Monday, November 06, 2017

Massive Government Report Says Climate Is Warming And Humans Are The Cause

Government findings often reverse themselves in time (e.g. on peanut allergy, dietary fat etc) so this report has no special authority.  It is just an uncritical  regugitation of the orthodoxy. It's mostly prophecy and when they do get down to facts they are on very shaky ground.  They speak for instance of rapid sea-level rises.  But recent very sophisticated examinations of sea levels conclude that there is no such trend.  And so it goes.  It's just more of the usual speculation

It is "extremely likely" that human activities are the "dominant cause" of global warming, according to the most comprehensive study ever of climate science by U.S. government researchers.

The climate report, obtained by NPR, notes that the past 115 years are "the warmest in the history of modern civilization." The global average temperature has increased by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over that period. Greenhouse gases from industry and agriculture are by far the biggest contributor to warming.

The findings contradict statements by President Trump and many of his Cabinet members, who have openly questioned the role humans play in changing the climate.

"I believe that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in an interview earlier this year. "There's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact."

That is not consistent with the conclusions of the 600-plus-page Climate Science Special Report, which is part of an even larger scientific review known as the fourth National Climate Assessment. The NCA4, as it's known, is the nation's most authoritative assessment of climate science. The report's authors include experts from leading scientific agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and the Department of Energy, as well as academic scientists.

The report states that the global climate will continue to warm. How much, it says, "will depend primarily on the amount of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) emitted globally." Without major reductions in emissions, it says, the increase in annual average global temperature could reach 9 degrees Fahrenheit relative to pre-industrial times. Efforts to reduce emissions, it says, would slow the rate of warming.

"This is good, solid climate science," says Richard Alley, a geoscientist at Penn State University, who says he made minor contributions to the report's conclusions on sea level rise. "This has been reviewed so many times in so many ways, and it's taking what we know from ... a couple of centuries of climate science and applying it to the U.S."

The assessments are required by an act of Congress; the last one was published in 2014. Alley says this year's goes further in attributing changes in weather to the warming climate, especially weather extremes. "More heat waves and fewer cold snaps, this is very clear," he says. The report also notes that warmer temperatures have contributed to the rise in forest fires in the West and that the incidence of those fires is expected to keep rising.

Some of the clearest effects involve sea level rise. "Coastal flooding, you raise the mean level of the ocean, everything else equal you get more coastal flooding," Alley says. The report notes that sea level has risen 7 to 8 inches since 1900, and 3 inches of that occurred since 1993. The report says that rate is faster than during any century over the past 2,800 years.

The report also points out that heavy rainfall is increasing in intensity and frequency across the U.S., especially in the Northeast, and that is expected to keep increasing.

Other connections are harder to nail down, Alley says, such as whether a particular hurricane can be attributed to climate change.

"The Climate Science Special Report is like going to a doctor and being given a report on your vital signs," says environmental scientist Rachel Licker of the Union of Concerned Scientists. She notes that the authors assessed more than 1,500 scientific studies and reports in making their conclusions.

Alley adds that the new report "does a better job of seeing the human fingerprint in what's happening." He says that while he hasn't read all of it yet, he sees no evidence that it has been soft-pedaled or understates the certainty of the science.

Alley notes that "there's a little rumbling" among climate scientists who are concerned that the Trump administration will ignore this effort. "I think the authors really are interested in seeing [the report] used wisely by policymakers to help the economy as well as the environment."

The report has been submitted to the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House. Trump has yet to choose anyone to run that office; it remains one of the last unfilled senior positions in the White House staff.


Gigantic Totten glacier in Antarctica is 'melting from beneath' and could cause sea levels to rise 11 FEET

The predictions are all speculation and not very logical speculation at that.  The glacier can only be affected by upwelling if it is floating ice.  And if it is floating ice it would not cause the sea level to rise one iota by melting

With the potential to cause sea levels to rise by more than 11 feet and unleash the ice of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, the massive Totten Glacier has come to be known as the ‘sleeping giant.’

And now, scientists have discovered that strong winds over the Southern Ocean could be causing it to wake up.

