|The Week That Was
Feb. 25, 2006
New on the Web: New Zealand geologist Gerrit van
der Lingen presents a good overview of problems with Kyoto and IPCC
(published in Newsletter of the Geological Society of New Zealand, 2005).
The newly-established International Panel to Stop the Incipient Ice Age (IPSIIA) will celebrate its founding in a Baltic Cruise this summer with series of mini-symposia aboard ship and in various ports in a region that was covered with kilometer-thick sheets of ice during the beginning of the Holocene - as recently as 10,000 years ago. Building on a successful "dry run" in 2004 with co-founder of IPSIIA Dr. Klaus Heiss, we will start and return to Copenhagen, visiting all or some the following ports: Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallin, Gdansk, and Oslo in a 10-day cruise (most likely Aug 23 to Sept. 2).
For planning purposes, pls indicate yr interest and preferred alternate time frame. Cost per person will be about $2000, depending on date and type of cabin. We may also be able to get special transatlantic airfares to Copenhagen.
Further news: For those who are professionally inclined, the European Meteorological Society meets in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Sept 4-8, 2006.
An AEI-Brookings economic study confirms that Global Warming can confer economic benefits (Item#1). "Overall, the findings contradict the popular view that climate change will have substantial negative welfare consequences for the US agricultural sector." Another AEI-Brookings study confirms that the Kyoto Protocol is costly and ineffective but bravely discusses criteria for a post-Kyoto emission-control treaty (Item #2). Don't these people talk to each other?
Another lurid scare story about GW: Will England turn into a tropical
paradise? (Item #3). Great fun to read; esp the warnings of the Old Scone.
Gretchen Randall summarizes the League of Conservation Voters evaluation of Congress (Item#4). State Department writer describes the latest GW-driven US-sponsored initiative (Item #5). But GNEP might actually do some good.
What we really need is a good chemical battery. Now there is real hope (Item#7). Maybe we'll build the pure hybrid car we need.
Much to our surprise, the editors of Scientific American come out
for DDT (Item #8). But will they ever see the light on GW - or at least
permit a contrary view to appear on their pages?
Climate science: More evidence for solar-driven climate change (Item #9). More CO2 means plants use less water, allowing increased run-off (Item #10). More fresh water-is that bad?
Sea surface temperatures are all-important but difficult to measure
(Item #11). Read this introduction to a session on SST at the AGU Spring
Miscellany: The Wash Post (Jan 19) reports that six former EPA administrators meeting in DC said that "the Bush administration should impose mandatory controls on greenhouse-gas emissions to curb global warming." Gee, by what authority? The Senate has voted against the idea three times and the House wouldn't even consider it. The WP story forgot to mention that these were-or are - fierce environmentalists and complete non-experts on climate science. However, they seem quite willing to advocate what some call "unwarranted exercise of Presidential power." But hey, if it will save the Earth
Pat Michaels writes on extinctions (25 January, 2005): http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2005/01/26/yesteryears-climate-catastrophe/
My reaction to the CBS 60 Minutes program (Feb. 19): Featured were
Bob Corell and Paul Mayesky (U of Maine, Orono). Paul is a paleo-climate
scientist. Bob misrepresented: Arctic temperature trends, the Greenland
ice balance , and hurricanes. Have I left something out?
Sherwood Idso and sons have started a MWP project. They request that you send paleo-temp data (esp. on Medieval Warming Period) to co2science.org
From a reader:
This paper measures the economic impact of climate change on US agricultural land by estimating the effect of the presumably random year-to-year variation in temperature and precipitation on agricultural profits. Using long-run climate change predictions from the Hadley 2 Model, the preferred estimates indicate that climate change will lead to a $1.1 billion (2002$) or 3.4% increase in annual profits. The 95% confidence interval ranges from -$1.8 billion to $4.0 billion and the impact is robust to a wide variety of specification checks, so large negative or positive effects are unlikely.
There is considerable heterogeneity in the effect across the country, with California's predicted impact equal to -$2.4 billion (or nearly 50% of state agricultural profits). Further, the analysis indicates that the predicted increases in temperature and precipitation will have virtually no effect on yields among the most important crops. These crop-yield findings suggest that the small effect on profits is not due to short-run price increases.
