Friday, May 30, 2014

British Antarctic survey dynamites W. Antarctic scare

Glacial retreat shown to be a recurring natural phenomenon.  Journal abstract follows article below

Media reports have hyped the collapse of several large western Antarctic glaciers, quoting scientists who said the melting ice could raise sea levels by another 4 feet. Left-leaning news outlets ran with headlines like “This Ice Sheet Will Unleash a Global Superstorm Sandy That Never Ends” and “Global warming: it’s a point of no return in West Antarctica.”

“The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable,” said NASA glaciologist Eric Rignot, whose research on the collapsing ice sheets made waves.

“The fact that the retreat is happening simultaneously over a large sector suggests it was triggered by a common cause, such as an increase in the amount of ocean heat beneath the floating sections of the glaciers,” Rignot said. “At this point, the end of this sector appears to be inevitable.”

But as BAS research shows, the collapse of Antarctic glaciers is nothing new. In fact, studies show this has been happening for thousands of years — without the help of mankind.

“Our results show that the large isotopic warming… since the 1950s is not unusual, with equally large warming and cooling trends observed several times over the past 308 years,” BAS scientists found. “This is consistent with a study from continental West Antarctica [Steig et al., 2013] which concluded that this recent warming is not unprecedented in the context of the past 2000 years.”

“The record reveals a reduction in multidecadal variability during the twentieth century and suggests that the warming since the late 1950s has not yet taken the system outside its natural range” the scientists continued. “This is not inconsistent with the exceptional recent global warming, during which approximately 20% of the observationally covered Earth’s surface still does not show 100 year trends that are significantly larger than internal variability.”


A 308-year record of climate variability in West Antarctica

By Thomas, Elizabeth R et al.


We present a new stable isotope record from Ellsworth Land which provides a valuable 308-year record (1702-2009) of climate variability from coastal West Antarctica. Climate variability at this site is strongly forced by sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and atmospheric pressure in the tropical Pacific and related to local sea ice conditions. The record shows that this region has warmed since the late 1950s, at a similar magnitude to that observed in the Antarctic Peninsula and central West Antarctica, however, this warming trend is not unique. More dramatic isotopic warming (and cooling) trends occurred in the mid-19th and 18th centuries, suggesting that at present the effect of anthropogenic climate drivers at this location has not exceeded the natural range of climate variability in the context of the past ~300 years.

Geophysical Research Letters, 40 (20). 5492-5496.

EPA To Unilaterally Push Cap And Trade On Carbon Emissions

Despite being soundly rejected a few years ago, cap-and-trade will soon get its U.S. encore — but not in Congress. The Obama administration will likely use its executive power to unilaterally impose carbon dioxide emissions trading systems.

The Environmental Protection Agency will unveil regulations for existing U.S. power plants early next month. For months, onlookers have been speculating about what could be included in the EPA’s rule for existing power plants.

But over the past few days it has become clear that the Obama administration will use the EPA to push cap-and-trade systems and other anti-fossil fuel policies on U.S. states. Administration insiders have told news outlets that cap-and-trade will likely be one of the options the EPA gives states to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.

The Wall Street Journal reported the EPA’s proposal will “include a cap-and-trade component where a limit is set on emissions and companies can trade allowances or credits for emissions” to meet new federal rules. The Journal added that power plant “operators could trade emissions credits or use other offsets in the power sector, such as renewable energy or energy-efficiency programs, to meet the target.”

The plan is being sold as a “flexible” one. By allowing states a menu of policy options to meet federal mandates, the standards will ostensibly meet the unique needs of each individual state. But the stark reality behind the proposal is that it will be a boon for states that have already imposed cap-and-trade systems — which are overwhelmingly Democratic states.

The Washington Post reported last week that “the measure will spur regional carbon-trading programs on the East and West coasts” according to “several individuals briefed on the matter”.

