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In the Wake of the News

Weather and Climate

Weather changes on all time scales. Some weather changes are predictable in general terms: summer will be relatively warm; winter will be relatively cool. This change occurs every year, driven by the seasonal change in the angle of incidence of the solar radiation striking the earth. However, some summers and winters are relatively warmer or cooler than others. Also, the spring and fall transitions between summer and winter can vary significantly. The historical differences can be documented and essentially constitute the range and pattern of temperature variation and the average temperature over various 30-year climate periods. However, prediction of the seasonal and annual variations over the succeeding 30-year climate period is beyond our current ability.

Seasonal and annual weather are affected by anticipatable but unpredictable weather and climate events. These weather events include El Nino and La Nina, which are not currently predictable in either timing or intensity. They also include previously undocumented events, such as the formation of the warm “blob” in the northern Pacific. The climate events include the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, which transition between their warm and cool phases over relatively predictable cycles, though the timing of each transition is uncertain. These climate events have different global impacts when they are both in either their warm or cool phases and when they are in different phases.

Other common weather events including droughts and floods, tropical cyclones and tornadoes appear not to have documented impacts on global climate; and, there is no documented impact of global climate on these weather events, although attribution studies suggest that climate change has such an impact. Historical observation identifies areas which are susceptible to these weather events and the seasons in which they are most likely to occur. However, we are currently unable to predict the specific incidence, timing, path and intensity of tropical depressions and whether they will develop into tropical cyclones of some strength. We are also unable to predict the incidence, location, timing, duration and severity of droughts and floods. Tornadoes are even less predictable.

Our inability to predict tropical cyclones is highlighted by the recent 12 year “drought” of strong tropical cyclones striking the US, followed by a year in which 3 strong storms did so. Our inability to predict droughts is highlighted by the declarations of “permanent drought” in California and Texas, followed by the end of each of these droughts. Similarly, predictions of “the end of snow” were proven incorrect in numerous locations over this past winter, including in California. Similarly, predictions of an “ice-free Arctic” continue to be incorrect.

Climate is essentially the sum of weather over a 30-year period. Therefore, if we are largely unable to accurately predict weather events on longer time scales, it seems unlikely that we would be able to accurately predict climate (the sum of weather) over longer time scales. The fact that we have been unable to accurately predict global annual temperature over the 1981-2010 climate reference period supports the unlikelihood of accurate predictions in the longer term.

 

Tags: Climate Predictions

Highlighted Article: Net-Zero Carbon Dioxide Emissions By 2050 Requires A New Nuclear Power Plant Every Day

From: Forbes

By: Roger Pielke

Date: September 30, 2019

 

Net-Zero Carbon Dioxide Emissions By 2050 Requires A New Nuclear Power Plant Every Day

 

"More than a decade ago, Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner characterized climate policy as an “auction of promises” in which politicians “vied to outbid each other with proposed emissions targets that were simply not achievable.” For instance, among Democrats competing for the presidency in 2020, several, including Joe Biden, have committed to achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Candidate Andrew Yang bid 2049, and Cory Booker topped that by offering 2045. Bernie Sanders has offered a 71% reduction by 2030.

One reason that we see this “auction of promises” is that the targets and timetables for emissions reductions are easy to state but difficult to comprehend. Here I’ll present what net-zero carbon dioxide emissions for 2050 actually means in terms of the rate of deployment of carbon-free energy and the coincident decommissioning of fossil fuel infrastructure." ...

 

Net-Zero Carbon Dioxide Emissions By 2050 Requires A New Nuclear Power Plant Every Day

 

Tags: Highlighted Article

Media Visibility

The journal Nature Communications recently published a study (Discrepancy in scientific authority and media visibility of climate change scientists and contrarians) conducted by researchers at the University of California Merced. The authors defined groups of individuals as either Climate Change Scientists (CCS) or Climate Change Contrarians (CCC). They contend that, while both of these groups of individuals receive approximately the same exposure in the mainstream media, the growth of alternative media has resulted in members of the CCC group receiving approximately 50% greater exposure.

