Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Latest ‘sick oceans’ report absurd

Global warming is making the oceans sicker than ever before, spreading disease among animals and humans and threatening food security across the planet, a major scientific report said on Monday.

The report lists several consequences of warming they claim are “absolutely massive.” The scientists say we are “making the oceans sick,” “drastically altering the rhythm of life” and “changing the seasons in the ocean.” Yet when we examine the observed warming, these claims are shown to be ridiculous. How can we trust scientists when they make statements like this on the slenderest evidence:

"the hotter oceans have killed off coral reefs at an unprecedented rate, reducing fish species by eliminating their habitats"

Earlier this year some bleached coral prompted claims that 93% of the Great Barrier Reef were damaged. But just two weeks ago teams of divers surveyed 300 km of the worst-hit portions of the reef and reported:

Everywhere we have been we have found healthy reefs.

No more than perhaps 7% had been damaged. The Great Barrier Reef was in fine condition, recovering nicely from an entirely natural bleaching event. Maybe a few coral reefs elsewhere have experienced a similar event.

So I don’t believe these claims of apocalyptic damage to the oceans. This graph of ocean temperatures over 35 years shows insignificant warming of just 0.15 °C. The same as 0.42 °C over a century. Not nearly enough for the dramatic changes claimed in this report. The normal diurnal range of surface temperatures can be over 5 °C, which makes 0.15 °C less than trivial.

Also in the report:

It documents evidence of jellyfish, seabirds and plankton shifting toward the cooler poles by up to 10 degrees latitude.

But ten degrees of latitude is only about 1100 km — completely insignificant for many marine species. Some penguins range over territory 6000 km wide and they can travel up to 15,000 km in six months. They’ll all be back when summer is over. Huge numbers of fish and other creatures follow the warmth, not the cold.

Anyway, if movements like these are real and turn out to be permanent, they weren’t caused by the sea water warming, because it hasn’t warmed, which means we didn’t cause it, which means this is all perfectly natural.


G20: US-China Climate ‘Deal’ Is A Sham

If you believe the BBC, the US and Chinese presidents signed a major deal on climate at the G20 summit in China today.

Actually, though, the deal means nothing because it’s non-binding and anyway the agreed targets – set at the COP21 fiasco in Paris last year – are a total waste of time.

Yes, of course, papers like the New York Times have tried to put a brave face on it:

    At a ceremony in this picturesque lakefront city, the two leaders hailed the adoption of the Paris agreement as a critical step toward bringing it into force worldwide. Together, China and the United States generate nearly 40 percent of the world’s emissions, not far from the threshold of 55 percent required for the global pact to take effect.

    “Despite our differences on other issues, we hope our willingness to work together on this issue will inspire further ambition and further action around the world,” Mr. Obama declared.

    Mr. Xi praised the Paris agreement as a milestone, adding, “It was under Chinese leadership that much of this progress was made.”

But the reality, as this analysis earlier in the year from the Global Warming Policy Foundation made clear, is that the agreement made in Paris – and now being endorsed by Presidents Obama and Xi – is toothless and therefore meaningless.

As the author of the analysis, Professor David Campbell of Lancaster University explains, the agreement gave China (and other “developing” countries like India) carte blanche to go on producing as much CO2 as they like. Otherwise China would never have signed it.

    The devil lies in Article 4 (7) of the Paris agreement:

    The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention. . .will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.

    Both India and China count as “developing” countries. What this subclause means is that no matter what commitments they may make to reduce their CO2 emissions, these must take second place to economic growth. So basically they can produce as much CO2 as they like without being in breach of the Paris Agreement. No wonder they put up so little resistance.

Not even “developed” countries are obliged to do anything, either. That’s because – at the behest of the US delegation in Paris – the word “should” was inserted into a key clause instead of “shall.” Otherwise, as Paul Homewood explains, it would have become legally binding and would have had to be ratified by Congress.

But here’s the most stupid thing of all: even if all the countries in the world were to hold true to the vague, non-binding commitments they made in Paris – which of course they won’t – the resultant reduction in global warming would be 0.048 degrees C by the end of the century.

