Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #422


The Week That Was: 2020-09-05 (September 5, 2020)

Brought to You by SEPP (www.SEPP.org)

The Science and Environmental Policy Project

Quote of the Week: “A few days ago, a Master of Arts, who is still a young man, and therefore the recipient of a modern education, stated to me that until he had reached the age of twenty he had never been taught anything whatever regarding natural phenomena, or natural law. Twelve years of his life previously had been spent exclusively amongst the ancients. The case, I regret to say, is typical. Now we cannot, without prejudice to humanity, separate the present from the past.” – John Tyndall (1854)

Number of the Week: 4.3 to 8.7 million people in California exposed!

THIS WEEK:

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

Common Sense Continued: Last week, TWTW discussed the presentation by Physicist William Happer to the annual meeting of the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP) titled Common Sense. Happer’s specific field of expertise is the interaction of radiative energy and matter. For example, how do certain gases interfere with the loss of infrared energy from the surface of the earth to space. This interference is the greenhouse effect. Yet, some newspaper reports claimed that Happer is not a climate scientist.

This week, Watts Up With That posed a series of four interviews of Happer conducted by Terry Gannon, assisted by Carolyn Gannon and Willie Soon, with advice from Marc Morano and script from Will Happer. The four topics were: 1) CO2 and Bad Press; 2) CO2 the Benefits; 3) His life as a scientist; and 4) How a CO2 Laser Works.

As stated by Happer, the greenhouse effect was described by Irish physicist John Tyndall who, in 1859, started a series of experiments to measure the absorptive capability of various gases such as water vapor, “carbonic acid” (now carbon dioxide), and ozone. He noted that there are significant differences among colorless and invisible gases to absorb and transmit radiant heat, identifying them as opaque. Other gases such as oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen have no such capability and are identified as transparent.

“He concluded that among the constituents of the atmosphere, water vapor is the strongest absorber of radiant heat and is therefore the most important gas controlling Earth’s surface temperature. He said, without water vapor, the Earth’s surface would be ‘held fast in the iron grip of frost.’ He later speculated on how fluctuations in water vapor and carbon dioxide could be related to climate change.

“Tyndall related his radiation studies to minimum nighttime temperatures and the formation of dew, correctly noting that dew and frost are caused by a loss of heat through radiative processes. He even considered London as a ‘heat island,’ meaning he thought that the city was warmer than its surrounding areas.” https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Tyndall

Happer discusses how carbon dioxide (CO2) is greenhouse gas, but not a strong one. Presently, it is in the saturated range and a doubling will make a small difference on global temperatures, about 1-degree C. Unfortunately, many climate scientists do not know enough about radiative transfer to realize that greenhouse gas warming is beneficial and runaway warming on earth with increasing CO2 cannot happen. If it were possible it would have happened long ago when CO2 concentrations were far higher than today.

In discussing the benefits of CO2, Happer states that photosynthesis is the process of using energy from sunlight to convert water and CO2 to sugars. Even chemosynthesis, which occurs in the dark using inorganic compounds (hydrogen sulfide) or ferrous ions for energy, requires carbon dioxide or methane. Chemosynthesis occurs at black smokers, hydrothermal vents deep in the ocean, and other extreme environments.

As far as CO2 being a pollutant, humans have 40,000 parts per million (ppm) in their lungs, while the current ambient air is about 410 ppm. In submarines, the US naval limit is 5,000 ppm, and crews operate submerged for months at a time. Further, we have 40 years of satellite observations showing that vegetation on land is increasing especially in arid or semi-arid regions. This is because increasing CO2 concentrations allow plants to absorb more CO2 while giving off less water.

Plants have an engineering problem. The stomata, the minute openings on the underside of the leaf, take in CO2, but water evaporates from the plant at a higher rate when it does. With higher CO2 concentrations the stomata can contract, resulting in less water loss. This is particularly true for plants classified as C3, which include wheat, rice, rye, oats, peanuts, cassava, soybean, and most trees, including fruit trees.

