Saturday, August 30, 2014

New paper finds climate change is explained by...fractals

 A Mandelbrot multifractal which sorta kinda looks like the blade of a hockey stick, followed by a "pause"

A paper published today in Theoretical and Applied Climatology finds the global monthly temperature anomalies over the past 162 years from 1850-2012 are "surprisingly" "well-described" by a simple mathematical model of fractals with multiple exponents, so-called "multifractals." Multifractals can be used describe complex nonlinear phenomena in the real world, including chaos:

"A multifractal system is a generalization of a fractal system in which a single exponent (the fractal dimension) is not enough to describe its dynamics; instead, a continuous spectrum of exponents (the so-called singularity spectrum) is needed.[1]
Multifractal systems are common in nature, especially geophysics. They include fully developed turbulencestock market time series, real world scenes, the Sun’s magnetic field time seriesheartbeat dynamics, human gait, and natural luminosity time series. Models have been proposed in various contexts ranging from turbulence in fluid dynamics to internet traffic, finance, image modeling, texture synthesis, meteorology, geophysics and more. The origin of multifractality in sequential (time series) data has been attributed, to mathematical convergence effects related to the central limit theoremthat have as foci of convergence the family of statistical distributions known as the Tweedie exponential dispersion models[2] as well as the geometric Tweedie models.[3] The first convergence effect yields monofractal sequences and the second convergence effect is responsible for variation in the fractal dimension of the monofractal sequences.[4]
From a practical perspective, multifractal analysis uses the mathematical basis of multifractal theory to investigate datasets, often in conjunction with other methods of fractal analysis and lacunarity analysis. The technique entails distorting datasets extracted from patterns to generate multifractal spectra that illustrate how scaling varies over the dataset. The techniques of multifractal analysis have been applied in a variety of practical situations such as predicting earthquakes and interpreting medical images."

According to the IPCC, only man-made CO2 can possibly explain the global temperature record since 1950. However, IPCC models are unable to model natural variability including ocean oscillations, solar amplification mechanisms, and internal variability, and thus these factors cannot be excluded as possible causes. The fractal model as described in this study might be a potential way to model natural internal variability of the climate system, and suggests that internal variability alone could account for climate change since 1850, without any contribution from man-made CO2.

Could multifractals be another cause for the "pause?"

Multifractal characterization of global temperature anomalies

The global monthly temperature anomaly time series for the period 1850–2012 has been investigated in terms of multifractal detrended fluctuation analysis (MF-DFA). Various multifractal observables, such as the generalized Hurst exponent, the multifractal exponent, and the singularity spectrum, are extracted and are fitted to a generalized binomial multifractal model consists of only two free parameters. The results of this analysis give a clear indication of the presence of long-term memory in the global temperature anomaly time series which causes multifractal pattern in the data. We investigate the possible other source(s) of multifractality in the series by random shuffling as well as by surrogating the original series and find that the probability density function also contributes to the observed multifractal pattern along with the long-memory effect. Surprisingly, the temperature anomaly time series are well described by the two-parameter multifractal binomial model.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Analysis finds California 'solar' plant reduces CO2 emissions at cost of \$1,800 per ton

A cost/benefit analysis posted at the German Skeptical Science site finds Ivanpah, the world's largest "solar" power plant, not only burns through a lot of birds, it inefficiently burns through a lot of fossil fuels and money as well. Ivanpah uses the ancient technology of firing steam boilers, which are far less efficient and generate higher emissions of CO2 & actual air pollutants than a modern gas turbine plant.

According to the analysis

Did anyone bother to run these numbers before this \$2.2 billion taxpayer-loan-guaranteed boondoggle was built?

