23 July 2012

I have recently compiled a list of national temperature records by decade......

Since a far higher number of high temperature records appears to have been broken during the latest decade relative to previous decades, this challenges claims that the climate hasn't substantially changed in more recent years.

I’ve had a bit a fun over the weekend mixing a few rhymes together to explain the history and objectives of the Climate Denial Industry.  Of course there is nothing funny about it, but sometimes a satirical presentation can express the story more succinctly than a more formal article such as this.

free markets are our creed
our job is to impede
all regulations and rules
against using fossil fuels

we try and confuse,
through fake reviews
and distort the facts
with email hacks

but our experts replied
it can't be denied
that emissions of gas
will cause heating fast

so we needed to react
to these uncomfortable facts
and avoid the blame
through a cynical campaign

to continue our racket
we searched the planet
for a scientist to hire
who was a filthy liar

we found a fellow
who'd worked with tobacco
to hide until later
embarrassing data

but our scientists fled
others were dead
so we proposed a petition
that was mainly fiction

the list grew
but the experts were few
so it was signed by the vile
ignorant and senile

the arrogant remain
our leaders are insane
guided through zeal
rather than anything real

so we ignored the cries
and used filthy lies
to stir up hate
and seal our fate

20 June 2012

Earlier this year I noticed a popular Internet forum discussing problems with Diesel cars equipped with Diesel Particulate filters (DPF). These are designed to capture and oxidise any solid and liquid material in the exhaust thereby reducing particulate emissions. However, if the temperature of the exhaust fails to reach a high enough temperature (due to avoiding higher speeds for example), oxidation can fail, and the particulate material accumulates inside the filter until they become blocked.  A blockage is usually indicated on the cars on-board diagnostic system.

The popular solution according to these forums is to, yes you’ve guessed it, remove the DPF entirely rather than replace it!  This rarely prevents the car from failing the emissions test.  This is partly because the MOT Diesel car emission test regulates smoke which is an optical measure of the non-gaseous exhaust, whilst particulate (which the DPF is more specifically designed to control) measures mass. This is due to the need for greater simplicity, speed and lower costs necessary for routine emissions testing......  

Part 1- Factors Influencing CO2 Emissions  5th December 2011

Environmentalists have long argued that we should adopt more sustainable models of living due to the limitations of natural resources and the environmental problems resulting from their exploitation. Probably the most serious environmental threat is climate change caused mostly by human activity in the form of greenhouse gases. We are currently on track for a warming of between 4.1 to 7.1 deg C by 2100 according to the Hadley centre predictions. This level of temperature rise would threaten the stability of the global ecosphere as we know it......
In an earlier article titled ‘A Strategic Local Energy Generation System’ I emphasised the need for back-up sources if renewable power sources such as wind and solar were ever going to provide us with a substantial proportion of our total energy requirements. By using these sources to drive a heat pump, short term differences between electricity supply and demand could be accommodated by simply switching these on and off, since the thermal mass of the building acts as an energy store to smooth out any short term temperature variations.......

A recent review on BBC science reporting vindicates my concerns about the  organisation giving undue balance to less scientific views such as those expressed in a Panorama programme broadcast last year called ‘What’s up with the weather?’.......

After an extended dry spell in the South East of England over the last month, numerous forest fires have broken out, closing roads, threatening residences, producing choking smoke and releasing trapped carbon back into the atmosphere.  

Whilst dry spells and periodic forest fires can be a natural occurrence, in some areas of the world local climate is rapidly changing and many forested areas will be subject to periods of extended drought resulting in greater incidence of such fires. Moreover, many fires near population centres are started by deliberate malice.  This will limit the efficacy of attempts to sequester carbon in the forests, which according to some carbon accounting systems are assumed to be locked away for good even before the trees have grown!

It will come as no surprise to those who regularly read the media, that the scientific opinion on climate change is not reflected in the population at large. Worse still, some politically motivated journalists and activists deliberately use confusing arguments to convince their readers that experts are still undecided on climate science. Whilst such propaganda is mainly confined to personal blogs and political columns, this activity appears to have spilled over into user contributor answer sites linked to more reputable sources.  

