2 and fear of nuclear accidents. Mr Frank does not look at these. Still, his findings have profound policy implications. At the moment, most rich countries and China subsidise solar and wind power to help stem climate change. Yet this is the most expensive way of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Meanwhile Germany and Japan, among others, are mothballing nuclear plants, which (in terms of carbon abatement) are cheaper. The implication of Mr Frank’s research is clear: governments should target emissions reductions from any source rather than focus on boosting certain kinds of renewable energy.


German Utilities Bail Out Electric Grid at Wind’s Mercy

Germany’s push toward renewable energy is causing so many drops and surges from wind and solar power that the government is paying more utilities than ever to help stabilize the country’s electricity grid.

Twenty power companies including Germany’s biggest utilities, EON SE and RWE AG, now get fees for pledging to add or cut electricity within seconds to keep the power system stable, double the number in September, according to data from the nation’s four grid operators. Utilities that sign up to the 800 million-euro ($1.1 billion) balancing market can be paid as much as 400 times wholesale electricity prices, the data show.

Germany’s drive to almost double power output from renewables by 2035 has seen one operator reporting five times as many potential disruptions as four years ago, raising the risk of blackouts in Europe’s biggest electricity market while pushing wholesale prices to a nine-year low. More utilities are joining the balancing market as weak prices have cut operating margins to 5 percent on average from 15 percent in 2004, with RWE reporting its first annual loss since 1949.

“At the beginning, this market counted for only a small portion of our earnings,” said Hartmuth Fenn, the head of intraday, market access and dispatch at Vattenfall AB, Sweden’s biggest utility. “Today, we earn 10 percent of our plant profits in the balancing market” in Germany, he said by phone from Hamburg July 22.

Price Plunge

In Germany’s daily and weekly balancing market auctions, winning bidders have been paid as much as 13,922 euros to set aside one megawatt depending on the time of day, grid data show. Participants stand ready to provide power or cut output in notice periods of 15 minutes, 5 minutes or 30 seconds, earning fees whether their services are needed or not.

German wholesale next-year electricity prices have plunged 60 percent since 2008 as green power, which has priority access to the grid, cut into the running hours of gas, coal and nuclear plants. The year-ahead contract traded at 35.71 euros a megawatt-hour as of 3:54 p.m. on the European Energy Exchange AG in Leipzig, Germany.

Lawmakers last month backed a revision of a the country’s clean-energy law to curb green subsidies and slow gains in consumer power prices that are the second-costliest in the European Union. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s energy switch from nuclear power aims to boost the share of renewables to at least 80 percent by 2050 from about 29 percent now.

Power Premium

Jochen Schwill and Hendrik Saemisch, both 33, set up Next Kraftwerke GmbH in 2009 to sell power from emergency generators in hospitals to the power grid. Today, the former University of Cologne researchers employ about 80 people and have 1,000 megawatts from biomass plants to gas units at their disposal, or the equivalent capacity of a German nuclear plant.

“That was really the core of our founding idea,” Schwill said by phone from Cologne July 21. “That the boost in renewable energy will make supply more intermittent and balancing power more lucrative in the long run.”

Thomas Pilgram, who has sold balancing power since 2012 as chief executive officer of Clean Energy Sourcing in Leipzig, Germany, expects the wave of new entrants to push down balancing market payments.

“New participants are flooding into the market now, which means that prices are coming under pressure,” Pilgram said. “Whoever comes first, gets a slice of the cake, the others don’t because prices have slumped.”

Increased Competition

German grid regulator Bundesnetzagentur welcomes the increase in balancing market participants.

“That’s in our interest as we want to encourage competition in this market,” Armasari Soetarto, a spokeswoman for the Bonn-based authority, said by phone July 18. “More supply means lower prices and that means lower costs for German end users.”

The average price for capacity available within five minutes has dropped to 1,109 euros a megawatt in the week starting July 14, from 1,690 euros in the second week of January, Next Kraftwerke data show. Payments for cutting output within 15 minutes dropped to 361 euros from 1,615 euros in January.

The number of participants has increased as the country’s four grid operators refined how capacity is allocated. In 2007, the grids started one common auction and shortened the bidding periods. Since 2011, power plant operators commit their 5-minute capacity on a weekly basis instead of a month before.

Balance Payments

Balancing-market payments to utilities totaled 800 million euros last year, similar to the amount in 2012, grid data show. Utilities were asked to reserve 3,898 megawatts this week, which compares with Germany’s total installed power generation capacity of 183,649 megawatts as of July 16. One megawatt is enough to power 2,000 European homes.

Tennet TSO GmbH, Germany’s second-biggest grid operator, told power plant operators to adjust output 1,009 times to keep the grid stable last year, compared with 209 times in 2010. The interventions, used alongside the balancing market, are expected to be as frequent this year as in 2013, Ulrike Hoerchens, a spokeswoman for the Bayreuth, Germany-based company, said by phone on July 23.

To adapt to volatile supply and demand, RWE invested as much as 700 million euros on technology for its lignite plants that allow the units to change output by 30 megawatts within a minute. The coal-fired generators were originally built to run 24 hours a day.

RWE’s lignite generators, which have a total capacity of 10,291 megawatts, are flexible enough to cut or increase output by 5,000 megawatts on a sunny day, when power from solar panels floods the grid or supply vanishes as skies turn cloudy, according to Ulrich Hartmann, an executive board member at RWE’s generation unit.

