Wednesday, October 31, 2007


By Alan Carlin, US Environmental Protection Agency


Proponents of greenhouse gas emissions reductions have long assumed that such reductions are the best approach to global climate change control and sometimes argued that they are the least risky approach. It is now generally understood that to be effective such reductions would have to involve most of the world and be very extensive and rapidly implemented. This paper examines the question of whether it is feasible to use only this approach to control dangerous global climate changes, the most critical of the climate change control objectives. I show that in one of two critical cases analyzed recent papers provide evidence that such an approach is not a feasible single approach to avoiding the dangerous climate changes predicted by a very prominent group of US climate change researchers. In the other case using a widely accepted international standard I show that such an approach appears to be very risky and much more expensive than previously thought. These conclusions further reinforce previous research that emissions reductions alone do not appear to be an effective and efficient single strategy for climate change control. So although emissions reductions can play a useful role in climate change control, other approaches would appear to be needed if dangerous climate changes are to be avoided. This conclusion suggests that the current proposals in a number of Western European countries and the United States to use emissions reductions as the sole means to control global warming may be doomed to failure in terms of avoiding such dangerous changes. An alternative approach is briefly discussed that would be more effective and efficient, and could avoid the perilous risks and high costs inherent in an emissions reduction only approach.

Fundamental to a rational decision as to what to do about global climate change is what the problems are that need to be solved and what and how much needs to be done how soon to solve them (1). It is sometimes forgotten that the objective of global climate change control should not be to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) but rather to reduce specified risks resulting from climate change. Previous research has shown that the very widely proposed approach of reducing emissions of GHGs is not likely to be either effective or efficient in reducing the risk of dangerous climate changes or some of the other goals of climate change control (1). Of four such risks previously identified (1), the most critical one is dangerous climate changes.

In order to investigate the feasibility of using an emissions reduction approach in reducing the risk of dangerous climate changes, it is necessary to define either the threats that we are trying to avoid or the goals that if achieved would avoid the threats since different threats may require different solutions. For this purpose I have defined two such threats/goals, representing two of the most prominent ones discussed in the literature. Obviously there may be other threats/goals, but a useful approach should at least control the most prominent ones unless we know for certain that another threat is the only one that will occur. [...]

One of the threats, which I will call the Greenland/West Antarctica ice sheet melt, has been proposed by a prominent group of American climate scientists, usually with James Hansen as the lead author. Two new papers on the subject are by Hansen et al; both concern the risks from additional global warming as a result of sea level rise due to melting ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica. The first paper (2) argues that there are dangerous risks if global temperatures rise more than another 1oC from current levels.

The second (3) uses data from the last 400,000 years of Earth history to predict how and why they believe that sea levels may rise significantly over this century and to quantify key parameters including much higher climate sensitivity to increased carbon dioxide (CO2) levels.

A third paper with Hansen as the sole author (4) summarizes other research showing that the Greenland and West Antarctic ice caps are eroding, including speculation that the resulting sea level rise could be as much as 5 meters by 2100. New Scientist describes the consequences as follows (5):

Without mega-engineering projects to protect them, a 5 meter rise would inundate large parts of many coastal cities--including New York, London, Sydney, Vancouver, Mumbai, and Tokyo--and leave surrounding areas vulnerable to storm surges. In Florida, Louisiana, the Netherlands, Bangladesh and elsewhere, whole regions and cities would vanish. China's economic powerhouse, Shanghai, has an average elevation of just 4 meters.

The long standing concern about dangerous climate changes is that there may be a "tipping point" where a continued rise in global temperatures will trigger non-linear, selfreinforcing further warming or other dangerous environmental effects beyond those resulting immediately from the temperature rise itself. Numerous scenarios have been proposed (1), but Hansen et al. believe that the most likely and most critical of these dangerous effects is the possibility of substantial sea level rise due to the breakup of parts or all of the ice sheets covering Greenland and West Antarctica. Taken together, Hansen et al (2, 3, and 4) paint a rather alarming forecast of what they view as the dangerous effect of global warming is as they see it. Their words could not be more much more graphic or stark in their description of the risk they believe we face:

"Our concern," Hansen et al. (3) write, that business as usual greenhouse gas scenarios "would cause large sea-level rise this century...differs from estimates of the IPCC (2001, 2007), which foresees little or no contribution to twenty-first century sea level raise from Greenland and Antarctica.

However, the IPCC analyses and projections do not well account for the nonlinear physics of wet ice sheet disintegration, ice streams and eroding ice shelves, nor are they consistent with the palaeoclimate evidence we have presented for the absence of discernable lag between ice sheet forcing and sea-level rise." "Civilization developed," Hansen et al. say ominously "and constructed extensive infrastructure, during a period of unusual climate stability, the Holocene, now almost 12000 years in duration. That period is about to end."

