Friday, July 29, 2016


Food for Thought on the Eve of the Real Hurricane Season

Joe Bastardi
 
There are many examples of hurricane seasons that start quickly then fall apart completely before they come roaring back.

We believe this is a big impact season on the U.S. coast. Our pre-season forecast was initially released in April — with the biggest concern in the Gulf of Mexico — which we then finalized in May, lighting up the western Atlantic and Gulf. The closer to the U.S., the bigger the worry about the intensity of storms this year given the very warm sea surface temperatures near the shore.

That warm water is eerily similar to the hurricane seasons of 1954 to 1960, when eight major hurricanes impacted the U.S. East Coast in seven years, including five in the back-to-back years of 1954 and 1955. This means that storms may not be much way out in the Atlantic, but as they get closer to the U.S. we have the threat of them increasing in intensity rather than backing off a peak reached out at sea.

Now imagine it’s 1960. Kennedy vs. Nixon is looming and up comes the ultimate East Coast storm, Hurricane Donna. It hits Florida as a Category 4, North Carolina as a Category 3, New England as a Category 2. The monster brings hurricane winds to every state on the East Coast, never before recorded in the nation’s history (and never since!). And as the storm is marching across the Atlantic a set of people decide to use it as a wedge issue in the election.

Think about it — the admonitions that this is the “worst ever” from a set of politicians using hysteria about something that nature is in control of, who then blame it on policies that their ideological opponents are advocating. And a willful press, which simply follow along with anything they are told, without examining facts, parrots it. Some of the politicians even suggest people who don’t side with what they believe should be prosecuted. Given that the nation had just spent time, treasure and blood on defeating that ideology and was still battling it in the form of the Cold War, can you imagine the response of the nation to something like that? Add to this the heat and hurricanes of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and no person in their right mind in 1960 would even think to push such an idea.

But it’s not 1960 anymore. And we have people who willingly do these things. So here is a forecast: If the kind of worry I have about this season — which I have been very public about since spring — occurs because of a plainly natural cause, we will hear the very thing that was laughable in a day and age when JFK was running for president.

The people who become targets had better have their facts lined up, because I still believe in 2016 you can counter fantasy with fact. And so part of this is to get our forecast idea out there, for one, but also to lay the ground work before it happens. What would not even be an issue in 1960 after 30 years of record heat and hurricane hits (and there has been nothing close since) would be today in spite of the relative calm we have had been blessed with as far as hurricanes go.

Sandy may have changed the course of history given the actions and reactions of the people involved as a nation. It’s one of those events in history that, years from now, people may look at like the sinking of the Spanish Armada in a storm off England. Or the weather for D-Day. History favors the bold, and I would suggest a bold response be at the ready for whatever comes out of this hurricane season. The why before the what is not in the hands of any party, but nature. Those who know how to use it to educate the public as to the reasons are the ones that could win the hearts and minds of people in this pivotal time in our nation’s history.

And the weather could certainly be a player!

SOURCE  




Weak Minds Think Alike

Belief in climate catastrophism is a social phenomenon, and requires an explanation in terms of the social sciences. There are a number of interesting psychological theories around – in fact every climate sceptic seems to have one. But while a psychological analysis may explain why certain people choose to be environmentalists, it can never explain how environmentalism – and in particular its most acute form, climate catastrophism – came to conquer the world; how, in other words, belief in climate catastrophism managed to attain a critical mass that permitted it to impose itself as a consensus belief, or ideology. Only a sociological explanation can do that. And a sociological explanation must account for a unique event – the rise of climate catastrophism – in terms of unique, or at least rarely repeated, social phenomena.

It’s easy enough to identify the social group which has most fervently adopted the climate catastrophism ideology. It’s the university-educated, upper-middle-class intelligentsia:- metropolitain; left-liberal; more likely to be humanities graduates than scientists; often working in academia, the media, or in related professions involved in the collection and exchange of information of all sorts. The libertarian social theorist Thomas Sowell in his book “Intellectuals and Society” defines “idea workers” as “people whose occupations deal primarily with ideas (writers, historians, academics, etc.) [and who] usually consider themselves as “anointed”, or as endowed with superior intellect or insight with which to guide the masses and those who have authority over them.”[Wiki]

I’ve often mentioned the work of the French historian Emmanuel Todd and its usefulness for understanding the catastrophist phenomenon (though he has never, to my knowledge, mentioned environment policy in his numerous comments on current politics).

One of his major achievements is to have convincingly demonstrated the close correlation between political revolutions and the attainment of universal literacy: in 16th century Germany at the time of the Protestant Reform; in England in the 17th century, announcing the Civil War and the Glorious Revolution; in France in the late 18th and in Russia in the early 20th century. His demonstration that literacy, rather than economic exploitation, is the prime cause of social upheaval destroys a major pillar of Marxism, but it also confirms Marx’s fundamental insight about the importance of class struggle in the evolution of society.

In an aside somewhere on the decline of the French Socialist Party Todd highlights one of the unintended consequences of advances in education. Whereas the attainment of universal literacy naturally reinforces egalitarian tendencies in society – leading, if not always to democracy, at least to nominal respect for the Common Man – the advent of mass tertiary education has the opposite effect.

For most of the 20th century university education was the reserve of a tiny élite, highly concentrated in the professions (law, medicine, academia..) Though they undoubtedly exercised disproportionate influence, as does any élite group, whether in Parliament, in their clubs and learned societies, or in the letter page of the Times, they were too few and isolated to be able to ignore entirely the opinions of their less educated fellow citizens, particularly as the latter included a large number of people (in industry, finance, the armed services, the media, as well as in the organised working class) who were obviously their intellectual equals.

[The late Guardian political correspondent Simon Hoggart recalled arriving at the Guardian in the fifties as one of just two graduates who were allowed in every year, by-passing the union rule that demanded two years’ apprenticeship on a provincial paper before setting foot in Fleet Street. Sixty years on, I transcribed a Greenpeace debate moderated by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, who spent an inordinate amount of time boasting that his ten or eleven environmental journalists all had three or four degrees apiece. Hasn’t he heard that anything above two degrees is dangerous?]

In just over a half a century the percentage of graduates in the twenties age group has risen from a few percent to 20-30%. Graduates in my crusty generation of baby boomers were always conscious of being members of a privileged minority (about 5% in the sixties I believe) and of the fact that the most talented members of our generation (Lennon, Jagger) only entered college to drop out again. Todd points out that when graduates are counted in millions, accounting for 20-30% of an age group, they cease to be a dispersed minority and become an autonomous class, with their own culture and ideology, firmly anchored on the centre left and in the professional classes, but largely transcending traditional social categories. Whether in hippy commune or government-sponsored thinktank, they share a common belief in their superiority to the undiploma-ed masses. They notoriously rule the centre left parties, having all but ousted their traditional working class core, and have, via their control of academia and the media, imposed their ideologies on society at large: (pro-Europeanism and wilful blindness to the effects of uncontrolled immigration at the expense of the working class; militant sexual liberalism at the expense of the feelings of religious minorities; climate catastrophism at the expense of scientific rigour and common sense). Their disdain for the common man was long masked by their leftwing pose, but their reaction to the victory of the Brexit campaign has brought it out in the open. (See for example the emails in Ian Woolley’s recent article).

The idea of an autonomous educated class reversing the trend of several centuries of increasing egalitarianism and unconsciously adopting anti-egalitarian policies (while continuing to declare itself as “of the left”) because of supposed intellectual superiority has tremendous explanatory power, not least in accounting for catastrophic enviro-mentalism. As with many of Todd’s creative perceptions, it is highly speculative, but also scientific, because rooted in empirical data.

Todd has expanded his criticisms of the educated middle class and its epiphenomenon, the French Socialist Party, in a book on the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015 – “Qui Est Charlie?” (translated as Who is Charlie? Xenophobia and the New Middle Class: Polity Press) which has brought him media notoriety and the detestation of most of the French intelligentsia.

In this book Todd examines the relative strength of the turnout at the huge public demonstrations in sympathy with the families of the murdered journalists, in favour of Charlie, and in defence of its right to publish blasphemous cartoons mocking Mohammed. He discovered that turnout was highest, not in the centre and south of France characterised by an egalitarian family structure – the part of France which instigated the French Revolution and has voted left for two centuries – but on the East and West peripheries, characterised by an inegalitarian family structure and a continuation of an anti-republican Catholic tradition into the mid-twentieth century. He had already established in a recent cartographic study of French voting patterns that support for the Socialist Party had migrated in recent decades from the egalitarian Paris basin and Mediterranean coast to the ex-Catholic strongholds of the Atlantic coast and German border. This led him to posit the existence of a socio-political force he labelled “Zombie Catholicism”. As Catholic belief collapsed in the mid-twentieth century, ex-believers sought refuge in the Socialist Party, which shared some of the characteristics of the church they had so recently deserted (a universalist ethic, belief in social justice, internationalism…) This movement changed the nature of the Socialist Party, effacing its egalitarian principles and links with the urban working class, and raising pan-Europeanism and worship of the Euro to the status of an ideology.

Todd places himself on the centre left, but is a wicked critic of the ruling Socialist Party, President Hollande, and the chattering classes in general, who have betrayed a two hundred-year-old tradition of radical middle class activism in ignoring the suffering imposed on the working classes by austerity and endemic mass unemployment provoked by economic liberalism and the economic nonsense of the single currency. Add climate catastrophism to the list of ingredients of the blinkered dominant ideology and you have an excellent framework for analysing what’s wrong with the modern developed world.

Qui Est Charlie? was largely written off in the French media as a bilious anti-Hollande pamphlet. In fact it is a densely written sociological thesis, as are all his books. And it introduces one new theoretical concept which seems particularly apposite to the analysis of climate catastrophism: the explanation of how a weak affect arising from an unconscious social structure can be transformed into a strong social force.

