Thursday, September 22, 2016

New study undercuts favorite climate myth ‘more CO2 is good for plants’(?)

I have commented on this before but now that The Grauniad has got hold of it, I think I should note it again.  The grasses in the Stanford experiment showed little response to enhanced CO2 because the soil in the area was phosphorous deficient -- and that stopped the plants from taking much advantage of the other growth factors. See here.  There is nothing in the experiment to upset the thousands of studies that show high levels of CO2 enhancing growth.

And the authors below are confused.  In their desperation to show corroboration for the badly implemented Stanford study, they quote a study of corn growth in France.  But that study showed an adverse effect of high temperature, not high levels of CO2.  So it corroborates nothing.  All plants do have a temperature range within which they function best so it is no surprise that the corn cultivars mostly used in France were adversely affected by unusually high temperatures.  Corn grows in a lot of quite warm areas in Latin America and India so it is just a matter of choosing the right cultivar for the climate.  In some places the optimum temperature for maize (corn) germination is given as 33 degrees C!  Toasty!

And the prophecy about wheat yields is just modelling, and we know how good Warmist models are. But wheat cultivars vary too so again the only potential challenge posed by a temperature change as small as one degree would be to choose the right cultivar

And in the grand tradition of Green/Left cherry picking, the crooks below ignore the other effects that a temperature rise would bring -- in particular the larger area that would become available for cropping. Canadian wheat farmers are enormously productive despite farming right up to where the cold limits them.  A temperature rise would open up vast new areas of croplands for them -- leading to glut rather than any shortage of grain crops

A new study by scientists at Stanford University, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tested whether hotter temperatures and higher carbon dioxide levels that we’ll see post-2050 will benefit the kinds of plants that live in California grasslands. They found that carbon dioxide at higher levels than today (400 ppm) did not significantly change plant growth, while higher temperatures had a negative effect.

The oversimplified myth of ‘CO2 is plant food’
Those who benefit from the status quo of burning copious amounts of fossil fuels love to argue that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will benefit plant life. It’s a favorite claim of climate contrarians like Matt Ridley and Rupert Murdoch.

It seems like a great counter-argument to the fact that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant – a fact that contrarians often dispute. However, reality is far more complicated than the oversimplification of ‘CO2 is plant food.’ Unlike in the controlled environment of a greenhouse, the increasing greenhouse effect on Earth causes temperatures to rise and the climate to change in various ways that can be bad for plant life. We can’t control all the other variables the way we can in a greenhouse.

So far, as contrarians like Rupert Murdoch love to point out, the plant food effect has won out. Earth has become greener in recent decades (although that trend may now be reversing). The situation is not unlike a human diet – at relatively low calorie levels, more food is beneficial. But as calorie intake continues to rise, at a certain point it’s no longer benefiting the human body. More food is good, but only up to a certain point, as the global obesity epidemic makes clear.

The experiment

The Stanford scientists set up 132 plots of flowers and grass in California and introduced varying levels of carbon dioxide, temperature, water, and nitrogen. The scientists conducted the experiments over 16 growing seasons between 1998 and 2014. They found that only higher nitrogen levels resulted in higher plant productivity, while higher temperatures caused it to decline.

While this experiment was specific to California grasslands, other studies have similarly undermined the ‘more CO2 is great’ myth. For example, a 2012 paper found that higher temperatures are detrimental to French corn yields. While French corn production has increased steadily in recent decades due to a combination of technological improvements and CO2 fertilization (the former far more than the latter), yields have leveled off in recent years, and were particularly low when struck by heat waves.

Another study published in Nature Climate Change last week concluded that higher temperatures will cause wheat production to decline. Just a 1°C rise in global temperature will decrease wheat yields by about 5% (approximately 35 million tons). Climate change is bad news for several of our staple crops.


After Eight Years, Obama's Energy Secretary Visits West Virginia

A visit much earlier in the administration's tenure might have made some difference

Those who lived in or near the southern West Virginia and/or southwest Virginia coalfields during the peak of the coal business in the 1950s and ‘60s know that state and local economies thrived because of the tens of thousands of people employed by mining companies and the dozens of companies that supported the industry.

The Norfolk and Western Railway yard in Bluefield, WV, was always filled with coal cars — many of them full of the world’s most widely used fossil fuel — that were bound for the port in Norfolk, VA, or ready to be unloaded into trucks for delivery. The rest were empty, heading back into the coalfields to be refilled and brought back for distribution.

They remember the bustling downtown that was the financial, shopping and recreational center of the region’s coalfields and Bluefield’s population of well over 20,000 residents during the time of peak coal. These are valued memories of the good times.

Today’s population is half that size, and the rail yard is often empty. To those who have seen firsthand the decline of the industry and its effects on local communities, the industry’s decline is a very real and painful thing.

The decline began with natural technological advances, as mechanization gradually began putting hundreds of miners out of work. Over time other forces developed that affected the industry, including the very recent rise of cheap natural gas. Through all of that, there was always a market for coal.