“These results demonstrate why climate scientists should increasingly exert their authority in scientific and public discourse, and why professional journalists and editors should adjust the disproportionate attention given to contrarians.“

The authors begin from the presumption that: “the 2–3% of researchers unconvinced by evidence for anthropogenic CC were not only small in group size but also had substantially lower levels of authority in the CC literature(REF 10), essentially the Skeptical Science study assertion. The study focuses on: “on a select set of contrarians who have publicly and repeatedly demonstrated their adamant counterposition on CC issues(REF 12) —as extensively documented by the DeSmog project (DeSmogblog.com), a longstanding effort to document climate disinformation efforts associated with numerous contrarian institutions and individual actors.

The UC Merced press release announcing the study quotes one of the co-authors of the study as follows: “Most of the contrarians are not scientists, and the ones who are have very thin credentials. They are not in the same league with top scientists. They aren’t even in the league of the average career climate scientist.” Dr. Judith Curry provided a sub-list of “prominent, currently active climate scientists” from whom she has learned. Dr. Curry notes that this list of climate science ‘contrarians’ is heavily populated by experts in climate dynamics, i.e. how the climate system actually works.

I have prepared a list of skeptical climate scientists whose names appear frequently in the public press. I have listed the universities from which they received their doctorates, the global ranking of those universities, the scientific focus of their doctorates, the universities at which they are or have been employed and the global ranking of those universities.

 

Richard S. Lindzen, PhD

Harvard (6)

Atmospheric Physics

MIT (4) (E)

John R. Christy, PhD

Illinois (50)

Atmospheric Sciences

UAH (401+)

Roy Spencer, PhD

Wisconsin (43)

Meteorology

UAH (401+)

Wei-Hock Soon, PhD

USC (66)

Astrophysics

MIT (4)

Judith A. Curry, PhD

Chicago (10)

Geophysical Sciences

GT (34) (R)

Patrick J. Michaels, PhD

Wisconsin (43)

Ecological Climatology

UVA (107)

Henrik Svensmark, PhD

TU Denmark (163)

Physics

TU D (163)

Nir J. Shaviv, PhD

Israel Inst T (301+)

Physics

HU. J (201+)

David R. Legates, PhD

U Delaware (251+)

Geography

U Del (251+)

William Happer, PhD

Princeton (7)

Physics

Princeton (E)

Freeman J. Dyson, PhD

Cornell (19)

Physics

Princeton (E)

 

I doubt that any of those listed could be accurately described as having “very thin credentials”, especially the Emeritus (E) chaired professors from top ten universities.

The reliance of the studies authors on sources such a Skeptical Science and DeSmog and the use of terms such as “disinformation” and “deniers” says much about the study, none of it good.

 

Tags:

Highlighted Article: Finding Fault in the Hockey Stick Podcast

From: The Heartland Daily Podcast

Guest: Dr. Ross McKittrick

Date: September 17, 2019

 

Finding Fault in the Hockey Stick Podcast

 

"Dr. Ross McKittrick of the University of Guelph, Canada, is a professor of economics who got interested in the climate debate after looking over satellite data. He found the climate community very unresponsive and went on his own journey to discover what was up.

He, alongside Steve McInyre, challenged the famous Hockey Stick paper. Listen in to hear his analysis and why you ought not trust the fraud. Models have to be accurate in their reporting without adjustment by climate pushers."

 

Finding Fault in the Hockey Stick Podcast

 

Tags: Highlighted Article

The Silence of the Skeptics

If a climate scientist produces a climate science research result and no one hears about it, is it still climate science?

Concerted efforts by members of the consensed climate science community to enforce the climate change orthodoxy became obvious with the first release of the Climategate e-mails ten years ago, though these efforts have likely been ongoing far longer. Prior to Climategate, these efforts were conducted in secrecy. However, since then, the veil of secrecy has been pulled back progressively, revealing “the man behind the curtain”, to borrow a phrase from the Wizard of Oz.

