Friday, December 19, 2014

More unsettled science:  It's squirrels and beavers who are causing  global warming

Strange that there hasn't been any for a long time, though

Rodents such as squirrels and beavers are contributing far more to global warming than previously thought, forcing climate scientists to alter the models they use to chart how the world is warming up.

Arctic ground squirrels churn up and warm soil in the Tundra, releasing carbon dioxide, while methane released by beavers contributes 200 times more methane than they did 100 years ago, according to scientists from the American Geophysical Union.

Faeces and urine produced by rodents are speeding up the release of carbon from the permafrost, the vast store of greenhouses spanning the Arctic Circle, researchers found.

Dr Sue Natali, from the AGU, said "We know wildlife impacts vegetation, and we know vegetation impacts thaw and soil carbon.

"It certainly has a bigger impact than we've considered and it's something we will be considering more and more going into the future."

Dr Natali added: "Carbon has been accumulating in permafrost for tens of thousands of years. The temperature is very cold, the soils are saturated, so that when plants and animals die, rather than decompose, the carbon has been slowly, slowly building up.

"Right now the carbon storage is about 1,500 billion tonnes. To put that in perspective, that's about twice as much as is contained in the atmosphere."

As part of the Polaris Project, Dr Natali, from Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, and Nigel Golden, from the University of Wisconsin travelled to Siberia to study the underground burrows of arctic squirrels.

The team found that this activity meant that the burrows were warmer than the surrounding ground, while nitrogen that the squirrels were adding to the ground through their waste was also having an impact.

Beavers, meanwhile, have dammed up more than 16,200 square miles of ponds. A separate paper, published in the journal AMBIO, found that beavers are responsible for releasing around 881,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere each year, much more than cud-chewing animals such as deer or antelope.

It means scientists will in the future have to alter their theories around anthropogenic, or man-made, climate change to take account of 'rodentopogenic' influences, scientists told Mail Online.


Leftist hack Dana Milbank finally deigns to listen to some skeptics

He wrote the following in the Washington Post:

For years, the fossil-fuel industries have been telling us that global warming is a hoax based on junk science.

But now these industries are floating an intriguing new argument: They’re admitting that human use of coal, oil and gas is causing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to rise — but they’re saying this is a good thing. We need more CO2 in our lives, not less.

“CO2 is basically plant food, and the more CO2 in the environment the better plants do,” proclaimed Roger Bezdek, a consultant to energy companies, at an event hosted Monday by the United States Energy Association, an industry trade group.

The session, at the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Washington, was devoted to demonstrating that “CO2 benefits clearly outweigh any hypothesized costs.” And though Bezdek is an economist, not a scientist, he played one on Monday — showing a PowerPoint presentation that documented a tree growing faster when exposed to more carbon dioxide.

“CO2 increases over the past several decades have increased global greening by about 11 percent,” the consultant said. Higher carbon levels in the atmosphere will boost worldwide agricultural productivity by $10 trillion over the next 35 years, he added.

And this doesn’t include the indirect benefits of good-ol’ CO2. “Over the past two centuries, global life expectancy has more than doubled, population has increased eightfold, incomes have increased 11-fold. At the same time, CO2 concentrations increased from 320 ppm to about 400 ppm,” Bezdek said, using the abbreviation for parts per million. The benefits of CO2, he said, exceed its costs by ratios of between 100-1 and 900-1. A chart helpfully illustrated this “Close Link Between CO2 & GDP.”

I’m neither a scientist nor an economist, but I’ve heard that correlation is not the same as causation. I pointed out to Bezdek that increasing energy use fueled the economic growth, and CO2 was just a byproduct. So wouldn’t it make more sense to use cleaner energy?

“Fossil fuels will continue to provide 75, 80, 85 percent of the world’s energy for at least the next four or five decades,” he asserted. And even if we could reduce CO2, we shouldn’t. “If these benefits are real — and there have been five decades and thousands of studies and major conferences that pretty much have proven they are — then maybe we shouldn’t be too eager to get rid of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

This was some creative thinking, and it took a page from the gun lobby, which argues that the way to curb firearm violence is for more people to be armed.

Another questioner at the event asked Bezdek if he had considered ocean acidification, the release of methane gases, pollution and other side effects of rising CO2. This did not trouble him. “As you develop and you become wealthier,” he explained, “you have the wealth to clean up the mess.” He went on to point out that “35,000 people every year in the United States die in automobile accidents, but the solution is not to ban automobiles. You try to make them safer.”

And the solution to climate change is not to ban energy but to make it cleaner.

The U.S. Energy Association membership comes from various sectors but includes big petroleum companies and utilities. Bezdek seemed to have a special place in his heart for coal, “the major world energy source of the past, present and future . . . lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”

The presentation began as a standard recitation of the climate-change denial position, that “there’s been no global warming for almost two decades” and that forecasts are “based on flawed science.”

But then Bezdek pivoted into a robust defense of carbon dioxide’s benefits. “These days, CO2 seems to be blamed for everything,” he lamented, but the much-maligned gas is what’s keeping the world from an economic collapse so deep “you’d look upon North Korea as an economic consumer’s paradise, literally.” He mocked European efforts to use renewable fuels (“You can’t check your e-mail today because the wind isn’t blowing”) and he said that in the United States, “inability to pay utility bills is the second-leading cause of homelessness.”

