Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Preface to the two articles reproduced immediately below:

Given the current low level of solar activity and the shape of the climate record, I am inclined to believe on balance that a move to systematic long-term cooling is indicated by recent cooling events. It is also true, however, that the current cooling could just as well be a random fluctuation -- counterpart to the big 1998 warming event. But what current cooling UNDOUBTEDLY shows is that there are large NATURAL changes in global temperature and that recent warming events do not exceed recent cooling events.

So to say, as James Hansen and other Greenies do, that one change is natural and the other is not is where the dishonesty comes in. It is just ideology speaking -- with no tincture of proper scientific caution or any possibility of proof. It is faith, not science. But such arguments are very typical of the way the Green/Left look only at facts which suit them -- JR

Forget global warming: Welcome to the new Ice Age

Snow cover over North America and much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966. The U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that many American cities and towns suffered record cold temperatures in January and early February. According to the NCDC, the average temperature in January "was -0.3 F cooler than the 1901-2000 (20th century) average." China is surviving its most brutal winter in a century. Temperatures in the normally balmy south were so low for so long that some middle-sized cities went days and even weeks without electricity because once power lines had toppled it was too cold or too icy to repair them.

There have been so many snow and ice storms in Ontario and Quebec in the past two months that the real estate market has felt the pinch as home buyers have stayed home rather than venturing out looking for new houses. In just the first two weeks of February, Toronto received 70 cm of snow, smashing the record of 66.6 cm for the entire month set back in the pre-SUV, pre-Kyoto, pre-carbon footprint days of 1950.

And remember the Arctic Sea ice? The ice we were told so hysterically last fall had melted to its "lowest levels on record? Never mind that those records only date back as far as 1972 and that there is anthropological and geological evidence of much greater melts in the past. The ice is back. Gilles Langis, a senior forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa, says the Arctic winter has been so severe the ice has not only recovered, it is actually 10 to 20 cm thicker in many places than at this time last year. OK, so one winter does not a climate make. It would be premature to claim an Ice Age is looming just because we have had one of our most brutal winters in decades.

But if environmentalists and environment reporters can run around shrieking about the manmade destruction of the natural order every time a robin shows up on Georgian Bay two weeks early, then it is at least fair game to use this winter's weather stories to wonder whether the alarmist are being a tad premature.

And it's not just anecdotal evidence that is piling up against the climate-change dogma. According to Robert Toggweiler of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University and Joellen Russell, assistant professor of biogeochemical dynamics at the University of Arizona -- two prominent climate modellers -- the computer models that show polar ice-melt cooling the oceans, stopping the circulation of warm equatorial water to northern latitudes and triggering another Ice Age (a la the movie The Day After Tomorrow) are all wrong.

"We missed what was right in front of our eyes," says Prof. Russell. It's not ice melt but rather wind circulation that drives ocean currents northward from the tropics. Climate models until now have not properly accounted for the wind's effects on ocean circulation, so researchers have compensated by over-emphasizing the role of manmade warming on polar ice melt.

But when Profs. Toggweiler and Russell rejigged their model to include the 40-year cycle of winds away from the equator (then back towards it again), the role of ocean currents bringing warm southern waters to the north was obvious in the current Arctic warming.

Last month, Oleg Sorokhtin, a fellow of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, shrugged off manmade climate change as "a drop in the bucket." Showing that solar activity has entered an inactive phase, Prof. Sorokhtin advised people to "stock up on fur coats."

He is not alone. Kenneth Tapping of our own National Research Council, who oversees a giant radio telescope focused on the sun, is convinced we are in for a long period of severely cold weather if sunspot activity does not pick up soon. The last time the sun was this inactive, Earth suffered the Little Ice Age that lasted about five centuries and ended in 1850. Crops failed through killer frosts and drought. Famine, plague and war were widespread. Harbours froze, so did rivers, and trade ceased. It's way too early to claim the same is about to happen again, but then it's way too early for the hysteria of the global warmers, too.


Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling

Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile -- the list goes on and on.

No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.

A compiled list of all the sources can be seen here. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C -- a value large enough to wipe out nearly all the warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year's time. For all four sources, it's the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.

