Doug L. Hoffman's blog
The 21st Century may well mark the beginning of the hybrid age. New and exciting developments in transportation propulsion systems promise to deliver higher performance, be more efficient and unshackle human energy consumption from the burning of fossil fuels. Once the realization that oil won't last for ever is accepted, all sorts of intriguing possibilities suggest themselves: hybrid jet planes with electric motors helping to drive their high bypass turbofans; diesel electric locomotives that no longer simply throw away the energy captured by dynamic breaking; and a new crop of super cars from Lotus, Ferrari and Porsche that don't take a back seat to any gas guzzler. The future looks green, efficient and even fun.
Any competent researcher involved with the science behind climate change will admit that CO2 is far from the only influence on global climate. It has long been known that short-lived greenhouse gases and black-carbon aerosols have contributed to past climate warming. Though the IPCC and their fellow travelers have tried to place the blame for global warming on human CO2 emissions, decades of lies and erroneous predictions have discredited that notion. For anyone still clinging to the CO2 hypothesis, a short perspective article on the uncertainty surrounding climate change in Nature Geoscience has put paid to that notion. It states that not only did other factors account for 65% of the radiative forcing usually attributed to carbon dioxide, but that it is impossible to accurately determine climate sensitivity given the state of climate science.
That humans can alter the natural environment is well known. We have been hunting, fishing and clearing land for agriculture for tens of thousands of years. More recently humans have gained the ability to drain swamps, dam rivers, level mountains and pave over darn near anything. Environmentalists think this kind of activity is abhorrent, and go so far as to claim that H. sapiens are responsible for a new major wave of extinctions. In general, animal species can either move, go extinct or adapt to human caused environmental changes. Many biologists will tell you that species just can't evolve fast enough to deal with rate of human induced change. As it turns out, this isn't exactly true.
With the UN trying to promote diminishing biodiversity as the NEXT BIG CRISIS it is interesting to note the chaos among diversity researchers. It is hard to make definitive statements regarding loss of diversity when science can not even tell us how many different creatures there are on the planet. Nevertheless, the UN has launched the International Year of Biodiversity, warning that the ongoing loss of species around the world is affecting human well-being. Yet another UN generated “science based” crisis to keep the world's citizens in a frenzy—shades of the failed global warming crisis, which the UN is rather hoping we all will forget.
Tyrannosaurs, the group of carnivorous dinosaurs that includes Tyrannosaurus rex and its closest relatives, are the most iconic and most studied of the dinosaurs. Made famous by movies, television shows and books, T. rex is the image most people think of when they hear the word dinosaur. The popular image of a tyrannosaur is that of a gigantic meat eater, like the one shown in Spielberg's Jurassic Park, but this was not always the case. T. rex was initially described 105 years ago by H. F. Osborn of the American Museum of Natural History. New fossil finds, including six new species during the past year alone, have shown tyrannosaurs to be a more diverse group that was first thought. A phylogeny that includes recently described species shows that tyrannosaurs originated by the Middle Jurassic but remained mostly small and ecologically marginal until the Late Cretaceous.
In an example of what Presidential Science Advisor John Holdren would label “global climate disruption,” a 2009 report claimed that warming surface water in the Pacific Ocean was having an impact on the frequency of tropical storms. Moreover, landfalls along the Gulf of Mexico coast and Central America were supposedly increased. Now a new study appearing in Geophysical Research Letters has found these claims to be untrue. It seems that there is little correlation between the Atlantic hurricane activity and Pacific Ocean warming. In fact, the increased tropical storm frequency in 1969 and 2004 can be readily explained by increased warmth in the Atlantic where the storms form. Once again, those looking for a smoking gun in the form of human caused climate change are forced to look elsewhere.
Evidently 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, a year long celebration of Earth's glorious variety of species and ecosystems. Unfortunately, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has failed to meet its ambitious goal: a significant slowdown in biodiversity loss by 2010. The AAAS journal Science has acknowledged this celebration with special News Focus section and a Review article. “After failing to meet its major conservation goal, the Convention on Biological Diversity is setting new targets for stemming the loss of species,” its lead article states. But the news is not all bad. In some countries, conservation efforts have helped species recover and reportedly large-scale deforestation in the Amazon has declined by 47.5% over the past 12 months. With eco-alarmists shifting their panicked attention from climate change to biodiversity, it is time to look at the facts.
With all of the hype over CO2 emissions, one fact that is not usually addressed is where all the CO2 is supposed to come from. Most assume that, in order to avoid the ravages of global warming, we need to shut down all our fossil fuel electric plants, park our cars and take to planting trees 24x7. But the assumptions used in the IPCC scenarios are seldom examined in detail. In reality they are based on projected changes in population, economic growth, energy demand, and the estimated carbon intensity of energy over time. A new study in the journal Science calculated cumulative future emissions based on existing infrastructure and found a surprising result. The investigators concluded that sources of the most threatening emissions have yet to be built. In other words, they made the whole thing up—the IPCC's models are making predictions based on a future that will never happen.
