Monday, November 30, 2020

Fears of climate change 'apocalypse' are stopping young people having children and 60 percent say they are worried their kids could ADD to the crisis, new study claims

I love to hear these stories. Idiots removing themselves from the gene pool can only be good for our future

The study, published in the Climatic Change journal last week, surveyed 607 Americans aged between 27 and 45 about global warming and the impacts it would have on their decision to start families.

A staggering 59.8 percent of respondents say they are 'concerned about the carbon footprint of procreation', while 96.5 percent of those surveyed admit to worrying 'about the well-being of their existing, expected, or hypothetical children in a climate-changed world'.

Some say they are so anxious about the negative impacts of the climate crisis that they have decided not to become parents.

'I feel like I can't in good conscience bring a child into this world and force them to try and survive what may be apocalyptic conditions,' one 27-year-old woman told researchers.

'Climate change is the sole factor for me in deciding not to have biological children. I don't want to birth children into a dying world [though] I dearly want to be a mother,' one 31-year-old respondent stated.

A number of those surveyed were already parents, six percent of whom say they even regret having kids. 'I regret having my kids because I am terrified that they will be facing the end of the world due to climate change,' a 41-year-old mother wrote.

One father, aged 42, claimed the world in 2050 would be 'a hot-house hell, with wars over limited resources, collapsing civilization, failing agriculture, rising seas, melting glaciers, starvation, droughts, floods, mudslides and widespread devastation'.

Another person surveyed stated that they believed global warming 'would rival World War I in its sheer terror'.

Lead researcher Matthew Schneider-Mayerson said the respondents' quotes prove that younger generations are incredibly concerned about climate change.

'It is an unprecedented window into the way that [some people] are thinking and feeling about what many consider to be the most important decision in their lives,' he told The Guardian.

'Fears about the lives of existing or potential children were really deep and emotional. It was often heartbreaking to pore through the responses – a lot of people really poured their hearts out.'

Paris Climate Treaty Puts America Last

Here we are in the midst of the second wave of a once-in-a-half-century pandemic, with the economy flattened and millions of Americans unemployed and race riots in the streets of our major cities. And Joe Biden says that one of his highest priorities as president will be to ... reenter the Paris Climate Accord.

Trump kept his America First promise and pulled America out of this Obama-era treaty. Biden wants us back in -- immediately.

Why? Paris is an unmitigated failure. You don't have to take my word for it. National Geographic, a supporter of climate change action, recently ran the numbers and admits in its recent headline: "Most Countries Aren't Hitting 2030 Climate Goals." That's putting it mildly. Most haven't even reached half their pledged target for emission reductions.

Robert Watson, the former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, laments: "Countries need to double and triple their 2030 reduction commitments to be aligned with the Paris target."

Gee, this sounds like a treaty we definitely should be part of and pay the bills for.

The one country making substantial progress in reducing carbon emissions is the U.S. under President Donald Trump. Even though our gross domestic product is way up over the past four years, our carbon dioxide emissions are DOWN. Our air pollution levels and emissions of lead, carbon monoxide and other pollutants are at record-low levels.

Meanwhile, Beijing is far and away the largest polluter. Year after year, it makes hollow promises to stop climate change while they build dozens of new coal plants. India and its 1 billion people are hooked on coal, too.

Here is Paris in nutshell: We put our coal miners out of their jobs and cripple our $1 trillion oil and gas industry while China and India keep polluting and laugh at us behind our back.

These nations have bigger and more immediate development priorities than worrying about climate change models and their guestimates of the global temperature in 50 years.

China has much deeper and sinister ambitions. Those don't involve cleaning up the planet. The communists in Beijing's are obsessed with seizing world superpower status away from the U.S. The China 2025 plan for technology domination doesn't involve switching to expensive and unreliable energy sources. Their plan is to goad the U.S. into doing that.

The tragedy of all this is that we have a clean and efficient source of energy. Thanks to the shale oil and gas revolution, the cost of fossil fuels has fallen by 70% to 80% -- and the costs will continue to fall, thanks to the superabundance of these energy sources. The U.S. has more fossil fuel energy than virtually any other nation. We are technologically ahead of the rest of the world in drilling productivity and have become a net exporter.

Gas is the planet's wonder-fuel. It should be the 21st-century power source. It makes no sense economically or ecologically to switch to windmills and solar panels, unless you are an investor in these expensive 19th-century energy sources.

Across the globe, world leaders are overjoyed that under a Biden administration, the U.S. will reenter the Paris Accord. Why wouldn't they be? We pay the bills. We hang our booming free market economy on a cross of climate change regulation. We pretend that the world is complying -- when their actions speak much louder than their words. We trust, but we don't verify.

If Paris is one of Biden's first official acts as president, he will be announcing to the world that putting America First has been replaced with putting America Last.

Millions in Africa Being Sacrificed to Extreme Poverty, Premature Death on Altar of ‘Green Energy’

Obama-era policies that favor so-called green energy over coal-fired electricity are dooming millions of Africans to lives of extreme poverty, environmental degradation, and increased risk of early death, according to a new analysis by the CO2 Coalition.

The study by the Arlington, Virginia-based coalition of 60 climate scientists and energy engineers contends that inadequate access to electricity is one of the key reasons for Africa’s grinding poverty.

Economic growth in a competitive, global market requires reliable, universal electrification. Without sufficient electricity for heating and cooking, Africans are exposed to high levels of indoor pollution from dirty fuels, the world’s greatest environmental health risk, according to the World Health Organization.

Globally, the WHO estimates that 3 billion people still cook and heat and illuminate their homes with solid fuels—wood, charcoal, and dried animal dung.

The poisons and particulate matter from burning solid fuels kill almost 4 million people a year from pneumonia, heart disease, pulmonary disease, stroke, lung cancer, and a variety of impaired immunities. Half of pneumonia deaths in children under age 5 are from soot in the house.

UNICEF estimates that the African share of those 4 million untimely deaths is 400,000.

Dangerous levels of indoor air pollution are almost guaranteed for families without access to electricity.

They also report that 352 million African children live in homes with solid-fuel cooking. Millions of women and children continue to walk many miles a day to gather not just water, but also wood for indoor burning, adding to deforestation.

The illnesses, deaths, and misery that are the result of energy poverty in Africa are improving only slowly compared with the rest of the world.

In 1960, those living in China and sub-Saharan Africa had a nearly equal life expectancy, 44 years. Today, China is at 77, which is only slightly less than the U.S. figure of 79. Regrettably, the African average is 61, better than it was 60 years ago, but still lagging behind much of the rest of the world.

According to the new research, that means that the 1 billion sub-Saharan Africans have a combined loss of 16 billion years of life compared with the Chinese.

Extreme generational poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is endemic, with 41% of the population living in absolute poverty, defined by the World Bank as an income of less than $1.40 per day.

A lack of access to reliable electricity is one of the primary reasons for this lack of economic growth.

Even in electrified areas of Africa, access is not reliable, since the grid is often down, sometimes on a daily basis.

That has led to a “dieselization” of the continent in recent decades. Soot-spewing diesel-fueled backup generators are in place for homes of the wealthy, factories, and government buildings. The reliance on this dirty source of power is so great that it’s estimated that many African nations spend more on diesel generation than on the electricity grid itself.

Is the answer to this energy poverty a complete reliance on wind and solar power? Not at all, as the unreliability of renewables would mean even more blackouts and brownouts, leading to even more “dieselization.”

The solution for providing dependable, affordable electricity may lie beneath the Africans’ feet in the form of cheap, abundant coal reserves that could be developed using American clean coal technology.

South Africa controls nearly 70% of the continent’s reserves, but substantial coal deposits are also found in East Africa and in the Sahel of West Africa. More than 100 new coal-fired plants are on the drawing board in 11 African nations, and almost half of those are being financed and built by China.

In spite of Africa’s deadly health crisis, the World Bank now bars lending to maintain or build new coal-fired power plants. Instead, it is lending to countries to assist them in closing mines and replacing the existing power plants with renewables.

According to Akinwumi Adesina, the African Development Bank’s president, “Coal is the past, and renewable energy is the future.” He added: “There’s a reason God gave Africa sunlight.”

But that’s exactly the wrong formula.

No matter who sits in the Oval Office after Jan. 20, the president should consider rolling back the restrictions on African energy development to improve the lives of millions of our African brothers and sisters.

Australia: Electricity supplies under pressure due to heatwave, energy market operator warns

This is a complete nonsense. I live in central Brisbane in SEQ and when I looked at my thermometer at mid-afternoon, it showed only 32 degrees, where a normal summer temperature at that time is 34 degrees. So any blackouts are clearly NOT blamable on a "heatwave". Greenie pressures on traditional generators are the real problem

In parts of northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland, the Bureau of Meteorology says it is looking like a five or six-day heatwave for millions of people.