Scientists quoted in a past DailyTech article link the cooling to reduced solar activity which they claim is a much larger driver of climate change than man-made greenhouse gases. The dramatic cooling seen in just 12 months time seems to bear that out. While the data doesn't itself disprove that carbon dioxide is acting to warm the planet, it does demonstrate clearly that more powerful factors are now cooling it.

Let's hope those factors stop fast. Cold is more damaging than heat. The mean temperature of the planet is about 54 degrees. Humans -- and most of the crops and animals we depend on -- prefer a temperature closer to 70. Historically, the warm periods such as the Medieval Climate Optimum were beneficial for civilization. Corresponding cooling events such as the Little Ice Age, though, were uniformly bad news.



Miliband is the son of a noted Marxist theoretician so this obeisance to Communist China is not unexpected

Rich industrialized nations must help the developing world pay for a shift to cleaner technologies to fight climate change, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Tuesday during a visit to China's financial center. Major developing nations such as China and India will face a devastating "boomerang effect" of devastating effects from global warming such as drought and crop disruptions if they do not opt for cleaner, less polluting economic development, Miliband told students at the China-Europe International Business School.

Adapting energy technologies that emit fewer of the greenhouse gases viewed as a main contributor to climate change "does not sacrifice development but ... it is much more expensive than high-carbon development," he said. "The question is, who pays for it?" Miliband said. "The richer countries have got to lead in taking the burden of paying for the shift to a lower-carbon economy." Scientists believe carbon dioxide is one of the leading contributors to global warming.

China, which chiefly relies on heavily polluting coal to fuel its surging economy, now rivals the United States as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Britain backs calls for industrialized countries to help the developing world cope with the consequences of centuries of pollution by the West. Last month, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged about 50 million pounds (US$98.3 million) to support investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean coal and carbon dioxide capture-and-storage technology during his first state visit to China. China has pledged to improve energy efficiency, while insisting on its right to pursue the economic growth needed to supply jobs to its 1.3 billion people.

For the poorest countries, the focus should be on promoting sustainable development, Miliband said. "Their aid programs have got to be 'greened,'" he said. Miliband was to travel to the southwestern industrial hub of Chongqing before heading to Beijing later in the week. During a stopover in Hong Kong, he said Monday that he would discuss the issue of Sudan with his Chinese counterparts, but added that Beijing alone should not be held responsible for trying to end the conflict there. "We all have our responsibility to use our weight in the country and in the international arena to argue for dialogue, for responsibilities on both sides."



Claims that changes in global climate are the result of man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, are used as a pretext to demand increased taxes on vehicle use and restrictions such as lower speed limits. Yet the level of public debate about this highly complex subject has often been at a simplistic and emotive level, rather than a serious examination of the scientific evidence. Indeed, attempts to question the claimed `scientific consensus' are often met with abusive personal attacks designed to discourage dissenters - a clear sign that the issue has been hijacked for political purposes.

There are two questions that need to be considered: whether man-made emissions of carbon dioxide are actually changing the world's climate; and, even if they are, whether any action taken to reduce the UK's emissions could have a significant remedial impact at a global level.

On the first point, a scientific consensus on the causes of climate change does not exist, despite strenuous efforts to create that impression by those who wish to maintain and exploit public alarm. As explained by Dr Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, in an open letter to the Royal Society, the claimed link between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming does not even merit the scientific title of `theory'; it is merely a hypothesis, since causation has not been demonstrated in any conclusive way. He also points out that the recent warming trend began long before human-caused increase in carbon dioxide was evident.

The main alternative hypothesis to explain climate change is rapidly gaining credibility: variations in the sun's output of charged particles and in its magnetic field, linked to the sun-spot cycle, affect the flow of cosmic rays reaching the Earth's atmosphere, where they help to seed clouds. At times of high solar activity (such as recently), fewer cosmic rays reach the atmosphere so there is less cloud cover; more of the sun's heat radiation reaches the Earth's surface and the planet warms. When solar activity is low, more clouds form and reflect the sun's radiation back into space, so cooling takes place. Evidence is mounting to support this hypothesis and there are some scientists predicting a period of global cooling ahead, as solar activity decreases.

