Climate activists assure us that even if we don’t consider global warming a big problem, we should still support carbon taxes, renewable energy quota, and EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP). Such policies, we are told, will save thousands of lives, delivering billions of dollars in net benefits, by coincidentally reducing airborne concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
There are three main problems with this “co-benefits” argument. First, EPA’s own data show that total emissions of six principal air pollutants declined 62 percent since 1980 even though carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased by 14 percent. What’s more, PM2.5 concentrations declined by 34 percent just since 2000 (the earliest year for which national data are available). History refutes the claim that we need carbon taxes or climate regulations to clean the air.
Second, in the USA, today’s historically low PM2.5 levels likely pose no threat to human life, as UCLA Prof. James Enstrom and nine other experts argue a letter summarizing their work in the field. Among other points, the Enstrom team explain:
“No plausible etiologic mechanism by which PM2.5 causes premature death is established. It is implausible that a never-smoker’s death could be caused by inhalation over an 80 year lifespan of about one teaspoon (~5 grams) of invisible fine particles as a result of daily exposure to 15 µg/m³ [15 micrograms per cubic meter]. This level of exposure is equivalent to smoking about 100 cigarettes over a lifetime or 0.004 cigarettes per day, which is the level often used to define a never-smoker.
The notion that PM2.5 causes premature death becomes even more implausible when one realizes that a person who smokes 0.2 cigarettes/day has a daily exposure of about 750 µg/m³. If a 10 µg/m³ increase in PM2.5 actually caused a 0.61 year reduction in life expectancy, equivalent to the claim of Pope [one of the chief studies on which EPA relies], then a 0.2 cigarettes/day smoker would experience about a 45-year reduction in life expectancy, assuming a linear relationship between changes in PM2.5 and life expectancy. In actuality, never-smokers and smokers of 0.2 cigarettes/day do not experience any increase in total death rate or decrease in life expectancy, in spite of a 50-fold greater exposure to PM2.5. Furthermore, hundreds of toxicology experiments on both animals and humans have not proven that PM2.5 at levels up to 750 µg/m³ causes death.”
Third, even if we assume PM2.5 pollution in the USA poses mortality risks, EPA’s huge PM2.5 co-benefit estimates are implausible. As Anne Smith of NERA Economic Consulting explains, EPA illegitimately assumes the health benefits of PM2.5 reductions from concentrations already below the national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter are as certain as the benefits of reductions from concentrations above the NAAQS. That is inconsistent with the basic concept of the NAAQS program, which is to set concentration standards at a level “requisite to protect public health . . . allowing an adequate margin of safety.”
Once we factor in the lower probability of PM2.5 health benefits in areas where exposures are already below the NAAQS, the lion’s share of the Power Plan’s purported health benefits disappears.
Most people understand that our green planetary oasis in the immense universe is highly unusual in terms of the favorable conditions it offers for life on Earth. But from a long-term perspective, there are some troubling signs. The Earth’s internal temperatures are gradually cooling and less carbon dioxide is being naturally emitted into the atmosphere from sources within the Earth. Ice ages are becoming more severe with lower temperatures and declining levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).
These signs of an aging planet are troubling because they indicate Earth is very gradually becoming less accommodating for life. Fortunately, humans have come along and are capable of helping out–but only if they can understand the clues and take helpful actions based on them.
The easiest problem to alleviate is the long term gradual decrease in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which endangers the availability of this basic input to plant photosynthesis; in fact, humans may have already inadvertently implemented an interim solution. The ice age severity problem is more difficult to alleviate and appears to be a very serious problem from a longer term viewpoint.
So far humans are not doing very well even understanding the problems let alone taking actions that would alleviate them. In fact, the most outspoken group with regard to CO2 is taking actions that would make the situation worse. Fortunately, what they propose is very expensive and they will almost certainly ultimately prove unsuccessful in accomplishing their objectives. The same group generally refuses to consider anything that might actually help the ice age severity problem either.
The remainder of this post will largely discuss the easier of the two problems–keeping atmospheric CO2 above the starvation level for plants. It is easy to show what the problem is using what should be largely noncontroversial science. There is also arecent report by Patrick Moore discussing it, where a much more detailed discussion of the science can be found. CO2 levels in the atmosphere have been irregularly decreasing over geologic history and during the most recent ice age reached a low of about 180 ppmv. As discussed in JK Ward, plant growth was stunted because of low levels of an essential nutrient which is required for photosynthesis and thus for life on Earth. 150 ppmv, just 30 ppmv lower, appears to be the threshold of starvation for most plant life. Animals, including humans, would not be far behind if plants died from CO2starvation. Current atmospheric CO2 levels are about 400 ppmv, only about twice that at the depths of the last ice age.
