Another Potential Disaster Caused by Global Warming

Several aspects of the Global Warming debate fascinate me. One is argument that there is no debate. I consistently read that 97 percent of scientists believe it is real and is caused by man. There was a petition by Dr. Art Robinson that disputed that assertion, and over 33,000 people with at least Bachelor of Science degrees signed it. It was attacked because there were a few “fake names” used in the signatures. Let’s pretend some portion of the signatures were valid. I’ll pick that there were 30,000 legitimate scientists who signed the petition. There would have to have been 1,000,000 scientists who disagreed with the petition for the 97 percent assertion to be valid. Another attack against the petition is that the scientists who signed it weren’t experts in climate science. I signed it, and am guilty as charged. I am not an expert in climate science, but consider that I have a rudimentary understanding of scientific methods.

One of my work assignments was pretending to be the manager for several scientists with advanced degrees. They often enjoyed arguing with each other about scientific interpretation. I’m trying to imagine how disgusted they would have been if I had stepped into the middle of a discussion and declared “The science is settled.” (I think that statement, which I consider to be absurd, explains why I persist in questioning/denying.)

Another aspect of the discussion or debate is that the lower temperature last year was optimal. It seems that only negative effects can result from the temperature increasing. Of course there are several positive effects of warmer temperatures, such as increased yields for some crops. But, according to NPR, even that isn’t a positive. Global warming, according to the reports, could cause a shortage of salad. Warmer temperatures caused the Arizona lettuce harvest to wrap up early and central California, which fills the salad needs after Arizona drops off, had heavy precipitation that delayed some plantings. I agree this is terrible, because I really like salads. And apparently there will be a shortage unless we stop the many human activities resulting in carbon dioxide emissions that cause higher temperatures and increased localized precipitation? Or maybe it’s too late! So far I’ve been able to buy all the salad-making materials I want, but I guess I should live in fear that is about to end because of global warming?

Lukewarming

The subtitle of this cleverly titled book is “The New Climate Science That Changes Everything.” Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. Knappenberger have done themselves proud with a book that should make climate change “Deniers” more comfortable (except, of course, that there are those who want to criminally prosecute them). Those who believe there is a pending climatic disaster will be less comfortable reading the book. The best way for me to begin this combination commentary and review is to quote from the back cover. “In Lukewarming, two environmental scientists explain the science and spin behind the headlines and come to a provocative conclusion: climate change is real, and partially man-made, but it is becoming obvious that more warming has been forecast than will occur, with some of the catastrophic impacts implausible or impossible. Global warming is more lukewarm than hot. This fresh analysis is an invaluable source for those looking to be more informed about global warming and the data behind it.” Continue reading

Colorado Fracking Update

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing (cleverly called “fracking” by its opponents because it sounds “dirty”) tried to get measures on the Colorado ballet to severely restrict the practice, but failed to get the required number of signatures. The measures would have given more power to local governments to restrict the process and would have prohibited new oil and gas facilities within 2,500 feet of homes. The industry successfully campaigned against people signing the petitions. They probably correctly judged that the measures would be difficult to defeat if they made it onto the ballot because of previous results in several local referendums. Those opposing to fracking were given hope when Governor Hickenlooper announced, “Maybe they didn’t get enough signatures, but tens of thousands of people signed those indicatives, and want local voice—and I listen to that.”

A Denver Post editorial brings a voice of reason to the discussion. It references a series of reports by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. One conclusion of the reports is that banning fracking in the U.S. “…would set off an economic downturn the equivalent of the financial crisis, the housing bust, and the resulting Great recession combined.” The Post has been in favor of measures to move away from burning hydrocarbons. However, they warn about impacts of ending the energy renaissance created by hydraulic fracturing. My guess is that those ardently opposed to fracking and burning hydrocarbons won’t be influenced unless they win, energy generation is impeded, and the energy shortage prevents them from recharging their smart phones and turning on their computers in cold homes.

EPA Dodges Responsibility on Ethanol

The EPA is mandated by law to analyze the impacts of biofuels and report to Congress every three years, but its inspector general acknowledged that the agency has failed to complete such a report since 2011. A Denver Post editorial lists several negative impacts of using ethanol made from corn in fuel, which is the likely reason the required reports haven’t been filed. Mandating ethanol in fuel hasn’t reduced oil imports or improved air quality; two reasons given for imposing its use.

The list of negatives about ethanol is extensive. Farmers jumped on the corn for ethanol bandwagon by plowing up 6.5 million acres of conservation land in the process of planting an additional 19 million acres of corn. Massive amounts of water have been used to irrigate the larger fields of corn and more water is required to process the corn into ethanol. Fuel efficiency is less for gasoline mixed with ethanol. The higher prices for corn naturally resulted in higher prices for food. Top that off with the “…growing evidence that the mandate reduces greenhouse gas emissions much less than originally forecast, if indeed at all.”