A new study has found that East Antarctica’s largest glacier is melting from beneath, as winds transport warm water to the ice – and, these winds are expected to intensify with climate change, the experts warn.

In the study, led by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, used satellite images and wind stress data to investigate the effect of wind on the water beneath the glacier.

While the glacier is known to speed up some years, it also slows down in others.

The research revealed that the glacier’s flow speeds up when winds over the Southern Ocean are strong.

These winds pull warm water up from the deep ocean, in a process known as upwelling.

The warm water climbs to the continental shelf – and, once it reaches the coast, it circulates beneath a floating chunk of the glacier, and causes the ice sheet to melt from below, according to the researchers.

‘Totten has been called the sleeping giant because it’s huge and has been seen as insensitive to changes in its environment,’ said lead author Chad Greene, a PhD candidate at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG).

‘But we’ve shown that if Totten is asleep, it’s certainly not in a coma – we’re seeing signs of responsiveness, and it might just take the wind blowing to wake it up.’

Wind strength varies from year to year, the researchers explain.

But, climate change is expected to intensify the winds over the Southern Ocean, which could, in turn, effect the melting of the Totten Glacier.

The process does not require the air or ocean temperatures to rise – instead, upwelling occurs as the wind displaces the surface water, making way for the deeper, warmer water.

‘It’s like when you blow across a hot bowl of soup and little bits of noodles from the bottom begin to swirl around and rise to the top,’ said Greene.

The new study follows up on previous research led by a team with the Australian Antarctic Division at the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center.

That research found that the warm water below Totten causes the glacier to detach from the seafloor, and instead float.

This can cause the flow to further accelerate.

‘The remaining question was, why do the canyons beneath Totten get flushed with warm water some years and cold water other years,’ said Jason Roberts, a glaciologist who led the earlier study.

The findings suggest melting at Totten could become more extreme as winds grow stronger with climate change.

‘Ice sheet sensitivity to wind forcing has been hypothesized for a long time, but it takes decades of observation to show unequivocal cause and effect,’ said Donald Blankenship, a senior researcher at UTIG who contributed to this study and Roberts’ study.

‘Now we’re at the point where we can explicitly show the links between what happens in the atmosphere, what happens in the ocean, and what happens to the Antarctic Ice Sheet.’


The changing world energy economy

Ingenuity and efficiency are reducing links between economic growth and energy consumption

James E. Smith and Alex Hatch

In recent years, particularly in the United States, we have seen substantial a change in public opinion regarding the production and distribution of energy, as well as its associated costs in the marketplace.

A good deal of that opinion can be attributed to publicity behind the push for green energy, coupled with misunderstandings of how energy is provided and paid for. However, the actual market changes that are occurring are more related to general business considerations, not public opinion.

For example, according to a recent report from Bloomberg, the United States economy has begun to grow steadily despite falling oil consumption. Up until the last decade, this phenomenon was unthinkable. Indeed, oil consumption and gross domestic product (GDP) were perfectly synchronized in their trends for many years – and the same trend was observed for overall energy consumption in both the United States and the world. For decades, energy consumption and GDP were linked and synched globally with economic growth.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), energy demand grew by only 0.8 percent in 2015, whereas the total GDP of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations grew by 2.7 percent – over three times the rate of energy demand. The OECD includes 35 countries in North America, Australia and Europe that are among the world’s most developed.

This marginal energy increase also flies in the face of population growth, another factor that has historically tracked with energy consumption. In 2015, the world population grew by roughly 1.2 percent, again showing that we are somehow supplying energy for more people while simultaneously consuming less per capita.

The IEA calculates that total final consumption (TFC) of energy decreased by 3.3 Exajoules (1018 Joules) between 2013 and 2015. That amount is roughly equal to what Australia consumed during the same period. So how are we providing energy for growing numbers of people while using less per person? The answer is due in part to steadily increasing efficiencies, and is also buried in the value that energy brings to survival and societal growth.