One such case is Wikianswers, the user generated component of The latter site became highly successful by amalgamating reference sources into one convenient search friendly location. However, the majority of its inbound links are now from Wikianswers, a company it acquired in 2006 which uses a different system......

What is the Potential of Wind Power?
20 December 2010

Could wind power make a significant
contribution to our energy requirements?

Global wind power has doubled over the last 3 years, which now accounts for 2% of the world’s electricity production, and as much as 20% in some countries. It is estimated that 13% of the worlds land area has wind speeds greater than 6.9 m/s at commercial wind turbine heights, this could theoretically produce five times the world's current energy use.  Although the total quantity of wind energy potentially available is considerable, there remain obstacles to the substantial expansion of this industry.........

I was initially sceptical about the potential of using compressed air as an energy storage medium for cars. The reason becomes obvious when the energy density is compared to other energy sources.  I have compiled a spreadsheet here which calculates the tank volume required for 1 hours use of compressed air at 300 Mpa for any variable input power.  

For a typical car travelling at highway speeds using 20 kW of power it would require 0.8 m3 of compressed air at 300 MPa for one 1 hours travel, assuming 50% efficiency of converting air pressure to mechanical drive. However, as stressed in the report Environmental Transport systems, Cars are typically of the order of 10 m3, so why should an extra 8% of volume be so restrictive? Even if space is a problem, can’t the length of the vehicle simply be lengthened ?.......

Whilst I didn’t expect the BBC to take much notice of my requests to provide airtime in proportion to the evidence behind different scientific views, it still came as a surprise when climate Denier Richard Lindzen was the sole interviewee on the latest instalment of the BBC world service environmental programme 'One Planet'.  

Lindzen employed the usual evasive techniques of confusing & complex wordplay along with misleading statements to confuse the issue of climate change. He called the IPCC politically biased due to choosing participants based on a wide geographical area rather than ability.  Of course we could avoid governmental influence altogether and purely focus on the opinions of the top scientists.  However, this is far more likely to make the IPCC predictions far more extreme than the outdated and conservative views expressed in their 4th assessment report.........

In a previous article I highlighted the problems in fully utilising the availability of wind energy, and other renewable sources due to the fluctuating levels in the supply and demand of electricity. The traditional means of achieving this is through having large numbers of generators on standby.  Alternatively, some type of energy storage system can be used such as pumping water high into a reservoir  when there is an excess supply of electricity which is then released through a hydro-electric scheme during periods of high demand.  The use of electric battery powered vehicles might also provide an additional storage medium.  However, these are limited in capacity, and the widespread use of renewable's won’t be possible without introducing more expensive storage systems which will restrict their potential without substantial subsidies. These are economically difficult to justify, as well as being politically impractical to implement due to widespread public pressure to limit energy prices. Here I describe an alternative method........

One method of reducing carbon emissions from transport is through replacing petroleum fuelled vehicles with electric ones powered from low carbon energy sources. In this post, we examine how much we would need to increase our nuclear and renewable capacity to meet the UK's transport fleet requirements assuming they are completely electrified and what carbon reduction would be achieved. Any increase in low carbon generating capacity is first allocated to offset the highest carbon generating source which is coal rather than petroleum, so this needs to be part of an overall carbon reduction strategy.

The calculation assumes that 15% of the total electric generating capacity would be required to power road transport, consistent with that reported in the UK governments low carbon strategy report. It is also assumed that 15% of total electricity is obtained from wind, similar to that currently achieved in Spain and our Nuclear component is also increased to 40% of the total.

This strategy reduces coal based electricity from 24% to 2%, eliminates the need for petroleum for transport, and reduces the CO2 from electricity generation and transport combined  by 80% .....