The Democratic governors of California, Oregon, Washington have all signed executive agreements to tax on carbon dioxide. California already operates a cap-and-trade system that went into effect in 2012. Washington’s Democratic governor Jay Inslee recently signed an executive order to impose cap-and-trade and phase out coal power.

“This is the right time to act, the right place to act and we are the right people to act,” Inslee said last month. “We will engage the right people, consider the right options, ask the right questions and come to the right answers — answers that work for Washington.”

Several eastern U.S. states and Canadian provinces have already started their own regional cap-and-trade system called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Currently nine states participate in RGGI — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Only one of the nine states is led by a Republican.

News reports say that the EPA will require states to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by a whopping 25 percent in the coming decades. The new rules are set to be unveiled next week by President Obama himself, underpinning the significance of the new rules.

The EPA’s emissions limits for existing power plants will put new burdens on coal-reliant states and raise electricity prices as more coal plants are retired. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is set to release a study on the economic costs of the EPA’s carbon dioxide regulations, which will likely be staggering.

“We anticipate it to be unprecedented in complexity and cost,” Dan Byers, senior director for policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s energy arm, told an audience last week.

Environmentalists have argued that emissions limits for existing power plants would not only prove environmentally beneficial, but would also be a boon to the economy.

“This is a magic moment for the President — a chance to write his name into the record books,” Frank O’Donnell, director of Clean Air Watch, told the Post. “But history will ultimately judge this less by an excellent speech than by the final contents and outcome of this initiative.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council, like the Chamber, is preparing to release its own study this week on the economic benefits of carbon dioxide regulations.

NRDC argues that mandating emissions limits would spur jobs in energy efficiency and green energy and lower power bills and pollution levels.

But the coal industry disagrees. They have already seen the Obama administration effectively ban the building of new coal-fired power plants unless they use costly clean coal technology.

“The impact will not only be to greatly increase electricity rates, putting U.S. manufacturing at a competitive disadvantage, but [also to] jeopardize reliability of the nation’s electric grid,” said Hal Quinn, president of the National Mining Association.

Coal currently generates about 40 percent of the country’s electricity — a share which has declined in recent years because of stricter environmental regulations and increased competition from natural gas.

Hundreds of coal plants have already been slated for early retirement across the country, according to industry data. And many more are sure to follow once the Obama administration cracks down on emissions from existing power plants.

Retiring coal plants are already set to help increase power prices by 4 percent this year, according to the Energy Information Administration. By 2020, power prices are predicted to rise another 13 percent — not including the cost impacts of the EPA’s upcoming power plant rules.

“While President Obama continues to pedal around his climate agenda in the hopes of solidifying a presidential legacy, concerns about how American businesses and consumers will actually meet these costly rules have been met with only silence,”  said Laura Sheehan, spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electrcity.

“Given the current path we’re on, the administration is gambling with the livelihoods of hardworking Americans and is threatening to tip our country over the edge in costly and unreliable energy policies,” Sheehan said. “And once we go over that ledge, there’s no coming back up.”


Germany’s Green Jobs Miracle Collapses

From:  "Die Welt"

Renewable energy was supposed to create tens of thousands of green jobs. Yet despite three-digit Euro billions of subsidies, the number of jobs is falling rapidly. Seven out of ten jobs will only remain as long as the subsidies keep flowing.

The subsidization of renewable energy has not led to a significant, sustainable increase in jobs. According to recent figures from the German Government, the gross employment in renewable energy decreased by around seven per cent to 363,100 in 2013.

Counting the employees in government agencies and academic institution too, renewable energy creates work for about 370,000 people.

This means, however, that only to about 0.86 percent of the nearly 42 million workers, which are employed in Germany, work in the highly subsidized sector of renewable energy. Much of this employment is limited to the maintenance and operation of existing facilities.

Further job cuts expected

In the core of the industry, the production of renewable energy systems, only 230,800 people were employed last year: a drop of 13 percent within one year, which is primarily due to the collapse of the German solar industry.

There is no improvement in sight, according to the recent report by the Federal Government. It says: “Overall, a further decline of employees will probably be observed in the renewable energies sector this and next year.”

