Sunday, August 16, 2020

'Canary in the coal mine': Greenland ice has shrunk beyond return, study finds

Ho hum!  Another study that ignores polar vulcanism.  The earth's crust is thinnest around the poles so volcanic activity is strongest there.  And subsurface vulcanism in Greenland is well attested.  

Even the galoots below admit that warming is much greater in the Arctic than elsewhere.  What is their explanation for that?  They don't give one.  CO2 concentrations are not greater there -- quite to the contrary.  And solar radiation has less effect there too because of obliquity.  It's what makes the poles cold!

There is also volcanic melting around the South pole, particularly along the Antarctic peninsula

So there may be some overall melting of Greenland ice but to attribute it to global warming is ignoring the obvious.  It is in fact a breach of Occam's razor

Greenland's ice sheet may have shrunk past the point of return, with the ice likely to melt away no matter how quickly the world reduces climate-warming emissions, new research suggests.

Scientists studied data on 234 glaciers across the Arctic territory spanning 34 years through 2018 and found that annual snowfall was no longer enough to replenish glaciers of the snow and ice being lost to summertime melting.

That melting is already causing global seas to rise about a millimeter on average per year. If all of Greenland's ice goes, the water released would push sea levels up by an average of 6 meters -- enough to swamp many coastal cities around the world. This process, however, would take decades.

"Greenland is going to be the canary in the coal mine, and the canary is already pretty much dead at this point," said glaciologist Ian Howat at Ohio State University. He and his colleagues published the study Thursday in the Nature Communications Earth & Environment journal.

The Arctic has been warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the world for the last 30 years, an observation referred to as Arctic amplification. The polar sea ice hit its lowest extent for July in 40 years.

The Arctic thaw has brought more water to the region, opening up routes for shipping traffic, as well as increased interest in extracting fossil fuels and other natural resources.

Greenland is strategically important for the U.S. military and its ballistic missile early warning system, as the shortest route from Europe to North America goes via the Arctic island.

Last year, President Donald Trump offered to buy Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory. But Denmark, a U.S. ally, rebuffed the offer. Then last month, the U.S. reopened a consulate in the territory's capital of Nuuk, and Denmark reportedly said last week it was appointing an intermediary between Nuuk and Copenhagen some 3,500 kilometers away.

Scientists, however, have long worried about Greenland's fate, given the amount of water locked into the ice.

The new study suggests the territory's ice sheet will now gain mass only once every 100 years -- a grim indicator of how difficult it is to re-grow glaciers once they hemorrhage ice.

In studying satellite images of the glaciers, the researchers noted that the glaciers had a 50% chance of regaining mass before 2000, with the odds declining since.

"We are still draining more ice now than what was gained through snow accumulation in 'good' years," said lead author Michalea King, a glaciologist at Ohio State University.

The sobering findings should spur governments to prepare for sea-level rise, King said.

"Things that happen in the polar regions don't stay in the polar region," she said.

Still, the world can still bring down emissions to slow climate change, scientists said. Even if Greenland can't regain the icy bulk that covered its 2 million square kilometers, containing the global temperature rise can slow the rate of ice loss.

"When we think about climate action, we're not talking about building back the Greenland ice sheet," said Twila Moon, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center who was not involved in the study. "We're talking about how quickly rapid sea-level rise comes to our communities, our infrastructure, our homes, our military bases."


States That Switched To Green Energy Have Higher Costs, Little Growth

Climate alarmists increasingly claim wind and solar power are cost-effective and will benefit the economy. The truth is exactly the opposite. Here’s an example and the real story:

The August 8 issue of Electrek’s Climate Crisis Weekly newsletter leads with a story titled “Which US states are leading and lagging in slashing CO2 emissions?”

The article touts a paper published by the environmental activist World Resources Institute (WRI) claiming states that switch to wind and solar power are experiencing economic growth in the process.

It glowingly publicizes states that have seen their economies grow, even as they have made the greatest carbon dioxide emission reductions.

What the WRI and Electrek fail to report is that the states experiencing the greatest drop in emissions also suffer from the highest energy costs in the nation and are experiencing slower-than-average economic growth.

According to Electrek, “The leader of the pack [in cutting carbon dioxide emissions]? Maryland (38% reduction), with New Hampshire (37%), Washington, DC (33%), and Maine (33%) trailing closely behind.

So why is the Northeast leading? One reason is that they’ve dropped coal. It’s also got the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an interstate agreement that caps emissions from power plants.”

