Tuesday, June 13, 2017

GWPF Newsletter: The Closing of The Scientific Mind

‘Super Corals’ Are Resilient To Climate Change, Scientists Discover

In this newsletter:

1) ‘Super Corals’ Are Resilient To Climate Change, Scientists Discover
Newsweek, 9 June 2017
2) New Study: Large CO2 Emissions From Batteries Of Electric Cars
New Technology, 29 May 2017
3) El Nino Signal Is Weakening In The Pacific
Reuters, 13 June 2017
4) Plus Ca Change: Will Crazy Climate Policy Bring Down Another Australian Prime Minister?
Australian Associated Press, 13 June 2017
5) David Gelernter: The Closing Of The Scientific Mind
Science Matters, 12 June 2017 
6) John Constable: The Global Status Of Renewable Energy
GWPF Energy, 12 June 2017

Full details:

1) ‘Super Corals’ Are Resilient To Climate Change, Scientists Discover
Newsweek, 9 June 2017
Hannah Osborne

Scientists have discovered a population of “super corals” that appear to have become resistant to extreme environmental conditions — being able to survive and thrive in hot, acidic and low-oxygen waters. And they now plan to search for more climate-adaptable coral populations within the Great Barrier Reef.

The “super corals” discovered within a New Caledonian mangrove system. STEPH GARDNER

An international team of researchers first found the super corals during an expedition to a remote lagoon in New Caledonia in 2016. Their “surprising results” showed the lagoon had a diverse community of reef-building corals that had adapted to live in extreme these conditions.

Publishing their findings in the journal Scientific Reports, the team was investigating coral reef health in relating to climate change. As oceans get warmer and more acidic, vast swathes of coral species suffer. This has been documented globally, with a recent report from the Australian Research Council showing two thirds of the Great Barrier Reef had been affected so far this year.

Coral bleaching occurs when waters are too warm. These conditions make the corals expel the algae living in their tissues—causing them to lose their color. Algae provides coral with 90 percent of its energy, so while this process does not kill it, it places the coral under far greater stress and puts it at greater risk of death.

As global temperatures increase, scientists are increasingly concerned about how coral reefs—which form barriers protecting shorelines from waves and storms, and provide ecosystems for a vast number of species—will fare.

The latest findings provide some relief. Emma Camp, from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia, and colleagues found water in the semi-enclosed lagoon system was hot, acidic and lacking in oxygen when compared to neighboring reefs. Yet its coral communities was surprisingly rich—there were 20 species covering up to 35 percent of the lagoon site.

“Enhanced coral respiration, alongside high particulate organic content of the lagoon sediment, suggests acclimatisation to this trio of temperature, oxygen and pH changes through heterotrophic plasticity.” Heterotrophic refers to organisms that depend on organic substances for nutrients because they cannot make their own food.

In a statement, Camp said: “The existence of corals living under this usually deadly trio of conditions, comparable and even exceeding what is predicted under climate change, gives us new hope that some corals will be able to persist into the future. These could indeed be the super corals of the future that will help support proactive management options attempting to upgrade reef resilience.”

Concluding, the team wrote: “Evidence here, and from other similar habitats increasingly highlight that reef neighboring systems could act as local reservoirs of coral populations highly resistant to extreme environmental conditions.”

The next step in their research is to search for similar systems in the Great Barrier Reef. The expedition, funded by the National Geographic Society Waitt Foundation, will allow the team to explore mangrove systems—which have similar, extreme conditions to those seen in New Caledonia—and how corals there may have adapted.

“As a result of the expedition we will be able to collect invaluable baseline physical and molecular data to discover how corals within the Great Barrier Reef have already adapted and how they might cope in the future,” Camp said. “I’m excited at the prospect of being able to transfer our discoveries from other sites to our own home reefs.”

David Suggett, who will accompany Camp on the expedition, said: “By exploring the very margins — such as reef-neighbouring mangroves that are often ignored by coral surveys — we’re continually finding populations of super coral that are resistant to hot, acidic and hypoxic conditions predicted under climate change.

This is a game changer for how we consider coral reef resilience into the future for the Great Barrier Reef.

Full story

2) New Study: Large CO2 Emissions From Batteries Of Electric Cars
New Technology, 29 May 2017
Johan Kristensson

Enormous hope rests on electric cars as the solution by the motor industry to climate change. However the batteries of electric cars are not environmentally friendly when manufactured. Several tonnes of carbon dioxide are being released, even before electric batteries leave the factory.

IVL, the Swedish Environment Institute has, on behalf of the Swedish Transport Administration and the Swedish Energy Agency, investigated the climate impact of lithium-ion batteries from a life-cycle perspective. Batteries for electric cars were included in the study. Lisbeth Dahllöf and Mia Romare have produced a meta-analysis, that is, a review and compilation of existing studies.