So in terms of the long perspective of geologic history we are too close for comfort to the point where life on Earth will come to an end because of the lack of sufficient carbon dioxide in the air during future ice ages when atmospheric CO2 levels are much lower. This level probably will not be reached during the next ice age, but starving plants of a vital nutrient will hardly help the environment either. Plants appear to grow best in air at concentrations between 1,000 and 3,000 ppmv, where they have been for much of the last 300 million years with very favorable results for life on Earth and no proven or even signs of catastrophic adverse effects.
Humans Are the Only Likely Saviors of Life on Earth
By a historical accident, humans have recently started using these deposits of fossil fuels for a highly useful purpose–multiplying their capabilities to use mechanical energy and very recently even for supplementing human brain power. This has resulted in the transformation of human life from brutish to prosperous where it has been pursued in the developed world and more recently in some less developed countries. The resulting emissions of CO2 make it very inexpensive to recover and restore the carbon sequestered long ago since it requires no added effort beyond what humans have already been doing for their own self-interest. Humans are the only ones likely to do this recovery and restoration so vital to prolonging life on Earth. We need to encourage them to do this, not discourage them (such as through regulations or even a carbon tax that may end up endangering life on Earth if pursued long enough, widely enough, and vigorously enough).
The Main Obstacles Are the So-called “Environmentalists” and Their Political Supporters
But there are many humans in the developed world who oppose doing what would really save life on Earth from CO2 starvation even though they mistakenly refer to themselves as “environmentalists.” Most environmental organizations and some politicians in the developed world actually support efforts to restrict human-caused CO2emissions on the basis of faulty science. It can thus be said that these “environmental” organizations and politicians do not have the best interests of the environment and the planet at heart, either through a lack of understanding of geologic history, pursuit of self-interest (such as profits from building wind and solar generating units), or faulty reasoning.
In the last few years, many of them have even taken to calling carbon dioxide a “pollutant.” It is nothing of the sort. It is absolutely necessary for the future of life on Earth and thus for the sustainability of life on Earth as the “environmentalists” are prone to refer to outcomes they approve of. Some “environmentalists” even advocate leaving fossil fuels in the ground, which is the worst policy judgment possible in terms of preserving life on Earth. Fortunately, earlier life forms saved up some of the surplus carbon in the atmospheres of their day and it has come time to take advantage of their “foresight,” not locking it away.
So anyone that refers to CO2 as a “pollutant” or advocates leaving fossil fuels in the ground or reducing human emissions of CO2 to zero can immediately be categorized as anti-environmental in their views on one of the most important environmental issues of all time. How can you consider yourself an “environmentalist” if you advocate starving plants, which are the basis of the food chain for all life on Earth?
Given that most “environmental” organizations appear to have increasingly dug themselves into this anti-environmental viewpoint it may be necessary to found entirely new environmental organizations that actually adopt an environmentally friendly viewpoint on this very critical issue for the sake of everyone and every form of life on Earth. Some politicians, including many prominent members of the Democratic Party in the US and in many countries in Western Europe, have similar problems.
Three Important Explanations
Some may wonder about the fact that some organic compounds are pollutants and do cause harm to the environment if not adequately controlled, as they largely are in the US. Advocacy of reducing emissions of these pollutants are not covered by my comments even though these efforts can and have been pushed too far here in the US. My comments only relate to advocacy of reducing human-caused emissions of CO2, not other carbon compounds which are genuine man-made pollutants of concern.
A second possible issue is so-called ocean acidification, which some have alleged will occur if atmospheric CO2 levels are not drastically reduced. One of the many problems with this assertion is that marine calcifying organisms survived for hundreds of millions of years when atmospheric CO2 levels were at far higher levels, so this concern can be safely dismissed.
A third important footnote is that if there are indeed significant effects of CO2 emissions on global temperatures (there is considerable dispute on this topic, and it seems much more likely that the primary effect is of temperature changes on CO2 concentrations, not vice versa as the “environmentalists” claim), CO2 emissions may also reduce the effects of future likely new ice ages. This would also be of extreme importance for the future of life on Earth since life cannot easily defend itself against advancing continental glaciers. Defending Earth from a new ice age is much harder than maintaining adequate levels of CO2 in the atmosphere but needs to be addressed as well. The one thing that life on Earth does not need is lower global temperatures, which would only make future ice ages more damaging.
The very future of life on Earth, which is itself very rare and possibly even unique in the universe, depends on abandonment of the current prevailing “environmental” orthodoxy on the issue of human CO2 emissions, and those holding opposing views need to be confronted on this issue before they inflict any more of their catastrophically bad anti-environmental views on life on Earth. Their current views are surely environmentalism gone mad—in fact totally mad—since if continued they almost certainly will result in bringing life on Earth to an end when it is truly easy to postpone this fate for many many millions of years by continuing what is also in the best interests of humans and life on Earth as well.