Solar power plant in the desert burns birds ... and Gas ... and a lot of money

August 26, 2014 | From  |
As a way to replace fossil fuels with "natural" source, the solar thermal energy, is heated by concentrated sunlight in the water and the steam thus generated with generators produces electricity. It sounds clean and inexpensive at first glance.Finally, no CO2 emissions fall and the sun sends you know, if at all, only a very small bill. Right?
Wrong, but in sequence.
In California's Mojave Desert, about 50 kilometers south of Las Vegas , is the Ivanpah solar power plant. The commissioned in February this year, investment focused using mirrors sunlight on three solar towers, which is produced in this water vapor, are driven by steam turbines to generate electricity. With a rated capacity of 392 MW, the plant is the world's largest solar thermal power plant. However, this figure can not be compared with the rated power of conventional power plants, including the solar power plant can only produce electricity when the sun shines. And the production is following the path of the sun, at noon significantly higher than in the morning or evening. The annual production of the three generators is given as 1,080 GWh . This is equivalent to 2,800 full load hours, which is less than the value that an offshore wind power plant is usually attained.
Low power for a lot of money
Are outstanding at the flagship project not only the size and rated power, but also the construction cost 2.18 billion dollars.These are \$ 5.5 billion per gigawatt. For comparison, a gas power plant will cost approximately one billion dollars per gigawatt power rating less than a fifth . If one can expect that incorporates a gas power plant with the same rated power over the year produce more than three times the current amount,
It can be seen therefore, quite clearly, economically it is not a solar power plant. But who is already considering the filthy lucre, when it comes to protecting the environment and to conserve fossil fuels.
Where - the already relativized with the environment, when compared to the enormous land consumption of such a system with the conventional power plants. And you must not be pronounced bird friend . It has been found that is quite fast in operation that focuses sunlight to produce steam and is strong enough to grill birds in flight. And these seem to be attracted literally from the solar system, because the bright light of the mirror attracts insects. The birds fall with singed wings to the ground have to get on the staff of the facility nicknamed "Streamers". Because of the smoke plume, they strutting in the crash behind him. (Impressive images of burns, there are, among others here ).
Estimates of the number of birds, characterized let their lives every year for the supposedly good thing widely. The operators go out of about 1,000 animals, Environmentalists fear up to 28,000. Otherwise come in so many dead birds per area or per megawatt hour at most wind farms in the immediate vicinity of SPAs.
Natural gas as a backup
Also, the conservation of resources is not everything intact eco-world. If the sun does not even seem sufficient, in the Ivanpah power plant backup is provided, in which the lack of solar power is supplemented by the burning of natural gas.And so it looks like you have but a little overrated on the part of operators, the power of the sun. To compensate for this error has BrightSource Energy , the operating company, now applied for the California government to be allowed to use more natural gas for heating . This would imply additional CO2 emissions by 95,000 tons per year. Overall, 35 percent of the electricity would then not derived from solar energy, but from natural gas.
Now if one takes into consideration nor that the efficiency of the system in low 28.7% is, therefore, less than half of a modern gas and steam power plant, it quickly becomes clear that this green flagship project in the desert in California especially is one, A resource and money-wasting green window dressing.
Cover of Aioannides [ GFDL   or CC-BY-SA-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
The solar power plant has cost 2,018 million dollars . Adopted at a depreciation period of 20 years and 3% interest arising therefore capital costs of \$ 135 million per year . Maintenance and operation hit with \$ 67 per kilowatt of rated power and year to book, so makes further \$ 26.3 million.
35 percent of the electricity shall as seen above for regular operations are generated with gas. With an efficiency of 28 per cent to 1,080 GWh * 35% will be divided by the efficiency of 28%, that requires 1,350 GWh of natural gas. In California, the MWh of natural gas currently costs about 18 euros ( here and here ). The annual gas bill is thus 25.3 million dollars. This gives total annual costs of good 186 million dollars. Assuming that the operator also wants to make something and a profit margin of 8% stipulates a one comes to 201.5 million dollars total cost of 1,080 gigawatt hours of electricity. This calculated:
Production costs in the amount of 18.6 cents, or 14.2 euro-cents per kWh
If we make the same calculation for a gas power plant (CCGT) power plants on results, at the same conditions:
Power plant costs: \$ 390 million
+ interest repayment: \$ 26.4 million per annum
operation and maintenance: \$ 7,100,000 pa
gas costs (60% efficiency): 98 Wed \$ pa
MWh per annum (8000 full load hours): 3,136,000
. Production costs including 8% margin: 3.4 cents, or 2.6 euro-cents per kWh
Interesting is also a comparison of CO2 emissions , as to their reduction it is supposed to go above all. The "clean" solar power plant consumes 1.25 kWh gas per kWh of electricity. The combined cycle power plant requires 1.67 kWh of gas for the same amount of electricity. From this perspective, the "solar power plant merely an inefficient gas-fired power plant which is much more expensive with solar support.
A kWh of gas produces about 200 g CO2 emissions. The one produced per GWh of electricity with the solar power plant thus covered 1.25 times 200 tonnes = 250 tonnes CO2. A combined cycle power plant emits the same amount of current 1.67 times 200, ie 334 tons of CO2.
A GWh of electricity from the solar power plant will cost 186,000 dollars, from the combined cycle power plant 34,000 dollars. The cost difference of 152,000 at a CO2 saving of 84 tonnes of CO2 equivalent cost of 1,800 dollars per saved ton CO2. Has the good are 1360 euros, roughly as much as a ton of CO2 avoided by photovoltaics in 2004 in Germany at record high feed-in tariff of 54 cents per kWh cost.
Related:
Perhaps a better use for Ivanpah: Harnessing the power of man-made CO2 back-radiation

