Category Archives: Our Political World

Note to the IPCC — Develop Realistic Goals

The IPCC has a global temperature goal for the World that makes no sense.   The leading “authority” on climate wants to keep the world temperature to less than 2 degrees C higher than it was at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  The Earth has already warmed over a degree C since 1750. This makes the IPCC limit  something less a than 1 degree C from current temperatures.

Natural climate variation makes the goal unattainable in the long run.  At some time in the future, the world will change (probably begin cooling) in  a way the IPCC failed to anticipate.   Nobody can make such a precise temperature guarantee.  Our knowledge of the science is simply too primitive.  And yet the goal is repeated over and over again.  I see references to the goal almost daily.  A goal that is nothing more than a wild ass guess.

We live in an ice age cycle and have been in this cycle for some 2.5 million years.   Average Antarctic temperatures as calculated using ice cores during the last three ice age cycles (about 400,000 years) have varied by about 13 degrees C.  Average Antarctic temperatures have been 8 degrees colder than today, and the coldest place on earth averaged 5 degrees C warmer some 130,000 years ago.  Most of the time it’s colder.

We are living in the Holocene, a 10,000 year period of very stable temperatures.   When one looks at the Vostok Ice Core from Antarctica it is clear that the Holocene is a surprisingly stable time from a temperature perspective.  Nowhere else on the chart does the climate stay stable and warm for 10,000 years.

Now let’s take a peek at a Greenland Ice Core that only goes back about 10,000 years.  This core takes place entirely within the Holocene and covers most of the period.

https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/gisp2-ice-core-temperatures.jpg?w=740&h=555

This ice core indicates that we have spent most of the last thousand years in a relatively cool period of the Holocene.   The recent warming has brought us up to the average.  The average temperature for the last 10,000 years in this particular part of Greenland was about the same as it is right now.  The chart stoped some 95 years ago and back then the world was about .7 degrees colder than it is today.   Add that bit back in and were about average for the Holocene.

The world has warmed rapidly, but there are lots of periods along the chart that are more severe.  Yep…wild natural climate variation…in a calm period of the ice age cycle.  Hmmm…..

I’m not a big fan of ice cores because they provide climate for a single location and regional climate varies more wildly than the world as a whole.   But if Greenland has varied by more than 3 degrees C at a time when the entire planet was unusually stable and warm, maybe a 1 degree C goal is for the world includes just a bit of wishful thinking.

Remembering that the world has warmed steadily since the end of the Little Ice Age, let’s look again at recent temperature data provided by East Anglia University in the UK.

gtc graph

Wild annual variation everywhere.  My favorite section…from 1863 to 1878, the world warmed by a bit over half a degree  C in only 15 years.  Warming before 1950 is presumed by the IPCC to be mostly natural variation.  Furthermore, the world warmed by almost .7 degree C between 1912 and 1942, a 30 year period not unlike the period between 1976 and 1998.  Since 1998, the pattern has been unusually stable.  More stable than at any time in the last 175 years.  No single year has varied from the prior year by more than .2 degree C during the last 17 years

One would never guess we are living (since 1998) in a time of relatively stable temperatures.    Reports in the media cast climate change as an accelerating problem.   And they could be right.  Perhaps natural climate variation is masking a disaster in the making?

But the IPCC could be wrong too.  The IPCC has been making temperature predictions since 1992.  The world went along as predicted until 1998, and then it didn’t.  7 years of right, 18 years of wrong.  7 for 25, not bad if your playing baseball.  I expect more from my scientists. When I look at IPCC data, I see guessing.  Wild Ass Guessing.

Problems are here, there, everywhere in the climate game.  Guessing is a part of the scientific process.  And guessing is everywhere as scientists attempt to predict future climate.  Carbon dioxide is higher than it has been in a really long time, and man probably plays a significant part in that impact.  But it is not the only input required in any attempt to predict future climate based on the past.

We have difficulty accurately measuring the Earth’s temperature both right now and in the past.  Arguments persist about volcanic impacts.  Sudden changes in the Earth’s magnetic field might matter.  Some think solar winds are important. The World was dramatically changed when Antarctica and South America became separate continents some 23 million years ago.

We know solar output varies and some suspect sunspot activity might matter.   Ice ages are presumed to be impacted by the location of the continents and by variations in the Earth’s orbit.   Land near the poles makes the world colder than when most land is near the equator is it was 50 million years ago.  The shape of the the earth’s orbit varies, as does it’s tilt.  And the earth wobbles too.  All 3 orbital variations are presumed to impact climate.

I suspect the IPCC is simply playing politics.  They need the problem to be immediate and urgent in order to secure funding.   And they know that our society lacks the political will to do what they say needs to be done.  If something bad happens, they can say I told you so.  If nothing happens they can blame natural climate variation.   And as long as the problem persists in the minds of the population, they continue to get funding!