By contrast, WRI lists Texas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota among the states lagging behind or increasing their greenhouse gas emissions.

During the Trump-era economic recovery, every state in the nation experienced substantial economic growth. So, even states with rapidly rising electricity costs can claim some economic growth.

However, states that retain conventional electricity enjoy much lower electricity prices and have much more vibrant economies as a result.

As of March 2020, before the coronavirus-related economic downturn struck, all but one of the states praised by WRI for large cuts in emissions ranked among the top 10 states in electricity prices.

In fact, RGGI states held seven of the top 10 spots for high electric prices. By comparison, states like Texas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota – states criticized by WRI for not reducing emissions as much – enjoy among the lowest electricity rates in the country.

Importantly, state economic growth closely corresponds with affordable electricity. For example, Washington DC’s GDP growth in the first quarter of 2019 was a paltry 1.4 percent, with Maryland’s growth being only slightly better at 1.8 percent.

By comparison, states that retained conventional energy sources had among the most affordable electricity rates and the strongest economic growth in the nation.

Texas, which saw its carbon dioxide emissions climb by more than 3 percent since 2005, experienced 5.1 percent GDP growth in the first quarter of 2019.

Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and South Dakota experienced 3.9 percent, 3.9 percent, 3.9 percent, and 3.6 percent GDP growth respectively.

WRI’s own accounting acknowledges regions making the steepest greenhouse gas emission cuts between 2005 through 2017 had the lowest economic growth.

WRI also admits that regions making the least emission reductions had the highest economic growth.

The lesson is clear: the more a state switches to wind and solar power to cut emissions, the slower that state’s economy is going to grow. Don’t let alarmists pull the wool over your eyes and claim differently.


Insect apocalypse? Not so fast, at least in North America

In recent years, the notion of an insect apocalypse has become a hot topic in the conservation science community and has captured the public's attention. Scientists who warn that this catastrophe is unfolding assert that arthropods — a large category of invertebrates that includes insects — are rapidly declining, perhaps signaling a general collapse of ecosystems across the world.

Starting around the year 2000, and more frequently since 2017, researchers have documented large population declines among moths, beetles, bees, butterflies and many other insect types. If verified, this trend would be of serious concern, especially considering that insects are important animals in almost all terrestrial environments.

But in a newly published study that I co-authored with 11 colleagues, we reviewed over 5,000 sets of data on arthropods across North America, covering thousands of species and dozens of habitats over decades of time. We found, in essence, no change in population sizes.

These results don't mean that insects are fine. Indeed, I believe there is good evidence that some species of insects are in decline and in danger of extinction. But our findings indicate that overall, the idea of large-scale insect declines remains an open question.

For most scientists, the idea of disappearing insects is a foreboding prospect that would have harmful repercussions for all aspects of life on Earth, including human well-being.

But some scholars were skeptical of the reported insect apocalypse. A number of studies that showed broad declines were limited geographically, focusing mainly on Europe. Typically these studies analyzed only a few species or groups of species.

Some particularly long-running assessments showed that declines in the past 30 years occurred after periods when the relevant insect populations increased. Many insect populations are known to naturally fluctuate, sometimes dramatically.

Many scientists concluded that while the prospect of mass insect losses was concerning, the jury was still out on what was actually happening.

Ecologist Bill Snyder and I thought that the studies suggesting widespread insect die-offs produced an intriguing pattern with important ramifications, but that the evidence wasn't strong enough yet to draw conclusions. We wanted to examine what was happening in North America, which has an immensely diverse landscape and, surprisingly to us, had not been broadly analyzed for insect declines.

For our study, we decided to use data from sites in the Long Term Ecological Research network, which is supported by the National Science Foundation. The network includes 28 sites across the U.S. that have been studied in depth since the 1980s, and covers deserts, mountains, prairies and forests. With almost 40 years of data collected, we hoped trends at these sites would be a good complement to European insect studies.

We put together a 12-person team that included six undergraduate students, post-doctoral scholars Michael Scott Crossley and Amanda Meier, and colleagues from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When we finished compiling our data sets, at least some of us expected to see broad insect declines.

Instead, the results left us perplexed. Some species we considered declined, while others increased. But by far the most common result for a species at a particular site was no significant change. The vast majority of our species had stable numbers.

At first we thought we were missing something. We tried comparing different taxonomic groups, such as beetles and butterflies, and different types of feeding, such as herbivores and carnivores. We tried comparing urban, agricultural and relatively undisturbed areas. We tried comparing different habitats and different periods of time.

