Writing in a paper to appear in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, NASA scientist and noted climate alarmist James Hansen has come down on the side of nuclear power. He and coauthor Pushker A. Kharecha claim that getting power from nuclear energy actually saves lives. “Global nuclear power has prevented about 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths,” they report. Of course it also prevented 64 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, when compared to the burning of fossil fuels, perhaps explaining why Hansen has suddenly become a nuclear power booster. With global warming on hiatus for the past decade and a half, the climate change cabal may be growing desperate for allies and have turned to that most unloved of energy sources—nuclear. Is this a sign that warmists and tree-huggers have a developing schism over nuclear power?
For decades the US government has funded research into “clean coal” technology. Billions of dollars have been spent with the only visible result being employment for a small army of government coal researchers and academics. Now scientists at Ohio State University have announced that, after 15 years of effort, they have produced a breakthrough—a new technology capable of turning coal green and carbon dioxide emission free. This was widely reported in the news media and passed practically without critical comment. Is it true? Is coal no longer the dirty, devil spawned fuel of evil industrialists everywhere?
Back in 2005, the IPCC Working Group III Special Report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage declared that the storage of naturally and industrially produced carbon dioxide in depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs and aquifers was considered an essential component of the strategy to combat the build-up of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere. It seemed like an easy solution, pump CO2 captured from nasty coal power plants and other high volume greenhouse gas sources back into the underground reservoirs that oil and gas has been extracted from. After all, those geologic formations held hydrocarbons for millions of years—now the pumped out oil fields are just sitting there, waiting to be put to use. That was until testing was done on rock from actual cap strata. It would appear that infusing rock layers with CO2-saturated aqueous fluid can alter the properties of caprock, leading to the escape of the sequestered carbon back into the environment.
Does fish fecal matter fight global warming by carrying organic carbon to the bottom of the ocean where it is sequestered in sediment? A new study claims that fish poo is under appreciated as a part of the natural carbon cycle and that it carries carbon to the ocean bottom much faster than dead zooplankton sink on their own. “Measurements of in situ abundance of fish fecal pellets or their flux are lacking, likely due to the difficulty of adequately sampling these particles,” the study's authors state, “to our knowledge, this is the first study to present estimates of fish fecal pellet abundance.” This study indicates that fish poo is an under appreciated component of both the carbon and nitrogen cycles. Surprisingly, waste from marine mammals, including whales, breaks up and degrades as it sinks, returning its carbon, nitrogen and other elements back to the environment.
The subject of human carbon dioxide emissions and their build up in Earth's atmosphere is at the center of the anthropogenic global warming controversy. It cannot be denied that humans produce CO2 in large amounts, both from burning fossil fuels and from land use changes. This has led to much gnashing of teeth and renting of garments by excitable ecological doomsayers, but there is something they do not mention: at the same time humanity is spewing forth carbon, nature is busily sucking up that carbon and storing it away. A new analysis of the carbon cycle has produced an unexpected result—not only is the absorption of carbon continuing unabated it has actually expanded. The latest scientific tally indicates that since 1959, approximately 350 billion tons of carbon have been emitted by humans to the atmosphere, of which about 55% has been reabsorbed by the land and oceans.
Recent days have seen a number of announcements about our changing climate. As it turns out Arctic ice is rebounding, sea levels are dropping and things just are not going according to the IPCC's plan for catastrophic global warming. Faced with reversal after reversal, it might seem logical for mainstream climate scientists to admit that they are wrong, that global warming is not taking place at a breakneck pace, but this has not happened. Instead, climate change apologists are weaving a tangled web of excuses—hot is cold, wet is dry, up is down. No matter what happens to the world we live in, the root cause according to the doomsayers is always the same: it's always global warming's fault.
Methane is an important greenhouse gas, 30 times more potent than CO2, but our knowledge of the methane cycle is woefully inadequate. Sediments on the ocean's floor contain immense quantities of methane and there are enormous fluxes of methane into and out of these sediments. Trapped frozen in ice, there are some 10,000 gigatons of carbon stored under the sea—twice as much carbon as contained in conventional fossil fuel reserves. Some scientists consider the release of this methane the single worst environmental danger we face as a species. A massive release of ocean floor methane could cause real runaway global warming that would have dramatic impact on life. But methane continually leaks from seabeds around the world, contributing to the total amount of carbon injected into the ecosystem. A new report finds that ocean methane concentrations have been underestimated by a factor of 10 to 20 fold.