The IPCC cannot afford to tell you the truth. It might impact funding.

THIS TRUTH —   The  scientific community is confident that man is impacting climate.  That impact is extraordinarily difficult to quantify,  measure,  or predict   When scientists use computer models they are guessing.  The models are not as precise as they should be and change wildly as new information come to life.   There is much we still do not know. The entire process is strongly influenced by  politics and economics . We all share the planet together.  We have a shared responsibility to be good stewards of the environment.  Society should act in a cautious manner because it might be important.

Gloom and doom sells newspapers and provides funding, but does little to advance the science.  I wish those that advocate climate change science in it’s current form were just a bit more circumspect and a bit less confident they are right.   Until I see some healthy skepticism from within the advocate community, I will remain skeptical.

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Pollution — The Big Lie that Lives on Forever

Air pollution and carbon dioxide have been linked together since the global warming debate began some 25 years ago.  It’s the big lie in the climate game that won’t go away.  Al Gore’s film video cover art is a perfect example of the faux reality we all live with.  Pollutants from factories and carbon dioxide pollution are shown and one and the same.

Carbon dioxide is colorless and odorless, which is why it acts as a greenhouse gas.  Since it is colorless and odorless it makes a boring picture.  The material coming from the smokestack is either water vapor or visible pollution.  Chemicals in air pollution can cause cancer, and can make air unsafe to breathe for people at risk.  Carbon dioxide is beneficial.  Greenhouses add carbon dioxide to their microclimate to make plants grow faster.

Traditional air pollution is neither colorless nor odorless.  Newspaper articles regularly feature a polluting factory photo while discussing carbon dioxide issues.  It’s the big lie that wont go away.

There really is a big difference between air pollution and carbon dioxide. When I visited Shanghai, my eyes watered and I had a sore throat my entire stay. Beijing has air pollution many time worse than Shanghai.  Particulate matter floating around  Beijing’s air causes immediate health problems for its residents.  People are warned not to leave their homes on bad days.  The health risk is immediate and real.  Ironically, visible air pollution shields the surface of the Earth from the Sun, reflecting the Suns energy back to space.  Air pollution makes the world cooler, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, helping to keep the world warm.

We as a society need to distinguish between traditional air pollution and carbon dioxide.  Air pollution is an immediate health problem; carbon dioxide makes the world a bit warmer than it otherwise would be and is necessary for life on Earth.

Global warming is presumed to be bad.  If the Earth warms fast enough, and then stays warm for a really long time, there will be many environmental consequences.  Some will be good, many will be bad.  People living near the ocean will get wet.  A little warming is not to be feared, the warming we have seen in modern times has been on balance, good for mankind.   250 years ago the world was a degree C cooler than it is today.   Were we to have that climate today, we’d have difficulty feeding the worlds population.

Imagine what the world would be like if it were say….10 degrees C cooler, as it was just 17,000 years ago.

Climate scientists presume that the warming we have right now is just right for society.  The world is not too hot, it’s not too cold, it’s just right.   The tree bears would be proud.

If we did everything just right, exactly as the scientists at the UN want us to, would the world stay just right?  No.  The ecosystem is too dynamic.  It changes all by itself all the time.   The world warmed 10 degrees all by itself some 15000 years ago.  It could start cooling next week or a century from now or a thousand years  form now.  Most of the time in the last 2.5 million years, the world has been has been cold, 5 to 10 degrees colder than it is today.  We live in the Holocene, an 11,000 year long warm spell.   There is no guarantee it will last, no matter what we do.

That said.  We should try to be good stewards of our planet.  But nobody knows how warm we’ll be 500 years from now.  NOBODY!

Global warming theory has been simplified.  The dumbed down version  goes something like this.  Man produced carbon dioxide (and methane and other greenhouse gases) is changing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Carbon dioxide is a weak greenhouse gas, so it only warms the planet a little.  This warming is enough to cause an increase in water vapor.  Water vapor is an effective greenhouse gas and that warms the planet more rapidly which causes even more water vaper (the proverbial tipping point) and then we have rapid warming.

Should increased water vapor cause an increase in clouds, the impact would be mitigated as clouds near the surface cool the environment.  Interestingly, the world has been warmer than it is today in the recent past (120,000 years ago) and we did not spiral out of control then.  Maybe the earth won’t warm as much as predicted.

The worlds ecosystem is extraordinarily complicated with many many variables (solar cycles, variations in the earth’s orbit, the solar winds, positions of the continents, volcanic eruptions, changes in circulation of oceans).  These variable have been linked to past ice ages.   The Earth’s climate may appear stable, but it isn’t.  Wild variations are a part of climate history.  Natural variation exasperates an already difficult science problem.  It is extraordinarily difficult to ascertain a specific cause and effect for any individual variable.  Wild ass guessing is a job requirement in climate science.