Interestingly, an enzyme known as Rubisco is critical for fixing CO2 during the process of photosynthesis. Yet, the biproduct of photosynthesis, oxygen, is poisonous to Rubisco. As bacteria, algae, and plants using photosynthesis became extremely successful converting CO2 to a trace gas and oxygen a dominant gas, behind nitrogen, they were creating a poison to their process of photosynthesis, their existence. Some plants evolved a different method of photosynthesis, protecting Rubisco. These are known as C4 plants and include corn (maize), sugarcane and sorghum.

In discussing his scientific career, Happer brings out how working on a CO2 laser gave him a great opportunity to understand the quantum mechanics of the interaction of infrared with atoms and molecules, including the CO2 in the laser.  An offshoot of this research led to adaptive optics, wherein a yellow laser beam excites sodium atoms in the far upper atmosphere, thereby creating a false star.  The twinkling of that false star enables astronomers to remove the twinkle from other stars, thereby creating very sharp images. 

This work led to Happer being appointed Director of Energy Research at the Department of Energy (DOE). Unlike many bureaucrats he conducted seminars put on by recipients of research grants and asked questions. What type of bacteria turn up when drilling to 10,000 feet (3,000 meters); how is the research on the human genome project going, etc.? Climate people did not like to be questioned on climate modeling, such as clouds, water vapor, etc.

After the Clinton-Gore administration took over, he stayed on briefly. Then, the Secretary of Energy asked him what he did to anger Al Gore, and suggested that perhaps he could shift from a political-appointed position to a professional position at DOE. Instead, Happer went back to Princeton to work on issues such as spin polarization of nuclei and radiation transfer, both of which apply to the greenhouse effect. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

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Wildfires: Those who require sensationalism have renamed prairie fires or forest fires as wildfires. At the DDP annual meeting, SEPP director Willie Soon addressed these fires for what they are. A combination of irresponsible forest or brush management driven by blowing propaganda. As Soon illustrates, many of the fires of the Amazon commanding global attention are the result of arson, not climate change as often blamed. For Australia, Soon shows a composite picture of all the fires for one year deliberately put together to give the impression that the Continent is burning at one time.

Fire has long been a fact of nature, which humans can influence but not fully control. Unfortunately, some past policies to stop fires may have led to conditions that promote the spread of fires today. Subsequently, fire-prone conditions are worsened by later policies to stop all efforts to control the spread of fires, such as building fire breaks, clearing of undergrowth, and clearing of vegetation around human housing.

As Soon states, a common element of all wildfires dangerous to humans is fuel load. Without excessive fuel load few fires are dangerous to human communities. Of course, the California policy of road diets, narrowing roads to handle less traffic “for safety,” complicates the issue by causing traffic jams when residents try to flee an area, such as what occurred at Paradise, California, when 85 people were killed in the Camp Fire of 2018 started by a faulty electric transmission line.

Writing for a local newspaper, conservationist Jim Steele brings up another problem facing the residents of California, continued spread of invasive grasses which dry out quickly in California weather and provide “fine fuels” for fires in the grasslands and chaparral particularly along the coast. Unlike past years, thus far the August 2020 fires have been ignited by dry lightning, lightning that occurs without rain hitting the ground. Steele has a solid description of this physical event. As with Soon, he believes resources are better spent on management of fuel load rather than “climate change” or other excuses. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

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More on Sea Levels: In his discussion on the Scientific Method, Richard Feynman insisted that a scrupulous scientist must present all the data, including the data that is not favorable to his pet idea, his hypothesis. A favorite trick of some is to put together two different datasets taken by two different sets of instruments or methods, showing different trends over different time intervals, but to eliminate the data that shows the datasets are not similar and have different trends.

