An Engineer’s Take On Major Climate Change

Summary:
1. Climate science is very complicated and very far from being settled.

2. Earth’s climate is overwhelmingly dominated by negative-feedbacks that are currently poorly represented in our Modeling efforts and not sufficiently part of ongoing investigations.

3. Climate warming drives atmospheric CO2 upward as it stimulates all natural sources of CO2 emission. Climate cooling drives atmospheric CO2 downward.

4. Massive yet delayed thermal modulations to the dissolved CO2 content of the oceans is what ultimately drives and dominates the modulations to atmospheric CO2.

5. The current spike in atmospheric CO2 is largely natural (~98%). i.e. Of the 100ppm increase we have seen recently (going from 280 to 380ppm), the move from 280 to 378ppm is natural while the last bit from 378 to 380ppm is rightfully anthropogenic.

6. The current spike in atmospheric CO2 would most likely be larger than now observed if human beings had never evolved. The additional CO2 contribution from insects and microbes (and mammalia for that matter) would most likely have produced a greater current spike in atmospheric CO2.

7. Atmospheric CO2 has a tertiary to non-existent impact on the instigation and amplification of climate change. CO2 is not pivotal. Modulations to atmospheric CO2 are the effect of climate change and not the cause.

Watts Up With That?

Guest essay by Ronald D. Voisin

Let’s examine, at a high and salient level, the positive-feedback Anthropogenic Global Warming, Green-House-Gas Heating Effect (AGW-GHGHE) with its supposed pivotal role for CO2. The thinking is that a small increase in atmospheric CO2 will trigger a large increase in atmospheric Green-House-Gas water vapor. And then the combination of these two enhanced atmospheric constituents will lead to run-away, or at least appreciable and unprecedented – often characterized as catastrophic – global warming.

This theory relies entirely on a powerful positive-feedback and overriding (pivotal) role for CO2. It further assumes that rising atmospheric CO2 is largely or even entirely anthropogenic. Both of these points are individually and fundamentally required at the basis of alarm. Yet neither of them is in evidence whatsoever. And neither of them is even remotely true. CO2 is not only “not pivotal” but it…

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Water Conservation and a Change in Climate Ends California Drought

Water scarcity is becoming a greater problem in our world as human demands for water increases due to population growth, industry, agriculture, and energy production. When the water supply is being pushed beyond its natural limits disaster may occur.  For California residents the end of the drought is good news.  Return of wet weather raises reservoir levels and effectively prevents wildfires.  However, another drought could be around the corner in years to come.  Thus government and water users need to remain vigilant and continue to seek ways to conserve and reduce water use.
ca-reservoirs 2017 End of drought.png
Figure 1. 2017 California Major Water Reservoir Levels
By Bark Gomez and Yasemin Saplakoglu, Bay Area News Group (1)
Friday, April 07, 2017 05:17PM

Gov. Jerry Brown declared an end to California’s historic drought Friday, lifting emergency orders that had forced residents to stop running sprinklers as often and encouraged them to rip out thirsty lawns during the state’s driest four-year period on record.

The drought strained native fish that migrate up rivers and forced farmers in the nation’s leading agricultural state to rely heavily on groundwater, with some tearing out orchards. It also dried up wells, forcing hundreds of families in rural areas to drink bottled water and bathe from buckets.

Brown declared the drought emergency in 2014, and officials later ordered mandatory conservation for the first time in state history. Regulators last year relaxed the rules after a rainfall was close to normal.

But monster storms this winter erased nearly all signs of drought, blanketing the Sierra Nevada with deep snow, California’s key water source, and boosting reservoirs.

“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said in a statement. “Conservation must remain a way of life.” (2)

References:

  1. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/04/08/what-permanent-drought-california-governor-officially-declares-end-to-drought-emergency/ 
  2. http://abc7news.com/weather/governor-ends-drought-state-of-emergency-in-most-of-ca/1846410/

What Does Moist Enthalpy Tell Us?

“In terms of assessing trends in globally-averaged surface air temperature as a metric to diagnose the radiative equilibrium of the Earth, the neglect of using moist enthalpy, therefore, necessarily produces an inaccurate metric, since the water vapor content of the surface air will generally have different temporal variability and trends than the air temperature.”

Climate Science: Roger Pielke Sr.

