Friday, July 13, 2018

We Could Have a Serious Air Conditioning Problem By Mid-Century (?)

This all depends on the passionate Greenie belief that PM2 air pollution kills you.  But, despite many attempts to prove that over the years, the evidence is elusive. Most studies of it were poorly controlled and in the better ones only the tiniest effects are ever found -- too tiny to be the basis for any generalizations.  I have been pointing that out for years as I have looked at the various studies in the area.  My most recent critique is here

One day, in the not-so-far future, the Earth will be hotter. It already gets really freaking hot, but this is just the beginning. With heat becoming ever more unbearable, there’s one thing that’s certain: Air conditioners will save us all.

Right? Well, not quite.

A new study published recently in PLOS Medicine reminds us that lives will be lost elsewhere as long as air conditioners draw their energy from oil, gas, or coal. Why? Blame air pollution—our addiction to dirty fuels throws particulate matter and ozone into the air. Electricity production is already the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and as our ACs eat up more of it, we get more emissions.

The authors believe their study is the first to estimate how many people may die from an increased dependence on AC as temperatures rise. The conclusion? The increased air pollution could lead to an average of 654 more deaths annually in the U.S. from particulate matter, and 315 additional deaths from ozone by midcentury. Per the study, this could amount to a $9 billion annual drain on the economy.

These are just estimates based on models, and there’s a great deal of uncertainty in them. The analysis is, however, a cautionary exploration of how our dependence on oil, gas, and coal will become more deadly as we rev up our energy demand to cool entire buildings to avoid heat stress.

“Air conditioning saves lives from heat waves,” said Jonathan Patz, a co-author on the study who directs the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Global Health Institute, to Earther. “But if the electricity to run air conditioners requires coal-fired power plants, then we have a problem.”

The researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison looked at how climate change itself would affect air pollution and, in turn, human health before turning their attention toward how air conditioning will make this even worse. The model fast-forwards to “the most realistic scenario” for our energy system, as Patz put it, in the year 2069. Here, our buildings haven’t changed much (in terms of structure and energy efficiency), and our electricity system has transitioned to more natural gas use and the retirement of some nuclear power plants. The team worked carefully to produce a future that seems most realistic given current energy and building trends.

However, the researchers were only able to use temperature data from a single month—July—and based a three-month summer on that.

The findings aren’t intended to scare people away from enjoying their summer days or to shame them from using their air conditioners. They’re really to highlight that these potential impacts are one possibility. A shift toward renewables and better-insulated buildings would make energy production 1) cleaner and 2) more efficient. Luckily, solar and renewables are winning around the world even if the federal government attempts to thwart their success. “Getting to clean energy can happen quite quickly,” Patz said.

Summers are growing warmer, and we’ll need cooler air—especially for our young students to focus during school hours, and for the sick and elderly.  But using air conditioners shouldn’t be a careless act, not when some people are dying from the air pollution they create—and especially when these people are more likely to be low-income or of color.

That can change. Keep that in mind next time you crank your central cooling system to high.


New Research Finds Sea Level Rise Claims “Definitely Conjecture”…”Highly Erroneous”…Coastlines Stable Or Growing!

Accelerating sea level rise due to global warming is supposed to eat away at the shorelines across the globe. However a recent paper published in the journal Nature here authored by a team scientists led by Arjen Luijendijk found that some 75% of the world’s sandy shorelines are stable or growing!

An analysis of satellite-derived shoreline data indicates that 24% of the world’s sandy beaches are eroding at rates exceeding 0.5 m/yr, but 28% are accreting and 48% are stable.

Also erosion rates exceed 5 m/yr along 4% of the sandy shoreline and are greater than 10 m/yr for 2% of the global sandy shoreline.

According to the paper, the application of an automated shoreline detection method to the sandy shorelines resulted in a global dataset of shoreline change rates for the 33 year period 1984–2016.

The scientists also found that Australia and Africa are the only continents for which net erosion (−0.20 m/yr and −0.07 m/yr respectively) is found, with all other continents showing net accretion.

What’s surprising is that another researcher has determined that melting ice caps from global warming induced ice melt does not contribute to sea level rise, and that sea level rise is mostly caused by the Earth’s shape.

In a scientific paper published by the journal Geoscience Frontiers, Aftab Alam Khan at the Department of Geology, University of Dhaka in Bangladesh found: “thermal expansion only explains part (about 0.4 mm/yr) of the 1.8 mm/yr observed sea level rise of the past few decades.” and that the claim and prediction of 3 mm/yr rise of sea-level due to global warming and polar ice-melt “is definitely a conjecture”

He added that the prediction of 4–6.6 ft sea level rise in the next 91 years between 2009 and 2100 is “highly erroneous”!

Khan then concludes that though global warming, both polar and terrestrial ice melts, and climate change might be a reality, all these phenomena are not related to sea level rise and fall.

Ice melt would not contribute to sea level rise

According to Khan, “Geophysical shape of the earth is the fundamental component of the global sea level distribution. Global warming and ice-melt, although a reality, would not contribute to sea-level rise.”

If Kahn’s assertion turns out to be correct, then IPCC scientists will have some major scientific revamping to do


Eliminating Plastic Straws Is About The Stupidest Thing Starbucks Can Do For The Planet

This week, Starbucks, not to be outdone in the eco-woke competition, announced it will ban all plastic straws in their stores to combat ocean pollution.

According to news reports, Starbucks will transition from customary plastic straws to paper or compostable straws and change beverage lids from the traditional flat, plastic lids to lids with a raised lip.

One news article called these new lids an “adult sippy cup,” which seems fitting for an increasingly infantilized American public.

These corporate gestures are popular nowadays as we see companies increasingly eager to please their critics and social media-savvy activists.

There’s the cereal company that, in trying to satisfy the anti-GMO activists (who don’t buy “big” brands anyway), removed GMOs from one brand of cereal but left GMOs in the rest of its product line.

The company was shocked when the activists weren’t satisfied and left flat-footed when activists asked the obvious question: “If you can take GMOs out of one brand of cereal, why not all of them?”

Or, like the soup company that, in trying to placate the anti-sodium activists, reduced sodium in every single can of its much-loved soups despite already offering a low-sodium line, only to reverse course when sales tanked because consumers preferred the old, tastier formulations.

Or, like the large discount store that, in trying to secure the support of Obama-era nutrition scolds, initiated a new in-store labeling regime featuring a small green man, which was placed only on items the store and activists deemed “healthy.”

Corporate executives were shocked when activists weren’t satisfied with just the label and seemed befuddled when activists demanded stores go further by simply ridding store shelves of items that didn’t earn the “green man” label.

The big box store declined to stop stocking ice cream, cheese, salty crackers and chips, whole milk, hummus, candy, and many other items their customers enjoy.

And of course, there’s the fast food restaurant that, while trying to satisfy the childhood obesity activists, decided to take the toys out of happy meals and only provide kids with ten French fries, leading parents to simply buy extra fries or scrap the happy meal altogether in favor of regular menu items that contained more calories.

The reason these corporate gestures are so popular is that these problems—fears of GMOs, unhealthy eating habits in adults and children, easy access to processed and fast food, food labeling and corporate transparency, and, yes, ocean pollution—are complex issues.

Gestures resolve only one thing: the corporation’s public relations problem of how to look sufficiently concerned. Yet these gestures do nothing to actually solve the problem itself.

Marine pollution is indeed a complex issue, but it is solvable. According to the United Nations’ Environment Programme’s (UNEP) report on marine pollution, the solution lies with the improvement of waste collection and management, which the report states “presents the most urgent short-term solution to reducing plastic inputs (into oceans and waterways), especially in developing economies.”

Those developing economies are precisely where these efforts should focus because the rivers within developing nations are where the vast majority of the pollution originates.

According to an exhaustive study of waterway pollution published last November in Environmental Science and Technology, just 10 rivers—all in Asia and Africa—carry 93 percent of the trash that ends up in the ocean.

The UN Report acknowledges waste management is a worthwhile area on which to focus, reporting:

There are very significant regional differences in the extent to which wastewater is collected and in the degree of subsequent treatment. In some European countries nearly 100% of municipal wastewater is collected and subject to some form of tertiary treatment.

In contrast, it is estimated that approximately 90% of all wastewater generated in developing countries is discharged without primary treatment (Corcoran et al. 2010).

Primary wastewater treatment is usually designed to remove relatively large solids and would not be expected to capture microplastics. Secondary treatment is designed to remove dissolved and suspended biological matter.

Perhaps then, instead of American companies gesturing their concern by banning straws in American coffee houses, they might focus their energy and money (money Starbucks is currently using to transition each store’s straw and lid stocks), to real solutions—like helping to better develop and modernize wastewater treatment in Asia and Africa.


President Trump Has Rendered The Green Climate Fund Nearly Useless

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) has continued to falter since President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal of the Paris Agreement — and taking with it billions in pledged dollars.

The United Nations launched the GCF in 2010 to promote environmentally friendly initiatives in developing countries.

Based in Songdo, South Korea, the GCF employs 250 people and has committed nearly $4 billion in international projects that aim to help third-world countries mitigate the effects of climate change.

Former President Barack Obama was a major supporter of the GCF and had pledged the U.S. would donate $3 billion over the course of several years. His administration had given $1 billion before the end of his second term.

The GCF, however, never attracted the same level of support from the succeeding administration.

Trump fulfilled a major campaign promise when he withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement in 2017 and has not given another dollar since. Trump’s moves mean the GCF is $2 billion short of what it expected its slush fund to be.

“Now with the United States pulling from this Paris agreement, I’m concerned now how to mobilize the necessary financial support for many developing countries who do not have the capacity to address this climate change issues,” former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated to CNBC on Tuesday. “They do not have any responsibilities historically speaking. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that the international community uses its political will to work on this matter.”

Unfortunately for the GCF, it has lost money elsewhere.  Instead of doling out cash, the United Kingdom provided promissory notes — pledges to pay when money is needed — to the group.

This arrangement proved devastating after anxiety over Brexit greatly reduced the value of the Euro and the British pound. The devaluation of both currencies has resulted in the GCF losing another $1 billion.

The lack of cash has made green-lighting new, expensive projects nearly impossible.

Howard Bamsey abruptly resigned his position as GCF’s executive director following a June 4 meeting where no new projects were approved. Bamsey, an Australian diplomat, left after less than two years on the job.

“I have been considering the best timing for my departures from the secretariat,” he explained in a letter. “Pressing personal issues meant I would simply not be able to stay until the end of next year which is when replenishment is likely to conclude.”

The collapse of negotiations will ultimately mean 11 different projects, costing nearly $1 billion, will simply have to wait. Projects such as water management in Guatemala, solar panels in Tonga and climate initiatives in 17 countries will have to wait at least three months before moving forward.

Beyond a lack of cash, a lack of experience from board members has also been cited as a major contributor to the GCF’s failure.

“Many of these people did not know how to navigate the minefield and the dynamics of the board, so there were a lot of little things that triggered people — and then those things spiraled into an hour-long argument that could’ve been very easily avoided,” Brandon Wu, a director of policy and campaigns at Action Aid USA, said in a statement to Devex, a global development publication.


Australian PM weighs coal fix for energy wars

Germany is building coal-fired generators so why not Australia?

A proposal for the federal government to financially guarantee the construction and operation of new dispatchable power generation, which could include clean coal-fired plants, is expected to be taken to cabinet with the backing of the Prime Minister.

Malcolm Turnbull yesterday confirmed he would seriously consider the key recommendation of a report by the competition watchdog to underwrite and potentially subsidise new “firm” and cheap power generation for industrial and commercial users.

Signalling a possible end to the energy wars within the Coalition partyroom, the recommendation was immediately endorsed by ­Nationals MPs, who have interpreted it as a green light for government to intervene in supporting the future of coal generation.

Tony Abbott, one of the most vocal opponents of the government’s national energy guarantee, also backed the recom­mendation, saying it was a “vindication” of calls for more baseload power in the national electricity market.

Senior government sources said Mr Turnbull was personally “very supportive” of the idea and it could be considered by cabinet before the end of the year. A formal position from the government is not expected until after a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments next month, which will seek to ratify agreement for the national energy guarantee.

The recommendation was among 59 handed down in a 400-page report yesterday by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, which said nothing less than a radical shake-up of the national energy market would bring down prices for households and businesses.

Local energy stocks were hit by the call for pricing reform, falling 1.04 per cent as a sector. It slashed almost $1.6 billion from the market valuations of the two biggest listed power players, AGL Energy and Origin Energy.

Among key recommendations, the ACCC said elevated prices had been driven by “high and entrenched levels of concentration in the market’’ and singled out Queensland for a major overhaul. The watchdog said the state’s power generators should be split into three entities, leaving open the possibility of a sale.

State and territory governments did not escape the blowtorch, with inflated networks costs caused by unrealistic, government-imposed reliability standards identified as still being the chief culprit in rising power prices.

The report recommended writing down the asset value of the network companies to limit the rate of return on investment which dictated the annual cost recovery the companies sought, or offer rebates on network charges of up to $100 a year to customers.

The report, led by ACCC chairman Rod Sims, is being examined closely by Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, who yesterday said he would not rule out any of the recommendations, having privately signalled to colleagues last month that there would be a deal for new coal or gas in addition to the NEG.

A source within government told The Australian the recommendation to underwrite new generation was almost certain to be adopted.

Mr Turnbull yesterday signalled the government’s intent in a speech in Brisbane.

“We’ll look further at this proposal over the coming months … but this recommendation has the distinct advantage of being thoroughly technology-agnostic and, well-designed, should serve our goal of cheaper and reliable energy.”

Resources Minister Matthew Canavan said the report had vindicated the Nationals’ position on pushing back on the NEG and arguing for high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power.

“Many of my colleagues had raised genuine and heartfelt concerns over the current adequacy of investment in power generation. Those concerns have been vindicated,” Senator Canavan said. “The ACCC has now recommended the government underwrite baseload power investments. If people didn’t want to listen to the Nationals, then they should definitely listen to Rod Sims.”

Nationals leader Michael McCormack also welcomed the ACCC report, signalling it could end the internal dispute over the NEG and allow the Coalition parties to reach a consensus.

The ACCC said there was a case for government support in the financing of new large-scale generation projects that required considerable up-front investment and carried significant risk. “Where private-sector banks are unwilling to finance projects due to uncertainty about the future of an industrial or manufacturing business, the ACCC considers there is a role for the Australian government in providing support for such projects in appropriate circumstances,” the report said.

“This can be achieved at little cost to government. Specifically, the ACCC proposes the government introduce a program under which it will guarantee offtake from a new generation asset (or group of assets) in the later years of the project (say years six-10 or six-15) at a low fixed price sufficient to enable the project to meet financing requirements.”

As the fallback customer, it has not been determined whether the government would actually buy the power to on-sell to another customer or simply bankroll the operation until it found new commercial customers.

But if the spot price were to fall as low as $45 per megawatt hour, as a senior government source said, the “government would have done its job”.

The ACCC report said the recommendation, which would apply only to new market entrants and require they have at least three commercial customers, would involve “little cost”, as energy prices would have to fall significantly for the government to be disadvantaged.

In recommendations on the behaviour of the energy giants and the lack of competition, the report called for a prohibition on acquisitions to limit the market share of any one generator to 20 per cent in any NEM region.

EnergyAustralia, a major wholesale and retail power company, said “artificial limits on ownership of generation capacity seem unnecessary when the ACCC already has the authority to review proposed mergers and acquisitions for impacts on competition”.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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