Tuesday, October 23, 2018

NASA Sees Climate Cooling Trend Thanks to Low Sun Activity

The climate alarmists just can’t catch a break. NASA is reporting that the sun is entering one of the deepest Solar Minima of the Space Age; and Earth’s atmosphere is responding in kind.

So, start pumping out that CO2, everyone. We’re going to need all the greenhouse gases we can get.

“We see a cooling trend,” said Martin Mlynczak of NASA’s Langley Research Center. “High above Earth’s surface, near the edge of space, our atmosphere is losing heat energy. If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold.”

The new data is coming from NASA’s Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry or SABER instrument, which is onboard the space agency’s Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) satellite. SABER monitors infrared radiation from carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitric oxide (NO), two substances that play a vital role in the energy output of our thermosphere, the very top level of our atmosphere.

“The thermosphere always cools off during Solar Minimum. It’s one of the most important ways the solar cycle affects our planet,” said Mlynczak, who is the associate principal investigator for SABER.

Who knew that that big yellow ball of light in the sky had such a big influence on our climate?

There’s a bit of good news in all of this. When the thermosphere cools, it literally shrinks, therefore reducing aerodynamic drag on satellites in low Earth orbit. In effect, the shrinking thermosphere increases a satellite’s lifetime.

But that appears to be where the good news ends, unless you prefer cold weather and increased space junk. “The bad news,” according to Dr. Tony Phillips, editor of spaceweather.com, is: “It also delays the natural decay of space junk, resulting in a more cluttered environment around Earth.”

Mlynczak and his colleagues have created the Thermosphere Climate Index (TCI), which measures how much NO is dumped from the Thermosphere into outer space. During Solar Maximum the TCI number is very high. At times of Solar Minimum, TCI is low.

“Right now, (TCI) is very low indeed,” said Mlynczak. “SABER is currently measuring 33 billion Watts of infrared power from NO. That’s ten times smaller than we see during more active phases of the solar cycle."

SABER has been in orbit for only 17 years, but Mlynczak and the scientists at NASA’s Langley Research Center have been able to recreate TCI measurements back to the 1940s. “SABER taught us how to do this by revealing how TCI depends on other variables such as geomagnetic activity and the sun’s UV output — things that have been measured for decades,” said Mlynczak.

In fact, TCI numbers now, in the closing months of 2018, are very close to setting record lows since measurements began. “We’re not quite there yet,” Mlynczak reports. “but it could happen in a matter of months.”

The new NASA findings are in line with studies released by UC-San Diego and Northumbria University in Great Britain last year, both of which predict a Grand Solar Minimum in coming decades due to low sunspot activity. Both studies predicted sun activity similar to the Maunder Minimum of the mid-17th to early 18th centuries, which coincided to a time known as the Little Ice Age, during which temperatures were much lower than those of today.

If all of this seems as if NASA is contradicting itself, you’re right — sort of. After all, NASA also reported last week that Arctic sea ice was at its sixth lowest level since measuring began. Isn’t that a sure sign of global warming?

All any of this “proves” is that we have, at best, a cursory understanding of Earth’s incredibly complex climate system. So when mainstream media and carbon-credit salesman Al Gore breathlessly warn you that we must do something about climate change, it’s all right to step back, take a deep breath, and realize that we don’t have the knowledge, skill or resources to have much effect on the Earth’s climate. God — and that big yellow ball of light in the sky — have much more impact on our climate than we ever could.


China Is Expected to Phase Out Renewable Subsidies, Continue to Build Coal Plants

China’s energy regulator indicated the country will speed up efforts to ensure its wind and solar power can compete without subsidies and achieve “grid price parity” with traditional energy sources. China is encouraging renewable manufacturers and developers to drive down costs through technological innovations and economies of scale in order to phase out power generation subsidies, which have become an increasing burden on the state.

China owes about 120 billion yuan ($17.5 billion) in subsidies to solar plants despite cutting its subsidies to solar power and capping new capacity at 30 gigawatts this year—down from a 53 gigawatts in 2017—because the government is concerned about overcapacity and a growing subsidy backlog.

