Monday, December 06, 2010

The Week That Was (To December 4, 2010)

Excerpt from Ken Haapala

The 16th Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change started in Cancun with few of the grandiose announcements that occurred at last year's COP in Copenhagen. The somber mood is reflected by decidedly more modest goals. The failure of cap and trade in the US and Canada, and the results of the US elections are no doubt influencing the festivities. Four Republican Senators sent the State Department a letter stating they oppose the transfer of US funds to other nations in accordance to the agreement reached in Copenhagen, but which is not a formal treaty. The impact of this letter may be significant.

In January, Republicans take control of the US House of Representatives and it is in the House where all revenue bills must originate. Many Republicans are skeptics of human caused global warming. Other related events include the announcement by Japan that it will not agree to an extension to the Kyoto Protocol that is set to expire in 2012. At this time it is difficult to predict what will occur at the COP, but it may be of little significance.


Roy Spencer reports that, as measured by satellites, in November, the lower troposphere temperature anomaly showed slow cooling, but temperatures for 2010 remain in a dead heat with 1998 for the warmest year since satellite measurements began in 1979. These data contradict claims, such as by NASA-GISS, that 2010 is the hottest year ever.


The US Department of Interior announced a new moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic seaboard for up to seven years, as reported in the article under BP Gulf Oil Spill. Last March, the administration announced it would permit such drilling at the same time as it announced it would ban drilling on the West Coast. Now, the administration insists that it needs up to seven years to study the situation as a result of the BP Gulf oil spill.

Major drilling for oil and gas in the turbulent North Sea began in the 1960s. There were mistakes and accidents including one that took over 160 lives. Companies have been drilling in the Gulf of Mexico since the 1940s. Accidents occurred in both the North Sea and the Gulf and lessons were learned, but drilling proceeded. Until the BP spill, there have been no major failures in the Gulf, even in 2005 when hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit. Now, after the BP misadventure, the administration claims it needs seven years of study?

In defending his actions, Interior Secretary Salazar declared oil companies have other areas where they can drill. He committed the logical fallacy of composition whereby something which is true for a part of the whole is assumed to be true for the whole. Apparently, Mr. Salazar would have us believe oil and gas are uniformly distributed throughout the Gulf of Mexico and not concentrated in certain areas. (Also, Mr. Salazar did not state when he will start issuing the necessary permits to drill.)


NUMBERS OF THE WEEK: 2 deg C and 4 times. The environmental ministers of a number of Western nations have announced that they are committed to keep global temperature rise below 2 deg C and stated this as a goal of the Cancun conference. Assuming CO2 is responsible for the recent temperature rise, which SEPP thinks it is not, what does this mean?

As MIT Professor Richard Lindzen tried to patiently explain to the US House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment two weeks ago, assuming there are no feedbacks, the generally accepted calculation is that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide will produce a warming of about 1 deg C. Since the relationship between temperature and CO2 is logarithmic, each subsequent molecule has less an influence than the preceding one, a second doubling of CO2 will produce a warming of an additional 1 deg C.

Thus, to limit warming to no more than 2 deg C requires limiting the increase in CO2 to less than 4 times the preindustrial level. Assuming the preindustrial level was about 270 parts per million ( ppm), then to hold the temperature rise below 2 deg C requires limiting CO2 to below 1080 ppm. It is now about 390 ppm, so we have a long way to go.

Applying the calculations further, to reach an increase of 3 deg C, which many IPCC models project, requires an additional doubling of CO2 to about 2160 ppm, which is probably impossible by humans. Thus, many of the models used by the IPCC are inconsistent with the classic theory which assumes no feedbacks.

Of course, the assumption of no feedbacks is the major point of contention, which is glossed over by the IPCC. Generally, the modelers assume that increases in water vapor will amplify the warming from CO2 - a positive feedback. This critical assumption has never been empirically verified. The empirical research by Lindzen, Spencer, and others indicates that natural mechanisms will reduce the warming from CO2 - a negative feedback. There will be some warming from increasing CO2, but tiny - perhaps one-half the calculated amount.