After accusing the socialist governments since 1983 of having pursued economic policies which penalise the working class and maintain the immigrant minority in a state of apartheid which the socialists then accuse certain immigrants of maintaining in the name of “communitarianism”, Todd then proposes the following explanation of what seems to be a contradiction in his thesis: (The translation is mine, and sometimes deviates from the literal in the interest of transmitting its polemical flavour)

The Insignificance of the Actors and the Violence of their Ideologies

“I’m very conscious of the fact that the anthropological model proposed above is difficult to accept…The interpretation which I have given suggests, not only an extreme violence and an immense hypocrisy on the part of the people involved, but also a high level of conviction, of determination and of strength.

“It’s easy to imagine such characteristics in the case of far right politicians; or Moslem fundamentalists, or militant atheists, but how can you explain them in the case of people who place themselves on the centre left? The President of the Republic for example, is someone easy-going, insignificant, “an ordinary bloke”, according to his own description.

“The socialists are moderate in all things. Our thesis seems to be incompatible with the reality of a bunch of big girls’ blouses who believe in nothing very much, an army of militant softies. How to explain how such weak tendencies towards differentiation and inegalitarianism can result at the level of society at large, in an obstination of such a rare violence?”

Todd goes on to suggest that weakly held beliefs (such as the fundamentally inegalitarian world view unconsciously held by recently converted socialists emanating from a “Catholic Zombie” background) are particuarly prone to being transmitted in the holders’ milieu by a kind of mimetism: the weaker, the vaguer the idea, the more easily it can be adopted by the surrounding milieu. And Todd cites his personal experience of being able, in one-to-one conversation, to persuade a pro-European that current EU policies can only lead to the sacrifice of Southern European countries on the altar of a German ideal of economic rigour. But once the conversation terminated, the interlocutors revert to their (firmly held, because socially determined) belief in the importance of maintaining the Euro at any price, suppressing political dissent in recalcitrant countries, etc.

Here is a sociological model that seems to apply perfectly to the case of climate catastrophism. Who has not had a conversation in which he has seemingly persuaded his interlocutor that global temperature measures are not all they’re cracked up to be; that maybe some environmentalists exaggerate a little; that scientists are not saints; that windpower and electric cars are rubbish: only to find at the end of the conversation the interlocutor activating the kind of spring mechanism that rewinds the cord on your vacuum cleaner and retracting all the admissions he’s made in order to revert to the position of faithful Guardian reader he assumed at the outset?

And who, among those of you who place sceptical comments at warmist articles (and Gaia bless you for your efforts) has not been astonished at the pathetic nature of the opposition? I’m thinking of a couple of articles at the New Statesman (a once great journal that boasted Bertrand Russell and George Orwell among its contributors) by Brian Cox and Naomi Klein. These are mega stars in the intellectual firmament, yet their pro-catastrophe articles provoked opposition from maybe a half dozen of us sceptics, and we found ourselves opposed, not by 97% of the intellectual world, but by a handful of peabrained greenies who couldn’t reason or form proper sentences. Environmentalism, like Gravity, is a weak force which appears to govern the universe – until a stronger force opposes it. (Neither Klein nor Cox have been back, and the Statesman has now suppressed all comments on its articles).

It does seem a bit cheeky to accuse the likes of Sir Paul Nurse and Professor Brian Cox of mimetism, as if they were some kind of rather unimaginative reptile, but – frankly – has anyone got a better explanation?

SOURCE  





Greenie groups now seek overhaul of U.S. renewable fuel quota

Program blamed for boosting corn crops at prairie’s expense

Environmentalists who once championed biofuels as a way to cut pollution are now turning against a U.S. program that puts renewable fuels in cars, citing higher-than-expected carbon dioxide emissions and reduced wildlife habitat.

More than a decade after conservationists helped persuade Congress to require adding corn-based ethanol and other biofuels to gasoline, some groups regret the resulting agricultural runoff in waterways and conversion of prairies to cropland -- improving the odds that lawmakers might seek changes to the program next year.

"The big green groups that got invested in biofuels are tacitly realizing the blunder," said John DeCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute who previously focused on automotive strategies at the Environmental Defense Fund. "It’s really hard for the people who really -- shall we say -- hate oil viscerally, to think that this alternative that we’ve been promoting is today worse than oil."

The green backlash could give a boost to long-stalled congressional efforts to overhaul the Renewable Fuel Standard, including proposals to limit the amount of traditional, corn-based ethanol that counts toward the mandate, as environmentalists side with anti-hunger groups and even the oil industry in calling for change. The RFS forces refiners to blend steadily escalating amounts of biofuel into the gas supply. Most of the mandate is currently fulfilled by corn-based ethanol, which makes up nearly 10 percent of U.S. gasoline and provides oxygen that helps the fuel burn cleaner.

Broken Promise

The Natural Resources Defense Council used a 96-page report in 2004 to proclaim boundless biofuel benefits: slashed global warming emissions, improved air quality and more wildlife habitat.

Instead, farmers plowed millions of acres of prairie grasses to grow corn for making ethanol, with fertilizer runoff contributing to a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists warned that carbon dioxide emissions associated with corn-based ethanol were higher than expected. And alternatives using switchgrass, algae and other non-edible plant materials have been slow to penetrate the market.

"The ethanol policy was sold to environmentalists as something that was going to clean up the environment, and it’s done anything but," said Democratic Representative Peter Welch of Vermont, who is co-sponsoring legislation to revamp the RFS. "It’s truly been a flop. The environmental promise has been transformed into an environmental detriment."
‘Unintended Consequences’

The Environmental Working Group, Clean Air Task Force and Friends of the Earth argue that the program has propelled corn-based ethanol without delivering a similar boost to advanced biofuels with potentially bigger climate benefits.

Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation, told a House committee last month that the RFS program, created with "good intentions," has instead wreaked "severe, unintended consequences," including the loss of prairie land and water-supply damage that threatens wildlife.

Even the NRDC that once lobbied for the RFS bemoans that "the bulk of today’s conventional corn ethanol carries grave risks to the climate, wildlife, waterways and food security." In NRDC’s "OnEarth" magazine, an essay headlined "Played for a Fuel" argues that corn-based ethanol isn’t sustainable because it requires "huge amounts" of water, fertilizer and land.

NRDC spokesman Ed Chen said the group continues to monitor the RFS "because low-carbon cellulosic biofuels can play an important role in reducing transportation pollution,” but added that the organization is “far more focused” on other carbon-cutting strategies with more immediate climate payoffs.

Corn Belt

For supporters and opponents, the debate over the RFS is politically complicated. On Capitol Hill, it divides Republicans along regional lines, with Corn Belt lawmakers determined to preserve the program they see helping to boost prices for the commodity. Green groups that seek changes risk alienating or angering go-to allies, including environmental champions in the House and Senate who staked out pro-RFS positions years ago. And the push to revamp the RFS creates uncomfortable alliances between Big Oil and environmental groups who fight fossil fuels.
Some biofuel proponents say alternatives are worse.

"In the absence of ethanol, your next barrel of transportation fuel is going to be coming from petroleum from fracking or tar sands or deep-water drilling," Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said in a phone interview. "So you sort of have to assess ethanol in the context of what its replacement would be, and quite frankly, by that measurement we are the stone-cold winner."

Experts disagree about the extent to which corn has displaced other crops, wetlands and prairie, though in the Dakotas, acreage was withdrawn from the federal Conservation Reserve Program at the same time corn plantings grew. Dinneen said land conversion has not been an issue.

But there’s no disagreement that corn production is up -- boosted by demand from China as well as ethanol sales. In July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated this year’s crop would be the largest on record: 14.54 billion bushels. And nationwide, farmers grew corn on 88 million acres in 2015 -- a 7.6 percent increase since 2005, when Congress created the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Agricultural Assessment

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When Congress expanded the RFS in 2007, environmentalists pushed for safeguards designed to prevent land conversion, including a requirement that biofuels accepted under the program only come from tracts that were in agricultural production before 2007. But instead of tracking the flow of corn from specific farms to refineries, U.S. regulators chose to assess agricultural land use in aggregate -- an approach that the Environmental Working Group’s Emily Cassidy says "obscures what’s happening locally."

Jeremy Martin, who leads fuel policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ clean vehicles program, said the RFS has become a scapegoat, unfairly blamed as boosting demand for ethanol that probably would have reached current levels in gasoline even without the program. He casts the climb in ethanol use and the expanding footprint of corn that accompanied it as a "a one-time transition" as the U.S. fuel sector made a big shift, essentially adopting a 10 percent ethanol blend as the default gasoline.

Even if the RFS is dismantled, Martin said, "that’s not going to go away."

House Vote

Still, the growing environmental outcry is fueling calls to revamp the RFS.

There now may be enough votes in the House to pass an overhaul, despite expected defections from corn-state Republicans, says analyst Tim Cheung, vice president of ClearView Energy Partners. Lobbyists for advanced biofuels manufacturers and refiners have been discussing a possible compromise. And the National Wildlife Federation’s O’Mara sees potential for a grand bargain that combines support for advanced biofuels with assistance for farmers, including strengthened incentives to set aside land for conservation.

Welch, one of the lead sponsors of legislation that would cap ethanol volumes at 9.7 percent of projected gasoline demand, said the concerns set the stage for congressional action.

"For the Democrats who have an environmental constituency, when you have these respected environmental groups change their mind and say corn ethanol doesn’t work, that’s going to be a big boost that will give them a lot of comfort and cover," Welch said. "You’re going to see more Democrats starting to question the wisdom of this mandate."