“Back in the days, our lignite plants were inflexible, produced power around the clock and were always earning money,” Hartmann in Bergheim, Germany, said in a July 9 interview. “Now they are as flexible as gas plants.”


Australia: Giant new coal mine gets approval

The federal government has approved a giant Queensland coalmine that it says will generate as much as $300 billion for the economy, but which environmental groups say will contribute to a “carbon bomb” and risk causing significant damage to the Great Barrier Reef.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Monday said that he had approved the Carmichael Coal Mine in the Galilee Basin and its associated rail link to the coast with “the absolute strictest” environmental conditions.

The 36 conditions, which include offsets of about 30,000 hectares for habitat destroyed, water returns for the Great Artesian Basin and $1 million for further research in protecting threatened species, will ensure the mine owner, India’s Adani, “meets the highest environmental standards”, Mr Hunt said in a media statement.

At full capacity, the Carmichael mine would produce as much as 60 million tonnes of coal a year, with a “resource value of $5 billion per annum over 60 years”, the statement said.

Apart from the boost to the local economy to the tune of 3920 jobs for operations and 2475 during construction, the mine will also “provide electricity for up to 100 million people in India”, Mr Hunt said.

Environmental groups including Greenpeace, though, warn the mine’s output would generate almost 130 million tonnes of carbon dioxide when burnt each year, or equal to about a quarter of Australia’s current annual emissions.

Billionaire MP Clive Palmer also owns two Galilee coal reserves that may produce as much as 80 million tonnes of coal a year if those mines get developed. Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart also holds a minority stake with India’s GVK in mines with a similar annual capacity.

“History will look back on the Abbott Government’s decision today as an act of climate criminality,” said Greens Senator Larissa Waters, the party’s environment spokeswoman.

“The proponent, Indian-owned Adani, is in financial dire straits and has already faced complaints about breaches of environmental laws in its home country

“There’s no guarantee Adani will be able to pay for the environmental conditions attached to the approval and with the Abbott and Newman governments slashing environment department staff, there’s no capacity to enforce them."

'Coffin' for the Reef

The mine, if it proceeds, would also increase the number of ships entering the Great Barrier Reef by about 450 a year, according to Felicity Wishart, a spokeswoman for the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

“This is yet another nail in the coffin for the Great Barrier Reef,” said Ms Wishart, adding that Carmichael and other proposed coal mines and gas plants in the region would likely increase the number of ships entering the reef area from about 4000 a year to 7000 by 2020.

Paul Oosting, campaigns director at social organising group GetUp!, said the approval was an “outrageous decision”.

“GetUp! will fight tooth and nail to make sure it will never occur,” Mr Oosting said. He said campaigns had succeeded in discouraging the involvement of banks such as Deutsche Bank, Barclays and RBS in the Abbot Point coal export terminal that will link to Carmichael.

The government should also have taken greater account of Adani’s “proven and documented track record of bribery, corruption and environmental degradation” in India, Mr Oosting said.

Water watch

One of the government’s conditions is that the mine will return a minimum of 730 megalitres of water to the Great Artesian Basin every year for five years.

However, Lock the Gate’s Central Queensland spokeswoman, Ellie Smith, said the mine would do “great damage to ground and surface water systems and the communities that depend on them”.

“Environment Minister Greg Hunt has ignored his own panel of top water scientists and is putting the Great Artesian Basin at further risk by allowing mine dewatering to drain the Basin,” Ms Smith said.

Adani has said the Carmichael mine would extract as much as 12.5 gigalitres of water every year, Lock the Gate noted.

Market hurdle

Getting government approval may be easier than winning over markets that have soured on coal, with prices of the commodity dropping about 50 per cent over the past five years.

Concerns about over-supply as nations such as Russia, Indonesia and Mongolia join Australia in preparing to ramp-up production have lately been complemented by signs that global action on climate change will see carbon costs imposed on coal to curb its usage.

South Korea, for instance, this month slapped a coal tax of about $18 per tonne of coal and will introduce a broad carbon price from 2015. Neighbouring China, easily the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, has also unveiled plans for a national carbon emissions market and may aim to curb coal consumption within coming years.

Tim Buckley, a former Citibank analyst and now a director at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said the environmental approval itself was no surprise.

“I never expected [Mr] Hunt to go against Premier [Campbell] Newman nor Prime Minister [Tony] Abbott's desire to promote foreign firms trying to sustain Australia's coal industry,” Mr Buckley said.

“Ironically, should the Galilee proceed, it will actually accelerate the longer-term destruction of our coal export industry by dramatically expanding the capital invested, whilst at the same time taking coal prices globally down another 10-20 per cent.”

Adani, though, said it was standing by its longstanding guidance that the first coal from the mine will be produced in 2017

"The Carmichael mine, together with North Galilee Basin Rail and Abbot Point, will be an enduring provider of more than 10.000 jobs, ongoing partnerships with our small and medium business suppliers, and long-term export opportunities for Queensland," an Adani spokesman said.

"All commodity prices are by their nature subject to volatility," the spokesman said. "Having said that, Adani is an integrated mining, infrastructure and power company that is both the miner, infrastructure owner and operator, and eventual customer for the cost efficient and high quality coal exported from our Carmichael mine."



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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