The early efforts included restricting inclusion of skeptical research in the IPCC process, discouraging scientific journals from publishing skeptical research, demanding the firing of editors who approved skeptical papers for publication, not submitting orthodox research results to journals which published skeptical papers, providing unjustifiably negative peer review responses, refusing to act as peer reviewers for skeptical papers, attempting to have skeptics doctoral degrees revoked and agitating to have government-employed skeptics removed from their position. These efforts were successful to some degree.

The more recent efforts include provoked information demands from senators and congresspersons for voluminous information about the funding and associations and publications of skeptical scientists from the scientists and their employers, failure to include skeptical scientists in requests for proposals, summary rejection of skeptical scientist’s proposals and failure to publicize skeptical results.

The media have now become actively involved in protecting and defending climate orthodoxy by refusing to invite skeptical scientists to appear on network programs, refusing to publish opinion pieces by climate skeptics, refusing to publish skeptical letters to the editor.

Internet search engines have participated in these efforts by focusing their first search responses on results which conform to the current climate orthodoxy. Searches of climate scientists who accept the consensus return listings of research results, while searches of skeptical climate scientists return a high percentage of critical evaluations by organizations supportive of the climate orthodoxy.

Most recently, Nature Communications published a study by a university team identifying and demeaning skeptical climate scientists and other skeptics, using a collection of poorly identified and defined criteria. Several of the identified “deniers” have demanded withdrawal of the study, retractions in the press and personal apologies from the research team, the university communications department and other participants. Potential legal action has been threatened if the above actions are not forthcoming.

Perhaps the most egregious media effort is being coordinated by the Columbia Journalism Review, which is calling upon media outlets to devote a week to focused climate coverage this September. This is intended to be a propaganda campaign in favor of the consensus climate change position and agitation for immediate, dramatic action to control climate change.

“Our ask of you is simple: commit to a week of focused climate coverage this September. We are organizing news outlets across the US and abroad—online and print, TV and audio, large and small—to run seven days of climate stories from September 16 through the climate summit UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hosts in New York September 23. The stories you run are up to you, though we can offer ideas and background information and connect outlets looking for content with content providers looking for outlets.”

There will certainly be no support for skeptical positions being presented as part of this focused climate coverage. The purpose is not to inform but to incite.

 

Tags: Climate Change Debate

Highlighted Article: Climate Change Hysteria: An Excuse To Redistribute Wealth And Destroy The West

From: Climate Change Dispatch

By: Ferdinand Bardamu

Date: September 17, 2019

 

Climate Change Hysteria: An Excuse To Redistribute Wealth And Destroy The West

 

"The “Church of Climate Change” demands that Western nations impose restrictions on industrial CO2 emissions, encouraging them to squander billions on unreliable “green” technologies and renewable sources of energy.

They continue to ignore the one policy that has significantly increased atmospheric CO2 levels in the last few decades, generating hundreds of millions of metric tons of the stuff annually: mass third-world immigration (see Kolankiewicz and Camarota, 2008).

If the IPCC were objective, it would demand an end to mass immigration instead of more carbon taxes and emissions trading.


Such indifference in the face of the evidence shows that they care more about racially dispossessing whites than they do about “saving the planet.”

So what is the ulterior motive? To further understand what this may be, we must examine the career of Canadian businessman Maurice Strong (1929–2015).

Thanks to his tireless “lobbying behind the scenes,” the U.N. has played a key role in forging a “consensus” on man-made global warming. In a sense, he was the right man at the right time." ...

 

Climate Change Hysteria: An Excuse To Redistribute Wealth And Destroy The West

 

Tags: Highlighted Article

Reanalysis Accuracy

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recently announced that July 2019 was the warmest July on record. This assessment was based on “adjusted” data provided by NOAA. The WMO attributed the record to climate change driven by anthropogenic CO2 emissions and suggested that it was consistent with what is to be expected from climate change.

Dr. Roy Spencer responded to the WMO announcement, suggesting that July 2019 was not the warmest July ever, but probably the fourth warmest. Spencer stated that these announcements were based on “adjusted” data which shared three major problems: the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect; inconsistent sea surface temperature measurement approaches; and, incomplete geographic coverage.