The report shows that battery manufacturing leads to high CO2 emissions. For each kilowatt-hour storage capacity in the battery, emissions of 150 to 200 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent are generated, already in the factory.

The researchers have not studied individual car brand’s batteries, just how they were produced or what electrical mix they used. But to understand the importance of battery size here’s one example: Two standard electric cars on the market, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, have batteries of approximately 30 kWh and 100 kWh respectively.

As soon as you buy the car, CO2 emissions of approximately 5.3 tonnes and 17.5 tonnes, respectively, have been released for batteries of these sizes. The numbers may be difficult to relate to. By way of comparison, a trip for a person returning from Stockholm to New York by air causes emissions of more than 600 kilograms of carbon dioxide, according to the UN organization ICAO’s calculation model.

Another conclusion of the study is that about half of the emissions occur during the production of raw materials and half during the production of the battery in the factory. The mining itself accounts for only a small part of between 10-20 percent.
The calculation is based on the assumption that the electricity mix used by the battery plant is based by more than half by power generated by fossil fuels. In Sweden, power generation predominantly consists of zero-carbon nuclear and hydropower, as a result of which lower emissions can be achieved.

The study also reveals that CO2 emissions rise almost linearly with battery size, even though data is scarcer in this area. This means that a Tesla-size battery contributes more than three times as much CO2 as Nissan Leaf’s battery. It is a result that surprised Mia Romare.

“It should have been less linear because the electronics used do not increase to the same extent. But the battery cells themselves are as influential as the production looks today, she says.

“One conclusion is that you should not drive unnecessarily cars with large batteries,” says Mia Romare.

The authors emphasise that a large part of their study was about finding out what data was available and finding out what information they hold. In many cases they found that it was difficult to compare existing studies with each other.

“We have been frustrated, but it is also part of the result,” says Lisbeth Dahllöf.
Mats-Ola Larsson, their colleague at IVL, has calculated how long you need to drive a petrol or diesel car before it has released as much carbon dioxide as an electric car battery. The result was 2.7 years for a battery of the same size as Nissan Leaf and 8.2 years for a battery of Tesla size, based on a series of assumptions.

“It’s great for companies and government to embark on ambitious environmental policies and to buy climate-smart cars. But these results show that one should not think of choosing an electric car with a larger battery than necessary, he says, and points out that politicians should also address this in the design of instruments.

An obvious part to look at in life cycle analyses is recovery. The authors of the report note that what characterises batteries is the lack of the same as there is no financial incentive to send the batteries for recycling and that the volumes are still small.

Cobalt, nickel and copper are recycled, but not the energy required to make the electrodes, says Mia Romare, pointing out that recycling points are resource conservation rather than carbon dioxide emissions.

Peter Kasche from the Energy Agency, the publishers of the report, stresses the importance of the close relationship between the size of the electric battery and CO2 emissions.

One really needs to make sure to optimise electric batteries. One should not drive around with a lot of kilowatt hours unnecessarily. In some cases, a plug in-hybrid may be the optimum, in other cases a clean battery device.

Translation GWPF

Full story (in Swedish)
3) El Nino Signal Is Weakening In The Pacific
Reuters, 13 June 2017
John Kemp

The probability of El Nino, a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific, developing this year has been downgraded by U.S. government forecasters as sea surface temperatures and wind speeds in the area remain close to their long-term averages.

The Pacific saw a relatively rapid swing in late October from La Nina conditions - characterised as unusually cold temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean - to neutral or even slightly El Nino-leaning conditions by March.

Since then, however, the oceanic and atmospheric signals pointing to a possible El Nino have all weakened.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week downgraded the probability of El Nino conditions being present in the fourth quarter of 2017, to just 36 percent. That is down from 53 percent at the time of its March forecast.

The agency’s central prediction is now that conditions will be neutral in the fourth quarter, with a probability of 53 percent, with only an outlying chance of La Nina, at 11 percent.

Full post

4) Will Crazy Climate Policy Bring Down Another Australian Prime Minister?
New Daily, 13 June 2017

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull could be facing a backbench backlash over plans for a Clean Energy Target after a number of government MPs spoke out behind closed doors on Tuesday night.

Tony Abbott has criticised a report to the Turnbull government recommending a Clean Energy Target. Photo: AAP
During an extended party room meeting, backbenchers grilled Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg about the proposal, which has been recommended by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel to end a decade of energy policy uncertainty in Australia.
Of the 32 MPs who spoke, about a third expressed serious misgivings about the measure, including some who were openly hostile to it, while another third were said to have probed Mr Frydenberg for more information, government sources said.
The final third backed the proposal and complimented Mr Frydenberg’s handling of the review, according to that account of the meeting.
Division in Coalition ranks now threatens to derail the government’s ambition to end the climate wars after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten indicated Labor would consider a Clean Energy Target instead of its preferred Emissions Intensity Scheme.