SOURCE  





Hillary commissions her own disaster movie and gets James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sigourney Weaver to issue an ominous warning about global warming

What might be the scariest Hollywood-produced movie of the year isn't airing in theaters – but it will be shown to delegates of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Blockbuster movie director James Cameron has helped produce a teeth-rattling short film about the dangers of global warming, deploying skills he usually uses to jolt viewers in his epic thrillers to get them worried about the threat of climate changes.

'Crops are failing. Food prices are rising. … our children are at risk,' says narrator Sigourney Weaver, who starred in the 'Alien' movies.

Weaver later appeared at the Democratic National Convention to warn that Donald Trump doesn't care about climate change.

'Can Donald Trump look these people in the eye and tell them that climate change is a hoax? That he doesn't care about their pain.

'Hillary Clinton, she gets it - she cars.'

The film begins with scary images of burning forests, cracked earth, vicious storms, pollution, and waves slamming into a sea wall.

As the images of calamities roll, actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger weighs in: 'Because of global warming, mountain snow melts earlier each year. And when that happens, the ground dries up earlier too,' he says.

Weaver delivers the films most political anti-Trump lines in the film, which runs just under 5 1/2 minutes.

'It's not reality TV. Make no mistake – Trump's reckless denial of climate change is dangerous. A threat to your livelihood, your safety, your children, and the prosperity of this nation.'

The film is named 'Not reality TV' in another shot at Trump.

Then the films directors let Trump do the talking, with clips of him on the campaign trail ridiculing the science of global warming, notwithstanding the near consensus among climate scientists that the world's climate is rising due to man-made events.

'A lot of it's a hoax – It's a hoax!' Trump says.

'We're going to cancel the Paris climate agreement,' Trump says.

Then he is shown laughing off the threat. 'Speaking of global waring, where is ... We need some global warming. It's freezing!'

One interview subject calls it a non-partisan issue, while a pastor raises religious issues about global warming.

An unnamed woman who lost her daughter in a flood tells her own personal horror story. 'She said, 'Mommy, hold me, I'm scared.' I held her, and then a wave started coming up over me. I felt the water rising and then she went under. And I knew I lost her immediately.'

Then the film switches to Clinton, speaking in uncharacteristically soft tones. 'Our country is ready to tackle the challenge of climate change,' she says.

Former President George H.W. Bush and Pope Francis are both quoted speaking to the dangers of climate change.

'A threat to your livelihood, your safety, your children, and the prosperity of this nation,' says weaver.

An advance copy of of the film was sent out by Clinton's campaign press office.

Cameron has produced and director such films as Avatar, Terminator, The Abyss, and Titanic.

Weaver starred in the Alien movies, while Schwarzenegger starred in The Terminator, Predator, and Total Recall.

Schwarzenegger has longstanding connections to the Bush family, who notably skipped Trump's Republican convention. George H.W. Bush appointed him to head a council on physical fitness. While serving as governor, he appeared with George W. Bush during California wildfires.

In 1991, on a visit to Camp David, he went sledding with then-President George H.W. Bush.

'Not Reality TV' underscores that climate change is an urgent threat to our planet and a defining challenge of our time, and makes clear how high the stakes are in this election,' according to a statement from the Democratic convention press office.

'The video reminds viewers that Donald Trump has made clear that he believes climate change is a hoax, and how as president he would not only refuse to take steps to curb climate change but actually roll back the progress we've made.'

SOURCE  





Law to fight global warming gets strong support in California

A new poll found that California voters strongly support the landmark state law adopted a decade ago to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that voters favor expanding efforts to fight climate change.

The Public Policy Institute of California survey released Wednesday shows 62 percent of likely voters favor the law, with most support coming from Democrats and independent voters. Eight in 10 Democrats favor the law, while 56 percent of independent voters did. That’s compared with 44 percent of Republicans who favored the law.

The Legislature adopted AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, in 2006. The law calls for California to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and sulfur hexafluoride, which trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere near the planet’s surface.

Under AB32, the state determined greenhouse gas levels were the equivalent of 431 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 1990. Emissions from factories, power plants, cars and farms spewed 441.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2014, according to newly released data from the California Air Resources Board, which oversees AB32. That was less than a 1 percent decline from 2013, but still puts the state on track to reach its 2020 goal under the law.

Last year, California reaffirmed its commitment to fighting global warming when Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order to lower the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2030.

The PPIC survey found that 68 percent of adults and 59 percent of likely voters agreed with expanding the goals, with Democrats nearly twice as likely to support those targets.

While many voters supported AB32, a majority have never heard of the cornerstone to California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — the state’s cap-and-trade system. Some 55 percent of voters said they had heard nothing about the cap-and-trade program, which forces large carbon dioxide emitters in the state to reduce their output of greenhouse gases by putting a cap on carbon emissions and requiring that they buy permits for any additional greenhouse gases they release.

Support for AB32 comes despite voters acknowledging the targets mean higher costs to them. Among those who said gas prices will rise as a result of greenhouse gas reduction goals, 64 percent support AB32 and 63 percent favor expanding the targets. A majority of voters said they are willing to pay more for electricity generated by renewable sources like wind and solar in order to reduce global warming.

In the presidential race, 8 in 10 voters in the state said the candidates’ views on environmental issues were important. The PPIC poll found the gap of support between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump grew in recent months. Clinton is favored 46 to 30 percent over Trump, which is up from May, when Clinton led 49 to 39 percent in the strong Democratic state.

In the U.S. Senate race, Kamala Harris leads fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez 38 to 20 percent. Half of Republicans surveyed said they do not plan to vote in the Senate race.

The PPIC surveyed 1,703 adults in California between July 10 and 19 in English and Spanish depending on the caller’s preference. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

SOURCE  





Hypocrite Leonardo DiCaprio at his annual St. Tropez party: "We are the last generation that has a chance to stop climate change"

Leonardo DiCaprio and the usual celebrity crowd have again been partying in St. Tropez. And there is no end to the hypocrisy:

“While we are the first generation that has the technology, the scientific knowledge and the global will to build a truly sustainable economic future for all of humanity — we are the last generation that has a chance to stop climate change before it is too late,” DiCaprio said, according to EcoWatch.

The star’s weighty message didn’t dampen the festivities: del Rey and the Weeknd performed while Mariah Carey flitted about the room snapping pictures with her fellow celebrities. --

Dozens of A-list stars made the trek to the French Riviera for the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation’s annual Gala to Fund Climate and Biodiversity Projects, including U2 frontman Bono, actors Bradley Cooper, Edward Norton, Jonah Hill, Tobey Maguire and Chris Rock and singers Mariah Carey, Lana del Rey and The Weeknd.

The event’s co-chairs included Robert De Niro, Kevin Spacey, Kate Hudson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Penelope Cruz, Cate Blanchett and Charlize Theron.

Breitbart´s Daniel Nussbaum comments:

If just one of the celebrities who attended the event traveled the 12,000-mile round trip from Los Angeles to France by private jet, they would have burned enough fossil fuel to emit approximately 86 tons of carbon dioxide. The average American, for comparison, puts out around 19 tons of carbon dioxide on airline flights per year.

SOURCE  

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Thursday, July 28, 2016



"Climate models are accurately predicting ocean and global warming: A new study from my colleagues and I vindicates climate models, which are accurately predicting the rate of ocean heat accumulation"

It's good old Prof. Abraham back at the barrow below.  He says that the estimates of global warming yielded by climate models are validated by measurements of ocean heat present.  But the measures of heat are themselves estimates -- so all he has shown is that two sets of estimates tally.   Not hard to do of course but it proves nothing.  It's not even a good con trick


For those of us who are concerned about global warming, two of the most critical questions we ask are, “how fast is the Earth warming?” and “how much will it warm in the future?”.

The first question can be answered in a number of ways. For instance, we can actually measure the rate of energy increase in the Earth’s system (primarily through measuring changing ocean temperatures). Alternatively, we can measure changes in the net inflow of heat at the top of the atmosphere using satellites. We can also measure the rate of sea-level rise to get an estimate of the warming rate.

Since much of sea-level rise is caused by thermal expansion of water, knowledge of the water-level rise allows us to deduce the warming rate. We can also use climate models (which are sophisticated computer calculations of the Earth’s climate) or our knowledge from Earth’s past (paleoclimatology).

Many studies use combinations of these study methods to attain estimates and typically the estimates are that the planet is warming at a rate of perhaps 0.5 to 1 Watt per square meter of Earth’s surface area. However, there is some discrepancy among the actual numbers.

So assuming we know how much heat is being accumulated by the Earth, how can we predict what the future climate will be? The main tool for this is climate models (although there are other independent ways we can study the future). With climate models, we can play “what-if scenarios” and input either current conditions or hypothetical conditions and watch the Earth’s climate evolve within the simulation.

Two incorrect but nevertheless consistent denial arguments are that the Earth isn’t warming and that climate models are inaccurate. A new study, published by Kevin Trenberth, Lijing Cheng, and others (I was also an author) answers these questions.

The study was just published in the journal Ocean Sciences; a draft of it is available here. In this study, we did a few new things. First, we presented a new estimate of ocean heating throughout its full depth (most studies only consider the top portion of the ocean). Second, we used a new technique to learn about ocean temperature changes in areas where there are very few measurements. Finally, we used a large group of computer models to predict warming rates, and we found excellent agreement between the predictions and the measurements.

According to the measurements, the Earth has gained 0.46 Watts per square meter between 1970 and 2005. Since, 1992 the rate is higher (0.75 Watts per square meter) and therefore shows an acceleration of the warming. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent of 5,400,000,000,000 (or 5,400 billion) 60-watt light bulbs running continuously day and night. In my view, these numbers are the most accurate measurements of the rate at which the Earth is warming.