Both carbon dioxide and water vapor are building blocks of life.   If they go away bad things happen.   During ice age cold cycles, carbon dioxide levels get very low. They were scarily low at the end of the last ice age cycle some 20,000 years ago.  Low carbon dioxide levels slow plant growth.  Clearly too much is better than too little.

Carbon dioxide has been declared a pollutant by some because it has been presumed to be the deciding factor in climate change.   Any honest debate about climate change must begin with the notion that carbon dioxide is one of many many variables.

Still in doubt.   Carbon dioxide has been steadily rising since the beginning of the industrial revolution as this graph demonstrates:

http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/figures/atmospheric-concentration-of-co2-ppm/csi013_fig04_co2_concentration.png/image_original

Temperatures have been  more erratic.  The correlation is less than perfect.  Temperature has done next to nothing since 1998 as carbon dioxide has been steadily rising. During the period from 1940 to 1978, temperature went down while carbon dioxide rose. Don’t take my word for it, compare the chart above with the chart below courtesy of East Anglia University:

gtc graph

Still doubtful,  lets take a really long view and look at data from an Antarctic ice core with both temperature and carbon dioxide plotted. The chart that follows is the Vostok Ice Core  with carbon dioxide and temperature plotted together:

https://i2.wp.com/www.climatedata.info/resources/Proxies/Ice-Cores/05-Vostok-temperature-and-CO2.gif

Carbon dioxide and temperature share a similar shape, but can go in opposite directions for thousands of years before following each other again. About 400,000 years ago carbon dioxide and termperature were out of sync for about 10,000 years. More often than not, carbon dioxide appears to be a following rather that a leading indicator. Temperature peaks first, begins down and then carbon dioxide follows it down.

The data does look a bit different in the most recent past.  Carbon dioxide is going up faster than temperature which is probably the result of recent activities by man.

Carbon dioxide is regarded as a pollutant because it is assumed to be a leading cause of catastrophic warming a few hundred years from now.  There might be a more than a bit of guessing behind that assertion.   The impact carbon dioxide plays is difficult to quantify.  Past efforts have a poor track record with many missteps.  The science is less clear than most people think.

One thing is  certain….carbon dioxide is a specific and different science experiment than is air pollution.  Sometimes the two come from the same source, like a volcano or a coal fired power plant, but the data leads in different directions.  One is a clear immediate health risk,  the other probably will contribute to a warmer world.  Exactly how much carbon dioxide contributes to warming is a very difficult mathematical problem.

Today the New York Times ran an article with global warming in the title, and a discussion of health issues including Asthma in the text of the article.   The article was about air pollution.  The title was a poor editorial choice.  The Times was mixing normal air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions together as if the subjects were one and the same.

Some carbon dioxide is good, too much, probably not so good.  When does it stop being beneficial and start being a problem?  Do we have too much now?  Would the world be OK if we let carbon dioxide get 100 or 200 ppm higher than it is today.  The last 100 ppm seemed mostly beneficial?  How much is too much?

Most pollutants in the world are just bad.   No amount of Smog is beneficial.  Maybe we need a new name for whatever carbon dioxide is because air pollution is the wrong label.   An essential ingredient for life has been labeled as if it were a poison.

Ooops — A Power Failure just after sunset

While I don’t really believe in signs, I must admit, the last week I spent in Honolulu provided the encouragement I needed to give Kailua-Kona a try.   Honolulu was encouraging me to find someplace else to be.  It had been a great 4 week stay full of Saimin, Portuguese Sausage, papaya and walks on Kailua Beach.

It all started when the good folks at the Honolulu Board of Water Supply decided to replace a water main in front of my Hawaii residence location.  This 8 to 10 month long process was spectacularly noisy.  Hours were spent listening to a saw cut strips in asphalt.

A few days later, on Monday January, 12th,  I went for a drive to a favorite beach of mine near Kaena Point.  I got caught in an 90 minute traffic mess because the city closed one lane of the Farrington Highway.  90 minutes to go a bit over a mile.

Later that evening, shortly after sunset, on a windless night, the power system got stressed by the anticipated evening peak. The utility issued a series of rolling blackouts to prevent total system failure. People watching the National Championship Football game were not pleased.

Hawaiian Electric (HE) has not constructed a new peaking power plant since 1991.  The most recent plant of significant size (a 130 megawatt plant) was built by a private firm in 1992.  That’s a long time without significant power additions.  Plants get old, technology changes, new loads get added.   The traffic mess that is Kapolei did not exist in 1992.   No wonder the grid is stressed.

Hawaii needs 4 old plants to operate properly for the city to stay lit at night.  Three oil fired plants owned by the utility and one owned by a private firm, AES.

AES constructed it’s plant in 1992, some 22+ years ago…and it’s…are you ready for this… coal fired with coal imported from Indonesia!  This 130 megawatt plant  burns an odd assortment of waste in addition to the coal.  Old tires and waste motor oil provide fuel for the plant. The plant uses an old technology to clean the coal exhaust. On the plus side, it does get rid of lots of hard to handle waste, on an island that has little surplus land.