Spencer suggested that Global Reanalysis temperature sets would be a more appropriate basis upon which to base pronouncements regarding global temperature. The global reanalyses are only available over the most recent 40 years, rather than the 100+ year records available from the near-surface thermometer records, since they rely in part on the satellite temperature record.

However, Spencer later compared three global reanalysis temperature sets and determined that the ERA5 reanalysis used by the WMO produces a global temperature estimate approximately 0.2°C higher than the other two reanalysis products. While a difference of 0.2° might seem minimal, this difference is between temperature anomaly products and the estimated total global annual average temperature anomaly over the period ranges from 0.38 to 0.94°C, so the difference is approximately 20-50%.

The ERA5 reanalysis also portrays a rate of increase of global average temperature 0.04-0.05°C per decade more rapid than the other two reanalysis products and 0.05°C more rapid than the UAH satellite data record. Again, while 0.05°C per decade might seem minimal, the difference is between temperature anomaly reanalysis products and represents a difference of approximately 38% compared with both the CFSv2 reanalysis product produced by the NOAA National Center for Environmental Prediction and the satellite record produced by UAH.

These differences between temperature reanalysis products are obviously very significant. Perhaps more significant is the fact that we do not know if any of these reanalysis products is accurate. They represent merely best estimates of the temperature anomaly by each of their producers, based on the agglomeration of measurements provided by numerous sources.

In a recent news release, NASA GISS claimed that their temperature anomaly product, GISSTEMP, was accurate to 0.05°C in recent decades, essentially the period over which the reanalysis products have been available. This would suggest that GISSTEMP accuracy is approximately twice as accurate as the average of the temperature reanalysis products, though that cannot be proven.

It is interesting to compare the temperature anomaly estimates from the various producers over the same time period as the temperature reanalyses, or 1979 to present.

                                NASA GISSTEMP                              0.94°C

                                NOAA NCDC                       0.95°C

                                HadCRUT 4                                          0.71°C

                                RSS MSU                                              0.71°C

                                UAH                                                       0.38°C

The first three listed anomalies are based on near-surface temperature measurements. Collectively, they average 0.87 +0.08/-0.16°C. This is a large and very significant range. The final two listed anomalies are satellite-based measurements. They average 0.54 +/- 0.16°C, which is also a large and very significant range. Obviously, not all of these global temperature anomaly estimates can be correct; and, it is not certain that any of them is correct.

Such is the status of the “settled science” of global annual temperature anomaly measurement.

 

Tags: Global Temperature, Temperature Record

Highlighted Article: Propagation of Error and the Reliability of Global Air Temperature Projections, Mark II.

 

From: Watts Up With That?

By: Pat Frank

Date: September 7, 2019

 

Propagation of Error and the Reliability of Global Air Temperature Projections, Mark II.

 

... "Climate modelers are evidently not trained in the scientific method. They are not trained to be scientists. They are not scientists. They are apparently not trained to evaluate the physical or predictive reliability of their own models. They do not manifest the attention to physical reasoning demanded by good scientific practice. In my prior experience they are actively hostile to any demonstration of that diagnosis.

In their hands, climate modeling has become a kind of subjectivist narrative, in the manner of the critical theory pseudo-scholarship that has so disfigured the academic Humanities and Sociology Departments, and that has actively promoted so much social strife. Call it Critical Global Warming Theory. Subjectivist narratives assume what should be proved (CO2 emissions equate directly to sensible heat), their assumptions have the weight of evidence (CO2 and temperature, see?), and every study is confirmatory (it’s worse than we thought)." ...

 

Propagation of Error and the Reliability of Global Air Temperature Projections, Mark II.

 

Tags: Highlighted Article

Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Anomaly Accuracy

NASA GISS recently issued a news release regarding the accuracy of their GISTEMP near-surface temperature anomaly product which is discussed here (GISSTEMP Accuracy). This raised questions about the accuracy of the sea surface temperature anomaly products.