The paper also implements the hedonic approach that is predominant in
the previous literature. We conclude that this approach may be unreliable,
because it produces estimates of the effect of climate change that are
very sensitive to seemingly minor decisions about the appropriate control
variables, sample and weighting. Overall, the findings contradict the
popular view that climate change will have substantial negative welfare
consequences for the US agricultural sector.
In February 2005, the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change came into force, but without participation by the United States. Its impacts on emissions of greenhouse gases - including carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary anthropogenic driver of climate change - will be trivial; but scientific and economic analyses point to the need for a credible international approach. Because the Kyoto Protocol's ambitious targets apply only to the short term (2008-2012) and only to industrialized nations, the agreement will impose relatively high costs and generate only modest short-term benefits, while failing to provide a real solution.
For these reasons, most economists see the agreement as deeply flawed,
although some see it as an acceptable first step. Virtually all agree,
however, that the Protocol is not sufficient to the overall challenge.
We describe the basic features of a post-Kyoto international global-climate
agreement, which addresses three crucial questions: who, when, and how.
The respective elements are: first, a means to ensure that key nations
- industrialized and developing - are involved; second, an emphasis on
an extended time path of action (employing a cost-effective pattern over
time); and third, inclusion of market-based policy instruments.
Britain could be as hot as the tropics and much of London could be under the sea if something is not done to tackle disastrous climate change, researchers claim.
A terrible vision of the planet 1,000 years from now has been painted by a team of scientists studying the effect of global warming. According to the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, temperatures could rise by 15°C by the year 3000 and sea levels by more than 11 metres (36ft), flooding much of London. The report's findings dwarf previous estimates of sea level rises.
In a report for the Environment Agency, the Centre said the abrupt changes could make Britain much hotter, or even - such is the uncertainty of the predictions - first colder and then hotter. This could happen if the North Atlantic current system collapsed, denying Britain the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. Ocean surface temperatures would fall by 3°C, but as the Arctic sea ice melted, they would rise again by 8°C in an abrupt turnabout over a period of no more than about 20 years.
Baroness Young of Old Scone, the chief executive of the Environment Agency, told The Times: "We are running out of road on decision-making. Unless we dramatically change the use of fossil fuels, we will be committing future generations to the most severe impacts of climate change."
By the year 3000, the report warns that global warming could have more than quadrupled, with temperature rises of as much as 15°C, if people continued burning fossil fuels. Sea levels will still be rising at the end of this millennium and the total increase could reach 11.4 metres, displacing hundreds of millions of people. The acidity of the oceans will fall [sic] significantly, posing a threat to marine organisms such as corals and plankton. That, in turn, would affect the whole marine ecosystem.
The report says the solution is to reduce emissions to zero by 2200. Tim Lenton, lead author of the study, said: "While most studies stop at year 2100 with temperatures and sea level rising, we explored where they are heading into the next millennium. Only by starting to reduce carbon dioxide emissions now can we avoid dangerous climate change."
The message is that the world can afford to burn only about a quarter of its known reserves of fossil fuels. This implies a small increase in global emissions up to 2025, and reducing and eliminating them by 2200.
"If we follow business-as-usual, then we will commit future generations to dangerous climate change," Dr Lenton said. The risk was that of returning the Earth to a hot state it had not been in since 55 million years ago.
Baroness Young said: "Tough decisions are needed soon. Many of our
coastal towns could be in jeopardy and immediate action needs to be taken
if we are to avoid many of these impacts. "We need to get tough on
energy efficiency. This means much tighter standards for buildings and
government providing proper incentives for businesses from the transport
sector if we are to meet our 2010 target of 20 per cent carbon reduction
and tackle more strenuous targets for 2020."
Sir David King fresh from Kyoto advocacy has now given his blessing to new Government thinking in transport and the eco-village. This advocates reducing the need for transport, and more dense settlement -- with people living near their work and producing nearer to the point of consumption. On BBC 5Live [26.1.04] he quoted Hong Kong and Singapore as examples. This approach seeks to inhibit air travel via an air tax, and to reduce trade with poor, far-away countries.