In 2010, the utility began the process of converting existing oil plants to algae based biodiesel.   And in 2014, they included biomass as a future feedstock in the coal plant contract.   I worry that converting existing peaking plants might put the grid at risk, should the new technology not work as well as advertised.

It’s never a good idea to be first to market using a new technology.  It’s generally a good idea to go second or even third.  Our optimistic nature produces rosy scenarios that are nearly impossible to meet in the real world.  We fail to anticipate problems. Many expensive mistakes are made as we learn.  Remember the Boeing 787 airplane, chock full of new technology.  It turned out OK because Boeing had the resources and time to make it work. The project was years late and billions over budget.

I remember something called the Healy Clean Coal Plant that was constructed in Healy, Alaska.

This new technology plant was supposed to burn waste coal cleanly.   The 300 million dollar plant was  completed in 1998.  It sits idle today…the victim of frequent plant failures, poor quality control during the test phase and a plethora of legal difficulties.

Hawaii politicians seem to be OK with the notion that evening power failures are part of the price Hawaii must pay for Hawaii’s clean energy policies.  I don’t get it.   It’s going to get worse.

Hawaiian Electric is not spending money to meet the peak demand and is spending money to stabilize the grid so that it can take more solar energy during the day.  Too much solar in remote locations has destabilized the grid, causing voltage surges.  This has forced the utility to limit new installations.

Generous subsidies have created a thriving solar business.  When the utility limits these installations, the utility has a significant PR problem.   Hawaiian Electric’s (HE) approach is to figure out ways to take more power during the day….and announce in advance when power failures are going to show up in the evening.

Spending money to expand the dirty old oil system is unpopular. Three main power plants provide the majority of Honolulu’s oil fired power.  The largest is the Kahe Oil Plant on Oahu’s west shore.  Between 1963 and 1981 this plant was expanded 5 times from 81 Megawatts of Power to the 661 Megawatts it has today.  Facilities at this plant are over 30 years old, with many facilities over 40 years of age.

The most recent major expansion of the Hawaiian Electric Oil system was completed when the Kalaeola Cogen plant was finished in 1991.  This “newer” Cogen plant  added almost 300 megawatts of power between 1989 and 1991.  The newest power generator in the system is 23 years old.

The third major oil fired plant, the Waiau Oil Plant provides a bit over 200 Megawatts.    I can remember driving by this plant in 1960.  Some equipment dates back to 1950, most of the generation was constructed in the 196o’s.

As HE approached the rolling blackout days, several HE oil plants were having difficulties and the coal plant was struggling too.  Peak capacity was severely limited as the utility struggled to get the failed units back on line.  No new peaking plants in over 20 years in a system that must exist without assistance from other operators.  Sometimes being on an island is a bitch.

HE has been pretending, literally for years, that their peaking problem does not exist.  It is only going to get worse as local politics trumps basic utility operations.   Algae based biodiesel might work, but it will probably be years late and billions over budget.

Goodbye Honolulu, hello Kona and all that geothermal power.

 

Hawaiian Electric gets Mainlandized

Hawaiian Electric Company has been Oahu’s power company for as long as I can remember and I can remember Hawaii in July of 1960.  Back then, Hawaii was going to stop using oil to generate electricity as soon as the population could justify a Nuclear Power Plant.

Nuclear long ago lost its luster and now the magic bullet has become clean energy.   Hawaiian Electric has been supporting all sorts of green alternates and has been saying whatever the local politicians wanted to hear.  Political realities have trumped economic realities and the Hawaii public has been paying for it all with higher rates.

Late last year Hawaiian Electric agreed to be purchased by NextEra Energy.  I’d suspect NextEra saw what I noticed….a company that ignores the real world in favor of the political.   NextEra says they like green energy, but they want all the subsidies eliminated.  Locals are  questioning whether the NextEra execs are being truly honest.  The local papers are full of it.

Solar power without adequate storage is not a viable solution for Hawaii’s energy problems for all the reasons I stated in my last post.   Hawaii has an after sunset peak that must be met with oil based generation. Dirty nasty oil.  Solar provides power when it isn’t needed and cannot provide it when needed…until better batteries are developed.

Hawaii has been following the German model.  Two complete energy systems, one renewable and one that uses fossil fuels operate side by side.  Germany has enough solar and wind to meet their peak when it is all working….but it never is all working at once.

Wind and solar power cannot be relied upon, day in and day out.  Utilities base load with other more reliable generation.  Whenever the wind blows in Germany, they get more power than is needed.  The utility is required by law to take it, which creates an energy imbalance. German Utilities sells the surplus to  neighboring utilities, something Hawaii will not be able to do.  The price of power at the German border moves around wildly.