NOAA NCDC focused attention on the sea surface temperature anomaly in the Summer of 2015 with the accelerated release of Karl et al 2015, (ERSST.v4) intended to debunk the idea that there had been a global warming “pause” prior to the climate conference in Paris. This revision to NCDC’s ERSST increased the calculated SST anomaly of approximately 0.6°C (0.92°F) by approximately 0.08°C (0.10°F), or approximately 13%. NCDC has since released ERSST.v5, which reduced the calculated SST anomaly by 0.10°C (0.18°F) below ERSST.v4 and 0.02°C (0.03°F) below ERSST.v3. However, in the process, NCDC increased the rate of increase of SST by a factor of 2.5.

Sea Surface Temerature Trend

NCDC currently calculates the SST anomaly as 0.8°C. HadSST3 currently calculates the SST anomaly at approximately 0.55°C, while UAH shows the anomaly as 0.45°C. This is a very broad range of values for temperature anomalies which are reported to two decimal place accuracy. The temperatures measured by the Argo Buoys are 0.15-0.45°C lower than the calculated global averages. The difference between the Argo temperatures are smallest compared with the UAH values and greatest compared with the NCDC values. Both ERSST and HadSST use a combination of temperature measurements collected by ships, using various measuring methods, and temperatures measured by the Argo buoys. UAH uses satellite measurements. (Source)

NASA GISS stated that their analysis demonstrated that the “the resulting trends are more robust than what can be accounted for by any uncertainty in the data or methods”. However, there is no real question that the globe is experiencing a warming trend. Rather the questions revolve around the actual magnitude of the warming, the historical rate of warming and the potential future rate and magnitude of the warming. While NASA GISS currently estimates the global temperature anomaly as 0.90°C, HadCRUT estimates the anomaly as 0.70°C and UAH calculates the anomaly as 0.38°C. This is a substantial range of values for anomalies reported to two decimal place accuracy

The graph above from NCDC displays significant uncertainty regarding the magnitude and rate of warming for the period shown. The comparisons with HadSST and UAH display even greater uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the warming of the world’s oceans.

The issues with the land surface temperatures confirm the desirability of establishing a global land surface climate fiducial reference measurements network. The issues with the sea surface temperatures suggest the desirability of establishing a global sea surface temperature fiducial reference measurements network as well. Global temperature measurement has been fraught with inaccurate data, data “adjustments” and data “infilling” for far too long. There is no excuse for such casual treatment of documentation of what some describe as an existential threat to humanity.

However, as serious as the issues with temperature measurement appear to be, the issues with the models used to project potential future temperatures are both far more serious and far more vital.

 

Tags: Global Temperature, Temperature Record, Sea Surface Temperature (SST)

GISSTEMP Accuracy

The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies recently issued a news release regarding new studies of the accuracy of the GISTEMP global temperature anomaly product. Based on the results of these studies, NASA GISS currently estimates that their estimates of the estimated global annual average near-surface temperature is “ are likely accurate to within 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit (0.05 degrees Celsius) in recent decades, and 0.27 degrees Fahrenheit (0.15 degrees C) at the beginning of the nearly 140-year record”.

This news release is interesting on several levels; and, it appears to raise more questions than it answers. The release identifies the estimated global average temperature increase since 1880 at 2°F, ignoring any “significant” decimal places. The estimated two “significant” decimal place accuracy of 0.09ºF over recent decades, conventionally presented as 2+/- 0.09°F, is approximately +/- 5%. The estimated two “significant” decimal place accuracy of 0.27°F at the beginning of the temperature anomaly record, conventionally presented as 0+/-0.27°F, represents an undefined percentage error.

Estimating the accuracy of an estimated temperature anomaly record requires comparison to an established factual temperature anomaly record, in this case a temperature anomaly record of at least two decimal place accuracy. Unfortunately no such established factual temperature anomaly record exists. NASA GISS does not state the temperature anomaly record used for its GISTEMP accuracy estimates in the news release.

