Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Apocalypse Not

In 1919, the director of the U.S. Bureau of Mines offered a dire warning for the future. “Within the next two to five years the oil fields of this country will reach their maximum production, and from that time on we will face an ever-increasing decline.”

Nearly a century later, in July 2010, The Guardian ran a story with an ominous headline: “Lloyd’s adds its voice to dire ‘peak oil’ warnings.” Citing a report by the storied London insurer, the newspaper warned that businesses were “underestimating catastrophic consequences of declining oil,” including oil at $200 a barrel by 2013, a global supply crunch, and overall “economic chaos.”

I thought of these predictions on seeing the recent news that the United States is on the eve of breaking a 47-year production record by lifting more than 10 million barrels of crude a day. That’s roughly twice what the U.S. produced just a decade ago, and may even put us on track to overtake Saudi Arabia and even Russia as the world’s leading oil producer. As for global production, it rose by some 11 percent just since the Lloyd’s report, and by almost 200 percent since 1965.

Call it yet another case of Apocalypse Not. In his fascinating new book, “The Wizard and the Prophet,” Charles C. Mann notes that President Roosevelt — Teddy, not Franklin — called the “imminent exhaustion” of fossil fuels and other natural resources “the weightiest problem now before the nation.” Prior to that, Mann adds, there were expert forecasts that the world would soon run out of coal. Later on, the world became fixated on the fear of running out of food in the face of explosive population growth.

The wizard and the prophet of Mann’s title are, respectively, Norman Borlaug and William Vogt, the former the agronomist widely credited as the father of the Green Revolution, the latter the founder of what Hampshire College’s Betsy Hartmann calls “apocalyptic environmentalism.”

“In best-selling books and powerful speeches, Vogt argued that affluence is not our greatest achievement but our biggest problem,” Mann writes. “Our prosperity is temporary, he said, because it is based on taking more from than earth than it can give. If we continue, the unavoidable result will be devastation on a global scale, perhaps including our extinction.”

In our own day, people like Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein have made careers saying more or less the same thing. This is a world where the clock is permanently set at two minutes to midnight, and where only a radical transformation of modern society (usually combining dramatic changes in personal behavior along with a heavy dose of state intervention) can save us. Above all, the Vogtians say, we need less: less consumption, less stuff, fewer people, and so on.

Borlaug and the Borlaugians take a different view. It’s not that they see environmental threats as bogus: The world really would have suffered catastrophic famines if Borlaug hadn’t developed high-yield, disease-resistant varieties of wheat. Oil is a finite resource, but whether reserves last 50 or 500 years will probably depend less on overall supply than on technologies to extract and use those reserves more efficiently.

The same goes for climate change, which will not be helped by some centrally planned, Chinese-style “Green Leap Forward,” but by a multitude of technological advances that in turn require a thriving capitalist economy to fund, develop, commercialize and make affordable. The foolish idea that capitalism is the enemy of the environment misses the point that environmentalism is itself a luxury that few poor countries can adequately afford. If you doubt this, contrast the air and water quality in New York City with that of any similar-sized city in the developing world.

I fall in the Borlaugian camp. That’s worth noting because one of the more tedious criticisms by the environmental left is that people like me “don’t care about the environment.” But imputing bad faith, stupidity or greed is always a lousy argument. Even conservatives want their children to breathe.

It also misses the point. As Mann notes, Borlaugians are environmentalists, too. They simply think the road to salvation lies not through making do with less, but rather through innovation and the conditions in which innovation tends to flourish, greater affluence and individual freedom most of all.

There’s also this: So far, the Borlaugians have mostly been right. To the extent that starvation is a phenomenon of recent decades — as in places like North Korea and Venezuela — it is mainly the result of gross political mismanagement, not ecological disaster. Peak oil keeps being defeated by frackers and deepwater explorers. As my colleague Nick Kristof recently pointed out, by most metrics of human welfare, the world keeps getting better with every passing year.

If environmental alarmists ever wonder why more people haven’t come around to their way of thinking, it isn’t because people like me occasionally voice doubts in newspaper op-eds. It’s because too many past predictions of imminent disaster didn’t come to pass. That isn’t because every alarm is false — many are all too real — but because our Promethean species has shown the will and the wizardry to master the challenge, at least when it’s been given the means to do so.


