Friday, November 07, 2014

National Academy of Sciences wants us to stop breathing

National Academy of Sciences Panel: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Have to Drop to Zero

Panelists at a National Academy of Sciences event on the health risks to humans posed by climate change called Tuesday for an end to all greenhouse gas emissions.

“[E]missions have to go to zero,” said Anthony Janetos, professor of Earth and Environment at Boston University, told the event in Washington D.C., which brought together climate change modelers, public health experts, and environmental health researchers.

The workshop’s agenda stated that human health and wellbeing are at risk as a result of the effects of climate change, including heatwaves, other extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification.

“Moreover, these risks occur against a backdrop of changing socioeconomic conditions, medical technology, population demographics, health status, environmental conditions, and other factors important for determining health effects.”

According to an NAS study, “most scientists agree that the warming in recent decades [What warming?] has been caused primarily by human activities that have increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, have increased significantly since the Industrial Revolution, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels for energy, industrial processes, and transportation. Carbon dioxide levels are at their highest in at least 650,000 years and continue to rise.”

Panelists claimed that in order to stabilize atmospheric conditions, greenhouse gas emissions would have to drop to zero.

“I think there is a systematic underestimation of how big a problem this really is,” said Janetos. “It’s not like it’s news to the research community that if you are trying to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases that emissions have to go to zero.”

“There is a lot of discussion that 2100 is just so far away,” said panelist Kristie Ebi, professor in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington. “But anyone who is young enough to have young children – and some of the people on the panel are young enough to have young children; anybody who is old enough to have grandchildren – life expectancy in most of the developing world is around 85 – those children will be alive in 2100. It is not that far away.”

“We need to help move understanding that the temporal scale is short,” said Ebi.  “Those of us who have been working in this field a long time are facing impacts we thought would not occur in our lifetimes, or if they did it wouldn’t be until much later in our lifetimes.”

“And we’re already seeing impacts that were originally projected in 2050,” she added. “And children and grandchildren born now are going to be seeing the consequences of the actions that are taken.”

World Bank senior economist Stephane Hallegatte echoed concerns about the long-term impact of global warming.

“One of the questions I have is, if you are thinking about mitigation and the target in terms of climate change we have, maybe everything depends on what happens in 2100 and beyond,” he said.

“If you want to keep the temperature at a certain level, it means that over the long term you need to achieve zero CO2 emission,” said Hallegatte.  “And this would then drive everything else in terms of policies. If you agree that the end goal is zero emission of CO2.”


Obama and Dems Rebuked by Electorate on Climate and Energy Policy

President Barack Obama had hoped to make addressing climate change and the transformation of the U.S. energy generation system one of the chief legacies of his administration. The Republican takeover in the Senate and the increased Republican majority in the House of Representatives will likely stymie the president's efforts to impose various forms of energy rationing.

Keystone Pipeline: No less than three environmental reviews have found that this pipeline that would transport nearly 1 million barrels per day of Canadian oilsands crude to the Gulf Coast for refining is adequately safe. In a perfect example of cowardly political calculation, the president has been afraid to nix the project because it would alienate the crucial union voting bloc. Now both the House and the Senate will pass legislation approving the pipeline which the president may well veto. Who's causing gridlock now?

U.N. Climate Change negotiations: The nations of the world are supposed to adopt a binding treaty limiting the emissions of greenhouse gases at the 2015 U.N. climate change conference in Paris. The president has long recognized that there was no way that such a treaty would obtain the required two-thirds vote of the Senate for ratification. Instead, the president has devised a plan in which a U.S. pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by 2050 would be tacked onto the existing U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The president argues that such pledges do not need further ratification by the U.S. Senate. The new Republican majority will beg to differ.

EPA's Plan to Cut Electric Power Carbon Dioxide emissions: In June, the Obama administration proposed regulations that aim to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The Republicans denounced this as Obama's War on Coal. The election of Shelley Moore Capito as the first Republican senator from West Virginia in nearly 55 years suggests that the war is not going so well for the president; not to mention the re-election of Mitch McConnell from Kentucky.

Environmentalist PAC Spending: Billionaire Tom Steyer's NextGen Climate PAC reportedly spent $74 million attacking Republicans he regards as climate change "deniers." The National Journal succinctly notes, "He Didn't Get Much to Show For It." The New Republic grouses that the voters have made "climate change denier" Sen. James Inhofe "the most powerful senator on the environment."