This represents a further EU Fortress Europe attempt to restrict trade with an ever more competitive World. Of course, young singles prefer city centre living. But the trend in the US and UK is for marrieds to move to surburbia and more security for families - if they can afford it. I wonder what cultural propensities drive the environmental élite green gurus against consumer preference?
Their global eco-village poses as an alternative to our industrial, affluent consumer society. It seeks self-sufficient local economies, local participatory and co-operative arrangements, and a large non-monetary sector. It eschews economic growth, and is all to be driven by "post materialist" values.
I was reminded of a 1985 table I reproduced in a paper on environment valuation a decade later, distinguishing red and green anti-capitalists. The table, shown here, is from Friberg and Hettne's The greening of the world in "Development as social transformation" (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1985).
The Marxist revolution of the working class led by intelligentsia-favoured
centrally planned industry with collective identity and ownership. With
the demise of communism, the rich élite have shifted their attack
on capitalism to greener ground, presumably to stop privilege passing
to the less privileged through economic growth? Even though not featured
at Davos, the romanticism of the sustainable eco-village might have legs
for a decade or two.
Comment 2: This scorecard has become so political that it's become irrelevant.
Clay Sell, U.S. under secretary of energy, said the global initiative, called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), "will allow us to increase U.S. and global energy security, encourage clean development around the world, while improving the environment and reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation."
Increased international cooperation is a key element of the initiative.
(See related article.)
He said the GNEP seeks to:
Promote nuclear energy for electricity generation as a clean alternative to fossil fuels, especially coal, which produce greenhouse emissions and other pollutants when burned;
Recycle spent nuclear fuel in a way that not only would reduce the weapons proliferation threat but also dramatically decrease the amount of radioactive waste; and
Give developing countries access to clean and affordable energy within a proliferation-resistant framework of nuclear-fuel services provided by developed countries.
MAJOR POLICY CHANGE
GNEP requires a major shift in the U.S. policy on nuclear reprocessing and depends on a number of advanced technologies still in their infancy.
Sell said the Bush administration wants to reverse President Carter's 1977 ban on the commercial reprocessing of spent fuel, which was put in place to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation. Spent fuel contains plutonium, which could be used to produce a nuclear bomb.
This has been a stance that "virtually no one [else] followed," Sell said. The United Kingdom, France, Japan and Russia have proceeded with commercial reprocessing based on U.S. technology. Now, the United States wants to develop an advanced reprocessing technology that will make it a "leader rather than a spectator."
But a reversal of U.S. policy, after such a long hiatus in commercial reprocessing, is likely to create uneasiness around the world at a time of increasing concern about nuclear weapon programs in North Korea, Iran and other countries, according to John Deutch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Deutch, who served as Director of Central Intelligence in President Clinton's first administration, says he is a strong supporter of the initiative, which enjoys bipartisan support. But in a February 17 interview with the Washington File, he said the Bush administration will have a hard time persuading countries it believes are developing or may consider developing technology for weapons to refrain from reprocessing at the time the United States is resuming reprocessing spent fuel.
Administration officials argue the United States intends to resume work on reprocessing only to make spent nuclear fuel "proliferation-resistant" and is not doing it unilaterally but as part of the international effort.
Sell said the administration consulted the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, Japan and the International Atomic Energy Agency and found "broad agreement" on all objectives of the initiative.
At the center of the GNEP is urex-plus, an advanced version of the existing reprocessing technology that does not separate plutonium from other long-lived radioactive elements. Reprocessed materials, which retain about 90 percent of energy content of primary fuel, can be burned in advanced reactors to produce even more energy, according to Department of Energy fact sheets.
However, reprocessed fuel cannot easily be used to produce nuclear weapons and will be difficult to handle without advanced robotics. Spent fuel coming from advanced burner reactors can be recycled again and again, reducing greatly the amount of waste and its radioactive toxicity.
In addition, the new process would allow burning of more than 200 metric tons of existing plutonium stockpiles, thus reducing the proliferation threat even further, Sell said. It also would dramatically reduce the need for underground storage of radioactive waste, which has been one of the major obstacles to faster expansion of the nuclear power industry, he added.
This dramatic reduction of radioactive waste and its reduced toxicity also might help to soften the opposition of mainstream environmental organizations to nuclear power, according to nuclear-power industry analysts. Such groups have opposed nuclear energy because of perceived risks associated with nuclear power-plant operations and disposal of large amounts of radioactive waste.