In recent years, through more efficient appliances on the consumer side and industrial equipment on the commercial side, we have been able to produce goods in higher quantity and at higher quality, while consuming energy at low enough levels per unit to essentially negate the energy use of the entire continent of Australia.

We also build more energy efficient homes and businesses that require fewer raw materials and consume less energy in their operation. We are traveling more but in more energy-efficient vehicles, both privately and commercially. Moreover, given the choice, many consumers will opt for short- or long-term energy cost savings – while others will realize their savings through sharply lower fuel prices and select larger or more powerful vehicles that meet their other needs.

This indicates that future energy need and use conundrums may not be solved simply with alternative “green” energy technologies. Instead, they may more likely be resolved first via wider acceptance and advancement of newer, more efficient energy systems, and second through a wider array of pricing choices for consumers.

Energy acquisition and accessibility is an appreciable portion of the costs of living in any culture. Because cultures require growing levels of technological sophistication in order to advance, costs associated with energy must be kept within a range that allows the social order to mature to a point where personal survival becomes less of a full-time requirement.

America has created a culture that values energy efficiency and the economic savings that it generates.  We are also learning to value the accessibility and reliability of energy, while understanding that the value and cost of energy are not necessarily linked. The true value of dependable, accessible, low-cost energy can best be understood by looking at the billions of people living in developing countries.

A brief study of their child mortality, adult longevity, and the diseases, deprivations and environmental conditions they are forced to endure speaks volumes to why low cost, freely accessible, reliable and environment-friendly energy is so essential. “Free” energy will never be achievable, but reducing the burden of energy costs against total income is an essential goal for any nation or world that intends to mature and progress as a productive society.

Future efficiency improvements will be seen most in the developing world, especially in India and parts of Southeast Asia, which have begun to rapidly industrialize in recent years, primarily thus far by using coal to generate electricity to power homes, hospitals, businesses and communities. As these newly developing countries begin to adopt modern consumer electronics, it is likely that their average consumer will look not only at up-front costs of appliances, but also at their efficiency and long-term costs.

This will create markets that are eager to get electronics which couple modern efficiency with low lifecycle and operating costs. It is up to today’s designers and engineers to face and meet the growing demand for these higher efficiency technologies, in order provide more responsive economic paths toward widespread energy use at lower energy intensities.

The efficiency increases that will likely come about within the next few decades are certainly not the final answer to all the world’s energy problems. However, it is already apparent that we have momentarily satiated our growing hunger for energy through these recent advancements, with the expectation that more will come in the near future.

During the next few decades, even marginal efficiency improvements could greatly offset growing overall global energy use. Such improvements could largely eliminate the need to add any new overall energy production capacity. That would allow us to focus on the important development of new energy technologies that may not yet even be on the drawing boards, or even in our imaginations.

By using these efficiency increases as a stopgap measure, we can expand research and development into next generation high-efficiency systems – including wind, solar, oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear. Using these newly developed technologies could, in turn, lead to more a reliable, lower cost, more sustainable energy future for the USA and world.

That world would mean energy accessibility is a given, and not a line separating the haves from the have-nots. It would mean the only thing limiting our future progress and comity is our imagination and ingenuity.

Via email

Are Wind Power and Biofuels Really Green? How Germany’s ‘Energy Transition’ is destroying wildlife and forests

Michael Miersch

The German Green Party was founded in 1980. The Greens promised to save nature. They wanted to be the protectors of forests, birds and rivers. But their policies have led to the most widespread destruction of nature in Germany since the Second World War.

No industry consumes as much land as the generation of ‘natural electricity’. Without the pressure from the Greens and their friends in the environmental NGOs, the German governments of chancellors Helmut Kohl, Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel would not have pushed the expansion of wind power, bioenergy and solar energy as much as they did.

As our former Minister of Agriculture from the Green Party, Renate Künast, once said: ‘Farmers will be the oil barons of the future!’ She and her party pushed for massive subsidies for growing energy crops.

The destruction of nature by the land-hungry wind and biogas industries is the opposite of what the environmental movement used to fight for: just as the communists made workers unfree and poor, the Greens have destroyed our landscapes and killed millions of birds and bats.