What about the next question – how did the models do? Amazingly well. From 1970 through 2005, the models on average showed a warming of 0.41 Watts per square meter and from 1992-2005 the models gave 0.77 Watts per meter squared. This means that since 1992, the models have been within 3 % of the measurements. In my mind, this agreement is the strongest vindication of the models ever found, and in fact, in our study we suggest that matches between climate models and ocean warming should be a major test of the models.

SOURCE





Exactly What's Wrong With Cliff Mass' Approach to Global Warming

Cliff Mass is a Washington State meteorologist who sticks to meteorology. The Solon below, Ethan Linck, thinks Mass should link weather to global warming.  And Linck seems to think he has made a great point by saying that one part of Antarctica is cooling while the rest warms.  He probably should have asked Cliff Mass about that -- because ALL of Antarctic is cooling -- as Zwally's study showed.  Linck is a clown.  He thinks he knows it all when he actually knows nothing

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of climate change denialism is the willful idiocy of using local exceptions to a widely supported trend as evidence that trend is false. Climate science—like meteorology, biology, and political science—is a field defined by intrinsic variation of its object of study, and is reliant on statistical tools with the power to infer signal from noise.

The inherent uncertainty of this pursuit can lead some researchers (like UW’s Cliff Mass) to avoid attributing any single weather event to climate change, even if the event itself is consistent with predictions of weather under future climate regimes, for fear of discrediting climate research more broadly.

(It will not surprise regular Puget Sound news readers to learn this is not a universally supported position. Which is why a recent Nature study highlighting one such local exception—the absence of 21st century warming on the Antarctic Peninsula in the face of overall increasing temperatures elsewhere across the continent—is both good, necessary science, but at the same time it's sure to be seized upon from predictable quarters, the deniers of a widely supported trend, global warming.

SOURCE





Researchers can now monitor global warming due to human activity in real time

Amusing confidence below.  All they have done is a careful back-cast.  But lots of models look good in back casts.  But they still don't yield accurate forecasts. It's just hope below, not accurate prediction

A research team including a Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego climate scientist simulated in a computer model, for the first time, the realistic evolution of global mean surface temperature since 1900.

In doing so, the researchers also created a new method by which researchers can measure and monitor the pace of anthropogenic global warming, finding that the contribution of human activities to warming in the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean can be distinguished from natural variability.

Former Scripps researcher Yu Kosaka, now at the University of Tokyo, and Shang-Ping Xie, the Roger Revelle Chair in Environmental Science at Scripps, created the simulation by forcing sea surface temperature over the tropical Pacific to follow the observed variability.

“The climate system includes naturally occurring cycles that complicate the measurement of global warming due to the anthropogenic increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases,” said Xie. “We can isolate the anthropogenic warming by removing the internally generated natural variability.”

Climate policymakers have sought to limit the rise of global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels. That figure is considered a threshold beyond which society and natural systems are virtually assured of experiencing significant and dangerous instability. Scientists have estimated that the planet is already roughly 1 degree Celsius warmer at the surface than before the Industrial Revolution.

The 2 degrees Celsius target was reaffirmed during the 2015 Conference of the Parties, known as COP21, that was held in Paris in December. Kosaka and Xie’s research could provide an easily generated and more accurate means to measure society’s success in keeping temperatures below that threshold.

The research is further confirmation of the primary importance of the Pacific in controlling global-scale climate that researchers have come to understand in recent decades. Kosaka and Xie plotted the rise of global mean temperatures over the past 120 years. The rise of temperatures ascends in a staircase fashion with the steps becoming larger over the past 50 years.

When Kosaka and Xie removed as a variable the natural warming and cooling of the Pacific Ocean, the rise of global mean surface temperature became a more linear increase, one that began to accelerate more sharply in the 1960s. It had been natural Pacific decadal variations that temporarily slowed down or speeded up the warming trend, leading to the staircase pattern.

For example, global mean surface temperature has not changed much for 1998-2014, a time period known as the hiatus that has been tied to naturally occurring tropical Pacific cooling. Raw data show a warming of 0.9 degrees Celsius for the recent five-year period of 2010-2014 relative to 1900 while Kosaka and Xie’s calculation yields a much higher anthropogenic warming of 1.2 degrees Celsius after correcting for the natural variability effect.

Observed global mean surface temperature (GMST) based on three datasets (black curves in degree C), and the new estimates of anthropogenic global warming (AGM). The simulated GMST change without considering tropical Pacific internal variability is plotted as reference (white curve with blue shading indicating the uncertainty).

“Most of the difference between the raw data and new estimates is found during the recent 18 years since 1998,” said Xie. “Because of the hiatus, the raw data underestimate the greenhouse warming.”

Kosaka and Xie suggest that though Pacific Ocean trends are an essential variable control on global temperature rise, the accuracy of their warming estimate will be improved in the future as other climate modes are added as variables. An international initiative involving more than a dozen climate models is being planned to improve the estimates included in upcoming assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The paper, "The tropical Pacific as a key pacemaker of the variable rates of global warming," appears in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The National Science Foundation and NOAA supported Xie’s contribution to the research. The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology supported Ko

SOURCE





You couldn't make it up.  Warmists are treating Inhofe's grand-daughter as an authority

The heading on the article excerpted below was: "Jim Inhofe’s Granddaughter Asked Him Why He Didn’t Understand Global Warming" -- implying that she was the one in the right.

And the temperature rise they refer to was due to El Nino, not carbon dioxide. CO2 did NOT rise in 2015


Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is a famous climate denier. He has written a book about global warming, arguing it is a hoax.
Like many Americans — 64 percent of which are concerned about climate change — Inhofe’s granddaughter wants to know why he does not understand the science.

On the last day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week, Inhofe told radio host Eric MeTaxas about a conversation he had with one of his granddaughters, Right Wing Watch reported on Tuesday.

"You know, our kids are being brainwashed? I never forget because I was the first one back in 2002 to tell the truth about the global warming stuff and all of that. And my own granddaughter came home one day and said “Popi (see “I” is for Inhofe, so it’s Momi and Popi, ok?), Popi, why is it you don’t understand global warming?” I did some checking and Eric, the stuff that they teach our kids nowadays, you have to un-brainwash them when they get out"

Right now, the United States, including Oklahoma, is in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave that has left at least six dead. This month, the world learned that the first half of 2016 was the hottest start to a year on record, building on 2015’s record as the hottest year on record — data that strengthen the longer trends signifying the reality of climate change.

Famously, Inhofe brought a snowball onto the senate floor last year in an effort to prove that global warming was a hoax, citing the cold “unseasonable” temperatures. This was in February.

SOURCE






U.S. Hits Record 129 Months Since Last Major Hurricane Strike

No major hurricane has made landfall in the continental United States for a record-breaking 129 months, according to data going back to 1851 compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The last major hurricane to make landfall on the continental United States was Hurricane Wilma, which slammed into Florida on Oct. 24, 2005--129 months ago.

The 2016 hurricane season--which officially opened on June 1 and ends on November 30--is expected to be “near normal”, with more hurricane activity than last year’s “below normal” season.

“The outlook calls for a 45% chance of a near-normal season, a 30% chance of an above-normal season, and a 25% chance of a below-normal season,” according to NOAA’s 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook.

The agency predicts that there will be “10-16 named storms” this season--including “4-8 hurricanes” and “1-4 major hurricanes.” A "major hurricane" is defined as one that is Category 3 or above on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which means it has sustained wind speeds of more than 111 miles per hour and is capable of causing “devastating” or “catastrophic” damage.

But because of several “competing climate factors” this year, “there is reduced confidence in predicting whether the season will be above normal or below normal,” NOAA stated.

At a May 27 press conference, NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan told reporters that due to the cooling phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO), there is “uncertainty about whether the high-activity era of Atlantic hurricanes has ended.”

“During the past three years, weaker hurricane seasons have been accompanied by a shift towards the cool signature of the AMO, cooler Atlantic Ocean temperatures, and a weaker West African monsoon,” Sullivan said.

“If this shift proves to be more than short-lived, if it’s not just a temporary blip, then it could be signaling the arrival of a low activity era for Atlantic hurricanes.”

The last time the AMO entered a cold phase was the 23-year period between 1971 and 1994, when there were only two above-normal hurricane seasons and half were below normal, said Dr. Gerry Bell, head of NOAA’s hurricane forecasting team.

In 2005, four major hurricanes – Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma– struck the mainland of the United States, killing nearly 4,000 people and causing nearly $160 billion in damages, according to NOAA.

Since 2005, no Category 3 or above hurricane has made landfall in the continental United States.

President Obama is the longest-serving president to have no major hurricanes strike during his time in office.

During Obama's presidency, four hurricanes have made landfall, but all were at lower than Category 3 intensity: Irene (2011), Isaac and Sandy (2012) were all Category 1 when the hit the mainland, and Arthur (2014) was a Category 2.

SOURCE  




Clinton’s VP Pick Targeted Global Warming Skeptics On Senate Floor

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate targeted global warming skeptics on the Senate floor in July, potentially hurting claims the nominee is someone constitutional conservatives can support.

Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, was tasked with heaping scorn on conservative nonprofit groups in early July for opposing Democratic policies addressing man-made global warming.

Kaine was chosen as Democratic presidential nominee Clinton’s running mate on July 22, no more than a week after the Virginia senator was tasked with criticizing Virginia-based nonprofit groups for not toeing the line on Democratic policies addressing climate change.

There is a cabal of organizations that “knowingly try to misrepresent the status of climate science, and suggest that climate change is not occurring,” Kaine said July 11 on the Senate floor.

The Virginia Institute for Public Policy “makes statements that are promoting a false point of view,” he said, adding, that the free market group “promotes the idea that ‘oh, well, we shouldn’t do anything about it (global warming).”

It is one thing to disagree about how climate change should be approached, Kaine argued, it is quite another to openly deny that the climate is changing.