In our blog of July 11, we introduced the concept of moist enthalpy (see also Pielke, R.A. Sr., C. Davey, and J. Morgan, 2004: Assessing “global warming” with surface heat content. Eos, 85, No. 21, 210-211. ). This is an important climate change metric, since it illustrates why surface air temperature alone is inadequate to monitor trends of surface heating and cooling. Heat is measured in units of Joules. Degrees Celsius is an incomplete metric of heat.

Surface air moist enthalpy does capture the proper measure of heat. It is defined as CpT + Lq where Cp is the heat capacity of air at constant pressure, T is air temperature, L is the latent heat of phase change of water vapor, and q is the specific humidity of air. T is what we measure with a thermometer, while q is derived by measuring the wet bulb temperature (or, alternatively, dewpoint…

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Site C Dam Construction in BC – A Political Water Grab?

Mega projects grab headlines and provide many photo opportunities for politicians.  Since the construction of the depression era Hoover Dam, these massive construction projects have historically provided for jobs and opportunity when the economy is slow.  However, some questions remain, such as; are these projects in everyone’s best interests, what are we losing, and is there a better way to accomplish our goals?

“‘Water grabbing’ refers to a situation in which public or private entities are able to take control of, or reallocate, precious water resources for profit or for power — and at the expense of local communities and the ecosystems on which their livelihoods are based.

The effects have been well-documented: examples include families driven away from their villages to make room for mega dams, privatization of water sources that fails to improve access for the public, and industrial activity that damages water quality.”

[…]

“…hydropower comprises about 70 per cent of the world’s renewable energy mix, and guarantees a lower amount of total emissions than fossil fuel plants, its overall impacts are not always positive. This is especially the case when dams are not planned with an emphasis on the impacts on people and the environment.

In North America, many dams built in the 1980s are now being demolished because of their impacts on fish species such as salmon. In some cases they are replaced with more modern dams that do not require building large-scale reservoirs.” (1)

A Short Political History of the Site C Dam

Site C dam construction

Figure 1.  Construction on the Site C dam on the Peace River in the fall of 2016. Photo: Garth Lenz. (2)

“On May 10, 1990, the Vancouver Sun reported remarks made by then Energy Minister Jack Davis at an Electric Energy Forum: “Power projects initiated by B.C. Hydro will be increasingly guided by environmental concerns because of mounting public pressure.” Noting the province’s abundance of power sources, he said: “We have the scope to be different.”

However, during a 1991 Social Credit party leadership campaign the winner, Rita Johnston declared in her policy statement that she wanted to accelerate construction of the “$3 billion” dam. Johnston’s leadership was brief because the Socreds were defeated in October 1991.

In 1993, the dam was declared dead by then BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen. Site C is dead for two reasons,” Eliesen said. “The fiscal exposure is too great … the dam is too costly. Also it is environmentally unacceptable.”

Despite these twists and turns, B.C. Hydro’s staff worked diligently to keep the dam alive.

Fast forward to April 19, 2010, when then B.C. Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell made his announcement that Site C was on again, now branded as a “clean energy project” and an important part of “B.C.’s economic and ecological future.”

Campbell claimed the dam would power 460,000 new homes and repeated the mantra of an increasing power demand of 20 to 40 per cent in the following 20 years.

In the ensuing seven years since the 2010 announcement, power demand has stayed virtually the same, despite BC Hydro’s forecast for it to climb nearly 20 per cent during that time. The reality is B.C.’s electricity demand has been essentially flat since 2005, despite ongoing population growth.

Campbell resigned in 2011 amidst uproar over the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), opening the field for a leadership race, which Christy Clark won. That brings us to the May 2013 election, during which Clark pushed liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports as the solution to B.C.’s economic woes. With the LNG dream came a potential new demand for grid electricity, making Site C even more of a hot topic.

Four years on from Clark’s pronouncement there are no LNG plants up and running, despite her promise of thousands of jobs. Without a market for Site C’s power, Clark has started ruminating about sending it to Alberta, despite a lack of transmission or a clear market.

Oxford University Professor Bent Flyvbjerg has studied politicians’ fascination with mega projects, describing the rapture they feel building monuments to themselves: “Mega projects garner attention, which adds to the visibility they gain from them.”

