April 27, 2012

EPA’S Toxic Science

Filed under: Climate Politics

EPA’s recently announced regulations on mercury from power plants will, in fact, do nothing substantial about the amount of this element in the global atmosphere. If they were really serious, they would ban volcanoes and forest fires, which are much larger sources.

Total annual releases of mercury to the atmosphere from such natural sources are about 5,200 metric tons per year. The world’s volcanoes tend to concentrate along the Pacific Rim, where the great tectonic plates that define the world’s continents are in flux, and in the mid-Atlantic, where continental drift is expanding the Atlantic ocean, opening up huge rifts that extend far beneath the surface. Forest fires tend to take place where there are forests—especially dry ones like those in the western U.S.

Data published in the refereed scientific journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions indicate that the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere by human activities—mainly from smelting of metals and combustion of coal—is about 2,320 tons, for a total atmospheric increment (natural + anthropogenerated) of a bit over 7,500 tons per year. The human contribution makes up about 31% of the annual total.

Now it gets good, and we can see how absurd EPA’s perseveration on mercury from U.S. power plants is.

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April 20, 2012

For Wheat and Rice, CO2 is Nice

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

We have written about the biological benefits of elevated temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels hundreds of times, and we will never run out of new material! Evidence the results of two recent article showing how CO2 improves the yield of wheat and the competitiveness of rice.

A team of seven scientists from various agencies in China began their article noting “In the past 100 years, the mean surface temperature in China has increased by 0.4–0.6ºC, and it is expected that the average surface temperature in western China will rise by 1.7ºC in the next 30 years and by 2.2ºC over the next 50 years.” Furthermore, Xiao et al. report “The annual mean rainfall decreased by about 60 mm [~2.4 in.] from the 1950s to the 1990s in semiarid regions of China, and a loss of soil moisture through evaporation increased 35–45 mm [~1.5 in.] due to the temperature increase. The rainfall and available soil moisture throughout the entire growing stage of the crops was about 100 mm [~4 in.] lower in the 1990s than in the 1950s. As a result, concerns about the vulnerability of agricultural production to climate change are increasing. For example, it is likely that evaporation will increase and soil moisture will decline in many regions as the temperature increases.” If that is not enough bad news, they state “There is now strong evidence that overall crop yields will decrease by 5–10% in China by 2030 as a result of climatic changes, and that the yields of wheat, rice and maize will be greatly reduced.”

But, then, quite importantly, they add “The impact of future climate change on crop production has been widely predicted by modeling the interaction between crops and climate change; however, few observations of the impacts of climate change on crop production have been reported.” [emphasis added]

Xiao and colleagues from the Institute of Arid Meteorology of the China Meteorological Administration set out to help remedy this deficiency.

And were they ever in for a surprise.

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April 11, 2012

Atmospheric Aerosols and the Death of Nature

Filed under: Climate Changes, Gulf Stream

Big news last week was that new findings published in Nature magazine showed that human emissions of aerosols (primarily from fossil fuel use) have been largely responsible for the multi-decadal patterns of sea surface temperature variability in the Atlantic ocean that have been observed over the past 150 years or so. This variability—commonly referred to as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, or AMO—has been linked to several socially significant climate phenomena including the ebb and flow of active Atlantic hurricane periods and drought in the African Sahel.

This paper marks, in my opinion, the death of credibility for Nature on global warming. The first symptoms showed up in 1996 when they published a paper by Ben Santer and 13 coauthors that was so obviously cherry-picked that it took me and my colleagues about three hours to completely destroy it. Things have gone steadily downhill, from a crazy screamer by Jonathan Patz on mortality from warming that didn’t even bother to examine whether fossil fuels were associated with extended lifespan (they are), to the recent Shakun debacle. But the latest whopper, by Ben Booth and his colleagues at the UK Met Office indeed signals the death of Nature in this field.

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April 9, 2012

Are EPA Regulations Killing Us?

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

Over at the website Master Resource, WCR’s Chip Knappenberger takes in intriguing look into whether EPA regulations aimed at mitigating extreme weather outbreaks through limitations on greenhouse gas emissions are really such a good idea.

New research has just been published, adding to an existing set of findings, that shows declines in heat-related mortality in the face of rising temperature. A logical extension of these results is that the more people become familiar with high heat, the better they become at dealing with it. The net result is that the risks form heat waves decline and public health and welfare improves.

This real-world string of events runs contrary to the EPA’s insistence that human emissions of greenhouse endanger the public health and welfare citing “longer, more intense and more frequent heat waves” as one of the resulting threats.

In his Master Resource article, Knappenberger explores this concept in more depth, as well as touching upon recent results in the psychological literature that lend support to the concept that “whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

The same adage is quite appropriate for climate change and extreme weather.

Be sure to see the entire artifcle “Is the EPA Endangering Public Health and Welfare by Attempting to Mitigate Extreme Weather?” which can be found here.




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