NASA GISS does reference a comparison to the surface temperature record provided by the AIRS instrument aboard the NASA Aqua satellite. However, the AIRS instrument measure surface temperature, rather than the air temperature approximately 2 meters above the surface. Therefore, while AIRS might be useful for confirming trends, it is unsuited to verifying measurements. The AIRS comparison is only applicable to the period since 2003, when the AIRS instrument was placed into orbit.

NASA GISS did not mention whether it had compared the GISTEMP temperature record for the contiguous United States with the temperature record provided by the US Climate Reference Network over the period for which USCRN data are available. While this is neither a long nor a global record, it is a highly accurate, unadjusted near-surface temperature record which could have been used to “ground truth” the GISTEMP estimate for the contiguous United States for the same period.

It should be noted that NASA GISS produces GISTEMP using “adjusted” temperatures provided by NOAA; and, that NASA GISS has ‘readjusted” these “adjusted” temperatures numerous times. The graph below shows plots of the GISTEMP global annual temperature anomaly presented in three different years over the past 35 years. Note that the anomaly estimates have been reduced in the early years and increased in the later years of the temperature record. The cumulative effect of these “readjustments” increased the reported global temperature anomaly over the period by approximately 0.4°C (~0.7°F). These “readjustments” represent approximately one third of the total reported anomaly estimate over the period.

 

GISS TEMP

 

The issues with GISTEMP point again to the desirability of establishing a global land surface climate fiducial reference measurements network.

 

Tags: Temperature Record, Global Temperature

Urban Heat Island Effect 2

“An urban heat island (UHI) is a metropolitan area which is significantly warmer than its surroundings. According to the EPA, many U.S. cities have air temperatures up to 10°F (5.6°C) warmer than the surrounding natural land cover. This temperature difference usually is larger at night than during the day and larger in winter than in summer, and is most apparent when winds are weak. The main causes are changes in the land surface by urban development along with waste heat generated by energy use. As population centers grow, they tend to change greater areas of land which then undergo a corresponding increase in average temperature.”  Source

Recently there has been renewed interest in the Urban Heat Island Effect, particularly how it affects the temperature measurements used to calculate the global average near-surface temperature. Bob Tisdale performed a series of analyses of “adjusted” data obtained from Berkeley Earth. These analyses demonstrated that for many of the most populace nations of the globe and for the globe as a whole, the average minimum daily temperature is rising approximately twice as rapidly as the average daily maximum temperature. Much of this difference is due to mass of various types located adjacent to the measuring stations. In the most populace nations of the globe, this mass is frequently associated with urban structures, including buildings, roadways and sidewalks. Heat rejected by the buildings, vehicles and other energy consuming equipment add to the temperature difference.

Analysis of data from China suggests that daily average minimum temperatures are increasing approximately four times as rapidly as predicted, compared with daily average maximum temperatures. The researchers estimate that approximately 50% of the warming reported for China over the past 80 years is the result of UHI bias. It is reasonable to assume that such UHI bias affects the data collected in other nations, though perhaps not to that extent.

The magnitude of the UHI effect has significant technical policy implications. Accurately measuring global climate change requires that the temperature measurements not be affected by UHI, since UHI is a very localized phenomenon affecting a very small percentage of global land area, while scientific interest is in changes which are global in scope. UHI is a local phenomenon, superimposed upon a global phenomenon. Temperatures in the UHI are obviously of interest to the occupants of the UHI but are not indicative of the temperatures in the massive areas unaffected by the UHI effect.

The magnitude of the UHI effect also has significant social policy implications. Environmentalists are promoting social policies which would cause relocation of suburban and rural populations to cities. However, as noted above, growth of urban areas leads to increased temperatures in the UHI, in addition to temperature changes in the surrounding areas. These effects might be offset to some degree by urban design, more efficient buildings, more reflective structural surfaces, elimination of internal combustion engine vehicles, etc. However, it is unlikely that some level of additional temperature increase in the UHI could be avoided. It is also unlikely that the increases in temperatures in the UHI would be offset by temperature decreases outside the UHI.

It seems logical that the technical and technical policy issues discussed above should be understood and dealt with before significant social policy changes are implemented, to assure that the social policy changes do not produce adverse results.