In Germany, there are some very large solar power plants. A solar farm covering 48 hectares with shiny metallic panels is located in the hills of the Franconia region. The local chapter of the Green Party had a problem with this, because the solar farm is located in a nature reserve. But the politicians in the Green Party agreed to the construction of the plant because to them, saving the global climate was more important than saving nature in the region.

But it is the wind industry that has the strongest impact on the German landscape. And not just on the landscape, but on wildlife as well. Germany is not a country with many endemic species, unlike Indonesia or Brazil. So the extermination of a species in Germany does not usually mean they will disappear from the Earth, as appears likely for the Sumatran rhino. That’s the good news.

But there are exceptions. The most famous of them is the red kite. More than half of the global population of red kites breeds in Germany, a total of about 15,000 pairs. One of the leading ornithologists in the country, Oliver Krüger, says ‘it does not look good for the red kite’. He also says, ‘we have a special responsibility for the red kite’.

The shot that marked the beginning of the red kite’s downfall was fired on 1 January 1991. It was fired by the German environment minister at the time, Klaus Töpfer, a member of the Christian Democratic Party. 1991 was when renewable energy feed-in tariffs came into effect, later enshrined in the renewable energy law, usually referred to using its German acronym, EEG.

The law guaranteed that, from 1991 on, anyone who invested in wind power or biogas plants would receive a highly subsidized price for their electricity for 20 years. The law set off the most dramatic changes in the German landscape since World War Two – slowly at first, then very noticeably, and finally faster and faster. Today about 28,000 wind turbines defile the face of Germany, from the North Sea to the Alps, from the Black Forest to Berlin.

Because politicians and investors want to avoid long legal battles with local communities and residents, they are planning to site more and more of their large wind farms in forests. In Baden Württemberg, in southwestern Germany, where the famous Black Forest is located, the state environment minister, Franz Untersteller, announced that ‘we are going to build wind parks in forest areas far away from residential buildings.’

1200 turbines have now been constructed in forests. The newer turbine models, such as the ‘Enercon E126’, are 200 m high, with a rotor diameter of 127 m. To build one of these towers, more than 5000 m2 of forest must be cleared.

If investors from any other industry had scarred natural areas and remote forests in this way, there would have been a political scandal. In the meantime, however, politicians of all parties are working to weaken German conservation laws, in order to allow wind and solar farms to be built in every last unspoilt corner of Germany.

Wind power has an enormous need for space. For example, to replace a single coal-fired power station, such as the Moorburg power plant in Hamburg, the entire area of the city-state would have to be covered with turbines.

An even more land-hungry form of energy is the cultivation of maize for biogas plants. Maize monocultures totaling 2.5 million hectares dominate the landscape in many German regions today. This is an area the size of Sicily. According to Torsten Reinwald from the German Hunting Association, ‘the past 30 years have seen a 22- fold increase in the area under maize cultivation’.

This mass of maize is not only used for biogas production, but for animal feed as well. But energy crops alone are using 1.5 million hectares of land. No hamsters, hares, butterflies or wild bees can survive in the barren ecological desert of a maize field. Field larks no longer sing, lapwings no longer call. Buntings, quail and wagtails all disappear. Partridges were once the typical inhabitants of the German agricultural landscape, a common sight on Sunday afternoon walks. Since the 1980s, their population has collapsed by 94%. Other bird species typical of agricultural areas have seen declines of between 20 and 50% over the past 20 years.

‘The bitter truth is that we cannot yet demonstrate an impact of climate change on biodiversity, but the effects of climate and energy policy have been dramatic’, says Martin Flade, an ornithologist and the publisher of Die Vogelwelt, Germany’s leading magazine on ornithology and birding.

He says that ‘the main problem in nature and species protection is the intensity of agriculture’. While there used to be more fallow land than land used for maize, now it’s the other way around. Flade says that ‘this has an immediate effect on the population of breeding birds’. Today, the ratio of maize area to fallow land is 20 to 1.