Overnight, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said there might not be enough reserve capacity (Lack of Reserve Level 1) in New South Wales this afternoon between 3.30pm and 5.30pm.

Earlier in the week, it also said Queensland would likely be affected on Wednesday.

The Queensland prediction was serious enough to prompt it to issue an official Lack of Reserve level 2 (LOR2) forecast, meaning the possible shortfall could be enough to require the AEMO to ask big energy users to use less power.

"LOR2 means we are one contingency away from load shedding," said Ben Skinner, the general manager of policy at the Australian Energy Council.

But by Thursday, the AEMO had downgraded the forecast risk to LOR1.

"That is mild in terms of reserves, and they're largely being met at the moment, but we'll watch that very carefully to manage that over the coming days," said Michael Gatt, the AMEO's chief operations officer.




Sunday, November 29, 2020

A very angry Belgian

Climatologist Dr. Prof. Jean-Luc Edouard Germain Michel Mélice recently sent the following threatening comment to climate skeptic Marc Morano

Old fart,

You must must remember me...if your brain is not completely fucked...

I am going to write you in french, remember that french is the language of every educated gentleman... which is not your case.

Je suis français et spécialiste en modélisation du climat et des océans, est-tu capable de comprendre ce que j'écris ?

You are getting very old now, your also bald, looking more and more like the Donnie the con, the orange agent.

In fact, you are typically an old mafiosi-type italian immigant.

Of course, you have no scientific training, your brain is to small to understand science, your IQ is under 100 (I have that information).

My scientist friends here in France welcoming you ... with a baseball bat....

Funny, we are all waiting for you if you have the stupid idea to travel to Europe...

I am a NASA expert and travel many times in the USA...I know the addresses of your kids and of of yourself. So, try to be very careful...

Donnie the don is terminated, this will be he case with yourself and the oil industry...

Too bad for you.

Dr. Prof. Jean-Luc Edouard Germain Michel Mélice

He wrote in a similar vein some years ago. See

His personal history as lodged with the U.N. may be of interest

2. Date of birth: 12 07 1953

3. Place of birth: Jemappes, Belgium

4. Nationality(ies) at birth: Belgium

5. Present nationality(ies) Belgium, South Africa

9. Marital status: Single

11. Permanent address: 96, avenue des Combattants, B-1332 Genval, Belgium

13. Office Telephone No. +3226541555

15, Have you any dependents? NO

So he appears to be an old guy (67) who has never married. Being as angry-natured as he is, one can understand that no woman wanted him as a husband. So he has diverted the passions and energies that might have gone into raising a family into defending the absurd theory of catastrophic global warming. So it is no wonder that he gets angry at anyone who pokes holes into his central life belief

He certainly has ego problems. His assertion that "French is the language of every educated gentleman" is a hoot. Anglo-Saxons rarely use French so are none of them gentlemen? It is a really desperate claim to virtue which he himself undermines: After a very simple sentence in French he immediately lapses back into bad English, thus illustrating the supremacy of English

Slight, beneficial warming from more carbon dioxide!

Exhaustive study finds more CO2 and water molecules will not cause dangerous warming

David Wojick, Ph.D.

Precision research by physicists William Happer and Willem van Wijngaarden has determined that the current levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and water vapor are “saturated.” In radiation physics that means adding more CO2 or water molecules will bring modest warming that will benefit plant growth, and thus all life on Earth. More CO2 and H2O will not cause dangerous warming.

From this point forward, emissions from burning fossil fuels will bring little additional global warming, and what does occur will improve forests, grasslands and agriculture. There is no climate emergency.

This finding is astounding, paradigm shattering, contrary to what alarmist scientists have told us for decades. Scientifically, it resolves a huge uncertainty that has plagued climate science for over a century: How should saturation be measured, and what is its extent regarding the primary greenhouse gases?

Just as “the greenhouse effect” is nothing akin to how greenhouses work, in radiation physics “saturation” is nothing like the simple, everyday concept of saturation. Your paper towel is saturated when it won't pick up any more spilled milk. Greenhouse gases are saturated when adding more water, methane or carbon dioxide molecules has no significant further effects on planetary warming and climate.

Dr. Happer is known as a leading skeptic of “dangerous human-caused climate change.” He co-founded the prestigious CO2 Coalition and served on the National Security Council, advising President Trump. But his career has been as a world-class radiation physicist at Princeton. Dr. van Wijngaarden teaches and conducts research in pure and applied physics at York University in Canada. Happer’s numerous peer-reviewed journal articles have collectively garnered over 12,000 citations by other researchers.

In their study, Professors Happer and van Wijngaarden (H&W) analyzed saturation physics in painstaking detail. Their preprint, “Dependence of Earth’s Thermal Radiation on Five Most Abundant Greenhouse Gases,” goes far beyond any work done previously on this complex problem.

To begin with, standard studies examine the absorption of solar radiation by greenhouse molecules using crude absorption bands of radiation energy. H&W go far beyond this, to analyze the millions of distinct energies, called spectral lines, that make up these bands. Their detailed line-by-line approach is an emerging field that often yields dramatically new results – and here contradict prevailing climate theory.

Moreover, H&W do not look only at absorption. As Dr. Happer explained it to me: First, thermal emission of greenhouse gases is just as important as absorption. Second, how the atmosphere’s temperature varies with altitude is just as important as its concentration of greenhouse gases.

The two physicists therefore looked hard, not just at absorption, but also at emissions and atmospheric temperature variation. The work is far more complex than I, most non-physicist scientists, and certainly most citizens and politicians can understand. However, the conclusions are simple and dramatically clear.

Happer and van Wijngaarden’s central conclusion is this: For the most abundant greenhouse gases, H2O and CO2, the saturation effects are extreme, with per-molecule forcing powers suppressed by four orders of magnitude at standard concentrations. (Forcing power means effects on atmospheric temperature.)

Their graphs are especially compelling: Figure 9 and Tables 2 and 4 show that, at current concentrations, the forcings from all greenhouse gases are saturated. The saturations of the most abundant greenhouse gases, H2O and CO2, mean the per-molecule forcing is weakened by a factor of 10,000.

The other greenhouse gases analyzed are ozone, nitrous oxide and methane. These are also nearly saturated, but not as completely as water vapor and carbon dioxide. They are also even less significant components of the atmosphere than CO2 (0.0415% or 415 ppm), which in turn is tiny compared to H2O (3% or less). At just 0.00019% methane truly has minuscule influence on climate.

The climate science community clearly needs to consider this work very carefully. This may not be easy since three major physics journals have refused to publish it. Their reviews have been defensive and antagonistic, instead of thoughtful, science-based or helpful. Climate alarmism seems to control these journals, and they tend to censor contrary findings. That’s why H&W released the preprint version.

Undaunted, H&W are now extending their analysis to include clouds. Alarmist climate science bases its “dangerous manmade” global warming, not on the CO2 increase alone, but also on incorporating positive water vapor and cloud feedbacks: emphasizing heat-trapping properties of clouds, while largely ignoring the degree to which clouds also block or reflect incoming solar radiation. Because carbon dioxide and water vapor are both saturated, it is highly unlikely that any positive cloud feedbacks can do much damage. However further careful analysis is needed to know this for sure. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, America and the world are forced to ponder only “permissible” climate science – which is being used to justify demands that we eliminate the fossil fuels that provide 80% of all US and world energy, and replace that energy with enormous numbers of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, new transmission lines ... and mines to produce their raw materials ... all with major environmental impacts.

“Permissible” climate science is also being used as the basis for computer models that purport to predict planetary warming and weather 50 to 100 years from now. The models have not gotten anything correct up to now, which is understandable since the physics on which they are based is so faulty.

The good news, says Science and Environmental Policy Project president Ken Haapala, is that humanity’s use of fossil fuels and addition of CO2 to the atmosphere are not causing a climate crisis. Cutting existing atmospheric CO2 levels in half would have little effect on climate – but would harm plant growth and the ability of forests, food crops and grasslands to survive droughts and other stress. “Carbon capture” (actually carbon dioxide capture) is of little value, and would just increase electricity prices.

As to climate “tipping points” – at which the Earth gets inexorably hotter, never to cool down – the very notion is laughable. Over the ages, our planet has swung back and forth from moderate to very warm periods; from ice ages and mile-high glaciers across half of North America and Europe to interglacial periods, like the one we are in now; from the Medieval warm period to the Little Ice Age, 1350-1810, Haapala notes. (The LIA was ending just about the time the fossil fuel and industrial era began.)