Just guessing, but maybe the EPA doesn’t want to submit the required report because they can’t think of anything positive to say. Is it possible they’re working to protect a political agenda and not to protect the environment?

Nuclear Waste Disposal

Activists have successfully fought nuclear power generation by preventing a national solution to disposing of the waste. A Denver Post article describes how federal officials worked to open a central disposal facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Nevada politicians opposed after the money was spent to prepare the site, and Obama declared Yucca Mountain as an “unworkable solution” early in his Presidency. The result was that about 70,000 tons of waste (increasing by about 2,000 tons per year) is now stored at 99 power plants and 14 closed plants around the country. Guarding the spent fuel is expensive and the waste will eventually have to be repackaged if a permanent solution can’t be developed. I’ve never heard that anyone claim that what we are doing now is safer than what could have been accomplished by opening Yucca Mountain.

There is a long list of positives about nuclear energy. Advocates of reducing carbon dioxide emission to combat climate change should be thrilled that nuclear plants don’t emit carbon dioxide. Nuclear power generates about a fifth of the electricity in America despite the fierce opposition that has successfully impeded its development. Wind power might catch up with that amount by 2020. I was surprised to read that John Kotek, acting assistant secretary for nuclear energy, also added, “We benefited from the nuclear deterrence.”

The federal government convened a meeting in Denver to discuss the problem of nuclear waste. Kotek said, “We’re not at all at the stage of looking at locations. We’re developing a process.” He also added, “…having a waste disposal path would make nuclear more acceptable.” In my opinion, he doesn’t get it. Opponents fully understand that solving the problem of waste disposal would make nuclear energy more acceptable. That’s exactly why they will never agree to any solution. Plans to drill an exploratory bore hole thee miles deep under North Dakota for nuclear weapon waste were scrapped in the face of objections from residents. The problem won’t be solved until we find some politicians with the courage to do the right thing. Considering our latest crop of politicians, I’d say we shouldn’t hold our breath.

Renewable Energy’s Secret

The title is from an article in the Denver Post published in November 2015 which described bird deaths from the Iyanpah Solar Generating System in the Mojave Desert and wind turbines in Central California’s Altamont Pass. The article describes how two scientists published accounts of very large numbers of birds being incinerated when flying into the area of the solar system or killed when flying into the path of the wind turbines. A concerted effort was made by alternative energy companies to dismiss the data based on the accusation it was the result of “data dredging—teasing out statistical patterns that may not exist.”

A recent news report makes me suspicious there might have been some truth in the data presented by the two scientists. “The Obama administration is revising a federal rule that allows wind-energy companies to operate high-speed wind turbines for up to 30 years, even if it means killing or injuring thousands of federally protected bald and golden eagles…Under the plan…wind companies and other power providers could kill or injure up to 4,200 bald eagles a year without penalty—nearly four times the current limit. Golden eagles could be killed (apparently without limits) if companies take steps to minimize the losses…” The Fish and Wildlife Service Director said the proposal would “…provide a path forward for maintaining eagle populations while also spurring development of a pollution-free energy source that’s intended to ease global warming… (and) help the country reduce its reliance on fossil fuels such as coal and oil that contribute to global warming.”

I find it quite curious that the government is proposing allowing environmental damage to address environmental damage.

Global Warming Saves the Planet

I’ve been entertained by recent articles that the increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has prevented an ice age. Just guessing, but I predict most scientists and other citizens would vote for global warming if the choice was an ice age. Warming and increased carbon dioxide results in increased crop yields and more robust growth of trees while freezing results in poor or non-existent crop yields and people dying at higher rates from cold and starvation.

One explanation for why global warming has saved us is associated with something called the Milankovitch cycle. To avoid getting into tedious technical details, the cycle refers to how changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun changes, which also causes changes to the amount of sunlight received by the earth. (To state the obvious, the primary source of global warming is sunlight.) Citation needed (I admit that I copied the idea of using “citation needed” when an statement is made about an obvious fact from Randall Munroe’s excellent book “What If,” which I recently reviewed.)

To be “fair and balanced” there have been articles disputing the accuracy of claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been good. I was confused by articles that referred to sun spots causing aberrations instead of discussing the Milankovitch cycle, but then again, I’m not a trained climate expert.

I’ve noticed that there has been a scramble to explain why global temperatures didn’t continue to rise after 1998, even though 2014 might have broken that trend. One explanation is that the oceans are storing the excess heat. Now we have to consider something called Milankovitch cycles or sun spots.

I just checked the National Snow and Ice center’s report on Arctic sea ice, and the ice coverage for 2014 bounced around the average coverage for 2011-2012. It has recently just dipped slightly below that average line. Wasn’t the ice supposed to be gone by now?

For those new to this debate, I assure you I believe climate change is real as supported by the fact that the climate has always changed. Citation needed