In January of 2013, and again in 2014, the utilities bought power from the wind providers and could not find willing buyers.  They actually had to pay their neighbors to take the surplus power.  Utilities are slowly and steadily destroying their balance sheets as they are forced to buy high and sell low.

Too much solar power creates a similar problem for Hawaiian Electric.  The utility is forced to limit the number of rooftop solar installations…and the locals don’t understand why.  Too much power entering the system at unplanned places stresses the utility grid and provides no relief for peak demand.

Because the utility takes power when it isn’t needed and gives it back on peak, it is essentially buying high and selling low.

The utility is forced to maintain the old system and counts on it at peak, but there is less total generation using the grid.  Peak demand continues to rise, which forces additional investment from the utility. Costs go up but the revenue base fails to keep up as off peak demand actually goes down.  Throw in generous state tax credits for solar installations and you have a recipe for economic disaster if you are a power provider.

The new system doesn’t provide any peak assistance and yet it is heavily subsidized by everyone in Hawaii.  And since the utility and the State have not been particularly forthcoming about the negatives associated with green energy, the public doesn’t understand.   Unreasonable expectations are everywhere.

It looks like NextEra is going to try to finesse this problem by sounding positive on green energy but really being less positive than Hawaiian Electric has been.   Neither utility’s position is particularly truthful, but NextEra’s approach understands the economics of power generation.

I wonder though.  Island politics are tricky.  Perhaps Hawaiian Electric was right to stick their head in the sand and pretend the problems didn’t exist.  Hawaii’s politicians might simply shoot the messenger.  Time will tell.

 

 

 

Electric Car Stupidity in Hawaii

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will not be surprised to learn that Electric Car stupidity is alive and well in Honolulu.

The Hawaii State Energy Office discusses its Electric Vehicle policies on its website.  The subject is introduced as follows:

To reduce Hawaii’s consumption of petroleum within the transportation sector, the State Energy Office is looking at plug-in electric vehicles (EV) as well as other alternative transportation solutions to address the challenges of modernizing our energy system and building a clean transportation future. Hawaii’s leaders and stakeholders view the adoption and widespread deployment of EVs as a key approach towards the reduction of our fossil fuel dependency

Hawaii’s government officials have put on their rose colored green energy glasses.   The rosy view sees a warm sunny climate that has excellent solar properties, and short driving distances.  Hawaii has been anointed by local government officials as a paradise perfectly set up for Electric Vehicles.

Hawaii has an elaborate subsidy system to encourage energy conservation and to encourage renewable energy.  Very nearly all green energy in Hawaii is solar based, either in the form of solar water heaters or solar electric panels on the roofs of houses.  There is a bit of wind and lots of other things are being tried, but most electricity in Hawaii is produced by burning oil based fuels.

Remove the rosy hue and reality must one day set in.

Absent a dramatic change in battery technology, all intermittent green energy options will continue to be of limited use.  A better battery is an absolute necessity. Today’s crop of batteries are not up to the task.  Hawaii’s politicians appear to be wishing for a world that does not yet exist.  And wishing it were so is usually bad public policy.

Hawaii is executing policy based upon a technology that doesn’t yet exist.   The current crop of batteries are both expensive to manufacture and pollute the world when spent.  Solar panels only work for about 5 hours per day and wind averages about 8 hours a day.  Both are predictably unreliable.  That unpredictable nature will persist until battery technology improves.

Electric vehicles (EV) are exempt from parking fees.  Generous tax credits provide purchase assistance and businesses are given subsidies to compensate for mandatory installation of electric fuel fuel stations at parking facilities where 100 or more vehicles are parked.  Hawaiian Electric offers discounted electric rates for EV.  And Taxi’s have been given generous incentives too.

Solar power does reduce the need for oil power when it is sunny.  People install more solar than they need.  The excess is dumped onto the power grid.  Hawaiian Electric is forced to take it. The excess power is then retrieved from the grid during the evening peak.  This activity destabilizes the grid, making the entire system less reliable and it also shifts costs from those that have solar to those that don’t as everybody else has to pay more for peak energy.

A well healed homeowner can install solar power panels and buy an electric car.  Hawaii pays him to install the solar, then pays him again to buy the car and allows a discount on the electrical power used while allowing free parking where ever he goes.  What a deal….if you own a home and can afford a new car.

Most car charging is done at home at night.  The Hawaiian Electric power grid peaks shortly after sunset.   Both wind and solar are most effective during the day.  Hawaiian Electric is required to provide power 24/7.  Very nearly all power generation after sunset in Hawaii is done via oil fired power plants.  EV’s in Hawaii use one form of oil (electricity) instead of another form of oil (gasoline).

Oil is a very dirty and very expensive way to produce power.  Hawaii is the only state in the USA to use oil widely in power generation.    Modern gasoline cars pollute less than not so modern oil fired power plants.  EV’s in Hawaii produce twice the air pollution and twice the carbon dioxide as an equivalent gasoline vehicle, particularly newer gasoline vehicles that get significantly better gas mileage.