Germany's Offshore Wind: Wasted Resources, Environmental Blight

Thousands of bureaucrats are at another cushy climate confab–this time in Cancun–while Senators Bingaman, Brownback and Reid are contemplating how to ram a federal renewable energy quota through a lame-duck session. Their prospects are not good, which should give them more time to consider the experiences of Europe and windpower. The results of this experiment in energy coercion are humbling.

Germany, specifically, is in the throes of a windpower boondoggle that should be heard the world over. The general lesson is that energy forcing brings with it technological risk that must be factored into the public policy equation.

A North Sea Boondoggle

Barely two months after the inauguration ceremony for Germany’s first pilot offshore wind farm, “Alpha Ventus” in the North Sea, all six of the newly installed wind turbines were completely idle, due to gearbox damage. Two turbines must be replaced entirely; the other four repaired.

Friends of the project, especially Germany’s environment minister, Norbert Roettgen, talked of “teething problems.” The problem is far more serious than that, for wind turbines in the high seas are extremely expensive for power consumers, even when they run smoothly. When they don’t, the problem intensifies. Germany could face blackouts – a new dark age.

The Alpha Ventus failures created intense pressure for Areva Multibrid, a subsidiary of the semipublic French nuclear power company Areva. Every “standstill day,” with the expensive towering turbines standing idle and not generating a single kilowatt hour of electricity, causes lost revenue.

Environmental economist and meteorologist Thomas Heinzow of the University of Hamburg estimated the operator’s revenue shortfall at almost $6,500 (€5,000) per turbine per standstill day. Instilling additional consternation within Areva was the certainly not unreasonable fear that already skittish investors could get cold feet, and wander off in search of less risky ventures.

Actually, Areva, Areva Multibrid and the construction engineers can consider themselves lucky that the North Sea was relatively calm, thanks to the summer heat wave. Installing turbines and blades is done via jack-up platforms, a tricky business under the best circumstances. With anything above Beaufort Wind Force 3 (an 8–10 mph “gentle breeze”), the work becomes downright risky.

The six Areva Multibrid wind turbines stand 280 feet (85 meters) above the waves at the gearbox and turbine hub. Their heavy blades are 380-feet (116-meters) in diameter. Each turbine weighs 1,000 metric tons (2.2 million pounds), including the tripod base, which rises up from the sea floor 100 feet (30 meters) beneath the surface of these notoriously rough and frigid North Sea waters.

Imagine trying to disassemble and then rebuild these monsters in anything other than calm seas.

The good news is that “Alpha Ventus” also includes six even bigger wind turbines, supplied by the formerly German company REpower, which now belongs to India’s Suzlon Corporation. These turbines have thus far been running faultlessly. However, there are enough other issues associated with operating offshore turbines to send additional shivers up the spine.

High Costs Remain

Monster turbines rated at 5 megawatt maximum power generation impose high costs even when – perhaps especially when – they are running full blast. Because each turbine costs $5,200 (€4,000) per kilowatt in upfront investment, Euro legislators have decreed that turbine operators must be rewarded with 20 cents in incentives for every kWh generated on the high seas.

Therefore, Europe’s energy consumers must pay 20 cents per kWh generated, plus an additional 5 cents per kWh for transmission costs. They must pay this regardless of whether they need the electricity at the moment, and despite the fact that a kWh of wind electricity is worth less than 3 cents on the Leipzig Power Exchange, due to the intermittent and highly variable nature of wind.

Other Problems

Even crazier, when high winds generate huge quantities of electricity, power consumption is low, the Power Exchanges must then sell the electricity at a loss, to persuade purchasers to buy the excess electricity.

At the moment, the most common purchasers are Austrian pumped storage operators, who use wind turbine power to pump water into mountain lakes, so they can later use the water to run hydroelectric generators during peak demand periods – and sell that power at premium prices.

Heinzow calculates that water equivalent to Lake Constance (13 cubic miles or 55 cubic kilometers) must be pumped 1,165 feet (350 meters) high, just to buffer the supply-demand discontinuity caused by the thousands of wind turbines that are already planned for the North and Baltic Seas. There are only two alternatives to this.