Put another way, because greenhouse gases are already saturated, there is no reason we should accept IPCC or other claims that planetary temperatures could rise more than 3.0 ͦ C (5.4ᵒ F) without compelling empirical evidence of strong atmospheric warming. That evidence is totally lacking in IPCC reports, and satellite measurements find no strong warming. Accepting alarmist claims is science denial.

In reality, according to atmospheric temperature trends measured by satellites and weather balloons, and tracked by the Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama-Huntsville, the warming trend is modest. Since January 1979, it has remained at +0.14ᵒC/decade (+0.12ᵒC/decade over the global-averaged oceans, and +0.18ᵒC/decade over global-averaged land areas). That’s just 0.25ᵒF per decade, or 2.5ᵒF per century – modest, beneficial warming; certainly nothing remotely catastrophic.

Some of that warming is likely to be manmade. But most of it is natural and not at all unprecedented.

Moreover, the atmospheric “hot spot” above the tropics predicted by climate models is nowhere to be found. Put another way, for carbon dioxide to have significant impacts on global temperatures, humanity would have to burn more fossil fuels than are known to exist on our planet, Haapala concludes.

It’s no wonder climate alarmists, computer modelers, Green New Deal proponents, and wind turbine, solar panel, battery and concrete salesmen want to silence Happer and van Wijngaarden – or at least keep their work out of scientific journals. It’s also not surprising that China is happy to see the H&W science suppressed: its companies will be the ones selling us turbines, panels and batteries. Follow the science!

Via email

Pebble Mine project in Alaska dealt blow as Army Corps of Engineers determines it’s against public interest

It's not the role of the courts to determine what is in the public interest. That is the role of governments

The Trump administration on Wednesday effectively killed a contentious proposed mine in Alaska, a gold and copper prospect envisioned to be nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon and could fill an NFL stadium nearly 3,900 times with waste — all near the headwaters of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

The Army Corps of Engineers “concluded that the proposed project is contrary to the public interest” and denied a permit to build the Pebble Mine under both the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act, the agency said in a statement.

The rejection was a surprise. It’s at odds with President Donald Trump’s efforts to encourage energy development in Alaska, including opening up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and other moves nationwide to roll back environmental protections that would benefit oil and gas and other industries.

The Corps of Engineers also seemed to signal just a few months ago that Pebble Mine was on a fast track to approval, a reversal from what many had expected under the Obama administration.

But unlike drilling elsewhere in Alaska, the mine proposed for the southwestern Bristol Bay region could have negatively affected the state’s billion-dollar fishing industry. Conservationists and even Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., sounded the alarm on the project before the administration changed course again.

Alaska’s two Republican U.S. senators, who support oil and gas development and mining, hailed the rejection of the Pebble Mine permit.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the decision affirmed her position that it’s the wrong mine in the wrong place. “It should validate our trust and faith in the well-established permitting process used to advance resource development projects throughout Alaska. It will help ensure the continued protection of an irreplaceable resource — Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon fishery,” she said.

Sen. Dan Sullivan said he would remain an advocate for good-paying jobs derived from resource development. “However, given the special nature of the Bristol Bay watershed and the fisheries and subsistence resources downstream, Pebble had to meet a high bar so that we do not trade one resource for another,” he said. “Pebble did not meet that bar.”

The CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, the mine’s developers, said he was dismayed by the decision, especially after the corps had indicated in an environmental impact statement in July that the mine and fishery could coexist.

“One of the real tragedies of this decision is the loss of economic opportunities for people living in the area,” CEO John Shively said in a statement. The environmental review “clearly describes those benefits, and now a politically driven decision has taken away the hope that many had for a better life. This is also a lost opportunity for the state’s future economy.”

He said they are considering their next steps, which could include an appeal of the corps’ decision.

Solar and Wind Power Struggle as California Faces Blackouts

Rolling electric power blackouts afflicted roughly 2 million California residents in August as a heat wave gripped the Golden State. At the center of the problem is a state policy requiring that 33 percent of California's electricity come from renewable sources such as solar and wind power, rising to a goal of 60 percent by 2030. Yet data showed that power demand peaks just before the sun begins to go down, when overheated people turn up their air conditioning in the late afternoon. Meanwhile, the power output from California's wind farms in August was erratic.

Until this summer, California utilities and grid operators were able to purchase extra electricity from other states. But the August heat wave stretched from Texas to Oregon, so there was little to no surplus energy available. According to the San Jose Mercury News, California electricity grid operators warned in September 2019 that power shortages might become increasingly common when heat waves hit in the coming years.

California still has some natural gas power plants that can be ramped up to supply energy when renewable supplies fail. But "some folks in the environmental community want to shut down all the gas plants," Jan Smutny-Jones, CEO of the Independent Energy Producers Association, a trade association representing solar, wind, geothermal, and gas power plants, told The Mercury News in August. "That would be a disaster. Last night 60 percent of the power in [the California Independent System Operator electricity network] was being produced by those gas plants. They are your insurance policy to get through heat waves."

Union of Concerned Scientists analyst Mark Specht, by contrast, told NPR that "the solution is definitely not more natural gas plants. Really, if anything, this is an indication that California should speed up its investments in clean energy and energy storage."

An important fact is missing from this debate: California has been bringing the hammer down on a huge source of safe, reliable, always-on, non-carbon-dioxide-emitting electricity: nuclear power. In 2013, state regulators forced the closing of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, which supplied electricity to 1.4 million households. By 2025, California regulators plan to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which can supply electricity to 3 million households.

The problem of climate change, along with the blackouts resulting from the vagaries of wind and solar power, suggests that California should not only keep its nuclear power plants running but also build more innovative reactors designed to flexibly back up variable renewable electricity generation.




Friday, November 27, 2020

Joe Biden has said that he will use his first 100 days in the White House to roll back President Trump’s environmental orders and expand citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants

“I made a commitment,” Mr Biden told NBC News in his first interview as president-elect. “In the first 100 days I will send an immigration bill to the US Senate with a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people.”

He noted, however, that the Senate was likely to be controlled by Republicans, unless Democrats can win the two Georgia seats up for grabs early next year. “Some of it is going to depend on the kind of co-operation I can or cannot get from the United States Congress,” he said.

Mr Biden will not need congressional approval for another cornerstone of his initial agenda – undoing “damaging executive orders” signed by Mr Trump on environmental and climate issues.

He said that the Environmental Protection Agency watchdog had been “eviscerated” over the past four years.

The Great American Outdoors Act

This crown jewel of the Trump Administration’s environmental record will bring many benefits

Duggan Flanakin

To the surprise of most Americans, and the consternation of many in the “mainstream” media, Vice President Mike Pence highlighted the Trump Administration’s environmental record during the recent VP debate. Citing the President’s signing of the historic bill, Mr. Pence lauded the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) as “the largest investment in our public lands and public parks in 100 years.”

The Associated Press said the GAOA is the “most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century.” The National Parks Conservation Association called it “a conservationist’s dream.”

Harvard Business School professor Linda Bilmes agreed, calling the GAOA “the biggest land conservation legislation in a generation.” Bilmes, who served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton Administration, marveled that the Trump Administration won broad bipartisan support in a polarized Congress, after the President reevaluated his own stance on this groundbreaking environmental and conservationist initiative.

Bilmes explained that the new law has two major effects. First, the new National Park and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund will provide up to $9 billion over the next five years to address deferred maintenance issues in national parks, wildlife refuges, forests and other federal areas, with $6.5 billion earmarked specifically to the 419 National Park units. Second, the GAOA guarantees the statutory maximum of $900 million per year in perpetuity for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Bilmes explained that Congress has been stingy with parks funding, despite a doubling of annual park visitors since 1980 (excluding the COVID-marred 2020 season). Thanks to the GAOA, the $12 billion backlog of maintenance to repair roads, trails, campgrounds, monuments, fire safety, utilities and visitor center infrastructure will finally be addressed. Similarly, the LWCF, established in 1964 with an annual maximum authorization level of $900 million, has typically received less than half of that amount.

The flagship LWCF conservation program is paid for with royalty payments from offshore oil and gas production in federal waters. It helps fund the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management. It also provides grants to state and local governments to acquire land for recreation and conservation. Yet many self-described environmental advocates want to shut down offshore oil activities.

An early beneficiary of the GAOA is the state of California, which will benefit from GAOA funding that provides the 50% federal share of a new program aimed at reducing wildfire risks. Both California and the U.S. Forest Service will treat at least half a million acres of forest land per year under a 20-year plan for forest health and vegetation – by reducing the fuel buildups that lead to monstrous conflagrations.

