Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fatal blow to the "tipping point" theory

The earth appears to have been warming very slowly for the last 150 years. The temperature rise over that period (less than one degree Celsius) is so slight, however, that projecting it forward for another 100 years gives no cause for alarm

So what is an alarmist going to do in that case? They predict a DEPARTURE from the existing trend due to a "tipping point". But what could cause a "tip"? Their theory is that clouds warm the earth and that an accumulation of clouds as warming proceeds on its gentle way will eventually start a positive feedback cycle, where warming causes more warming.

Now isn't that a simple explanation of Warmism? All the blather boils down to that one paragraph above. But you can see the crucial point: Do clouds really warm the earth? Amazingly enough, Warmists just assume it. They have no proof of the most critical point in their theory. And what evidence on the matter that is available so far suggests the opposite: Clouds COOL the earth. And more evidence has just become available -- and it appears in a very prestigious peer-reviewed journal:

A paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research finds that a natural atmospheric oscillation, the Southern Annular Mode, is correlated to significant increases in cloud cover resulting in "large scale" local cooling of approximately -2.5C.

The research concerned South America only but South America is a rather large place and any claim that clouds behave differently there from anywhere else is something only a Greenie could even propose, let alone accept.
Understanding sudden changes in cloud amount: The Southern Annular Mode and South American weather fluctuations

By Benjamin A. Laken et al.


This work investigates the cause and effects of extreme changes in synoptic-scale cloud cover operating at daily timescales using a variety of satellite-based and reanalysis data sets. It is found that the largest sudden increases detected in globally averaged cloud cover over the last ten years of satellite-based observations occur following positively correlated shifts in the phase of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) index. The associated pressure anomalies are found to generate frontal cloud formation over large areas of the South American continent, increasing regional cloud cover by up to 20%; these changes are correlated to statistically significant reductions in local temperatures of approximately −2.5°C with a +1 day time lag, indicating the SAM index is associated with large scale weather fluctuations over South America.



Natural Climate Shifts stopped Coral Reef growth for 2500 years

My heading above reflects what was actually found. The original screeching headline was "Natural Climate Shifts Drove Coral Reefs to a Total Ecosystem Collapse Lasting 2,500 Years"

The authors go on to speculate that man-made global warming could have similar effects but we will worry about that when we actually see some of that fabled man-made global warming -- or any global warming at all, for that matter

Climate change drove coral reefs to a total ecosystem collapse lasting thousands of years, according to a paper published this week in Science. The paper shows how natural climatic shifts stopped reef growth in the eastern Pacific for 2,500 years.

The reef shutdown, which began 4,000 years ago, corresponds to a period of dramatic swings in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

Doctoral student Lauren Toth and Aronson, her adviser at Florida Tech, led the study of how past episodes of climate change influenced tropical reefs of the eastern Pacific. Toth, Aronson and a multi-institutional research team drove 17-foot, small-bore aluminum pipes deep into the dead frameworks of coral reefs along the Pacific coast of Panama and pulled out cross-sections of the reefs. By analyzing the corals in the cores, they were able to reconstruct the history of the reefs over the past 6,000 years.

"We were shocked to find that 2,500 years of reef growth were missing from the frameworks," said Toth. "That gap represents the collapse of reef ecosystems for 40 percent of their total history." When Toth and Aronson examined reef records from other studies across the Pacific, they discovered the same gap in reefs as far away as Australia and Japan.

Toth linked the coral-reef collapse to changes in ENSO. ENSO is the climate cycle responsible for the weather conditions every few years known as El Niño and La Niña events. The timing of the shutdown in reef growth corresponds to a period of wild swings in ENSO. "Coral reefs are resilient ecosystems," said Toth. "For Pacific reefs to have collapsed for such a long time and over such a large geographic scale, they must have experienced a major climatic disturbance. That disturbance was an intensified ENSO regime."


Germany's €300 Billion Green Energy Disaster

Solar subsidies cost German consumers billions of dollars a year and are widely regarded as inefficient. Even environmentalists are concerned that Berlin's focus on solar comes at the detriment of other renewables. But the solar industry has a powerful lobby, and politicians have proven powerless to resist.

A new study by Georg Erdmann, professor of energy systems at Berlin's Technical University, reveals just how far Germany's current center-right governing coalition -- made up of Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) -- has strayed from its own self-imposed goals. Erdmann has calculated the effects that the latest changes to the EEG will have between now and 2030. He believes that subsidies for renewable energy, including an expansion of the power grid, will saddle energy consumers with costs well over €300 billion ($377 billion).

An environmental surcharge known as the EEG contribution, which is already added to German energy bills, will rise sharply. This renewable energy surcharge currently amounts to 3.59 cents per kilowatt hour. Chancellor Angela Merkel previously promised to cap it at 3.5 cents, but Erdmann's calculations show the EEG contribution jumping to "over 10 cents per kilowatt hour," or nearly three times what the chancellor pledged.

