Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Alarming Thing About Climate Alarmism

Exaggerated, worst-case claims result in bad policy and they ignore a wealth of encouraging data.

By: Bjorn Lomborg, Wall Street Journal
Originally published Feb 1st, 2015

It is an indisputable fact that carbon emissions are rising—and faster than most scientists predicted. But many climate-change alarmists seem to claim that all climate change is worse than expected. This ignores that much of the data are actually encouraging. The latest study from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that in the previous 15 years temperatures had risen 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit. The average of all models expected 0.8 degrees. So we’re seeing about 90% less temperature rise than expected.

Facts like this are important because a one-sided focus on worst-case stories is a poor foundation for sound policies. Yes, Arctic sea ice is melting faster than the models expected. But models also predicted that Antarctic sea ice would decrease, yet it is increasing. Yes, sea levels are rising, but the rise is not accelerating—if anything, two recent papers, one by Chinese scientists published in the January 2014 issue of Global and Planetary Change, and the other by U.S. scientists published in the May 2013 issue of Coastal Engineering, have shown a small decline in the rate of sea-level increase.

We are often being told that we’re seeing more and more droughts, but a study published last March in the journal Nature actually shows a decrease in the world’s surface that has been afflicted by droughts since 1982.

 Hurricanes are likewise used as an example of the “ever worse” trope. If we look at the U.S., where we have the best statistics, damage costs from hurricanes are increasing—but only because there are more people, with more-expensive property, living near coastlines. If we adjust for population and wealth, hurricane damage during the period 1900-2013 decreased slightly.

At the U.N. climate conference in Lima, Peru, in December, attendees were told that their countries should cut carbon emissions to avoid future damage from storms like typhoon Hagupit, which hit the Philippines during the conference, killing at least 21 people and forcing more than a million into shelters. Yet the trend for landfalling typhoons around the Philippines has actually declined since 1950, according to a study published in 2012 by the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate. Again, we’re told that things are worse than ever, but the facts don’t support this.

This is important because if we want to help the poor people who are most threatened by natural disasters, we have to recognize that it is less about cutting carbon emissions than it is about pulling them out of poverty.

The best way to see this is to look at the world’s deaths from natural disasters over time. In the Oxford University database for death rates from floods, extreme temperatures, droughts and storms, the average in the first part of last century was more than 13 dead every year per 100,000 people. Since then the death rates have dropped 97% to a new low in the 2010s of 0.38 per 100,000 people.

The dramatic decline is mostly due to economic development that helps nations withstand catastrophes. If you’re rich like Florida, a major hurricane might cause plenty of damage to expensive buildings, but it kills few people and causes a temporary dent in economic output. If a similar hurricane hits a poorer country like the Philippines or Guatemala, it kills many more and can devastate the economy.

 In short, climate change is not worse than we thought. Some indicators are worse, but some are better. That doesn’t mean global warming is not a reality or not a problem. It definitely is. But the narrative that the world’s climate is changing from bad to worse is unhelpful alarmism, which prevents us from focusing on smart solutions.

A well-meaning environmentalist might argue that, because climate change is a reality, why not ramp up the rhetoric and focus on the bad news to make sure the public understands its importance. But isn’t that what has been done for the past 20 years? The public has been bombarded with dramatic headlines and apocalyptic photos of climate change and its consequences. Yet despite endless successions of climate summits, carbon emissions continue to rise, especially in rapidly developing countries like India, China and many African nations.

Alarmism has encouraged the pursuit of a one-sided climate policy of trying to cut carbon emissions by subsidizing wind farms and solar panels. Yet today, according to the International Energy Agency, only about 0.4% of global energy consumption comes from solar photovoltaics and windmills. And even with exceptionally optimistic assumptions about future deployment of wind and solar, the IEA expects that these energy forms will provide a minuscule 2.2% of the world’s energy by 2040.

In other words, for at least the next two decades, solar and wind energy are simply expensive, feel-good measures that will have an imperceptible climate impact. Instead, we should focus on investing in research and development of green energy, including new battery technology to better store and discharge solar and wind energy and lower its costs. We also need to invest in and promote growth in the world’s poorest nations, which suffer the most from natural disasters.

Climate-change doomsayers notwithstanding, we urgently need balance if we are to make sensible choices and pick the right climate policy that can help humanity slow, and inevitably adapt to, climate change.