The Agreement for Shared Stewardship of California’s Forest and Rangelands, lauded by President Trump and California Governor Gavin Newsom, is a joint state-federal initiative to reduce wildfire risks, restore watersheds, and protect habitat and biological diversity. Sadly, Congressional bickering delayed its passage such that it came too late to help mitigate this summer’s wildfires, which caused major damage to endangered and threatened species and their habitat in California and other Western states.

The California-federal agreement requires prioritizing public safety, using real science to guide forest management, coordinating land management across jurisdictions, increasing the scale and pace of forest management projects, removing barriers that slow project approvals, and working closely with all stakeholders: local and tribal communities, environmental groups, academics, timber companies and others. Additional activities under the agreement include recycling forest byproducts to avoid burning slash piles, improving sustainable recreation opportunities, and stabilizing rural economies.

Bilmes credited the strong bipartisan support (3 to 1 margins in both houses of Congress) to the political and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. She noted that in normal years park visitor spending contributes about $40 billion to the U.S. economy and supports nearly 350,000 jobs. The GAOA will give a huge shot in the arm to communities struggling due to the loss of tourism-related jobs and income, by creating over 108,000 new jobs for repairing park infrastructure, including lodges, trails, access roads and bridges in the adjacent communities.

Bilmes estimates that the American people value national park land, waters and programs at $92 billion per year – at least 30 times the annual budget they receive from Congress. Yet, like many critics of other Trump land management decisions, she fails to appreciate that reopening small sections of public lands with lower aesthetic value to income producing activities will provide the revenue needed to pay for the increased budgets for these national treasures.

Similarly, cutbacks in offshore oil and gas activities would drastically shrink the very federal revenues needed to pay $900 million per year to the LWCF, to support federal land management programs.

Critics of Trump policies also ignore the fact that the United States is reducing carbon dioxide emissions at an annual rate of more than 2% and has lowered emissions of criteria pollutants by 7% since the beginning of 2017, primarily because fracking is producing low-cost natural gas to replace coal in generating electricity, Mr. Pence pointed out during his debate.

Reducing wildfire infernos is another excellent way to reduce CO2 emissions, as well as real pollution like smoke and fine particulates (soot). Emissions from these forest fires are astronomical and can travel hundreds or even thousands of miles from the fires.

Pence also cited a record number of completed Superfund cleanups during the four years he and President Trump have been in office, along with a record number of recovered endangered species.

Reflecting the President’s view that parks are for the people, the Vice President also lauded the Interior Department’s opening of over 4 million acres of Fish and Wildlife Service lands for hunting and fishing, and relocating the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Grand Junction, CO, much closer to the vast majority of the vast federal lands it administers, nearly all in the western states.

Lastly, Pence cited the Modern Fish Act, signed in January 2019, which for the first time in federal law recognizes the differences between recreational and commercial saltwater fishing. The act also adds more appropriate management tools for policymakers to use in managing diverse federal recreational fisheries.

The popular legislation “provides an opportunity for significant, positive change on behalf of millions of recreational anglers who enjoy fishing in federal waters,” noted Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation president Jeff Crane.

Despite the bipartisan nature of these major accomplishments, and their importance to America and its magnificent natural heritage, media coverage of the GAOA signing made it quite clear that mainstream reporters were loath to give any credit to President Trump. That’s sad but not unexpected.

Whether acquiring more and more federal land is a good thing, in view of the often less than stellar way existing landholdings have been managed in recent years, only time will tell. But these new laws and joint federal-state-local-tribal land management initiatives are a solid step in the right direction.

Via email

Boris’s green agenda is just plain wrong

Our fearless leader has descended from the mountain with a 10-commandment plan for a green industrial revolution. At a cost of £12 billion, he will have all Britons driving electric cars powered by North Sea wind turbines and giving up their gas boilers to heat their homes with ground-source heat pumps. He will invent zero-emission planes and ships. This vast enterprise will create 250,000 jobs. I am a loyal supporter of the prime minister, but this Ed Miliband policy makes no sense any way you look at it. Here are 10 reasons why.

First, if it’s jobs we are after then spending £48,000 per job is a lot. Cheaper, as Lord Lawson put it, to create the same employment erecting a statue of Boris in every town. Anyway, it’s backwards: it’s not jobs in the generating of energy that count but jobs that use it. Providing cheap, reliable energy enables the private sector to create jobs for free as far as the taxpayer is concerned.

Second, he misreads how innovation works, a topic on which I’ve just written a book. Innovation will create marvellous, unexpected things in the next 10 years. But if you could summon up innovations to order in any sector you want, such as electric planes and cheap ways of making hydrogen, just by spending money, then the promises of my childhood would have come true: routine space travel, personal jetpacks and flying cars. Instead, we flew in 747s for more than 50 years.

Third, he is hugely underestimating the cost. The wind industry claims that its cost is coming down. But the accounts of wind energy companies show that both capital and operating expenditures of offshore wind farms continue to rise, as Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University and John Aldersey-Williams of Aberdeen Busines School have found. Wind firms sign contracts to deliver cheap electricity, but the penalties for walking away from those contracts, demanding higher prices from a desperate grid in the future, are minimal and their investors know it. Britain already has among the highest electricity prices for business in Europe because of the £10 billion a year that electricity-bill payers spend on subsidising the rich capitalists who own wind farms; raising them further will kill a lot more than 250,000 jobs.

Fourth, these policies will not significantly reduce the nation’s emissions, let alone the world’s. It takes a lot more emissions to make an electric car than a petrol one because of the battery. This is usually made in China. If the battery lasts for 100,000 miles – which is optimistic – and the electricity with which it is recharged is made partly with gas, then there is only a small saving in emissions over the lifetime of the car, according to Gautam Kalghatgi of Oxford University.

Fifth, the plan will make the electricity supply less reliable. Already this autumn there have been power-cut near misses and there was a bad blackout in 2019. Costly diesel generators came to our rescue, but keeping the grid stable is getting harder, and in both Australia and California, blackouts have become more common because of reliance on renewables. Smart meters that drain your electric car’s battery to help keep other people’s lights on may help. But if you think that will be popular, Boris, good luck, and wait till the lights go out or the cost of heating your home goes through the roof.

Sixth, Mr Johnson is depending on impractical technologies. Ground-source heat pumps can work, though they deliver low-grade heat and can’t cope on a freezing night. Air source heat pumps have not proved so far to be nearly as efficient as promised. They need electricity, make a noise and take up outside space that is not there in a terrace of houses. Forcing us to use compact fluorescent light bulbs, when LEDs were coming, proved a costly mistake.

Seventh, hydrogen is not an energy source; it first has to be made, using energy, then stored and transported. Making it from natural gas is expensive and generates emissions, but making it with electricity is vastly more expensive. Its minuscule molecules can slip through almost any kind of hole, so the natural gas pipe network is not suitable. Leaks will happen at hydrogen fuelling stations, as one did in Norway in June last year, resulting in a massive explosion.

Eighth, this industrial revolution is anything but green. To generate all our electricity from wind in the North Sea, taking into account the increased demand for electricity for heat pumps, electric cars and hydrogen manufacture, would require a wall of turbines 20 miles wide stretching from Thanet to John O’Groats, says Andrew Montford of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. The effect on migratory birds would be terrible.

Ninth, nobody is following Britain’s example. China has announced that its use of fossil fuels will not even peak till 2030. China has more coal-fired power now under development than the entire coal power capacity of the United States. It will use coal to make the turbines and cars and batteries we use, laughing all the way to the bank. The world still generates 93% of its energy from CO2-emitting combustion (coal, oil, gas and wood) and just 1.4% from wind and solar.

Tenth, while climate change is a real issue and must be tackled, Extinction Rebellion is simply wrong about the urgency. If it’s extinction they worry about, let’s tackle invasive alien species, responsible for most extinctions. By contrast, there is no confirmed extinction of a species due to climate change. Nor has global warming resulted in more or fiercer storms or droughts. The extremists’ claims otherwise simply ignore the scientific evidence. Emissions have so far increased crop yields and made all ecosystems greener.

Yes, we need to address the issue, but we would be better off funding research to bring down the cost of carbon capture, nuclear power and fusion. Nuclear is the one form of carbon-free energy that can generate reliable power from a tiny footprint of land. The reason nuclear electricity costs so much today is because we have made innovation in nuclear design all but impossible by devising a byzantine regulatory process of immense cost. Let’s reform that. Small, modular molten-salt reactors are an innovation within reach, unlike electric planes.