China’s National Energy Administration issued the draft guidelines on September 13, 2018, indicating that some regions with cost and market advantages had “basically achieved price parity” with clean coal-fired power and no longer required subsidies, and that other regions should learn from their experiences. The draft guidelines urged transmission grid companies to provide more support for subsidy-free projects and ensure they have the capacity to distribute all the power generated by wind and solar plants. Currently, China is soliciting feedback from the industry and has not given a date for implementation of the guidelines.

Coal Construction Continues

While China is putting the brakes on its renewables, it has restarted coal-fired projects that had been put on hold. Approximately 46.7 gigawatts of new and restarted coal-fired power construction has been spotted through satellite imagery. The coal-fired power plants are either already generating power or will soon be operational, increasing China’s coal-fired power capacity by 4 percent.

Coal consumption in China increased 3.1 percent in the first half of 2018 compared with the same period last year due primarily to coal-fired generation. Electricity consumption increased 9.4 percent during that period. A rebound in industrial demand for electricity and electric power shortages during the summer in some regions have made policy-makers more accepting of overcapacity from demand-responsive generation. Economic data for the first half of 2018 indicate that China’s power demand is rebounding.

Despite the change in coal-fired plant construction, overcapacity is still a problem in China. Utilization rates for coal-fired plants recovered slightly from a 50-year low in 2016, but have not even returned to 2015 levels. About half of the country’s coal-fired power plants were running at a loss in the first six months of this year due to high coal prices. Because of capacity cuts in its domestic mining sector, China’s coal imports increased, driving global prices for thermal coal that is used to generate electricity.

Despite China’s push to ensure all solar and wind production is distributed by the grid, China’s thermal electricity production (coal, natural gas, oil, and biomass) is increasing much faster than its renewable (wind and solar) electricity production. In the second quarter of 2018, wind and solar generation increased by 51 terawatt hours while thermal electricity production increased by 176.9 terawatt hours—about 3.5 times as much. Together wind and solar power represented just 21 percent of the increased power generation in the second quarter, while thermal power provided 72 percent.


China is still counting on coal to keep the lights on and keep its industrialization booming. While it has invested heavily in subsidizing its solar power industry, it realizes it cannot continue with the massive subsidies and has issued draft guidelines to phase them out. Despite having overcapacity and underutilized plants, it is continuing to construct coal-fired plants to ensure that power is available throughout the country and throughout the day.


The “No-Growth” Prescription for Misery

A growing number of academics are claiming that economic growth must stop because the planet is crossing environmental boundaries, and inequality between humans is increasing. They are wrong on both counts, and their agenda is a recipe for keeping poor people poor

LONDON – From their ivory towers, nearly 240 academics have declared that economic growth is bad for Europe and the planet. In two months, they and global supporters of the “no-growth economy” have held conferences in Mexico City, Malmö, and Brussels.

Their efforts herald a return to an earlier, thoroughly debunked form of alarmist environmentalism that is detached from reality and disdainful of billions of the world’s people.

The campaigners claim we must stop economic growth because the planet is crossing environmental boundaries, and inequality between humans is increasing.

But for the most important environmental issues, economic growth has solved problems, not created them. The cleanest places are not the poorest countries, but the richer economies that have cleaned up their act. As societies become richer, individuals can afford to stop worrying about food and sanitation, and to start worrying about the environment.

Indoor air pollution is the world’s biggest environmental killer, claiming lives because poor people burn dung and wood for cooking and heating. As societies get richer, people can afford cleaner technology. In 1990, indoor air pollution caused more than 8% of deaths; in 2016 it was 4.7%. Each year 1.2 million fewer people die from indoor air pollution, despite an increase in population.

Outdoor air pollution worsens as societies first leave extreme poverty. But then it declines markedly as growth, technological change, and public attitudes affect policies and regulations. In China, for example, sulphur dioxide emissions peaked in 2006 and have been declining since.

The world’s forests tell a similar story. For most of human history, trees were decimated wherever humans settled. Higher agricultural yields and changing attitudes have meant rich countries are increasingly preserving forests and reforesting.