The inquisition began when Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, directed 19 of his fellow Democratic senators to attack conservative and libertarian organizations such as Americans for Prosperity and the Cato Institute on the chamber floors for engaging in what the senators call a “web of denial.”

Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada, as well as Chuck Schumer of New York joined Kaine on July 11 targeting groups like Mercatus Center.

Emily Enderle, a top environmental policy adviser to Whitehouse, who is leading the hit parade, constructed the strategy in an internal email with several leading environmental groups — some of the groups include the Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Clean Water Action.

Conservative groups argued the move by Kaine, among others, is an example of senators unfairly targeting the free speech rights of organizations not falling in lock step with global warming orthodoxy.

“It’s unbelievable the level of coordination the Senate Democrats have taken to political intimidate free market organizations,” Molly Drenkard, a spokeswoman with the American Legislative Economic Exchange (ALEC), told The Daily Caller News Foundation on July 11. ALEC was one of the conservative groups targeted by the senators.

But now some conservatives are attempting to paint a different picture of Kaine, who is currently running against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, a candidate many conservatives feel is not fit to be president.

Washington Post columnist George Will, for one, has begun laying down a coda suggesting Kaine might be the most palatable candidate for constitutional conservatives.

“There probably is no Democratic governor or senator more palatable than Kaine to constitutional conservatives,” Will wrote in an editorial Tuesday. “Such conservatives are eager to bring presidential power back within constitutional constraints, and Kaine is among the distressingly small minority of national legislators interested in increased congressional involvement in authorizing the use of military force.”

SOURCE

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For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016




Another clunk-headed academic who can't read



Jarrod Gilbert, a New Zealand sociologist no less, says climate denial ought be seen as a crime.  Sociologists are generally far-Left so a bit of Stalinism from one is no surprise.  And in true Stalinist style he is a good Trofim Lysenko too.  Lysenko had the basics of biology wrong and this guy has the sociology of climate science wrong.

How so?  Because his basic "97%" claim shows he can't read.  The paper usually quoted in support of the 97% in fact says that only ONE THIRD of climate scientists supported global warming.  The other two thirds took no position on the matter.

Since Jarrod has such bad eyes, I reproduce the Cook et al. abstract below  and highlight the bit that jarring Jarrod missed.  What a clown! He might one day learn the importance of doing your research before you open your mouth. But he does admit to being a liberal wanker so maybe he won't


"We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics 'global climate change' or 'global warming'. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. For both abstract ratings and authors' self-ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time. Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research"



There is no greater crime being perpetuated on future generations than that committed by those who deny climate change. The scientific consensus is so overwhelming that to argue against it is to perpetuate a dangerous fraud. Denial has become a yardstick by which intelligence can be tested. The term climate sceptic is now interchangeable with the term mindless fool.

Since the 1960s, it has been known that heat-trapping gasses were increasing in the earth's atmosphere, but no one knew to what effect. In 1979, a study found "no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible". Since then scientists have been seeking to prove it, and the results are in.

Meta studies show that 97 per cent of published climate scientists agree that global warming is occurring and that it is caused by human activities. The American Association for the Advancement of Science compared it to the consensus linking smoking to cancer. The debate is over, yet doubt continues.

For decades, arguments denying the harms caused by smoking were made. A tobacco executive once said: "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy."

Such doubts can be highly effective, particularly if they allow people to support agendas that are politically or economically useful to them.

One person who has managed to successfully merge expert and popular opinions is English physicist Professor Brian Cox, whose books and television programmes explain complex scientific phenomena in highly accessible ways. He recently said that ignoring best evidence and turning against experts is "the road back to the cave".

Modern civilisation, he says, has grown not because of gut instinct and guesswork but because of scientific understanding and thinking. "Being an expert does not mean that you are someone with a vested interest; it means you spend your life studying something. You're not necessarily right - but you're more likely to be right than someone who's not spent their life studying it."

If 100 of the best-qualified engineers were asked to assess the structural integrity of a house and 97 of them said it was unsafe, who would listen to the other three engineers and buy the house? Yet that is the foolishness of climate change denial. Furthermore, the basis for these decisions is often arbitrary and variable.

We all believe in the expertise at Nasa when it launches a rocket into earth's orbit then flicks it into space and lands it on a rock, but so many people conveniently ignore the organisation's knowledge and expertise when it confirms humans created climate change.

All of this might be a strange curiosity if the ramifications weren't so serious. Whether it is the erosion of coastal properties, an influx of climate refugees from the Pacific, or the economic impacts on our primary industries from severe weather events, New Zealand must prepare for some significant realities.

The worst of these problems will impact more greatly on generations to come, but to ignore them now is as unconscionable as it is selfish. It ought be seen as a crime.

One way in which everyday crime can be discouraged is to ensure that "capable guardians" are around to deter criminal activity. When it comes to climate change, the capable guardians are educated members of the public who counteract the deniers.

There may be differing opinions on what policies to pursue, but those who deny that climate change exists ought be shouted down like the charlatans that they are. Or better yet, looked upon with pitiful contempt and completely ignored.

There is no room to sit on the fence and say, "I don't know if it's true". Ignorance of the law excuses no one - and so it is with the laws of science.

SOURCE  





Could climate change lead to a WAR? Global warming will increase the risk of armed conflict between ethnic groups (?)

The headline above is just speculation.  The study below was of natural disasters, not global warming.  The authors admit that they cannot link the two

Man-made climate change is expected to increase the risk of natural disasters around the world from severe droughts to more intense tropical storms.

But the impact of these may go far beyond the immediate suffering of those caught up in them.  Researchers believe that climate disasters could increase the risk of armed conflict in countries where different ethnic groups live side by side.

The research, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, suggests that climate-related natural disasters could exacerbate tensions between different ethnic groups.

Dr Carl Schleussner, who led the study, said: 'Devastating climate-related natural disasters have a disruptive potential that seems to play out in ethnically fractionalized societies in a particularly tragic way.'

The researchers found that almost one quarter of conflicts in ethnically divided countries happen at the same time as climatic problems - even without taking climate change into account.

Dr Schleussner added: 'Climate disasters are not directly triggering conflict outbreak, but may enhance the risk of a conflict breaking out which is rooted in context-specific circumstances.

'As intuitive as this might seem, we can now show this in a scientifically sound way.'

Previous studies have focused on variables in climate, such as temperature increase. However it was not possible to use this information to see the direct impact it had on societies.

Instead, the new study focuses directly on the economic damage caused by natural disasters, based on data from Munich Re from 1980-2010.

The researchers used computer models to analyse the data, to see how conflict within countries coincided with natural disasters.

Dr Jonathan Donges, who worked on the study, said: 'We've been surprised by the extent that results for ethnic fractionalised countries stick out compared to other country features such as conflict history, poverty, or inequality.

'We think that ethnic divides may serve as a predetermined conflict line when additional stressors like natural disasters kick in, making multi-ethnic countries particularly vulnerable to the effect of such disasters.'

The researchers used the internal conflict within Iraq as an example. In their paper, they write: 'Although not highly ethnically fractionalised, ethnic identities appear to play a prominent role in the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Iraq.

'It is clear that the roots of these conflicts, as for armed conflicts in general, are case specific and not directly associated with climate-related natural disasters.

'Nevertheless, such disruptive events have the potential to amplify already existing societal tensions and stressors and thus to further destabilize several of the world's most conflict-prone regions.'

However, the results of the study cannot be used to predict the risk in specific states.

Dr Hans Joachim Schnellnhuber, co-lead of the study, said: 'Armed conflicts are among the biggest threats to people, killing some and forcing others to leave their home and maybe flee to far-away countries.

'Human-made climate change will clearly boost heatwaves and regional droughts.

'Our observations combined with what we know about increasing climate-change impacts can help security policy to focus on risk regions.'

Many of the world's most conflict-prone regions, including North and Central Africa as well as Central Asia, are both vulnerable to human-made climate change and characterized by deep ethnic divides.

The researchers hope that their findings can help in the design of security policies in these high-risk areas.

Dr Schellnhuber added: 'Our study adds evidence of a very special co-benefit of climate stabilization - peace.'

SOURCE  






Oakland Coal Ban Won’t Protect Vulnerable

Good intentions don’t necessarily make good public policy. Yet last week the Oakland City Council unanimously fell into the same tired old “feel good” political trap.

On a 7-0 vote, council members passed an ordinance prohibiting the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke within city limits and then followed up by approving a resolution extending the ban to the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT), a new facility being built on a former U.S. Army base.

Fortunately, the ordinance and resolution will come back for a second reading on July 19, so the City Council has an opportunity to reverse or amend its decision. If the ban is upheld, City Council members will have chosen to sacrifice an opportunity to boost economic development on the mistaken premise that doing so is in the best interest of the public.

City councilman Abel Guillen stated that last week’s vote was meant to “protect the health and safety of our most vulnerable population.” That is a noble goal but who are the vulnerable members of Oakland’s population that the council is trying to protect?

In assessing the health and safety risks of importing coal and petroleum coke, primarily from Utah, and then transshipping it to Asia, the City Council relied on a report by Zoe Chafe, Ph.D. Chafe’s report referred to the Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of vulnerable citizens, namely, “children, older adults, people with heart or lung diseases, and people living in poverty.”

The problem in acting to protect Oakland’s “most vulnerable population” is that doing so leads to a contradiction. The council members’ decision pits the interests of one group of vulnerable people against those of others.

“The public” is not a single entity, but rather an aggregation of many individuals, each having his or her own interests and preferences.

Concerns about moving coal and petroleum coke through Oakland’s port facilities certainly can be raised. No one wants to live where a child or elderly parent would have trouble breathing.

On the other hand, no one wants to struggle to feed their family because they can’t find a job. The economic growth that accompanies a project like OBOT, which will create an estimated 2,400 jobs, can help alleviate the problems of poverty faced by members of Oakland’s most vulnerable population.