Crucial Climate Verdict, Naked Conflict-of-Interest

SPOTLIGHT: History’s most momentous climate decision was made by people with substantial conflicts-of-interest.

BIG PICTURE: In November 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared for the first time that humans were changing the climate. Its verdict turned on a single piece of then-unpublished research. Four months after the fact, the research was submitted to a prominent journal. Three months later it was published.

The world then learned that 25% of the IPCC personnel tasked with making its most crucial determination were involved with this research. In a naked a conflict-of-interest, these nine people, led by IPCC chapter head Ben Santer, had evaluated the persuasiveness of their own fledgling scientific work – and had judged it sound enough to change history.

Academic journals receive thousands of scientific papers each year from researchers hoping to get their work published. Papers that make it to second base are sent to knowledgeable third parties for evaluation. This system, known as peer review, has many shortcomings. But when it works as it’s supposed to, it slams the brakes on exaggerated claims.

In Searching for the Catastrophe Signal, Bernie Lewin notes that this research was toned-down during the pre-publication process. (If reviewer criticisms are judged to be valid, journals will insist on changes as a condition of publication.)

In Lewin’s words, the title of the published version “heralds no breakthrough finding, but instead only describes a search” for human influence (his emphasis). The accompanying abstract tells us it’s likely that a temperature trend is “partially due to human activities, although many uncertainties remain…” (my emphasis).

In other words, the first time outsiders had an opportunity to take a proper look, they weren’t convinced the research demonstrated what the IPCC said it did. Standards at a scholarly journal are evidently higher than at this UN body.

A 2010 review of IPCC procedures identified numerous areas of concern. Among them was the startling fact that, 22 years after it had been established, the IPCC still had no conflict-of-interest policy.

TOP TAKEAWAY: IPCC scientists routinely pass judgment on their own work –  and on the work of their scholarly rivals. But we’re supposed to take its findings seriously.


"Clean" electricity tying New England in knots

All electricity is perfectly clean -- but not in New England, it seems

Massachusetts utilities and state energy officials have picked a backup plan to bring clean power into the state from Canada, while still giving a controversial transmission project more time to overcome objections in neighboring New Hampshire.

The alternative route is a 148-mile transmission project known as the New England Clean Energy Connect that would be built by Central Maine Power Co. and its parent, Avangrid, in Maine.

The state’s three big electric utilities are required by law to increase their purchases of clean power. In late January, a team representing the utilities picked a project that would import around 1,100 megawatts of electricity from Hydro-Quebec through a transmission project known as Northern Pass.

But on Feb. 1, the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee rejected a crucial permit for the 192-mile long Northern Pass. On Friday, state officials said Northern Pass executives have until March 27 to determine whether the transmission project can overcome its opposition in New Hampshire.

Eversource Energy owns the $1.6 billion Northern Pass project, and is also one of the utilities buying the clean power from Hydro-Quebec.

The moves Friday by the Baker administration essentially keep doors open for both projects, Northern Pass and New England Clean Energy Connect.

“The Baker-Polito Administration is pleased that with today’s announcement the Commonwealth is progressing toward securing the largest amount of renewable energy in Massachusetts’ history,” spokesman Peter Lorenz said in a statement.

Eversource is represented on the evaluation team of utility companies that are collectively negotiating contracts for the big clean energy purchase. Separately, Eversource’s promise that Northern Pass could be finished by the end of 2020 was cited as a reason it was initially chosen in January.

The subsequent permit denial in New Hampshire has thrown that timeline into question.

Eversource officials say they can make a strong legal argument to get the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee to reconsider its project, and have a little over a month to prove they can pull it off.

Eversource officials said Friday they appreciate the flexibility being offered by the Baker administration and the other utilities involved in the bidding process, National Grid and Unitil. The decision, Eversource said, strikes a sensible balance by continuing negotiations on Northern Pass while having a backup plan take shape.

The New England Clean Energy Connect comes in at a smaller cost than Northern Pass — $950 million — but would be finished in 2022. The line would run from the Canadian border in western Maine down to a connection point in Lewiston.

Importantly, most of the line would run through existing utility rights-of-way, which could lessen the kind of opposition from neighbors that undermined Northern Pass in New Hampshire.

“We believe the NECEC is a cost-effective response to Massachusetts’ needs,” Central Maine Power chief executive Doug Herling said in a statement. “Given our experience building projects of greater scale and complexity here in our home state, we’re confident we can meet our commitments to the Commonwealth.”