This is truly a win-win situation. Humans need the energy fossil fuels can produce, and plants need the resulting CO2. The long term future of life on Earth literally depends on understanding and acting on this knowledge that plants need far higher levels of atmospheric CO2, not lower.
At the recent G20 meeting in Hangzhou, Presidents Obama and Xi announced that they would be ratifying the climate deal reached in Paris last December. Superficially, this is a big deal – if the two largest global emitters of carbon dioxide are prepared to sign up to this agreement, others will surely follow – but is it really going to make a difference?
The main reason this is significant is that, for the first time, it potentially brings all countries into a global agreement to reduce emissions. The Kyoto Protocol, the only previous binding commitment, included only industrialised countries and reflected the situation when the agreement was first drawn up, in 1997. However, it only entered into force in 2005, when sufficient signatories had finally ratified it.
The key stumbling block was the lack of ratification from the USA. Despite then-President Clinton’s strong support, ratification was never put to the vote in the Senate, due to overwhelming opposition. This was primarily due to the unwillingness of American legislators to burden their economy with commitments not shared by major emerging economies, in particular China.
Given China’s rapid growth and role as a major manufacturing and exporting nation, this is not surprising. Indeed, China overtook the US to become the world’s largest emitter of CO2 in 2007, just two years after the Kyoto Protocol finally came into force. And the growth has not stopped; by 2014, China was responsible for about double the total emissions of America and close to a third of the global total, albeit still with a significantly lower level of emissions per capita than in the US.
It has been clear during this entire period that the Chinese government would not compromise the country’s growth and development in the name of climate change mitigation, although it has naturally been happy for policy instruments such as the Clean Development Mechanism to be used to transfer international funds for its benefit. Now, though, as the economy is maturing, it suits President Xi to make a gesture that is good for public relations without harming future growth prospects.
So, on the eve of the G20 summit and despite continuing concerns about China’s regional expansionist policies, President Obama committed the US to ratification of the Paris agreement, following President Xi’s announcement of China’s willingness to do so (see, for example, Breakthrough as US and China ratify Paris climate deal). This caused relatively few ripples outside the world of climate change negotiations, and the topic overall merited only a paragraph towards the end of the final G20 summit communique:
“We reiterate our commitment to sustainable development and strong and effective support and actions to address climate change. We commit to complete our respective domestic procedures in order to join the Paris Agreement as soon as our national procedures allow. We welcome those G20 members who joined the Agreement and efforts to enable the Paris Agreement to enter into force by the end of 2016 and look forward to its timely implementation with all its aspects.”
The reason China is now happy to join the party is that it has already done the heavy lifting in terms of development of its primary energy infrastructure. Its annual per capita emissions (7.6 tonnes CO2) now exceed those of the EU (6.7t) (List of countries by carbon dioxide emissions). Having got to this stage, it would be normal to begin taking measures to increase energy efficiency and hence reduce emissions. Over a longer period, the country can also be expected to reduce its dependence on coal, particularly in light of the severe air pollution problems it faces.
So, in essence, China gets brownie points for doing what it would probably be doing in any case. The government plans to reduce energy intensity, have emissions peak by 2030, and have 20% of its energy from non-fossil sources by the same date. In fact, it already has a significant amount of both hydro and nuclear generating capacity and is continuing to build new reactors (and perhaps some in the UK before too long), so these things will tend to happen anyway. It also has a large fleet of wind turbines, but their overall contribution is low in percentage terms, can be accommodated quite easily and will thus also reduce emissions.
The US is in quite a different situation. It is a mature economy with the highest per capita global emissions (with the exception of the Gulf States and Australia). However, it is in the fortunate position of being able to replace coal by domestic shale gas, reducing both energy costs and emissions, so some emissions cuts can be made without suffering any competitive disadvantage.
On the other hand, ratifying the Paris agreement means not only international pressure to meet further targets, but a commitment to work towards ever more stringent policies designed to keep global warming to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. In the feisty world of American politics, it is quite possible to see the Senate refusing to ratify, whether next year sees President Clinton or Trump in the White House. Presidents may make promises, but they cannot always fulfil them.
If we assume that the US does ratify, it would only take the EU (including, for the time being, the UK) to do the same and the thresholds necessary for the agreement to come into force would be passed. But there is a clear impression at the moment that many governments are going along with this agenda in part because of peer-group pressure but without wholehearted enthusiasm to drive the process forward. In the short-termist world of politics, this is not surprising.
But what is more surprising is the ambition of the Paris accord to limit average temperature rise to 1.5° when there is little likelihood of emissions plateauing before 2030 and the 2° cap proposed at the failed Copenhagen summit in 2009 was believed to be increasingly unreachable. Since there is no acceleration apparent in the rate of reduction in emissions growth, this can mean one of two things. Either hope springs eternal that something can be pulled out the hat in the next decade or two, or there is tacit recognition that the climate sensitivity parameter (the increase in temperature from a doubling of carbon dioxide level) is unlikely to be as high as we have been led to believe. If it is the latter, we may be seeing some welcome reasonableness entering the debate.