The study is all the more interesting because Erdmann himself is a member of a panel of experts the German government appointed a few months ago to monitor Germany's transition to renewable energy. Though the panel is expected to deliver its conclusions at the end of this year, it already seems clear that Erdmann considers solar energy subsidies a hindrance rather than a help in Germany's phase-out of nuclear energy.

Photovoltaics are threatening to become the costliest mistake in the history of German energy policy. Photovoltaic power plant operators and homeowners with solar panels on their rooftops are expected to pocket around €9 billion ($11.3 billion) this year, yet they contribute barely 4 percent of the country's power supply, and only erratically at that.

When night falls, all solar modules go offline in one fell swoop; in the winter, they barely generate power during the daytime. During the summer, meanwhile, they sometimes generate too much power around midday, without enough storage capacity to capture it all. The distribution network is also not laid out in a way that would allow the country's thousands of owners of photovoltaic arrays -- a term used to denote an installation of several panels working together -- to feed into the grid as well as draw power from it.

To keep the lights on, Germany ends up importing nuclear power from France and the Czech Republic. Grid operator Tennet even resorted to tapping an aging fossil fuel-fired power plant in Austria to compensate for shortages in solar power.

Lobbyists for the solar industry like to impress the public with big numbers concerning their products' theoretical capabilities. And it's true that all currently installed photovoltaic arrays, theoretically, add up to more than 25 gigawatts of capacity, easily double the power generated by all nuclear power plants still operating in Germany.

Unfortunately, solar arrays provide peak performance only with maximum light exposure when the sun is at the perfect vertical angle and the modules at the ideal temperature -- in other words, under laboratory conditions. In reality, all of Germany's photovoltaic arrays together generate less power than two nuclear reactors. And they can't even replace those reactors unless they have enough storage capacity available. The figures on peak performance of photovoltaic arrays lead to misunderstandings, the German Physical Society writes in an expert opinion, stating, "Photovoltaics are fundamentally incapable of replacing any other type of power plant." Essentially, every solar array must be backed up with a conventional power plant as a reserve, creating an expensive double infrastructure.

Many environmentalists, too, believe solar subsidies need to be cut drastically -- for the sake of the environment. Despite the drop in the price of solar modules, solar power is still the least efficient of Germany's renewable energy technologies, yet it's the one that receives the most funding. Nearly 50 percent of all green energy subsides go to solar power, which yields only 20 percent of the energy generated by subsidized technology.

Other green energy technologies have the opposite economics. For the same amount of money, wind power produces about five times more energy than solar power. Hydropower generates six times more, and even biomass power plants are three times as effective as solar power.

This means photovoltaics' contribution to protecting the climate is correspondingly negligible, as calculations by Magdeburg-based environmental economist Joachim Weimann show. To save one ton of CO2, Weimann explains, we could either spend €5 on insulating an old building, €20 as investment in a new gas-fired power plant, or around €500 on photovoltaic arrays. The benefit to the climate is the same in all those scenarios. "From a climate standpoint, every solar plant is a bad investment," Weimann concludes.

Even Greenpeace is dissatisfied, fearing this will become a race to grab the remaining subsidy money. "This is a dangerous decision," Niklas Schinerl, Greenpeace's spokesperson for energy issues, commented in response to the verdict reached by the arbitration panel on the EEG amendment last Wednesday. Schinerl believes costs will skyrocket unnecessarily. "That puts acceptance of the transition to renewable energy at risk, and ultimately compromises the entire EEG," he says.


California cuts its own throat

The California Manufacturers and Technology Association released a new report last week that suggests costs associated with AB 32 may be a lot higher than previously estimated. AB 32, otherwise known as the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger- propelling California to the forefront in the fight against global warming. Successful passage of the law effectively turned the state into one of the most stringent regulators of green house gas emissions in the nation and globally. Some would argue that the move all but eliminated California’s competitive edge in today’s market.

The California Air Resources Board, which has been charged with developing and implementing the state programs needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels, hasn’t released an updated economic impact study since 2010.

Andrew Chang & Company, which conducted the latest fiscal and economic impact study on behalf of CMTA, found that the average California family will end up paying an additional $2,500 annually by 2020 when AB 32 is fully implemented. In addition, the state is expected to lose an additional 262,000 jobs, 5.6 percent of the gross state product, and a whopping $7.4 billion through decreased annual state and local tax revenues as a result. Figures from the study were based on more conservative estimates, suggesting that expected costs could actually range much higher.

This new information comes at a time when state government is already struggling to maintain funding for some of California’s most basic services, and economic recovery remains anemic- prompting calls for further consideration of the law.

“These policies will create a large but hidden tax on families and will add new burdens to a fragile state economy,” said Jack Stewart, President of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association (CMTA). “This new tax is not what we need while Californians struggle to find jobs, meet mortgage payments and maintain a reasonable quality of life.”