Mr. Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, is the author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” (Cambridge Press, 2001) and “Cool It” (Knopf, 2007). 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Oil price slump taking a toll on U.S. alternative fuels

By: Nichola Groom, Jan 9th, 2015
(Reuters) - With gas pump prices lingering near their lowest levels in five years, greener, cleaner alternative fuels are taking a hit.
Makers of biodiesel, a fuel made from vegetable oil or animal fats, are slashing prices and margins in a bid to stay competitive with the price of diesel fuel, which is down more than 20 percent from a year ago.
Shippers are delaying purchases of trucks that run on naturalgas, and sales of electric vehicles are down, while demand for less fuel-efficient SUVs is up.
Wall Street is also punishing the sector. The WilderHill Clean Energy index, which tracks everything from renewable power producers to solar panel makers, is down 36 percent after hitting a three-year high last March.
"The producers have to be getting murdered," said Steven Boyd, senior managing director at Sun Coast Resources Inc., a Houston-based distributor of petroleum and alternative fuels. "And the consumer puts a smile on his face and drives down the road another mile."
Lower oil prices have had little impact on "green electricity," including solar and wind power, which compete with power generated by low-cost natural gas. But businesses connected to alternative transportation are feeling the squeeze.
Blue Ridge Biofuels, a small biodiesel producer in Asheville, North Carolina, that makes its product from used restaurant cooking oil, says sales at its four retail gas stations in the area are down 40 percent since July. Biodiesel prices at those stations have fallen to $3.29 a gallon from around $4.15 in September, yet it is still more expensive than diesel, which is currently selling for around $2.93 a gallon there.
"There is another station across the street," said Woody Eaton, Blue Ridge's chief executive, and customers "can see the price difference."
The biofuels industry is still tiny, but government mandates have underpinned its growth in recent years. Production of biodiesel has risen steadily, climbing to nearly 1.8 billion gallons in 2013 from 1.1 billion gallons in 2012, according to the National Biodiesel Board.
But it will be difficult for any new production to come online this year given the business climate, said Joe Gershen, vice chairman of the California Biodiesel Alliance.
Makers of corn-based ethanol are feeling a similar squeeze. Low corn prices pushed U.S. ethanol production to record levels last year, with producers enjoying robust margins. Corn has rebounded about 25 percent since October, however, while ethanol selling prices are down as stockpiles of the fuel have surged.
"We still see a positive margin, but not nearly what we saw last calendar year and last quarter," said Jim Seurer, CEO of Glacial Lakes Energy LLC, an ethanol producer based in Watertown, South Dakota. Seurer said he has no plans to scale back production as long as margins remain positive.
Though larger than the biodiesel sector, ethanol still represents a tiny fraction of the U.S. fuels market. The U.S. consumed about 18.96 million barrels of oil per day last year, with ethanol accounting for about 888,000 of those barrels.
Using natural gas as a replacement for diesel in heavy duty operations also has less appeal these days. The trucking industry in recent years has been adopting natural gas as a fuel for its vehicles. But while natural gas is still cheaper than diesel, the slimmer price differential means it will take longer for truckers to recover the roughly $50,000 added cost of a natural gas truck.
"Right now there is no way we could buy a natural gas truck," said Jeff Shefchik, president of Paper Transport Inc, a trucking company based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that operates 100 natural gas trucks and 350 diesel trucks.
Shefchik, who began buying natural gas trucks in 2010, said he will buy 100 trucks this year. All of them will be diesel.
Top U.S. truck brands including Freightliner, Volvo and Mack said they expect demand fornatural gas trucks to slow.
"We have seen customers that we thought would have pulled the trigger by now say 'We're just going to hold off a little bit and watch what fuel pricing does,'" said Robert Carrick,natural gas sales manager for Freightliner, a brand owned by top U.S. truck maker Daimler Trucks North America LLC.
Natural gas truck sales will likely be steady this year across the industry, Carrick said, after growing about 50 percent a year since 2012.
Sales of electric vehicles are also down. A tiny slice of the overall auto market, electric vehicle sales slid 6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, to 31,294, according to a report by financial services firm Cowen and Company. Tesla Motors Inc, the U.S. electric car maker, has not disclosed its sales for the period, but its share price has dropped 27 percent since hitting a year high in September.
Meanwhile, low oil prices have spurred sales of pickup trucks and large SUVs like General Motors Co's GMC Sierra and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Ram Truck. Sales of those brands soared more than 30 percent in December.
(Reporting By Nichola Groom; Editing by Eric Effron and Tomasz Janowski)

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

We should not have to choose between economy and the environment

By: Stewart Muir, Executive Director, Resource Works

From the Resource Works Weekly Update - Feb 10th

It’s true nobody out is there is against everything. But every single resource project has someone against it. The cumulative effect I have called the anti-everything movement. It is having a corrosive effect on our ability to plan for a future in which tuition fees are kept in check, people can afford their health care, and there are jobs at home so our kids don’t have go off to other provinces with the grandkids in tow.

Yesterday I counted 25 lobby groups that, often with millions of dollars from foreign sources, are taking positions on environmental issues. In almost all cases, the issues in question are, at some level, legitimate ones that everybody should be concerned about. 

It is the proposed remedies for these problems that should give reasonable people cause for concern.

Too often, we are being asked to sign on to positions without properly understanding what is  implied by them. And also what vision is being proposed for a realistic economy that will create jobs and prosperity in future. If all a group has thought about is how to say “No”, they cannot hope to succeed in bringing on board the silent majority.

As a general rule, the alarmist messages emanate from groups that have more going on below the surface than they are usually willing to be up-front about. This is in sharp contrast to the many conservation groups that flourish in BC and play vital stewardship roles in biodiversity and habitat.

Even First Nations seeking to stay on their land and achieve economic self-reliance can be an obstacle to the anti-everything agenda.