All this fanfare, all this regulation, all this expense to reduce “global warming” by less than one twentieth of a degree.


EVs: An Ancient, Not Infant, Industry

Energy history takes the wind out of the sails of the advocates of forced energy transformation. Proponents of government- enabled renewable energies must contend with the fact that for most of mankind’s (impoverished) history, the market share of biomass, wind, solar, and falling water was 100 percent. (The carbon-based energy era is only a couple of hundred years old.)

And proponents of government-enabled electric vehicles (not golf carts) must know that their technology was beat fair and square than a century ago.

Here are some quotations on the rise and fall of EVs (or EEVs–emission elsewhere vehicles).

“Nothing fails like failure. Following the collapse of the Electric Vehicle Company, internal combustion began to assume a dominant position in the developing motor vehicle market.”

David Kirsch, The Electric Vehicle and The Burden of History (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000), p. 238.

“The ‘electric cab and carriage service’ described in the epigraph was inaugurated in New York City in March 1897 by Henry Morris and Pedro Salom, two Philadelphia-based engineers, with financial and logistical support from the Electric Storage Battery Company.”

David Kirsch, The Electric Vehicle and The Burden of History (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000), p. 29.

“Electrical World [in 1898] opined that, in spite of recent improvements, the storage battery ‘will spatter, fume, give out on the road, leak, buckle, disintegrate, corrode, short-circuit and do many other undesirable things under the sever conditions of automobile work.'”

David Kirsch, The Electric Vehicle and The Burden of History (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000), p. 46.

“Many would-be electric drivers either bought no car at all or bought an internal combustion vehicle. As one participant in the March 1909 meeting of the Pacific Coast Electric Automobile Association observed, ‘the unwarranted promise by the daily newspapers of a 200-mile battery has proved a serious obstacle to the introduction of electric vehicles.'”

David Kirsch, The Electric Vehicle and The Burden of History (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000), p. 200.

“The electric vehicle of 1914 was no longer competing against a crude, unreliable, gasoline-powered horseless carriage. Rather, by 1910 the internal combustion vehicle industry had itself evolved.  Leading firms such as Ford, Buick, and Studebaker were producing many thousands of vehicles each year.  Numerous advances in design, technology, and manufacturing had propelled the industry forward.

As of 1914, therefore, the electric vehicle industry confronted the following dilemma: the electric vehicle of 1902 (that is, after the initial kinks had been worked out of the Exide battery) was actually more acceptable to consumers than was the electric vehicle of 1910.  In absolute terms the electric vehicle of 1910 was vastly superior to the first-generation vehicles produced at the turn of the century; but relative to both expectations and the internal combustion vehicle of 1910, the passenger electric car was actually further from commercial viability than was its predecessor.”

David Kirsch, The Electric Vehicle and The Burden of History (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000), p. 201.

“Not only were electric vehicles incapable of meeting expectations, but the success of internal combustion created a moving target. As the internal combustion bandwagon gathered momentum, the threshold for minimum required performance continued to ratchet upward, thereby solidifying public perception of the electric vehicle as a technological failure.”

David Kirsch, The Electric Vehicle and The Burden of History (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000), p. 203.

“No electric car since 1902, regardless of battery or drive train, had been able to compete effectively against its contemporary internal combustion counterpart.”

David Kirsch, The Electric Vehicle and The Burden of History (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000), p. 203.

“The Electric Vehicle Association of America (EVAA) [was] a full-fledged trade organization representing electric vehicle manufacturers, battery makers, and electric companies. During its six-year existence as an independent entity, the EVAA helped underwrite a modest resurgence of interest in the electric vehicle, especially for commercial delivery and haulage.”

David Kirsch, The Electric Vehicle and The Burden of History (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000), p. 8.

“Early electric vehicle enthusiasts had many reasons to hope for a revolutionary breakthrough in energy storage technology; their generation had lived through the last quarter of the nineteenth century, an age of technological miracles. Initially, faith in the imminent solution to the battery problem ran high. Over time, however, hope gave way to a mixture of steadfast optimism and wistful resignation. Expectations were never fulfilled, even as incremental technological changes dramatically improved the capabilities of the typical electric vehicle.