Greenland, Antarctica And Dozens Of Areas Worldwide Have Not Seen Any Warming In 60 Years And More!

For example the North Atlantic, an important region concerning global climate, has not warmed since the 1870s!

The North Atlantic was warmer 130 years ago than it is today. Source: de Jong and de Steuer, 2016.

Greenland as stable as ever

Greenland, a major concern of climate alarmists because it stockpiles enough ice to raise global sea levels some 6 meters, also hasn’t warmed in since the 1880s, as the following chart from Mikkelsen et al 2018 shows:

Antarctica: no warming in 200 years

The big sea level kahuna of course is Antarctica. If that huge block of ice ever melted completely, sea levels would rise some 60 meters! And thus submerge vast areas of lowlands worldwide (never mind it would take thousands of years at extremely higher global temperatures).

Yet According to Schneider et al 2006, there hasn’t been warming there in 200 years!

Antarctic temperatures in fact had been heading sharply south at the time the paper was published.

Himalayas: no warming in 300 years!

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Director Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber once embarrassed himself by claiming the massive Himalayan glaciers would melt by the year 2030. But the following chart tells us that it might take just a bit longer:

According to a study by Thapa et al, 2015, the Himalayas recently have been cooling and the temperature there now is like it was 300 years ago! Don’t worry, when the year 2030 comes around, we’ll be sure to check to see if the ice is still there. In the meantime, do your best bearing all the suspense.

And so it goes region after region. So the next time the media and climate alarmists issue panicked warnings of rapid warming and melting ice caps, we need to ask ourselves: What the hell are they raving about? Are they okay?

The following is only an abbreviated list of places that have not cooled in a long time, and Kenneth says there are hundreds more like these. Many are from the results of very recent papers.

Since 1870s – no warming
Greenland – no warming
New Zealand – no warming
Antarctica – no warming
North Atlantic – no warming
Western Pacific – no warming
India/Western Himalaya – no warming
Pakistan – no warming
Turkey – no warming
Himalayas/Nepal – no warming
Siberia – no warming
Portugal – no warming
NE China – no warming
SW China – no warming
South China – no warming
West China – no warming
Southern South America – no warming
Canada (B.C.) – no warming
Canada Central – no warming
Since 1940s/50s – no warming
Northern Hemisphere – no warming
Arctic Region – no warming
Greenland – no warming
South Iceland – no warming
North Iceland – no warming
Alaska – no warming
New York – no warming
Rural U.S. – no warming
Northern Europe – no warming
Western Europe – no warming
Mediterranean Region – no warming
Finland and Sweden – no warming
East Antarctica – no warming
North Atlantic – no warming
Western North Atlantic – no warming
Brazil – no warming
SE Australia – no warming
Southern South America – no warming
Andes Mountains – no warming
Chile – no warming

If you live there, send them to your lawmakers and ask why they are wasting so much money preventing something that isn’t even happening.

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

A Coral's Biological Control of its Calcifying Medium to Favor Skeletal Growth
Great news for those concerned about potential future impacts of so-called ocean acidification on corals. A New Study shows they are able to continue skeletal growth under the most pessimistic of ocean acidification scenarios

Paper Reviewed: Raybaud, V., Tambutté, S., Ferrier-Pagès, C., Reynaud, S., Venn, A.A., Tambutté, É., Nival, P. and Allemand, D. 2017. Computing the carbonate chemistry of the coral calcifying medium and its response to ocean acidification. Journal of Theoretical Biology 424: 26-36.

Introducing their very intriguing study, Raybaud et al. (2017) write that "critical to determining vulnerability or resilience of reef corals to ocean acidification (OA) is a clearer understanding of the extent to which corals can control carbonate chemistry in their extracellular calcifying medium (ECM) where the calcium carbonate skeleton is produced." However, information about the coral ECM is sparse due to the difficulty of accessing it (it is located under several overlying cell layers and has a thickness varying from a few nanometers to a few micrometers).