Hansen et al., however, believe that their concerns can still be met through reductions in emissions of both CO2 and the other GHGs, but they do state that they believe we are now at the outer limits of what can still be done to prevent the catastrophe that they predict will otherwise occur.

In the second case, the threat/goal is derived from the conventional United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the announced policy by the European Union (EU) as to how it should be implemented. The ultimate goal of climate change control, the UNFCCC has declared, is to avoid dangerous climate changes. This has generally been interpreted as a temperature ceiling that if observed would accomplish this. The EU has explicitly adopted a limit of 2oC above pre-industrial levels (6) and Germany, Britain, and Sweden have implicitly accepted it (7). These four Western European jurisdictions have all proposed implementing it, however, in ways that are unlikely to achieve the 2oC limit (7), possibly because they appreciate the difficulty of meeting it. California, however, has used the limit as the basis for its climate change control legislation, as have some of the bills that have been proposed in Congress. The history and scientific basis for the 2oC limit is briefly summarized in Hansen, et al. (2) and more extensively in Rive et al (8). Others have also suggested that a 2oC warming is not likely to be safe (9) (10) (11).

A recent paper by Rive et al. (8) analyzes a range of possible limits on the rise in global temperatures to determine the near-term emission reductions needed to realize them using a variety of climate change parameters. This paper primarily uses their methodology as a framework by which to assess the feasibility of an emissions control approach to global climate change control in terms of limiting temperature increases to the levels specified in each of the two threat/goal scenarios just outlined. More specifically, the two cases are:

(A) Greenland/West Antarctica ice sheet melt: Hansen et al are assumed to be correct that climate sensitivity to increased levels of CO2 is approximately 6oC for a doubling of CO2 (3) as well as their belief that there is substantial risk of a dramatic sea level rise if global temperatures increase more than another 1oC (2).

(B) EU 2oC Temperature Limit: There is assumed to be a substantial risk of dangerous climatic changes if global temperatures exceed 2oC above preindustrial levels. This is a little less strict than the second half of (A) since a further increase of global temperatures of 1oC would be roughly consistent with a 1.8oC increase from pre-industrial levels. [...]

Although nature long ago demonstrated that there are atmospheric geoengineering options that could be effective in controlling global temperatures (1) (23) and meeting the 2oC limit or any other desired temperature limit, no real effort has been made to optimize these options, carefully determine their non-climate change environmental effects, nor build an international mechanism for decision-making to implement them (24) despite the much lower costs (3 to 5 orders of magnitude) compared to de-carbonization and the fact that one country with the required technological and financial resources could if necessary implement such a solution directly without involving other countries or people once a decision had been made to proceed (1).

Numerous arguments both for and against using atmospheric geoengineering have been debated for years, but often hinge on a metaphysical issue of whether humans should alter emissions to alter climate or alter global temperatures directly (1) (25). One possibility is a combination of early geoengineering to avoid any danger of dangerous climate changes with cost-effective ERD involving increasing energy efficiency but not decreasing energy services. Lack of preparation and support for using geoengineering approaches may prove to be unfortunate since the result is likely to be expensive but ineffective ERD and extensive adaptation. And if Hansen et al. and Caldeira are correct, the resulting adaptation currently appears likely to include adaptation to "dangerous" climate changes and the loss of the world's coral reefs.

The first step towards an effective and efficient response to global climate change would appear to be to carefully examine each of the problems posed by global climate change and to determine the best solutions to each problem (see 1) rather than offering a single panecea (ERD) that appears to have critical limitations as an overall solution. The second step appears to be to carry out the needed development and also to develop a decision-making process for better using atmospheric geoengineering, and the third is to carefully research and attempt to find workable solutions to ocean acidification, including consideration of the use of ocean geoengineering. Continuing down a path towards ERD, if Hansen et al. are correct, will apparently not avoid dangerous climate changes, or if he is not, would still be very risky, very expensive, and probably disastrous in the end.


Reducing emissions could speed global warming (??)

There's no such thing as a happy Greenie and Prof. Lovelock is unhappy about EVERYTHING

A rapid cutback in greenhouse gas emissions could speed up global warming, the veteran environmental maverick James Lovelock will warn in a lecture today. Prof Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia theory that the planet behaves like a single organism, says this is because current global warming is offset by global dimming - the 2-3§C of cooling cause by industrial pollution, known to scientists as aerosol particles, in the atmosphere.

His lecture will be delivered as Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, launches the results of a public consultation on the Government's proposed Climate Change Bill which is intended to cut Britain's greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. Prof Lovelock will say in a lecture to the Royal Society: "Any economic downturn or planned cutback in fossil fuel use, which lessened aerosol density, would intensify the heating. "If there were a 100 per cent cut in fossil fuel combustion it might get hotter not cooler. We live in a fool's climate. We are damned if we continue to burn fuel and damned if we stop too suddenly."

