Episode 21: Show Notes

On episode 21: German nukes, safety nukes, underwater nukes and jelly nukes, Another pseudo-scandal in a teapot, the true cost of gas, GHG emissions reach record breaking levels and the weather goes berserk while crazy deniers predict an ice age, The disgusting harassment of scientists, Christy Crocks, The Kyoto protocol is finally dead, and a delicious dose of irony.

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German nukes, safety nukes, underwater nukes and jelly nukes

Germany, in Reversal, Will Close Nuclear Plants by 2022

The German government on Monday announced plans to shut all of the nation’s nuclear power plants within the next 11 years, a sharp reversal for Chancellor Angela Merkel after the Japanese disaster at Fukushima caused an electoral backlash by voters opposed to reliance on nuclear energy… an industry that generates 23 percent of Germany’s electricity.

Analysis: Germany goes back to black in snub to green power

Germany is set to turn back to coal, gas and imports to fill the energy chasm left by its fast-track exit of nuclear power, refusing to boost green power and threatening its efforts to lower emissions.

Nuclear retreat to add 30 percent to CO2 growth: IEA

A halving of a global nuclear power expansion after Japan’s Fukushima disaster would increase global growth in carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent through 2035, the IEA said on Wednesday.

US nuke regulators weaken safety rules

Federal regulators have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation’s aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them, an investigation by The Associated Press has found.

Time after time, officials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have decided that original regulations were too strict, arguing that safety margins could be eased without peril, according to records and interviews.

Yet despite the many problems linked to aging, not a single official body in government or industry has studied the overall frequency and potential impact on safety of such breakdowns in recent years, even as the NRC has extended the licenses of dozens of reactors.

Flooding seeps into Nebraska nuclear plant

Missouri River floodwater seeped into the turbine building at a nuclear power plant near Omaha on Monday, but plant officials said the seepage was expected and posed no safety risk because the building contains no nuclear material.

Jellyfish force Torness nuclear reactor shutdown

Both reactors at the Torness nuclear power station have been shut down after huge numbers of jellyfish were found in the sea water entering the plant.

The jellyfish were found obstructing cooling water filters on Tuesday.

Jellyfish swarm forces nuclear plant shutdown

Remember that global increase in jellyfish populations? Apparently, the impacts of that are not limited to the field of ecology. In Scotland, an excess of jellyfish forced a nuclear power plant to temporarily shut down. There were so many jellyfish that operators were afraid the creatures would obstruct the flow of seawater used for cooling the reactors. (For clarification: The plant isn’t in trouble. It just went into a safe, controlled shutdown as a precautionary measure.)

Another pseudo-scandal in a teapot

IPCC Report on Renewable Energy

McManufactured Controversy

Ultimately what this boils down to is that the paper in dispute (Teske et al. 2011) had five other co-authors (all energy experts) and was published in a peer-reviewed journal.  Moreover, as discussed in the IPCC Report on Renewable Energy post, the conclusion (77% of global energy demand can be met with renewables by 2050) is not even the most aggressive published plan.  There have been a number of studies and reports concluding that meeting 100% of energy needs with renewable sources by 2050 is feasible on both a regional and global level, as we discussed in the Advanced rebuttal to “Renewables can’t provide baseload power”.

Now, it may be argued that the 77% goal is not politically realistic, but the IPCC report did not and cannot evaluate political feasibility.  It can only examine technological and economic feasibility, and high renewable energy penetration goals meet both of these criteria.  However, it should also be noted that while the report itself is technically sound, there are some valid criticisms of the associated press release, as summarized well by The Carbon Brief.

One final irony is worth pointing out: while one contributor to SRREN came from Greenpeace, three came from Chevron (though one from its geothermal research wing), one from Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, and one from a mining company.  In fact, one of Teske’s co-authors on Chapter 10 of the report was Raymond Wright from Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica.  Somehow we haven’t seen any complaints over his conflict of interest.  Apparently McIntyre et al. have something of a double standard on this issue.

The true cost of gas

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RhYY_4Wzls]

Of course the same applies for coal. More-so actually because coal pollutes far more than gasoline.

The fact is that thanks to negative externalities the price of fossil fuels is artificially low. And that is the main reason why we use so many, and why clean energy has a hard time catching on.

But as the video above explains, despite the fact that the price at the pump for gas is artificially low, we all end up paying the true cost eventually. Which is precisely why some economists call thisthe greatest market failure the world has seen

And that is why I am such a strong proponent of a carbon tax. It is the simplest, most transparent way to internalize the costs of burning fossil fuels and force us to pay the true cost up front.

It allows the free market to function properly and avoid our current market failure.

