Tag Archive | "China"

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Stable Temperature Stokes Climate Controversy

Posted on 25 September 2013 by admin

Since the start of the new century there has been no change in the world’s annual-mean temperature. Climate change deniers have seized upon this fact and our continuing addition of COto the atmosphere with no effect, to support their view that human beings are not causing climate change and a temperature rise.

A new study entitled “Recent global-warming hiatus tied to equatorial Pacific surface cooling” published in the September 19, 2013 issue of Nature magazine, attributes the pause in the climate change temperature increase to natural causes.  The research report prepared by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego states, “Our results show that the current hiatus is part of natural climate variability, tied specifically to a La-Niña-like decadal cooling.”

The researchers successfully recreated our last decade of experience by altering climate models to reflect increased greenhouse gas concentrations, aerosol concentration and solar cycle changes.  When they added the known rise in sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, their model predicted as a normal climate variation what we are experiencing with a correlation coefficient of r=0.97 for the period of 1970 to 2012.

Contributing to the confusion about the stability of the world annual-mean temperature is the record heat waves in Russia in 2010, the U.S. in 2012 and Arctic sea ice reaching record lows in 2007 and 2012.  In addition we have seen record rains in Australia.  So much water has been deposited on Australia and absorbed into the soil that the overall mean global sea level has fallen by 7 mm.   When measuring the Earth’s gravity field around Australia there was a parallel increase in the mass of water retained on land.

In the meantime, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is releasing its most recent assessment.   Their report raises the level of confidence of a human caused climate change to 95% probability (up from 90%) and changes descriptors of the new likelihood to “extremely likely” (from “very likely”).  The report continues, “There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level, and changed some climate extremes.”

Early circulation of drafts of this report have in part set the stage for new G20 agreements to curb emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).  On June 8, 2013 the U.S. and China agreed to the progressive elimination of HFCs.

Readers will recall an earlier post on January 4, 2013 on this site entitled “Are We Trading Greenhouse Gas for Ozone?” in which we identified that HFCs were protective of ozone but very powerful greenhouse cases that contributed to climate change.  HFCs are many more times more damaging than carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.  In addition the article cited the significant increased production and sale of air conditioners in China and India that use the HFCs as their coolant.  For a reprise of that article see http://www.iamaguardian.com/category/protect/ozone-depletion .

In January 1, 1989 the Montreal Protocol went into effect.  This was an international agreement to ban substances that destroy the ozone layer of the planet.  The central purpose of the agreement was to progressively eliminate chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) that are very damaging to our ozone layer.  The assumption was that hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) could be substituted for example in air conditioning and refrigeration and would not damage the ozone.  At the time there was no climate change or concerns about greenhouse gases.  The recent agreement corrects that oversight.

Finally, a new study reported in the August 2013 issue of Science magazine and other articles describe the process that is accelerating the movement of ice sheets and glaciers.  Scientists report that hotter temperatures are melting the surface snow and ice with the water draining down to the bedrock below.  This new layer of water between the soil and the ice sheets and glaciers acts as a lubricant that increases the speed of movement of the ice.  The faster the movement, the sooner they calve and/or break apart.  All of which shortens the lifetime of large bodies of ice that have been in place for centuries.

Use the following links to obtain additional information or access source documents:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-stopped-in-1998.htm

http://scripps.ucsd.edu/biblio/recent-global-warming-hiatus-tied-equatorial-pacific-surface-cooling

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21574461-climate-may-be-heating-up-less-response-greenhouse-gas-emissions

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24080-how-an-ocean-went-into-hiding-in-australia.html#.UkHxR_GmQli

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/08/united-states-and-china-agree-work-together-phase-down-hfcs

http://www.iamaguardian.com/category/protect/ozone-depletion/

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-09-06/politics/41829108_1_carbon-dioxide-montreal-protocol-durwood-zaelke

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We Miss the Forest for the Trees on Nuclear Weapons

Posted on 21 May 2013 by Jerry

It is confusing for those of us who want to rid the world of nuclear weapons.  Where does each nation really stand on the issue?  They are not consistent and often do things that don’t match their rhetoric.  We are awash in detail listening to a cacophony of voices telling us all of the different things we should do.