New paper shows equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures were about the same in 1930's as end of 20th century

A paper published today in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology reconstructs sea surface temperature changes since 1874 from corals located in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Data from the paper shows temperatures around ~1930 were about the same as at the end of the 20th century, and only ~0.25C warmer than in ~1885 [shortly after the end of the Little Ice Age] near the start of the reconstruction.

According to the authors,
"The interannual and decadal variability in Clipperton coral...demonstrates strong coherence to the [natural] Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the El NiÃ±o/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) with reduced ENSO variability from 1920 to late 1930s and enhanced variability in the late twentieth century."
The reconstruction is also compared to instrumental sea surface temperature observations [most of which were made with crude measurement methods and questionable adjustments] which show warming of 0.5C-0.75C over the same time-frame, potentially indicating an upward bias of man-made observations in comparison to a uniform proxy temperature reconstruction. Where have we seen that before?

 Top graph is the coral proxy temperature reconstruction, with added red horizontal line to show temperatures were approximately the same around 1930 as at the end of the record, and only ~0.25 warmer than in ~1885. Second graph shows 2 instrumental records, which do have issues.

Investigation of sea surface temperature changes from replicated coral Sr/Ca variations in the eastern equatorial Pacific (Clipperton Atoll) since 1874

Highlights

Multi-coral composite Sr/Ca-derived SST demonstrates improved SST reconstruction.
Advocate reproducibility method to discern possible anomalous coral records.
Eastern Pacific coral Sr/Ca records indicate strong coherence to ENSO and PDO.

Abstract

Sub-seasonally resolved and replicated coral Sr/Ca time series at Clipperton Atoll (10°18′N, 109°13′W) in the eastern Pacific are assessed as a sea surface temperature (SST) proxy in this region with small seasonal SST variability. The composite coral Sr/Ca time series is a partially replicated record of three live and one sub-modern colony of Porites lobata extending back to 1874. Large inter-colony coral Sr/Ca offsets equate to relative SST differences of 0.6 to 4.3 °C and limit the ability to reconstruct absolute SST changes. Moreover, the replication method revealed a 12-year section of growth in one colony where mean Sr/Ca was anomalously low (~ 1 °C higher SST) relative to the other colonies without evidence of diagenesis or other significant skeletal alterations. The presence of this anomalous interval supports the need for multi-coral Sr/Ca replication in specific sites or regions. The Clipperton Composite Sr/Ca anomaly record is significantly coherent (r = 0.71–0.76, p < 0.001) with gridded instrumental SSTs but with larger amplitude decadal variance that appears to more accurately represent actual SST variability at Clipperton. The amplitude of the secular warming trend during the last century at Clipperton is 0.3 to 0.6 °C larger (~ twice as large) than the trend in the poorly “ground-truthed” instrumental SST records for the region. The interannual and decadal variability in Clipperton coral Sr/Ca demonstrates strong coherence to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the El NiÃ±o/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) with reduced ENSO variability from 1920 to late 1930s and enhanced variability in the late twentieth century.

New paper shows ice mass stable to increasing over most of Antarctic ice sheet

A paper published today in Earth & Planetary Science Letters evaluates snow and ice-mass changes in Antarctica using both satellite altimetry [Envisat] and gravimetry [GRACE] between 2003-2010. The data shows most areas of the ice sheet are stable to increasing in ice mass, including the East Antarctic ice sheet, which alone contains over 80% of the total ice mass of Antarctica. The Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers in West Antarctica, which overlie geothermal heat sources are found to be losing ice, but represent relatively small regions of the ice sheet. The entire Dronning Maud Land north coast of Antarctica was found to have increasing snow accumulation.