We are seeing this again with NASA claims of sea level rise since 1900. Using data from the UK PSMSL (Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level), Paul Homeward addresses the claims using data for two geologically stable locations. There are short term trends of increasing sea level rise and decreasing sea level rise. For example, in the 1970s sea levels fell at Newlyn, UK, in the 1960s sea levels fell and then rose in the 1970s at North Shields, UK. Homewood writes:

“This pattern of a slowdown or fall in sea levels in the 1960s and 70s is seen at many other sites around the world, as are rates of rise as high as now in the decades prior to that.

“Both phenomena are, of course, consistent with warming in the Arctic in the 1920s and 30s, followed by the much colder interlude there, which ended in the 1990s. Global temperatures followed the same pattern too.

“Although the overall rate of rise is around 2mm a year, because of periods when there was no rise at all there have been other periods when sea levels have been rising faster.

“Annual sea level rise of around 3mm a year was typical prior to the cooldown and is similar to what is being reported now by satellites.

Whether we enter another period of AMO [Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation] related cooling in coming decades remains to be seen. But what the data conclusively shows is that, as far as the UK is concerned, the recent rate of sea level rise is not unprecedented, nor is there any evidence of it accelerating.

Those who become excited over short-term sea-level trends need to review Richard Feynman on the scientific method. See links under Changing Seas.

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Ocean pH: Writers for the US National Academy of Sciences continue to insist that a slight lowering of the pH of an alkaline solution (the general oceans) reducing its corrosive capability by making it more neutral is acidifying it, increasing the corrosive capability. This is logical nonsense. Now, they have imagined a new disease for coral reefs: Coral Osteoporosis. In humans, osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone. Now the Coral Reefs are losing too much Coral – by what standards? See link under Acidic Waters.]

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Small Nuclear Reactors: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved NuScale Power’s application for the small modular reactor that Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems plans to build at a U.S. Department of Energy site in eastern Idaho. According to reports:

“The small reactors can produce about 60 megawatts of energy, or enough to power more than 50,000 homes. The proposed project includes 12 small modular reactors. The first would be built in 2029, with the rest in 2030.

“The modular reactors are light-water reactors, which are the vast majority of reactors now operating. But modular reactors are designed to use less water than traditional reactors and have a passive safety system so they shut down without human action should something go wrong.”

Small nuclear reactors have been on US Navy ships and submarines since the USS Nautilus was commissioned in 1954. No doubt the greens will invent many new dangers. One of the advantages of the modular design is the ability to produce standardized reactors under controlled conditions. The passive safety system reduces human error in operation. See links under Nuclear Energy and Fears.

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Whale Watch-out: The attorney general for North Carolina is attempting to block seismic surveys for offshore oil and natural gas by claiming that the use of air guns sending sounds against the ocean floor can harm sea life and could have significant impacts on fishing and tourism. The issue is how much evidence can he invent because he probably has no existing evidence. There is some evidence that some marine mammals such as deep-diving beaked whales are sensitive to mid-frequency sonar tests by the US Navy, possibly causing them to go to the surface too quickly, giving them conditions similar to “the bends” for human divers. Beaked whales have been known to dive to 9800 feet (3000 meters) and are generally found over deep waters (300 meters) such as near the Mariana Islands, Azores, or polar waters.

Generally, state waters are 3 nautical miles from the shore on the Atlantic; federal waters extend 200 nautical miles from shore. Within state waters off North Carolina, the continental shelf is shallow, perhaps a maximum of about 100 meters. TWTW doubts beaked whales are common there. See links under Litigation Issues.

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Number of the Week: 4.3 to 8.7 million people in California exposed! According to a paper published in AAAS, Science Advances:

“We estimate between 4.3 million and 8.7 million people in California’s coastal communities, including 460,000 to 805,000 in San Francisco, 8000 to 2,300,00 in Los Angeles, and 2,000,000 to 2,300,000 in San Diego, are exposed to subsidence.” [Boldface added.]

Cities in California are suing oil companies claiming damages from sea level rise, yet is the real danger land subsidence?

Commentary: Is the Sun Rising?

A Warning from History: The Carrington Event Was Not Unique

By Tony Phillips, Spaceweather.com, Aug 30, 2020 [H/t Bill Balgord]

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