Hawaii’s government has provided  subsidies for all sort of non oil based products.  Biodiesel and ethanol are being encouraged with generous subsidies.  Hawaii’s ability to produce either is extremely limited.

Both ethanol and biodiesel require large tracts of agricultural land.  Land is something in short supply in Hawaii.  Hawaii has to import most food items because they don’t have enough farm land.  Sugar cane, a primary ethanol feedstock, is going away as houses fill up available land.   When I was a small boy, sugarcane was everywhere in rural Oahu.  Not anymore.

Hawaii’s approach is to try a bit of everything and hope that something will work.  The result is lots of subsidies to encourage less electrical usage.  People get government assistance to put LED lighting in their homes, to use more efficient appliances, to install solar water heaters,  and tax credits for solar powered electricity.   And one subsidy that encourages more electrical use…Electric Vehicle tax credits and deals.

And who pays for it, everybody that doesn’t drive an EV and have solar electric panels on their house.   Hawaiian Electric customers pay three times the national average for their electricity, which makes conservation an obvious choice.  It also makes Electric Vehicles more expensive to drive.

Hawaii’s air is dirtier and its electricity costs more because of a misplaced love affair with Electric Vehicles.  If and when a better battery becomes available, the state can force solar power generators to store their own power and use it during the evening peak.  If battery technology improves and if the State adopts reasonable solar panel policies many of my objections will disappear….but until then….

 

 

Polar Bears, Whales, Climate Science and Exxon

Wow!

What  a day. Four different articles in Section One of the Anchorage Daily News worthy of a post.  Most days nothing catches my eye.  Not today….well it is April Fools Day.

  1. UN Court orders Japan to halt Antarctic whaling was the feature page 1 story of the day.   The court voted 12 to 4 against the Japanese claim that killing up to 1000 whales a year was a form of scientific research.
  2. Researchers use DNA to trace lineage of polar bears was also a page one story.  A University of Alaska Fairbanks study used DNA evidence to demonstrate that the Polar Bear, Black Bear and Brown Bear have specific genetic histories.   The article went on to discuss the Endangered Species Act and the use of computer models to try to place the Polar Bear on the Endangered Species List.
  3. Exxon: Climate Change Policy Highly Unlikely to Limit Fossil Fuel Sales appeared on Page 3.   This article featured arguments between Exxon scientists and Environmental scientists about the relative costs and benefits of fossil fuels to society.  Surprise…they disagree.
  4. UN report: Global warming dials up our risks made it’s appearance on page 5.  The UN released a 32-volume report on climate on Monday.   This AP article discussed the impact climate change will have on food production.  The article talked about the impacts on poor people and the impacts on fine wine and coffee too.

There you have it, four wonderful April Fools Day treats in the first five pages of  my local paper.

Article 1 – Whaling in Antarctica

Apparently, last year the UN’s highest court had a trail.  In that trial, the Japanese government claimed that killing up to 1000 whales a year in the Antarctic was being done as a form of scientific research.

The Japanese position fails the laugh test.  When a legal position is so bad that others witnessing the lawsuit might actually laugh during the argument, that position has failed the laugh test.  Trust me, no lawyer wants to present a position that fails the laugh test.  Japan just failed.

This story says  something about Japan and about the UN too. 4 judges agreed with the Japanese position?!  And it took the court months and months to come to this conclusion?  World politics is a constant source of amazement.

Article 2 – Polar Bears

When I first started reading about Polar Bears, the conventional wisdom was that they became a distinct species about 200,000 years ago.   Perhaps two years ago, early DNA studies changed that to 600,000 and then another study last year said it could be as high is 4 million years.   This study pegs the change at 1.2 million years plus or minus.  And the study acknowledges that the time clock being used is approximate.

The lead scientist, Dr. Matthew Cronin, has been a vocal critic of the Endangered Species Act.   He has made, according to the article,  the following statements about the listing of the Polar Bear as an endangered species

It seems logical that if polar bears survived previous warm, ice free periods, the could survive another.

and

This is of course speculation, but so is predicting they will not survive, as the proponents of the Endangered Species Act listing of polar bears have done.

and

I don’t think you should base endangered species on predictions and models.  It should be focused on real-world problems.

All this was music to my ears. No so for Dr Steven C. Amstrup, principal author of the report recommending the ESA listing.  He called Dr Cronin’s study incautious and misleading.  Dr. Amstrup then pointed out that the current warming cycle was happening much more rapidly than had previous cycles.

Wrong.  The world is predicted by IPCC climate scientists to begin rapid warming soon. The World has been warming for over 200 years, but most of that has been natural climate variation.  The 2007 IPCC Climate Synopses predicted immediate warming.  The world was supposed to be about .2 degree C warmer than it is right now and that warming was supposed to accelerate with time.  The IPCC was wrong.

