Monday, October 21, 2019

The climate theory casting new light on the history of Chinese civilisation -- with COOLING being the big threat

Scientists say they have found evidence beneath a lake in northeastern China that ties climate change and 500-year sun cycles to ups and downs in the 8,000 years of Chinese civilisation.

According to the study by a team at the Institute of Geology and Geophysics in Beijing published in the science journal Nature Communications this month, whenever the climate warmed, Chinese civilisation prospered and when it cooled, it declined.

While historians have used various social and economic factors to explain changes over the millennia, Dr Xu Deke, lead author of the paper, and his colleagues said that while people played their part, their study indicated that cycles in solar activity influenced human activity.

“We just point out there is a natural constraint on human efforts,” Xu said. We are in a much more capable position than our ancestors with the help of technology and machines in face of global cooling, but preparation must start now

Previous research linking Chinese history to climate relied on written records, but ancient texts contained only subjective descriptions of weather and social development. The records also go back only so far – writing in China was not invented until 3,600 years ago.

For this latest study, the team and its leader, Chinese Academy of Sciences professor Lu Houyuan, took plant and lake bed sediment samples to track climate change over the centuries and compared them with written records.

They visited Lake Xiaolongwan in the Changbai Mountains in Jilin province and studied the spread of plant life such as oak trees to map the transitions between warm and cold climate phases in northern China.

By comparing the records and their research, the scientists found that the warmer the climate, the more prosperous the civilisation in terms of grain cultivation, animal domestication and human settlement.

Over the decades, researchers have established more than 4,000 carbon dating databases for archaeological finds in northern China. From these, the team obtained a benchmark for the intensity of human activity in different periods. Their study also found that 500-year cycles often ended with rapid climate cooling.

Whenever that happened, societies started to collapse and neither culture nor political systems could sustain them. This, Xu said, was a lesson for modern China.  “The most effective countermeasure is science and technology,” he said. “We are in a much more capable position than our ancestors with the help of technology and machines in face of global cooling, but preparation must start now.”

Citing this and earlier studies, Xu said that over the next few decades the Earth would enter 25 years of cooling, although greenhouse gases could slow the temperature drop.

Cooling would increase the size of polar ice caps and lower sea levels. Areas such as southern China could benefit as land would be reclaimed from the sea. But overall, a cooling climate would continue to have a more negative effect on civilisation than warming, Xu said.

Dr Liu Yonggang, a Peking University scientist who studies ancient climate, said the researchers had provided important new information and perspectives.

Human societies have gone through temperature cycles such as the Medieval Warm Period (900- 1300) and Little Ice Age (1300-1870) Liu said, but most of that data came from Europe, not China.
The study left one big question. “Why do the sun’s activities vary every 500 years? Nobody can explain,” he said. “We need to know more about the inner working mechanism of the sun, otherwise the future remains unpredictable.”


London Tube Climate Protesters Dragged And Beaten

Angry commuters dragged climate change protesters from the roof of a London Underground train.

Extinction Rebellion activists climbed on to trains at Stratford, Canning Town and Shadwell in Thursday’s rush hour. Eight protesters have been arrested, British Transport Police (BTP) said.

The Jubilee Line and Docklands Light Railway were temporarily suspended.

Extinction Rebellion later said it would “take stock” of the reaction to the latest action for future protests. Spokesman Howard Rees said: “Was it the right thing to do? I am not sure. “I think we will have to have a period of reflection. It is too early to say.”

Extinction Rebellion previously said the disruption was “necessary to highlight the emergency”.

Hayden Green, a commuter at Canning Town, said he saw the protester “dragged to the floor and kicked repeatedly”.  “Police have struggled to deal with the protest in London so the public stepped in and in the heat of the moment it was taken too far,” he told the BBC.

“I support their cause but I think how the protests have been carried out has led to more divisions.”

In footage shared on social media, a passenger waiting for a train is seen climbing on the carriage to get to one of the protesters.

The activist is grabbed by the knees and dragged down, falling to the platform where he appears to then be kicked and hit by angry commuters on the platform.

Others can be heard shouting and swearing at the protesters. One shouts: “I have to get to work too – I have to feed my kids.”

A second protester was chased along the top of the train carriage by a commuter before being dragged off.

A third Extinction Rebellion activist, who was broadcasting the protest on the group’s social media accounts, said he was also attacked and “kicked in the head”.