Terminal Logistics Solutions (TLS), which will operate the $500 million OBOT facility, has indicated that it is determined to comply with the standards prescribed by the California Environmental Quality Act. These standards allow Oakland’s citizens to hold TLS responsible for any air- or water-quality violations.

This means that Oakland can both protect its environment and remain committed to raising living standards—a proverbial win-win option. Instead, City Council members are hung up on creating a feel-good policy that may hurt the very people they think they are protecting.

SOURCE  




EPA Plans to Address Pollution 'From Engines Used on Large, Commerical Jets'

The Environmental Protection Agency already sets pollution limits on cars and trucks, and now it plans to do the same thing with new commercial jets.

Invoking the Clean Air Act, the EPA on Monday announced its finding that greenhouse gas emissions from certain types of aircraft engines "contribute to the pollution that causes climate change and endangers Americans' health and the environment."

"These particular GHGs come primarily from engines used on large, commercial jets," EPA said.

The agency is not yet ready to issue emissions standards for aircraft engines, but that will come, now that it has determined that those engines contribute to climate change.

“Addressing pollution from aircraft is an important element of U.S. efforts to address climate change," said Janet McCabe, EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation. "Aircraft are the third largest contributor to GHG emissions in the U.S. transportation sector, and these emissions are expected to increase in the future."

The EPA said its endangerment" findings do not apply to small piston-engine planes (often used for recreational purposes) or to military aircraft, including Air Force One.

The new rules are still years away, and any proposed standards would be open to public comment and review before they take effect.

For the record, the EPA announcement came one day after Sen. Bernie Sanders described Republican Donald Trump as "a guy who rejects science, doesn't even believe that climate change is real, let alone that we have to take bold action to transform our energy system."

SOURCE  




Has Global Warming Influenced Large-Scale Atmospheric Variability?  No.
 
Paper Reviewed:

Sardeshmukh, P.D., Compo, G.P. and Penland, C. 2015. Need for caution in interpreting extreme weather events. Journal of Climate 28: 9166-9187.

Introducing their work, Sardeshmukh et al. (2015) note there is great scientific and public interest in discerning the influence (if any) of global warming on extreme weather events, writing that "it is tempting to seek an anthropogenic component in any recent change in the statistics of extreme weather." What is more, they note that, for many people, "the occurrence of any extreme event not previously observed 'within living memory' or 'since records began' (in both cases, about 100 years) immediately becomes a candidate for attribution to global warming."

Sardeshmukh et al., however, are quick to caution that such efforts may well "lead to wrong conclusions if the distinctively skewed and heavy-tailed aspects of the probability distributions of daily weather anomalies are ignored or misrepresented." And it was against this backdrop that they began their study, which involved the development of a protocol to adequately detect and attribute changes in extreme weather events. Thereafter, they tested this protocol in an effort to assess changes "in the observed distributions of daily wintertime indices of large-scale atmospheric variability in the North Atlantic and North Pacific sectors over the period 1872-2011."

With respect to their protocol (see the original paper for details), the authors presented a series of mathematical and statistical procedures that ultimately produced, in their words, "a sharper tool for investigating the statistical significance of observed changes in extremes over the twentieth century and of projected changes over the twenty-first century." And in applying that protocol to two indices of atmospheric variability (North Atlantic Oscillation Index and North Pacific Index), Sardeshmukh et al. report they found "no significant changes either in the mean or in the entire probability density functions of these indices over the last 140 years" despite "an apparent upward trend in the NAO index and a downward trend in the NP index during much of the second half the twentieth century."

In discussing the significance of this finding, Sardeshmukh et al. say it "has important implications for understanding the atmospheric circulation response to global warming, and casts doubt on inferences about this response drawn in studies that focus only on the second half, or other subsets, of the full record."

SOURCE  





Hawaii Phasing Out Solar Subsidies For Cost Reasons

Hawaii’s taxpayer support for solar power is set to end in July due to cost and reliability concerns.

The state government repealed its previous programs to boost solar power last October and replaced them with a much more limited subsidy system that caps the total number of users to reduce the cost to the state and minimize power grid damage. That cap will probably be reached this month or in early August. The cap was essential to maintaining the states’ power grid, despite the state’s goal of using only green energy by 2045.

“It comes down to a financial issue,” Democratic state Rep. Chris Lee, the chairman of the state House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, told The Associated Press. “The more distributed generation, the more power that individuals generate themselves, the less of a customer base the utility ultimately has in the long run.”

Hawaii and many other states enacted net-metering subsidies for homeowners with solar panels in 2010, but are now backing away from them. Rooftop solar companies supported these subsidies as a way to encourage solar power and fight global warming. This, however, shifted the costs of maintaining the electrical grid onto households that don’t have solar panels, effectively transferring money from the poor to the rich.

Hawaii gets 3.66 percent of its electricity from solar, a higher portion than any other state, but already has the nation’s highest electricity costs. Last year, solar power only accounted for 0.6 percent of all electricity generated in America, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

A 2015 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) concluded rooftop solar subsides are inefficient and costly, and that rooftop solar companies simply cannot compete without government support.

Solar power by itself receives more federal subsidies than all fossil fuel sources combined, according to the EIA. Green energy in the U.S. got $13 billion in subsidies during 2013, compared to $3.4 billion in subsidies for conventional sources and $1.7 billion for nuclear, according to EIA data. Solar companies simply cannot maintain their current high levels of growth without government support.

Most state solar subsidies go to rooftop solar panels and include a 30 percent federal tax credit, while industrial scale solar is thus somewhat more efficient per dollar spent. Solar-leasing companies install rooftop systems, which cost a minimum of $10,000, at no upfront cost to the consumer. Companies do this because the state and federal subsidies are so massive that such behavior is actually profitable.

TheDCNF previously used statistical analysis to show that the more pro-green energy policies a state has, the less likely it was to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

SOURCE  

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For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here

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



Tuesday, July 26, 2016



The latest environmental scare

Do you notice the dog that didn't bark in the report below?  Did you notice that there is no EVIDENCE about how harmful microparticles are?  It's all theory and falls into the category of things that are OBVIOUSLY bad and so must be discouraged.

All to often, however, things that are OBVIOUSLY bad turn out not to be bad at all -- with dietary fat being the most recent major example of that.  So you need to be able to put numbers on just HOW bad a thing is.  Doing so can generate surprising revelations  -- such as the fact that dietary fat can be GOOD for you.

So what DO the numbers say?  What is the research evidence on how bad these things are?  And how come there was no mention of any such evidence below?  I think I know.  In just ten minutes of searching I found the following sentence in a review article on the subject:  "Bioavailability and the efficiency of transfer of the ingested POPs across trophic levels are not known and the potential damage posed by these to the marine ecosystem has yet to be quantified and modelled".

In other words, nobody knows how harmful they really are.  The article is from 2011 so much knowledge my have accumulated since then but I am not hopeful.  I suspect that microbeads are a very minor problem in the great scheme of things

I note that I searched the "Marine Pollution Bullein" which did have lots of up to date articles on the subject -- but they were all about how prevalent the beads were in various locations. That they were just obviously bad seemed to be taken for granted.  Nowhere could I see any quantification of harms

And if there is a seminal article quantifying harms I would be delighted to scrutinize its metholoogy.  As a former university teacher of research methods and statistics, and as as frequent practitioner of same, much that seems plausible to others seems hilarious to me.  I can often tell where the bodies are buried, even with no knowledge of the particular field.  As is now widely recognized, junk science is in epidemic proportions these days


Facial scrubs are used daily by millions of people to exfoliate their skin - but scientists have exposed the tiny toxic plastic beads hidden in the products.

Each wash contains up to 94,500 microbeads, while one tube comprises up to 2.8million of the beads, which experts at Plymouth University extracted.

Microbeads, among the fastest-growing forms of marine pollution, can cause physical damage or poison sea life with the chemicals and microbes on their surface.

Richard Thompson, professor of marine biology at Plymouth University, published a photograph of the amount of microbeads extracted from popular facial scrubs.

He told The Sunday Times: 'It can be hard to convey in words how small these beads are and how many are released by one wash, but the picture shows the scale of the impact much better.'

He said the beads ranged in size from from a 0.01mm up to 1mm. 'Their size means they can pass through sewage treatment screens and be discharged into rivers and oceans,' he explained.

When the facial scrubs are washed away, they are washed into sewage sludge and can spread onto farmland. Smaller beads can escape filters and are subsequently washed out to sea.

Experts say the size of the beads looks like food to plankton and baby fish - and can poison them when eaten. This is then passed up the food chain to larger fish and birds.

Mary Creagh, the Labour MP and chairwoman of the environmental audit committee, which is holding an inquiry into microplastics, told the Sunday Times: 'Most of us would be horrified to learn how many bathroom products contain this plastic rubbish.'

The Plymouth researchers only examined facial scrubs but microbeads are widely found in many cosmetics.

The US government has banned microbeads in consumer products under a law that will go into full effect in 2017.

This month Waitrose announced it will ban microbeads from all products sold in its shops. The supermarket chain has already removed them from its own beauty products and has promised that from September it will stock only branded products which do not contain them.

Banning microbeads makes sense, campaigners say, because they are not necessary for washing products. Their abrasive effect can be replicated by natural exfoliants such as tiny fragments of rice, apricot seeds, walnut shells and bamboo.

Banning microbeads, however, will not end microplastic pollution. All plastic items that end up in lakes, rivers and the sea tend to disintegrate, creating tiny scraps of plastic with a similar effect.

Synthetic fabrics, such as nylon and polyester, also disintegrate, and tiny plastic ‘microfibres’ are also eaten by marine life, with a similar effect to microbeads.