Warming to date is well within the normal range of the last 10,000 years.  The Earth warmed at a relatively rapid rate between 1993 and 1998, which also included a climate changing volcanic eruption and a strong El Nino.  Warming stopped and has been relatively stable since 1998 as this Satellite Temperature chart demonstrates:

https://i1.wp.com/www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_February_2014_v5.png

Perhaps Dr. Amstrup is just a tiny bit defensive.   He based all his arguments on climate models that have …at least so far…been wrong.

Article 3 Exxon vs Environmentalists

This article seemed perfect to me for April 1st.   Exxon and the Environmental lobby differ on the relative value of fossil fuels.   Duh!  Talk about a firm grasp on the obvious.   The article can be summed up by a single paragraph about halfway through the article.

Exxon and the environmental groups agree that climate change is a risk and that society will take steps to reduce emissions from fossil fuels to slow the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  They differ, however, on how drastic society’s response could be, and what would cost more — severely restricting fossil fuel consumption or not doing so and allowing more carbon dioxide to build up in the atmosphere.

Exxon thinks emissions will peak in about 2030.  The peak level of emissions will be less a risk than the environmental lobby predicts.    I have no idea where the truth lies.  Vested interests are everywhere.   The article really broke no new ground and provided no new information.

Article 4 — UN Report on Climate

Our local paper ran an AP story titled UN Report: Global warming dials up our risks in today’s paper.  I cannot find the article at AP or at adn.com (The Anchorage Daily News website).  I found stories with the same title.   I also found a story with the same title written by the same AP writer, but the story was completely different.  The Anchorage Daily News has a history of editing AP articles, so I read the online AP article.   The two articles are completely different. I have never encountered this before.

It does feel a bit like an April Fools Day prank…on page 5 of the Anchorage Daily News.

My local newspaper version of the AP story is an awful story.  It focuses solely on food supply issues caused by global climate change.   I wish I could find a way to link it.   The article mixes starvation in India with fine wine and coffee in the developed world.  Global climate change will change food availability and costs according to the article.  And not in a good way.

The article talked about potential starvation in India.     Yep, as India goes from a country with a billion people to a country with 1.5 billion people, food is going to become more of an issue.   Perhaps birth control or lack thereof might be a part of India’s food supply problem.   Maybe even more important than carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere?

 

 

Dr. Hansen’s Dream World – Part 3

This post is the third of 3 dealing with an article published on December 3rd by Dr. Hansen and 17 other scientists.  The article’s basic argument is that carbon dioxide is creating an energy imbalance.   They attempt to measure the energy imbalance, and make predictions about the future.

The article is refreshing in that it finally addresses many of my objections about the IPCC.  It actually discusses other possible drivers for climate change and tries to provide a compelling argument for why these other drivers of climate are not important.   I am less confident than I was before reading the article, but I still have doubts, many doubts.

Dr. Hansen made up his mind about the importance of carbon dioxide before most of the research used was performed.   He has been an advocate for a really long time.   And many of his arguments use data with very short histories.   The data displayed about the sun only goes back 40 years.

https://i1.wp.com/www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action

I want to see what happened during the last cooling cycle from 1940 to 1976.   Information that went back to the beginning of the Little Ice Age would be even better.

The Energy Imbalance discussion uses data from buoys.  The changing amount of energy stored by the oceans is used as an indicator that the world is accumulating energy.  That it is out of balance.  Virtually all of the data used in the calculation is less than 10 years old.   It is more a snapshot in time rather than a trend established over a long period of time.

And I worry about the data set.   There are about 4,000 buoys spread out around the globe.  They drift with the currents and too many are near land.  Many of the buoys have only been available since 2005.   The data is so new and so important to his conclusions that I suspect lots of wild guessing.

The article also dismisses all the short term temperature predictions in past IPCC reports.  It uses the oceans and the large ice masses near the poles as reasons why the horrible changes predicted have been late.   This effectively eliminates one of my main complaints about the IPCC….stupid short term predictions.

And they bravely encourage widespread use of Nuclear Power.   I think Nuclear power is a necessary part of any green answer.  Unfortunately with the exception of China, the world is walking away from nukes.

The article paints a bleak picture of the world unless we make the following changes to the way we generate energy.

  1. The article advocated carbon trading on a worldwide scale.
  2. They advocated widespread use of wind and solar.
  3. They advocated widespread use of Nuclear to replace both coal and natural gas generation.

Carbon trading requires all the countries of the world to agree.   That is unlikely to happen.  Without a worldwide agreement, carbon trading only works for the countries that don’t join.   Today, China and the USA have a huge trading advantage when trading with the EU because they don’t have to worry about carbon taxes.

Wind and solar will continue to be developed, but they have limitations due to Mother Nature.  If and when a better battery is developed,  their use can expand.  Until then, their use will be limited.