Mr Frydenberg sought to play down talk of a backbench revolt over the Finkel Review.

Full story

5) David Gelernter: The Closing Of The Scientific Mind
Science Matters, 12 June 2017 

That science should face crises in the early 21st century is inevitable. Power corrupts, and science today is the Catholic Church around the start of the 16th century: used to having its own way and dealing with heretics by excommunication, not argument.

The Closing of the Scientific Mind is a plea for scientists to celebrate and enhance humanity rather than belittle human life.  Author David Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale. His book Subjectivism: The Mind from Inside will be published by Norton later this year.  Excerpts below.

“The huge cultural authority science has acquired over the past century imposes large duties on every scientist. Scientists have acquired the power to impress and intimidate every time they open their mouths, and it is their responsibility to keep this power in mind no matter what they say or do. Too many have forgotten their obligation to approach with due respect the scholarly, artistic, religious, humanistic work that has always been mankind’s main spiritual support. Scientists are (on average) no more likely to understand this work than the man in the street is to understand quantum physics. But science used to know enough to approach cautiously and admire from outside, and to build its own work on a deep belief in human dignity. No longer.

Belittling Humanity

Today science and the “philosophy of mind”—its thoughtful assistant, which is sometimes smarter than the boss—are threatening Western culture with the exact opposite of humanism. Call it roboticism. Man is the measure of all things, Protagoras said. Today we add, and computers are the measure of all men.
Many scientists are proud of having booted man off his throne at the center of the universe and reduced him to just one more creature—an especially annoying one—in the great intergalactic zoo. That is their right. But when scientists use this locker-room braggadocio to belittle the human viewpoint, to belittle human life and values and virtues and civilization and moral, spiritual, and religious discoveries, which is all we human beings possess or ever will, they have outrun their own empiricism. They are abusing their cultural standing. Science has become an international bully.

The Closing of the Scientific Mind

That science should face crises in the early 21st century is inevitable. Power corrupts, and science today is the Catholic Church around the start of the 16th century: used to having its own way and dealing with heretics by excommunication, not argument.

Science is caught up, also, in the same educational breakdown that has brought so many other proud fields low. Science needs reasoned argument and constant skepticism and open-mindedness. But our leading universities have dedicated themselves to stamping them out—at least in all political areas. We routinely provide superb technical educations in science, mathematics, and technology to brilliant undergraduates and doctoral students.

But if those same students have been taught since kindergarten that you are not permitted to question the doctrine of man-made global warming, or the line that men and women are interchangeable, or the multiculturalist idea that all cultures and nations are equally good (except for Western nations and cultures, which are worse), how will they ever become reasonable, skeptical scientists? They’ve been reared on the idea that questioning official doctrine is wrong, gauche, just unacceptable in polite society. (And if you are president of Harvard, it can get you fired.)

Beset by all this mold and fungus and corruption, science has continued to produce deep and brilliant work. Most scientists are skeptical about their own fields and hold their colleagues to rigorous standards. Recent years have seen remarkable advances in experimental and applied physics, planetary exploration and astronomy, genetics, physiology, synthetic materials, computing, and all sorts of other areas.

But we do have problems, and the struggle of subjective humanism against roboticism is one of the most important.

The moral claims urged on man by Judeo-Christian principles and his other religious and philosophical traditions have nothing to do with Earth’s being the center of the solar system or having been created in six days, or with the real or imagined absence of rational life elsewhere in the universe. The best and deepest moral laws we know tell us to revere human life and, above all, to be human: to treat all creatures, our fellow humans and the world at large, humanely. To behave like a human being (Yiddish: mensch) is to realize our best selves.

No other creature has a best self.

This is the real danger of anti-subjectivism, in an age where the collapse of religious education among Western elites has already made a whole generation morally wobbly. When scientists casually toss our human-centered worldview in the trash with the used coffee cups, they are re-smashing the sacred tablets, not in blind rage as Moses did, but in casual, ignorant indifference to the fate of mankind…”

Full post

6) John Constable: The Global Status Of Renewable Energy
GWPF Energy, 12 June 2017
Dr John Constable: GWPF Energy Editor

In spite of decades of sustained government support at the global level, wind and solar, the modern renewables on which the future of current climate policy depend, are still only 1% of world Final Energy Consumption.

Renewables  The “Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century” (REN21), the secretariat of which is based in Paris, is a membership organisation counting industry associations, NGOs and other international organisations, and even national governments, including that of the United Kingdom and, at least for the time being, the Federal government of the United States. It is chaired by Arthouros Zervos, currently at the National Technical University of Athens, a very well-known figure in international renewables policy, having been President of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), and for five years a scientific officer in the Renewable Energy Unit of DG Research at the European Commission in Brussels.