But the federal government’s assault on coal through excessive environmental regulation, spurred by the hotly debated idea that burning coal pours too much carbon dioxide — a gas essential for life on Earth — into the atmosphere, is the greatest problem. Barack Obama put this attack into high gear. However, today our air is cleaner than it’s been in 100 years, mostly because of evolving technological improvements.

Cloistered away in their comfortable offices in Washington, DC, our public servants frequently have no idea what life is like for those toiling away to pay the taxes that fund their salaries. Perhaps if they got out of Washington more they would understand the problems they create for the people they serve.

This may be the case with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who at the invitation of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) finally visited the state after many invitations over the eight painful years of the Obama administration. But while in the state last week, Moniz suggested there is no war on coal, arguing to the contrary that the Obama administration is working to keep coal as an important part of a low-carbon energy future. He also said that cheap natural gas prices are primarily responsible for coal’s downturn.

The absurd idea that there is no war on coal today would be hilarious if the reality wasn’t so tragic, and the suggestion that the very recent drop in natural gas prices is the principal reason for coal’s decline is simply false.

This general situation was foretold by Barack Obama back in the 2008 campaign. “So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted,” Obama declared.

Assuming that Moniz has the capacity to recognize the misery the administration for which he works has caused for this region or really cares about the people affected by its policies, visiting West Virginia much earlier in the administration’s tenure might have made some difference.

Hillary Clinton is on that same path. While campaigning in Ohio earlier this year, she said, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Trying to make that sound better, she said she favored funding to retrain those put out of work, but she didn’t say what kind of jobs and how many of them are currently waiting for trained workers.

Shortly thereafter, while campaigning in West Virginia, Clinton was asked about that comment by a tearful out-of-work coal miner, to whom she responded that what she meant was that coal job losses will continue. See the difference?

Obama’s energy policy is like putting a square peg in a round hole. If you want to put a square peg in a round hole, take some time and think it through: You should gradually and gently reshape the square peg so it will comfortably and appropriately fit into the round hole. Obama’s method is to place the peg on top of the hole and beat it with a hammer until enough of the corners are destroyed that the peg will go into the hole. And even then, it is a poor fit.

Just as horse-drawn wagons and carriages gave way to motorized vehicles when they came to be, coal’s role as a primary fuel would have changed as better methods evolved. Such a process would have been not only more humane and less destructive but infinitely smarter than what has transpired.

Through the centuries humans solved life’s problems and improved their lives through applied intelligence. Somehow, they managed to do this without Barack Obama and the EPA.


A Climate Plan Many Don't Want to Fund

The United Nations is getting closer to garnering enough participation to officially kick-start last year’s Paris climate agreement. According to the Washington Examiner, “The U.N. is expecting about 20 countries to send their ratification documents in the coming days, with Morocco, which is hosting the next round of meetings on the Paris deal in November, saying it plans to ratify the climate accord Wednesday. Brazil, Mexico and other countries are also expected to ratify the deal during the special Wednesday ceremony at U.N. headquarters in New York during the week-long General Assembly.”

The report explains the significance: “As of [last] week, 27 countries, including the U.S., China and Norway, have ratified the agreement. With [this] week’s moves, it would be close to going into effect, but would be just shy of the 55 countries required, representing 55 percent of the world’s emissions, to enter into full force.” However, the UN’s David Nabarro says he’s “absolutely certain” enough countries will formally join within the next few months.

The future of Obama’s Clean Power Plan — or what the Examiner describes as “the central ingredient in Obama’s plan to meet the Paris agreement’s goal” — is questionable, but even assuming it survives legal challenges, a new poll shows that, though most Americans accept so-called climate change, a large percentage are not at all on board with personally funding a plan to mitigate it. According to the recent survey: “Sixty-five percent of Americans say climate change is a problem the U.S. government should address.” However, “When asked whether they would support a monthly fee on their electric bill to combat climate change, 42 percent of respondents are unwilling to pay even $1.”

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Sam Ori offers an explanation: “The reality may be that while most Americans see climate change as a collective threat, they don’t see it as a threat to them personally.” Perhaps that’s because the atmospheric in the real world is far less hostile than the outlandish claims people see in the mainstream media. But what Americans know is unequivocally hostile was seen just prior to the UN climate summit last November, when Islamists tore through Paris, killing 130 innocent people. That’s a threat most are willing to fight against with their tax dollars in the form of military prowess, which Barack Obama is working diligently to deplete. He’d rather spend your money on other things. Even if you don’t want to.


History keeps proving prophets of eco-apocalypse wrong

We might as well stop panicking. After all, it isn’t good for our health, and it’s probably too late to panic anyway. The avalanche of eco-cataclysm predictions that have proven to be wrong certainly left an imprint on the public mind.
If we do not reverse global warming by the year 2000, “entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels”, warned Noel Brown, a director of the United Nations Environment Programme, in 1989.