The changes shown appear to be highly regional and/or related to known geothermal sources, rather than more uniform changes as would be expected from global warming.

Antarctic sea ice extent has recently hit record highs, but that too is being [falsely] blamed upon global warming. Climate models falsely claimed Antarctic sea ice would decrease, and that Antarctic sea ice would decrease more than Arctic sea ice.

 Top graph is satellite altimetry, bottom is gravimetry [measurement of gravity] from GRACE. Red areas are increasing ice mass, blue areas losing ice mass, white areas no change.

Snow- and ice-height change in Antarctica from satellite gravimetry and altimetry data

We combine GRACE and Envisat data to examine snow and ice-mass changes in Antarctica.
We account for leakage effects in surface-mass rates estimated using GRACE solutions.
We estimate regional change in air and ice content of the Antarctic Ice Sheet surface.
Estimated snow accumulation rates agree well with predicted surface-mass balance rates.

Abstract

We combine the surface-elevation and surface-mass change derived from Envisat data and GRACE solutions, respectively, to estimate regional changes in air and ice content of the surface of the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) between January 2003 and October 2010. This leads, upon certain assumptions, to the separation of the rates of recent snow-accumulation change and that of ice-mass change. We obtain that the height of ice in Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers sectors decreases (≤−15.7 cm/yr) while that in the Kamb glacier sector increases (≥5.3 cm/yr). The central part of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is mostly stable while the whole Dronning Maud Land coast is dominated by an increase in snow accumulation. The Kemp land regions show an ice-mass gain that accounts for 67–74% of the observed rates of elevation change in these regions. A good agreement is obtained over 68% of the investigated area, mostly in the East AIS, between our estimated rates of snow accumulation change and the predicted rates of the monthly surface mass balance derived from a regional atmospheric climate model.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New paper describes another solar amplification mechanism that affects low clouds

A paper published today in Geophysical Research Letters finds another potential solar amplification mechanism by which tiny changes in the solar wind affect clouds and pressure [geopotential height anomalies] in the lower troposphere.

The authors find this new mechanism to be distinct from previously described solar amplification mechanisms involving
"downward propagation of atmospheric effects to the lower troposphere from the stratosphere due to solar-variability-driven mechanisms involving ultra-violet radiation or energetic particle precipitation."
The newly described solar-wind-driven amplification mechanism is also distinct from the solar-wind-driven mechanism of Svensmark's cosmic ray theory of climate, and adds to many other potential solar amplification mechanisms described in the scientific literature.

We use NCEP/NCAR reanalysis data to estimate the altitude and timelag dependence of the correlation between the interplanetary magnetic field component, By, and the geopotential height anomaly above Antarctica. The correlation is most statistically significant within the troposphere. The peak in the correlation occurs at greater timelags at the tropopause (~6–8 days) and in the mid-troposphere (~4 days), than in the lower troposphere (~1 day). This supports a mechanism involving the action of the global atmospheric electric circuit, modified by variations in the solar wind, on lower tropospheric clouds. The increase in timelag with increasing altitude is consistent with the upward propagation by conventional atmospheric processes of the solar-wind-induced variability in the lower troposphere. This is in contrast to the downward propagation of atmospheric effects to the lower troposphere from the stratosphere due to solar-variability-driven mechanisms involving ultra-violet radiation or energetic particle precipitation.

WSJ: The Obama administration talks about global warming as the world burns

Six Threats Bigger Than Climate Change

The Obama administration talks global warming as the world burns.

By SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO

Aug. 28, 2014 8:02 p.m. ET   THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Secretary of State John Kerry said during his January 2013 confirmation hearings that he would be a "passionate advocate" on climate-change issues, and he's living up to that promise. In a speech this month in Hawaii, Mr. Kerry called climate change "the biggest challenge of all that we face right now." Not 10, 20 or 100 years from now—right now.

If only Mr. Kerry were right. Unfortunately, America faces much bigger immediate challenges and threats than climate change. Our enemies around the world are intent on harming us—right now. America's secretary of state should worry more about them and less about the Earth's temperature decades from now.

