Thursday, February 23, 2006

THE LATEST SCARE: Acidifying oceans

Even given that atmospheric CO2 levels are higher and stay higher, this seems implausible to me. Social scientists don't usually know much about chemistry but from my limited recollection of it, carbonic acid is very unstable and breaks down rapidly. And neutralizing it is hardly a technological problem either. And given the admission that acidification has occurred naturally in the past for unknown reasons, connecting any such phenomenon to anthropogenic global warming is mere assertion

Pollution is quickly making the world's oceans more acidic, and if unchecked this could cause a mass extinction of marine life similar to one that occurred when the dinosaurs disappeared, a researcher says. The researcher, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., has developed computer models predicting a continuation of a trend other scientists have also noted: the oceans are slowly turning into mild acids. Caldeira said he compared his computer models predicting how far this will go in the next century, with evidence from the fossil record, and has found some startling similarities.

The finding offers a glimpse of what the future might hold for ocean life if society does not drastically curb carbon dioxide emissions, he added. "The geologic record tells us the chemical effects of ocean acidification would last tens of thousands of years," Caldeira said. "But biological recovery could take millions of years. Ocean acidification has the potential to cause extinction of many marine species." When carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil, and gas dissolves in the ocean, some of it becomes carbonic acid. Over time, accumulation of this carbonic acid makes ocean water more acidic.

Previous estimates, Caldeira said, suggest that in less than a century, the pH of the oceans could drop by as much as half a unit from its natural value of 8.2 to about 7.7. On the pH scale, lower numbers are more acidic and higher numbers are more basic.

This trend would especially damage marine animals such as corals, that make shells out of a mineral called calcium carbonate, Caldeira added. Under normal conditions the ocean is full of this substance, making growth easy for such creatures. A more acidic ocean would more easily dissolve calcium carbonate, putting these species at severe risk, he added.

The last time the oceans endured such a drastic change in chemistry, he added, was 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs went extinct. Though researchers don't yet know what caused this ancient acidification, it was related to the cataclysm that wiped out the giant beasts, he added. The extinction pattern in the ocean was consistent with ocean acidification, he explained: the fossil record reveals a plunge in the number of species with calcium carbonate shells in the upper ocean, especially corals and plankton. During the same period, species with shells made from resistant silicate minerals were more likely to survive. "Our energy system could make the oceans corrosive to coral reefs and many other marine organisms," Caldeira cautioned. He presented the findings Monday in Honolulu at the Ocean Sciences Meeting of the American Geophysical Union and the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography.



A reader writes:

Regarding your post about carbonic acid: There are two glaring problems with what they say. The pH is becoming more acidic, but it is still the basic side of neutral. Why not headline it with "seas becoming more neutral"?

Carbonic acid is required to form calcium carbonate in the first place! If the acidification was caused by some other acid, eg hydrochloric, then it is straightforward to show that calcium carbonate would be eroded since no more carbonate is being added. But here the acid is carbonic acid, its dissolution into the sea creates a weak acid but also ADDS more carbonate to the water in equal proportion. I'm not sure what the equilibrium equations are but I don't think it is as simple as the authors make out. The comparison with ancient extinctions is also dubious, what acids were responsible? They don't say. There are in fact acids based on silica... is it inconceivable that the acidification was caused by silicic acids, which affected carbonate shells far more than silicates? The cataclysm was probably a strike on the Earth by a large body, throwing up a lot of material. What is the bulk of the Earth made of? Silicas. What would form as they rained out? Silicic acids!

You do have to wonder what the hell sort of modelling they are using! I'd expect without doing any serious investigation that the carbonates would thrive under these conditions whereas the silicate based shells may suffer a little. But silicate shells are sturdier so they won't suffer very badly under a slight pH change.


You can never please a Greenie. If all we had were caves, Greenies would oppose them

President Bush's new nuclear energy initiative is supposed to help cure America's "addiction to oil" by redesigning a taboo technology, originally used to obtain plutonium for bombs, to reuse spent nuclear fuel. Unlike past reprocessing methods, the administration says, the new technique would make it prohibitively difficult for would-be proliferators to extract weapons-grade plutonium from spent fuel, and it would drastically reduce the volume of radioactive waste to be stored at repositories such as Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

The result, Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said early this month, would be increased use of nuclear power, reduced oil consumption and fewer hydrocarbon emissions, "making the world a better, cleaner and safer place to live."