Firming Problems

One is gas turbines, to function as backup generators that can supply power whenever winds are not blowing at usable speeds. But unless shale gas development proceeds apace, this would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas supplies. It would also result in inefficient gas use and higher carbon emissions, as generators ramp up and down every time wind turbine output changes.

The other is nuclear power plants. High performance nuclear plants can adjust their electricity output to replace the highly variable output from wind farms, but that reduces efficiency and causes irregular burn-up of fuel rods. This is a serious concern, because high efficiency is the primary way nuclear plants make up for their high capital costs. A bigger concern is that the German government has still not reversed its decision to phase out all nuclear power plants.

Did I Mention Transmission?

However, the lack of suitable or sufficient backup power generation may still be a relatively small problem. Billion-dollar investments in transmission lines are needed to bring expensive wind power from offshore sites north of Germany to big industrial consumers hundreds of miles away in the south. But resistance to new high voltage lines in urban and recreation areas is high and rising.

A Lower Saxony law already prescribes the use of ground cables in certain areas. But those are ten times more expensive than above-ground lines – and less reliable, due to constant assault by water, salt and subterranean animal life.

A Darker Germany?

The bottom line: Germans will have to prepare for significantly higher electricity tariffs – and more frequent blackouts.

“If all German wind power projects are realized as planned, the country will incur economic losses well over 100 billion Euros by 2030,” Heinzow says. “The only word that describes this ‘world improvement’ strategy is suicidal.” Does America really want to go down this path?


Taken for another ride by the Warmists

Aaaaah! Look at this lovely picture of a polar bear cub riding on its mother’s back. It appeared in a number of papers this week with stories – inspired by the lobbying group WWF – suggesting that this was a new development, caused by global warming.

This is propaganda garbage, just like the piffle talked about another famous picture of polar bears perched on a melting ice floe. That was taken in August, when ice in Alaska always melts. Land was close by. Polar bears can swim for hundreds of miles if they want to.

The piggyback picture is just as misleading. It isn’t remotely new. I have established that it was taken by the charming Mrs Angela Plumb on a holiday in Spitsbergen more than four years ago, on July 21, 2006.

It then formed the basis of a scientific paper written by the equally charming Jon Aars, a Norwegian polar bear expert. I have read this paper. It speculates that the cubs may ride on their mothers’ backs to avoid the cold water, as they don’t have the thick layer of blubber that allows adult bears to swim in icy temperatures for hours.

But there’s no proof of this, as polar bears can’t speak English or Norwegian so cannot tell us why they do what they do. The paper accepts that bear cubs may always have done this.

Jon Aars himself said to me that polar bear cubs have ridden on their mothers’ backs for ages. ‘What we do not know is whether or not it is happening more frequently than it used to,’ he says.

So we don’t know. Once again the almost invariable rule applies. If any picture is produced to support the warmist panic, it will turn out to be suspect. Oh, and by the way, how much use have all those stupid windmills been during the cold snap?


What happened to the 'warmest year on record': The truth is global warming has halted

Comment from Britain

A year ago tomorrow, just before the opening of the UN Copenhagen world climate summit, the British Meteorological Office issued a confident prediction. The mean world temperature for 2010, it announced, 'is expected to be 14.58C, the warmest on record' - a deeply worrying 0.58C above the 19611990 average.

World temperatures, it went on, were locked inexorably into an everrising trend: 'Our experimental decadal forecast confirms previous indications that about half the years 2010-2019 will be warmer than the warmest year observed so far - 1998.'

Met Office officials openly boasted that they hoped by their statements to persuade the Copenhagen gathering to impose new and stringent carbon emission limits - an ambition that was not to be met.

Last week, halfway through yet another giant, 15,000 delegate UN climate jamboree, being held this time in the tropical splendour of Cancun in Mexico, the Met Office was at it again. Never mind that Britain, just as it was last winter and the winter before, was deep in the grip of a cold snap, which has seen some temperatures plummet to minus 20C, and that here 2010 has been the coolest year since 1996. Globally, it insisted, 2010 was still on course to be the warmest or second warmest year since current records began.