Prof Lovelock believes that even the gloomiest predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are underestimating the current severity of climate change because they do not go into the consequences of the current burden pollution in the atmosphere which will last for centuries. He argues that though the scientific language of the IPCC, which reported earlier this year, is "properly cautious" it gives the impression that the worst consequences of climate change are avoidable if we take action now....

According to Professor Lovelock's gloomy analysis, the IPCC's climate models fail to take account of the Earth as a living system where life in the oceans and land takes an active part in regulating the climate. He will argue that when a model includes the whole Earth system it shows that: "When the carbon dioxide in the air exceeds 500 parts per million the global temperature suddenly rises 6§C and becomes stable again despite further increases or decreases of atmospheric carbon dioxide. "This contrasts with the IPCC models that predict that temperature rises and falls smoothly with increasing or decreasing carbon dioxide."

He argues that we should cut greenhouse gas emissions, nonetheless, because it might help slow the pace of global heating. We also have to do our best to lessen our destruction of natural forests but this is unlikely to be enough and we will have to learn to adapt to the inevitable changes we will soon experience.

The pro-nuclear Prof Lovelock will say that we should think of the Earth as a live self-regulating system and devise ways to harness the natural processes that regulate the climate in the fight against global warming. This could involve paying indigenous peoples to protect their forests and develop ways to make the ocean absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere more efficiently.

Prof Lovelock intends to add: "We are not merely a disease; we are through our intelligence and communication the planetary equivalent of a nervous system. We should be the heart and mind of the Earth not its malady." ...


Ethanol Conspiracy Theories Ignore Fuel's Legitimate Shortcomings

Yesterday, Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dineen issued a statement urging Congress to pump billions of subsidies into ethanol. Dineen's rhetoric begs lawmakers to create an artificial market for ethanol, build the extra infrastructure needed for transport, and condemns anyone who speaks about its shortcomings as part of a "coordinated offensive of mistruths".

These statements undermine the effort to have a serious debate about the right way to diversify our energy sources and increase America's energy security. The ethanol industry has been getting super-sized subsidies for more than two decades. Throughout that time, cellulosic ethanol has always been "right around the corner."

We should be looking to innovators and entrepreneurs to develop the next great technological breakthroughs in energy -- not to lobbyists seeking more handouts in Washington. Despite Dineen's accusation of an "insidious campaign" by the fossil fuels industry against biofuels, there are a myriad of legitimate concerns about ethanol. Those concerns include, but are not limited to, ethanol's effect on food prices, its huge water demands, and its overall financial cost. (For more on this see the recent Wall Street Journal editorial, "Ethanol's Water Shortage".)

The Institute for Energy Research supports energy diversity, tapping into the most efficient traditional, alternative, and renewable sources capable of sustaining themselves in a free market, including using ethanol as a gasoline blend. However, propping up less efficient producers with endless subsidies and mandating production of biofuels will not increase our energy security, and will likely produce a host of negative unintended consequences.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration believes that the practical limit for domestic ethanol production is about 13.8 billion gallons by 2030, or about 7 percent of the transportation fuels market (Annual Energy Outlook 2007). Mandating the production of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022 will require a fleet of flex-fuel vehicles, but currently, less than one percent of retail stations sell E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

According to IER Adjunct Scholar Jerry Taylor, virtually all studies show that greenhouse gases associated with ethanol are about the same as those associated with conventional gasoline once the entire life cycle of the two fuels are compared. Further, as more land is harnessed for corn production, less fertile soils will be brought into production, requiring more energy intensive inputs into the corn production process, primarily in the form of increased use of fertilizers and irrigation. "As we re-open previously dormant land to produce corn for ethanol -- we may be unwittingly emitting tons of carbon dioxide with simple land-use changes," warned Amy Kaleita, assistant professor of agriculture and bioengineering at Iowa State University.

Such a massive increase in corn production for ethanol poses other serious environmental risks emerging in the so-called "Dead Zones" in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay.

Dineen claims that we are close to making cellulosic ethanol a reality, but Robert Bryce, a fellow with the Institute for Energy Research, wrote, "cellulosic ethanol is akin to the tooth fairy: it's an entity that many believe in, but no one ever actually sees. There are plenty of believers in cellulosic ethanol, but there's no reason to expect that the industry will be able to grow fast enough." ("The Senate's Ethanol Delusion," Energy Tribune).

These are legitimate concerns that require serious thought before Congress mandates the use of billions of gallons of renewable fuels. The breakthroughs in technology necessary to produce new energy sources will come from entrepreneurs and innovators. Academic energy experts are researching and evaluating the best options to secure a robust supply of energy well into America's future. The free market should pick the next great technology, not the lawmakers and lobbyists on Capitol Hill.