US Secretary of State John Kerry

Here's a list of a few challenges, all of which pose a greater threat to the world than climate change. It might help the president and his colleagues understand why Mr. Obama's foreign-policy approval rating is about 36%, according to an August poll by Gallup.

• Iraq is a greater challenge than climate change. While the president now likes to pretend that he didn't force a total withdrawal of U.S. troops, Americans remember his 2008 campaign promise to do exactly that. When the U.S. leaves a vacuum, others will fill it. The barbaric Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, is trying to build a base of operations in Iraq and Syria from which to attack the U.S. and its allies. The recent beheading of American journalist James Foley showed how serious ISIS is about "drowning" our nation in blood, as the group said in the video of the murder posted on YouTube.

• Afghanistan. The administration says it still intends to pull out the remaining 30,000 troops by the end of 2016. If it does, the country will quickly become a terrorist haven once again. As with Iraq, the timetable seems to be mostly about the political calendar. The Obama administration seems to have lost the will to win. The terrorists have not.

• Russia. President Obama was so intent on "resetting" U.S. relations with the Kremlin that he telegraphed a lack of resolve. President Vladimir Putin has only become more aggressive. That's led to Russian troops in Ukraine and Russian-supplied weapons shooting a passenger plane out of the sky.

• An Iranian nuclear weapon. America's enemies have shown they are content to stall for time, while President Obama gets distracted. That's what's happening as the president continues to negotiate indefinitely on Iran's illicit nuclear program. An Obama administration desperate to strike a deal is likely to strike a bad one. It could leave in place an enrichment program that would be a pathway to a nuclear-armed Iran.

• Syria. It has been more than three years since President Obama said the time had come for President Bashar Assad to step aside. The administration drew a "red line" on the use of chemical weapons, then did nothing when Assad crossed that line last summer. ISIS already has strongholds in Syria, while the Free Syrian Army desperately needs more U.S. assistance.

• North Korea. The North Koreans continue to test nuclear weapons. They have held multiple tests of missile technology designed to reach the continental U.S. President Obama has done nothing at all about this.

The White House has said its foreign policy rule is "don't do stupid stuff," but putting climate change ahead of global threats fails that simple test. The United Nations will hold yet another conference on climate change next month, while the world burns.

The greatest threat to Americans "right now" is not climate change
. The greatest threat is people with the intent and capacity to do us harm—and the president's failure to lead the fight against them. Mr. Kerry's fixation on climate change is one reason America's friends no longer trust us and our enemies no longer fear us. The world is growing more dangerous as a result.
Dr. Barrasso, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Wyoming

_____________________________________________

Kerry's "biggest challenge of all that we face right now":

Fake-Nobelist in 'ethical bind' about telling 'the whole truth' on AGW is Inducted into California Hall of Fame

Infamous global cooling & warming alarmist Steven Schneider, a winner of the 2007 fake-Nobel Peace Prize, is among those to be inducted in 2014 into the California Hall of Fame. After switching from an ice age alarmist to a catastrophic global warming alarmist over a mere 4 year period, Schneider stated in an interview that he had a 'double ethical bind' about telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth about alleged anthropogenic global warming.

Schneider may not cast as large of a shadow in the man-made global warming alarmist crowd as such luminaries as Al Gore and James Hansen, but Schneider has earned a special place in the hearts of man-made global warming skeptics everywhere when he told Discover Magazine in October, 1989:
On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.
Schneider tried unsuccessfully to put that genie back in the bottle for years, and his words will live forever in the alarmist Hall of Shame.  The Schneider segment is in the [video below], and his role in the show is to share his opinion on whether or not it would be wise to take measures to stop the predicted coming ice age, or more specifically, using nuclear power to loosen polar icecaps, and helping sea ice melt by covering it with black soot.

On the TV show In Search Of...The Coming Ice Age, Stephen Schneider wonders whether mankind should intervene in staving off a coming ice age.
Schneider:
Can we do these things? Yes. But will they make things better? I’m not sure.  We can’t predict with any certainty what’s happening to our own climatic future.  How can we come along and intervene then in that ignorance?  You could melt the icecaps.  What would that do to the coastal cities? The cure could be worse than the disease. Would that better or worse than the risk of an ice age?
It’s the interaction between people and climate that worries me the most, because with everyone jammed into countries, locked into national boundaries, a change in climate means a redistribution of where the rain is, where the growing seasons are. My worst fear is that the climate could induce a change in some country that could be devastating to their local survivability, and that would lead them to desperate acts that can drag everybody else down.”