Moreover, economic growth delivers improved access to all the vital things that most people on the planet demand or want: health, education, security, and mobility.  Both within and between countries, life satisfaction increases with higher incomes. A study in Europe asking whether prosperity enhanced quality of life found that, “Europeans’ life-quality is better in wealthier societies.”

The no-growth campaigners claim that inequality is at the heart of their concern, but they studiously ignore the vast majority of the planet. The US has experienced a clear increase in inequality: the top 1% earned 18% of income in 1913; this fell to 10.4% in 1976, and returned to 20% in 2014. But the experience is markedly different in most of the world, including continental Europe and Japan, where the top 1% earn about half what they did 100 years ago. Globally, inequality has been declining, because many more people in the developing world have emerged from poverty.

Income is not the only indicator of inequality that is dropping. Half of all welfare gains from 1960 to 2000 come from us living longer, healthier lives. In the past half-century, the gap in life expectancy between the world’s wealthiest and poorest countries has narrowed from 28 to 19 years. As a result, lifespan inequality is lower than it has been for two centuries.

Global trade and economic growth have transformed lives on a scale that was once unimaginable. Two centuries ago, around 94% of the planet was impoverished. In 2015, the World Bank found that for the first time ever, less than 10% of the world’s population was living in extreme poverty. Between 1990 and today, the number of people living in extreme poverty fell by more than one billion.

The latter-day Malthusians are opposed to extending these tremendous benefits to more of the world because they believe that global warming will be so bad that it justifies stopping growth. This contradicts the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which says, “for most economic sectors, the impact of climate change will be small relative to the impacts of other drivers” like changes in population, age, income, and technology.

According to the IPCC, the total impact of climate change amounts to about 0% of GDP now, and in 2100 will cost 2-4% of GDP. That’s a problem, but not one that remotely justifies blocking people’s opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

The solution to climate change – like so many other challenges – will come from technology. We need to work far harder to make green energy cheaper and more efficient than fossil fuels, so we can continue to lift millions from poverty without emitting carbon dioxide.

With blinkered analysis and misplaced concern, the academics essentially say that to reduce global warming slightly, we should end growth that can lift hundreds of millions out of poverty, avoid millions of air pollution deaths, and give billions the opportunity of a better life through improved health care, shelter, education, and income.

There is something deeply disturbing about academics’ telling others to forgo the benefits they have enjoyed. What the world really needs is far more growth and far less hypocrisy.


Fight tuberculosis, not climate change, to save lives

A tiny fraction of the resources wasted on combating climate change could eradicate tuberculosis, the world’s deadliest infectious disease


Global leaders recently swept into New York for the UN General Assembly, trailed by thousands of media, activists and protesters. During the high-level get-together, two very different meetings held at exactly the same time revealed much about their priorities — and their flawed approach to the planet’s biggest problems.

At a glittering gala event, the heads of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Google and the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, joined leaders from Denmark, France, New Zealand and beyond to pledge support for the acceleration of the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

This is a very poor answer to climate change: even Al Gore’s climate adviser, Jim Hansen, now says it is “wishful thinking” that will increase emissions.

The big problem with the Paris treaty is that countries are expensively trying to cut relatively small amounts of carbon dioxide by subsidising today’s inefficient alternative energy. This doesn’t tackle the underlying problem that green energy sources are far from ready to replace fossil fuels: wind and solar energy meet only 0.8 per cent of our energy needs yet require $US150 billion ($212bn) in subsidies.

The best individual and collectively peer-reviewed economic models show implementing the agreement will cost $US1 trillion to $US2 trillion every year from 2030 by increasing energy costs and thereby slightly slowing GDP growth. Yet this will do almost nothing to solve climate change. It is widely accepted by climate scientists that keeping temperature rises below 2C requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to almost 6000 gigatonnes of CO2. The UN organiser of the Paris Agreement estimates that if every country makes every single promised carbon cut between 2016 and 2030, emissions will be cut by the equivalent of 56Gt of CO2 by 2030. Paris leaves 99 per cent of the problem in place.