BTP said it was investigating what happened at Canning Town station, adding it was “concerning to see that a number of commuters took matters into their own hands, displaying violent behaviour to detain a protester”.

Assistant Chief Constable Sean O’Callaghan said: “It is important that commuters and other rail users allow the police, who are specially trained, to manage these incidents.

“Unfortunately, there is still a risk that Extinction Rebellion will target the rail network during this evening’s peak. We will continue to have extra officers on patrol and will work to disrupt any potential criminal action before it happens.”


Greta Thunberg's climate change rally is crashed by counter-protest led by truck convoy of oil and gas workers in Canada

Greta Thunberg joined thousands of protesters marching in Canada's energy heartland Alberta yesterday as a smaller counter-rally led by a truck convoy of oil and gas workers also converged on the provincial capital Edmonton.

A crowd of several thousand led by indigenous drummers with students, young people and families marched slowly from a downtown intersection towards the Alberta legislature building.

Many held banners and signs with slogans including 'be a better ancestor'. Police rode on bicycles at the front and back of the throng.

'We cannot allow this crisis to continue to be a partisan, political question,' Thunberg said in a speech before thousands of people on the steps of the provincial legislature.

'The climate and ecological crisis is far beyond party politics and the main enemy right now should not be any political opponents, because our main enemy is physics.'

'We are doing this because our future is at stake,' Thunberg told the crowd. 'We will not be bystanders. We are doing this because we want the people in power to unite behind science.

But a counter-protester said: 'We care for the environment, of course we do. What they need to understand is that we're hurting and we also need to care about Alberta jobs.'

The honking horns of big rig trucks blared from a nearby thoroughfare, where vehicles emblazoned with 'We love Canada energy' signs were driving up and down.

'When they charged their iPhones last night, that power came from this plant,' he said, pointing to the former coal-fired Keephills power plant near Edmonton that was being converted to natural gas.

'Albertans and Canadians are practical people,' he said. 'They like real world solutions. Calling for the end of the modern industrial economy, advocating to put millions of people out of work... is not a real world solution.'

But climate protester Bridget Gutteridge-Hingston, 13, who marched with her father, said: 'I came out to show support for Greta and everyone fighting against the climate crisis. 'It's something I'm definitely scared of,' she said.

The truck convoy organised by pro-oil group United We Roll drove from the city of Red Deer to Edmonton on Friday morning to protest against what the group called foreign activists campaigning against Canada's oil and gas industry.

'Richer countries such as Canada and Sweden need to get down to zero emissions much faster so people in poorer countries can heighten their standard of living by building the infrastructure we have already built,' Thunberg told a cheering crowd, which organizers estimated was 10,000-strong, from the steps of the Alberta legislature building.

'We're not doing this because it's fun or because we have a special interest in the climate or because we want to become politicians when we grow up. We're doing this because our future is at stake,' the Swedish activist said.

The truck horns sounded in the distance throughout Thunberg's speech and there were around 150 counter-protesters in the crowd.

After she left the stage shouting broke out between pro-energy demonstrators, armed with a noisy bull horn and yelling 'We need oil and gas', and climate marchers.

Alberta is home to Canada's vast oil sands and holds the world's third-largest crude reserves, but has struggled to recover from the 2014-15 global oil price crash because of delays building new export pipelines as a result of environmental opposition and regulatory hold-ups.

Many energy sector workers and the Alberta government feel the oil sands, scorned by environmentalists for their high carbon emissions intensity, have been unfairly targeted and say the sector is making progress cutting greenhouse gas output.

A 2018 study by Stanford University researchers ranked the Canadian oil industry's upstream emissions as the fourth most carbon-heavy in the world.

The energy sector provides 150,000 direct jobs in Alberta and contributes more than C$71 billion ($54.1 billion) annually to the gross domestic product of Canada, the world's fourth-largest oil and gas producer.

Thunberg has mobilised a global youth movement against climate change. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he hoped she would take a 'fair and objective look' at Alberta's energy sector.

Friday's march, organized by indigenous and environmental groups, came as Canada prepares for a tight federal election Monday in which climate change and the future of the oil and gas sector are hot topics.

Last month, Thunberg met privately with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau following a massive rally in Montreal.


Why the oil giants say it’s got to be gas

What do the former Redcar steelworks on Teesside, a university in the Midlands and forests in the Scottish Highlands have in common? Answer: Big Oil is praying they hold the key to its future.