If it works. Both supporters and opponents of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership agreed that although it marks a radical change in U.S. nuclear energy policy, it also relies on unproven technologies that will take decades to mature, and it does not guarantee success. Bodman, in congressional testimony last week, acknowledged that the $250 million requested for the program this year will be used to design a test reprocessing plant so that Bush over "the next two or three years" can make "a go or no-go decision as to whether this is something that makes sense."

But one problem with this calculation, opponents say, is that even a toe-wetting start-up requires that the United States reverse nearly 30 years of opposition to reprocessing at a time of increasing concern about weapons programs in North Korea, Iran and other nations. That "is the wrong signal to send," said Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which opposes reprocessing. Also, Lyman and others challenged the administration's view that the new technology does not produce "proliferation proof" plutonium, and suggested that would-be proliferators would almost certainly find new ways to handle the spent fuel by the time the new system is ready.

Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell acknowledged these concerns but noted that the U.S. refusal to reprocess spent fuel has been a stance "that virtually no one [else] followed." The world "has moved on without us," he added, and a new technology that makes it harder to obtain plutonium "will make the United States a leader rather than a spectator."

Still, there are other misgivings. Experts in both science and industry doubt that the plan could meet what Sell called an "admittedly aggressive time schedule" to have commercial reprocessing up and running by 2025. If development drags on, these experts say, reprocessing would have little immediate effect on nuclear waste storage. Meanwhile, the government will be spending billions of dollars developing a fuel that probably will be too expensive to buy in the foreseeable future, except with a government subsidy. "I'm not dogmatic -- the claims may not ultimately be wrong," said Richard K. Lester, a nuclear scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "But on the time scale that's going to matter, it's very difficult to come close to achieving the objectives that have been set."

Reprocessing technology was first developed by the United States in the 1950s as a way to obtain plutonium for nuclear warheads, but President Jimmy Carter banned it in 1977 because of proliferation concerns. President Ronald Reagan rescinded the ban in 1981, but even then, reprocessing was so expensive and technologically daunting that no U.S. power company ever sought to develop it.

France, Japan, Russia, India and the United Kingdom do reprocess commercially, and all use the old U.S. technology, called purex, which derives plutonium oxide from spent fuel and then combines it with uranium to create a mixed-oxide fuel, called MOX, that can be used in some power plants. MOX is much more expensive than the uranium fuel in conventional reactors. The conventional plants, which include all 103 nuclear generators currently operating in the United States, use "once through" fuel rods in a controlled reaction to produce steam that drives turbine generators. The rods are replaced every 18 to 24 months, and the spent fuel -- about 2,000 metric tons annually -- is put into temporary storage on the reactor sites.

Eventually, the spent fuel is supposed to go to Yucca Mountain, which will open, at the earliest, in 2012. By that time, the industry will have 70,000 metric tons of spent fuel waiting to ship to it. "We need to solve a couple of big problems," said Phillip J. Finck, deputy associate director for applied science technology and national security at Argonne National Laboratory. "We have to deal with the waste and destroy plutonium." The new technology, as described by Finck in a telephone interview, begins with a new reprocessing technique called urex-plus, which, like purex, dissolves spent fuel rods in a bath of nitric acid. The used fuel rods are composed of uranium, plutonium, heavy radioactive metals called "transuranics" and lighter radioactive elements known as "fission products."

Unlike purex, which separates out the plutonium, urex-plus leaves the plutonium and transuranics mixed together, making the resulting product unsuitable for weapons and much more difficult to handle for anyone trying to build a bomb. The new fuel would be used in a "fast reactor," where neutrons move about much more energetically than in conventional reactors, breaking down the long-lived transuranics into lighter fission products with shorter half-lives. The spent fuel from the fast reactor would then be reprocessed using another new technology known as "pyroprocessing," which separates the fuel by dissolving it in molten salt and running an electric current through it. The fuel could be recycled several times until the long-lived transuranics all but disappear.

If successful, the new reprocessing method would replace purex, the stockpile of civilian plutonium would stop growing, and the whole cycle would become much more proliferation resistant, Finck said. Also, he added, Yucca Mountain's storage capacity "would increase by a factor of 100." Instead of filling up by 2030, or earlier, the repository would last beyond the end of the century.

That is if the new reprocessing system is ready by 2025. Steven Kraft, senior director of used fuel management for the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry policy group, voiced doubts: "This is a matter of developing future technologies, and those technologies are 50 to 60 years away." Kraft endorsed Bush's plan as a worthy long-range goal, but nonproliferation advocates said impurities in reprocessed plutonium are not likely to dissuade would-be proliferators from stealing it.

Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, an energy think tank, said: "You can get a one-kiloton explosion with impure plutonium, and if you're a terrorist the most important thing is to have the capability. Such a blast would be the equivalent of 1,000 tons of dynamite. "You don't care whether you destroy the tip of Manhattan or the whole island," he said.


California: Junk science wins at the OUC-- families and jobs to be harmed-- but Greenies will cheer!

In a bid to slow global warming, California regulators are scheduled to vote today to limit the amount of greenhouse gases the state's utilities are allowed to pump into the air. The measure before the California Public Utilities Commission would place California at the forefront of a nationwide effort to rein in carbon dioxide emissions, blamed for raising temperatures worldwide. "If we're going to deal with the greenhouse gas issue in California, we're going to have to go down this road," said commission President Michael Peevey, who proposed the cap.

Today's vote would merely begin the process of setting a specific cap, with the key details to be worked out later in discussions with environmentalists and the state's three investor-owned utilities. Those specifics include the actual number of tons each utility could emit and the penalties for those who go over the limits. In addition, the commission has no legal authority to include under the cap the state's municipal utilities, including those in Los Angeles and Sacramento. Doing so would require action by the Legislature. Peevey said the process of nailing down the cap's details would take several years. "That's important also to provide business with some assurance that we're going to do this based on sound economic sense," he said.

While the federal government has resisted limiting carbon dioxide, citing potential costs, states have been far more aggressive. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has made fighting global warming a central goal of his administration, aiming to reduce the state's emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. A coalition of seven Northeastern states, including New York, agreed in December to cut their emissions using a "cap-and-trade" system, which forces power plant operators to buy and sell credits for producing specific amounts of the gas.

California may adopt such a cap and trade system as a result of the commission's decision today. "If we didn't see any such action at the national level, then we need to see some action at the regional level," said Christy Dennis, spokeswoman for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The utility, based in San Francisco, supports the cap-and-trade concept. A similar process already limits the amount of sulfur spewed from power plants, one of the main causes of acid rain. But critics from both ends of the political spectrum warn that carbon dioxide could be much harder to control. All power plants running on coal, natural gas or oil emit carbon dioxide. So do cars, humans, animals, fireplaces and wildfires. The most cost-effective way to produce hydrogen, a fuel some environmentalists hope will replace oil, also produces carbon dioxide. Crafting a system that can significantly cut emissions of the gas won't be easy. "I think you cannot extrapolate from sulfur, which few things emitted," said David Hamilton, director of the Sierra Club's global warming and energy program. "It was basically power plants. Carbon is just kind of everything -- it's cars, it's industry, it's power plants, it's agriculture." The environmental organization doesn't take a position for or against cap-and-trade systems.



I linked yesterday to a media report of a statement saying that recent storm activity cannot be linked to global warming. Below is the preamble from the actual scientific statement itself:

Statement from Australian Bureau of Meteorology, February 2006. Submitted to CAS-XIV under Agenda Item 7.3 by Dr G. B. Love, Permanent Representative for Australia. Prepared by the WMO/CAS Tropical Meteorology Research Program, Steering Committee for Project TC-2: Scientific Assessment of Climate Change Effects on Tropical Cyclones. February 2006

To provide an updated assessment of the current state of knowledge of the impact of
anthropogenically induced climate change on tropical cyclones.

The WMO CAS Tropical Meteorology Research Program has undertaken a series of assessments of the potential influence of climate change on global tropical cyclone activity. The most recent was published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society by Henderson- Sellers et al (1998) and had the following major conclusions:

* Whilst there was evidence of substantial multidecadal variability (particularly for intense Atlantic hurricanes), there was no clear evidence of long-term trends;

* The Maximum Potential Intensity of cyclones will remain the same or undergo a modest increase of up to 10-20%. These predicted changes are small compared with the observed natural variations and fall within the uncertainty range in current studies;

* Little can be said about the potential changes of the distribution of intensities as opposed to maximum achievable intensity;

* Current knowledge and available techniques are not able to provide robust quantitative indications of potential changes in tropical cyclone frequency;

* The broad geographic regions of cyclogenesis and therefore also the regions affected by tropical cyclones are not expected to change significantly;

* The modest available evidence points to an expectation of little or no change in global frequency. Regional and local frequencies could change substantially in either direction, because of the dependence of cyclone genesis and track on other phenomena (e.g. ENSO) that are not yet predictable;

* The rapid increase of economic damage and disruption by tropical cyclones has been caused, to a large extent, by increasing coastal populations, by increasing insured values in coastal areas and, perhaps, a rising sensitivity of modern societies to disruptions of infrastructure."



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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