A far more effective answer to global warming would be to ramp up research and development investments into green energy to outcompete fossil fuels, so all countries can switch without abandoning poverty-eradicating growth.

Across town from the climate event, the first UN leaders’ meeting on tuberculosis made a far smaller splash. Only 16 heads of government showed up, with none from Europe or North America, and no leaders from Silicon Valley or Wall Street.

Public health campaigners were requesting an increase of $US5.4bn a year for the fight against TB, the globe’s biggest infectious disease killer. The disease receives only 4.6 per cent of health development spending from rich countries.

For more than a decade, hundreds of top economists and seven Nobel laureates have undertaken cost-benefit analysis for the Copenhagen Consensus Centre to evaluate solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. Globally and at a national level, this consistently shows testing for and treating TB creates phenomenal returns to society.

TB is especially insidious because it hits mostly young adults, just as they establish families and careers. Recent CCC research looking at several states in India, which has the highest level of TB, found that improving detection and treatment generated huge benefits for society. In monetary terms, every dollar spent can generate a return to society worth more than $US100.

The difference is stark. The World Health Organisation estimates that since the 1970s climate change has claimed about 140,000 lives each year, rising to about 250,000 towards the middle of the century. The Paris response will cost the planet more than $US1 trillion annually, avoiding almost none of these deaths. At an annual cost of one-half of one-hundredth of the cost of Paris, we could avoid the deaths of more than a million people each year from TB.

The two meetings show how global priorities are askew. It shouldn’t be a struggle to get donor attention for challenges such as TB (or the many other health, societal and environmental problems that weren’t highlighted by the UN). This is especially disturbing when money and political capital are being poured into a flawed response to climate change by world leaders who — unlike Gore’s climate adviser — refuse to admit the obvious.

The blinkered focus is affecting development spending for the world’s poorest. The OECD estimates that more than $30bn of country-to-country aid — more than one-fifth — is climate related. That is more than three times what would be needed to eradicate the world’s worst infectious disease. Yet international organisations spend another $US19bn on climate-related aid.

This is not what the world’s poor want. Nearly 10 million people were asked their policy priorities. Education and better healthcare were the clear answers, both globally and from the world’s most destitute. At the bottom of the list came climate policies. We should tackle climate change effectively through green energy R&D. That would leave more attention and money for other important issues, from stopping air pollution and reducing malnutrition to ending child marriage — and for finally eradicating the world’s biggest infectious disease killer.


Oil Prices Could Fall Further on Rising U.S. Supplies, OPEC Report Says

Rising crude oil inventories and increased output in the U.S. could push oil prices down in the coming weeks, an internal OPEC report said Thursday.

A coming “seasonal scale back in refinery demand...could result in oil stock builds,” said an internal market report, which was circulated late Thursday within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The buildup, “amid the upward trend in US crude oil production, could be a bearish factor for oil prices in the coming few weeks," the report said.

OPEC’s assessment came as Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, fell below the $80-a-barrel threshold for the first time in nearly a month on Thursday, after data showed an unexpected rise in U.S. inventories.

Late Thursday afternoon, light, sweet crude for November delivery was 0.9% lower at $69.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude was 0.3% lower at $79.78 a barrel.

At a meeting last month, the cartel and its allies debated how much they should open up their spigots to make up for Iranian oil exports, which will fall under a U.S. ban next month.

But while Saudi Arabia and Russia have boosted output, some OPEC officials are worried about a global oil surplus.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Monday it expects American tight-oil production to rise by 98,000 barrels a day from October to November.

The planned maintenance of Russian refineries could hit oil prices charged by Moscow and its competitors in Europe in particular, the OPEC report said.

Meanwhile, revisions to global economic forecasts by the International Monetary Fund, fueled by trade disputes between the U.S. and its partners, “cast more uncertainty over oil demand growth in 2019,” the document said.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday reported crude oil stockpiles had risen by 6.5 million barrels last week, to stand at 416.4 million barrels.

Earlier in October, Brent breached the $85-a-barrel level for the first time in roughly four years.  But prices have come under pressure in the past week, amid global stock market turmoil and signs of weakening oil demand.




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