|The Week That Was
May 1, 2004
1. New on the Web: DR. KEN GREEN FOCUSES ON THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT'S "GREENHOUSE GAS" SPENDING but the same conclusions would be reached if US spending was evaluated -- except that the dollars wasted would be much larger.
2. UK GROUP TO PUSH CLIMATE PROCESS
3. MEETING WITH GERMAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTER JURGEN TRITTIN--- and European Energy Newa
4. THE PRICE OF CAUTION MAY BE TOO HIGH
5. SCIENTISTS FIND POSSIBLE GLOBAL-WARMING CONTROL
6. CLIMATE HORROR FILM "THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW"
7. DIAPERLESS BABY PLAN STINKS LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Environment campaigners have set up an organisation to work for faster
progress on tackling global warming. The Climate Group, to be launched
by Tony Blair, aims to build links between governments, business and industry.
The goals of the group, a charity, include "to catalyse a new political
momentum on climate change".
Risks of flooding are growing to "unacceptable levels" because of climate change, with up to 4 million Britons facing the prospect of their homes being inundated, according to a report to be published today by the government.
The report by the Office of Science and Technology gives the most chilling picture yet of how global warming will affect the lives of millions of Britons over the next half century. Compiled by 60 experts under the leadership of the government's chief scientist Sir David King, it shows that many towns in Britain are threatened by rising sea levels, river flooding and the overwhelming of Victorian drains by flash floods.
The report, Future Flooding, looks forward to 2080 but says that the threat is already growing and most of the worst of its predictions will have happened by 2050.
As a result it is vital to start planning new defences and making long-term decisions now to prevent future disasters. Sir David warned earlier this year that global warming was a greater threat than terrorism.
New "green corridors" need to be created in cities as "safety valves" into which floodwater can be channelled, the report says. In some cases abandonment of parts of urban areas, with councils buying up properties to create new open areas to take floodwater, will be necessary.
"Some structures such as oil refineries could be relocated [inland]. However, other assets such as coastal towns will be difficult to relocate.
"In Wales and other parts of the UK, erosion could threaten beaches and therefore tourism."
The report puts a question mark over John Prescott's cherished plans to develop the Thames Gateway with 90,000 new homes, and the whole area east of London, which is at or below sea level.
The report says that in all planning flood risks must be taken into account.
Space must always be left to allow for river and coastal floodwaters.
In the Netherlands, some developments are allowed if they are on stilts
and have an escape boat.
Readers of TWTW certainly know about Jurgen Trittin, the Green menace who is ruining German economic prosperity almost single-handed. He spoke in Washington DC on April 27 about global warming and environmental politics. I had a chance to put some questions to him, which he answered with great circumlocution. There was little point in arguing global warming facts with a convinced ideologue, but I was not quite prepared to hear him mangle established facts. For example, to my question why he opposes nuclear power, he claimed - falsely - that no one is building such plants any more. When asked to respond to the charge by the environment minister of Lower Saxony that "Trittin is bamboozling the pubic with his statements about wind energy" JT went into a long spiel about how many people are now employed in constructing and maintaining wind turbines. Quite a revelation. He forgot to tell us who is paying for all this, incl the maintenance. And the environment minister of Lower Saxony H H Sander (FDP)states clearly: "Wind power destroys jobs." (Cellesche Ztg. 26.02.04)
Trittin didn't dwell on his fight with German economics, trade and industry
minister. Clement is fighting for a sufficient number of emission rights
for German industry within the EU-trading scheme. He can't overrule European
legislation; but within the scope of the national scheme German industry
may be allotted a sufficient number of rights while still fulfilling the
German Kyoto target of -21 % emission reduction from the 1990. levels.
The Greens are claiming he wants to back off from the German commitments,
but that's patently untrue. Clement did in fact say that additional efforts
of Germany should be weighed against the potential environmental benefit,
which is nil, and the potential economic harm, which could be substantial.
