Driven by a constantly expanding need for electricity, Chile is considering building seven new dams and a transmission line through its southern wilderness. This isolated land of condors and monkey puzzle trees is home to the third largest reserve of frozen freshwater in the world—the Southern Ice Field. Critics say the environmental risks have not been fully examined, and the risk to southern Chile's unique ecosystems is unacceptably high. Proponents of the dam project argue that hydroelectricity is a clean source of energy, just waiting to be tapped. Chile needs the 3500 MW/yr of power to meet its development goals and lacks indigenous oil or coal reserves. Moreover, the electricity from the dams would displace dirty generation, greatly reducing Chile's greenhouse gas emissions. Give all the benefits, why are so many people, within Chile and without, so opposed to the dams—opposed to the point of preferring new coal plants?
One of the more attractive forms of green renewable energy is geothermal—harnessing the natural heat of Earth's interior to provide warmth and electricity. Unfortunately, geothermal is really only viable in limited areas around the globe, due to crust thickness and strata type. One of those fortunate places is the American Southwest, the eastern part of California and the states of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. The sixteen geothermal plants already present in California's the Imperial Valley are among the first signs of what California hopes will become a renewable-energy boom. But without water these plants cannot generate any power, and their water comes from far away—from the already stressed Colorado river.
With the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico emboldening all the denizens of the eco-underground, some voices are once again calling for increased production of biofuels—ethanol and biodiesel—and accelerated research into clean coal. Ignoring the fact that biofuels take as much energy to produce as they provide and that they are only competitive with heavy government subsidies, biofuel boosters are again trying to sell their snake-oil to the public. But the single most damning aspect of biofuel production is the exorbitant amount of water it takes to cook-up a gallon of the stuff. Now it appears that the other great energy scam, clean coal, will also increase water usage—by a whopping 80%. With the world facing a real water crisis in the near future, the last thing any government should be doing is wasting their citizens' money on are “green” energy scams that are really just subsidies for coal companies and big agribusiness conglomerates.
In the midst of the clamor over global warming, greenhouse gas emissions and world energy supplies another, perhaps more immediate, environmental catastrophe is gathering momentum—the world wide shortage of fresh water. Though eclipsed in America by pictures of oil-soaked pelicans and fouled coastal wetlands, this potentially more disastrous and more permanent problem has been ignored by politicians and the public for decades. Experts are warning that by 2050 fully 45% of humanity may be chronically short of water. Unlike the eventual depletion of the world's oil supplies, there is no substitute for H2O.
Large portions of the globe rely on the seasonal monsoon for water. Across much of Asia, agriculture depends on the coming of the monsoon rains. One scare tactic employed by global warming extremists is to claim that human caused climate change will keep the monsoon from coming, causing drought, failed crops and famine. In truth, science does not fully understand the complex interactions of ocean, atmosphere, and land that influence the monsoon, or how it impacts climate in other parts of the world. Now, a new Monsoon Asia Drought Atlas (MADA) provides reconstructions of summer moisture for the region going back to 1300 AD. It documents a long sequence of droughts so persistent that scientists call them “megadroughts.” These megadrought events, the worst of which may have toppled ancient kingdoms, show that unreliable monsoon seasons have afflicted mankind throughout history—long before the clamor over climate change arose.
There is a new report in the journal Nature that some climate change alarmists are saying repudiates criticisms leveled at the IPCC over the Glaciergate scandal. In the “news feature,” a reporter looks at the “clues” scientists have found regarding the fate of the Himalayan glaciers from ground- and space-based studies. Though the scientists quoted clearly state they do not have enough data to draw meaningful conclusions—only 15 of 20,000 glaciers were examined on-site—the article still misleadingly says the glaciers are in trouble. It still had to admit the Himalayan glaciers won't vanish by 2035 and that they are not receding faster than glaciers in any other part of the world, both claims made previously by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
A report out from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting, which was held in Barcelona, identifies peaty wetlands as a major source of CO2. Marshes, swamps and bogs emit about 1.3 billion tonnes of CO2 a year as a result of human activity that drains them. If those dried out former swamps catch fire that amount can double and large amounts of aerosols can be emitted as well. With governments offering subsidies for growing biofuel crops the question is, how do we stop people from draining the world's remaining wetlands?
The lingering cool temperatures being experience by much of North America has weather forecasters wondering if we are entering a new Little Ice Age—a reference to the prolonged period of cold weather that afflicted the world for centuries and didn't end until just prior to the American Civil War. From historical records, scientists have found a strong correlation between low sunspot activity and a cooling climate. At the end of May, an international panel of experts led by NOAA and sponsored by NASA released a new prediction for the next solar cycle: Solar Cycle 24 will be one of the weakest in recent memory. Are we about to start a new Little Ice Age?
The ineffectiveness of biofuels—ethanol and biodiesil—has been much in the news lately, with reports from the EPA, California's CARB and the EU's joint Research Council claiming that biofuels pollute more than the fossil fuels they are supposed to replace. Still, this has not prevented the biofuels industry from receiving big government subsidies. Now a new report discloses another reason to shun biofuels, one that has nothing to do with CO2 and everything to do with H2O. When the water use of biofuel feedstock crops is analyzed, the water footprint (WF) ranges from 1,400 to an astounding 20,000 gallons of water for each gallon of biofuel produced.
The formation of low-level clouds—clouds that have a cooling effect on Earth's climate—has vexed climate scientists for years. Current climate models treat cloud cover simplistically and make the assumption that cloud cover decreases as temperatures rise. New data from a cloud sampling experiment indicates that biological material—bacteria, spores and plant material—may account for 1/3 of the airborne material involved in cloud formation. Furthermore, biological material can form clouds at much warmer temperatures than mineral dust. These new discoveries indicate that modelers have the effects of temperature on low cloud cover backwards, placing all model predictions in doubt.
A recent article in the journal Science has provided a new, detailed climate record for the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA), also know as the Medieval Warm Period. It was the most recent pre-industrial warm period, noted in Europe and elsewhere around the globe. The researchers present a 947-year-long multi-decadal North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) reconstruction and find a persistent positive NAO during the MCA. The interesting thing is that the MCA had basically been removed from the climate record by Michael Mann's infamous “hockey stick” history graph that was adopted by the IPCC a decade ago.
Noting that neither Republican John McCain nor Democrat Barack Obama has discussed climate change research on the campaign trail, an article in the October 10 issue of Science attempts to drum up support for more government funding of climate change. In particular, the article author Eli Kintisch argues that not enough funding is available in the $1.8 billion U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) budget to study the impacts of climate change. With the presidential election looming, activists are angling for political commitments in the form of campaign promises. The presidential candidates have promised to strengthen Earth monitoring and efforts to understand climate change but are short on specifics.