It is common cause that sea levels have been rising ever since the start of the Holocene at the end of the last Ice Age, about 11,700 years ago. Throughout the 20th century, tide gauge data has shown this rise to be fairly steady at about 1.5mm/year, and largely unaffected by changes in temperature or atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Since 1993, satellite altimetry has determined a fairly constant sea level rise of just over 3mm/year. However, it is far from clear whether this represents an acceleration or an artefact of how sea level is measured with respect to surrounding land.

A 2016 paper by Australian scientists Albert Parker and Cliff Ollier suggests that the altimetry record suffers from errors larger than its trends, and “returns a noisy signal so that a +3.2 mm/year trend is only achieved by arbitrary ‘corrections’”.

“We conclude that if the sea levels are only oscillating about constant trends everywhere as suggested by the tide gauges, then the effects of climate change are negligible,” they write, “and the local patterns may be used for local coastal planning without any need of purely speculative global trends based on emission scenarios. Ocean and coastal management should acknowledge all these facts. As the relative rates of rises are stable worldwide, coastal protection should be introduced only where the rate of rise of sea levels as determined from historical data show a tangible short term threat. As the first signs the sea levels will rise catastrophically within a few years are nowhere to be seen, people should start really thinking about the warnings not to demolish everything for a case nobody knows will indeed happen.”

Clearly, history proved Noel Brown wrong.

In 2002, George Monbiot urged the rich to give up meat, fish and dairy, writing: “Within as little as 10 years, the world will be faced with a choice: arable farming either continues to feed the world’s animals or it continues to feed the world’s people. It cannot do both.”

In 2002, 908-million people worldwide suffered hunger. Ten years later, that number had declined to 805-million, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation. Because of continued population growth, this nominal decrease represents a much larger decline in the prevalence of undernourishment, from 18.2% of the world’s population in 2002 to 14.1% in 2012. Hunger remains steadily on the decline. Famines, once so common, are rare nowadays.

Clearly, history proved George Monbiot wrong.

In 2008, the US television channel ABC promoted an apocalyptic “documentary” called Earth 2100, hosted by Bob Woodruff. The film cites a host of scientists, including such perennial alarmists as James Hansen, formerly head of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Science, and John Holdren, the US science czar who in the 1970s thought population control might be necessary to ward off mass starvation (see Prophets of doom in high places).

The show depicts the world at various times in the future, leading up to a collapse of civilisation “within this century, and perhaps your lifetime”. By 2015, it said, agricultural production would be dropping because of rising temperatures and the number of malnourished people “just continually grows”. We’ve already seen that the latter prediction proved to be false. Agricultural output also remains on a strong upward trend worldwide, and most of that is because of rising productivity, and not a rise in land use, irrigation, labour or other capital inputs.

A carton of milk would cost $12.99 by 2015, the film said, and a gallon of fuel would cost over $9. In reality, milk cost $3.39 and fuel cost $2.75 in 2015. Much of New York and surroundings would be inundated by rising sea levels, they said.

Clearly, history proved Bob Woodruff and his famous scientific sources wrong.

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

Coal still in demand

Some news from Australia

Miner New Hope Group expects a recent lift in coal prices will be sustained and boost its earnings in the current financial year.

Weak global oil and gas prices contributed to a $53.7 million loss for 2015/16 for the Queensland-based company, more than double the $21.8 million loss in the prior year, although costs from a new mine acquisition were also a big driver.

New Hope lost $22.6 million to sliding coal and oil prices and in foreign exchange impacts during the 12 months to July 31, but managing director Shane Stephan says better times are ahead after the Chinese government restricted thermal coal supplies - a move that has driven prices up 40 per cent since the start of July.

"Last year, around 50 per cent of the Australian thermal coal industry was not making cash," Mr Stephan told AAP.

"Most importantly, over 90 per cent of the Chinese domestic thermal coal industry was not making cash. That is simply not sustainable."

He said he expected the better coal prices to hold steady.

"We can't see the Chinese government going backwards from the action they have taken in order to constrain supply," he said.

Japan Taiwan and South Korea were also driving demand for thermal coal, he said, with future opportunities expected in the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

New Hope recorded earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of $81.3 million in 2015/16, down from $132.8 million a year earlier.

In the 12 months to July 31, New Hope's profit before extraordinary items was $5.03 million, down from $51.7 million in 2014/15.

Revenue was up 5.1 per cent at $531.5 million but New Hope's bottom line was hit by $52.1 million in acquisition costs, including costs related to its purchase of a 40 per cent stake in the Bengallla coal mine in NSW.

Mr Stephan said the company was benefiting from firmer prices in the current financial year and from its "well-timed" Bengalla acquisition.

The benchmark Newcastle spot price for coal was $US51 a tonne in March when the Bengalla transaction was completed, he said, and was now $US70 a tonne.

During the five months of New Hope's ownership, Bengalla production contributed 1.5 million tonnes to coal sales and earnings of $21.3 million.

Fat Prophets analyst David Lennox said the group's operational result was solid.

"The balance sheet is reasonable with an operating cash surplus of $61 million which is a good result given the sector has been under considerable price pressure," he said.



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