My fear is that we will carry out Boris’s promised 10-point plan, cripple our economy, ruin our seascapes and landscapes, and then half way through the 2030s along will come cheap, small, safe fusion reactors. The offshore wind industry, by then so stuffed with subsidies they can afford to lobby politicians and journalists even more than they do to today, will suck their teeth and say: “no, no, no – ignore the fusion crowd. We’re on the brink of solving the reliability issue, and don’t worry, the cost will come down eventually. Promise!”

Boris, this is not the way to the promised land, especially when the government is borrowing £300 billion because of covid. High-cost electricity will prevent the United Kingdom making a success of Brexit. It will bankrupt us in the short run, make us less competitive in the long run and not cut emissions much anyway.

Australia: Cheap, abundant gas cooks the green guilt industry

The conviction that global warming requires us to find new ways to burn other people’s money is hard-baked into the narrative of environmentalism.

Last week, the Grattan Institute took to cooktop shaming to make that case for switching to electricity. If you’re cooking with gas, we were told, you’re playing with fire.

Banning the installation of gas in new homes is “a prudent, no-regrets option” as a prelude to phasing out gas altogether.

“It may be painful for some in the short term,” Australia’s richest think-tank concedes, “but neither wishful thinking nor denial will serve us well.”

Installing electric cooking and water heating appliances adds $2500 to the price of a new house, and retro-fitting an existing house will cost $3800 more. What about the poor people? No problem. Electricity companies can pay for new electric appliances and recover the cost over time through additional electricity charges, says Grattan.

Electricity may one day be cleaner than gas, but to force a switch now would only increase emissions. Cooking with electricity is effectively cooking with coal for 60 per cent of the time and gas for another 20 per cent.

The incessant demand to commit to a target of net-zero emissions by 2050, if not sooner, ignores the fact that we don’t yet have the technology to get there. Pragmatism is an inadequate response to the apocalypse they insist is heading our way. It is tempting for a Liberal government to avoid the argument by making the pledge anyway. After all, Scott Morrison’s government will be in its 12th term before it has to deliver.

Yet a commitment to net-zero emissions in 2050 demands that we accelerate emissions reductions now, leading to the dangerous, knee-jerk responses of the kind advocated by Grattan.

Gas is a fossil fuel, ipso facto, it must be purged from our energy supply, or so the thinking goes. Hence Grattan’s expectation that gas will inevitably play a declining role in our energy mix, and we must start turning down the flame right now, whatever the cost.

The path to net-zero emissions will be revealed in the fullness of time and may or may not mean turning off the gas. It is bound to include offsets, such as the sequestration of carbon dioxide into soil where it can be put into productive use, producing better food, more productive farms, greater drought resilience and biodiversity.

The notion that the energy sector alone can achieve net-zero emissions is an assumption it has become heresy to deny. For some, the cost of over-ambitious emissions reduction targets is proof of their virtue.

Economic pain and environmental gain have become inextricably linked in the climate change narrative. Last year the same think-tank warned: “Australia will need to make faster, more expensive changes to get back on track.”

Yet the assumption that efficient technology costs more than the technology it replaces runs counter to our experience. A Honda Civic today costs roughly the same as new model did in 1973 but delivers twice as much power and lower emissions, thanks to investments in research and development in a highly competitive market.

For the past 50 years, however, the environmental debate has become shrouded in apocalyptic thinking and overlaid by puritanical guilt, led by people who doubt the power of free-range human ingenuity to deliver a better future. In the dull, zero-sum world of sustainability, anything that adds to the joy of human existence imposes a cost on the rest of nature.

Rational thinkers on the centre-right have abandoned the space, leaving the ironically named progressives in charge. The oil crisis that gave birth to the hatchback reinforced the conviction that excessive consumption was draining the world of energy and that economic growth should be curtailed.

Innovation in both car manufacture and oil exploration has since allayed the fears that peak-oil was just around the corner, but the anxiety lingers.

Grattan’s speculative assessment that the price of gas will make it too expensive to bring down the price of electricity or the cost of industrial production underpins its claim that it is yesterday’s fuel.

Yet the spot price of gas has fallen considerably in the east coast market since its peak early last year. Lower-priced offers from gas-powered generators in turn helped bring down wholesale electricity prices, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator.

The removal of moratoriums to unlock supply in NSW and Victoria, together with the expected arrival of re-gasification terminals in one or more east coast locations, will further bring down prices, together with government moves to introduce more market transparency and new investment in gas pipelines.

The prospect of cheap and abundant gas should calm the nerves of those concerned about greenhouse gas emissions. The renewable energy sources in which we have invested so heavily will at last be able to pull their weight supported by quick-fire gas, which Chief Scientist Alan Finkel describes as “the perfect complement to wind and solar”.

The impossible trifecta of energy that is cheaper, more reliable and greener at last seems possible, a win-win for people and the planet.

This what a rational environmental policy might look like if a rational approach was ever articulated. It is advancement through incremental improvement rather than by abolishing capitalism and starting again.

A Liberal approach to the environment sees no conflict between economic wellbeing and the environment. Indeed, it recognises that a strong economy is a precondition for environmental improvement and that attempting to reduce energy consumption by constraining supply is a race to the bottom.

Crucially, it avoids the conceit of perfect knowledge in a policy realm that is exceptionally complex. It does not attempt to pick winners or over-promise. It prefers, in the words of FA Hayek, “true but imperfect knowledge, even if it leaves much undetermined and unpredictable, to a pretence of exact knowledge that is likely to be false”.




Thursday, November 26, 2020

Preventing future forest infernos

Paul Driessen

The 2020 fire season is nearing its end. But monstrous wildfires continue to rage across America’s western states, devastating towns and habitats, and killing hundreds of people and millions of animals. Politicians and environmentalists continue to rage that climate change is the primary factor, allowing few responsible, commonsense forest management actions that could actually reduce the risks.

Manmade climate change is a convenient scapegoat, but it cannot be separated from natural climate fluctuations and effects. Moreover, even assuming fossil fuel emissions play a dominant role in the human portion of this equation – and even if the Pacific Northwest or entire USA eliminated coal, oil and natural gas – China, India and scores of other nations will not do so anytime soon.

And they will certainly be using fossil fuels to manufacture the wind turbines, solar panels and batteries envisioned by Green New Dealers – and to mine and process the raw materials those technologies require.

The key ingredient in these monstrous, devastating forest fires is fuel. A century of Smokey the Bear fire suppression, coupled with half-century bans on timber harvesting, tree thinning and even insect control has filled western forests with dense concentrations of brush, fallen branches, needles and leaves, skinny young trees and huge older trees – many of them dead or dying – ready to be turned into conflagrations under hot, dry summer and autumn conditions that prevail most years in California and other western states.

It’s a recipe for disasters like the 1871 Peshtigo Fire, 20 miles north of where I grew up in northeastern Wisconsin, on the very same day as the Great Chicago Fire. Blistering flames a mile high moved south at 100 mph, creating “fire tornados” that threw houses and rail cars into the air. Over a million acres of forest were obliterated in two days; up to 2,500 people died, many of them cremated into little piles of ash.

I also recall how American and British bombers deliberately turned Hamburg, Germany into an inferno in July 1943. The first waves of planes dropped “blockbuster” bombs that leveled arms factories and parts of the city known to have mostly wooden structures. They were followed in subsequent days by attacks with incendiary bombs, which turned the wood debris into a firestorm, with tornado winds up to 150 mph, and temperatures of nearly 1500 F. Operation Gomorrah killed over 40,000 people.

A few days ago, I picked up my latest issue of Wired magazine. Daniel Duane’s 12-page article “The fires next time” made a couple now-obligatory references to climate change, but was one of the most detailed and insightful articles I’ve read on the causes and nature of these horrific wildfires. He vividly explains why we are witnessing a “trend toward fires dramatically more catastrophic” than in the past.

Above all, the reason is fuel buildup. CalFire, he notes, has some 75 aircraft and 700 fire engines, and is very good at extinguishing thousands of wild-land fires annually. But CalFire has virtually no fuel-management authority and must simply watch the trees and other fuel get “more and more dense,” creating prime conditions for ever-worsening crown fires that US Forest Service scientist Mark Finney says are big because landscapes are full of tinder and long-burning, heavy fuels. Ditto in other states.

More trees of course generate more roots competing for the same water, further drying everything out. In California alone, this and the 2011-2016 drought and pine bark beetles killed 150 million trees!

Another key ingredient, Duane writes, is the simultaneous burning of many small fires (caused by multiple lightning strikes, eg) that combine light and heavy fuels over a large area, amid mild ambient winds. “As that broad area continues to burn with glowing and smoldering embers over many hours, the separate convective columns of all those many little fires begin to join into a single, giant plume.”