There is also nothing unprecedented about recent global temperatures or rates of change. There have been many fluctuations in temperature since the end of the last ice age, most recently the Medieval Warm Period of around a thousand years ago and the Little Ice Age that followed it. The existence of these natural fluctuations is an embarrassment to the proponents of man-made climate change, and attempts have been made to rewrite climate history to eliminate them. Also, since direct daily observations of temperature only began during the Little Ice Age, claims about recent temperatures being the `hottest ever recorded' are highly misleading.

Even if man-made carbon dioxide emissions were the cause of climate change, any measures that the UK could take to reduce its own emissions would have a negligible impact at a global level. In 2004, the UK emitted 158.09 million tonnes (carbon equivalent) of carbon dioxide, amounting to 2.1 per cent of the world total. Of the UK figure, 21.6 per cent came from road transport in 2004, or 0.46 per cent of the world total.

While road transport in the UK emits 34 million tonnes of carbon per year, China's total output of carbon dioxide in 2004 was 1,284 million tonnes (carbon equivalent), up from 1,063 million tonnes in 2003. Thus a single year's increase in carbon emissions by China, at 221 million tonnes, was six and a half times the output from road transport in Britain, or 40 per cent more than the UK's total emissions.

Any reduction that could be achieved in the UK's road transport emissions would be insignificant by comparison: a 10 per cent reduction would be negated in less than six days, if China's emissions continue to grow at their current rate. There can be no justification, therefore, for taxation increases or other restrictions that would affect mobility, on the grounds of tackling climate change. Suggesting that an example set by the UK would lead countries such as China and India to forgo the benefits of economic growth is risible.

Whether climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions is real and set to continue or not, responses to it need to be based on rational assessments of the costs and benefits of the options, not futile, damaging and expensive political gestures. This was the message delivered by the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs in its 2005 report, in which it also pointed out that there are positive aspects to global warming, such as fewer cold-related winter deaths. There is no justification for singling out the drivers of Britain as responsible for climate change.


Ten myths about nuclear power

`It's dangerous, wasteful and too expensive!' Greens are busily putting the case against nuclear, but there is not a spark of truth in their arguments

The UK government is expected to announce tomorrow that it will give the green light to the building of new nuclear power stations in the UK - the first since the Sizewell `B' station was completed in 1995. These are urgently needed to make up the shortfall in power supply as older nuclear stations are closed over the next few years.

Yet the decision is bound to be controversial - not helped by widespread misinformation about nuclear power. Greens opposing nuclear power muddle every issue from terrorism to uranium supplies, in order to besmirch the only proven safe and cost-effective way to generate large amounts of electricity that won't produce large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. One would think that greens don't want a world with abundant energy and a stable climate!

These are some of the myths we are likely to hear from greens debating nuclear power over the next few weeks:

1) Uranium is running out

According to Greenpeace, uranium reserves are `relatively limited' and last week the Nuclear Consultation Working Group claimed that a significant increase in nuclear generating capacity would reduce reliable supplies from 50 to 12 years

In fact, there is 600 times more uranium in the ground than gold and there is as much uranium as tin. There has been no major new uranium exploration for 20 years, but at current consumption levels, known uranium reserves are predicted to last for 85 years. Geological estimates from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that at least six times more uranium is extractable - enough for 500 years' supply at current demand. Modern reactors can use thorium as a fuel and convert it into uranium - and there is three times more thorium in the ground than uranium.

Uranium is the only fuel which, when burnt, generates more fuel. Not only existing nuclear warheads, but also the uranium and plutonium in radioactive waste can be reprocessed into new fuel, which former UK chief scientist Sir David King estimates could supply 60 per cent of Britain's electricity to 2060. In short, there is more than enough uranium, thorium and plutonium to supply the entire world's electricity for several hundred years.

2) Nuclear is not a low-carbon option

Anti-nuclear campaigners claim that nuclear power contains `hidden emissions' of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from uranium mining and reactor construction. But so do wind turbines, built from huge amounts of concrete, steel and plastic. The OECD analysed the total lifetime releases of GHG from energy technologies and concluded that, taking into account mining of building materials, construction and energy production, nuclear is still a `lower carbon' option than wind, solar or hydroelectric generation. For example, during its whole life cycle, nuclear power releases three to six grams of carbon per kiloWatthour (GC kWh) of electricity produced, compared with three to 10 GC/kWh for wind turbines, 105 GC/kWh for natural gas and 228 GC/kWh for lignite (`dirty' coal)

Greens, exemplified by the Sustainable Development Commission, place their trust in `carbon capture and storage' (CCS) to reduce the GHG emissions from coal and gas plants. But carbon capture is, at present, a myth. There is no functioning power station with CCS in the world - not even a demonstration plant - and if it did work, it would still greatly reduce the energy efficiency of any power station where it is installed.

