Friday, January 29, 2016

New Study Allays Monsoon Alarm

Good News Ignored By International News Media

India’s monsoon is in no danger of catastrophic collapse in response to global warming and air pollution, two atmospheric scientists said today, refuting earlier predictions that the monsoon could shut down within 100 years. Their results contradict earlier forecasts by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany portending frequent and severe failures and even a breakdown of the monsoon, which is critical to India’s food, water resources and economy. The earlier modelling exercises had predicted that the monsoon, under the influence of global warming and air pollution, would experience a “tipping point” that would lead to a sharp drop in rainfall over India. Boos and his colleague Trude Storelvmo have now shown that the theory and models that were used to predict such “tipping points” had omitted a key term in climate behaviour, ignoring the fact that air cools as it rises in the atmosphere. --G.S. Mudur, The Calcutta Telegraph, 26 January 2016

The latest postponement of the Hinkley Point nuclear reactor project is the most serious delay of many because it shows that the plan is fundamentally uneconomic for the owners as well as for consumers. What does this mean for UK energy policy? Britain has two choices. The first is to fund the project. If George Osborne, the chancellor, were to pursue that route he would probably have to override the formal advice of officials on the proper use of public funds. The second alternative is to rewrite existing energy policy: substituting gas for nuclear and perhaps extending the life of coal-fired stations beyond 2025. Neither of these options is politically or economically attractive but it is hard to see what else the government can do. --Nick Butler, Financial Times, 27 January 2016

A series of studies by Tsinghua University, whose alumni includes the incumbent president, showed electric vehicles charged in China produce two to five times as much particulate matter and chemicals that contribute to smog versus petrol-engine cars. Hybrid vehicles fare little better. Tsinghua’s studies call into question the wisdom of aggressively promoting vehicles which the university said could not be considered environmentally friendly for at least a decade in many areas of China unless grid reform accelerates. --Reuters, 27 January 2016

Greens would have you believe that electric vehicles are by nature environmentally friendly, but that glosses over an important point: how the electricity used by those cars is produced. In China, coal is going to be the cheapest option more often than not, and while the recent effort to get more EVs on the road might save emissions at the tailpipe, it is increasing localized air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired plants. This serves as a timely reminder of the dangers of buying into green hype. Many of the policy prescriptions they’d have governments champion have unintended consequences or, as is the case here, don’t actually accomplish the environmental achievements that they claim. --The American Interest, 27 January 2016

Thanks to generous tax incentives, the share of electric vehicles has grown faster in the Netherlands than in nearly any other country in the world. But behind the green growth is a filthy secret: In a nation famous for its windmills, electricity is coming from a far dirtier source. Three new coal-fired power plants, including two here on the Rotterdam harbor, are supplying much of the power to fuel the Netherlands’ electric-car boom. --Michael Birnbaum, The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 November 2015

Spain didn’t install a single megawatt of wind power capacity in 2015, the first time the industry has had a dead year since the 1980s. Spanish renewable energy companies that once reaped Europe’s biggest subsidies have looked abroad for projects since the domestic market stagnated following a moratorium on support for new wind farms and solar parks in 2012. The standstill has left Spain needing an additional 6,400 megawatts of wind energy capacity by 2020 in order to meet binding European renewables targets, according to the association. --Alex Morales, Bloomberg, 26 January 2016 

Books about science tend to fall into two categories: those that explain it to lay people in the hope of cultivating a wide readership, and those that try to persuade fellow scientists to support a new theory, usually with equations. Books that achieve both — changing science and reaching the public — are rare. Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859) was one. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins is another. From the moment of its publication 40 years ago, it has been a sparkling best-seller and a scientific game-changer. --Matt Ridley, Nature, 28 January 2016

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