15 years after the start of green energy subsidies through the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), the vast majority of jobs from in this sector are still dependent on subsidies.

Hardly any self-supporting jobs in Green energy

According to official figures from the Federal Government, 70% of gross employment was due to the EEG last year. Although this is a slight decrease compared to 2012, seven out of ten jobs in the eco-energy sector are still subsidized by the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG).

Around 137,800 employees work in the wind sector which was the only eco-energy sector, besides geothermal, that increased employment. About 56,000 employees in photovoltaic sector depend on EEG payments.

Investments drop by 20 percent

Subsidies for the generation of green electricity have been paid for almost 15 years and have piled up into a three-digit billion sum, which has to be paid over 20 years by electricity consumers through their electricity bills. This year alone, consumers must subsidize the production of green electricity to the tune of around 20 billion Euros. A lasting effect on the labour market is not obvious.

The report, “Gross employment in renewable energy sources in Germany in 2013″, commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Economy and Energy, was jointly written by the institutes DLR, DIW , STW , GWS and Prognos.  According to the researchers, the cause of the decrease in employment is the declining investments in green energy systems.

The investments in renewable energy sources in Germany fell by a fifth, to 16.09 billion Euros in the past year. Only about half as many solar panels were installed in Germany as the year before. Investment in biomass plants and solar thermal dropped as well.

“Nothing left from the job miracle“

The researchers do not expect that the production of high quality green energy systems will still lead to a job boom in Germany. For this year and the next they expect a further decline in employment instead. Thereafter, low-tech sectors such as “operation and maintenance” as well as the supply of biomass fuels are expected to „stabilise the employment effect”.

„A few years ago the renewable sector was the job miracle in Germany, now nothing is left of all of that,” said the deputy leader of the Greens in the Bundestag, Oliver Krischer.

The Green politician is sceptical about the attempts by the Federal Government to reduce the subsidy dependence of the green energy sector: „The brakes on the expansion of renewables by the previous conservative-liberal government is now fully hitting the job market,” said Krischer: “Thanks to the current EEG reform by the Union and SPD, the innovative and young renewables industry will lose more jobs. “

The bottom line, no jobs remain

The report by the Federal Government explicitly estimates only the „gross employment“ created primarily by green subsidies. The same subsidies, however, have led to rising costs and job losses in many other areas, such as heavy industry and commerce as well as conventional power plant operators.  For a net analysis, the number of jobs that have been prevented or destroyed as a result would have to be deducted from the gross number of green jobs.

Official figures for the net effect of renewables on employment in Germany were originally supposed to be presented in July, according to the Federal Economics Ministry. However, the presentation has now been delayed until the autumn.

Researchers such as the president of the Munich-based IFO institute, Hans-Werner Sinn, believe that the net effect of subsidies for renewable energy on the labour market is equal to zero:

“Whoever claims that net jobs have been created must prove that the capital intensity of production in the new sectors is smaller than in the old ones. There are no indications for that. ”

“There is no positive net effect on employment by the EEG,” said Sinn: “Through subsidies for inefficient technologies not a single new job has been created, but wealth has been destroyed. “


They were warned

Article below from September, 2009

One of the UK’s leading energy and environment economists warns that the government’s promise that green energy policies will create tens of thousands of jobs and stimulate competitive industries is an illusion.

In his report The Myth of Green Jobs, published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Professor Gordon Hughes (Edinburgh University) dispels this assumption by finding that

* The government target for generating electricity from renewable energy sources will involve a capital cost that is 9-10 times the amount required to meet the same demand by relying upon conventional power plants.

* The extra investment required for renewable energy – about £120 bln – will be diverted from more productive uses in the rest of the economy.

* Increases in the cost of energy together with the diversion of investment funds means that many manufacturing firms will either go bankrupt or relocate.

* It is impossible for the UK to acquire a long-term comparative advantage in the manufacture of renewable energy equipment by any combination of policies that are both feasible and affordable.