REN21 publishes annually a Renewables Global Status Report (GSR). This year’s issue, which credits over 800 contributing authors and advisors, was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), UN Environment, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). With all this behind it readers are entitled to take the results fairly seriously, though allowing for the fact that REN21 is closely aligned with many interested parties. When the news in the Renewables GSR is mixed, that it is extremely interesting.

Mr Zervos writes in his preface, that on the one hand the study “reveals a global energy transition well under way”, but also that “the pace of the transition is not on track to achieve the goals established in the Paris Agreement”. The facts behind this puzzling contradiction are explained in more detail in the main text, where the authors write:

The overall share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption has increased only modestly in recent history, despite tremendous growth in the renewable energy sector, particularly for solar PV and wind power. A primary reason for this is the persistently strong growth in overall energy demand (with the exception of a momentary pull-back in 2009 following the onset of a global economic recession), which counteracts the strong forward momentum for modern renewable energy technologies. In addition, the use of traditional biomass for heat, which makes up nearly half of all renewable energy use, has increased, but at a rate that has not kept up with growth in total demand.

REN21 summarizes this data behind this curious state of affairs in the following figure:

Figure 1. Estimated Renewable Energy Share of Total Final Energy Consumption, 2015. Source: REN21 Renewables 2017: Global Status Report.

According to the endnote the figure has been based largely on 2014 data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) published last year, but with adjustments and revisions based on many other sources. (For readers who have been following Global Status Report for a number of years, it is interesting to note that this issue for the first time makes allowance for the renewable electricity energy sector’s auto-consumption, which REN21 estimates at 7%, a degree of realism that is to be welcomed.)

The first thing to observe here is that REN21 has chosen to analyse Final Energy Consumption (FEC), the energy actually supplied at the point of consumption, in a vehicle tank for example, or in an electrical appliance, so is net of losses in conversion in refineries and power stations and of losses in electricity transmission.

This choice has some merits, as compared to the Total Primary Energy input to the system, since it avoids the awkward technical problems raised by the need to properly account for the significance of Primary Electricity, such as nuclear and renewables, both of which have, or should have, a higher share of FEC. For example the IEA data shows that all renewables contributed about 14% of TPE in 2014 (see IEA, Key Renewables Trends (2016), but in REN21’s calculation of FEC this becomes just over 19% of FEC, which is plausible.

Properly calculated, then, there are real merits to the FEC approach, principally because it allows comparison with targets such as that of the EU Renewables Directive (2009) which specifies that 20% of EU Final Energy Consumption in 2020 should come from renewable sources. Indeed, at first blush that 20% target might seem more or less reasonable, since the world is currently deriving over 19% of its FEC from renewables. But then one sees that only 10% comes from so-called “modern renewables”, with over 9% coming from the “Traditional Biomass”, a euphemism for leaves and twigs and animal dung. And of modern renewables, some 3.6% comes hydropower, and 4% from modern renewables for heat, including biomass, geothermal and solar heating.

Electricity from modern renewables accounts for only 1.6% of global Final Energy Consumption. And of that, the super-fashionable areas, the poster children of Mr Zervos’ “global energy transition”, wind and solar, provide only a fraction, though tact seems to have got the better of candour at this point in the study, since the no further breakdown is provided. However, one can make inferences from the IEA data for Total Primary Energy input, where it appears that wind and solar together account for 0.8% of TPE. That will form a slightly higher fraction of FEC, but not much higher, since modern biomass will account for a substantial part of that 1.6%. It is safe to say that roughly speaking, wind and solar energy are contributing about 1% of Final Energy Consumption at the most.

What is so shocking about this figure is not that simply that it is small. There is no intrinsic shame in diminutive stature; everything has to start somewhere, and great oaks only grow from little acorns. What is so remarkable is the disproportion between this 1% figure and the enormous global effort and cost that has gone into its making. For several decades now, governments all over the world, and nearly all of the richest and most sophisticated, have poured resources into the renewable energy sector, have shielded its investors from risks, have spared renewable generators from their system costs, and have coerced consumers to purchase renewable output at inflated prices. And in spite of all this, renewable energy is still not yet spontaneously attractive.

Indeed, it cannot even keep up with the growth in demand for energy. There is no renewables “explosion”. This reaction is as yet still endothermic, and dependent on continued external input. When the subsidies stop, the sector will cool and die. And after years of major costs with only trivial results, the subsidies should stop before further wealth is destroyed.

The chemical analogies were not available to Horace, but he had words for this situation: “Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus”. Roughly translated, When governments play at God they make only rats and mice.

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at www.thegwpf.com.

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