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Climate news, good and bad

Posted by Richard on March 23, 2008

There is both good news and bad news regarding global warming (which are bad news and good news, respectively, if your goal is to move us toward a command-and-control economy in which we're all poorer). First, the bad news: According to a Princeton study reported by National "Progressive" Radio, biofuels such as ethanol release huge amounts of greenhouse gases (emphasis added):

"The simplest explanation is that when we divert our corn or soybeans to fuel, if people around the world are going to continue to eat the same amount that they're already eating, you have to replace that food somewhere else," Searchinger says.

Searchinger and his colleagues looked globally to figure out where the new cropland is coming from, as American farmers produce fuel crops where they used to grow food. The answer is that biofuel production here is driving agriculture to expand in other parts of the world.

"That's done in a significant part by burning down forests, plowing up grasslands. That releases a great deal of carbon dioxide," Searchinger says.

In fact, Searchinger's group's study, published online by Science magazine, shows those actions end up releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide. The study finds that over a 30-year span, biofuels end up contributing twice as much carbon dioxide to the air as that amount of gasoline would, when you add in the global effects.

"Right now there's little doubt that ethanol is making global warming worse," Searchinger says.

But the good news is it may not matter much, climate-change-wise, because the world's oceans haven't warmed at all in the last five years and have actually cooled slightly, according to another NPR report (emphasis added):

Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren't quite understanding what their robots are telling them.

Oh, dear — I thought the science was "settled."

In fact, 80 percent to 90 percent of global warming involves heating up ocean waters. They hold much more heat than the atmosphere can. So Willis has been studying the ocean with a fleet of robotic instruments called the Argo system. The buoys can dive 3,000 feet down and measure ocean temperature. Since the system was fully deployed in 2003, it has recorded no warming of the global oceans.

"There has been a very slight cooling, but not anything really significant," Willis says. So the buildup of heat on Earth may be on a brief hiatus. "Global warming doesn't mean every year will be warmer than the last. And it may be that we are in a period of less rapid warming."

Describing slight cooling as "less rapid warming" is even more dishonest than referring to a recession as "a period of negative growth." 

But if the aquatic robots are actually telling the right story, that raises a new question: Where is the extra heat all going?

Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research says it's probably going back out into space. The Earth has a number of natural thermostats, including clouds, which can either trap heat and turn up the temperature, or reflect sunlight and help cool the planet.

That can't be directly measured at the moment, however.

"Unfortunately, we don't have adequate tracking of clouds to determine exactly what role they've been playing during this period," Trenberth says.

Gee, I guess that means those fancy computer models that "prove" anthropogenic global warming is taking place can't be accurately modeling the role that clouds are playing, can they?

It's also possible that some of the heat has gone even deeper into the ocean, he says. Or it's possible that scientists need to correct for some other feature of the planet they don't know about. It's an exciting time, though, with all this new data about global sea temperature, sea level and other features of climate.

So the science is settled, and we should all get used to the fact that we have to reduce our standard of living. But the planet seems to have stopped warming, the scientists have no idea why, they admit there are many significant aspects of global climate that they aren't able to measure and don't understand, and there may even be "features of the planet" that they don't know about at all. 

Yeah, it's an exciting time for these scientists all right. More grants! More research! Just don't question their conclusions and policy prescriptions, because those have already been "settled." 

Meanwhile, more and more ethanol is being burned instead of poured over ice. A tragedy.

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4 Responses to “Climate news, good and bad”

  1. Hathor said

    I thought the impetus on biofuels were not to reduce greenhouse gases, but have a sustainable fuel source and to meet the Clean Air standards. I would have thought that instead of corn, the sugar beet would be a better source for ethanol. I also thought that there may be a plant oil that humans don’t consume that could be substituted for diesel fuel. To attack the greenhouse problem, electric or hydrogen fuels cell would be the alternative to gasoline or biofuel, because any hydrocarbon that burns is going to produce CO2. It doesn’t seem there has been much creativity among the entrepreneurs

    Just my two cents..

    • Rosa said

      I just read in the paper that not only is this horrible wethaer supposed to continue through mid-September, but that La Nina is supposed to be reforming in the Pacific. That is what was responsible for the terrible drought conditions in the first place! All we can do now is hope for a hurricane or tropical storm to bring us temporary relief! Here in Gnomeville we are situated a bit better than Betsy in Austin. Our rivers are not drying up like hers are. Our big Lake is not as low. We got some good floods last year that helped out. The judge’s springs are still flowing, which is surprising. They are fairly shallow, compared to the ones by my house. So that is good news for our aquifer. But we need rain desperately. This heat dome doesn’t even let clouds form. It is blue sky and white hot sun day after day.

  2. Dana said

    Here in Nebraska, farmers have begun to take their land back out of the voluntary federal land management program, decreasing our dwindling wetlands in order to increase corn production.

  3. Max said

    I think all what is written here is right but the main problem is the electromagnetic field around the earth for changing of the weather.

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