In 2013, Flade received the annual award of the German Ornithological Society for his work. In the award statement, the society said: ‘As a result of the rash and hasty expansion of renewable energy from agricultural biomass and wind power, the populations of almost 50% of all bird species have significantly decreased’.

But it’s not just birds that are affected. So are fish. There are 9000 biogas plants in Germany, which are regularly subject to breakdowns. In some of these cases, toxic slurry has spilt into streams, poisoning the water for many kilometers downstream. The result has been the mass killing of trout and other freshwater fish. Whole populations have been extinguished. Unlike other toxic spills, none of these incidents are systematically recorded.

On top of all this, it’s not even certain that growing plants for energy creates any benefit for the climate at all. The biologist Josef Reichholf says that the energy used to create the fuel is much higher than the energy contained in the fuel itself. Only with massive amounts of fertilizer can a maize seed grow into a plant, 3 m tall, in just a few months. That fertilizer is usually liquid manure. The energy and carbon dioxide balance for biofuels does not take this fertilizer into account.

The destruction of rain forest in South America also isn’t included in the balance. Brazil and other countries in South America grow the soy used to feed the livestock that produce the manure.

Unlike an oil spill or an accident at a chemicals plant, the expansion of maize farming and the wind industry does not happen suddenly, but stretches out over years. That’s why most people do not notice the ecological disaster unfolding around them. Nevertheless, the impact of these changes is much greater than that of any single sudden disaster, because the changes take place almost everywhere, and cover very wide areas.

Most German states want to reserve 2% of their land area for wind power. That doesn’t sound like much, but the figure of 2% only refers to land covered by the rotor blades. The area in which birds are affected will be many times larger. According to the government bird protection observatories, there should be a 6-km buffer between a wind turbine and the nest of a lesser spotted eagle (a very rare species in Germany). In theory, not a single new wind turbine should therefore be built in the entire Vorpommern region in northern Germany, where many of these eagles breed.

But nevertheless they are being built: Building on 2% of Vorpommern would therefore be an appalling threat to the species: ‘Two percent of the area can destroy 100 percent of our landscapes’, says Harry Neumann, president of the Nature Conservation Initiative.

The ornithologist Klaus Richarz was commissioned by the German Wildlife Foundation to examine the effect of wind power in forest habitats. For 22 years, Richarz headed a Bird Protection Observatory covering three German states. His study proves that we have an urgent problem. The rotor blades of a wind turbine have a radius as long as a football field and rotate at 300 km/h.

Against these huge propeller walls, red kites and other birds don’t stand a chance. The rotor blades hit large birds, such as storks, raptors and ducks, particularly often. ‘Birds of prey’, says Professor Oliver Krüger, ‘are relatively rare, need large areas, but collide disproportionately often.’

The problem is getting accurate numbers, since foxes, rats, wild boars and other scavengers remove the bird corpses at night. However, it is estimated that 12,000 birds of prey are killed by wind farms every year. For the number of all birds killed by the German wind industry there is an extrapolation from Hermann Hötker, an ornithologist at German Foundation for Nature Conservation. He estimates that each turbine kills between one and five birds per year, meaning between 28,000 and 140,000 fatalities in total.

Wind power lobbyists say the numbers are small compared to the millions of birds that collide with windows, cars, power lines and other obstacles. But this is a fallacy, because the argument ignores which species are affected. If ten city pigeons fly into windows or cars, it has no effect on the population of pigeons. But when a breeding red kite is chopped up by a rotor blade, it represents a significant loss for the species in the region. If one red kite is caught in a rotor every eight years, then the 28,000 turbines in existence at present will kill 3500 birds. In a total population of only 15,000 breeding pairs in Germany, that’s a dramatic loss.

According to a 2013 study commissioned by the Brandenburg State Environment Office, rotor blades killed about 300 red kites each year in this one state alone. If the German climate protection plan is implemented as planned and the number of turbines is doubled, the red kite could soon be extinct in Germany.

The plan would mean one turbine every 2.7 km on average all over Germany, each one 200 m tall, without regard for landscapes, lakes, mountains, forests or cities. The PROGRESS study showed that even a widespread raptor like the common buzzard would be threatened if wind power is expanded as planned.