Just think for a moment about how many people around the world derive livelihood and importance from the nuclear armaments; the diplomatic analysts, all branches of the military, strategists, manufacturers, professors, writers, politicians, etc., etc.  With all these different points of view and each special interest jockeying to be heard or get a piece of the action, it is any wonder it is confusing.  So hold this thought for we will come back to it.

Consider that the United States has consistently said it seeks to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons.  While other countries have, the U.S. has never said it will not be first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.  While they continue to negotiate reductions with Russia and are said to be in hard financial times, the U.S. government is seeking to increase its spending on its nuclear weapons development program to $7.9 billion.  This represents about 30% more than when President Obama first took office.

An article in the May 9, 2013 issue of Nature magazine observes that U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein in a budget meeting pointed out the 2014 funding request for $7.9 billion was in real terms the same as the U.S. was spending at the height of the cold war in 1985 when it had 25,000 nuclear weapons, was designing new families of weapons and was conducting underground tests.  One of the major recipients of these funds is the National Nuclear Security Administration (a semi-autonomous part of the Energy Department).  Their stated position is it would not necessarily be cheaper just to maintain existing weapons.  This is their justification for their development of new warheads and weapons systems.

So which is it?  Will the U.S. be first to use nuclear weapons or not?  Does it want to lessen the threat of nuclear weapons by reducing and eliminating them or does it want to modernize and replace them?  Maybe this new funding is a ploy to encourage others to keep negotiating the weapons away and the money will not be spent to develop new weapons systems.  Maybe the U.S. will wind up with new secret weapons.  Maybe the strategy is all of the above.

Also perplexing is China.  China largely sidestepped the arms build-up of the cold war instead letting the USSR and U.S. face off alone.  Estimates by the Arms Control Association place the size of China’s nuclear arsenal at about 240 warheads compared to the estimated size of the U.S. arsenal of 5,113 nuclear warheads including tactical, strategic and non-deployed warheads.

In 1964, immediately after the Chinese test of their first nuclear weapon, China declared they would never be the first to use nuclear weapons.  This explicit “no-first-use pledge” has been repeated in six successive government statements or white papers released over the last 50 or so years.

This year the Chinese white paper on defense, released in mid April, completely omits any reference to “no-first-use”.  The new Chinese president, Xi Jinping, elected this year, in his first speech to the Second Artillery Force, responsible for the China’s nuclear arsenal, again made no reference to the no-first-use policy.  Governments around the world assume this is not just a casual omission but signals a new aggressiveness from China.

Many would argue this is but another way for China to signal its significant concerns about the Obama 2011 decision to “pivot” and “rebalance” naval and marine resources towards the Pacific and Asia areas.  The stated U.S. objective is to change the 50:50 deployment of its resources between the Asian and European areas to a 60:40 split.  Or China’s reaction may represent an attempt to get more leverage in ongoing territorial disputes with Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.  Or it has decided to just mimic the U.S. position.

There are many reasons the U.S. can give for its redeployment of resources.  Many would cite China’s annual 10% increase in its military spending (which includes new aircraft carriers), the existing U.S. relationships with South Korea and Japan, and threats emanating from North Korea as major factors.

The U.S. government would point out that two of its strongest allies in the Pacific region, Japan and South Korea, are both technologically advanced and could develop nuclear weapons of their own in very short order if the U.S. did not restrain them.  It is incumbent on the U.S. to reassure these two allies that it will protect them from attacks by their bellicose neighbor, North Korea.

In the meantime, the bellicose neighbor has conducted their third confirmed nuclear test.  Their first test in 2006 had a yield of about 1 kiloton.  In 2009, their second test was in the six kiloton range.  This most recent test was thought to be as large as 10 kilotons and of much smaller design.  This miniaturization signals an objective to carry their weapons on long-range missiles.

Repeated threats from North Korea followed this test, asserting they were close to a nuclear war with the U.S. or South Korea or other unspecified countries in the South China Sea.  While it is clear North Korea is now a nuclear power, the world discounts its ability to send a missile with a nuclear warhead very far or with any accuracy.  The world also believes that North Korea really does not want a nuclear showdown and that its statements are just more belligerent puffery similar to what it has said numerous times since the Korean War.  The West generally believes that North Korea is trying to blackmail them into giving it various concessions and forms of aid.