Australian Labor Party gets real about Kyoto

They have finally seen that dragging down the economy for Greenie tokenism is not a good deal

KEVIN Rudd has said it is "absolutely fundamental" that developing nations sign up to Kyoto emissions targets as he tries to limit the fallout after forcing Peter Garrett into an embarrassing backflip on Labor's policy. Mr Garrett said yesterday that the inclusion of developing nations China and India - major greenhouse gas emitters - was "not a deal-breaker" to Labor signing on to a post-Kyoto climate accord if the party wins the federal election. By the evening he said it was a pre-requisite.

Mr Rudd has said on ABC radio this morning that any deal would be sent back to the drawing board if developing nations refused to sign. He had said yesterday that developed nations should show leadership by signing on first. "It's absolutely fundamental that such commitments are contained, and that for us is a pre-condition," he said. He said Labor's policy was "clear-cut" and Mr Garrett had been totally consistent. He said Mr Garrett had originally been speaking about the four years between now and 2012, when Kyoto expires. From then on, Mr Rudd said, developing nations had to be on board.

Mr Garrett's backdown came after a Labor crisis meeting, which followed a day of sustained assault by John Howard and senior ministers on Mr Garrett's comments. The Coalition seized on the Labor position. Mr Howard said it was a policy to "reduce Australian jobs", not to reduce Australian emissions.

Last night, Mr Garrett issued a statement, attempting to clarify his position. "Appropriate developing country commitments for the post-2012 commitment period ... would be an essential pre-requisite for Australian support." The blunder enabled the Coalition to shift the heat on climate change away from Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull. It was revealed on the weekend that Mr Turnbull had asked Cabinet six weeks ago to sign up to Kyoto because Australia would meet its targets anyway. Mr Rudd had attacked Mr Turnbull, highlighting his difference with Mr Howard - who rebuffed Mr Turnbull's suggestion - and the rest of Cabinet.

A Newspoll released this morning has found a four-point swing back to the Coalition, but Labor still had an election-winning lead with 54 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote. But in worse news for Labor, Peter Costello - who would take over from Mr Howard at some point if the Coalition wins - has almost double to support of Wayne Swan as preferred Treasurer. Mr Costello and Mr Swan will debate each other this afternoon.

Mr Howard had said Mr Garrett's original commitment, in an interview with The Australian Financial Review and on ABC radio, was against Australia's interests and would put Australian jobs at risk. "We can't have a situation where Australian industry is bound to take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but competitive countries like China are not bound," Mr Howard said. He said that would effectively export Australian emissions - and Australian jobs - to China.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said committing to any new deal without the explicit support of developing countries was "absurd". "You cannot be the government of Australia and go into negotiations saying 'developing countries don't have to make a contribution, we'll sign the agreement anyway' and think you are going to do something to solve this problem of greenhouse gas emissions," he said.....

Only after Mr Howard and other Coalition ministers began to publicly question the policy, and the media began asking questions, did Mr Rudd, Mr Garrett and a team of advisers hold a crisis meeting at lunch-time in Cairns. It was decided that Mr Garrett, who had made the initial commitment, should release a statement that "clarified" Labor's position and recognised the need to lock developing nations into targets for greenhouse gas emission cuts.....


Kids do what a negligent Green-influenced government refused to do

Having a 6' croc living behind your house is no problem?

Two boys have admitted taking revenge on a crocodile lurking near their Cairns home, hooking it and bashing it to death with a rock. Police and wildlife officials are investigating the attack on the 1.8m croc in a drain at Dillon St, Westcourt, and have warned the boys may face hefty fines. But residents last night defended the boys' actions, saying they were fed up with the number of croc sightings in suburban creeks and drains and had been forced to take matters into their own hands.

David Stallwood, 12, last night told how they caught the animal and killed it because of safety fears. "We got a torch, a big hook and some meat and went down and got it," he said. Added his mate Henry Tabuar, 14: "We just wanted to get it out for the safety of the people."

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service conservation services manager Dr Mark Read said the croc was the same animal spotted in the Dillon St drain on Sunday. He said he would work with police today to further investigate the attack and possibly lay charges. Dr Read warned anyone caught harming a croc could face a $16,000 fine.

The incident comes after a spate of sightings of crocs in Cairns in the past week. Also yesterday, a Miriwinni woman told how her horse was mauled by a croc at a popular fishing spot and two northern beaches were closed following another sighting. Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne said people had probably had enough of finding crocs in urban areas. But he said there was not a crocodile problem in the city. "It's a fact of life, they (crocodiles) get in, they get out," Cr Byrne said. "It's unfortunate that an animal has been killed, but it's probably an indication that people have had enough." ....

Lifeguards closed both Yorkeys Knob and Trinity beaches again yesterday morning after a croc sighting at Trinity Beach. The beaches were closed all day Friday when a crocodile was spotted swimming north, close to the shore.



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