This goes some way to explaining the four-decade obsession with building the Site C dam, despite the lack of clear demand for the electricity. (2)

 

References:

  1.  Water and power: Mega-dams, mega-damage?
    http://www.scidev.net/global/water/data-visualisation/water-power-mega-dams-mega-damage.html
  2. Four Decades and Counting: A Brief History of the Site C Dam https://www.desmog.ca/2017/03/23/four-decades-and-counting-brief-history-site-c-dam

How Energy Shapes the Economy

In the beginning, the Master Economist created the Economy.  He created businesses large and small, consumers, governments with their regulation, and financial institutions of all types. And the Ma…

world-population-growth

Source: How Energy Shapes the Economy

City of Burnaby Calls for NEB Panel Suspension over Kinder Morgan Pipeline

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project has failed to gain social licence from the provincial government, or any Lower Mainland municipality or First Nation, and the National Energy Board (. . .

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.burnabynow.com

See on Scoop.itGreen & Sustainable News

“[…] In a fiery double-barrel blast, Gregory McDade, legal counsel for the City of Burnaby, fired one barrel at Kinder Morgan Inc., the company behind the expansion project, and the other at the NEB panel itself.

Citing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to overhaul the NEB, which he criticized for becoming politicized, McDade said, “Burnaby should not be the last victim of a flawed process.

“The City of Burnaby calls upon this panel to suspend these hearings,” McDade said. “We call upon this panel to reset the process in a way that keeps faith with the public trust that the prime minister of Canada has claimed he has.”

McDade quoted Trudeau, who said, “Governments grant permits, but only communities grant permission.”

“Let me be clear, this pipeline does not have community permission,” McDade said. “Not from the community of Burnaby, nor from any of the Lower Mainland municipalities, nor from the public or the Government of British Columbia.” […]

The Trans Mountain pipeline was originally built in the 1950s and fed a number of B.C. refineries that made gasoline, diesel and jet fuel for domestic use.

The Chevron plant in Burnaby, where the pipeline terminates, is the only refinery left in the Lower Mainland. As it stands, it has to compete with other companies for the oil that moves from the pipeline.

A twinning of the pipeline would triple its carrying capacity. But that’s by no means a guarantee that the Chevron refinery will necessarily have access to more oil. Of the 890,000 barrels per day an expanded pipeline would move, 707,500 barrels are spoken for by 13 shippers in offtake agreements, with the oil destined for refineries outside of Canada.

“This is not a pipeline, I say, to bring oil to the Lower Mainland to supply local industry, to bring us gasoline, as the pipeline was in the 1950s,” McDade said. “This is a pipeline solely for export. No benefits to B.C. at all, but all the burdens and all the risk are borne here.”

Of the 49 interveners making oral presentations at the Burnaby public hearings, 19 are B.C. First Nations, including three key Lower Mainland groups – the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh – all of whom are opposed to the project.

The expanded pipeline would increase oil tanker traffic to 34 per month from the current five. Musqueam Councillor Morgan Guerin said on Jan. 19 that the wake caused by tankers means small fishing vessels would have to stop every time a tanker goes by.

The Musqueam would view that as a potential infringement of their aboriginal rights to fish – a right that was affirmed in the landmark Sparrow case. […]”

 

Documentary on Fracking – Shattered Ground Hosted by David Suzuki

The Nature of Things – Shattered Ground

fracking documentary

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.youtube.com

ShatteredGround

image credit:  (2)

“[…] “Fracking”, or Hydraulic Fracturing, is a new technology that has opened up immense resources of natural gas buried in deep shale beds. The process involves injection of highly-pressurized water, sand and chemicals to shatter underground layers of shale and extract previously inaccessible natural gas.
But the process and its sudden spread across the North American landscape, has become an incredibly divisive issue, ripping apart communities and even families. The backlash to the gas industry is unprecedented, with some countries, Canadian provinces and American states adopting fracking bans and moratoriums. […] “(1)

(1) http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/shattered-ground 

“[…] In Dimock, Pennsylvania, residents found their water contaminated after fracking began nearby.  As it turns out, the cement casings that were meant to prevent the water from escaping had failed, and now all of their water was contaminated.  One man described his daughter’s experience showering in that water:

“My daughter would get in the shower in the morning, and she would have to get out and lay on the floor because she thought she was going to pass out from the methane.  She had eczema on the insides of her arms, hives up and down her body, and she said, ‘I want to have kids some day’.  You know, my job is to protect my kids, how do I protect them from this?” […] “(2)

(2) http://aftw.net/2015/08/31/shattered-ground-review/

See on Scoop.itGreen Energy Technologies & Development

Alberta Air Pollution Levels High in Sulphur and Nitrogen Reports Environment Canada

Environment Canada recently released images showing air emissions modelling results across Alberta. These images are a reminder of how a small number of large sources mix together to pollute the air Albertans breathe, resulting in increased risks to human health.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.pembina.org

“[…] SO2 and NOx emissions impact human health not only because they can cause direct harm, but also because they can react in the atmosphere to create fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The Alberta government has found that NOx and SO2 are the main causes of past incidents where PM2.5­ concentrations have exceeded Canada’s air quality standards.

PM2.5 can cause asthma attacks, hospitalizations and even premature death, as we’ve summarized before. It’s a particular concern in Alberta, where PM2.5 is putting us on track to have the worst air quality in Canada, and Edmonton’s pollution levels are exceeding Toronto’s.

These images underscore the cumulative impacts of a small number of very large industrial emissions sources — particularly coal plants, the oilsands and refineries — in addition to distributed industrial activities such as oil and gas operations. Those may all be separate sources, but their emissions end up in the same air. Pollutants from these different sources mix together in the air Albertans breathe, resulting in increased risks to human health. […]

Alberta is unique in the western half of North America for its mid- and high-level readings. The province more closely resembles the densely populated mid-Atlantic region of the United States, or the coal-burning Midwest, than our western neighbours.

Problem spots near coal plants, refineries and the oilsands

Another image shows how SO2 and NOX that is released into the atmosphere returns to ground level, or “deposits.” The image reveals a clear concentration (the orange and red spots) of the two pollutants being deposited around both Edmonton and the oilsands in northeast Alberta.

Edmonton is sandwiched between three large coal-burning power plants, which are clustered near Wabamun Lake west of Edmonton, and refineries on the east side of the city.

The video that AEMERA posted shows modelled SO2 plumes from large emitters across British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The three-dimensional plumes reflect SO2 concentrations of at least three parts per billion. How the plumes travel was modelled using real weather conditions from a four-week period in the fall of 2013.

The video visually represents where SO2 is generated, how it moves through the atmosphere and where it eventually lands. As SO2 deposits on the ground, the land surface in the video changes colour to indicate where higher depositions are modelled. Although the specifics will differ for other pollutants, the video is representative of how airborne pollutants generally are dispersed and deposited.

It’s not particularly surprising to see that SO2 pollution originates from oil and gas production, coal plants and the oilsands — Alberta’s three largest-emitting sectors, by far. But seeing how much of the province is affected by these plumes may come as a shock.

The video shows that major industrial emissions do not blow in the direction of the prevailing wind pattern. Rather, they shift directions and can be combined with pollutants emitted in different areas. This raises concerns about environmental evaluations for new industrial emitters, since those evaluations focus on a much smaller area around the polluter — and focus on prevailing winds — rather than these dynamic wind patterns.

The data used for the oilsands is from 2010, so it discounts the emissions growth in that region over the last five years. The data for the rest of the sources is from 2006. In terms of coal emissions, these images correspond closely to today’s reality: NOx and SO2 in 2014 are at nearly the same levels as in 2006. […]”

 

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In Supreme Court, a Battle Over Fracking and Citizens’ Rights

Jessica Ernst’s long fight to challenge legislation putting energy regulator above the law reaches top court.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.thetyee.ca

“[…] After years of legal wrangling, Jessica Ernst and Alberta’s powerful energy regulator finally squared off in the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday.

For almost two hours, all nine justices questioned lawyers from both sides in a case that will determine if legislation can grant government agencies blanket immunity from lawsuits based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

At times the debate was so bogged down in legal jargon and little known cases that it felt as though the participants were holding a conversation in a foreign language. […]

Ernst alleges the Alberta Energy Regulator violated her rights by characterizing her as a “criminal threat” and barring all communication with her.