Clearly, more CO2 would make us all breathe easier. “Controlled studies indicated that twice today’s levels would be very good for agriculture,” he said, “and below certain levels . . . plants wouldn’t grow and we wouldn’t live.”

Luckily, we need not worry about that, because Bezdek is confident fossil fuels will continue to prevail. In “2070 will we have a new and different energy source?” he asked. “Maybe, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

Definitely don’t hold your breath, sir. We need all the CO2 we can get.


Craig Idso comments:

"It is a shame how these people operate.  We all know they are the real deniers, denying observations, the scientific method and truth as they cling to their apocalyptic dogma.  We need more stories and visuals of the benefits of CO2 so the world can see for themselves in simple terms the stupidity of people like Dana Milbank who suggest fossil fuels/rising CO2 concentrations do not provide biospheric and human benefits.  Let's all promote the positives of CO2 and fossil fuels more, especially since it riles them so much!"

Will Happer sent the following note to Roger Bezdek

"Dear Roger,

I am delighted that the Washington Post has finally run a story on the benefits of CO2. Congratulations.  For years Craig Idso and his father Sherwood, and others have been pointing out that the benefits of CO2 far outweigh any harm, but they have been unable to get coverage in the Washington  Post, the New York Times, etc.  You have.  And by the standards of the global warming cult, you were treated very sympathetically.

Remember comment by Shopenhauer:  "All truth passes through three states, first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed,  and thirdly it is accepted as self-evident." The Washington Post article is part of stage one.  You should get ready for stage two, which will include death threats.  We are facing a really vicious and powerful cult that will stop at nothing to protect its influence.  Sooner or later we will reach stage three."

Even Before Long Winter Begins, Energy Bills Send Shivers in New England

Courtesy of the Greenies

SALEM, N.H. — John York, who owns a small printing business here, nearly fell out of his chair the other day when he opened his electric bill.

For October, he had paid $376. For November, with virtually no change in his volume of work and without having turned up the thermostat in his two-room shop, his bill came to $788, a staggering increase of 110 percent. “This is insane,” he said, shaking his head. “We can’t go on like this.”

For months, utility companies across New England have been warning customers to expect sharp price increases, for which the companies blame the continuing shortage of pipeline capacity to bring natural gas to the region.

Now that the higher bills are starting to arrive, many stunned customers are finding the sticker shock much worse than they imagined. Mr. York said he would have to reduce his hours, avoid hiring any new employees, cut other expenses and ultimately pass the cost on to his customers.

Like turning back the clocks and putting on snow tires, bracing for high energy bills has become an annual rite of the season in New England. Because the region’s six states — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont — have an integrated electrical grid, they all share the misery.

These latest increases are salt in the wound. New England already pays the highest electricity rates of any region in the 48 contiguous states because it has no fossil fuels of its own and has to import all of its oil, gas and coal. In September, residential customers in New England paid an average retail price of 17.67 cents per kilowatt-hour; the national average was 12.94 cents.

Beyond that, the increases confound common sense, given that global oil prices have dropped to their lowest levels in years, and natural gas is cheap and plentiful from the vast underground shale reserves in nearby Pennsylvania.

But the benefits are not being felt here. Connecticut’s rate of 19.74 cents per kilowatt-hour for September was the highest in the continental United States and twice that of energy-rich states like West Virginia and Louisiana. The lowest rate, 8.95 cents, was in Washington State, where the Columbia River is the nation’s largest producer of hydropower.

For the coming winter, National Grid, the largest utility in Massachusetts, expects prices to rise to 24.24 cents, a record high. The average customer will pay $121.20 a month, a 37 percent increase from $88.25 last winter.

The utilities argue that they are hamstrung unless they can increase the pipeline capacity for natural gas, which powers more than half of New England. That would not only lower costs for consumers, they say, but also create thousands of construction jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.

The region has five pipeline systems now. Seven new projects have been proposed. But several of them — including a major gas pipeline through western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, and a transmission line in New Hampshire carrying hydropower from Quebec — have stalled because of ferocious opposition.

The concerns go beyond fears about blighting the countryside and losing property to eminent domain. Environmentalists say it makes no sense to perpetuate the region’s dependence on fossil fuels while it is trying to mitigate the effects of climate change, and many do not want to support the gas-extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that has made the cheap gas from Pennsylvania available.

Consumers have been left in the middle, as baffled as they are angry. Utilities across the region are holding workshops and town meetings to try to address their concerns and offer tips on energy conservation. About 100 people showed up this month for a meeting at Salem High School here that included a presentation by Liberty Utilities, the largest natural gas distributor in New Hampshire.

John Shore, a company spokesman, told the audience that in times of peak demand, the available natural gas went first to residential and business customers. Some power plants that normally rely on gas then turn to more expensive fuels like oil, although not all plants have the ability to switch fuels. In some cases, electric generating plants go offline, and more expensive generators are used to make up the capacity.