Meanwhile, proving Trittin wrong, the Swedish public is doing a U-turn on nuclear power [Environment Daily 1655, 27/04/04]. For the first time since Sweden voted in a referendum in 1980 to phase out the use of nuclear power by 2010, a public opinion poll suggests that more Swedes now want to keep it than not, Svenska Dagbladet newspaper reported on Tuesday. The survey, by Gothenburg University's SOM Institute, found 46% in favour of keeping or expanding existing facilities, while 34% wanted the nuclear programme to end -- at least when those reactors still operational reached the end of their working lives.
Reality hits! They've obviously decided it's preferable to remain independent
of energy piped from unstable sources while keeping their CO2 emissions
as low as possible. By retaining their present 40% of nuclear plant they'll
still have Denmark 'over-a-barrel' when she has to buy their electricity
on windless days - a nice little earner!
A British Comment: Since Italy decided to abandon the nuclear option, she has become France's best customer for nuclear power. France, of course, intends to expand (and exploit) her nuclear plant. This way she will be able to name her price when supplying countries reliant on any form of electricity needing back-up or attempting to meet targets for CO2 reduction. If the UK government gets its way, we shall be landed with thousands of wind turbines while foreign sources of a secure supply of electricity will be laughing all the way to the bank.
French premier Raffarin (5. April) announces start of debate to build
new pressurized water reactor
In the US, the 24th nuclear reactor has received permission to operate for 60 years (from 40). 18 more have applied for extensions (NucNetNews 93, 21.4.04)
A delegation of the German Atomic Forum just returned from Japan full of praise for the Japanese nuclear program - and feeling even more frustrated about nuclear energy here in Germany. About 30 % of our electricity is still nuclear, but the current red-green government still intends to close all NPP after about 20 y of operation, and not to extend - as essentially all energy experts recommend - the lifetime, similar to the USA and Sweden, to 60 y.
Meanwhile, Germany is still diddling about disposal of spent fuel -even after the Red-Green coalition has decided to phase out nuclear reactors. Billions of Euros are being wasted by Trittin's environment ministry, acc to the German govt accounting office (FAZ 13.4.04). Even though Gorleben has been selected (with Trittin's approval in Jun e14, 2000), the search for alternatives continues -- largely to keep nuclear radiation fears active.
The official time frame for dealing with rad-waste in Germany is one million years - which is, looking back, around the time when the first primates experimented with upright walking. Obviously, our politicians are far ahead of the USA with, I remember, "only" about 10.000 years. With our perfectly explored salt mines, we could easily accommodate waste from less fortunate countries such as Belgium in the, unfortunately highly unlikely, case that we should be able to get more media and politicians on the almost extinct side of the reasonable people.
Because of the phase-out of nuclear energy, electric rates will increase sharply beginning by 2005, reaching double-digit percentages (Leipz.VolksZtg. 26.4.04)
The current production costs for nuclear and lignite are at 2 c/kWh, all other sources are much higher up to 60 c for photovoltaic. German NPP have kept the world record in production/unit since 1980 with the exception of 1988, when Palo Verde 3 (USA) was slightly ahead. The highest output ever was Grohnde in 1995 with 12.53 billion kWh. For the last 5 y, Isar 2 was No. 1 with more than 12 bill. kWh. All experts agree that it is impossible to meet the Kyoto CO2 emission protocol within economic feasibility without nuclear energy, but this does not influence multi-billion governmental subvention schemes for windmills, coal, photovoltaic roofs, etc.
"The Bio-Diesel Lie" (Welt am Sonntag, 25.4.04): Bio-diesel cause corrosion and many other kinds of problems; maintained only because of federal subsidies. Ford: " no development of bio-diesel engines; the risk is too great for us" Since March, BP and Shell use 5% bio-diesel in Germany.
The CDU/CSU (conservative??) parliamentary caucus for renewable energy voted to support the EU electric power goal of 22% by 2010 and 12.5% for Germany from RE (Fraktionsbeschluß 29.3.2004, www.cducsu.de ).