The claims are part of her multipronged lawsuit related to the regulation of fracking. She says fracking contaminated aquifers near her homestead near Rosebud, about 110 kilometres east of Calgary, and is seeking $33 million in damages. […]

The Supreme Court hearing dealt with Ernst’s allegation that the provincial energy regulator denied her the right to raise her concerns about groundwater contamination. She argues that the legislation shielding the regulator from citizen’s lawsuits should not bar charter claims.

Lawyers for Ernst, the BC Civil Liberties Association and the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights all argued that the Alberta Energy Regulator’s immunity clause undermined the spirit of Canada’s charter, which is designed to protect citizens from government abuses of power.

It is patently unfair to allow a government to violate a citizen’s basic freedoms and then deny them an appropriate remedy in the courts, especially when the charter itself grants that right, they argued. […]

Eight years ago, Ernst sued Alberta Environment, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (which has since become the Alberta Energy Regulator) and Encana, one of Canada’s largest unconventional gas drillers. She claimed her well water had been contaminated by fracking and government agencies had failed to investigate the problems.

But the regulator argued that it couldn’t be sued because it had an immunity clause that protected it from civil action.

After an Alberta Court of Appeal agreed, Ernst’s lawyers appealed the matter to the Supreme Court in 2014.

Initially three provincial governments and the federal government announced their intention to intervene in the case.

“But once they looked at the arguments, they withdrew,” said Murray Klippenstein, another of Ernst’s lawyers, after yesterday’s hearing.

“So there was no government here to support the argument of the [regulator],” added Klippenstein. “It kind of shows in a common sense sort of way how ridiculous the position is.”

The case made legal history, too. “This is the first time the Supreme Court has heard a case about human rights with an environmental context,” noted Lynda Collins, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Environmental Law and Global Studies.

She said the case concerns the right of a citizen to pinpoint environmental wrongs, such as groundwater contamination, without being penalized by a regulatory body.

Whenever a regulator allegedly takes punitive measures against a citizen addressing key environmental issues in the public interest, “you have a serious allegation,” added Collins. […]

The case is being closely watched by Canada’s oil and gas industry. In 2014, Borden Ladner Gervais, Canada’s largest national full-service law firm, included the Ernst case in a top 10 list of important judicial decisions affecting the energy industry.

“The Ernst case has brought into focus the potential for regulator or provincial liability arising out of oil and gas operations…. If Ernst proceeds to trial, it will likely provide more guidance on the scope of the duty of care and the standard of care required by the province and the oil and gas operator to discharge their duties in the context of hydraulic fracturing.”

The fracking industry has been the subject of scores of lawsuits across North America. Landowners have sued over property damage and personal injury related to industry-caused earthquakes, air pollution and the contamination of groundwater.

In one major Texas case, a jury awarded one family $3 million. The verdict found that Aruba Petroleum “intentionally created a private nuisance” though its drilling, fracking and production activities at 21 gas wells near the Parrs’ Wise County home over a three-year period between 2008 and 2011. […]”

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Water Scarcity Drives Global Desalination Requirements, Predicted to Double by 2020

The global desalination capacity will double by 2020, according to a new analysis by Frost & Sullivan.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.processingmagazine.com

“[…]  rapid industrialization and urbanization have increased water scarcity in many parts of the world. As drought conditions intensify, desalination is expected to evolve into a long-term solution rather than a temporary fix.

Technology providers can capitalize on this immense potential by developing cost-effective and sustainable solutions, the consulting firm said.

The report states that the global desalination market earned revenues of $11.66 billion in 2015, and this figure is estimated to reach $19.08 billion in 2019. More than 17,000 desalination plants are currently in operation in 150 countries worldwide, a capacity that is predicted to double by the end of the decade.

“Environmentally conscious countries in Europe and the Americas are hesitant to practice desalination owing to its harsh effects on sea water,” noted Vandhana Ravi, independent consultant for Frost & Sullivan’s Environment and Building Technologies unit. “Eco-friendly desalination systems that do not use chemicals will be well-received among municipalities in these regions.”

The report highlights several factors that are holding back adoption in some parts of the world, including lack of regulatory support and the high cost of desalination. The thermal desalination process also releases significant volumes of highly salty liquid brine back into water bodies, impacting the environment. Brine disposal will remain a key challenge until a technology upgrade resolves the issue. […]”

See on Scoop.itGreen Energy Technologies & Development