As hot air in the plume rises, air at its base is replaced by air “sucked in from all directions. This can create a 360-degree field of wind howling directly into the blaze ... oxygenating the fire and pushing temperatures high enough to flip even ... giant construction timbers and mature trees into full-blown flaming combustion. Those heavy fuels then pump still more heat into the convective column.... [which] rises ever faster and sucks in more wind, as if the fire has found a way to stoke itself.” The timbers, branches and entire trees become “firebrands” that can be carried high into the air, a mile or more from the primary fire, then dropped into timber stands and homes, igniting still more firestorms.

Smaller blazes can be controlled, even extinguished. But massive firestorms can be impossible to suppress, saving homes equally hopeless. The primary order of business with mass fires is getting people out of harm’s way, before escape routes are clogged, cars run out of gas, and walls of flame close in.

That means building more escape roads from communities through forests to safety, even in the face of environmentalist opposition and lawsuits. Roads are far less intrusive or harmful than conflagrations. Yet radical greens battle these roads, while praising these unnatural conflagrations as “nature’s way.”

People lived in these areas long before pressure groups, politicians and courts made conflagration conditions this horrific. Actions need to be taken now to prevent more deadly fire cataclysms. That has to begin with removal of diseased, dead and excessive trees and brush. It will take years, decades even, and a lot of effort and money. But failure to halt and reverse the buildup of fuel in our forests is undeniably irresponsible – and deadly. Apache Indian forestry programs prove sound management saves forests.

Blaming climate change is useless and irresponsible. It means waiting 30-50 years or more, just to see if China and India finally replace fossil fuels, perhaps with nuclear power – in the hope that reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide actually reduces climate change, droughts, extreme weather and infernos.

Policymakers, land management agencies and regulators, Native tribes, community associations, industry groups and less obdurate environmental groups should seek collaboration and cooperation, especially on forest management and tree thinning. This is already happening but needs to be expanded greatly.

Educational programs should teach homeowners how to harden and fireproof houses and other buildings against small to midsized fires – and teach judges and politicians the hard realities of modern fires. Above all, those with ultimately life-or-death decision-making authority must understand that the price of bans on timber harvesting and responsible forest management is too often measured in homes and habitats obliterated, wildlife and humans killed, soil organisms incinerated, soils washed away by rainstorms and snowmelts, and millions of acres denuded and desolate for decades.

Tougher building codes for new construction in these areas would save homes, heirlooms and lives. Roofs especially should be made of fireproof or fire-resistant materials. Special financing and low-interest loans would make such new homes and hardened existing homes and buildings more affordable.

Local, state and federal budgets are already stretched to their limits. Funding will have to be redirected from other programs. Another approach could require forestry work for welfare checks. Besides saving habitats and lives, that would build skills, self-esteem and strong work ethics, improve physical fitness, replace a sense of entitlement with a sense of accomplishment, and create connections and opportunities

Another source of funds could be billionaires like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who recently gave $791 million to climate activist groups, as part of his commitment to his $10-billion Earth Fund. Certainly, helping to stop these deadly fires – and the incalculable air pollution, soil erosion, and habitat and wildlife destruction they cause – would be one of the boldest and most effective actions anyone could take to protect Earth’s future, including the majestic at-risk forests in his own backyard.

The bottom line is so simple we shouldn’t even have to state it.

If we don’t act, nature will. We have created this massive fuel-for-fires problem. We can and must fix it. Either we thin out trees, or nature will – with devastating consequences. For people who claim to care deeply about saving our forests for Bambi, spotted owls and other beloved creatures, guaranteeing horrific infernos is quite literally a hellish way to demonstrate our love for Mother Earth.

Via email

Climate 21 Project: Transition Recommendations For Climate Governance and Action

A proposal by advisers to president-elect Biden's transition team calls for "decarbonizing surface transportation," immediate cuts in fossil fuel extraction on federal lands, and the eventual "net-zero" elimination of fossil fuels by 2050.

Remarkably, it is all based on an inaccurate premise: there is a "punishing toll of climate change" that requires dramatic cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases.

As readers of the CO2 Coalition's White Papers and congressional testimony in recent years know, both parts of this premise hinge on model speculation about the future rather than scientific analysis of actual data to date.

According to the data and analyses of the UN IPCC, emissions of carbon dioxide are responsible for no more than a quarter of the global warming of one degree since 1900, and there has been no statistically significant increase in rates of hurricanes, floods, droughts, sea-level rise and other damaging weather events. Methane emissions are only one-tenth as potent as carbon dioxide emissions, and even a doubling of methane levels over hundreds of years would not cause a measurable increase in global temperature.

Far from taking a "punishing toll," fossil fuels have driven global income and living standards, and as a result, life expectancy and health, to all-time highs. And carbon dioxide emissions have had a net positive impact on the economy and environment, re-greening the earth by boosting crop productivity by a third.

On the positive side, the transition proposal does adopt the very steps to reduce damage from wildfires outline by CO2 Coalition biologists earlier this year: forest management and controlled burns on public lands, which have been prohibited by a complex of laws and regulations.

Via email from The CO2 Coalition:

Biden Appoints Famous Jet Setter as Climate Change Czar

Former Vice President Joe Biden has released a first round of individuals he would choose for his Cabinet and other high profile administration positions. Former Secretary of State John Kerry is on the list and plans to serve as Biden's "Special Presidential Envoy for Climate."

"Former Secretary of State John Kerry will fight climate change full-time as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and will sit on the National Security Council. This marks the first time that the NSC will include an official dedicated to climate change, reflecting the president-elect’s commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent national security issue," the Biden team released Monday.

Kerry will be tasked with getting the United States back into Paris Climate Accord, which doesn't police the pollution of China, India or Russia, but does force American taxpayers to foot the bill.

The U.S. fully left the agreement in November and President Trump again explained why during the virtual G20 over the weekend.

Despite leaving the accord, the U.S. has reduced emission levels by more than required by the agreement.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) analyzed data and released a chart based on research by the 2018 BP Statistical Review of Global Energy and University of Michigan economist Mark Perry indicating that the United States achieved the largest decline in carbon emissions in the world for the 9th time this century. AEI reported that in 2017, U.S. carbon emissions decreased by more than 42 million tons. Despite departing from the Paris agreement, the U.S. significantly reduced its carbon footprint this year. This remarkable success can be attributed to substituting natural gas for coal. We’re upholding our end of the contract and we’re not even signees anymore.

Could we ever pull enough carbon out of the atmosphere to stop climate change? But it's all theory anyway

Only in theory

Nature has equipped Earth with several giant "sponges," or carbon sinks, that can help humans battle climate change. These natural sponges, as well as human-made ones, can sop up carbon, effectively removing it from the atmosphere.

But what does this sci-fi-like act really entail? And how much will it actually take — and cost — to make a difference and slow climate change?

Sabine Fuss has been looking for these answers for the last two years. An economist in Berlin, Fuss leads a research group at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change and was part of the original Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — established by the United Nations to assess the science, risks and impacts of global warming. After the panel’s 2018 report and the new Paris Agreement goal to keep global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) or less, Fuss was tasked with finding out which carbon removal strategies were most promising and feasible.

Afforestation and reforestation — planting or replanting of forests, respectively — are well known natural carbon sinks. Vast numbers of trees can sequester the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere for photosynthesis, a chemical reaction that uses the sun's energy to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen. According to a 2019 study in the journal Science, planting 1 trillion trees could store about 225 billion tons (205 billion metric tons) of carbon, or about two-thirds of the carbon released by humans into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution began.

Agriculture land management is another natural carbon removal approach that's relatively low risk and already being tested out, according to Jane Zelikova, terrestrial ecologist and chief scientist at Carbon180, a nonprofit that advocates for carbon removal strategies in the U.S. Practices such as rotational grazing, reduced tilling and crop rotation increase carbon intake by photosynthesis, and that carbon is eventually stored in root tissues that decompose in the soil. The National Academy of Sciences found that carbon storage in soil was enough to offset as much as 10% of U.S. annual net emissions — or about 632 million tons (574 million metric tons) of CO2 — at a low cost.

But nature-based carbon removal, like planting and replanting forests, can conflict with other policy goals, like food production, Fuss said. Scaled up, these strategies require a lot of land, oftentimes land that's already in use.

This is why more tech-based approaches to carbon removal are crucial, they say. With direct air capture and carbon storage, for instance, a chemical process takes carbon dioxide out of the air and binds it to filters. When the filter is heated, the CO2 can be captured and then injected underground. There are currently 15 direct air capture plants worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency. There's also bioenergy with carbon capture. With this method, plants and trees are grown, creating a carbon sink, and then the organic material is burned to produce heat or fuel known as bioenergy. During combustion, the carbon emissions are captured and stored underground. Another carbon capture trick involves mineralization; in this process, rocks get ground up to increase the surfaces available to chemically react with, and crystallize, CO2. Afterward, the mineralized CO2 is stored underground.