But buried amid the details of those two Met Office statements 12 months apart lies a remarkable climbdown that has huge implications - not just for the Met Office, but for debate over climate change as a whole.

Read carefully with other official data, they conceal a truth that for some, to paraphrase former US VicePresident Al Gore, is really inconvenient: for the past 15 years, global warming has stopped.

This isn't meant to be happening. Climate science orthodoxy, as promulgated by bodies such as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU), says that temperatures have risen and will continue to rise in step with increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, and make no mistake, with the rapid industrialisation of China and India, CO2 levels have kept on going up.

According to the IPCC and its computer models, without enormous emission cuts the world is set to get between two and six degrees warmer during the 21st Century, with catastrophic consequences.

Last week at Cancun, in an attempt to influence richer countries to agree to give £20billion immediately to poorer ones to offset the results of warming, the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute warned that global temperatures would be 6.5 degrees higher by 2100, leading to rocketing food prices and a decline in production.

The maths isn't complicated. If the planet were going to be six degrees hotter by the century's end, it should be getting warmer by 0.6 degrees each decade; if two degrees, then by 0.2 degrees every ten years. Fortunately, it isn't.

Actually, with the exception of 1998 - a 'blip' year when temperatures spiked because of a strong 'El Nino' effect (the cyclical warming of the southern Pacific that affects weather around the world) - the data on the Met Office's and CRU's own websites show that global temperatures have been flat, not for ten, but for the past 15 years.

They go up a bit, then down a bit, but those small rises and falls amount to less than their measuring system's acknowledged margin of error. They have no statistical significance and reveal no evidence of any trend at all.

When the Met Office issued its December 2009 prediction, it was clearly expecting an even bigger El Nino spike than happened in 1998 - one so big that it would have dragged up the decade's average.

But though it was still successfully trying to influence media headlines during Cancun last week by saying that 2010 might yet end up as the warmest year, the small print reveals the Met Office climbdown. Last year it predicted that the 2010 average would be 14.58C. Last week, this had been reduced to 14.52C.

That may not sound like much. But when one considers that by the Met Office's own account, the total rise in world temperatures since the 1850s has been less than 0.8 degrees, it is quite a big deal. Above all, it means the trend stays flat.

Meanwhile, according to an analysis yesterday by David Whitehouse of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, 2010 had only two unusually warm months, March and April, when El Nino was at its peak.

The data from October to the end of the year suggests that when the final figure is computed, 2010 will not be the warmest year at all, but at most the third warmest, behind both 1998 and 2005.

There is no dispute that the world got a little warmer over some of the 20th Century. (Between 1940 and the early Seventies, temperatures actually fell.)

But little by little, the supposedly settled scientific 'consensus' that the temperature rise is unprecedented, that it is set to continue to disastrous levels, and that it is all the fault of human beings, is starting to fray.

Earlier this year, a paper by Michael Mann - for years a leading light in the IPCC, and the author of the infamous 'hockey stick graph' showing flat temperatures for 2,000 years until the recent dizzying increase - made an extraordinary admission: that, as his critics had always claimed, there had indeed been a ' medieval warm period' around 1000 AD, when the world may well have been hotter than it is now.

Other research is beginning to show that cyclical changes in water vapour - a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide - may account for much of the 20th Century warming.

Even Phil Jones, the CRU director at the centre of last year's 'Climategate' leaked email scandal, was forced to admit in a little-noticed BBC online interview that there has been 'no statistically significant warming' since 1995.

One of those leaked emails, dated October 2009, was from Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the US government's National Centre for Atmospheric Research and the IPCC's lead author on climate change science in its monumental 2002 and 2007 reports. He wrote: 'The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment, and it is a travesty that we can't.'

After the leak, Trenberth claimed he still believed the world was warming because of CO2, and that the 'travesty' was not the 'pause' but science's failure to explain it.

The question now emerging for climate scientists and policymakers alike is very simple. Just how long does a pause have to be before the thesis that the world is getting hotter because of human activity starts to collapse?