*****************************

Stephen H. Schneider to be Inducted into California Hall of Fame
Governor Jerry Brown has announced the 8th class of inductees into the California Hall of Fame, which includes a friend and a hero of mine, the late Dr. Stephen H. Schneider. A brilliant scientist and Stanford professor, Stephen was the strongest champion on climate change in California, and maybe the planet. It was in 1972 that Stephen first alerted the public to the dangerous consequences of global warming. As a leader in the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with Al Gore and other IPCC colleagues.
Stephen developed groundbreaking models demonstrating the interrelatedness of diverse processes such as ocean dynamics and cloud changes. He had an extraordinary talent for effectively communicating complex scientific material to general audiences, and he advocated forcefully for action from world leaders. Dr. Schneider provided expert advice to every presidential administration since Richard Nixon. I was honored to contribute a chapter on the fight to pass California's Clean Car Law in his last published book.
Dr. Schneider joins a distinguished cohort of scientists, athletes, performers, activists, explorers and entrepreneurs in the California Hall of Fame, people who have transcended the boundaries of their field and made lasting contributions to the state, nation and world. An abbreviated list includes John Muir, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Ansel Adams, Dolores Huerta, CÃ©sar ChÃ¡vez, Frank Gehry, Julia Morgan, Sally Ride, Chuck Yeager, Leland Stanford, Harvey Milk and the Packard Families.
This year's inductees include Kareem Abdul Jabar, Joan Didon, Francis Ford Coppola and activists Charlotta Bass, Fred Ross, Sr., and Mimi Silbert. We treasure their contributions to bettering our lives and expanding our vision of the possible.
-email received today from California State Senator Fran Pavley

Ice Age Schneider vs. Catastrophic Global Warming Schneider:

“The dramatic importance of climate changes to the world’s future has been dangerously underestimated by many, often because we have been lulled by modern technology into thinking we have conquered nature. This well-written book points out in clear language that the climatic threat could be as awesome as any we might face, and that massive world-wide actions to hedge against that threat deserve immediate consideration.” Stephen Schneider, Back cover endorsement, Lowell Ponte, The Cooling: Has The Next Ice Age Already Begun? Can We Survive It (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1976).
“In the early 1970s, the northern hemisphere appeared to have been cooling at an alarming rate. There was frequent talk of a new ice age. Books and documentaries appeared, hypothesizing a snowblitz or sporting titles such as The Cooling. Even the CIA got into the act, sponsoring several meetings and writing a controversial report warning of threats to American security from the potential collapse of Third World Governments in the wake of climate change.” Stephen Schneider, Global Warming: Are We Entering the Greenhouse Century? (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1989), p. 199.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Biofuels & Renewable Energy: Destroying Nature in Order to 'Save' It

Notable & Quotable: On Biofuels and Nature

The renewable energy paradigm requires an unprecedented industrial reengineering of the landscape.

Aug. 27, 2014 6:38 p.m. ET   THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Will Boisvert writing at thebreakthrough.org

On the face of it, bioenergy would seem to embody the ecological vision: an energy source rooted in the soil, attuned to the seasons, and governed by life's cycling rhythms of growth, decay, and reuse. But today, that expression of the ecological vision is destroying nature in order to save it. From the production forests of Germany to the rainforests of Southeast Asia to the American Midwest, we are using millions of square miles of land for crops to feed our cars and power plants that could be used to feed people or become wilderness.
As the scale of the carnage has become evident, a growing number of environmentalists have turned against biofuels. But the change of heart about present generation biofuels hasn't stopped their rapid expansion. Biofuels represent one of the fastest growing wedges of the renewables pie. Germany's heavy investments in solar and wind get most of the attention, but 29 percent of its renewable electricity comes from burning woody biomass in power plants. Throw in liquid biofuel production and wood-fired space heating and biomass provides 38 percent of Germany's non-fossil-fueled energy.

Half of Germany's timber harvest is now burned for fuel
, and 17 percent of its arable land is used to grow energy crops for biodiesel, ethanol, and biogas production, a proportion that may rise to one third by 2020. The rest of Europe is also turning to biomass heating and electricity generated in refitted coal plants as an easy way to meet renewable energy mandates, using millions of tons of domestic and imported wood. Energy derived from ethanol in the United States far outstrips the power generated by the wind and solar sectors.