For most of us, it’s back to work, with summer receding fast. With autumn and winter just round the corner, our thoughts will turn from keeping cool to keeping warm. Energy prices and security will be priorities once again.
The UK is one of a number of countries apparently set firmly on a path to rely increasingly on renewable energy sources. In practice, this means the focus is firmly on the electricity generating sector, where such a transition can in principle be made with least difficulty. Transport is rather more problematic, although the powers that be retain a touching faith in consumers beginning to buy electric cars in significant numbers. The other major sector – heating – is presently dominated by gas and looks set to continue so for many years to come. In the longer run, electricity again seems to be the energy of choice for this application.
The generating sector thus faces a two-stage problem. In the medium term, the current demand (maybe reduced to some extent by energy efficiency measures) has to be met securely while emissions are considerably reduced (for this is the aim of the entire exercise). If this can be done successfully, then the longer-term challenge is to increase generating capacity very significantly to power road transport and heat domestic and commercial property.
Meeting this bigger challenge would be infeasible if the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the present system cannot be successfully reduced without compromising security of supply, so the stakes are high. Before significant wind and solar energy generating capacity had been installed, the grid was balanced relatively easily by ensuring enough power stations were ready to increase or decrease their contribution at the right time. Since conventional and nuclear sources are dependable – despatchable, in industry jargon – problems would tend to arise only in exceptional circumstances, when demand was very high and a number of breakdowns had occurred.
Most renewable energy is not despatchable, however. Solar farms produce quite predictably, but only during daylight hours and with an output that varies during the day. The output of wind farms is forecastable to a degree, but varies in a wide range over both short and long timescales. So, whatever we hear reported about the contribution of renewables on a given day or over a whole year, this is meaningless when it comes to meeting the essential aim of supplying electricity across the whole country 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
Somewhat surprisingly, National Grid’s new executive director, Nicola Shaw, does not seem to regard this as a problem. According to a BBC report, smart energy revolution ‘could help to avoid UK blackouts’. Ms Shaw, despite her undoubted experience in management (her previous role was as chief executive of HS1) is not an engineer (she has a BA in Modern History and Economics and a Masters in Transport) and will have to rely on advice from experts on such matters, so the optimism apparently runs deep in the organisation.
To be fair, demand management is not seen as the complete answer: “Ms Shaw agreed that more investment in gas-fired power was needed, but argued that between 30% and 50% of fluctuations on the electricity grid could be smoothed by households and businesses adjusting their demand at peak times.” Nevertheless, it has a major role in NG thinking, and yet the efficacy of automatic switching off of domestic appliances is still something of an unknown factor.
In the meantime, we know that peak demand will always come in the early evening period during winter. Even if fridges, washing machines and water heaters are switched off, many people will put the kettle on and cook their evening meal. There is no output from solar panels, and when high pressure areas bring cold, calm conditions, wind output is also minimal. This could result in extended power cuts most winters unless sufficient conventional capacity was available on standby.
Others have also concluded that there may be a degree of complacency to the NG view. For example, the GMB union (which represents power workers), pulls no punches: DSR is ‘fanciful nonsense’ says union. It calls the National Grid ‘naively complacent’ for placing its faith in demand side management. It also slams the use of consumers’ money to compensate companies for interruption of their supply a ‘bonkers policy that only a natural monopoly would dare to implement.’
A more measured but equally damning opinion comes from a new report published by the Scientific Alliance: An examination of National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios. This study was written by two highly experienced industry professionals – Capell Aris and Colin Gibson – and concludes that current plans will almost certainly lead to severe blackouts. The established supply security criterion, pre-privatization, was for there to be a grid supply failure in no more than four years in a hundred. To meet this standard up to 2025, between six and 16 new gas-fired power stations would have to be built.
Despite this, National Grid and the government seem to be satisfied that there will be no serious problems in the short to medium term. Maybe they have been encouraged by recent winters where, despite warnings of historically low margins of generating capacity, only localised, weather-related blackouts have occurred. But we have enjoyed a series of mild winters and there is no guarantee that we will be so lucky in coming years. Even a single stationary high pressure system could bring a very cold few days and lead to supply failures in an otherwise warm season.
The energy security situation could quickly become the country’s number one priority in such circumstances and cast real doubt on the wisdom of current strategy for the sector. Crisis focusses minds wonderfully, but how much better if the reality of the situation was grasped before the lights go out.
New York Adopts “Clean Energy” Standard Myron Ebell
New York’s Public Service Commission on 1st August officially adopted Governor Andrew Cuomo’s, “Clean Energy” Standard, which will require that 50% of the state’s electricity be produced from renewable sources by 2030. At the same time, the commission required the state’s utilities to subsidize three nuclear reactors in order to keep them in operation.