German consumer groups call for end to EU light bulb ban

Consumer protection organisations have demanded a suspension of the EU ban on incandescent light bulbs, citing official tests that showed the new compact fluorescent lamps to be dangerous if broken.

The energy saving bulbs show mercury levels 20 times higher than regulations allow in the air surrounding them for up to five hours after they are broken, according to tests released Thursday by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA).

“If the industry can’t manage to offer safe bulbs, then the incandescent bulbs must remain on the market until autumn of 2011,” said Gerd Billen, the leader of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZVB).

His group encouraged the federal government to push for a suspension of the ban in Brussels until there was a safe and practical alternative. “It can’t be that the state bans a safe product and replaces it with a dangerous one,” Billen said.

In September, the EU began phasing out incandescent light bulbs in a bid to save energy and protect the environment. Their replacements were meant to be the energy-saving bulbs such as compact fluorescent and LED lights. The complete phase-out of old light bulbs is to occur by 2012.

So far the UBA has tested just two types of lights.

“There was energy savings of up to 80 percent compared to incandescent bulbs, but this should come with safer products that have no avoidable health risks,” UBA President Jochen Flasbarth said, calling the mercury danger the “Achilles heel” of the energy saving bulbs.

Flasbarth recommended that consumers use energy saving bulbs with protective plastic casings in areas such as children’s rooms to avoid the danger in the short term.


Australia: Greenie-inspired Desalination Plant to be mothballed

ANYTHING was better than building dams and global warming was going to bring drought so a gullible State government spent a fortune on this thing. But the prophecies were wrong (funnily enough!) and Australia is now having widespread floods -- so there was no need for it anyway

THE troubled Tugan Desalination Plant is now a $1.2 billion white elephant, with the Bligh Government also forced to mothball hundreds of millions of dollars worth of other plants in a desperate bid to cut water bills.

The Sunday Mail can reveal the Government has also decided to take an axe to the bloated water bureaucracy and sack highly paid water executives under a new stategy to reduce hikes to household bills by $5 next year.

The desal plant on the Gold Coast, which has been plagued by rusting and cracking problems since it opened last year, will be shut down early next year, along with half the $380 million Bundamba treatment plant and the new $313 million plant at Gibson Island.

However, the futures of staff working the plant contractor Veola are unclear.

Treasurer Andrew Fraser yesterday confirmed the plans, saying the shutdowns would be revisited if dam storage levels hit 60 per cent. Challenging councils to halt their planned price hikes, Mr Fraser said prices were to rise by $59 on average in 2011-12, but would now only increase by $54 after the $18 million in savings.

"It's small, but every little bit counts," he said. "This means the Government has taken steps to reduce price increases, but the council-owned water entities are on the public record supporting $200 and $300 increases."

The desal plant will run on "hot standby" with only one shift a week to keep the machinery turning over, but the facility can be switched on within 72 hours.

SEQWater will be merged with WaterSecure in July , with senior contracted managers to be sacked and no EBA staff sacked.

Mr Robertson said the water reforms would provide relief to householders dealing with the rising cost of living. ``For a typical household, next year's bulk water charge will be around $5 less than previously announced - $54 down from $59," he said. ``Additional savings will continue for every year and will grow to more than $30 per household by 2017."

One of Bundamba's two treatment plants will be placed on standby, Mr Robertson said. The treatment facility at Luggage Point will remain at 100 per cent while the Gibson Island plant will be closed.

All plants would be brought back on line if dam capacity trended under the 40 per cent trigger point to add purified recycled water into Wivenhoe Dam, Mr Robertson said.

The government will also revise down its 10-year price-path for bulk water sales to the council-owned retail water entities following savings from the scrapped Traveston Dam project, he said.

Mr Robertson said the state government had consulted unions about the merger of southeast Queensland's two bulk water authorities - Seqwater and WaterSecure. ``We will continue to protect workers' entitlements throughout the process," he said. ``There will be no forced redundancies of staff employed under awards or enterprise bargaining agreements."

Mr Robertson called on local councils profiting from water retail businesses to pass on savings to struggling householders.



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