Three Mile Island accident (March 3, 1979) of 25 years ago demonstrates that containment building protects from radioactivity even with melting of the reactor core. Now there have been advances in security and in personnel training (NEI, March 2004 www.nei.org )
The latest anti-nuclear initiatives are based on fears of terrorism. But nuclear plants are much better protected than chemical plants, refineries, etc *****************************************************************
Newsweek recently turned its attention to the EU's REACH (Registration,
Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemicals) proposal, looking at its basis
in the precautionary principle and ultimately concluding, "sometimes
caution gets the better of common sense." The article looked at the
potential dangers from some chemicals, but voiced concerns that "the
E.U.'s penchant for safety at all costs
is just the latest example
of a wider mistrust of scientific innovation that the polls have picked
up from voters. Europe
is developing a culture of risk aversion,
of which the precautionary principle is the clearest expression."
Newsweek calls the precautionary principle illogical, noting that the
high standard of absolute safety is impossible to satisfy. Furthermore,
the E.U. has admitted that the REACH proposal may cost 2.3 billion euro
Bend.com News, 15 April 2004 - http://bend.com/news/ar_view%5E3Far_id%5E3D14878.htm
Burke Hales, an assistant professor in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, is one of a number of scientists who collaborated on a new study that involved field research in the ocean near Antarctica. The study will be published Friday in the journal Science.
"During the glacial periods, atmospheric carbon dioxide, or CO2 levels decrease substantially, while during interglacial periods, such as we are now in, those levels increase," said Hales. "There is also a striking inverse relationship between implied, historical iron fluxes to the ocean and atmospheric CO2 concentrations. These relationships suggest some sort of feedback system between iron and CO2 levels during glacial periods that keep the temperature low."
The carbon cycle is a complicated system of causes and effects that are not completely understood, but researchers have long suspected that the oceans are the main regulator of the Earth's atmosphere, said Hales. For example, during the ice ages more of the Earth's water is locked up in glaciers, creating arid, windy conditions and a lot of dust. This iron-rich dust is blown out to sea, stimulating productivity of phytoplankton throughout the world's oceans and reducing CO2 levels.
"This was the first experiment of this nature in low silicate waters where it didn't seem as though there would be enough silica for the diatoms to grow," Hales said. "However, our results showed an enhanced uptake of atmospheric CO2 in the fertilized region despite the low availability of silicate."
Although Hales is excited about the scientific implications of the research,
such as the insight it provides into the relationship between the glacial
and interglacial cycles with the CO2 record, he is reluctant to make any
claims that fertilizing the ocean with iron would realistically help control
As we approach the release date of the Climate-Horror film TDAT, a comment from Prof. Philip Stott:
So, will 'The Day after Tomorrow' be a mammoth success at the box office? I do hope so; after all, the more cartoon-like we can make the doomsters, the better.
Talking of which, I hope it is half-as-witty as The Ice Age (http://www.iofilm.co.uk/fm/i/ice_age_2002.shtml),
a film in which, much more realistically, the cartoon stars are a sloth,
a mammoth and a sabre-toothed tiger. Now that's what I call fun.
"Now I know the environmentalists have gone mad. Who wants to lug a bucket for baby excrement while shopping with a diaperless baby? Disposable diapers contribute just a very small fraction of waste in the landfills. The environmentalists should concentrate on getting more people to recycle aluminum cans, newspapers, plastic containers, etc. Although my city has a good recycling program, only a quarter of the households bother to participate. The city provides the recycling bin and the household places all recyclable items, as defined by the city, in the bin. The bin is set curbside once a week and a sanitation employee separates the items as he puts them on the special truck for recyclables." ('Diaperless Babies Seen As Earth-Friendly Solution,' April 22)
"We are urged to 'hold babies over ... any other convenient receptacle when nature calls.' Does a wacko tree hugger qualify as a 'convenient receptacle?'"