New York’s 50% renewables by 2030 target is the same as California’s. Vermont and Hawaii are the only states with more ambitious goals.
Ratepayer subsidies for the nuclear plants are estimated to be $965 million the first year and could total $7.6 billion in twelve years. The money will be used to upgrade the three plants and keep them in operation.
Some environmental groups criticized the nuclear subsidies. Alex Beauchamp of Food and Water Watch said, “New York needs a true clean energy revolution to move the state to 100% renewable energy, but the billions announced today to bail out an old, dangerous, and unprofitable technology make that revolution even more difficult.”
According to Crain’s New York Business, “Members of the state’s Public Service Commission … said they understand the concerns of those opposed to nuclear power. But they said the state’s use of fossil fuels would actually grow if the plants don’t continue to operate.”
Given New York’s already high electric rates, I was surprised to learn that the state still has any energy-intensive businesses, but the Business Council of New York State put out the following statement from Darren Suarez: “With today’s action, it is clear the Public Service Commission has failed to properly evaluate the significant costs associated with the Clean Energy Standard. This failure will cost New York State businesses billions of dollars and put current and future New York manufacturing jobs, and jobs in other energy-intensive sectors, in mortal danger.”
Brown Launches Ballot Initiative to Protect Climate “Legacy” Marlo Lewis
Legislative efforts to extend California’s climate policies beyond 2020 hit a snag this week, but Governor Jerry Brown vowed through his top aide, Nancy McFadden, that he “will continue working with the Legislature to get this done this year, next year, or on the ballot in 2018.”
Brown’s term ends in 2018. With carbon allowance sales fetching only 1 percent of expected revenues in the May 2016 auction, and with the state’s emission-reduction targets after 2020 still undecided, Brown’s “legacy” as a climate policy leader is in doubt.
The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, AB 32. which requires California’s greenhouse gas emissions to decline to 1990 levels by 2020 and authorizes the State’s cap-and-trade program, clearly implies that the governor and legislature are to decide “how to continue reductions of greenhouse gases after 2020.” In other words, absent new legislation, the California Air Resources Board, which administers AB 32, has no authority to increase the stringency of the cap-and-trade program.
Brown is pushing the legislature to pass an expanded AB 32 requiring California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Moreover, he wants the Legislature to approve the measure by a two-thirds supermajority.
The reason: The State is using cap-and-trade revenues to fund various spending projects, including a portion of the $64 billion LA-San Francisco bullet train. However, California Proposition 26 requires a two-thirds supermajority vote of the Legislature to enact new fees or taxes. A California appellate court is now reviewing litigation in which petitioners argue the State’s use of auction sales as tax revenue is “unconstitutional” because the Legislature approved the cap-and-trade program by only a simple majority.
Brown’s backstop strategy, as reported in the LA Times, Sacramento Bee, SFGate.Com, Reuters, and Scientific American, is a ballot initiative campaign. If a supermajority of the Legislature fails to enact the 40-by-30 plan, he will ask voters to approve a ballot measure authorizing the program.
Brown has already registered a finance committee, “Californians for a Clean Environment,” to mount the ballot initiative campaign.
Here is an analysis and some wonderful background information on the much feared “fatal” tipping point of +2°C. As a matter of fact, The Eemian epoch was at its warmest about 120,000 years ago. It was some +3°C warmer than the Holocene “Climate Optimum”, only about ~8000 years ago.
“Our current beneficial, warm Holocene interglacial has been the enabler of mankind’s civilization for the last 10,000 years. The congenial climate of the Holocene spans from mankind’s earliest farming to the scientific and technological advances of the last 100 years.
When considering the scale of temperature changes that alarmists anticipate because of Man-made Global Warming and their view of the disastrous effects of additional Man-made Carbon Dioxide emissions, it is particularly useful to look at climate change from a longer term, century by century or a millennial perspective.
The profile of our current Holocene epoch with temperature averages century by century set against the maximum of the past Eemian epoch and the predictions of Catastrophic Global Warming alarmists this century.
The much vaunted and much feared “fatal” tipping point of +2°C would only bring Global temperatures to the level of the very congenial climate of “the Roman warm period”.
If it were possible to reach the “potentially horrendous” level of +6°C postulated by Warmists, by the inclusion of major positive feedbacks from additional water vapor in the atmosphere, that extreme level would still only bring temperatures to about the level of the previous Eemian maximum.
The Vostok and EPICA Antarctic ice core records show that there have been 5 interglacial periods in the last 450,000 years, they have varied both in temperature intensity and duration. On occasions some earlier interglacial periods were significantly shorter than the 10,000 year norm. These climate changes can be seen in the overlaid Vostock and EPICA Ice Core records from the Antarctic.