Strikes by schoolchildren, the rise of “flight-shaming” and an exodus of investors have left the energy industry reeling. Oil giants’ multi-billion bet — that gas will power the global economy into a low-carbon future — now looks risky.

As the mood changes, Big Oil is making increasingly ambitious — and desperate — attempts to clean itself up and reduce or trap carbon emissions. For giants including Shell, Total and BP, that means carbon capture and storage (CCS) at Redcar, promoting hydrogen as an alternative fuel, such as a pilot at Keele University — and even planting forests in Scotland.

The oil majors have staked huge sums on the dash for gas, hoping lower carbon emissions from burning natural gas instead of coal would make it the fuel for a lower-carbon future. Their argument was that using abundant reserves of gas — which emits about half the carbon dioxide of coal — would allow for a gradual shift to renewables.

Weaning the world off fossil fuels is a mammoth challenge. Shale gas allowed America to switch away from coal, but oil, coal and gas still make up about 80 per cent of global consumption, with renewables, nuclear and hydro-electricity comprising the balance. Energy demand and carbon emissions continue to grow, up 2.9 per cent and 2 per cent respectively last year, driven by the surging economies of America and Asia. China accounted for about 28 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, versus 15 per cent from America and 1.2 per cent from the UK.

Royal Dutch Shell bet its future on gas in 2015 with its $89bn takeover of troubled rival BG, the rump of privatised British Gas. Shell lifer Ben van Beurden’s deal turned the Anglo-Dutch giant into the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) company. BP has been investing in LNG terminals and gas fields from Egypt to west Africa — and last year spent $15bn on BHP Billiton’s US shale gas portfolio. The French giant Total aims for natural gas to make up at least 60 per cent of its hydrocarbon portfolio by 2035.

However, this transition is nowhere near fast enough for the Extinction Rebellion movement — or politicians of various shades. Earlier this year, then chancellor Philip Hammond demanded that no new home be built with a gas boiler from 2025. Labour’s party conference called for the UK to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030 — bringing forward the Conservatives’ target by two decades.

Suddenly, those huge gas bets are starting to look precarious. Earlier this month, Bob Dudley, the outgoing boss of BP, gave a stark warning: “Gas is being increasingly marginalised — even vilified and demonised,” he said. “Gas has a vital role to play in the energy transition … To exclude gas — when so much is at stake — is to take a huge and unnecessary risk.”

Dudley added that without gas, the industry was being forced into trying “to achieve the energy transition with one hand tied behind our back”.

Fear among investors is evident in the oil giants’ share prices. BP and Shell are both trading on dividend yields of more than 6 per cent, versus about 3 per cent at the turn of the century, showing that the market has doubts over their long-term valuations and ability to maintain shareholder payouts. Shell’s promise of huge buybacks and dividends has not been enough to reignite its share price. Some institutions are turning their backs indiscriminately on the big oil companies, despite the diverging strategies between Europe’s majors and those in America, where climate change appears to sit far lower down the agenda.

Last week, the European Investment Bank came close to banning support for natural gas projects, but delayed its decision at the last minute.

Solving the carbon dilemma is hideously complex. While oil companies have been investing in renewable technologies — BP, for example, is pumping millions of dollars into solar company Lightsource — it remains a tiny fraction of their spending. Less than 5 per cent of BP’s annual capital expenditure goes on renewables. Shell, meanwhile, is adopting what it calls “nature-based solutions” — planting about 1m trees in Scotland to generate carbon credits that offset its emissions.

But cleaning up gas is their most pressing concern — and arguably one of the most problematic. Carbon capture and storage is nothing new as a concept. It involves trapping carbon dioxide at the point of combustion in sites such as steelworks and power stations, then piping it deep underground. Depleted gas and salt caverns in the North Sea are seen as ideal.

Making the process commercially viable is another matter. While there are successful international CCS projects, there have been numerous abortive schemes in the UK. The government’s spending watchdog found in 2017 that ministers had spent $317 million on two failed CCS trials over the past two decades.

CCS is laden with risk. A sceptical public need to be convinced that the carbon dioxide will remain trapped underground. Critics worry that storing gas at high pressure could fracture rock layers, creating huge potential liabilities.

Despite these worries, the niche technology is being embraced with fervour. BP and Shell are among a group of oil giants wanting to build a gas power station at the Redcar site on Teesside, trapping the carbon beneath the North Sea. Sinead Lynch, Shell’s UK chairwoman, said: “Carbon capture and storage is a necessity, not an option. The UK’s net-zero legislation brings it into sharp focus.”