* Policies to promote renewable energy could add 0.6-0.7 percentage points per year to core inflation from now to 2020.

* The cumulative impact of these policies could amount to a loss of 2-3% of potential GDP for a period of 20 years or more.

“Claims by politicians and lobbyists that green energy policies will create a few thousand jobs are not supported by the evidence. In terms of the labour market, the gains for a small number of actual or potential employees in businesses specialising in renewable energy has to be weighed against the dismal prospects for a much larger group of workers producing tradable goods in the rest of the manufacturing sector,” Professor Hughes said.


The Obama Administration’s Hypocritical Environmental Policy

Congress and the federal government have enacted policies and made decisions in the name of protecting the environment. The problem is, now those decisions have backfired — and made us worse off environmentally. Here are five examples:

1. Keystone Delay Means More Rail: Stating concern for the environment, President Obama delayed and rejected the initial Keystone XL Pipeline permit even though the State Department found no environmental complications. After five years of political dodges and delays from the president, TransCanada is now seriously considering using railroads to deliver the oil to refineries – an option the State Department did find less environmentally safe. Carloads of crude oil have increased from 9,500 in 2008 to more than 407,000 last year. The State Department determined that rail delivery had a higher likelihood of spills and  higher CO2 emissions than pipelines. Rail transport should be an option, of course. But if Obama’s top concern is the environment, he should opt for the pipeline – and not drive TransCanada to rail transportation.

2. Biofuels are an ecological and human disaster: As part of his climate change agenda, Obama has praised alternative fuels as the way of the future and condemned oil-based transportation fuels for tying the U.S. to dependence on CO2 emissions and foreign countries. But evidence continues to mount that ethanol, the largest source of alternative fuels, is at best accomplishing nothing in the way of efficiency or energy independence. Not only are biofuels an economic loser, the Department of Energy funded a recent report that found biofuels actually increase CO2 emissions. Other studies have shown our biofuels policy results in poorer land and water quality, not to mention higher food prices. Though America’s biofuels policies predate Obama, there’s no reason to support a policy that even environmental organizations have called “an ecological disaster.”

3. Wind Power and Bloody Bird Baths: There is no end to what the Obama administration will do to protect critters such as lesser prairie chicken, but it has a funny way of protecting the environment when it comes to politically correct renewable energy projects such as wind. For example, the Obama administration has worked to cut red tape for wind projects by allowing them a higher kill rate of bald and golden eagles during a project’s first 30 years of operation, which is conveniently the approximate lifetime of a wind generator. Who needs America’s bird when you can have an intermittent power source propped up with the taxpayer’s money?

4. Killing Nuclear Energy: Obama and his administration have expressed support for nuclear power, which fits neatly into their carbon-less vision for America’s electricity supply. Nuclear power is emissions-free. It also has a small physical footprint and waste stream compared to the massive amount of energy it generates. But one look at the state of the industry would tell you otherwise.

Because of the Department of Energy’s complete failure to meet its responsibilities to collect and dispose of nuclear waste, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has stopped all licensing activities. Through no fault of the industry or technology, this means no new plants or life extensions for existing ones. This has been a failure of many administrations and congresses, but Obama has distinguished himself by abandoning the waste plan Congress passed and replacing it with no plan at all. If that weren’t enough, an antiquated and onerous regulatory regime has only become more antiquated and onerous on Obama’s watch.  Between his policies on nuclear waste and regulation, Obama is effectively killing an affordable, CO2-free energy source.

5. Global Warming Poverty Obama has set into motion regulations that severely limit CO2 emissions from electricity generation (as well as vehicles). If successful, these regulations will effectively phase out some 40 percent of the nation’s electricity, which is generated by coal. A Heritage Foundation study found that doing this will cause energy prices to rise (along with everything else that depends on energy) and jobs to be lost, particularly in manufacturing. One doesn’t have to look far or hard to see that some of the poorest countries in the world are those that struggle to provide affordable and reliable electricity, which is a basic building block of economic growth and human wellbeing. And energy poverty leads to environmental poverty, whether in Germany or in Africa. If these regulations hurt America’s economy, the long-term effect on America’s environment may well be negative – no matter how well-intentioned the original regulations were.