Birds that aren’t killed by the rotor blades are often driven away. One of these wind power refugees is the black stork, a very shy forest bird. When 170 turbines were installed in the Vogelsberg region in the state of Hesse, nine of the 14 pairs of black storks in the region simply disappeared. If the argument that windows and other obstacles kill even more birds is very misleading, when it comes to bats the argument is completely wrong.

Since bats use ultrasound to navigate, they almost never collide with any barriers. They can even fly through spinning rotor blades without getting hit. But even so, they fall dead from the sky. The cause is barotrauma: Their lungs burst because of the pressure drop behind the rotors. This happens to about 240,000 bats each year. The actual number is probably much higher, because they often fly a little longer before they die and their little cadavers are eaten.

Whenever there was a construction project in Germany such as a motorway, bridge, airport, office park or residential building, the presence of a bat colony could hold up the project in the courts for years, or prevent it altogether. Yet when the wind industry kills masses of these animals, there is no such outrage.

The supporters of the German energy transition brush aside all collateral damage to the environment, such as dead bats, with the argument that global climate disaster must be prevented. The Green ex-minister in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz, Evelin Lemke, justified the destruction of a forest by a wind farm in her state with the words: ‘Without protecting the climate, we will have no more biodiversity at all.’ Saving the world seems more important than the nature at our doorstep.

With wind power, solar farms and biogas, Germany is supposed to lower its carbon dioxide emissions and slow down global warming. But so far, this has turned out to be wishful thinking. Despite the rapid expansion of alternative energy and nearly e30 billion in subsidies every year via the feed-in tariff scheme, we are not seeing any reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. On the contrary, they have increased slightly, because Germany has switched off emissions-free nuclear power plants. And every time the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, the electricity companies have to fire up their coal power stations to prevent a blackout.

The more dubious our energy transition becomes, the more we find nature-loving people becoming active in the fight against landscape destruction and bird killing. There are already 1000 grassroots initiatives campaigning against wind power. Not everyone involved cares about protecting birds. Some are afraid that their homes will lose in value when they’re surrounded by gigantic rotors. But many no longer accept the destruction of our beautiful historic landscapes.

However, as this resistance grows stronger, the methods employed by wind power investors are becoming less savoury. Trees that contain the nests of protected birds – such as the red kite or lesser spotted eagle – are being cut down illegally. That’s because a new turbine would not be permitted near such a nest. Just look through German regional newspapers and you’ll examples of these crimes all over the country. Eight incidents were reported to the German Wildlife Foundation in only one year.

The reason of course is money. Lots of money. A lease payment from the owner of the turbine to the owner of the land could be as high as e80,000 every year for 20 years. (This money is ultimately paid by consumers via their electricity bills.) If a forest owner has land for ten turbines, they can receive a windfall of e16 million.

That kind of money leads to criminal actions. The German Wildlife Foundation has therefore proposed a policy that puts a ten-year ban on wind farm construction in areas where the nest of a raptor has been destroyed. A similar rule worked well in Sicily, where the mafia stopped burning forests after a law introduced a fifteen-year ban on construction after any forest fire.

The expansion of alternative energy is wreathed in a sense of urgency. In the face of all the frightening scenarios of future climate change, pointing out the environmental consequences of wind farms and biogas plants seems petty and secondary to most people, as if we wanted to stop the fire truck from coming to the rescue just to help a few wandering toads.

Yet with no other technology do Germans accept the destruction of nature as they do with wind power. If dead eagles and kites were found next to chemicals plants or nuclear power stations, the public reaction would be fierce and furious.

In 1962, the start of the environmental movement was marked by a book about birds of prey: Silent Spring, written by the American biologist Rachel Carson. She argued that the excessive use of certain pesticides had pushed America’s national bird, the bald eagle, to the brink of extinction. Despite this, in Germany today we are allowing the red kite to be destroyed by an industry that claims it is protecting the climate but in reality is merely promoting its own interests.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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