3) Nuclear power is expensive

With all power generation technology, the cost of electricity depends upon the investment in construction (including interest on capital loans), fuel, management and operation. Like wind, solar and hydroelectric dams, the principal costs of nuclear lie in construction. Acquisition of uranium accounts for only about 10 per cent of the price of total costs, so nuclear power is not as vulnerable to fluctuations in the price of fuel as gas and oil generation.

Unlike the UK's existing stations, any new designs will be pre-approved for operational safety, modular to lower construction costs, produce 90 per cent less volume of waste and incorporate decommissioning and waste management costs.

A worst-case analysis conducted for the UK Department of Trade and Industry (now the Department of Business and Enterprise), which was accepted by Greenpeace, shows nuclear-generated electricity to be only marginally more expensive than gas (before the late-2007 hike in gas prices), and 10 to 20 times cheaper than onshore and offshore wind. With expected carbon-pricing penalties for gas and coal, nuclear power will be considerably cheaper than all the alternatives

4) Reactors produce too much waste

Contrary to environmentalists' claims, Britain is not overwhelmed with radioactive waste and has no radioactive waste `problem'. By 2040 there will be a total of 2,000 cubic metres of the most radioactive high-level waste (9), which would fit in a 13 x 13 x 13 metre hole - about the size of the foundations for one small wind turbine. Much of this high-level waste is actually a leftover from Britain's atomic weapons programme. All of the UK's intermediate and high-level radioactive waste for the past 50 years and the next 30 years would fit in just one Royal Albert Hall, an entertainment venue in London that holds 6,000 people (and which seems, for some reason, to have become the standard unit of measurement in debates about any kind of waste in the UK)

The largest volume of waste from the nuclear power programme is low-level waste - concrete from outbuildings, car parks, construction materials, soil from the surroundings and so on. By 2100, there will be 473,000 cubic metres of such waste from decommissioned plants - enough to fill five Albert Halls. Production of all the electricity consumed in a four-bedroom house for 70 years leaves about one teacup of high-level waste, and new nuclear build will not make any significant contribution to existing radioactive waste levels for 20-40 years.

5) Decommissioning is too expensive

Existing UK reactors were built with no regard for future demolition. New reactors will be constructed from modular designs with the need for decommissioning built-in. The costs of decommissioning and waste management will be incorporated into the price of electricity to consumers. New nuclear plants are expected to have a working life of 40 years so the cost of decommissioning is spread over a longer period. Current government subsidy of decommissioning costs is approximately o1 billion annually (for 20 per cent of Britain's electrical supply) - half the subsidy to `sustainable' energy (two per cent of Britain's electrical supply).

6) Building reactors takes too long

This is perhaps the most ironic of the anti-nuclear arguments, since the legal manoeuvrings of Greenpeace delayed the UK government's nuclear decision by a year and it is the very opposition of greens that will cause most of the future delays.

The best construction schedules are achieved by the Canadian company AECL, which has built six new reactors since 1991; from the pouring of concrete to criticality (when the reactors come on-line), the longest build took six-and-a-half years and the shortest just over four years. The UK government expects pre-licensing of standard designs and modular construction to reduce construction times significantly - to about 6 years. New nuclear build could certainly start making significant contributions to UK carbon reduction targets by 2020.

7) Leukaemia rates are higher near reactors

Childhood leukaemia rates are no higher near nuclear power plants than they are near organic farms. `Leukaemia clusters' are geographic areas where the rates of childhood leukaemia appear to be higher than normal, but the definition is controversial because it ignores the fact that leukaemia is actually several very different (and unrelated) diseases with different causes.