Groups offering a panacea for everything too often are bereft of realistic solutions to the challenges that really do exist.

We should not have to choose between the environment and the economy like the anti-everything movement demands.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Where is the Hot Air Coming From...?

March Recorder Article

By: Mike Doyle, CAGC

Mike Doyle is the President of the CAGC – the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors - representing the business interests of the seismic industry within Canada. The CAGC website may be found at www.cagc.ca.

Hunker down and good luck to all of us. Let’s hope things turn around by the fall. Already cheap oil has meant that gasoline usage is on the rise.  As well the USA shale producers are slowing down drilling quickly. For all of us in the industry we need the market to rebalance itself – lower the supply and increase the demand – perhaps by this summer it will be closer to balance. It is difficult to listen to too much doom and gloom so here is something a bit different.

From Investors.com - Warming Alarmists Could Use Lesson On History Of Climate
By George F. Will – January 7, 2015

We know, because they say so, that those who think catastrophic global warming is probable and perhaps imminent are exemplary empiricists. Those who disagree with them are "climate change deniers" disrespectful of science.

Actually, however, something about which everyone can agree is that of course the climate is changing — it always is. And if climate Cassandras are as conscientious as they claim about weighing evidence, how do they accommodate historical evidence of enormously consequential episodes of climate change not produced by human activity?

Before wagering vast wealth and curtailments of liberty on correcting the climate, two recent books should be considered.

In "The Third Horseman: Climate Change and the Great Famine of the 14th Century," William Rosen explains how Europe's "most widespread and destructive famine" was the result of "an almost incomprehensibly complicated mixture of climate, commerce, and conflict, four centuries in gestation."

Early in that century, 10% of the population from the Atlantic to the Urals died, partly because of the effect of climate change on "the incredible amalgam of molecules that comprises a few inches of soil that produces the world's food."

In the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), from the end of the 9th century to the beginning of the 14th, the Northern Hemisphere was warmer than at any time in the last 8,000 years — for reasons concerning which there is no consensus.

Warming increased the amount of arable land — there were vineyards in northern England — leading, Rosen says, to Europe's "first sustained population increase since the fall of the Roman Empire." The need for land on which to grow cereals drove deforestation. The MWP population explosion gave rise to towns, textile manufacturing and new wealthy classes.

Then, near the end of the MWP, came the severe winters of 1309-1312, when polar bears could walk from Greenland to Iceland on pack ice. In 1315 there was rain for 155 consecutive days, washing away topsoil. Upwards of half the arable land in much of Europe was gone; cannibalism arrived as parents ate children. Corpses hanging from gallows were devoured.

Human behavior did not cause this climate change. Warming caused behavioral change (10 million mouths to feed became 30 million). Then cooling caused social changes (rebelliousness and bellicosity) that amplified the consequences of climate, a pattern repeated four centuries later.

In "Global Crisis: War, Climate Change & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century," Geoffrey Parker, a professor at Ohio State, explains how a "fatal synergy" between climatological and political factors produced turmoil from Europe to China.

What he calls "the placenta of the crisis" of that century included "the Little Ice Age" (LIA) between the 1640s and 1690s. Unusual weather, protracted enough to qualify as a change in climate, jibed so strongly with political upheavals as to constitute causation.

Whatever caused the LIA — decreased sunspot activity and increased seismic activity were important factors — it caused, among other horrific things, "stunting" that, Parker says, "reduced the average height of those born in 1675, the 'year without a summer,' or  during the years of cold and famine in the early 1690s, to only 63 inches: the lowest ever recorded."

In northerly latitudes, Parker says, each decline of 0.5 degree Celsius in the mean summer temperature "decreases the number of days on which crops ripen by 10%, doubles the risk of a single harvest failure, and increases the risk of a double failure sixfold." For those farming at least 1,000 feet above sea level this temperature decline "increases the chance of two consecutive failures a hundredfold."

The flight from abandoned farms to cities produced "the urban graveyard effect," crises of disease, nutrition, water, sanitation, housing, fire, crime, abortion, infanticide, marriages forgone and suicide. Given the ubiquity of desperation, it is not surprising that more wars took place during the 17th-century crisis "than in any other era before the Second World War."

By documenting the appalling consequences of two climate changes, Rosen and Parker validate wariness about behaviors that might cause changes. The last 12 of Parker's 712 pages of deliver a scalding exhortation to be alarmed about what he considers preventable global warming.

But neither book backs those who believe human behavior is the sovereign or even primary disrupter of climate normality, whatever that is. With the hands that today's climate Cassandras are not using to pat themselves on the back for their virtuous empiricism, they should pick up such books.

Perhaps there are just too many people on this little biosphere in the middle of the universe. And we do an incredible job of staying alive. Less than 1000 people died worldwide from SARS. Less than 10,000 died from Ebola. In OECD countries we have tripled life expectancy in the last couple of hundred years. Even the hurricane Katrina killed less than 2,000 people. Fossil fuels have made us safer from the perils of the environment. Oddly we wish to return to some previous manner of civilization.

From Brainy Quotes on the Internet:

The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.