However, none of these technologies have been implemented on a large scale. They're extremely expensive, with estimates as high as $400 per ton of CO2 removed, and each still requires a lot of research and support before being deployed. But the U.S. is a good example of how a mix of carbon removal solutions could work together, Zelikova said: Land management could be used in the agricultural Midwest; basalt rocks in the Pacific Northwest are great for mineralization; and the oil fields in the Southwest are already primed with the right technology and skilled workers for underground carbon storage, she said.

Ultimately, every country will have to put together its own unique portfolio of CO2 removal strategies because no single intervention will be successful on its own. "If we scaled up any of them exclusively, it would be a disaster," Fuss said. "It would use a lot of land or be prohibitively expensive." Her research has shown that afforestation and reforestation will be most productive in tropical regions, whereas solar radiation differences in the more northern latitudes with more albedo (reflection of light back into space) mean those countries will likely have better luck investing in the more technological interventions, such as carbon capture and biomass extraction.

The need to deploy these solutions is imminent. The global carbon budget, the amount of CO2 humans can emit before the global temperature rises 2.7 F (1.5 C) above preindustrial levels, is about 300 gigatons of CO2, Fuss said.

"In recent years, we've emitted 40 gigatons," she said. Put another way, only a few years are left in that budget. A recent study in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that waiting even a few years from now may be too late if we are to meet the goal set in the Paris Agreement. Based on their climate model, the authors predict that even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases entirely, "global temperatures will be 3 C [5.4 F] warmer and sea levels 3 meters [10 feet] higher by 2500 than they were in 1850." To reverse climate change's effects, 33 gigatons of existing greenhouse gases must be removed this year and every year moving forward, the researchers said.

The reality, however, is these approaches are not ready and there's not a consensus on how to pay for them.




Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Boris would have banned steam engines

British prime minister Boris Johnson announced this week that he would make it illegal to sell petrol or diesel-driven automobiles from 2030, pushing the British into a fleet of electric cars. He proclaimed this would lead to a “green industrial revolution.” Fat chance! If Boris had been around in the 1780s, he would have had equally good “environmental” reasons for banning steam engines – and would thereby have snuffed out the real Industrial Revolution.

Britain’s most important problem, to an environmentalist 1784-Boris, is the sudden rise in the numbers of heavily polluting, noisy steam engines. Vast swathes of the countryside are being desecrated by the things. From a humble but modest role in pumping water out of mines, which they have had for 70 years (and few of 1784-Boris’s friends spend time in mining districts) they appear to be proliferating all over the place, in both towns and the countryside, with London especially blighted by their appalling dirt and smoke. Surely government can do something to regulate these menaces!

There is a further problem with steam engines, also. 1784-Boris’s climate scientists have calculated that global temperatures in the preceding 200 years have declined by about 1 degree on the new temperature scale pioneered by the Swedish scientist Anders Celsius. Londoners have taken to holding “frost fairs” on the frozen Thames every few years, but the first such fair was held only in 1608. Climate scientists have also theorized that the cooling effect of the sulphates released from coal fires and coal-burning steam engines are causing the problem. After all, widespread use of coal in domestic heating started quite suddenly in the second half of the 16th century and has spread ever more widely since; it makes sense to assume that the two developments were closely related, and the experts’ knowledge of sulphate chemistry has suggested a mechanism for such a relationship.

To 1784-Boris, there is too close a fit between the two timescales to be a coincidence. Global cooling, or “climate change” as he prefers to call it, is a menace that could wipe out civilization if it continued. On present trends, if coal usage continued to increase, global temperatures would drop another 4 degrees Celsius by 2000, which would be enough to destroy British agriculture and starve the rapidly growing British population. For Boris, the only solution is sharp restriction on coal burning, limiting domestic use of coal and banning dangerous new applications such as steam engines. The new-fangled economist Adam Smith has suggested a “sulphur tax” to reduce the use of sulphur-emitting coal, but Boris believes it is much more effective for the government to issue decrees than to rely on a complicated and inefficient “free market” to achieve necessary social goals.

1784-Boris is confident that even though the use of steam engines is growing, they are no more than peripheral to the British economy. The Dutch have developed windmill technology to a high level, using them to pump water out of mines. This could be done in Britain; the intermittent nature of wind power is not a problem, since if water accumulates, it can be pumped out when the next windy day occurs. Water-mill power also is used in the newly growing textile industry and seems perfectly satisfactory. Yes, Boulton and Watt are selling a few steam engines to that industry, but their engines appear to have only modest advantages over water-mill power, and they are far more difficult and indeed dangerous to work with. 1784-Boris has heard that James Watt is working on a steam engine with a condenser, which would be more efficient, and has patented some new ideas, but so far the advantages of steam engines are pretty marginal. Thus, the costs of a ban on steam engines are modest, while the environmental benefits are of great importance. All 1784-Boris’s friends, whose London town houses and country estates are made filthy and noisy by the new devices, will thank him for this new decree.

1784-Boris’s new regulation is relatively easy to enforce. There are only a few factories making steam engines, which can be forced to close, and the engines themselves are so noisy they can be heard half a mile away. The mines will adapt, though mines that have been using Newcomen engines since 1710 or so have a justified case for compensation, and some flood-prone workings will have to be abandoned. The textile business can easily continue with water-mill power, although its growth will be steady rather than spectacular.

In our timeline Britain eventually won the Napoleonic Wars, through its strong and growing economy, which brought tax and borrowing capacity that after 1809 was harnessed against French military power by Liverpool and Wellington. In the Boris-1784 timeline, Britain with its more sluggish economy would probably have lost that war. Win or lose, in the post-war depression the burdens of Britain’s debt would have become intolerable on an economy with no steam and little innovation. At that point economic collapse would have occurred and just as in Ireland thirty years later, starvation would have faced the rapidly increasing population, as Thomas Malthus predicted. The sufferers from the repeated famines of the 19th century, as British economic power went into decline, would never have known about the railways and steamships they would have lacked, because 1784-Boris halted the development of their motive power.

What this fable demonstrates is that the Industrial Revolution was by no means inevitable and would have been derailed by policies that were anything like Boris Johnson or other politicians pursue today. It took two centuries of remarkably good British economic policy to produce the Industrial Revolution, and 21st century economic policies would have prevented it. The “command and control” approach to economic policy, beloved of Gosplan bureaucrats, can destroy innovations and positive developments that the bureaucrat, cocooned in his Moscow dacha, knows nothing about.

If Boris Johnson wants to combat climate change, he should impose a carbon tax, like the “sulphates tax” that Adam Smith recommended to 1784-Boris in the myth above. With Smith’s sulphates tax, steam engine progress would have been retarded, but once truly superior steam engines appeared with James Watt’s condenser and high-pressure boilers, they would have overcome the economic hurdle of any plausible sulphates tax and would have produced the Industrial Revolution, if a few years behind schedule.

By forcing the adoption of electric cars rather than imposing a carbon tax, Boris Johnson is today substituting government fiat for a market mechanism, putting an absolute bar on some directions in which innovation might appear. Whether or not a particular social objective is sensible, regulation is always the most damaging way of attaining it. Far from causing a “Green Industrial Revolution” Boris Johnson may well be preventing a new Industrial Revolution from appearing, whether green or any other color.

Carbon dioxide levels are still at a record high despite factories closing, planes being grounded and energy use reducing during Covid lockdown

So could anything reduce them?

Levels of carbon dioxide in the world's atmosphere did not dwindle as a result of the widespread cessation of industrial activity throughout 2020, official data shows.

The coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close, grounded flights and saw people stay at home instead of venturing outside.

As a result, emissions of greenhouse gases, including CO2 and the more potent but less prevalent nitrous oxide and methane, dropped dramatically.

However, the World Meteorological organization (WMO) says this global drop of up to 7.5 per cent is insufficient to impact on the amount of CO2 already trapped in the atmosphere.

Scientists say several human activities are to blame for the soaring levels, including coal mining; oil and gas production; cattle and sheep farming; and landfills.

Stanford University researchers and the Global Carbon Project assessed emissions from 2010 up until 2017, the last year complete data was available.

It found that in 2017 Earth's atmosphere absorbed nearly 600 million tons of the colourless, odourless gas that is one of the most potent pollutants.

Methane traps almost 30 times more heat than the same amount of carbon dioxide and more than half of all methane emissions now come from human activities.

In 2019, the global average for carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere breached the threshold of 410 parts per million (ppm).