SOURCE





John Kerry claims air conditioner chemicals are as dangerous as ISIS at climate conference

Many gases can be used in refrigeration but their efficiency varies greatly.  With the phasing out of HFCs we are getting a long way away from the most efficient one, which means that more electricity will have to be used to get the same cooling effect.  But aren't we supposed to be reducing demand for electricity?  More Greenie foot-shooting, it seems.  And there is general agreement that HFCs make only a trivial contribution (1% is often quoted) to global warming so that foot could reasonably have been left unshot

Chemicals used in refrigerators and air conditioners pose as big of a threat as ISIS, John Kerry said.

The Secretary Of State traveled to Vienna, Austria on Friday to negotiate an amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, created to protect the ozone layer.

The amendment phases out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), compounds that are mostly used as refrigerants and act as potent greenhouses gases.

Kerry went to Vienna with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy and compared the fight against climate change to the fight against terrorism during talks with parties to the Montreal Protocol.

'Yesterday, I met in Washington with 45 nations — defense ministers and foreign ministers — as we were working together on the challenge of [the Islamic State], and terrorism,' Kerry said according to the Washington Examiner.

'It's hard for some people to grasp it, but what we — you — are doing here right now is of equal importance because it has the ability to literally save life on the planet itself.'

Amending the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFCs is one of the most cost-effective and consequential ways to combat climate change, the Department Of State said in a statement.

HFCs became widely used in the late 1980s, after a previous Montreal Protocol agreement led countries to stop using ozone-depleting chemicals in the air conditioning and refrigeration sectors.

This helped protecting the ozone layer, but companies began using HFCs as an alternative to the banned chemicals.

While HFCs do not harm the ozone layer, they have a strong potential to warm the planet - more so than carbon dioxide.

Reducing the use of HFCs could help limit the global temperature rise and avoid the most severe consequences of climate change.

HFCs can now be replaced with more climate-friendly materials.

California announced earlier this week that it would give half a million dollars to a $6 million project to research alternatives to HFCs.

'We have the technologies and chemicals to get this done, and are confident we can produce an HFC amendment that works,' the EPA said on its blog.

The EPA hopes to pass the amendment to the Montreal Protocol by the end of the year.

SOURCE





Obama Administration Continues Regulatory Assault on Offshore Oil and Gas

Last week the Obama administration released yet another regulation intended to undermine the viability of the offshore oil and gas industry in the United States. On July 7, the Department of Interior announced its new rules for drilling offshore in Alaska.

For the first time ever, the administration decided to create special rules for Alaska, more onerous than the rules that apply to offshore production in the rest of the country. No accidents or incidents have occurred to warrant these new aggressive rules, but then for a regulator when it comes to regulation, there never seems to be a need to ask why.

The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in Alaska are estimated to hold about 23 billion barrels of oil and more than 2.8 trillion cubic meters of natural gas according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. This vast bounty has drawn significant interest from oil and gas companies for many years. However, the technical challenges of drilling in the Arctic are significant: freezing temperatures, floating ice, storms, and the like. These challenges make offshore drilling in Alaska quite expensive from the outset. These high costs have been on display since oil prices crashed as leaseholders in the Arctic have delayed drilling activity to wait until prices rebound.

But this pause in activity was not enough for the regulators and their environmentalist allies; they want to choke off any possibility of future development in the Arctic. Thus, last week’s rules. These stringent new rules follow the administration’s decision last year to cancel offshore lease sales in the Arctic and refusal to extend existing leases. As Sen. Murkowski of Alaska commented recently, “above all, it is the chaotic federal regulatory regime that is discouraging investment.” Regulators are designing and implementing a de facto ban on offshore drilling in Alaska, usurping the role of Congress and ignoring the free market .

These actions in the Arctic are just another entry in the Obama administration’s regulatory attack on offshore drilling. In April of 2016, the administration issued new well control rules that industry associations warned would force many small operators out of business due to increased regulatory costs. In March 2016, reversing his own administration’s decision of just a few years ago, the president announced that he would ban offshore drilling in the Atlantic. In 2011, the Obama administration was held in contempt of court for slow-walking offshore permits in an illegal effort to prevent development by not acting, just one skirmish in the months-long “permitorium” imposed by regulators.

Over the Obama presidency, this hostility has had predictable results: oil and gas production offshore has fallen throughout, even as oil and gas production on state and private land has boomed. That decrease has meant less revenue for the federal government, fewer jobs for Americans, and more oil supplies that must come from foreign countries. All to make far left environmentalists feel good. This is the danger of an unaccountable regulatory state captured by left-wing special interests: the power of the government wielded against an industry viewed as the enemy.

SOURCE  






US says fuel economy likely won't meet 2025 targets

The U.S. government says the nation's cars and trucks are well on their way to meeting fuel economy and emissions standards set for 2025, but cheaper gas prices could ultimately lower those targets by encouraging consumers to buy less-efficient vehicles.

A report on the standards was issued Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the California Air Resources Board. The report kicks off a two-year review that will determine whether to keep the 2025 fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions targets in place or change them.

Under standards set in 2012, automakers' fleets were expected to get an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. That's not the real-world mileage vehicles will get; it includes credits for things like more efficient air conditioning systems. The real-world mileage is closer to 40 miles per gallon.

The government calculates an automakers' average based on the vehicles it sells. A company could fail to meet standards on pickup trucks but exceed them with fuel-efficient cars and still meet the requirements, said Alan Baum, a consultant in Detroit who advises automakers on fuel-economy regulations. But if it fails to sell those cars, it could wind up being fined.

As gas prices have fallen, SUV sales have risen, and that could wind up lowering the averages that automakers are expected to meet, the report said. The government now forecasts average fuel economy between 50 mpg and 52.6 mpg in 2025, depending on the price of gas.

The report noted that in October 2012, when the fuel economy standards were finalized, U.S. average gas prices were $3.87 per gallon. They ended 2015 at $2.15 per gallon. So far this year, sales of the Toyota Prius hybrid are down 25 percent while sales of SUVs and other light trucks are up 9 percent, according to Autodata Corp.

But gas prices alone aren't likely to convince the government to weaken the standards adopted in 2012. The report says automakers can meet the original 2012 targets by continuing to make more advanced gasoline engines; the EPA says only about 2 percent of vehicles would need to be hybrids or electric vehicles to meet the standards.

"Today's draft report shows that automakers are developing far more technologies to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, at similar or lower costs, than we thought possible just a few years ago," said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.

The government says 100 car, SUV, and pick-up truck versions on the market today already meet fuel economy standards targeted for 2020 or later. Automakers also have been making more use of lightweight materials, like aluminum, and improving vehicles' aerodynamics. They're also adding features like stop-start technology, which automatically shut down the engine and save fuel while a vehicle is stopped in traffic.

Those advances come at a cost. The EPA estimates the fuel economy standards will cost $1,017 per vehicle between 2021 and 2025, while NHTSA estimates they will cost up to $1,245 per vehicle. The agencies differ on how much consumers would save in gas, but they estimate it's between $680 and $1,620 per vehicle.

Those costs, and consumers' reluctance to buy the smallest, most fuel-efficient vehicles, mean the auto industry will likely argue that the standards should be relaxed. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a lobbying group that represents 12 automakers, including BMW, Toyota and General Motors, says meeting the standards is "a daunting challenge."

"Absent a vigorous commitment to focus on marketplace realities, excessive regulatory costs could impact both consumers and the employees who produce these vehicles," the alliance said in a statement.

But environmental groups will urge the government to strengthen the standards. In a statement, Sierra Club President Andrew Linhardt said the report proves that the standards are working.

"Due to technological innovation, our cars are cleaner and more efficient than ever before," he said.

SOURCE




Former NASA Scientist Dispels Notion Global Warming Is ‘Settled’ Science

A former NASA climate scientist has put out a new report criticizing the argument that global warming is settled science.

“It should be clear that the science of global warming is far from settled,” said Dr. Roy Spencer, a former NASA scientist who now co-runs a major satellite temperature dataset at the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

“Uncertainties in the adjustments to our global temperature datasets, the small amount of warming those datasets have measured compared to what climate models expect, and uncertainties over the possible role of Mother Nature in recent warming, all combine to make climate change beliefs as much faith-based as science-based,” Spencer wrote in a report published by the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

“Until climate science is funded independent of desired energy policy outcomes, we can continue to expect climate research results to be heavily biased in the direction of catastrophic outcomes,” Spencer wrote.

Spencer’s report covers a wide swath of climate science topics from the factors behind global warming, to how scientists make adjustments to climate data, to the “97 percent” consensus figure often cited by politicians and environmentalists.

“Besides, if global warming is settled science, like gravity or the Earth not being flat, why isn’t the agreement 100 percent?” Spencer asked. “And since when is science settled by a survey or a poll? The hallmark of a good scientific theory is its ability to make good predictions.”

“From what we’ve seen, global warming theory is definitely lacking in this regard,” Spencer wrote.

Spencer also explained why climate models tend to over-predict how much warming will occur as greenhouse gas emissions rise. Spencer argues a warming bias is built into the models themselves.

“Since climate models can be ‘tuned’ to produce a rather arbitrary amount of warming, they were tuned to be ‘sensitive’ enough so increasing carbon dioxide alone was sufficient to cause the observed warming,” he wrote.

“It was assumed that there was no natural component of the warming, since we really don’t know the causes of natural climate variations,” he wrote. “As a result, none of the models were prepared for the global warming “hiatus” we have experienced since about 1997, because their climate sensitivity was set too high. The models continued to warm after 2000, while the real climate system essentially stopped warming.”

Indeed, Spencer’s satellite data, which measures the average temperature of the lowest few miles of the atmosphere, showed no significant global warming trend for more than 21 years before an incredibly powerful El Nino warming event hit late last year.