All the while, internal combustion was consolidating its hold on the automobile market, further raising the bar for a successful electric passenger vehicle. Gradually, the electric car came to occupy a unique position; its prospects always seemed bright, even though memories were full of its history of unmet expectations.

David Kirsch, The Electric Vehicle and The Burden of History (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000), p. 9.

“In the late 1890s, at the dawn of the automobile era, steam, gasoline, and electric cars all competed to become the dominant automotive technology. By the early 1900s, the battle was over, and internal combustion was poised to become the prime mover of the twentieth century.”


Fracking Really Isn't So Bad

By James Conca: I write about nuclear, energy and the environment

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Chemists at the University of Texas at Arlington have published a new study that suggests the toxic organic vapor contamination in and around oil and gas fracking wells result more from sloppy drilling and operations, and are not inherent to the extraction process itself. Source: Hildenbrand et al. (2016)
Chemists at the University of Texas at Arlington have published a new study that suggests the toxic organic vapor contamination in and around oil and gas fracking wells result more from sloppy drilling and operations, and are not inherent to the extraction process itself. Source: Hildenbrand et al. (2016)

When Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last year that hydraulic fracturing would be banned in the State of New York, he cited the lack of scientific data on public health effects. He also said more study needed to be done to determine where emissions were coming from in the fracking and extraction cycle.

That study has now been done. Chemists at the University of Texas at Arlington published a study that indicates contamination from fracking wells are highly variable but result more from operational inefficiencies than from the extraction process itself.

In other words, it’s sloppy drilling methods that are the worst part of fracking.

The study, “Point source attribution of ambient contamination events near unconventional oil and gas development”, was published on Friday in the Science of the Total Environment. The researchers found highly variable levels of benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene compounds (BTEX) in and around fracking sites in the Eagle Ford shale region in South Texas. BTEX compounds in high concentrations can have harmful health effects in humans.

What was important was that the emissions were not from the fracking itself, but from a variety of onsite activities that were carried out in a poor or sloppy fashion.

Most studies on fracking have focused on rogue methane emissions. While methane is a potent greenhouse gas, rogue emissions do not have an immediate effect on human health because their concentrations are hundreds to thousands of times below what is required for acute health effects or asphyxiation.

But toxic vapors are another matter.

The authors presented an analysis of BTEX in the Eagle Ford shale region of southern Texas where fracking has increased enormously in the last decade. Using a novel mobile mass spectrometer mounted in the passenger seat of an electric hybrid car, real-time air quality measurements gave BTEX concentrations up to 5,000 parts per billion (ppb) originating from various onsite activities.

These include gas flaring units, condensate tanks, compressor units, and hydrogen sulfide scavengers. Mechanical inefficiencies in these systems, not the fracking process itself, cause the majority of emissions from these sites. While these measurements on their own do not fully portray emissions at all sites, they strongly suggest that contamination from fracking wells can be monitored, controlled, and reduced through better procedures and practices.

We’ve noticed this before with respect to fracked wells. Fugitive methane emissions come more from a poor cement job during sealing of the wells, than from fracking itself. EPA considers emissions from natural gas systems to be fairly low, even compared to agriculture and organic digesters (Duke University; Forbes Opinion).

Plus, no one believes fracking for gas to be anywhere near as environmentally destructive as getting coal or oil out of the ground by any means.

America’s carbon emissions are lower than at any time since 1989 and there are two big reasons for this – the Great Recession and the shale gas fracking craze.

Last year, EPA cut its estimates of methane emissions from natural gas production by 20%, bolstering industry claims that the fuel has a lower carbon footprint than coal and prompting new calls for the agency to soften its 2012 air rules for the sector (EPA).

Over the past ten years, electricity from coal has decreased by 25% and electricity from natural gas has increased 35%. Gas is being installed as the primary back-up to renewables. Gas is replacing nuclear in some unregulated markets. So expect natural gas use to double in the coming decades.