A year ago, the governors of the six New England states agreed to pursue a coordinated regional strategy, including more pipelines and at least one major transmission line for hydropower. The plan called for electricity customers in all six states to subsidize the projects, on the theory that they would make up that money in lower utility bills.

But in August, the Massachusetts Legislature rejected the plan, saying in part that cheap energy would flood the market and thwart attempts to advance wind and solar projects. That halted the whole effort.


Dangerously rising sea levels in Florida?

Florida’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change doesn’t seem at first blush to be a Canadian issue.

But every year, some 3.5 million Canadians travel to the sunshine state. What’s more, about half a million Canadians own property in Florida, much of it at risk from rising sea levels.

A lot of that property, particularly if it’s situated along one of the coveted stretches of Miami’s fabled beaches, could well be worthless and literally underwater in a few decades, says Harold Wanless, the chair of the department of Geological Sciences at the University of Miami.

His word for the future of Miami and much south Florida? Doomed.

The “monster” in climate change, as Wanless sees it, is a warming ocean. Sea levels will rise because water expands as it gets warmer, and oceans are taking up vast amounts of heat produced by global warming.

Warmer water is also driving the accelerated melting of the vast ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica.

Wanless says a two-metre rise in sea level by 2100 is likely, but says it’s also plausible it could be as much as five metres by the end of the century, and it will continue rising for centuries after that.

And the facts?

Sea levels around Florida have been rising at a rate of 2.01mm/year since 1897, but this rate has been slowing down in recent years, rising by just 1.3mm/year in the last 30 years.

Meanwhile, 50-year trends show that the fastest rate of rise occurred between 1910 and 1960.

Finally, it should be pointed out that, according to Church & White, the Florida coast is sinking at the rate of 0.27mm/year, thus accounting for a fifth of the recent rate of rise.

Two metres by the end of the century? And he is supposed to be a scientist?

More HERE  (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

New York state to ban fracking over health fears

New York state is looking to ban fracking, citing unresolved health issues and dubious economic benefits of the widely used gas-drilling technique.

Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said he is recommending a ban. Governor Andrew Cuomo said he is deferring to Mr Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker in making the decision.

"I cannot support high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York," Mr Zucker said, adding that the "cumulative concerns" about fracking "give me reason to pause".

Mr Zucker and Mr Martens summarised the findings of their environmental and health reviews. They concluded that shale gas development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing carried unacceptable risks that haven't been sufficiently studied.

Mr Martens says the Department of Environmental Conservation will put out a final environmental impact statement early next year, and after that he'll issue an order prohibiting fracking.

Fracking, which involves injecting water into rock to release gas, has sparked controversy in the UK and US, and New York has had a ban on shale gas development since the environmental review began in 2008.

"Mounting scientific evidence points to serious health risks from fracking operations," said Kate Sinding, deputy director of the New York programme at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"With this announcement, the governor has listened, ... demonstrating both courage and national leadership on this critical issue."


McConnell: 'First Item' in Next Senate Will Be Keystone XL Pipeline

"We'll be starting next year with a job-creating bill that enjoys significant bipartisan support," Sen. Mitch McConnell, the next majority leader, told reporters on Tuesday, the last day of the current Congress.

"The first item up in the new Senate will be the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Hoeven bill. It will be open for amendment. We'll hope that senators on both sides will offer energy-related amendments, but there'll be no effort to try to micromanage the amendment process. And we'll move forward and hopefully be able to pass a very important, job-creating bill early in the session."

McConnell noted that permission to bring a new segment of the Keystone Pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border has been delayed for six years.

"The notion that building another pipeline is somehow threatening to the environment is belied by the fact that we already have 19 pipelines, I'm told, by (Sen.) Lisa Murkowski, that cross either the Mexican border or the Canadian border. Multiple studies, over and over again, showing no measurable harm to the environment. People want jobs. And this project will create well-paying, high wage jobs for our people.

"It certainly does enjoy a lot of bipartisan support. You saw that on the vote that was held a couple of weeks ago. And we're optimistic we can pass it and put it on the president's desk."

McConnell said the Senate will take up a bill introduced by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

The Hoeven legislation authorizes TransCanada to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast, transporting an additional 830,000 barrels of oil a day to U.S. refineries.

The State Department's final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), released in January, concluded that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would have no significant impact on the environment. Hoeven said if Congress passes legislation authorizing construction of the project, a presidential permit would no longer be needed.

Last month, a Senate attempt to advance Keystone legislation fell one vote short of the 60 votes needed. Shortly before that mid-November vote, White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked if President Obama would veto the bill.

Earnest said the president considers the State Department, not Congress, to be "the proper venue for reaching this determination."

"So I think we'll probably wait and see what happens in the Senate, and see whether or not the president -- this comes to the president's desk before we sort of make decisions about the next steps."

With a new Republican majority in both the Senate and the House, the Keystone bill is likely to pass in 2015. But it would need 67 votes in the Senate to override a veto.

With that in mind, Hoeven has said he may roll the pipeline bill into a "broader energy package or appropriations bill that the president will not want to veto."



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