The BBC recently aired the Panorama documentary 'What's up with the weather?' which questioned climate scientists and the public on how certain they were about climate change.  Whilst the programme correctly portrayed that all climate scientists agree that man is partly responsible for climate change, but differ to the extent of his influence, it still gave far too much time to those views which see him  only as a minor player. This misrepresents the informed scientific opinion and inadvertently bolsters the Climate Denialists strategy of creating doubt in the minds of the public.  Their purpose is to establish just enough public scepticism to undermine political will and prevent the concerted significant action we most urgently need........Contd

“A major change of approach is needed if society is to restrain climate change, according to a report from a self-styled "eclectic" group of academics.  The UN process has failed, they argue, and a global approach concentrating on CO2 cuts will never work.  They urge instead the use of carbon tax revenue to develop technologies that can supply clean energy to everyone.

The academics advocate concentrating first on short-term fixes for greenhouse gases or other warming agents, such as black carbon - particles emitted from the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, principally in diesel engines and wood stoves.  These particles warm the planet by several mechanisms, including darkening snow so it absorbs more solar energy.  Black carbon may be the second most important man-made warming agent after carbon dioxide.

"The paper's focus away from CO2 is misguided, short-sighted and probably wrong," said Bill Hare from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. "If you take action on black carbon and do not reduce CO2 emissions then you may end up with more warming in the long term," he told BBC News.”

What is interesting about this article is that we can attend to both short and longer-term fixes by focussing on transport since this is a major contributor of both black carbon emissions and CO2.  At the same time we can reduce our dependence of oil from unstable countries and improve air quality.  A reduction in transport petroleum use should therefore be a core part of any sensible government strategy, and the means to achieve this is what Environmental Transport Systems describes.   

The European Environment Agency recently reported that Europe's greenest modes of transport are falling behind the biggest polluters, which is contributing to a steep rise in climate-warming emissions.

“Road and air freight, which both have a large carbon footprint, grew slightly faster than the economy, at around 43 percent and 35 percent respectively between 1997 and 2007, the European Union agency added in its annual review of transport's environmental impact. The market share of the cleanest freight modes, rail and inland waterways, declined over the same period.

The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that eastern European countries, which joined the EU in the 1990s, have traditionally had poor rail links to western Europe. European passenger airlines are increasing their traffic by about 48 percent each decade. While passenger demand for rail remained steady in western Europe in the 10 years to 2007, it declined heavily in eastern Europe.

"It's clear from this analysis that transport is still heading in a totally unsustainable direction," said Jos Dings, director of T&E, which campaigns for green transport. "At the same time, governments no longer have the cash to invest in expensive infrastructure," he added. "The best way out of these twin crises is to invest in pricing schemes that bring in revenues and improve efficiency, and, at the same time, to cut all subsidies to highly polluting modes such as aviation."

The report comes a day before the European Union's executive launches a green-transport strategy that is expected to put heavy emphasis on electric vehicles. Car journeys remained the dominant mode of transport in the EU's 27 member countries, accounting for 72 percent of all kilometers travelled, the EEA said.”

Despite long held EU commitments to encourage less polluting transport modes, the proportion of road and air transport is still increasing at the expense of rail. This will surely remain the case until we introduce fundamentally different technologies which combine a sustainable transport system with one that is both convenient and cost effective for passengers and businesses.

European emissions from internal transport grew by nearly a third between 1990 and 2007 and now account for around 19.3 percent of overall emissions.

Following on from ten of the worst mistakes leading to global warming, here are ten effective ways of reducing global warming. This should be read in conjunction with the NASA energy bulletin

Educate children about how to live a sustainable lifestyle
Control population through family planning, welfare reforms and the empowerment of women
Encourage reforestation and sustainable land use through a combination of  restrictions and incentives
Introduce a carbon tax and carbon index for businesses
Use of biochar stoves and universal particulate control technology on black carbon emitting appliances
Utilise vehicles more effectively and allow them to use a priority access infrastructure
Electrify the transport network and power it from overnight nuclear electricity
Introduce more incentives  to improve energy efficiency in the housing sector
Match supply and demand from sustainable energy generating systems
Ensure new power plants are carbon capture ready.

The report estimates the health costs of air pollution at up to £20.2bn a year. More could be done to prevent the early deaths of up to 50,000 people each year hastened by air pollution, MPs say. A Commons Environmental Audit Committee report said failure to reduce pollution had put "enormous" cost on the NHS and could cost millions in EU fines.

