Sunday, May 15, 2022

A “Weakening Warming Trend Of The Last 40 Years Is Apparent”, Says German Expert

Fritz Vahrenholt

During the energy crisis that has become visible in Germany and Europe over the past few months, things have gotten quieter about the supposedly imminent climate emergency. On the one hand, energy prices and security of supply have pushed the climate issue into the background. On the other hand, a weakening of the warming trend of the last 40 years is apparent.

The temperature curve of the satellite-based measurements of the University of Alabama UAH has been oscillating between -0.2 and 0.4 degrees for 20 years and seems to have remained stable since 2015, as shown in the next graph in the enlargement. (Source: woodfortrees). The mean value is drawn in green- it shows a slightly decreasing trend since 2015. Why hasn’t this been reported?

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What are the reasons for this stagnation?

CO2 concentrations in the air have continued to rise unabated. It is true that global annual CO2 emissions have been more or less constant for some years now, at 40 billion tons of CO2. Slightly more than half is absorbed by the oceans and plants, so that currently each year the equivalent of about 2.5 ppm CO2 is added to the air concentration. In 2015, there were 401 ppm of CO2 in the air; in 2021, there were 416 ppm. At this rate, by the way, we would never reach the IPCC’s scary scenarios of 800 to 1000 ppm in 2100.

No, the lack of warming must have other reason

A change in global temperature can also happen naturally. We know that clouds have decreased by about 2% after the turn of the millennium, and that for the last ten years cloud cover has been stable at a low level. Second, there are oceanic temperature cycles such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation AMO, which increased sharply from 1980 to the beginning of this millennium (by 0.5 degrees, after all), has remained at maximum since then, and is now weakening slightly again

The United States Weather and Oceanographic Administration, NOAA, writes that the AMO can amplify anthropogenic warming in the warm phase and make it disappear in the cold phase. According to NOAA, the AMO is a naturally occurring change in North Atlantic temperatures that has occurred for at least 1000 years with alternating warm and cold phases of 20-40 years. Add to this the weakening solar radiation since 2008, and further significant warming beyond 1.5 degrees is unlikely in the next 30 years.

Sea ice melt has stalled

The stagnant trend of temperatures that has been observed for several years can also be seen in the halted decline in Arctic sea ice extent reported by the European Copernicus program in March (see next graph

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This is actually good news.

Wouldn’t it be time for climate researchers to bring these trends to the attention of politicians and the public? After all, politicians are currently readjusting the priorities of energy supply. While until last year’s price explosion and the aftermath of the Ukraine war it was apparently taken for granted that climate impacts would be the sole determining factor for energy policy, we are all now being made aware of the importance of security of supply and price trends.

However, German policymakers are still reacting inadequately. They believe they can solve the problem of self-generated energy shortages due to the double phase-out of coal and nuclear energy by simply building more wind farms and solar plants. It must always be remembered that in 2021 the share of wind and solar energy was just over 5% of primary energy supply (oil, gas, coal, nuclear, renewables). Even in a good windy year, it would not be much more than 6%.

Politicians do not have the necessary courage to repeal the coal phase-out law, to stop the nuclear phase-out, to lift the natural gas fracking ban and the ban on CO2 capture at coal-fired power plants. Not yet.

Gas-fired power plants like the one in Leipzig are still being built to replace coal-fired power plants with domestic lignite. Industry is already further ahead. Volkswagen has postponed the conversion of two of its own coal-fired power plants into gas-fired power plants indefinitely. This statement by CEO Diess was not widely reported in Germany, but it was abroad.

The U.S. government is also repositioning itself. John Kerry, the U.S. government’s climate envoy, for whom the 1.5-degree target was previously the sole political guideline, is now putting things into perspective and, in view of skyrocketing energy prices, saying that 1.8 degrees should be quite sufficient as a target. China, India and Southeast Asia, whose growth path is threatened by the price explosion, are practicing a renaissance of coal production.

That’s where we should listen when Jochem Marotzke of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg says: “It’s unrealistic to bring global emissions to zero by 2050… a 2.5 degree world is still better than a 3.5 degree world.”

Let us reassure Mr. Marotzke: a 2.5 degree world will not be achieved in this century because natural variations in climate dampen anthropogenic warming. Had this been adequately accounted for in climate models, we would all have been spared much public panic and flawed policy decisions.


Green Energy - Not So Clean

Green energy from wind, solar, hydro and geothermal is not so clean. Green energy may be carbon free but green energy is also a serious environmental polluter.

Rare earth minerals used in the manufacture of solar panels, windmill blades, and storage batteries are costly and primarily sourced in China. The mining process, the refining process, and transportation all have serious environmental and cost issues. Child slave labor in Africa and Uighur slave labor in China are used to mine rare earth minerals for processing in China.