 

Tags: Urban Heat Island

Highlighted Article: Sustainability: Ideology versus Reality

From: MasterResource

By: Paul Driessen

Date: August 26-28, 2019

 

 

Sustainability: Ideology versus Reality

 

Part I: Biofuels and Solar

Part II: Wind Turbines

Part III: The Big Picture

 

"They could have had a global teleconference to save millions of dollars and millions of gallons of aviation and vehicle fuel. They could have set a good example and avoided massive carbon dioxide emissions. They could have been more honest, ethical and sustainable … and less hypocritical.

But instead, some 20,000 activists, bureaucrats and politicians have flown to Salt Lake City, Utah, from around the world for yet another climate-related conference, this one the 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference (August 26–28, 2019).

The globetrotters are staying at fancy hotels and eating fine food–and debating how the rest of humanity must travel, live, work, drive, farm, eat, and use (or not use) energy. The buzz word is sustainability to save the planet from resource depletion and climate cataclysms.

Conference organizers could have invited ..."

 

Sustainability: Ideology versus Reality

 

Part I: Biofuels and Solar

Part II: Wind Turbines

Part III: The Big Picture

 

Tags: Highlighted Article

USA Climate Priorities 2

The previous commentary on USA Climate Priorities discussed priorities regarding climate science, specifically regarding: accurate temperature measurement; establishment of specific values for climate sensitivity and feedbacks; and, verifying a climate model. Addressing these priorities is essential to understanding the potential future challenges which might be presented by climate change.

This commentary focuses on priorities regarding energy production. The extent to which US and global energy production must move toward zero CO2 emissions is a function of the results of the climate science research discussed above and in the previous commentary. Results confirming low sensitivity and minimal or negative feedbacks would suggest a modest progression toward increased renewable energy production. Results which confirmed high sensitivity and positive feedbacks would suggest a more aggressive progression toward zero emissions technologies for energy production.

There is growing recognition that a sole focus on wind, solar and battery storage to replace the current global energy infrastructure would represent a high cost, low reliability approach which would ultimately prove unacceptable or unachievable, absent some major scientific breakthroughs.

There are three reliable and dispatchable zero emissions technologies employed in the current global energy economy: nuclear, hydroelectric and geothermal steam. There are three additional potentially reliable and dispatchable technologies which have been identified but remain to be developed and implemented: wave energy, ocean thermal energy conversion and dry hot rock geothermal.

Several US thought leaders, including Bill Gates and James Hansen, are convinced that the dramatic reductions in global CO2 emissions envisioned by environmental and climate activists are unachievable without a significant increase in nuclear energy production. Nuclear technology is proven and is capable of significant expansion to meet current and future needs, as are hydroelectric and geothermal generation, though to a lesser extent.

Research priorities for nuclear generation include: inherently safe reactors; modular reactors; reactors capable of using a higher percentage of the energy available from the nuclear materials; and, reactors capable of being fueled with the spent fuel currently stored at nuclear generating facilities. Some research has already been conducted in each of these areas, but these efforts could easily be expanded and accelerated.

Hydroelectric development is currently underway in several countries, including China and India. Attempts to expand  US hydroelectric capacity have met with fierce resistance from environmental activists, many of whom argue for removal of existing hydro facilities. Some environmental organizations do not even include hydro in their lists of renewable technologies.

Geothermal steam generation is currently limited to areas where there are currently steam vents. Dry hot rock geothermal could be far more widely available, since dry hot rock could be accessed globally. However, limited experiments in Europe have triggered earthquakes, resulting in suspension of the research efforts.

Wave energy and ocean thermal energy conversion are also in their infancy but have very significant generation potential if successfully developed and deployed.

Major energy technology research efforts to advance these technologies could result in lower cost, reliable energy supplies; and, in major new industries to build, manage and maintain them. These research efforts could offer the potential to provide reliable electricity to developing and not-yet-developing countries as an alternative to expanded fossil fuel generation.

 

Tags: Renewable Energy, Nuclear Power
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