It said the UK should be "ashamed" of its poor air quality which was contributing to conditions such as asthma, heart disease and cancer. The government accepted more could be done and would consider the report.

Pollutants such as ozone, nitrogen oxides and "particulate matter" - tiny particles - from transport and power stations have been blamed for contributing to early deaths.....

Here is a list of the worst decisions, policies and practices which have led to the release of excess greenhouse gases. Despite this, there is little evidence of any serious efforts to rectify these mistakes.  In a future article we examine what solutions are available.

Economic growth
World population explosion
Non-global carbon trading schemes
Feed in tariffs and micro-generation
Poor design and build quality of properties
Food waste and meat
Automotive biofuels
Public transport using large buses and trains
Large cars with expensive technologies
Travelling to business meetings

Although road transport is not the highest emitter of greenhouse gases, it exhibits 50% of the net radiative forcing from all industrial sectors since nearly all the emissions it produces lead to net positive forcing. Conversely other significant emitters of greenhouse gases such as the power and industry sectors also produce significant amounts of sulphates which cool the atmosphere. This unintentionally helps to mitigate the warming effect of their greenhouse gases. However, sulphates are serious pollutants in their own right and these will be reduced further in the future causing these sectors to make greater contributions to net global warming. Therefore, on a sector by sector basis, it is suggested that reducing or limiting road transport would be an effective short term global warming mitigation strategy over the short term, whilst limiting emissions from sectors such as power generation and industry will become more important over the longer term.

The UN claims that Food production must double by 2050 to meet the demand of the world's growing population.  However, most of the worlds productive farmland is already in use, so increased food production will require extending intensive farming methods with greater use of pesticides and fertilisers leading to the increased release of greenhouse gases. Paradoxically, UK government policy is attempting to deal with both of these problems simultaneously with plans to "boost food production in Britain and reduce its impact on the environment".  Is this realistic, or is there an easier way?

Calculations based on waste and calorie intake suggest that the UK has access to at least double the food necessary for adequate nutrition.  Since farming, retail and eating habits are probably similar throughout the developed world, this implies there is no real food crisis in terms of the amount produced, only in how it is consumed.  Therefore, a better strategy must be to focus on reducing food waste rather than growing more.  This would minimise the impact on the environment, reduce food expenditure, and achieve better food security with a healthier lifestyle for the population............

My thoughts of late have been drawn away from environmental issues and to the Haitian earthquake relief and how simple technical solutions could mitigate similar crisis in future disaster situations.  I believe that it should be possible to develop a cheap and effective aid delivery system that could safely distribute essential supplies to any point on the globe within a few days of any disaster. The aim would be to prevent many of the permanent injuries and deaths caused by infections and dehydration which are rarely addressed in time by current aid efforts. The early and widespread provision of aid may also minimise the chance of widespread looting, making it safer for subsequent aid teams to operate.

Despite indisputable evidence that man made greenhouse gases are mainly responsible for global warming, the fossil fuel industry launched a concerted and coordinated campaign starting from the mid 1990s to undermine climate change science and the scientists who work in this field. Their purpose was to create doubt in the public's mind about the reality of global warming, and delay regulations which might limit greenhouse gas emissions to the environment. This article charts the history and evidence behind global warming and the motivations and methods used by the industry to achieve their unethical objectives.....

In his book MacKay suggests that Britain's onshore wind energy resource may be "huge," but it's evidently not as huge as our huge consumption" vaguely implying that it may be necessary to cover something like 10% of the country with wind turbines to provide the equivalent electrical energy to run a replacement electric car fleet.  In fact the figure is probably around 1.5%, mainly because electricity can be far more efficiently translated into tractive power than primary fuel. This could be reduced to as little as 0.75% using the most efficient turbines and locations.

A focus on energy metrics also leads to potential misleading conclusions in other    
Environmental Transport Systems
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Alternative Transportation Solutions through

Integrated Strategies and Technologies


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