El Nino is a naturally occurring warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean and tends to warm the planet. Satellite temperatures are extremely sensitive to El Ninos (and La Nina cooling events), so mid-tropospheric readings spiked in early 2016.

But temperatures have come down after El Nino faded, and now it looks like a La Nina is setting in. Some even expect the so-called “hiatus” in global warming to return after this year’s La Nina ends.

SOURCE




Australia: Conflict of interests over wind and solar power

Changing to "renewables" without conventional backup is a recipe for disaster -- and it's happening in South Australia right now.  The Green/Left S.A. government just ignored the risks and forced its coal-fired stations to close down. And South Australians are now paying the price of that.  The response of the S.A. energy minister?  Blaming other states for not sending enough of their backup power to S.A.  Blaming everyone but yourself is childish but common

With electricity prices spiralling as South Australia struggles to digest a world-breaking build of wind farms without firm power backup, federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg is facing a challenge that defines the conflict and mixed signals of his new super portfolio.

The challenge was delivered on a windswept blustery paddock about 200km west of Melbourne where Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced state approval for the $65 million, 96-turbine Dundonnell wind farm.

What the Premier did not tell reporters was that the 300 megawatt project, claimed to be the state’s biggest, had yet to receive federal government approval under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

If Frydenberg does not give EPBC approval for Dundonnell he can expect a fiery backlash and accusations of turning his back on renewables and new economy jobs.

If he does give EPBC approval Frydenberg will be accused of grand-scale environmental vandalism against the Victorian brolga, which is listed as threatened and nests at the proposed wind farm site.

The New Zealand wind farm developer, Trustpower, claims to have accommodated the brolga in its layout plans. But the planning process for Dundonnell has been long and tortured with accusations of hidden records and dodgy environmental investigations.

The complaints have not come from peak environment groups but local bird enthusiasts because — rather than endangered fauna — organised environmental activists such as Friends of the Earth have preferred to concentrate on the need for renewable energy and a long-running campaign to make permanent the existing moratorium on coal-seam gas exploration in the state.

In the great circle of energy and environmental politics it is all connected.

For Frydenberg, the gas ban is as significant as the brolgas and the windmills.

And it has all been supercharged by the parlous state of South Australia’s electricity network and what it may portend for the rest of the nation, under pressure to roll out of renewable power.

Frydenberg is clearly aware of the scale of the challenge. He argued for amalgamation of energy and environment portfolio responsibilities and he knows Australia must respond to a fundamentally changing energy world.

In an address to the Brookings Institution in the US earlier this year, Frydenberg said “technology will be the swing factor to achieving the world’s climate goals”.

“Home batteries, carbon capture and storage, high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired plants, large-scale solar, are all likely to feature going forward,” he said.

But, politically, Frydenberg’s task is to avoid becoming known as the minister for sky-high electricity prices.

Events in South Australia — where wholesale power prices have spiked, household electricity costs are the highest in the nation and industry is threatening to quit— provide a good opportunity for a reality check.

Wholesale prices are usually below $100 per megawatt hour but in South Australia they have repeatedly spiked past $10,000 and sometimes touching the $14,000 limit.

There are many reasons advanced for the unstable electricity situation in South Australia.

These include high demand for electricity and gas during a cold snap, restricted competition, limited interconnector capacity to the national grid and the high costs of transporting gas. The gas squeeze has been exacerbated by fierce objections to coal-seam gas exploration in NSW and Victoria as the giant liquefied natural gas export projects in Queensland suck vast quantities of what used to be domestic supplies.

Clean Energy Council network specialist Tom Butler says the reasons for South Australia’s high power prices compared with the rest of the country remain the same as they were before a single wind turbine or solar panel was installed.

A briefing paper released by the Australian Conservation Foundation says renewable energy wrongly is being blamed.

“In fact the problem is not a failure of renewable energy; it is a failure of the national electricity market,” the ACF says. This may be true. But it is disingenuous to suggest renewable energy is not having a leading impact.

The Australian Energy Market Operator conducted a survey of why wholesale prices spiked during the same period last year.

An analysis of the findings by Frontier Economics says the common denominator was a low level of wind generation at the time.

“As has been long predicted, increasing penetration of wind, and its inherent intermittency, appears to be primarily responsible for the (price spike) events,” the Frontier Economics report says.

“While the events have coincided with relatively high demand conditions in South Australia and some minor restrictions on imports of electricity from Victoria, low wind production levels are the key common feature of every event.

“The market response at such times has been to offer higher-priced capacity to the market, leading to high prices, just as the National Electricity Market was designed to do under conditions of scarcity.”

The Frontier report says the level of wind and solar penetration in South Australia presents a fascinating natural experiment in the impact of intermittent generation on wholesale prices.

“Unfortunately, this test is anything but academic and the people of South Australia are increasingly likely to bear increased electricity costs as wind makes up a greater proportion of South Australian generation,” Frontier says.

“While policymakers may be tempted to act to force thermal and/or wind to behave uneconomically, the likely outcome means South Australian consumers will bear more costs.”

Fast forward 12 months and the same weather conditions have produced the same outcomes in the wholesale market, with higher prices to consumers starting to flow through as well.

In the meantime, Alinta Energy has been forced to close its two coal-fired power stations in South Australia early because their business model has been wrecked by the introduction of low-cost, subsidised wind generation into the wholesale market.

Renewable energy champions have always argued the so-called merit order effect, in which abundant cheap renewable energy suppresses the wholesale market, is a positive for consumers. But the evidence is that there are limits.

South Australia is being watched closely by traditional energy companies and renewable energy specialists worldwide as a test case for what happens when high levels of intermittent energy, such as wind and solar, are introduced into a system that is not fully covered by other sources of readily available power.

Elsewhere, such as Denmark, where there is a high percentage of wind power in a national market there is also access to sufficient baseload power from hydro, nuclear or coal from neighbouring countries available to cover the fluctuations.

In South Australia the backup from the Victorian interconnection is 23 per cent.

Modelling by Deloitte Access Economics suggests that by 2019 the interconnector will be importing all the Victorian electricity it can handle into South Australia for almost 23 hours a day. It does not leave much margin for error if things go wrong.

“The last few weeks in South Australia have been a perfect storm but it shows that we have to be very careful how we design markets and policies to decarbonise,’’ Australian Energy Council policy specialist Kieran Donoghue says.

This is the real challenge for Frydenberg in his new portfolio.

The ACF wants a national plan to manage the transition to clean energy. It says this plan should “deal with intermittent generation and energy security, appropriate interconnections, careful placement of renewable facilities to maximise flexibility, an orderly closure of coal-fired power plants and detailed strategies to help affected communities with the transition”.

“The benefits of renewable energy are numerous, but without national leadership and a national plan to transition our energy sector we are certain to see a rocky transition with more price fluctuations,” the ACF says.

Powerful South Australian senator Nick Xenophon has said he will support a Senate inquiry to examine the mix of renewable energy in Australia.

Australian energy ministers are due to meet soon to consider exact­ly these issues. But no one has yet put forward a credible plan of how this should be done or what the cost would be.

At best, there will be a Band-Aid solution to the immediate problems in South Australia.

Industry specialists say the Council of Australian Governments certainly will look at options for additional intercon­nectors to deepen ties between states in the national electricity market.

The cheapest option will be to expand the connection to Victoria, but that is unlikely to give South Australia the sort of diversity of supply it is seeking.

It is further complicated by Victoria’s own plans to lift renewables — through projects such as Dundonnell — and the desire of environment groups nationally that Victoria’s big baseload brown coal generators, which underpin the system, be forcibly retired as soon as possible.

Another option would be to connect to NSW or Tasmania.

The cost of a new interconnector is high, with estimates of up to $3.75 billion for a connection between NSW and South Australia. Experience shows costs can blow out by almost double.

Meanwhile, rapid advances in technology, particularly in battery storage and grid management, make it uncertain whether expensive interconnectors are the right solution for the long term.

South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis wants the ability to ship his state’s wind power to other states, something coal-fired generators in NSW and Queensland would resist.

The challenge is to stop what is happening in South Australia from occurring elsewhere as the amount of intermittent power is expanded nationally to meet the state-based and federal renewable energy targets.

Already, existing generators are arguing for greater payment for the ancillary services they provide to keep the electricity network stable.

Payments for standby reserve power and voltage regulation that cannot be provided by wind and solar would lessen the dependence of baseload plants on the spot electricity market.

But is this not a Band-Aid solution rather than long-term vision?

Central planning can be a slippery slope.

“It is important to be clearer that this transition is not costless,” Donoghue says.

“Instead of thinking that the wind and sun are free, it would be better to give a more realistic understanding of what the costs will be.”

The more governments mandate things such as the amount of renewable energy in the market, the likelier they are to find themselves having to also support remaining dispatchable generators.

“If they (governments) want to direct the transition they are going to be on the hook for all the infrastructure as well,” Donoghue says.

And under the pathways put forward by the ALP and Greens they are also going to be on the hook for the heavy social transition costs as well.

It remains uncertain what pathway Frydenberg intends to take.

In his Brookings Institution address in February, Frydenberg said it was clear the global energy supply dynamic was moving to lower emission energy sources.

He said country comparisons showed that lowering emissions from the energy sector could not be one-dimensional because countries were starting from different positions and faced different challenges.

“One such challenge will be the need to question traditional energy supply” and “such a discussion is currently taking place in South Australia”, he said.

He was talking about the South Australian royal commission into nuclear energy, which he said had “revived the discussion about the role nuclear power could play in a low carbon economy”.

“Given South Australia has 78 per cent of Australia’s uranium reserves and the stable geology to store high-level waste, this debate is shifting community attitudes and has some way to run,” he said.

The Environment and Energy Minister has a substantial challenge ahead.

SOURCE

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