The day before the mid-term elections, The Hill reported:

"Nearly half of voters in the midterm election want the federal government to adopt more policies to fight climate change, according to a new poll.

The Huffington Post/YouGov survey concluded that 49 percent of people likely to vote in Tuesday’s election want stricter climate policies. Thirty-five percent opposed climate rules."

Well, maybe. But it's pretty clear that as worried as Americans might be about future climate change, they regard other issues as more pressing.


Outcome of Anti-GMO Initiatives in Oregon and Colorado

Voters in the Oregon and Colorado were asked to vote on ballot initiatives that would require many foods made with ingredients derived from modern biotech crops to be labeled as such. Science won in Colorado with voters rejecting the mandatory labeling requirement by 68 to 32 percent. The Oregon vote is still too close to call, but the vote was now around 51 percent against labeling and 49 percent in favor. The final results in Oregon may not be known until Friday.

Both initiatives are egregiously unscientific, but the Oregon Measure 92 is particularly dishonest. Measure 92 misleadingly asserts that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration...

"...does not require or conduct safety studies of genetically engineered foods. Instead, any safety consultations are voluntary, and genetically engineered food developers may decide what information to provide to the agency. Market approval of genetically engineered food is based on industry research alone."

Of course, this is precisely the way in which new pharmaceuticals are regulated and approved. Companies keep providing information about each new crop variety to the FDA regulators until they have no more questions. In any case, this process is unnecessary. If a trait (pest resistance or herbicide resistance) is safe in one crop it is safe in all crops. There should be no need for approval for each new variety.

Another false Measure 92 finding and declaration is ...

"The genetic engineering of plants and animals often causes unintended consequences. Manipulating genes via genetic engineering and inserting them into organisms is an imprecise process. The results are not always predictable or controllable. Mixing plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes through genetic engineering in combinations that cannot occur in nature may produce results that lead to adverse health or environmental consequences."

The proponents of Measure 92 offer no examples of "adverse health or environmental consequences." Why? Because none have been reported. As I have noted elsewhere:

"The World Health Organization flatly states, “No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.

In 2010, a European Commission review of 50 studies on the safety of biotech crops found “no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.”

At its annual meeting in June, 2013 the American Medical Association endorsed a report on the labeling of bioengineered foods from its Council on Science and Public Health. The report concluded that “Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”

And one other bit of misinformation is the claim that ...

"The cultivation of genetically engineered crops can have serious effects on the environment. For example, in 2013, 93 percent of all soy grown in the U.S. was engineered to be herbicide resistance. In fact, the vast majority of genetically engineered crops are designed to withstand herbicides, and therefore promote indiscriminate herbicide use. As a result, genetically engineered, herbicide resistant crops have caused 527 million pounds of additional herbicides to be applied to the nation's farmland."

Actually, the USDA released in May, 2014 its report, Pesticide Use in U.S. Agriculture: 21 Selected Crops, 1960-2008, in which it analyzed the trends in herbicide and pesticide use. The study found that herbicide applications peaked at 478 million pounds in 1981 and since drifted down to 394 million pounds in 2008, the latest year for which the agency has figures. Interestingly, Measure 92 fails to mention that pesticide applications peaked in 1972 at 158 million pounds and has now fallen to 29 million pounds. Why? Because of crops genetically engineered to resist insect and other pests.

Colorado's Proposition 105 is more succinct in its misleading assertions:



Measure 92 would require that "Genetically Engineered" clearly and conspicuously appear on the front or back of the package of foods using ingredients from biotech crops by January, 2016. Similarly, Proposition 105 would mandate "PRODUCED WITH GENETIC ENGINEERING" APPEAR IN A CLEAR AND CONSPICUOUS MANNER ON ITS LABEL" by July, 2016.

Addendum: A referendnum in Maui County in Hawaii passed 50 to 48 percent to ban the growing of biotech crops in the jurisdiction. For more background on the scientifically idiotic campaign against biotech crops in Hawaii see my article, "The Fable of Hawaiian Frankencorn."


How corals can actually benefit from climate change effects

Researchers from Northeastern University's Marine Science Center and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found that moderate ocean acidification and warming can actually enhance the growth rate of one reef-building coral species. Only under extreme acidification and thermal conditions did calcification decline.

 Their work, which was published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, is the first to show that some corals may benefit from moderate ocean .

The authors attribute the coral's positive response to moderately elevated carbon dioxide to the fertilization of photosynthesis within the coral's algal symbionts, which may provide the coral with more energy for calcification even though the seawater is more acidic. They propose that the eventual decline in coral calcification at the very high levels of carbon dioxide occurs when the beneficial effects of fertilizing photosynthesis are outweighed by the negative effects of acidification on the skeleton-forming process.