The periods of glaciation and Interglacials show a fairly regular pattern. The Antarctic based EPICA and Vostok Ice Cores above mostly show good accord for the last 200,000 years. But earlier there seems to be a similar pattern but with some significant time displacement in the period between 200,000 and 450,000 years ago. Those two Antarctic records are not so well coordinated during the recent Holocene period.
Warm Interglacials seem to last roughly 10,000 years and the intervening periods of full encroaching glaciation persist for some 100,000 years or more in between.
Prior to the Holocene epoch a period of deep encroaching glaciation had persisted for the previous 100,000+ years. Such glaciation meant that a mile high ice sheet covering New York and much of the currently inhabited Northern hemisphere. That glaciation was preceded by the Eemian interglacial period. The Eemian epoch was at its warmest about 120,000 years ago. It was some +3°C warmer than the Holocene “Climate Optimum”, only about ~8000 years ago.
Paul Beckwith has a masters degree in laser optics, which he has somehow parlayed into being a “Climate System Scientist” to spread alarmism about the climate system.
But his post “Unprecedented, Jet Stream Crosses Equator” suggests he knows little of meteorology, let alone climate.
A “jet stream” in the usual sense of the word is caused by the thermal wind, which cannot exist at the equator because there is no Coriolis force. To the extent that there is cross-equator flow at jet stream levels, it is usually from air flowing out of deep convective rain systems. That outflow often enters the subtropical jet stream, which is part of the average Hadley Cell circulation.
There is frequently cross-equatorial flow at jet stream altitudes, and that flow can connect up with a subtropical jet stream. But it has always happened, and always will happen, with or without the help of humans. Sometimes the flows connect up with each other and make it look like a larger flow structure is causing the jet stream to flow from one hemisphere to the other, but it’s in no way unprecedented.
We’ve really only known about jet streams since around WWII…one of my professors, Reid Bryson, was one of the first to advise the U.S. military that bombers flying to Japan might encounter strong head winds. The idea that something we have been observing for only several decades on a routine basis (upper tropospheric winds in the tropics) would exhibit “unprecedented” behavior is rather silly.
I especially like this portion of Paul’s post:
“We must declare a global climate emergency. Please consider a donation to support my work..”
“I’ve been a solar physicist for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” says Richard Harrison, head of space physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire.
He shows me recent footage captured by spacecraft that have their sights trained on our star. The Sun is revealed in exquisite detail, but its face is strangely featureless.
“If you want to go back to see when the Sun was this inactive… you’ve got to go back about 100 years,” he says.
This solar lull is baffling scientists, because right now the Sun should be awash with activity.
It has reached its solar maximum, the point in its 11-year cycle where activity is at a peak.
This giant ball of plasma should be peppered with sunspots, exploding with flares and spewing out huge clouds of charged particles into space in the form of coronal mass ejections.
But apart from the odd event, like some recent solar flares, it has been very quiet. And this damp squib of a maximum follows a solar minimum – the period when the Sun’s activity troughs – that was longer and lower than scientists expected.
“It’s completely taken me and many other solar scientists by surprise,” says Dr Lucie Green, from University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory.
The drop off in activity is happening surprisingly quickly, and scientists are now watching closely to see if it will continue to plummet.
“It could mean a very, very inactive star, it would feel like the Sun is asleep… a very dormant ball of gas at the centre of our Solar System,” explains Dr Green.
This, though, would certainly not be the first time this has happened.
During the latter half of the 17th Century, the Sun went through an extremely quiet phase – a period called the Maunder Minimum.
Historical records reveal that sunspots virtually disappeared during this time.
Dr Green says: “There is a very strong hint that the Sun is acting in the same way now as it did in the run-up to the Maunder Minimum.”
Mike Lockwood, professor of space environment physics, from the University of Reading, thinks there is a significant chance that the Sun could become increasingly quiet.
“It’s an unusually rapid decline,” explains Prof Lockwood.
“We estimate that within about 40 years or so there is a 10% to 20% – nearer 20% – probability that we’ll be back in Maunder Minimum conditions.”
The era of solar inactivity in the 17th Century coincided with a period of bitterly cold winters in Europe.
Londoners enjoyed frost fairs on the Thames after it froze over, snow cover across the continent increased, the Baltic Sea iced over – the conditions were so harsh, some describe it as a mini-Ice Age.
And Prof Lockwood believes that this regional effect could have been in part driven by the dearth of activity on the Sun, and may happen again if our star continues to wane.
“It’s a very active research topic at the present time, but we do think there is a mechanism in Europe where we should expect more cold winters when solar activity is low,” he says.
He believes this local effect happens because the amount of ultraviolet light radiating from the Sun dips when solar activity is low.
This means that less UV radiation hits the stratosphere – the layer of air that sits high above the Earth. And this in turn feeds into the jet stream – the fast-flowing air current in the upper atmosphere that can drive the weather.