However, urex-plus and accompanying technologies are years away from commercial application. Although they have been tested successfully in the laboratory, "the practicality of these schemes is not yet established and requires additional scientific and engineering research," according to 2005 testimony from an official of the Argonne National Laboratory before the House of Representatives Science Committee.
Under Secretary of State Robert Joseph said February 16 that the U.S. goal is to demonstrate advanced reprocessing technology beyond the laboratory environment, "hopefully" in the next five years, and have a pilot advanced-burner-reactor in the next 10 years. The administration hopes to have a commercial reprocessing system in place by 2025, officials said at an earlier briefing.
This is a wildly optimistic estimate, Deutch said. "We are talking about a programs that will take many decades to develop." Deutch's view is shared by many experts inside and outside the U.S. nuclear-power industry. Mitch Singer, spokesman of the Nuclear Energy Institute industry group, said that the institute's analysis indicates that those technologies will not be ready to use for 50 years to 60 years. Nevertheless, he said in a February 21 interview, the industry supports the initiative as a crucial effort to address nuclear waste disposal and other issues essential for the industry's expansion.
Sell said the administration is contemplating "dramatically" accelerating work on a new generation of nuclear technologies to follow an "admittedly aggressive time schedule." Joseph said that the administration still is discussing the time line of GNEP projects with potential international partners.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information
Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
By Kevin Bullis , February 21, 2006
A new high-capacity battery material could lead to super-efficient hybrid cars and electric vehicles, helping to slash U.S. gas consumption.
Researchers have long known that a material based on lithium, nickel, and manganese could be used to make lithium-ion batteries that store large amounts of energy. The problem is that batteries based on this material could be charged and discharged only slowly, otherwise the amount of energy they could store would drop dramatically.
Now researchers at MIT and the State University of New York in Stony Brook have shown a way around the problem. The breakthrough came last summer, when Kisuk Kang, a materials-science graduate student at MIT, created a computer model that showed that when under conditions of high power, disorder in the lithium-nickel-manganese material caused it to compress and trap the lithium ions that allow electricity to flow. The researchers then synthesized a version of this material without this disorder, freeing the ions to move quickly.
The newly structured material might be a candidate for replacing the batteries used in today's hybrids cars. But its real value could come in taking advantage of both its power and high-energy storage capacity in a different kind of hybrid, known as a plug-in hybrid, or else in all-electric vehicles.
Unlike today's hybrids, which ultimately depend on gasoline for power, but run efficiently by storing extra energy in batteries, a plug-in hybrid would use energy from the outlet in a garage, charging overnight, and would run completely on electricity for distances typical in a daily commute. The gasoline-powered engine would only kick in for long trips, after the batteries were depleted. This type of hybrid could save significant amounts of gasoline, since something like 75 percent of daily driving is for short trips, says Gerbrand Ceder, the materials science professor at MIT who led the effort to develop the new material.
Ceder says the new material could cut down on the weight of battery packs for plug-in hybrids by four or five times. The higher rate capability should also make for speedier charging, allowing top-offs between trips that extend the distance a vehicle could go between overnight recharges.
Other attractive features of batteries based on the new material, according to Ceder, are improved safety over other lithium-ion batteries and lower cost. Lower cost, lighter weight, and faster charging might make the batteries attractive for all-electric vehicles as well.
The material still needs to go through extensive testing to find out if it will have the longevity and performance capability needed for demanding automotive applications, says Khalil Amine, group leader for battery research at Argonne National Laboratory. He says the relatively high voltages described in the paper may cause batteries to deteriorate quickly, although Ceder says their tests so far have not shown this to be the case. Amine also points to the need for testing charging rates.
Stanley Whittingham, professor of chemistry at SUNY, whose work led to
the first commercialized lithium-ion batteries (and who was not involved
with the current project), says the computer model, by showing how disorder
affects materials, will help other researchers to develop new high-performance
batteries. As for the new material, "In the end, to really determine
whether this is a critical material, what we need is some extended cycling,"
he says. "But the rate capability looks great. It looks really promising."