The consequences appear even more severe for California’s small business community.

According to John Kabateck, California Executive Director of the National Federation of Independent Business:

“This comprehensive report tells us that small business will get hit from all sides. Consumers will have less money to buy our products, employers will be forced to purchase more affordable products outside of California, and our own energy costs will make it nearly impossible to stay in business.”


Europe loves American coal

Europe is burning coal at the fastest pace since 2006, as surging imports from U.S. producers such as Arch Coal Inc. (ACI) (ACI) helped cut prices 26 percent in a year and benefited European power companies including EON AG.

Demand for coal, the dirtiest fuel for making electricity, grew 3.3 percent last year in Europe while sales of less- polluting natural gas fell 2.1 percent, the steepest drop since 2009, according to a BP Plc report. Germany’s EON and RWE AG (RWE), the biggest utilities in Europe’s largest power market, are considering shutting unprofitable gas-fired plants even as Chancellor Angela Merkel promotes gas to replace nuclear energy.

Europe’s higher coal use defies its policies to penalize carbon emissions and is based on profit margins climbing to a two-and-a-half year high for coal-burning power stations, data compiled by Bloomberg Industries show. Cheaper coal was made possible partly by a 49 percent jump in first-quarter imports from the U.S., Energy Information Administration data show.

“Coal will continue to remain on the money in Europe because it’s more competitive to burn than gas,” said Trevor Sikorski, an analyst at Barclays Plc in London. “More and more of the coal to Europe will come from the U.S. where just the opposite is happening.”

Thanks to the explosion of shale drilling, natural gas futures have fallen about 34 percent in 12 months in New York, pushing utilities to combust more gas and rely less on coal.
$530 Million Expansion

Lower prices resulted in gas increasing its share in electricity generation in the U.S. to 32 percent in April, compared with 23 percent a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Industries. Coal’s share dropped to 32 percent from 41 percent a year earlier.

That decline has pushed U.S. producers such as Arch Coal to increasingly look to Europe as an export market. Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU) (BTU), Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (ANR) (ANR) and Arch stand to gain from Europe’s rising appetite for coal.

Arch, which opened a London sales office on March 1, “expanded our reach with a dedicated sales team in Europe because we see increasing energy demand,” Kim Link, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis-based company, said in an e-mail yesterday.

Companies in the world’s biggest economy are spending at least $530 million to expand coal-export capacity to meet overseas demand, David Host, chief executive officer of shipping agent T Parker Host Inc., said June 22 at the IHS McCloskey Coal USA Conference in New York. Capacity will grow 35 percent to 285 million tons annually by 2015, he said.

Coal accounted for 30 percent of global energy consumption last year, the highest share since 1969, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2012. Demand grew 5.4 percent in 2011, the fastest among fossil fuels.


Australia: Sydney's Greenie mayor vetoed over traffic

LORD Mayor Clover Moore's utopian dream of a car-free CBD, exorbitant on-street parking and an extensive bike path network has been dealt a crushing blow.

Transport for NSW boss Les Wielinga, now also chairman of Sydney's traffic and transport committee, has effectively run a line through several controversial ideas from Ms Moore, in a bid to bring "some sort of sensible planning" to the city.

Top of his list is Ms Moore's divisive bike paths.

Under Mr Wielinga's new powers - which require the City of Sydney to defer all decisions on CBD roads to his committee for approval - the council must now prove each new bike lane contributes to the economic development of the state and improves movement for the majority of people.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Weilinga also ruled out the city's intention to make on-street parking as expensive as commercial carparks.

"We will always have a situation where cars need to get into a fair proportion of the CBD," Mr Wielinga said.

"At the moment 16 per cent of people choose to come into the CBD by road.

"For many people, the only viable option for getting to and from work is by road. I don't think anybody can dispute that the operation of the CBD is affected more broadly than just by the CBD."

He said existing bike lanes won't be ripped up but future lanes considered on their merits and their impact on "the future economic welfare of the state".

The traffic and transport committee was engineered by Premier Barry O'Farrell, who also introduced laws banning mayors from sitting as members of parliament - effectively terminating Ms Moore's dual role as Lord Mayor and Sydney MP.

"The Sydney CBD is too important to be held hostage to the political constituency of Clover Moore," Mr O'Farrell said.

"It's very clear Clover Moore's pitch for re-election is built around more bike lanes and making the CBD as unfriendly to cars as possible."

Mr Wielinga said congestion on York St was foremost in his mind and suggested running buses down Bridge St or the Cahill Expressway.

Ms Moore has accused the Premier of playing politics and merely adding another layer of bureaucracy. In a mayoral minute about the committee, said she hoped the committee would "rise above politics, headlines and shock jocks".

For Mr Wielinga, there is only one clear goal.

"I would like to see an increase in community satisfaction with how the CBD operates," he said.



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