International negotiators at a recent UN climate conference held in Bangkok repeated the demand that global warming this century be limited to no more than 2˚C. But while those attending the UN boondoggle stuck to the climate alarmist party line, results from a newly published Canadian government climate study concluded that “it is unlikely that warming can be limited to the 2˚C target.” The modeling based paper found that reaching the stated IPCC goal would require that greenhouse emissions “ramp down to zero immediately,” which means shutting down the global economy and banning the automobile. Moreover, starting in 2050 scientists would need to actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, requiring a rush to implement controversial and possibly dangerous geoengineering programs. Why does the global warming lobby continue demanding the impossible? Perhaps it is because global warming isn't about climate change at all.
The world's oceans represent the major source of stored heat energy that helps to mediate Earth's climate. The ocean surface boundary layer, where the ocean and atmosphere meet, heat is exchanged, as are gasses like CO2. The rate at which these exchanges take place has major implications for the mechanisms controlling climate change. A soon to be published paper in the journal Science documents a new study of the ocean surface boundary layer and, to the investigators' surprise, reveals that the rate of energy dissipation within the boundary layer to be enhanced by 10 to 20 times. This indicates that the atmosphere does not supply the energy for the boundary turbulence, the ocean does. This contradicts the prevailing scientific wisdom and shows once again that computer climate models are constructed using false assumptions.
Climate alarmists have been slow to learn that their over-reliance on computer models and unproven theories has harmed their public credibility. In an attempt to counter the richly deserved bad press that climate science has been garnering these days, a number of global warming true believers are trying a different, more fact based approach to scaring the public. One such attempt recently appeared in the journal Science—not as a paper describing original research but as a perspective article. In it, a Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, attempts to “weave together” some carefully selected “threads in the discussion of climate” to arrive at a very familiar and unconvincing conclusion.
Scientists believe that carbon released from the ocean floor played a key role in past episodes of climate change. Around 55 million years ago, the break-up of the northeast Atlantic continents was associated with the injection of large amounts of molten magma into seafloor sediments. Formation of the North Atlantic basalts heated the carbon-rich sediments, triggering the release of large quantities of methane and carbon dioxide into the ocean and atmosphere. It has been suggested that this release of previously sequestered carbon was responsible for a 100,000 year period of rapid temperature rise known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum or PETM. Three letters published in Nature Geoscience suggest that carbon trapped beneath the seabed continues to influence carbon dynamics, at least in the deep ocean.
After coming to the realization that the doom & gloom approach to fighting global warming has become counterproductive, many global warming promoters are now taking a more upbeat “we can fix it” approach. This has riled some of the old guard climate alarmists and led to a backlash. An indication of this can be found in a recent Nature Geoscience editorial that represents a new kind of skepticism—not skepticism of global warming but skepticism that it can be stopped or even blunted. Dismissing the notion that a range of available methods—such as efficiency gains, replacing fossil fuels by nuclear power or renewable energy, land-use changes, etc—can make fighting climate change more tractable, the editorial basically says that the world is going to hell and there is no way around it. If that is true, perhaps we should simply ignore the climate cranks and go on a petrochemical burning binge until the stuff runs out.
Though Earth and its climate are billions of years old, climate science is still very young. So young that surprising new discoveries are constantly being made. One such discovery in the field of paleoclimatology—the study of Earth's climate in the distant past—was the uncovering of a period of great warming around 40 million years ago, in the middle of the Eocene Epoch. In the midst of a general cooling trend beginning at the end of the preceding Paleocene Epoch (~55 mya) there were a number of dramatic, sudden bursts of global warming. The most celebrate of these is the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum or PETM, when surface temperatures rose by 5-7°C. Recently, science has discovered another hot interval 15 million years later during the Middle Eocene. Named the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO), it marked a time when deep sea temperatures rose about 4-5°C and atmospheric CO2 levels peaked. As new information is uncovered, climate scientists are scrambling to interpret what caused this second, more sustained period of warming and what it may mean for current climate conditions.
World wide emission of CO2 from fossil fuel burning decreased by 1.3% in 2009 owing to the global financial and economic crisis says a report in Nature Geoscience. Estimated CO2 emissions from deforestation and other land-use changes (LUCs) have also declined compared with the 1990s. The decrease in greenhouse gas emissions was blamed on the contraction of GDP owing to the global financial crisis that began in 2008. Not so fast, say warmist scientists. They claim that CO2 will rise by 4.8% in 2010, proving that what should be treated as good news is not welcome in climate change circles.
One of the arguments used by critics of nuclear power is that there is not enough uranium to power a nuclear world for an extended time. The energy hungry world would just be trading looming oil shortages for uranium shortages, they claim. As with most anti-nuclear scare-mongering these charges are totally bogus. MIT has just released a major report on the nuclear fuel cycle that finds uranium supplies will not limit the expansion of nuclear power in the US or around the world for the foreseeable future. It suggests that nuclear power, even using today’s reactor technology with the wasteful once-through fuel cycle, can play a significant part in satisfying the world's future energy needs.