Studies blaming ailments on Pennsylvania fracking are flawed

Facing strong criticism, researchers at Johns Hopkins University, who have put out a number of studies blaming fracking in Pennsylvania for common ailments such as headaches, fatigue, asthma and sinus problems, published a defensive op-ed late last week attempting to justify their work.

Their damage control is partially in response to Energy In Depth's work, which has exposed the flaws in the research team's papers. EID actually dug into the data of their last three health studies and discovered that areas with no drilling showed much higher levels of symptoms than areas with shale development – contrary to the researchers' claims of a link between development and health impacts.

Their asthma study is contradicted by Pennsylvania Department of Health data, which show that heavily drilled counties have far lower rates of asthma hospitalizations than counties that have no shale production at all. The Department of Health data also show asthma hospitalizations declined by 26 percent from 2009 to 2013, when natural gas production in the state soared.

The researchers also claim living closer to shale wells increases the risk of premature birth, but their data show that 11 percent of women had premature deliveries in the area closest to shale wells. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1 in every 9 babies is born prematurely in the United States – or about 11 percent of babies. The rates near wells were not elevated at all, as the researchers tried to suggest.

In their op-ed, the researchers try to deflect the criticism, claiming that they focused on the individual level, rather than producing an ecological study, which looks at community-wide effects.

Let's consider the individual angle for a moment. If you're trying to figure out whether someone's symptoms were caused by exposure to a particular event, one of your first research tasks is to find out if he or she had those symptoms prior to exposure. Yet in each study, the researchers went out of their way not to include this kind of baseline data.

In their study claiming a link between fracking and sinus problems, migraines and fatigue, the researchers did not even ask the patients if they had migraines or fatigue before shale development. There was no way to tell if they had suffered from these conditions all their lives – as many people do with these conditions – or if the onset was recent. They did obtain some baseline data for sinus problems, but admitted that there were only a "small number of subjects" that occurred after 2006 so they couldn't link those symptoms to fracking.

In their premature birth study, they "excluded births before 2009," so they had no way to tell if rates increased after shale development. They also failed to include data on several other major risk factors associated with preterm births, including smoking, poor nutrition, high blood pressure, diabetes and stress.

Dr. Tony Cox, a clinical professor of biostatistics at the University of Colorado-Boulder, recently penned a letter to the editor in the journal Epidemiology, noting that the researchers' interpretation in the preterm birth study is "unwarranted" and that "claiming that associations provide evidence for a causal conclusion is unjustified."

Dr. Gilbert Ross, senior director of medicine and public health at the American Council on Science and Health, also pointed out, "There is no possible way this retrospective study could have accounted for key issues, such as genetic factors, history of prior pregnancy issues, [or] drug or alcohol use in the parents, all of which have a large influence on birth weights and the duration of pregnancy."

One of the researchers, Dr. Brian Schwartz, is a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, an anti-fossil fuel advocacy group that has called fracking a "virus." The researchers have attempted to dismiss this criticism because Schwartz is not currently being paid by the Post Carbon Institute, a fact that does nothing to address concerns about his voluntary affiliation with such an organization.

To their credit, the researchers recently wrote that fracking "has been an energy success story." But their willingness to link fracking with a variety of common health issues – even though their data suggest the complete opposite – is why they have attracted significant criticism.


Brits don't like electric cars

Motorists are shunning electric cars despite a generous subsidy, leaving MPs with "no confidence" that Britain will meet its climate change targets by the middle of the century.
Image result for climate target UK electric cars

Britain has a legally binding obligation to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. To meet these targets, about 60 per cent of the cars and lorries on the roads must be electric by 2030. [...]

Sales of electric vehicles are heavily subsided by the government, which offers up to £4,500 towards the purchase of a battery-driven car under a scheme due to expire in 2018.

But public take-up of the vehicles remains very low — at less than 1 per cent of new car sales — largely because of the lack of charging infrastructure and "range anxiety", where drivers are worried they will run out of power before reaching a charging station.



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