The U.S. has responded to North Korean threats by redeploying a warship and a sea-based radar platform closer to the Korean coast.  In addition, it beefed up the anti-ballistic missile defenses deployed in Japan.  These steps were meant to reassure South Korea and Japan that the U.S. remained their strategic partner.

In this post, we have only looked superficially at five countries; the U.S., China, North Korea, South Korea and Japan.  We have also examined only a small sampling of their many actions or interests.  Imagine how convoluted everything gets when everyone with any interest is included, when all of the nuclear powers are considered and when all the nuclear ‘wannabes’ are added.

The lesson to be drawn by people who want to eliminate nuclear weapons is that we cannot afford to be drawn into thinking about the issues by thrashing around in the detail and minutiae.  Without the minutiae how will everyone directly involved convince us they are necessary and productive?  It is they who create the minutiae. Without it they largely lose their importance and reason for being.

The lesson to be re-learned is an old one; we can’t afford to miss the forest by looking at the trees.  Those of us who want to eliminate nuclear weapons must keep our eye on the forest continuing to demand our politicians and governments redefine their role and value by finding a way to eliminate these weapons.  When enough of our voices are raised in this demand, simple as it is, they will pay attention and find a way.

Use the following links to obtain more information:

http://www.nature.com/news/us-warheads-to-get-a-facelift-1.12948

http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/nuclearweaponswhohaswhat

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/19/opinion/is-china-changing-its-position-on-nuclear-weapons.html

http://iissvoicesblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/us-pivot-to-asia-must-come-with-reassurances/

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1119363/chinas-navy-grows-end-dengs-dictum-keeping-low-profile

http://thediplomat.com/the-naval-diplomat/2013/03/07/what-to-make-of-chinas-defense-spending-increase/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/littoral_combat_ship

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6122/893.full?sid=3c1338ee-12f4-466e-9df476e981b17cc8

http://blogs.nature.com/news/2013/02/north-korea-tests-smaller-and-lighter-bomb.html

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Rising Heat, Decreasing Water

Posted on 06 March 2013 by Jerry

As a result of climate change supported by a consensus of the scientific community, extremely hot temperatures are being experienced more frequently around the world.  James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute in a recent report shared that extreme heat which used to strike about .02% of the world’s land area in any given summer now strikes about 10%.  The estimate is that within 10 years this will rise to 16.7%.

An article in the September 8, 2012 issue of Science News quotes John M. Wallace of the University of Washington as saying he sees a shift toward more extremely warm days and hotter extremes within those days.  He said there is good reason to believe global warming elevates extremes.

For a preview of areas of the world where water shortages will be significant by 2050 look at the accompanying chart which is reprinted from an article that appeared in Nature Magazine.  If you live in an area of the world where the human population is using water at a faster pace than it can be replenished you may need to follow the water and relocate to an area which still has a robust aquifer to support its population.  If you haven’t looked at the current technology and cost of desalinization, you may be in a place that will not be able to get water from the ocean.

At first glance, the surprise in the chart is the identity and number of areas with large ground water resources.  After some thought you may conclude the plentiful water supply correlates with relatively small human populations and/or areas which do not have large agricultural production and irrigation.  The authors of the article indicate the hyper water consuming nations are India, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mexico and the United States.

Focusing on just one of the areas of water shortage, an article in the February 8, 2013 issue of Science explores China’s worries about rising temperatures and the shrinking aquifer in the eastern rim of the North China Plain, China’s breadbasket.  In a country that already has 20% of the world’s population and only 7 percent of its arable land, which is shrinking due to urbanization, there is increasing demand for greater food consumption.  This added to rising temperatures which will further shorten the traditional growing seasons, will inevitably lead to lower crop yields. 

Northern China depends on the Yellow River and natural water table for irrigation.  Unfortunately, pollution of the river and diverting water for urban uses has caused the region to rely more heavily on its aquifer.  This has led to a steady shrinkage of available water as more water is consumed than can be replaced by rainfall.  The last four decades have seen the area use approximate 120 billion cubic meters more water than have been replenished in the aquifer. This coupled with rising sea levels in the traditional rice growing areas will put significant pressure on China to solve its water shortages and long term threats to its food supply.