Before the Industrial Revolution, the average amount of CO2 in the atmosphere was around 278ppm, with fossil fuel burning, cement production and deforestation to blame as primary drivers for a 148 per cent spike.

This figure continued to rise in 2020 according to official data from the World Meteorological Organization.

The WMO's annual greenhouse gas bulletin looked primarily at the amount of greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere as of 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, but did include insight from data gathered already in 2020.

Preliminary estimates for this year indicate that as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, global annual emissions of CO2 fell by between 4.2 per cent and 7.5 per cent.

But these kinds of reductions will not cause the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to go down, the WMO warned.

Carbon dioxide levels will continue to go up, and while the rate of growth will be slightly reduced by the fall in emissions, it will have no more effect than the changes seen from year to year as a result of natural variability in the system.

Once released into the atmosphere from processes such as burning fossil fuels for power, transport and industry, as well as deforestation and agriculture, greenhouse gases trap heat.

'Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean for even longer,' said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.

Nitrous oxide levels increased by a THIRD over the past 40 years

Widespread use of nitrogen-based fertiliser is jeopardising ambitious climate targets and putting the world at risk of overshooting the Paris Agreement.

Common synthetic fertilisers, used by farmers to increase crop growth, produce huge amounts of nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas.

It is less prevalent than carbon dioxide, but is 300 times more potent as a contributor to global warming.

The dangerous gas depletes the ozone layer, which protects us from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun, and remains in the atmosphere for a century.

A landmark study has found human-induced emissions of the chemical have surged since the 1980s, increasing by 30 per cent over the past four decades.

Annually, humans now create 7.3 trillion grams (Tg) of nitrogen a year and more than half (3.8 trillion grams [3.8Tg]) comes directly from agriculture.

This figure is increasing every year at a rate of around 1.4 per cent, according to the data.

'The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago, when the temperature was 2-3°C warmer and sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now. But there weren't 7.7 billion inhabitants.'

The data shows annual emissions of carbon dioxide was about 410.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2019, up from 407.9 parts ppm in 2018.

In the last ten years, almost half (44 per cent) of all CO2 emitted into the atmosphere stayed there and was not absorbed by either land or sea.

'We breached the global threshold of 400 parts per million in 2015. And just four years later, we crossed 410 ppm,' says Professor Taalas.

'Such a rate of increase has never been seen in the history of our records. The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph. We need a sustained flattening of the curve.'

Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide also climbed to new highs in 2019, the annual greenhouse gas bulletin from the WMO showed.

Hybrid cars emit way more pollution than advertised

Top auto brands are getting smoked by environmental analysts who have found that their carbon emissions are much higher than what carmakers had reported.

The European group Transport and Environment (T&E), which campaigns for renewable energy in transportation, found three top-selling plug-in hybrid SUVs — BMW’s X5, Volvo’s XC60 and Mitsubishi’s Outlander — are emitting 28% to 89% more carbon dioxide than advertised, even under ideal road conditions.

“Plug-in hybrids are fake electric cars, built for lab tests and tax breaks, not real driving,” Julia Poliscanova, T&E’s senior director of clean vehicles, said in a press statement. “Governments should stop subsidizing these cars with billions in taxpayers’ money.”

Hybrid vehicles are those that combine a combustible fuel engine — one that is smaller than conventional cars — with an electric motor and rechargeable battery. The car is thus able to toggle between using electric power and gasoline. While plug-in hybrid car emissions are lower than those for gas or diesel vehicles, T&E found CO2 levels in real-world tests were typically two to four times what the auto brands reported.

These companies haven’t copped to the findings, according to Reuters: Volvo and Mitsubishi denied the results, while BMW declined to respond to its inquiry.

Last week, the European Union announced an emissions proposal that would narrow which cars can be deemed “green” vehicles. Under the new rules, hybrid vehicles, such as the three makes tested, would no longer be considered sustainable automobiles, beginning in 2026.

Despite a potential $7,500 vehicle tax credit up for grabs, Americans overall have been slow to adopt electric cars. Overall last year, only about 727,000 new partial- and all-electric cars were sold in the US, which is just over 4% of the 17 million total sales in new “light-duty” vehicles, including SUVs and small passenger trucks, according to, a nonprofit data resource, with statistics from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Sales of hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) about doubled between 2011 and 2013, from approximately 266,500 to 495,500 units sold, prompted in part by Tesla’s move to go public in summer 2010.

All-electric varieties lag far behind HEVs, which experts have claimed is a result of consumer concern over their viability for long-distance driving. In 2019, only about 241,000 all-electric cars sold, adding to the 1.4 million total since they were first introduced in 2010. Plug-in hybrid vehicles, like those studied by T&E, are a steppingstone between HEVs and all-electric, with a slightly larger battery that requires more juicing, but which make up the smallest share of the US market.

Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency released their new rules for US-based car manufacturers’ fuel economy standards. The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient vehicles rule requires carmakers to improve fuel efficiency in all cars, including hybrid electric and gas-powered, by 1.5% per year, to reach an average of 40.4 miles per gallon by 2026. These standards were recalibrated after an initial proposal, announced in 2012, would have required a 5% annual increase in fuel efficiency, for an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Australia: Why NSW power bills could surge by $400 a year under government's new 'electricity tax' to pay for renewable energy plan

Power bills could increase by $400 a year under the New South Wales government's energy roadmap, Mark Latham has warned.

The NSW One Nation leader slammed the plan to encourage $32billion of private investment in renewable energy projects by 2030 as a 'stitch up'.

The state government wants wind, pumped hydro and solar projects to replace four coal-fired power stations which are due to shut over the next 15 years.

Energy Minister Matt Kean says then plan - which will create Renewable Energy Zones in Dubbo and the south west - will cut household bills by $130 and small business bills by $430 a year between 2023 and 2040.

But Mr Latham fears bills may increase as the government plans to offer a minimum electricity price to companies that build the renewable projects.

If the electricity price were to fall below that level, the government would levy cash from providers who would temporarily increase household bills.

Mr Latham told Daily Mail Australia the plan represents 'guaranteed income for renewable energy companies and their lobbyists, paid for by electricity consumers.'

He described the plan as a new tax and criticised Mr Kean for intervening in the electricity market.

'He's planning personally to levy amounts on the electricity distributors that they pass on to consumers,' Mr Latham told Sydney radio station 2GB.

'So that's a new NSW electricity tax where the minister gets to levy the money on the distributors... it goes straight on to the electricity bill.

Why might power prices increase?
The NSW government wants wind, pumped hydro and solar projects to replace coal-powered electricity.

Under the plan the government will offer a minimum electricity price to companies that build the renewable projects through a Long Term Energy Services Agreement.

The government's consumer trustee will then sell the energy to retailers and companies, with any shortfall made up by enforced 'contributions' from distributors who would push up their prices for consumers.

The government says these payments will only be triggered if consumers are already benefiting from low energy prices - and they would be repaid once prices increase and the renewable projects are making cash again.

'We're talking huge amounts of money and probably power bills going up by $100 a quarter,' Mr Latham said, without explaining where he got the figure from.

The 59-year-old has vowed to oppose the plan, which the Coalition government introduced in early November with support from Labor and the Greens.

'I think we should slow this down and make sure we can guarantee to people the lights stay on and the prices come down,' he said. 'This is the whole future of the energy sector in NSW and they won't have a committee that's commonplace in other areas. 'It's a stitch up, it's a cover up and we're going to oppose it.'

Federal energy minister Angus Taylor also fears the plan will push up prices and has demanded to see the NSW government's modelling.

'I'm concerned about models and analysis including unrealistic assumptions that don't translate into the real world,' he said in a speech at The Australian Financial Review Energy and Climate Summit on Monday.

'The Commonwealth would like to see the modelling behind that policy. I'm confident that we can work through it, and NSW has indicated its strong intent to get to a sensible outcome.'

The Australian Energy Council warned the government's intervention may encourage too many energy assets to be built in places where they may not be needed. 'This would ultimately mean higher costs for households,' it said in statement.

Tony Wood, energy director at the Grattan Institute, said the plan takes risk away from investors and transfers them to consumers who would potentially foot larger bills.

The plan will support 12 gigawatts of renewable energy and two gigawatts of storage, such as pumped hydro, and reduce carbon emissions by 90 million tonnes to 2030.

Landholders are expected to pocket $1.5 billion in rent by 2042 for hosting new infrastructure.

More than 10,000 construction and ongoing jobs will be created by 2026, with an estimated 2800 ongoing jobs in 2030, the government says.

Coal-fired power made up 77 per cent of NSW's total electricity generation in 2019 - higher than the national average of 56 per cent - but four of the state's five plants will stop by 2035. Renewables made up 19 per cent.