Hydrogen’s sudden rise to prominence is no coincidence either. Oil companies want to inject it into the gas network, mixing it with natural gas in concentrations of up to 20 per cent as a fuel for boilers and cookers. In a project sponsored by gas pipeline giant Cadent, Keele University in the Midlands is using hydrogen and natural gas to heat the campus.

The allure is easy to understand. Hydrogen is the ultimate clean fuel: the only residue from burning it is water. It is produced either by cooking natural gas in steam, or by electrolysis. Getting hydrogen that is produced from natural gas into millions of homes could provide oil companies with a stable model for decades to come. But, again, the challenges are myriad.

Hydrogen can make metal brittle, which could force the wholesale replacement of gas pipes. Using it might require different domestic boilers — plus producing it is very expensive, and not without its own carbon emissions.

The cost of paying for carbon capture and hydrogen could land, at least partially, in taxpayers’ laps. Ministers are consulting on a law change that would see households pay upfront for CCS projects, before they have been built.

Simon Virley, UK head of energy and natural resources at consultancy KPMG, said neither CCS nor hydrogen were currently “cost competitive”. “The oil majors have to invest in CCS and hydrogen if they are to demonstrate an enduring role for gas in a low-carbon energy mix,” he said. “So governments will need to intervene through a mix of subsidy, carbon pricing and regulation.”

A hefty bill for taxpayers could make the challenge of convincing protesters and politicians even harder. “Demonising gas is going to cost the world the obvious solution for reducing pollution quickly and keeping the world’s economy going,” said an energy adviser.

“There is a solution. It’s not perfect. But in the medical profession, if you have a pill that works pretty well and you refuse to use it, you would be struck off. [In the energy industry] that pill is gas.”

As the Extinction Rebellion clamour grows, the oil giants face an almighty battle to prove that gas is the answer.


Can wind turbines blow away Tri-State weather warnings?

When clouds turn dark and storm sirens blare, Doppler radar keeps spinning. It tells meteorologists what’s happening in the center of severe storms.

Everyone in the Tri-State, including the Eyewitness News weather team, relies on Doppler to look ahead and issue warnings. But what if there was something blocking the eye in the sky?

When it comes to turbines, there is never enough wind. But there is some worry about a proposed E.ON Energy wind farm in Posey and Gibson counties.  There is fear it could blow away early weather warnings.

If the farm is built, USI Physics Professor, Dr. Kent Scheller believes it could get tougher to see through the noise to deliver lifesaving information. “It can mask existing weather systems including tornadoes,” he said.

As far doppler is concerned, turbines are just another large moving object with fast-moving air, so it often shows up as a small severe storm even when nothing is there.

The local Doppler radar which serves the Tri-State stands in a field in Owensville, Ind. It gives low-level coverage other radars in Louisville and Paducah can’t see.

The National Weather Service recommends wind farms be built outside a 30-mile radius of its radars. Most of the proposed E.ON farm is within 10 miles of the Doppler in Owensville.

Scheller thinks it could potentially compromise radar signal to Henderson, Newburgh, Boonville, and Fairfield. Most meteorologists understand false returns, but Scheller believes it could cause a gaping hole in the radar coverage.

“Because we don’t believe our signal, well that’s a problem,” Scheller said. “That’s a problem when a scientist doesn’t have the data that they’re supposed to have.”

There is no technology available to filter out noise from turbines.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a FAQ page about the effects of turbines on radar.

Officials with E.ON say they work with the National Weather Service. The company is aware of concerns, but they don’t yet have a plan.

“We understand the proximity to and concern over radar interference and will consult and coordinate with the appropriate weather agencies as part of our development process to properly site, design and operate the project so as to avoid or minimize any potential interference to Radar operations.  E.ON is committed to protecting the communities which host our projects and where our employees live and work. We work closely with NOAA, NWS, and other government agencies to ensure our projects present as little impact as possible on their operations.”

Scheller says turbines inside 10 miles of a Doppler can send mixed signals more than 25 miles out.

“You put it far away, it hardly sees it. But you bring it in within 10 miles, now it’s going to cut out a cone,” he added. “The closer that wind farm is to the Doppler radar, the wider that cone is. That’s the problem.”

Eyewitness News has its own Doppler radar at the station in Henderson, Ky. If the wind farm is built, there would be no effect on it.



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