GHG emissions reach record breaking levels

Carbon emissions boom, making future cuts harder

On Monday, the International Energy Agency released an evaluation of humanity’s carbon budget for 2010, and the news was not good. The poor global economy had meant that 2009 had seen a rare drop in CO2 emissions compared to the year before. At least in the US, however, the drop was larger than the drop in GDP, suggesting that efficiency measures might be starting to reduce the link between energy use and economic activity. No such luck, according to the IEA; in 2010, carbon emissions roared back to set a new record.

According to its analysis, 2010 saw humanity emit roughly 30.6 gigatonnes of CO2, up five percent over 2008. The industrialized countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development still account for 40 percent of all emissions, but only 25 percent of emissions growth. Developing economies like India and China are seeing CO2 output rise at a much faster pace, although their per-capita emissions remain relatively low.

According to the IEA’s chief economist, the surge in emissions are a “serious setback” to attempts to limit the warming of the planet to 2°C. To get there, we’d have to limit the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to 450 parts-per-million, and many nations have made pledges of intermediate emissions targets that should put us on a path to those levels by the end of the century. Unfortunately, at the current rate, it will only take two more years to reach the target these nations have set for 2020. That leaves remarkably little wiggle room for growth, or will require many countries to actively reduce emissions in the latter half of the decade.

Making matters more challenging, the power sector has already locked in 80 percent of its 2020 targets, based on plants that are already in existence or currently under construction. Overall, it’s difficult to escape the impression that many nations have set targets they have no intention of reaching, or they’re willing to shift the burden of reducing emissions onto future generations.

Extreme Weather

2010 – 2011: Earth’s most extreme weather since 1816?

  • Earth’s hottest year on record
  • Most extreme winter Arctic atmospheric circulation on record
  • Arctic sea ice: lowest volume on record, 3rd lowest extent
  • Record melting in Greenland, and a massive calving event
  • Second most extreme shift from El Niño to La Niña
  • Second worst coral bleaching year
  • Wettest year over land
  • Amazon rainforest experiences its 2nd 100-year drought in 5 years
  • Global tropical cyclone activity lowest on record
  • A hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season: 3rd busiest on record
  • A rare tropical storm in the South Atlantic
  • Strongest storm in Southwestern U.S. history
  • Strongest non-coastal storm in U.S. history
  • Weakest and latest-ending East Asian monsoon on record
  • No monsoon depressions in India’s Southwest Monsoon for 2nd time in 134 years
  • The Pakistani flood: most expensive natural disaster in Pakistan’s history
  • The Russian heat wave and drought: deadliest heat wave in human history
  • Record rains trigger Australia’s most expensive natural disaster in history
  • Heaviest rains on record trigger Colombia’s worst flooding disaster in history
  • Tennessee’s 1-in-1000 year flood kills 30, does $2.4 billion in damage

it is highly improbable that the remarkable extreme weather events of 2010 and 2011 could have all happened in such a short period of time without some powerful climate-altering force at work. The best science we have right now maintains that human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases like CO2 are the most likely cause of such a climate-altering force…

A naturally extreme year, when embedded in such a changed atmosphere, is capable of causing dramatic, unprecedented extremes like we observed during 2010 and 2011. That’s the best theory I have to explain the extreme weather events of 2010 and 2011–natural extremes of El Niño, La Niña and other natural weather patterns combined with significant shifts in atmospheric circulation and the extra heat and atmospheric moisture due to human-caused climate change to create an extraordinary period of extreme weather. …the ever-increasing amounts of heat-trapping gases humans are emitting into the air puts tremendous pressure on the climate system to shift to a new, radically different, warmer state, and the extreme weather of 2010 – 2011 suggests that the transition is already well underway.

Ice age

“Earth facing mini-ice age!!” say the media. Now for the science….

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adAvYK1O-ic]

What if the Sun went into a new Grand Minimum?


Figure 4: Rise of global temperature (relative to 1961-1990) until the year 2100 for two different emission scenarios (A1B, red, and A2, magenta). The dashed lines show the slightly reduced warming in case a Maunder-like solar minimum should occur during the 21st century. Source: PIK.

According to these results, a 21st-century Maunder Minimum would only slightly diminish future warming. Moreover, it would be only a temporary effect since all known grand solar minima have only lasted for a few decades. Critics of this result might argue that the solar forcing in these experiments is only based on the estimated change in total irradiance, which might be an underestimate, or that does not include potential indirect amplifying effects (via an ozone response to UV changes, or galactic cosmic rays affecting clouds). However, our model reproduces the historic Maunder minimum with these estimates of solar irradiance. Furthermore, even if one multiplied the solar effects by a huge factor of 5 (which is unrealistic), no absolute cooling would take place (the temperatures would be temporarily cooler than the base scenario, but the trends would still be warming).