The results of this are dominantly felt above Europe, says Prof Lockwood.
“These are large meanders in the jet stream, and they’re called blocking events because they block off the normal moist, mild winds we get from the Atlantic, and instead we get cold air being dragged down from the Arctic and from Russia,” he says.
“These are what we call a cold snap… a series of three or four cold snaps in a row adds up to a cold winter. And that’s quite likely what we’ll see as solar activity declines.”
So could this regional change in Europe have a knock-on effect on for the rest of the world’s climate? And what are the implications for global warming?
In a recent report by the UN’s climate panel, scientists concluded that they were 95% certain that humans were the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s, and if greenhouse gases continue to rise at their current rate, then the global mean temperature could rise by as much as 4.8C.
And while some have argued that ebbs and flows in the Sun’s activity are driving the climate – overriding the effect of greenhouse gas emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that solar variation only makes a small contribution to the Earth’s climate.
Prof Lockwood says that while UV light varies with solar activity, other forms of radiation from the Sun that penetrate the troposphere (the lower layer of air that sits above the Earth) do not change that much.
He explains: “If we take all the science that we know relating to how the Sun emits heat and light and how that heat and light powers our climate system, and we look at the climate system globally, the difference that it makes even going back into Maunder Minimum conditions is very small.
“I’ve done a number of studies that show at the very most it might buy you about five years before you reach a certain global average temperature level. But that’s not to say, on a more regional basis there aren’t changes to the patterns of our weather that we’ll have to get used to.”
But this weather would not be the only consequence of a drawn out period of inactivity, says Dr Green.
“If the Sun were to get very quiet, one of the few things that would happen is that we’d have very few displays of the northern lights. They are driven by solar activity, and we’d miss out on this beautiful natural phenomenon,” she explains.
However, there could be positive effects too.
“Solar activity drives a whole range of space weather, and these are ultimately effects on the electricity networks, on satellites, on radio communications and GPS on your sat-nav,” she explains.
And while scientists cannot discount that the random bursts of activity may still occur, calmer periods of space weather would help to maintain the technological infrastructure that we rely so heavily on.
While the full consequences of a quietening Sun are not fully understood, one thing scientists are certain about is that our star is unpredictable, and anything could happen next.
“This feels like a period where it’s very strange… but also it stresses that we don’t really understand the star that we live with.” says Prof Harrison.
“Because it’s complicated – it’s a complex beast.”
The Heartland Institute published a very revealing article about Leftist shock jock Naomi Klein who just published a new anti-capitalst screed entitled This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Essentially, Ms. Klein admits that the issue of climate change (formerly known as global warming) is not about science but really about overthrowingcapitalism.
“Our economic model is at war with the Earth,” writes Klein. “We cannot change the laws of nature. But we can change our economy. Climate change is our best chance to demand and build a better world.”
The Heartland article goes on to say:
For the author, this completely boring, run-of-the-mill flight delay became a flight of fancy, inspiring her new work. This flight delay, she reasoned, was evidence of climate change. Who cares, she added, if we know that the solar cycles impact the planet, even more than CO2 emissions ever could. Science is not the point, but it makes for a great alibi. “The really inconvenient truth is that it’s not about carbon—it’s about capitalism. The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better,” she writes.
Another motivational moment for Klein, a single mother, happened when she was reading a children’s book to her son. The story was about a moose. She worried that the young lad would “never seen a moose” in his life. Then, reading another children’s book, this one about bats, she worried that the boy would “never see a bat.” Her overly emotional reactions to everyday things — plane delays, reading bed time stories to junior — are something that she feels must motivate us all to give up our way of life.
I am sure Ms. Klein has no problem traveling by plane, car, or train in order to promote herself or her publications. If global warming is not about science then I guess, in Klein’s mind, her promotion without regard for her carbon footprint is justified since if people like her are successful then her emissions won’t matter. Yet she has no problem enjoying all of the benefits of capitalism while condemning it in word but not deed. However, those of us on the side of civilization and reason owe people like Klein a debt of gratitude for their honesty. Naomi Klein is open about what environmentalists deny or refuse to admit and the greens probably cringe every time she opens her pathetic mouth.
Ms. Klein isn’t the first to communicate the Left’s blunt honesty about climate change. During October of last year, PJMediaposted this revealing article soon after a climate change event in Oakland, California. The article reveals a strong far Left presence at the ceremony during September 21st. Here is a video of the keynote speaker taken at the gathering:
Transitioning toward a completely nuclear-free clean energy system for electricity, heating, and transportation is not only possible and affordable; it will create millions of good jobs, clean up our air and water, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.