Germany has so much solar that their power grid is developing reliability issues when solar is not available.    Germany’s ability to manufacture goods may be impacted.   Germany’s 21st century solution, a brand new coal fired power plant!

The world has changed a lot since 2006 when Al Gore won a Nobel Prize for his political commercial masquerading as a documentary film.   Dr. Hansen and his cohorts barely got any press for their latest bit of gloom and doom.  The world has passed them by.  Why?

They have been gloomy for a long time. Doom failed to arrive on schedule.   Throw in climate-gate and the Mann Hockey Stick debate; the group has lost some credibility.  How did they get into this position?

I think it starts with their mind set.  Dr. James Hansen and his comrades live in a political dream world.  Why do I say they live in a dream world?  Let me count the ways:

  1. They think the science is so compelling that there is no other plausible view.  When Dr. Hansen and 17 other scientists wrote the article I am critiquing, they declared there were no competing interests.  The world does not have unlimited funds.  Every dollar spent on global warming is not spent on something else.  Things like world overpopulation, starvation in Africa,  AIDS, Cancer, over fishing the oceans, and safe drinking water all have the potential to be competing interests.
  2. This group lives on government funds.  Every other need of the government is a competing interest.
  3. Competing interests go beyond government money.  Jobs are at stake in the coal industry.   Wind turbines kill birds, including some endangered species.  People dislike the appearance of wind mills in pristine areas.   Solar panels take up lots of space and must be imported, impacting trade.   Nuclear, well it’s Nuclear, need we say more.
  4. The carbon dioxide is evil climate group has made many mistakes.  These mistakes have given the skeptical community reason to doubt their results.  They have been caught cooking data (Climate-gate), adopting questionable scientific theories (The Mann Hockey Stick Graph) and their short term predictions have been wrong.  Horribly wrong.
  5. They have been too secretive and too vague.  They have argued against sharing data with skeptics.  If the data is good, they should be doing exactly the opposite.  In 2005, the Scientific American  wrote an article defending this use of secrecy shortly after the Mann Hockey Stick data began to be attacked by skeptics.   The Scientific American defended Dr. Mann aggressively.  Interestingly, Dr. Hansen in his new article, appears to argue that the specific temperature conclusions in the Mann Hockey Stick Graph were wrong.
  6. The politics has turned against them.  A worldwide recession, cheaper and more plentiful fossil fuels, and the Fukashima Nuclear Disaster have changed the political landscape.   Global warming advocates are failing because people fear Nuclear Power.  Germany and Japan are abandoning their Nukes, only China seems willing to build new Nuclear plants.
  7. Long ago they made one very large mistake, they let a politician become point man for the cause, Al Gore.   Mr. Gore is driven by political realities.  He will never advocate Nuclear Power.   Green energy without Nuclear energy does not work.  It will not work until a cheap way to store electrical energy is developed.    The green community has been advocating a solution that does not work.  This is now becoming obvious.
  8. They expect the United Nations to be an effective force.   This expectation never made sense.   Much is made of the original Kyoto Treaty.   A treaty that did not work.  Carbon emissions soared during it’s implementation period. Kyoto created too many winners and losers.   Russia got special treatment.  India and China got a free ride.   It was politically unacceptable in the USA.
  9. China has become significant politically.   Any solution must involve China.  In a few years  China will produce a third of the world’s anthropogenic carbon dioxide. The 2009 Copenhagen attempt at a new treaty failed in large part because there was no way for the world community to get China to do what they felt needed to be done.  Absent political concessions in China, the USA will never come on board.   The two largest economies in the world must be a part of any real agreement.
  10. Stop living in the past.   Dr. Hansen has been an advocate of counting all the pollution a country has produced since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution when dictating what each country is obligated to do to stop warming.   I personally don’t buy the argument scientifically, but that’s beside the point.  This approach has effectively given China a pass.  It provides them with an excuse not to cooperate.
  11. Global warming hawks need to learn how to compromise.   Natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than coal.  While it is not as good as Nuclear as a base load fuel, from a carbon dioxide perspective, it is much better than coal.   No new plants are currently under construction.   Decades will pas before any new Nuclear plants come on line in the USA. And old plants are being retired as we speak. Dr. Hansen and his cohorts should be adopting natural gas as a lesser of two evils while they wait for technology to provide a better choice in the short run.

I would be more convinced by the arguments in Dr. Hansen’s article if Dr. Hansen hadn’t made his mind up about global climate change in the 1980’s.   15 years ago doom was coming and coming soon.   His article still says it’s coming, but it could be delayed by centuries.   It is a better argument than the immediate gloom arguments of 15 years ago. Unfortunately for him, politicians usually don’t respond to problems in the indefinite future.

And still  I wonder.   Is Dr. Hansen right now….or is he just selectively looking at data to defend a position he has held for 30 years?   Only time will tell….lots of time.