It is clear that if a grand minimum were to happen it would be a tremendously exciting opportunity for solar physicists, however it is unlikely to be very exciting for anyone else

Scientists being harassed

Harassing climate-change researchers

FREEDOM OF information laws are critical tools that allow Americans to see what their leaders do on their behalf. But some global warming skeptics in Virginia are showing that even the best tools can be misused.

Lawyers from the Environmental Law Center at the American Tradition Institute (ATI) have asked the University of Virginia to turn over thousands of e-mails and other documents written by Michael E. Mann, a former U-Va. professor and a prominent climate scientist. Another warming skeptic, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), [who we have discussed here on Irregular Climate] recently demanded many of the same documents to determine whether Mr. Mann somehow defrauded taxpayers when he obtained research grants to study global temperatures…

Going after Mr. Mann only discourages the sort of scientific inquiry that, over time, sorts out fact from speculation, good science from bad. Academics must feel comfortable sharing research, disagreeing with colleagues and proposing conclusions — not all of which will be correct — without fear that those who dislike their findings will conduct invasive fishing expeditions in search of a pretext to discredit them. That give-and-take should be unhindered by how popular a professor’s ideas are or whose ideological convictions might be hurt.

As Tim at Balloon Juice said

Science works fine in aggregate, but this idea that science must have only flawless people doing impeccable work is a strawman set up by the superstitious to discredit empiricism through nutpicking.

Monckton compares Garnaut to Hitler

A British politician has called the Australian Government’s chief climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut, a fascist.

Footage has been posted on the internet of a speech Lord Christopher Monckton gave to a conference in Los Angeles earlier this month.

In it he displayed a Nazi swastika next to a quote from Professor Garnaut.

Lord Monckton compared statements made by Adolf Hitler to Professor Garnaut’s suggestion that people should accept the mainstream science of climate change.

And calling people Nazis isn’t the only absurd claim in his repertoire he has a very long and diverse record of absurd claims.  like the fact that Monckton wanted to quarantine AIDS victims in the late 1980s, believes that President Obama probably isn’t a U.S. citizen, alleging that NASA crashed their own carbon dioxide-monitoring satellite, and claiming to be developing a drug that will cure not only his Grave’s Disease and multiple sclerosis, but HIV, influenza, and the common cold. AKA the quintessential snake oil.

Monckton also claims that he’s a member of the UK House of Lords even though the House of Lords says that Monckton is not has never been a member.

The Dangers of Being a Scientist

In which occupations would you expect to be threatened with murder?

Soldiers, at the front lines of combat zones, are an obvious example. Police officers would often qualify, too. Even high-ranking government officials put their safety at risk – just look at the number of American presidents that have been assassinated. Gang leaders and drug dealers, if they can be called “occupations”, would be high on the list.

What about scientists?

They don’t spend their days suppressing violent criminals. Although they’ll occasionally speak to the media, they could hardly be called public or political figures. Their job is to learn about the world, whether they sit in a lab and crunch numbers or travel to the Antarctic and drill ice cores. Not exactly the kind of life where threats to personal safety seem likely.

Nevertheless, top climate scientists around the world have been receiving death threats for over a year now. This violent hate campaign recently reached Australia, where, as journalist Rosslyn Beeby writes, “Several universities…have been forced to upgrade security to protect scientists.”

Their names have been deleted from staff directories. One scientist’s office cannot be found by without photo identification and an official escort; another has a “panic button”, installed on advice of police.

Some researchers have installed advanced home security systems, and made their home addresses and phone numbers unlisted. They have deleted their accounts on social media sites. All because some people feel so threatened by the idea of human-caused climate change that they’d rather attack the scientists who study the problem than accept its reality and work to fix it.

Christy Crocks

More Canadian embarrassment

Canada’s step away from the Kyoto Protocol can be a constructive step forward

Canada confirmed Friday that it will not take on a target under an extension of the Kyoto Protocolfollowing the completion of the first commitment period, 2008-2012. Given that Canada is likely to miss by a wide margin its current target under the first commitment period, this decision may not be surprising, but it is nevertheless important.

A delicious dose of Irony

A Very Curious Statement By Roy Spencer

I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government. – Roy Spencer

This is what Roy Spencer wrote in a reply to a comment on his blog. Note what Spencer–a climatologist and Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, keeper of one of the world’s four major temperature datasets, and a noted climate skeptic–did not say: that his job is to provide the best science he can for the taxpayers who pay his salary.

Spencer’s scientific research is, ironically, supported solely by government. But it seems his motivation is something more than just science.

‘Under the weather’ Inhofe skips climate denier conference

the Senate’s leading climate denier bailed on the annual Heartland climate science denial conference this morning — saying “I am under the weather” (!) — just as his home state is being slammed by a record-smashing heat wave and a drought more severe than the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

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