The growing reliance upon biofuels as public commitments to renewables have grown is neither an accident nor a coincidence. The renewable energy paradigm requires an unprecedented industrial reengineering of the landscape: lining every horizon with forty-story wind turbines, paving deserts with concentrating solar mirrors, girdling the coasts with tidal and wave generators, and drilling for geological heat reservoirs; it sees all of nature as an integrated machine for producing energy.

Formidable Faux?

The pretend climate treaty.

August 27, 2014

...
In related news, the New York Times reports that "the Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress."

How? Even the Times knows that "under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate." It would be more accurate to say "the country" rather than "a president," but hey, close enough for government work.

Anyway, Senate ratification is no more in the cards now than it was in 1997, when the world's greatest deliberative body voted 95-0 in favor of a nonbinding resolution "expressing the sense of the Senate" that the now-expired Kyoto Protocol was unacceptable. The Clinton administration signed that treaty the following year anyway but never submitted it to the Senate. Incidentally, the 1997 measure was called the Byrd-Hagel Resolution; its top Republican sponsor is now Obama's defense secretary.

Today, as the Times reports, "lawmakers in both parties on Capitol Hill say there is no chance that the currently gridlocked Senate will ratify a climate change treaty in the near future, especially in a political environment where many Republican lawmakers remain skeptical of the established science of human-caused global warming."

We're skeptical of the Times's claim that "lawmakers in both parties" said that "Republican lawmakers remain skeptical of the established science." That sounds to us like editorializing on the Democratic side of the argument--although come to think of it, one also doubts there has been a unanimous change in the Democratic position since 1997. But anyway, neither party has had a two-thirds Senate majority since 1967, and neither is likely to achieve one anytime soon. Thus no treaty can be ratified without bipartisan support.

In order to "sidestep" the constitutional requirement that laws be made by lawmakers, the Times continues, "President Obama's climate negotiators are devising what they call a 'politically binding' deal that would 'name and shame' countries into cutting their emissions."

The story notes that Obama has already "bypassed Congress and used his executive authority to order a far-reaching regulation forcing American coal-fired power plants to curb their carbon emissions." That reg has to go through the standard approval process, which won't be complete until next year, and it is also being challenged in court. Even if it holds up, a future president could modify it. But if Obama gets his pretend treaty, a successor who undid his policies would risk subjecting America not only to naming but to shaming as well.

Would it work? Let's consider two examples. First Australia, whose government, then controlled by the Labor Party, in 2012 imposed a "carbon tax." As The Wall Street Journalreported last month, this year Tony Abbott, the aspiring prime minister from the opposition Liberal Party, "made a pre-election 'pledge in blood' to voters and business to prioritize growth above climate shift. The Liberals (who would be considered the conservatives in American parlance) were elected, and Abbott kept his promise.

"Today the tax that you voted to get rid of is finally gone, a useless destructive tax which damaged jobs, which hurt families' cost of living and which didn't actually help the environment is finally gone," a jubilant Mr. Abbott told voters in a news conference after the Senate's decision.

His opponents tried the name-and-shame technique: "Labor and Green opponents of the government said the repeal would make the country an international 'pariah' on efforts to combat climate change." Not very fearsome a threat, is it?
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Putin's carbon footprint in Novoazovsk, Ukraine. Associated Press

The second example is Ukraine. In 1994, the U.S., U.K. and Russia signed a document known as the Budapest Memorandum, offering assurances in exchange for which Kiev gave up the nuclear weapons it had inherited owing to the Soviet Union's dissolution. The memorandum purports to bind the three signatories "to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine."

But it isn't a treaty, and thus has no legal force. Boris Yeltsin, Russia's president at the time it was signed, acted in accord with the agreement, but Vladimir Putin obviously does not feel bound by it.

And how have the other signatories responded? There have been some economic sanctions, but mostly it's been naming and shaming. "It's really 19th-century behavior in the 21st century," Secretary of State John Kerry in March. "You just don't invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests."

Almost six months later, Putin is unbowed. But maybe Kerry is just the wrong man for the job. In the era of naming and shaming, we need a top diplomat whose insults carry a punch. But who? Don Rickles is probably too old.