The United States is the leading energy country in the world. By attempting to Go Green and dismantling fossil/nuclear fuel sources of energy, America is committing societal suicide. Energy is the foundation of modern civilization without which industry and national defense are impotent. Reducing carbon and improving a clean environment are noble objectives, but should be acted on with feasible, realistic, and cost effective programs. Yes, increase solar panels on buildings, but not on solar farms which require huge tracts of land and a transmission infrastructure. At present, and for the near future, there are no battery backups capable of providing electrical energy 24/7/365.

China dominates the world’s manufacturing of solar panels, windmill blades, and batteries. By going Green, America would be subjected to totalitarian communist China.

Ironically, China is the world’s leading polluter and is building coal burning power plants at a record pace of 43 in the pipeline. It is also financing coal power plants worldwide through its “Belt and Road Initiative”.

Solar panel and windmill blade production creates tons of hazardous waste and contaminated water. The now defunct Solyndra used its $535 million federal taxpayer subsidy to generate 12.5 million pounds of hazardous waste. Cadium, indium, lead, CIS and nitrogen triflouride gases are some of the toxic chemicals used and spun off from solar production.

Solar panels and windmill blades have an average life span of 20 years. Currently there is limited recycling of these panels and blades, and thus they end up in landfills with built-in toxic materials. Windmills require increasing maintenance and are less efficient as they age. The average maintenance cost is approximately 25% of income generated. Since wind does not always blow and varies in speed, windmills produce energy intermittently. Solar panels do not produce energy at night, in cloudy weather, or when covered in snow. In the winter, with less sunlight, the efficiency of solar panels in northern states can be as low as 10%.

Solar and wind are low-intensity energy sources that require enormous amounts of land compared to fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Merely meeting America’s current electricity demands with wind energy would require 12% of the continental U.S. land or the equivalent of two States of California. Solar farms and battery storage also require enormous land use.

Connecting wind and solar to the grid would require doubling the present 240,000 miles of high voltage transmission capacity. Appropriating land for transmission lines of this magnitude would encounter fierce local and environmental opposition. The costs for land acquisition and line transmission towers would be in the billions of dollars.

Lastly, solar and wind are harmful to humans and birds. Wind turbines generate noise that affect human sleep patterns and quality of life. In the ocean, windmill construction disturbs sea beds and interferes with bird and ocean animal migratory patterns. Windmills and solar panels kill thousands of birds and bats per year. Giant 200 foot high windmill towers with blades that can rotate at speeds in excess of 200 mph instantly kill eagles and other birds, while solar panels incinerate birds. Windmills crash and catch fire, battery backups catch fire, and solar panels and windmill towers are eyesores. They occupy valuable farmland, ocean vistas, and scenic hills.

In summary, Green energy is not so clean for the environment, nor is it the panacea for a carbon free future. It cannot meet the energy requirements of a modern and growing civilization, which includes the growing need of electricity for electric vehicles and computer data centers. America and the world need fossil fuels and nuclear energy to meet civilization's electricity needs.


Creaky U.S. power grid threatens progress on renewables, EVs

After decades of struggle, the U.S. clean-energy business is booming, with soaring electric-car sales and fast growth in wind and solar power.

All this progress, however, could be derailed without a massive overhaul of America’s antiquated electric infrastructure – a task some industry experts say requires more than $2 trillion. The current network of transmission wires, substations and transformers is decaying with age and underinvestment, a condition highlighted by catastrophic failures during increasingly frequent and severe weather events.

Power outages over the last six years have more than doubled in number compared to the previous six years, according to a Reuters examination of federal data. In the past two years, power systems have collapsed in Gulf Coast hurricanes, West Coast wildfires, Midwest heat waves and a Texas deep freeze, causing long and sometimes deadly outages.

Compounding the problem, the seven regional grid operators in the United States are underestimating the growing threat of severe weather caused by climate change, Reuters found in a review of more than 10,000 pages of regulatory documents and operators’ public disclosures. Their risk models, used to guide transmission-network investments, consider historical weather patterns extending as far back as the 1970s. None account for scientific research documenting today’s more extreme weather and how it can disrupt grid generation, transmission and fuel supplies simultaneously.

The decrepit power infrastructure of the world’s largest economy is among the biggest obstacles to expanding clean energy and combating climate change on the ambitious schedule laid out by U.S. President Joe Biden. His administration promises to eliminate or offset carbon emissions from the power sector by 2035 and from the entire U.S. economy by 2050. Such rapid clean-energy growth would pressure the nation’s grid in two ways: Widespread EV adoption will spark a huge surge in power demand; and increasing dependence on renewable power creates reliability problems on days with less sun or wind.

“Competition from renewables is being strangled without adequate and necessary upgrades to the transmission network,” said Simon Mahan, executive director of the Southern Renewable Energy Association, which represents solar and wind companies.