In an effort to overcome this measurement obstacle, the team of eight researchers presented what they describe as "a novel, alternative means of indirectly assessing ECM carbonate chemistry using coral calcification rates, seawater characteristics (temperature, salinity and pH) and pH measurements of the ECM (pH(ECM))." More specifically, this involved (1) calculating coral species-specific relationships between seawater pH and pH(ECM) using pH(ECM) data from six publications on 5 different species that have measured pH(ECM) at several different levels of seawater pH, (2) calculating the aragonite saturation state (Ωarag.(ECM)) and calcium carbonate ion concentration ([CO32-](ECM)) in the ECM from coral calcification rates previously published in 20 peer-reviewed studies and (3) using pH(ECM) and [CO32-](ECM) to calculate the ionic concentration of the other chemical parameters in the carbonate system of the ECM under current and reduced values of seawater pH. This approach yielded a number of significant findings described in the paragraphs below.

The species-specific relationships between seawater pH and pH(ECM) revealed that all five of the corals analyzed in this stage of the analysis (Desmophyllum dianthus, Cladocora caespitosa, Porites spp., Acropora spp. and Stylophora pistillata) upregulated their pH(ECM) relative to that at normal seawater pH. What is more, the degree of pH(ECM) upregulation increased as seawater pH decreased, indicating, in the words of the authors, "an active biological control of the ECM chemistry by corals."

In the second phase of their work, Raybaud et al. discovered that the Ωarag.(ECM) values calculated from the 20 coral studies they analyzed ranged from 10.16 to 38.31 (mean of 20.41), which values were "~5 to 6-fold higher than Ωarag. in seawater (Ωarag.(SW)), which favors the aragonite precipitation of coral skeleton in the ECM." They also note that "Ωarag.(ECM) was higher for cold-water corals, which have slower growth rates than for tropical ones," adding that "the greater ability of certain cold-water coral species to raise their Ωarag.(ECM) may be an adaptive mechanism, as recently suggested by Hendriks and colleagues (Hendriks et al., 2015), enabling these organisms to grow in seawater that is close to under-saturation with respect to aragonite (Ωarag.(SW) ~1; (Thresher et al., 2011))."

Finally, with respect to the third phase of their study -- assessing other chemical parameters in the carbonate system of the ECM -- the authors report that (1) dissolved inorganic carbon and total alkalinity were approximately 3 times higher in the ECM than in seawater at normal pH, (2) carbonate concentration was 5.9 times higher, (3) bicarbonate ions were 2.1 times more concentrated and (4) hydroxide 2.3 fold higher, which observations clearly indicate the ability of corals to biologically mediate the process of calcification in the ECM under present-day seawater pH conditions. But will they continue to do so in the future under projections of pH decline?

To answer this question, Raybaud et al. utilized data from a long-term laboratory experiment performed on the tropical coral Stylophora pistillata in order to assess how coral ECM chemistry might change due to ocean acidification. The results are presented in the figure below, which illustrate the impact of ocean acidification on calcification rates and various ECM chemical characteristics of S. pistillata coral colonies exposed to normal (8.0) and reduced (7.8, 7.4 and 7.2) seawater pH levels for a period of one year.

As indicated there, Ωarag.(ECM) and [CO32-](ECM) exhibited only small reductions under increasing levels of ocean acidification compared to corresponding changes that occurred in normal seawater. For instance, although Ωarag. of the seawater decreased by 78% (from 3.17 to 0.69, as denoted by the blue horizontal lines in Figure 1e), when the pH declined from 8 to 7.2, Ωarag. and [CO32-] of the ECM each fell by a much smaller 9 percent to values that were 22.4 times higher than those reported in seawater outside the ECM in the most severe ocean acidification treatment (i.e., pH of 7.2). Consequently, the team of researchers write that "the ECM in S. pistillata under ocean acidification has a higher buffer capacity than under current pH," evidenced by the increasing difference between Ωarag.(ECM) and Ωarag.(SW) as the seawater pH treatments decline from 8.0 to 7.2 (see the vertical arrows and orange numbers associated with Ωarag. under the different pH treatments shown in Figure 1e).

In light of all of the above facts, Raybaud et al. conclude their results clearly show that "despite unfavorable Ωarag.(SW) [down to a seawater pH of 7.2], corals are able to maintain Ωarag.(ECM) sufficiently high to allow calcification to proceed," as "the biological regulation of ECM chemistry keeps Ωarag.(ECM) almost constant" under ocean acidification scenarios far beyond those likely to ever occur. And that is incredibly wonderful news for those concerned about potential future impacts of so-called ocean acidification on corals.




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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