After a few years of significant droughts in the United States, early signs from the nation’s snowpack show the droughts will continue.  With very light snow fall in the Rocky Mountains, the Western states reservoir water levels are still only half full.  This indicates the soil in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada is drier than normal once again.  In a New York Times article a Colorado farmer, Mike Hungenberg states “It’s approaching a critical situation.  A year ago we went into the spring season with most of the reservoirs full.  This year, you’re going in with basically everything empty.”

Some areas of the United States have benefited from a good winter snow which will ease their water shortages.  Some parts of Montana, Oregon, Utah, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri have reason for hope as a result of new rains and snows. Other areas are anticipating another year of drought.

Climate change leads to higher average temperatures which cause shrinking water supplies.  Increasing urbanization adds pressure on present aquifers.  The need to protect water supplies and/or plan for acquisition of water from other sources is a clear and present need for the areas affected.  We all should be mindful of what is causing this shortfall and what each of us needs to do to help fix it.  We should all embrace actions which conserve water even in areas where it is plentiful.

For additional information use the following links:

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/342823/description/extreme_hot_spells_rising

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v488/n7410/full/nature11295.html  

http://www.nature.com/news/demand-for-water-outstrips-supply-1.11143

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6120/644.summary?sid=183e5277-6810-4ce1-aa13-9c8c09bb8086

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/us/in-drought-stricken-heartland-snow-is-no-savior.html

 

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Coal to Overtake Oil, Natural Gas is a Questionable Substitute

Posted on 31 January 2013 by Jerry

At the present rate of demand, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that coal will overtake oil as the top world energy source within a decade.  Driven by increasing use around the globe this does not bode well for efforts to slow or reduce climate change.  Increasing consumption in both China and India is projected to exceed that of the United States by 2017.  Without any significant breakthroughs in carbon capture and sequester (CCS), which would remove harmful chemicals from the output of coal plants, coal will continue to be very cheap and very dirty.

United States coal demand is declining because of the substitution of plentiful, less expensive natural gas.  New natural gas extraction techniques, such as hydraulic fracking which pulls gas out of shale deposits, coupled with increasing distribution around the world purportedly offer a cost effective, cleaner substitute for coal.  IEA executive director, Maria van der Hoeven has said that “The U.S. experience suggests that a more efficient gas market marked by flexible pricing and fueled by indigenous unconventional resources that are produced sustainably, can reduce coal use, CO2 emissions and consumer electricity bills, without harming energy security.”

Unfortunately (see 2-26-12 post, “Natural Gas My Speed Climate Change”) the natural gas bonanza for the U.S. may ultimately turn out to be part of the problem rather than solution.  In the earlier article we described results from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and University of Colorado study of methane leaks conducted in a natural gas field near Denver.  Methane is the dominant component of natural gas.  That original study showed a total leakage of 4% of the total gas produced at that field.  This 4% is twice the level the government has assumed for these fields.  Two percent makes natural gas competitive with coal.  Four percent or higher makes coal the better choice. The four percent level of leakage makes natural gas dirtier and more harmful to the environment than coal.

Now the same scientists have reported new data from the original Colorado gas field which supports earlier findings.  In addition, they have released preliminary results of a new, more sophisticated, study of leakage at a natural gas field in Utah which showed an even higher level of leakage.  These measurements show a 9% leakage of total production.  These two high levels of natural gas leakage if duplicated in other studies across the country would suggest we halt production until the leakage problem is corrected.

It also indicates we should not approve the Keystone XL Pipeline which will open up many more areas of Canada to natural gas production.  Otherwise natural gas is a much greater contributor to climate change than we ever imagined, greater than coal.  It will be very difficult however, to slow the land rush for natural gas since the profit motive is often the dominant and overriding motivator in the U.S. and Canada.

Use the following links to access additional information:

http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2012/december/name,34441,en.html

http://www.nature.com/news/methane-leaks-erode-green-credentials-of-natural-gas-1.12123

http://iamaguardian.com/490/natural-gas-may-speed-climate-change/

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