"The study showed that this species of coral (Siderastrea siderea) exhibited a peaked or parabolic response to both warming and acidification, that is, moderate acidification and warming actually enhanced coral calcification, with only extreme warming and acidification negatively impacting the corals," Ries said. "This was surprising given that most studies have shown that corals exhibit a more negative response to even moderate acidification."

Furthermore, their work indicates that ocean warming is likely to threaten this coral species more than acidification by the end of the century, based on projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He noted that in the past 200 years, ocean pH level has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1 and is expected to fall even further to about 7.8 over the next one or two centuries. That is a significant decrease over a relatively short period of time, Ries said, when looking at the geologic history of ocean acidification.

"The amount of change that would typically occur in about 10 million years is being condensed into a 300-year period," Ries said. "It's not the just the magnitude of the change that matters to the organisms, but how quickly it is occurring."

"Acidification of the surrounding seawater is certainly important for marine organisms, but what is equally as important—perhaps even more important—is how the chemistry of their internal calcifying fluid responds to these changes in seawater chemistry," Ries said.


Climate scientist Judith Curry  sees too much uncertainty to say that global-warming action is "urgent"

This particular post is triggered by today’s release of the IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report and Press Release and Press Conference.  A good summary of what has been going on is given by this BBC article Fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 says IPCC.  The highlights:

CO2 emissions must be reducedby almost half by 2030 or global temperatures will eventually rise by between 2C and 5C.

Humans must pump no more than a further one trillion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere if temperature change is to be kept below 2C.
To keep warming below 2°C, the world will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions between 40 and 70 percent by 2050—and then keep cutting until they’re essentially zero by 2100.

Tweeted comments from Ban-Ki Moon’s press conference:

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

“When your child is sick with a high temperature, you have to take all the medicine”

“Synthesis Report gives major push for Paris, mobilise action to 2C pathway”

How long do we have to act?

Lets accept for the sake of argument that there is a risk that adding CO2 will eventually cause undesirable climate change.  Further, there seems to be broad agreement that it is in everyone’s long term interests to move away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source (these resources are finite, at some point they will become very costly to extract, and there are pollution/health issues associated with burning fossil fuels).

But how urgently do we need to act in terms decarbonization, even if you buy the 2C danger limit?  The 16 year deadline comes from the business as usual emissions scenario, whereby climate model projections state that the 2C threshold would likely be crossed in 2040.

Here is why it is increasingly unlikely that that we will reach the 2C danger limit by 2040:

the ongoing surface temperature hiatus, which may continue until the 2030’s or even 2040 if the increasing number of hypotheses about AMO, PDO and natural internal variability are correct.

the growing number of observation-based climate sensitivity studies that find lower values of transient and equilibrium climate sensitivity (e.g Lewis & Curry, WSJ op-ed).

unrealistic scenarios of future coal burning by the IPCC (see Dave Rutledge’s previous posts)

underestimate by 16% of plant CO2 absorption

So how much do these factors individually and collectively delay the warming, beyond 2040?   Well, the hiatus one is pretty straightforward.   It has been estimated that Lewis and Curry TCR estimate delays the warming by 10 yrs.  No estimate that I‘ve seen re delays associated with carbon budget scenarios.

What does 10 years buy us?

For the sake of argument, lets play it conservative and assume that these factors buy us 10 more years (personally, I think much longer), beyond the IPCC’s time scale.  What difference does 10 years make?

Lets look back 10 years ago, to 2004, or even to 2006 when Hansen made his first proclamation:

fracking wasn’t on the radar screen

there was very little penetration of wind and solar power

there was optimism about cap and trade policies

the pause was less than 10 years, and not yet identified as such

the U.S. was the leader in CO2 emissions

the massive Chinese modernization was just underway

devastating hurricane landfalls in the US in 2004/2005

Things look pretty different now than they did 10 years ago.  What can we anticipate in the next 10 years?

the pause will continue, or surface temperatures will resume warming.  If the latter, then climate models are demonstrated to be not fit for purpose for projecting 21st century climate change and climate sensitivity, and the IPCC’s attribution conclusion will become unsupportable.

greater clarity on the role of the sun in 20th and 21st century climate variations and change

longer historical perspectives on sea ice, ocean temperatures, etc. and refinements to paleo climate analyses of the last two millennia, which will clarify detection of anthropogenic climate change relative to natural variability

continued growth in emissions, particularly from the developing world

continued strains on food and water associated with growing populations, unless effective plans for dealing with this are implemented

growing vulnerability to extreme weather events associated with population and property increases in hazard-prone zones, unless effective plans for dealing with this are implemented

new advances in energy technologies

continued regional experiments with new and renewable energy technologies


Business as usual, or implement UNFCCC policies?

