There are two major things the peoples of the world can do to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and protect the environment, and they don't involve wind or solar power. The first is to build new nuclear power plants, as people in Europe, Asia and elsewhere are doing apace. The second is to insist that your next automobile is either a pure electric or a plug-in hybrid. Auto manufacturers from Detroit to Shenzhen are racing to bring new vehicles to market, while forward looking cities like New York and Paris are installing recharging stations in anticipation of the electric future. As stated in The Energy Gap, electric and hybrid vehicles are the only way to cure the world's fossil fuel addiction.
In news that signals a sea-change in European nuclear energy policy, Finland's parliament has voted to build two additional nuclear reactors to augment the four they already operate. When this expansion is complete, nuclear power will provide half of Finland's electricity. Following in Finland's footsteps, their Nordic neighbor Sweden has announced that it will also build new reactors. The intention being to replace the reactors at their 10 existing nuclear power plants when the old ones are shut down. This reverses a 1980 referendum that called for them to be phased out entirely. Sweden and Finland have concluded that greenhouse gases can only be cut and energy security guaranteed with continued or greater reliance on atomic power.
The Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected that global sea level will rise by up to 60 cm by 2100 due to global warming. The cause of this rise is twofold: expansion of ocean waters as they warm and additional water from glaciers melting. Despite nearly stable sea levels over the past 3,000 years, a number of low-lying and island nations have seized on the imminent flood as a reason to demand reparations from developed nations. In reality, most of the areas in the world that are suffering from inundation are threatened because of human actions, but not global warming. Damming and rerouting of rivers combined with over-pumping of ground water has led to subsidence in many areas—in other words, the seas are not rising, the land is sinking.
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.
After nearly 50 years of acceptance, the theory that a great ocean “conveyor belt” continuously circulates water around the globe in an orderly fashion has been dismissed by a leading oceanographer. According to a review article in the journal Science, a number of studies conducted over the past few years have challenged this paradigm. Oceanographers have discovered the vital role of ocean eddy currents and the wind in establishing the structure and variability of the ocean’s overturning. In light of these new discoveries, the demise of the conveyor belt model has been become the new majority opinion among the world's oceanographers. According to M. Susan Lozier, of Duke University, “the conveyor-belt model no longer serves the community well.”
Around 3 million years ago, Earth's climate started growing colder. Glaciers began forming in high northern latitudes, while surface waters cooled in parts of the equatorial Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. At the same time, climate sensitivity to variation in the tilt of Earth's axis—called obliquity—increased substantially. Since that time, changes in sunlight associated with obliquity have caused variation in global ice volume and equatorial sea surface temperatures (SST). Inexplicably, variations at the equator occurred a few thousand years before those in high latitudes and thus could not have been a direct consequence of the waxing and waning of glaciers. Two new papers in the June 18, 2010, issue of Science attempt to explain the true causes of climate change.
American politicians are falling over themselves to enact new energy legislation before the Gulf oil leak gets plugged. The sad fact is, the US is dragging its feet on the one proven source of reliable, emissions free power: nuclear energy. With some environmentalists likening the oil disaster to Three Mile Island—the nuclear accident that destroyed the US atomic energy industry—the Obama administration has given nuclear power little more than lip service in recent months. Now comes news that a New Mexico-based company that is doing pioneering work in miniature atomic power plants has signed a deal to manufacture small, modular nuclear reactors in China. Political indecision and agitation by green activists is once again conspiring to turn the US into a second rate technological nation.
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.
There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This unprecedented accident for the American offshore drilling industry, the first significant spill in 40 years, will certainly have a calamitous impact on the Gulf marine environment and surrounding coastal areas. What is less certain, but potentially even more dangerous, is the effect that this spill will have on the US domestic oil industry. While environmentalists clamor for a shut down of all offshore drilling in the Gulf, realists know that this will make the threat to ocean life even greater. What has not being told to the public is that nature itself leaks more oil into the ocean each year than mankind, and has been doing so for millions of years. What is even less known is that offshore drilling can actually reduce the amount of crude released into the seas.
Since the Mid-Brunhes Event, around 430,000 years ago, interglacial periods have grown warmer and their CO2 levels higher. Research confirms that Croll and Milankovitch were right: Earth's orbital cycles seem to be the cause of these documented cases of true global warming, with CO2 playing a supporting role, not the lead. Many of the catastrophic events warned of by climate change alarmists turn out to be well within the range of natural variation. Moreover, new findings indicate that the effects of the cycle induced changes, through their impact on the environment in the Southern Hemisphere, are not correctly accounted for in the IPCC models.
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.
An average US citizen or corporate entity who kills an endangered animal can be in big trouble with the law. Birds, eagles in particular, are zealously protected by nature lovers in America and around the world. Yet a July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, California, estimated that an average of 80 golden eagles were killed there by wind turbines each year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, estimated that about 10,000 other protected birds were being killed along with the eagles every year at Altamont. Where is the outrage over this slaughter? It would seem ecologists have a blind spot when it comes to the wind energy industry. As a result, the carnage caused by wind turbines, the “Cuisinarts of the Air,” is getting greenwashed. And birds are not the only creatures wind turbines kill—they kill bats and people as well.
Asking the somewhat obvious question, “are cold winters in Europe associated with low solar activity?” a group of scientists have announced that the answer is yes. While this may seem unsurprising, the finding is another indication that Earth's climate is not simply driven by greenhouse gas emissions. Even so, some scientists are only grudgingly accepting the finding, cautioning that this only applies in the central UK and refusing to admit that the Sun could affect global mean temperatures as well. Still, the researchers found that average solar activity has declined rapidly since 1985 and cosmogenic isotopes suggest a possible return to Maunder minimum conditions within the next 50 years. This could be a sign that climate science is starting to recover from its CO2 fixation.
The wind is notably capricious, varying in strength and direction in seemingly random ways. The output of wind turbines, which capture the energy of the wind and turn it into electrical power, also varies unpredictably. Leveling out these fluctuations is the biggest obstacle to wind power serving as an effective alternative to conventional power sources. A study, just published in PNAS Online, claims that wiring together offshore wind farms, from along the entire length of the US East Coast, could provide a steady power source for the area. This has led to proclamations by a number of green power advocates that America's energy problems can be solved by wind power. Unfortunately, steady to a scientist is not the same as steady to a power grid engineer, or consumers.
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), also known as the “Ocean Conveyor Belt,” has been the subject of much study since its discovery. The AMOC is primarily responsible for Europe's temperate climate and some scientists have warned that global warming could cause the ocean's flow to slow down or even stop. This rather counter intuitive result of a warming climate would result in a much colder Europe—perhaps even a new mini-ice age. A new analysis of data from satellites and drifting sensors finds no evidence that the conveyor belt is slowing. In fact, a NASA backed study indicates that the conveyor is far less susceptible to throttling by climate change than some climate change alarmists feared.