But the answer remained the same: no change. We had to conclude that at the sites we examined, there were no signs of an insect apocalypse and, in reality, no broad declines at all.

Publication bias is not about dishonesty or false results. It refers to the idea that more dramatic results are more publishable.

Explaining continental differences

We are confident in our analysis and our conclusion, but a more important question is why our results are so different from those of other recent studies. I see two potential explanations: location and publication bias.

As I have noted, most insect decline papers have come from European data. Indeed, Europe has better and more extensive long-term data than other parts of the world. It is also one of the most densely populated parts of the world — three times higher than North America.

Moreover, almost all of Europe's land has been modified for human use. Agriculture is widespread and intense, and cities and suburban areas cover large swaths of the landscape. So perhaps it is unsurprising that Europe has also lost a larger proportion of its wild creatures compared to North America.

Publication bias is not about dishonesty or false results. It refers to the idea that more dramatic results are more publishable. Reviewers and journals are more likely to be interested in species that are disappearing than in species that show no change over time.

The result is that over time, declining species can become overrepresented in the literature. Then, when scholars go looking for papers on animal populations, declines are predominantly what they find.

We selected Long-Term Ecological Research sites for our analysis in part because they had "raw" data available that had not been peer reviewed for publication and were not collected in anticipation of finding declines. Rather, scientists amassed these data to monitor ecosystems and observe trends over time. In other words, it was unbiased data. And because the data sets were so varied, they covered a broad range of species and habitats.


Australia: AGL unveils plans for at least 1000MW of batteries

Talk of MW ismeaningless. HOW LONG can the battery sustain that output?  Judging by the South Australian case, only for minutes.  What we need to know is its capacity in kwh

Energy giant AGL has lodged a proposal to build as much as 500 megawatts of batteries at its Liddell power plant and has plans of doubling that total across the nation.

AGL on Friday said it had lodged a so-called scoping report with NSW's Planning department to install the storage system at the Hunter Valley site by June 2024.

Markus Brokhof, AGL's chief operating officer, told the Herald and The Age the company would take a staggered approach, beginning with a 150MW-sized battery at Liddell that could be operating within 18 to 24 months.

Mr Brokhof said it was "the right moment" to expand storage plans with battery prices falling and a rush of new large-scale renewable energy plants vying to enter the market. "The new build of renewables is exactly what the driver is," he said.

AGL has planning approvals for a 500MW battery at Liddell, the ageing 1660MW power station that is slated to close by April 2023.

The Liddell battery is part of an 850MW multi-site storage plan to be installed by June 2024 that the company announced on Thursday along with its earnings.

AGL reported a 22 per cent fall in underlying full-year profit and disappointed investors by providing a gloomier-than-expected outlook for the current financial year.

That 850MW plan, though, excludes some 330MW in batteries already announced by the company, meaning the full storage total could top 1.2 gigawatts, Mr Brokhof said.

The other announced plans include a 100MW battery at Wandoan in Queensland and four 50MW units with solar farm developer Maoneng in the NSW Riverina.

Mr Brokhof said the company was also preparing planning applications for a battery connected to its Torrens Island Power Station site in Adelaide.

AGL was looking at other sites, including in Victoria, with storage at its Loy Yang coal-fired power station one possible location.

"Battery prices are coming down so they are starting to compete with gas peakers," he said, referring to the gas-fired power plants that can respond rapidly to changes in electricity demand.

"We want to be part of this energy transition" away from fossil fuels, Mr Brokhof said.

He declined to provide an estimate of the cost for the first phase of the Liddell battery, saying that would depend on the offers made by manufacturers.

The company will also see how the system performs before deciding whether the full build-out of 500MW will be completed the schedule closure of Liddell's coal-fired units in 2023.

Mr Brokhof said AGL's battery plan takes into account the federal government's plan to develop its Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project, which would add 2000MW of so-called dispatchable power to the grid.

John Grimes, head of the Smart Energy Council, said the scale of AGL's battery ambitions was "extraordinary".

Battery prices were following the path of solar panels, where each doubling of manufacturing capacity brought a 20 per cent drop in costs. For storage, the impetus is partly coming from a huge jump in demand for batteries as carmakers ramp up production of electric vehicles.

"This is a pretty sharp downward cost curve," Mr Grimes said.

AGL's decision also showed proposals to use taxpayer funds to bankroll an expansion of the gas industry to help revive the post-COVID economy was likely to leave many stranded assets, he said.

"The race has already been run and won," Mr Grimes said. "The market is showing what the market solutions are."



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