As described above, business as usual on decadal time scales can be associated with unanticipated surprises – science, technologies, and societal changes.  Should we let economic development and other policies play out, perhaps with some climate informed decision analysis, or implement the UNFCCC policies and drastically decarbonize the economy?

Well 10 years (or even 5 years) will provide substantial clarity on the relative importance of human-caused and naturally varying climate change, and how rapidly humans can be expected to change the climate in the 21st century.

The solutions to decarbonizing the global economy are more likely to come from technological advances rather than from global UNFCCC treaties.  Does it make any sense to push the decarbonization policies faster than they can be supported by technology?

The UN seems to be playing a game, which is aptly described from this tweet by Rupert Darwell:

There’s one thing you will never hear #ippc say:”It’s now too late to act.” That way, IPCC can live on forever.


Focus on stopping global warming and extreme weather is unscientific and immoral

“IPCC Chairman Dr. Rajendra Pachauri was right to advocate “a global agreement to finally reverse course on climate change” when he spoke to delegates tasked with approving the IPCC Synthesis Report, released today," said Tom Harris, executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC).

“The new direction governments should follow must be one in which the known needs of people suffering today are given priority over problems that might someday be faced by those yet to be born.”

“Yet, exactly the opposite is happening,” continued Harris. “Of the roughly one billion U.S. dollars spent every day across the world on climate finance, only 6% of it is devoted to helping people adapt to climate change in the present. The rest is wasted trying to stop improbable future climatic events. That is immoral.”

ICSC chief science advisor, Professor Bob Carter, former Head of the Department of Earth Sciences at James Cook University in Australia and author of Taxing Air explained, “Science has yet to provide unambiguous evidence that problematic, or even measurable, human-caused global warming is occurring. The hypothesis of dangerous man-made climate change is based solely on computerized models that have repeatedly failed in practice in the real world.”

New Zealand-based Terry Dunleavy, ICSC founding chairman and strategic advisor remarked, “U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon often makes unjustified statements about climate change and extreme weather. However, in their still unanswered November 29, 2012 open letter to the Secretary General, 134 scientists from across the world asserted, ‘The U.K. Met Office recently released data showing that there has been no statistically significant global warming for almost 16 [now 18] years. During this period…carbon dioxide concentrations rose by nearly 9%…The NOAA “State of the Climate in 2008” report asserted that 15 years or more without any statistically-significant warming would indicate a discrepancy between observation and prediction. Sixteen years without warming have therefore now proven that the models are wrong by their creators’ own criterion.”

“Although today’s climate and extreme weather are well within the bounds of natural variability and the intensity and magnitude of extreme events is not increasing, there is, most definitely, a climate problem,” said Carter. “Natural climate change brings with it very real human and environmental costs. Therefore, we must carefully prepare for and adapt to climate hazards as and when they happen. Spending billions of dollars on expensive and ineffectual carbon dioxide controls in a futile attempt to stop natural climate change impoverishes societies and reduces our capacity to address these and other real world problems.”

“The heavily referenced reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change demonstrate that, scientifically speaking, the global warming scare is over,” concluded Harris. “It is time to defund the IPCC and dedicate our resources to helping solve today’s genuine humanitarian problems.”
The ICSC is a non-partisan group of scientists, economists and energy and policy experts who are working to promote better understanding of climate science and related policy worldwide. We aim to help create an environment in which a more rational, open discussion about climate issues emerges, thereby moving the debate away from implementation of costly and ineffectual “climate control” measures. Instead, ICSC encourages effective planning for, and adaptation to, inevitable natural climate variability, and continuing scientific research into the causes and impacts of climate change.

ICSC also focuses on publicizing the repercussions of misguided plans to “solve the climate crisis”. This includes, but is not limited to, “carbon” sequestration as well as the dangerous impacts of attempts to replace conventional energy supplies with wind turbines, solar power, most biofuels and other ineffective and expensive energy sources.



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1 comment:

C. S. P. Schofield said...

"National Academy of Sciences wants us to stop breathing"

I guess that's only fair, since I feel the same way about them.