OK, let’s see what that means: no fossil fuels, no nuclear, undoubtedly no or little hydro. What’s left? Basically wind and solar. Sure enough, there’s this:
We will act boldly to move our energy system away from fossil fuels, toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal because we have a moral responsibility to leave our kids a planet that is healthy and habitable.
And don’t get the idea that Bernie is alone in these fantasies. In the same March speech where she said “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Hillary also added that her energy policy would “bring economic opportunity—using clean, renewable energy as the key—into coal country.”
Can anybody around here do basic arithmetic? These ideas can’t possibly add up unless the government subsidies necessary to induce the development of wind and solar power are treated as completely costless free money. Government as the infinite source of costless free money — actually that’s the essence of progressivism, so I don’t know why I should have expected anything else from these guys.
Over at the Manhattan Institute, Robert Bryce is out with a new report titled “What Happens To An Economy When Forced To Use Renewable Energy?” Of course, the answer to the question is that so-called “renewable energy” is much more expensive than the fossil fuel alternatives, and the extra costs necessarily have to get piled on the population somewhere or other — in higher electricity prices, in higher taxes, in lost jobs or economic opportunities, or something else. The world “leaders” (if we want to call them that) in so burdening their populations are the big countries of Europe, so we can assess the consequences of these policies by comparing the experience of those countries since they started down this road to our own experience. Really, it’s an unmitigated disaster, particularly in the economic burdens imposed on the lower-income portion of the population. To take just a few examples from Bryce’s report:
Since the EU adopted its Emissions Trading Scheme in 2005, electricity prices in Europe have increased at about double the rate of increase in the U.S. — 63% in Europe vs. 32% in the U.S.
But the increases have been far more dramatic in the countries that have intervened the most in their energy markets: “During 2008–12, Germany’s residential electricity rates increased by 78 percent, Spain’s rose by 111 percent, and the U.K.’s soared by 133 percent.”
“In 2016 alone, German households will be forced to spend $29 billion on renewable electricity with a market value of $4 billion—more than $700 per household.”
“Germany’s energy minister has warned that the continuation of current policies risks the ‘deindustrialization’ of the country’s economy.”
Spain until recently was famous for the most aggressive promotion of wind and solar of all European countries. How has that worked out? “[T]he country’s electric utilities have accumulated a $32 billion deficit that must now be repaid, by adding surcharges of about 55 percent to customers’ bills. High energy costs are only adding to Spain’s economic woes. During 2004–14, Spain’s GDP grew by just 0.6 percent per year, on average, and the country’s unemployment rate now stands at about 21 percent.”
Meanwhile, at the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, John Droz today links to an archived 2014 post by a guy named John Weber titled “Prove This Wrong — Wind Makes Zero Sense.” If you think that wind energy is infinitely clean and free, this post is filled with lots of data and many pictures that show the extent to which the production of wind energy relies on a massive underlying fossil-fuel infrastructure. The post kicks off from a 2009 proposal from Stanford Engineering Professor Mark Jacobson to provide 50% of the world’s electricity by 2030 by the simple strategy of building lots of wind turbines. According to Jacobson (who thinks it is a good idea), it would take 3.8 million of the turbines at 5 MWe each to reach the 50% level. Current humongous wind turbines are only about 2.5 MWe each, so it would take more like 7.6 million of the smaller ones. Bernie thinks that all power (not just half) should be provided this way, so make that 15.2 million! Then put aside for the moment that wind turbines only work the far-less-than-half the time when the wind blows at the right speed. Also put aside the big transmission losses from moving the electricity from where the wind blows to where the electricity is used. Anyway, Weber’s post just focuses on the large and really unavoidable use of fossil fuel energy in building all these wind turbines.
When you see these things from a distance in the countryside, it’s hard to realize how truly gigantic they are. Weber gives the following statistics for just one 2.5 MWe wind turbine: tower height – 100 meters (328 feet); total height to top of blade – 485 feet; total weight – 2000 tons (!), mostly of steel and concrete. (Source: Kansas Energy Information Network here.) Here’s a picture of the base of a 2.5 MWe turbine under construction, with some men in the picture to give a sense of the scale. That’s about 45 tons of steel re-bar:
That base is soon to be filled with a pour of about 1200 tons of concrete. Then you attach the 328 foot tower. The tower comes in two sections. Here’s a picture of the smaller (approx. 120 foot) section arriving on a 208 foot long truck:
To state the obvious, the whole idea of wind turbines is a non-starter without the enormous underlying fossil-fuel-powered infrastructure to make and deliver the steel, concrete and other materials. Here is a 2014 post from the Energy Collective acknowledging the same point.
Then there’s air travel — has anyone figured out a way to do that with wind power? Ocean shipping? Theoretically, with enough batteries, you could do all-electric cars with wind power. You can buy a Tesla for around $75,000 today. But don’t worry, the government has plenty of free money lying around to subsidize that down until the price is competitive with the evil fossil-fuel powered vehicles.