The major increase in UK childhood leukaemia rates occurred before the Second World War. The very small (one per cent) annual increase seen now is probably due to better diagnosis, although it is possible that there is a viral contribution to the disease. It is purely by chance that a leukaemia `cluster' will occur near a nuclear installation, a national park or a rollercoaster ride. One such `cluster' occurred in Seascale, the nearest village to the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, but there are no other examples. Clusters tend to be found in isolated areas where there has been a recent influx of immigration - which hints at a virus.

Men who work on nuclear submarines or in nuclear plants are no more likely to father children with leukaemia (or any other disease) than workers in any other industry

8) Reactors lead to weapons proliferation

More nuclear plants (in Britain and elsewhere) would actually reduce weapons proliferation. Atomic warheads make excellent reactor fuel; decommissioned warheads (containing greatly enriched uranium or plutonium) currently provide about 15 per cent of world nuclear fuel. Increased demand for reactor fuel would divert such warheads away from potential terrorists. Nuclear build is closely monitored by the IAEA, which polices anti-proliferation treaties.

9) Wind and wave power are more sustainable

If, as greens say, new nuclear power cannot come on-line in time to prevent climate change, how much less impact can wind, wave and carbon capture make? Environmentalists claim offshore wind turbines can make a significant contribution to electricity supply. Even if that were true - which it is certainly not - the environmental impact disqualifies wind as `sustainable'. The opening up of the North Sea continental shelf to 7,000 wind turbines is, essentially, the building of a huge industrial infrastructure across a vast swathe of ecologically sensitive seabed - as `unsustainable' in its own way as the opening of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.

Wave power is still highly experimental and unproven as a method of generating electricity. Even if we allow the Severn Tidal Bore, the tidal surge that runs up and down the River Severn estuary in south-west England (and a great natural wonder of the world), to be destroyed, the cost overruns and time delays would make any problems of the nuclear industry look cheap by comparison.

10) Reactors are a terrorist target

Since 11 September 2001, several studies have examined the possibility of attacks by a large aircraft on reactor containment buildings. The US Department of Energy sponsored an independent computer-modelling study of the effects of a fully fuelled Boeing 767-400 hitting the reactor containment vessel. Under none of the possible scenarios was containment breached.

Only the highly specialised US `bunker busting' ordnance would be capable - after several direct strikes - of penetrating the amount of reinforced concrete that surrounds reactors. And besides, terrorists have already demonstrated that they prefer large, high visibility, soft targets with maximum human casualties (as in the attacks on New York, London, Madrid and Mumbai) rather than well-guarded, isolated, low-population targets. Any new generation of nuclear reactors in the UK will be designed with even greater protection against attack than existing plants, and with `passive' safety measures that work without human intervention or computer control.



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Anonymous said...

What if we are all wrong, yet for good reasons, on both side of the debate? Bucky Fuller alert. "Humans do all the right things for the wrong reasons."

Global Warming (now becoming "Climate Chaos") sends us post-Enlightenment cultures to spurn oil and coal. Takes the profit, utterly, away from BARBARIC camel huggers who still (despite the practical and temporary Mormon polygamy norm after too many men died on the journey to Salt Lake City, Utah) practice RIGHTIST religious bans on woman wearing yellow polka dot bikinis?

KILL. That is the chant of the disenchanted. Next it will happen in China. Except for one good thing. Chinese girls are cute, so we can merely import them, en masse, slap them a couple time stop saying "Oh I...." and start saying "I read that book you gave me, but I disagree about...."

OBloodyHell said...

> 8) Reactors lead to weapons proliferation
More nuclear plants (in Britain and elsewhere) would actually reduce weapons proliferation.

Note, BTW, how this argument is a "win/win" one for The Left. If you win it by claiming they don't lead to weapons proliferation, then you clealy "must" find the issues with Iranian nuclear development specious. Whereas if you argue that Iranians should not have nukes, then you undermine the reasons for going nuclear.

The reality of it is that a government can use nuclear power plants to produce nuclear weapons material (although I don't believe that new or spent fuel from any commercial reactor has ever been used in the design or development of a nuclear weapon). It is not a trivial thing to do without a government's resources at your fingertips. Hence, what is not a concern for individualized terrorism, IS a concern for state-supported terrorism.

P.S., Anonymous: Are you on drugs? Is there a coherent point to that meandering gibberish?


OBloodyHell said...

> 10) Reactors are a terrorist target

I feel fairly safe on this one: