Thursday, October 18, 2018

Global warming will make beer much more expensive, scientists forecast

This is nonsense on stilts. The authors ignore both agricultural economics and plant biology.

Economics: There is no way there will be a barley shortage.  Grain crops tend to glut, not shortage. A small price rise would produce a flood of it.

Plant biology: A warmer climate would produce MORE rain overall, not less, which is good for ALL plants. And higher CO2 levels would also make ALL plants more vigorous and able to thrive even in low rainfall areas.  The area growing barley could EXPAND under global warming.

And it is a temperate climate crop originating in the Middle East so if some areas did become too hot for it, a small move poleward should restore it to congenial conditions. And there would be much more arable land in the North under warming -- in Northern Canada and Southern Siberia, for instance.

Don't expect much science from scientists these days

IF YOU weren’t already worried about the effects of global warming, this should definitely do it.

Scientists have looked at the impact climate change will have on barley — a vital crop for beer making — and come up with a grim prediction: a global beer shortage.

While Australia hit “peak beer” in 1974-75, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, we still rank about 23rd in the world when it comes to beer consumption per capita.

So this is a very concerning forecast indeed.

The study was carried out by a small team of researchers in the US, the UK and China and published this week in the journal Nature Plants.

Scientists behind the study suggest that by the end of the century, increased drought and heat could hurt barley crops enough to cause a genuine shortage for beer makers, driving up the cost of a schooner.

“Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world by volume consumed, and yields of its main ingredient, barley, decline sharply in periods of extreme drought and heat,” researchers wrote.

“Although the frequency and severity of drought and heat extremes increase substantially in range of future climate scenarios by five Earth System Models, the vulnerability of beer supply to such extremes has never been assessed.”

So they set out to look at such a scenario under a range of different climate models.

Worldwide barley is used for all sorts of purposes, mostly feeding livestock. Less than 20 per cent of the world’s barley is made into beer. But in the United States, Brazil and China, at least two-thirds of the barley goes into six-packs, drafts, kegs, cans and bottles.

In Australia, barley has been losing ground to rival crops due, in part, to climate conditions and slowing overseas demand.

Barley is also one of the most heat-sensitive crops, making it particularly vulnerable to global warming and the extreme events brought on by climate change.

“We find that these extreme events may cause substantial decreases in barley yields worldwide,” researchers said.

In their estimation, losses of barley yield could easily be as much as 17 per cent. That means beer prices on average would double, even adjusting for inflation. In countries like Ireland, where cost of a brew is already high, prices could triple.

Study co-author Steve Davis of the University of California, Irvine, said the beer research was partly done to drive home the not-that-palatable message that climate change is messing with all sorts of aspects of our daily lives.

They knew, people like me would write about it and people like you would read about it.

The findings come a week after a dire United Nations report described consequences of dangerous levels of climate change including worsening food and water shortages, heatwaves, sea level rise, and disease.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s early response to the report was to promise that Australia would be not be spending money on climate change conferences and “all that nonsense”.


Global warming will unlock ancient diseases like the plague, scientists say

The human population was very extensively exposed to the Black Death at the time of its prevalence and huge numbers died.  We, however, are descended from the survivors so should share their immunity

GLOBAL warming could reawaken ancient diseases — even the Black Death — according to an Oxford University professor.

Higher global temperatures would melt ice sheets that store long-buried bacteria, spreading disease and potentially causing new global pandemics.

Professor Peter Frankopan offered his prediction at the Cheltenham Literary Festival on Friday, as reported by The Times.

The professor of global history began by stating in his view there was “absolutely no chance” the international community would hit the Paris Agreement’s target of keeping global temperature rises under 1.5C.

“If we go over that degree change, it’s not about the Maldives being harder to visit on holiday or migration of people — it’s about what happens when permafrost unfreezes and the release of biological agents that have been buried for millennia,” he said.

With ancient bacteria released again into the Earth’s ecosystems, there would be a big risk of the global population being hit by diseases it can’t handle.

Chief among such diseases is the bubonic plague, which Prof Frankopan said was spread in the Middle Ages largely due to a rise in global temperatures.

“For example, in the 1340s, a 1.5 degree movement of heating of the Earth’s atmosphere — probably because of solar flares or volcanic activity — changes the cycle of Yersinia pestis bacterium,” he said.

“That 1.5 degree difference allowed a small microbe to develop into the Black Death.”

While bubonic plague still exists, cases worldwide are incredibly rare nowadays.

However, if Prof Frankopan’s predictions are realised, an outbreak could be wide-reaching and devastating.

He said such a possibility should be taken more seriously than a rise in sea levels or droughts, as the Black Death wiped out between 75 and 200 million people in Europe during the pandemics of the 14th and 15th centuries.

“These are the things we should be hugely worried about,” he said.