The federal government, however, lacks the authority to push through the massive grid expansion and modernization needed to withstand wilder weather and accommodate EVs and renewable power. Under the current regulatory regime, the needed infrastructure investments are instead controlled by a Byzantine web of local, state and regional regulators who have strong political incentives to hold down spending, according to Reuters interviews with grid operators, federal and state regulators, and executives from utilities and construction firms.

Paying for major grid upgrades would require these regulators to sign off on rate increases likely to spark strong opposition from consumers and local and state politicians, who are keen to keep utility bills low. In addition, utility companies often fight investments in transmission-network improvements because they can result in new connections to other regional grids that could allow rival companies to compete on their turf. With the advance of green energy, those inter-regional connections will become ever more essential to move power from far-flung solar and wind installations to population centers.

The power-sharing among states and regions with often conflicting interests makes it extremely challenging to coordinate any national strategy to modernize the grid, said Alison Silverstein, an independent industry consultant and former senior adviser to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). “The politics are a freakin’ nightmare,” she said.

The FERC declined to comment for this story. FERC Commissioner Mark Christie, a Republican, acknowledged the limitations of the agency’s power over the U.S. grid in an April 21 agency meeting involving transmission planning and costs. “We can’t force states to do anything,” Christie said.

The White House and Energy Department did not comment in response to detailed questions from Reuters on the Biden administration’s plans to tackle U.S. grid problems and their impact on green-energy expansion.

The administration said in an April news release that it plans to offer $2.5 billion in grants for grid-modernization projects as part of Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure package. A modernized grid, the release said, is the “linchpin” of Biden’s clean-energy agenda.”


Disturbing implications of the Peter Ridd case

Ridd was fired because he questioned the integrity of the research behind a claim that the Barrier Reef was threatened by global warming.

Now that he is gone there is no-one in a position to critique the latest panic. In the circumstances this year's panic lacks all credibility

In October last year when the High Court handed down a short, unanimous decision in Peter Ridd’s case, it was a tragic outcome for a world class professor of physics who tried to defend his right to engage in robust professional discourse – no matter who took offence.

After 27 years at James Cook University, Ridd had failed to overturn his dismissal. Officially, James Cook University won this case. But it’s a pyrrhic victory.

The university was left with a big legal bill and a judgment that identified its improper attempts to silence an academic who questioned the rigour of other scientists.

The High Court broke with normal practice and refused to order Ridd to pay the university’s costs. But James Cook University lost something far more important than money: the reputation of this institution has been trashed.

The world has been left with the impression that this university did not understand the principle that lies at the heart of the scientific method: when searching for truth, robust debate is more important than professional courtesy and collegiality.

So to describe this university as a winner does not capture the full impact of what happened.

The High Court’s ruling falls into two parts: the first is a defeat for one man based on the peculiar circumstances of the case and the court’s even stranger form of reasoning. That aspect of Ridd’s case is best viewed not simply as an aberration, but wrong.

From Ridd’s perspective it was utterly unjust. On the substantive issue of academic freedom, the court’s judgment shows he was right and the university wrong when it tried to silence his criticism of what he considered shoddy science.

Yet these wrongdoers still managed to salvage victory after the court used a form of reasoning that was right out of Kafka: Ridd had failed to respect the confidentiality of an improper disciplinary process that targeted his legitimate right to engage in robust professional discourse.

That form of reasoning is less than persuasive and will eventually be seen for what it is: an embarrassment that sits uneasily with the rest of the ruling.

The lasting significance of this decision is in the second part of the judgment, which is an entirely convincing exposition on the importance of academic freedom and why robust scientific debate needs to prevail over bureaucratic demands for courtesy.

If the next federal government builds on this foundation, the real winners will be future generations – not just of academics but of all those who benefit from academic rigour.

This part of the ruling serves as a warning to university bureaucrats. The nation’s highest court is united on the importance of intellectual freedom and seems likely to side with academics should this issue again come before the court.

That, of course, assumes that other academics will have the fortitude and resources to follow Ridd’s example and fight for the right to speak their mind. That is quite an assumption.

In the real world, it would be a rare soul who would be prepared to risk their career and finances in a fight over an issue of principle. That is why the next federal government has an obligation to build on the foundation laid in the second part of this judgment.

The next education minister needs to ensure academics will never again need to resort to private litigation to defend their right to engage in robust professional discourse.

We have already seen how government action can nudge universities in the right direction through the development of a voluntary code on academic freedom by former High Court Chief Justice Robert French.

This code, however, fails to take account of the fact that universities are sensitive to threats to their revenue and the interests of influential stakeholders. Public policy therefore needs to support those who challenge academic orthodoxy, regardless of who takes offence.




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