Australia: Vegetation-clearing curbs in fire-prone regions to be eased

Greenies trumped; Californians ought to be envious

Residents in bushfire-prone regions of NSW will be given greater scope to clear vegetation close to homes to reduce fire risks under laws proposed by the Baird government.

Households will be allowed to clear trees with 10 metres and shrubs and other vegetation within 50 metres of their homes.

"We’re putting people before trees," Premier Mike Baird told reporters in Sydney on Thursday. "This is empowering individuals."

The laws were first mooted late last year after bushfires in the Blue Mountains in October destroyed more than 200 homes and damaged more than 100 others. They also come as the prospects of an El Nino weather event in the Pacific increase; the resulting dry, warm conditions would raise the chances of another early and busy fire season.

"We have worked closely with the (Rural Fire Service) to develop these new rules which will empower landowners who are taking responsibility for minimising the fuel loads near their homes – a key fire prevention goal," Mr Baird said.

A report following the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria by Philip Gibbons from the Australian National University found that clearing trees and shrubs within 40 metres of homes was the most effective method of fuel reduction.

Ross Bradstock, from the University of Wollongong’s Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires, said land clearing could be beneficial in reducing the threat fires pose to houses but only if residents avoid planting gardens that nullified the benefits.

"There’s certainly evidence that clearing of this kind can contribute to a significant reduction of risk," Professor Bradstock said. "However, things like garden design particularly close into the house - which are not necessarily captured by this [policy] - can be very, very important."

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers welcomed the new laws: "We need to ensure the community is as prepared as possible for bushfire and these changes will give residents the flexibility they need to clear their property from bushfire risk."


Trent Penman, a senior research scientist at the Wollongong centre, agreed that vegetation clearing near homes could reduce the risk of a second ignition source other than from ember attack.

Land clearing, though, has the potential to destabilise slopes and ridges, creating other threats to properties, particularly in the Blue Mountains, Ku-ring-gai Chase and the Illawarra Escarpment region near Wollongong.

"You might remove the trees but then you end up with unstable land surface that might slip under heavy rain," Dr Penman said. While ridge-tops could be undermined, "at the bottom of the ridge you don’t want things falling on your head, either", he said.

Councils and the RFS could also find themselves with additional monitoring roles without the extra resources needed to manage them. "It will create a lot of extra work for them," Dr Penman said.

The RFS's Mr Rogers said residents would be able to identify whether clearing posed any land-slip risks from maps that will be made available once the laws are passed.

He said that there was "no silver bullet" when it comes to reducing fire risks and residents in bushfire prone areas should continue to keep in contact with their local RFS unit and maintain a bushfire survival plan.

Threatened communities, species

Greg Banks, a former RFS staffer and now the bushfire policy officer for the NSW Nature Conservation Council, said the loosening of clearing rules could make communities less prepared.

"Under the existing process, it requires people to engage with the RFS so that they come out and have a look at their property before issuing a hazard-reduction certicate to clear,"  Mr Banks said.

Contact with fire experts can also assist homeowners to identify evacuation routes and even the preservation of some vegetation that might now be cleared, he said. "Some vegetation can prove very useful in providing a barrier to embers."

Tensions may also increase among residents of areas fringing bushland, such as Hornsby, Mosman and the Sutherland shire, many of whom have chosen to live in those regions because of the natural environment.

"Are they going to be do something on those properties because their neighbours already have?," Mr Banks said.

The Greens said the new laws would also give a "carte blanche" to the destruction of sensitive native habitat.

"Trees and scrub are essential vegetation for native animals, especially as effects of climate change continue to take place, so it is essential to retain oversight over clearing," said Greens MP and environment spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi .



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