Banks must prepare climate change plan

They don't seem to be very clear on what the risks are

The Bank of England has told financial institutions that they must have a “credible plan” to cope with the potential costs arising from climate change.

The Bank’s Prudential Regulation Authority said that banks and insurers should show how they will deal with any fallout.

The PRA said that regulated firms would have to start including a list of their most significant exposures to climate-related risks in their reports to the authorities, as well as carrying out internal stress tests to identify problems, including detailed catastrophe modelling.

The Bank has been increasing pressure on the City to prepare for climate change and Mark Carney, the governor, has given several speeches.

Last month Mr Carney spoke about the risks in an interview with Bloomberg, the data company. He called for more sharing of information and urged businesses to “up their game on the quality of information they provide”.

The Financial Conduct Authority, sister agency of the PRA, published a paper on the issue yesterday setting out its concerns.


Nature-Wrecking Machines…Experts Warn Wind Turbines Slowing Wind Speeds, Causing More Warming!

Less and less wind due to more and more wind turbines?

An ever weaker wind is blowing across Germany. For example in the 1960s annual wind speeds of 3.7 meters per second were measured in Osnabrück, but now it’s only 3.2 m/s. That’s a drop of over 13 percent. Almost all weather stations in the country which were analyzed by the Bonn-based meteorologists at found that the trend looks similar.

Wind speed has decreased “very significantly”

“In most places, the mean wind speed has decreased very significantly,” says Dr. Karsten Brandt. And he has a suspicion: “We believe that in the last 15 years more and more massive wind turbines have influenced the wind speed.”

The trend of ever decreasing winds was not observed out on the open sea, however. To the contrary: On the islands of Norderney or Helgoland the wind has in fact increased slightly over the past 20-30 years. Yet in northern Germany, just inland from the coast, i.e. just after the first wind rotors, the meteorologists found a decline in the average annual wind speed: from 3.8 – 3.9 m/s to less than 3.5 m/s.

“Of course, the increase in building construction and especially high-rise buildings in Germany has had a slight braking effect,” admits Brandt. “The braking effect of wind turbines should, however, exceed this.”

Confirmed by other studies

A variety of studies support the meteorologists’ assumption. “Danish research has shown that air flow is weaker than before the turbines even 14 kilometers downstream from a wind farm,” says Dr. Brandt.

This is an effect that the operators of such parks are concerned about. If a new turbine park is built in front of an existing park in the main wind direction, the losses could be over 50 percent, American studies have shown.

In northern Germany, there is now one wind turbine every 10 square kilometers. According to the meteorologists, the North German air flow is generating so much energy that a weaker north wind is now arriving at the north German interior. The situation is similar with westerlies, which are weakened by wind turbines in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Wind park warming…”more heat inland”!

According to Dr. Brandt: “The weaker wind ensures less air exchange. This in turn drives up pollutant concentration in our air. Especially in the summer months, the lack of wind means more heat inland and less land-sea-wind circulation. In addition, the air is heated by the generators, as further studies have shown.”

“Think again before further developing wind energy”

So far the wind has been considered as an almost inexhaustible source of energy – albeit being incalculable and poorly predictable. The fact that you can extract some of your energy from the wind turbines was seen as a pioneering achievement.

“But the fact that man takes so much energy from the wind”, the climatologist concludes, “and considering the consequences, we should probably think again before further developing wind energy.”


Subsidies to Power Plants Are No Substitute for a National-Security Plan

In an effort to deal with the market and non-market forces inflicting economic losses on coal- and nuclear-power plants, the Trump administration is seeking through regulation to force state and regional grid operators to purchase bulk power from coal- and nuclear-power producers to slow the (early) retirements of those facilities. The administration is justifying this policy on national-security grounds: “The Nation’s security and defensive capabilities . . . depend on an electric grid that can withstand and recover from a major disruption, whether from an adversarial attack or a natural disaster.” And: “Resources that have a secure on-site fuel supply . . . are essential to support the Nation’s defense facilities . . . and other critical infrastructure.”

It is true — and unsurprising — that foreign powers would test their ability to disrupt the U.S. power grid, a crucial component of the economy generally and of our national-defense infrastructure in particular. Nor are natural threats to that infrastructure unimportant. The question is whether this indirect measure — federal intervention in wholesale electricity markets — to address this national-security problem is a sound substitute for federal policies designed to deal with those threats directly. Moreover, states have nontrivial incentives to address reliability and resiliency threats so as to minimize the possibility of blackouts or service disruptions. Is it obvious that the federal intervention proposed by the Trump administration would yield an improved national-security outcome?

It is hardly the case that the federal government, state and regional authorities, and the private sector are ignoring this problem. Are there strong reasons to believe that ongoing and expected actions are insufficient? Nowhere has the Trump administration attempted to make that argument. Indeed, even the Department of Energy has responded to the cybersecurity threat, with its “Multiyear Plan for Energy Sector Cybersecurity” (March 2018). Does the federal government’s right hand know what its left hand is doing?

