Climate Change Weekly #219
The Republican Party platform embraces climate and energy realism.
Republicans continue to embrace an all-of-the-above energy policy, in contrast to the Democratic Party’s platform, which calls for “Moving beyond the ‘all of the above’ energy approach [because of] the urgency of climate change as a central challenge of our time. …”
On this topic, Republicans seem to get it right and the Democrats, wrong. Terrorism, economic malaise, crime, trade, and border control are pressing issues in need of prompt, effective responses. Futile attempts to control the weather 100 years from now come nowhere near that level of urgency.
The Republican Party platform reflects the view that energy production is a critical “economic and national security issue” demanding “the enactment of policies to increase domestic energy, including on public lands.” The platform backs presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to reverse the Obama administration’s “war on coal.” Republicans would forbid the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide, cancel the agency’s Clean Power Plan, oppose any carbon tax, and defund the United Nations’ climate program. They would bar federal fracking regulations and expedite the approval of natural gas and coal export terminals.
The energy plank of the Republican Party platform might be called, borrowing from Trump, the “America First Energy [and Climate] Plan.”
The Heartland Institute is not a political organization, so please don’t read this as an endorsement of the party or its candidates. I am focusing on the public policy side of things here, and one side is simply getting it right this time. Republicans promise to preserve and expand the conveniences made possible by a modern electric power system run largely on relatively inexpensive fossil fuels, while Democrats say they actually want to put it all at risk.
America has hundreds of years’ worth of coal, natural gas, and oil. We should use them rather than “leave it in the ground,” as Democrats would have us do.
— H. Sterling Burnett
IN THIS ISSUE …
Nature acknowledges carbon-dioxide-driven greening … Past glaciations occurred despite higher carbon dioxide … Navy’s green fleet initiative, costly, not green … Britain shutters climate agency … Ocean currents play large climate role
A new study published in Nature: Scientific Reports adds to a growing body of research demonstrating the positive climate effects of rising carbon dioxide levels. The investigators used satellites to document the vegetative greening of the planet since the satellites were launched in 1978.
It is generally recognized that increasing carbon dioxide boosts plant productivity and growth and increases the efficiency of plants’ water use. Recognizing this, Lu et al. hypothesized rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are playing a significant role in observed greening around the globe, especially in moisture-limited areas where soil water content limits vegetative growth.
Taking 1,705 field measurements from 21 sites they found “increasing atmospheric CO2 [carbon dioxide] to between 1.2 to 2.0 times the ambient CO2 level has a positive effect on soil water content.” They concluded the additional soil water availability resulting from rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over the past half-century is “a likely driver of observed increases in vegetation greenness” during this period.
New research explores why the climate cooled and glaciations occurred during the Ordovician period 450 million years ago, when the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere was approximately 800 percent higher than it is today. The Nature Communications study shows rock weathering caused by early non-vascular plants had the potential to cause a global cooling.
Non-vascular plants, such as mosses, hornworts, and liverworts, formed the earliest terrestrial vegetation. The plants attach to organic and inorganic surfaces, including rocks and tree roots, releasing various organic acids that dissolve the underlying minerals. When it occurs on silicate rocks such as granite, this process of dissolution, called chemical weathering, draws down atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by dissolving carbon dioxide into water, eventually transporting it to the oceans where the carbon is buried as carbonate rock. Thus chemical weathering caused falling temperatures during times of high carbon dioxide.
According to one of the authors of the study, Philipp Porada of Stockholm University, “… the most interesting thing about the study is that tiny plants such as mosses and lichens can influence global climate in the long run. When we can better understand the carbon cycle in the past, we can better predict what happens with the climate in the future.”
It’s worth noting that the climate impact of the weathering of silicate rocks is another factor not accounted for in climate models.
SOURCE: Science Daily
The Obama administration’s effort to force the U.S. military to go green is diverting scarce resources from the nation’s defense to the creation of expensive, and, as it turns out, greenhouse-gas-emitting green fuels.
Driven by President Barack Obama’s directives – based on his view “there is no greater threat to U.S. security than climate change” – the Navy has undertaken the “Great Green Fleet” (GGF) initiative to reduce petroleum consumption by 50 percent in 2020 by switching to alternative energy sources, including advanced biofuels. Substituting advanced biofuels for petroleum marine fuels has proven very expensive and produced little if any environmental benefit.
At the outset of the GGF initiative, the Navy paid up to $400 per gallon for advanced biofuels at a time when the price of petroleum-based marine fuel was $2.82 per gallon. The initial algae-based advanced biofuels had large negative “net energy values,” meaning they consumed far more energy (in the form of fossil fuels) during their production-through-consumption lifecycle than the petroleum fuels they displaced, so net carbon dioxide emissions were many times greater than if the Navy had just used traditional fossil fuels.
Due to a combination of generous federal subsidies and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding, the cost of marine biofuels has dropped to approximately 50 percent greater than the cost of petroleum-based marine diesel. Factoring in the carbon content of the biofuels’ feedstock and the final fuel itself, the energy used in refining and delivering the fuel outside of the normal supply chain means the environmental benefits of the fuel remain questionable.
SOURCE: The Energy Collective
The impact of the Brexit vote is already being felt on climate policy, with Britain’s new government abolishing its Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The UK’s environmental policy is being transferred to a new ministry called the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with some departments being closed and staff being laid off while others are transferred to the new ministry.
Gregory Clark, secretary of state for the Department for Communities and Local Government under the Cameron government, was made secretary of state for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy by new Prime Minister Theresa May. Clark’s history of opposing wind power and the closure of DECC are causing consternation in the wind industry, which is not economically viable without government subsidies.
Green energy programs aimed at meeting the UK’s climate goals have meant taxpayers there pay 54 percent more for their electricity than comparable Americans, with green energy taxes accounting for 7 percent of the average UK household’s energy bill. Under the current green energy programs, 38 percent of British households reported they have had to cut back essential purchases, like food, to pay their energy bills, with another 59 percent of households reporting they worry about how they are going to pay energy bills.
At the same time, the government has been forced to take emergency measures to keep the lights on. The UK already has suffered brownouts and blackouts on windless and cloudy days, with one government analysis warning if subsidies continued as planned, power failures could become more common. Even before the Brexit vote, the Conservative Party had begun in July 2015 to cut green subsidies. More cuts are expected to come, particularly in the climate program fees that are slated unless the new government takes action to rein in costs.
SOURCE: The Daily Caller
A new study in Science has linked little-understood ocean circulation to abrupt climate changes in the past.
During the last ice age, temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere changed dramatically, plummeting and then rising again every 1,500 years or so, with the abrupt climate changes wreaking havoc on ecosystems. The research indicates the oceans’ overturning circulation slowed dramatically during every one of those temperature plunges.
The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation distributes heat as it moves warmer surface water from the tropics toward Greenland and the high northern latitudes and carries colder, deeper water from the North Atlantic southward. The relative speed of the overturning circulation changed dramatically during each abrupt climate change during the last ice age.
The study’s authors found the speed of the ocean overturning circulation changed first, with sea surface temperature changing later, indicating cooling starts with changes in the ocean circulation. According to the authors, it is unclear why the abrupt climate shifts seen in previous ice ages haven’t happened in the past 10,000 years. They stress more work is needed to determine whether historically there was a direct cause-and-effect relationship between changes in ocean circulation and abrupt climate changes. L. Gene Henry of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, lead author of the study, noted, “Our study supports the view that changes in ocean circulation were at least in part responsible for causing abrupt climate changes. However, what in turn caused those changes in circulation remains a mystery.”
Ocean circulation is widely recognized as a climate change factor inadequately accounted for in climate models.