Third-world countries with malaria epidemics need dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), say the editors of Scientific American magazine. Unfortunately, wealthy countries often do not fund aid involving DDT, as studies prove agricultural uses of DDT cause animal deaths. However, DDT saves lives when sprayed in houses, says Scientific American -- as shown by spraying in countries that can afford to fund the programs themselves.
Consider DDT's worldwide success:
o In India, deaths from malaria plummeted from 800,000 annually to almost zero for a time.
o South Africa's province KwaZulu-Natal went from 6,000 cases of malaria to almost zero after spraying began.
o In less than two decades the pesticide controlled malaria in many countries.
Furthermore, house spraying costs less than other alternatives and requires little DDT. For example, a 100-hectare field uses 1,100 kilograms of DDT, while the interior surface of a house merely uses half of a kilogram.
Health professionals support the targeted use of DDT as an important part of the malaria solution, say the editors of Scientific American.
Source: Editors, "Tackling Malaria," Scientific American Magazine,
Maasch, K.A., Mayewski, P.A., Rohling, E.J., Stager, J.C., Karlén,
W., Meeker, L.D. and Meyerson, E.A. 2005. A 2000-year context for modern
climate change. Geografiska Annaler 87 A: 7-15.
Despite increasing human consumption of water, there was a general upward trend in continental-scale river runoff during the past century. Some researchers claim that this is due to climate change. Gedney et al. have investigated this using a mechanistic land-surface model and a statistical 'fingerprinting' method that allows contributions from individual factors to be identified. A climate-change driven component in runoff variation is evident, but is insufficient to account for the whole trend. A more influential factor is reduced plant transpiration due to CO2-induced stomata closure. To date, this effect has been neglected in projections of future water resources. As CO2 concentrations rise in future, reduced plant water-usage is likely to increase both the availability of fresh water and the risk of flooding, and to add to surface warming via reduced energy loss from evaporation.
News and Views: Global change: The water cycle freshens up. Rivers are
delivering increasing amounts of fresh water to the ocean. The cause seems
to be the influence that higher concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide
are having on water use by plants.
The major take-home message of the findings of Gedney et al. would therefore
seem to be that the biological impact of 20th-century atmospheric CO2
enrichment has prevailed over the impact of what climate alarmists describe
as a global warming that is without precedent over the past two millennia,
with respect to altering the planet's hydrologic cycle. And if there is
a secondary message, it is that their findings do nothing to promote the
case for CO2-induced global warming of the magnitude they typically predict.
Introductory talk by Session organizer Prof. S Fred Singer (Univ of Virginia)
Oceans cover 71% of Earth's surface and control the global climate. Quoted global mean temperature values, largely based on land thermometers, differ substantially because of uncertainties about SST. The ongoing controversy about the relative importance of natural climate changes and Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) revolves mainly around disparities between temperature trends of the atmosphere and surface (in the tropics and SH, i.e. mostly SST).
Accurate measurement of SST is difficult. Geographic coverage is poor and there are many different techniques, each with its own problems and uncertainties: Water temperatures from buckets and ship-engine inlets; fixed and floating buoys; air temperatures from shipboard and island stations; and remote sensing from satellites using IR and microwaves. As is evident, each technique refers to a different level below the air-water interface. Drifter buoys (at ~50 cm) measure temperatures in the euphotic layers that are generally warmer than the bulk mixed layer sampled by ships (typically around 10 m). The IR emission arises from a 10-micron-thick skin that interacts dynamically with the underlying "mixed layer." The microwave data depend also on emissivity and therefore on surface roughness and sea state.
SST data derived from corals provide some support for instrumental data but are not conclusive. The majority of corals show a warming trend since 1979; others show cooling or are ambiguous.
Physical optics dictates that the downwelling IR radiation from atmospheric greenhouse gases is absorbed in the first instance within the skin. Only direct measurements can establish how much of this energy is shared with the bulk mixed layer (to which SST values refer.).
SST controls evaporation and therefore global precipitation. SST influences tropical cyclones and sea-level rise; but there is lively debate on those issues. Changes in SST are also responsible for changes in deep-ocean temperatures and ocean heat storage. But recent claims that an increase in heat storage is a "smoking gun" for AGW are without merit.