More generally, it is clear that pipeline operators recognize the importance of the cybersecurity threat to the resiliency of the natural-gas/power-grid nexus and are working with federal officials to address cybersecurity threats through planning efforts and investments. The gas industry last year participated for the first time in the GridEx IV training exercise, in which industry participants were tested with a set of simulated cyber and armed assaults on U.S. electric networks. In March, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) released an updated version of its pipeline-security guidelines, in which it outlines the measures that should be taken to protect pipeline assets in the cybersecurity context.

It must be the case that TSA has access to the same classified information on cyber and physical threats that is available to the Department of Energy. It is far from clear that a new DoE regulatory policy on power purchases would improve on the evolving policy of the TSA, particularly since the latter is designed specifically in terms of the threats, while the Energy Department proposal is a far cruder effort, one designed merely to keep the coal and nuclear generating plants open. It is the TSA guidelines that are consistent with the security objectives and standards established by the government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, which in April updated its official framework of cybersecurity objectives and standards that includes protection, defense, resilience, and recovery methods.

Back to ongoing federal efforts: Through the National Energy Technology Laboratory, the Energy Department has implemented a research-and-development program to develop technology for cyber-security protection across the power-generation sector. Representative Fred Upton (R., Mich.) has introduced legislation (HR 5175, the Pipeline and LNG Facility Cybersecurity Preparedness Act) “to require the Secretary of Energy to carry out a program relating to physical security and cybersecurity for pipelines and liquefied natural gas facilities.”

Such a program would address the cyber and physical threat directly. Why would an indirect program of subsidized purchases from coal and nuclear generators be a superior approach? Mandated purchases would not address the stated threats to pipelines at all, at least conceptually; they would merely shift the national electric-generation mix away from gas generation, thereby creating a new class of “stranded” assets with sales smaller than anticipated and therefore unable to earn the economic returns anticipated when the investments were made.

That outcome would create its own set of problems, foremost among them a system less flexible in terms of adjustments to changes in demand and supply driven by such variables as weather and unanticipated outages. The national-security argument promoted by the Trump administration in support of the proposed purchase mandates applies in equal force to that reduced flexibility for the regional and national grids, and it is far from obvious that the net national-security effect of the Trump proposal would prove to be positive. This is particularly the case given that the Trump proposal would increase costs in ways both explicit and hidden. Because industries contributing both directly and indirectly to national security would bear part of those adverse effects, the aggregate cost of national-security efforts would rise. Accordingly, the net effect of the Trump proposal on U.S. national-security endeavors would be unlikely to prove salutary.

The administration claims authority for this regulatory action under the Defense Production Act of 1950 and the Federal Power Act of 1920, both as subsequently amended. Under various interpretations of those laws, the federal government can order that power plants that store 90 days of fuel — that is, coal and nuclear plants — recover all of their (historical) costs, even when selling power in wholesale power markets in which sales and purchases are made at market prices, and which traditionally have been overseen by state and regional power authorities.

Some suspicion about the invocation of the national-security rationale for this proposal is justified. Why not ask Congress to authorize these subsidies explicitly? It is far from obvious that any such proposal would pass Congress, and it is not irrelevant to point out more generally that the legislative process — negotiating, writing, and enacting laws — is hard work. The end result yielded by the compromises and side promises required to move bills through both houses of Congress can be unsatisfying, to say the least. That is the case a fortiori for efforts to subsidize particular economic sectors, in that the scent of such largesse inexorably elicits demands, on the basis of exceedingly creative rationales, from innumerable interest groups and their political representatives for inclusion among the beneficiaries.

In pursuit of objectives viewed as necessary by presidents and executive-branch agencies, a president not devoted viscerally to the separation of powers and the U.S. constitutional system may be disposed to find the use of executive orders an attractive alternative to the messiness and distasteful components certain to characterize actual legislation. In the famous words of a former presidential aide: “Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kinda cool.”

Barack Obama exemplified such thinking, and the erasure of much of his policy legacy is one predictable result. Ironically enough, even as the Trump administration is the active eraser, it seems to be following much the same path in its approach to the economic problems confronting coal- and nuclear-power generators.

If there are serious cyber and physical threats to the national power grid, and if federal actions to deal with them are appropriate, then those threats should be confronted directly. An attempt to circumvent them by subsidizing some segments of the power-generation sector at the expense of others is likely to yield the usual array of adverse unanticipated consequences for which federal-government machinations are famous. Too clever by half in a national security context, the Trump policy proposal has a real potential for counterproductive outcomes. However messy the process of legislative negotiation, it would be better for the administration to work with Congress to craft policies aimed directly at the problem, rather than attempt to impose a crude solution driven by an executive deus ex machina.




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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