Even with all of the recent scandal surrounding the purveyors of climate change pap, many in the “news media” continue to crank out party-line articles blaming all of Earth's ecological woes on humanity. After decades of trying to alarm the public over a human caused “sixth mass extinction” and more recently, dwindling diversity, some in the media just can't let go of AGW as the root of all evil. A perfect example of this appeared recently in the font of misinformation that is Yahoo News. Blaming every human activity from hunting to climate change, science writer Jeremy Hsu has once again raised the specter of that old shibboleth, the Anthropocene Epoch. This is all a part of a developing trend to elevate falling species diversity to crisis level, mainly because the world's eco-activists need a replacement issue for climate change.
Even though climate scientists have not been able to identify all of the factors involved in climate regulation, or even develop trustworthy values for the ones they do know about, some eco-activists are proposing that we actively try to alter Earth's climate. Schemes to purposefully alter the environment on a global scale are called geoengineering, and it has been proposed as a way to counter act anthropogenic global warming and its side effects. The two main geoengineering options are limiting incoming solar radiation, or modifying the carbon cycle. Two articles, one in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and another in Nature Geoscience, report that controlling climate through geoengineering would be difficult, if not impossible, and may do more harm than good. At a time when we cannot even predict how climate will change on its own, proposals to engineer climate change are best left as thought experiments.
In Europe and North America, the development of nuclear power effectively halted after the March 1979 accident in Pennsylvania at Three Mile Island. Until recently the building of additional nuclear reactors in most developed nations was unlikely. Meanwhile, the greatest hope of the alternative energy industry has been wind power, but people around the world are starting to question the safety and effectiveness of large wind farms. As the public's infatuation with “green” energy has faded, the resurgent nuclear power industry has been quietly ramping up its efforts to provide the energy the world will need in the future. Even ecological activists have come to realize that nuclear is the only viable option to fossil fuels. As a result, a nuclear surge is underway, with 52 new reactors under construction around the world and more in the planning stages. This about face in energy policy amounts to nothing less than a nuclear renaissance.
It is well known that carbon dioxide cannot directly account for the observed increase in global temperature over the past century. This has led climate scientists to theorize that many feedback relationships exists within the climate system, serving to amplify the impact of rising CO2 levels. One of these is the impact of rising temperature on the ability of the ecosystem to absorb CO2. The temperature sensitivity of ecosystem respiratory processes (referred to as Q10) is a key determinant of the interaction between climate and the carbon cycle. New research, recently published in the journal Science, shows that the Q10 of ecosystem respiration is invariant with respect to mean annual temperature, and independent of the analyzed ecosystem type. This newly discovered temperature insensitivity suggests that climate sensitivity to CO2 is much smaller than assumed by climate models.
Through generous subsidies from the US government, secured by corn-belt politicians, 25% of America's corn (maize) crop is turned into ethanol for use in automobiles. Ignoring the negative impact this has on food production, agricultural runoff and land use, there is new talk of raising government mandated fuel mixture proportions to use even more ethanol. At the same time, the idea of turning farm and forest wastes into "cellulosic" ethanol, a biofuel to power cars and trucks continues to languish. Because of the ongoing economic slump, a plentiful supply of ethanol made from corn, and uncertainty among policymakers, companies have delayed plans to build commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants, some canceling them altogether. Evidently, even the hundreds of millions of dollars on offer from the Department of Energy (DOE) are not enough to lure investors to participate in this latest biofuel boondoggle. Industry understands what biofuel advocates do not—biofuels make no sense in terms of energy policy: neither environmentally nor economically. Instead of propping up wasteful and nonviable biofuel schemes, Congress should stop all biofuel subsidies and kill all ongoing ethanol projects.
Much concern has been raised by climate scientists regarding ice loss from the world's two remaining continental ice sheets. Rapid loss of ice-mass from the glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica are cited as proof positive of global warming's onslaught. The latest measurements involve the use of satellite gravimetry, estimating the mass of terrain beneath by detecting slight changes in gravity as a satellite passes overhead. But gravity measurements of ice-mass loss are complicated by glacial isostatic adjustments—compensation for the rise or fall of the underlying crustal material. A new article in Nature Geoscience describes an innovative approach employed to derive ice-mass changes from GRACE data. The report suggests significantly smaller overall ice-mass losses than previous estimates.
Black carbon is generated from burning both fossil fuels and biomass. Black carbon aerosols absorb solar radiation and are purported to be a major source of global warming. A recent study claims that the extent of black-carbon-induced warming is dependent on the concentration of sulfate (SO2) and organic aerosols—which reflect solar radiation and cool the surface—as well as the origin of the black carbon. The ratio of fossil-fuel-based black carbon to SO2 emissions has increased by more than a factor of two during the twentieth century, and the portion of black carbon from fossil fuels has increased threefold. This could account for a 30% increase in global warming from black carbon, which may account for a quarter of the warming usually attributed to CO2. Even worse, black carbon may be causing millions of deaths among those who have to breath it. Far from being green, climate science's demonizing of CO2 is damaging the pursuit of sound environmental policy.