Renewable Gas #1 : What to do about Cars ?

Image Credit : PGO Automobiles

The European Commission, ooh, way back, decided that Biofuels were just what was needed to start the de-carbonisation of transportation. The original plan looked rather yellow and green – farm after farm of oilseed rape – what the Americans term “canola”. Suddenly schoolchildrens’ crayon renditions of the landscape were not as primary in colour as the actual fields.

The first target was for 5.75% of all transport fuel to be biologically sourced – from plants. What the European legislation didn’t figure was that some very dodgy dealers would take the long haul to Indonesia and Malaysia and start selling up the idea of marketing palm oil to Europe to make BioDiesel to meet the Biofuels Directive obligation. So goodbye rainforest and goodbye orangutans out in Asia. And goodbye good carbon intentions – replacing the rainforest with oil palms created net carbon emissions – so Biofuels failed to take the carbon out of motoring.

Some very bad ideas have followed on after. Several companies are still struggling with the idea that algae could turn out, could, I emphasise, be the thing that starts a genuine BioOil market. We’ll see – but most of the designs need an input of carbon dioxide – which would probably come from a fossil fuel-burning power station – so not very renewable, then.

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Hot Old Forests

The Register reports that way back, way back, when the rainforests were good and hot, they prospered and life proliferated.

“Global warming is actually good for rainforests, say boffins” reads the headline from Lewis Page, “plus 3 degrees C, 1000 parts per million Carbon Dioxide did jungles a world of good last time”.

Not quite, Lewis old chap. Not quite.

1. The change in global temperatures at the Paleocene-Eocene border was only “rapid” in geological time – at around 20,000 years for the whole event. Plenty of time for rainforests to adapt. Not like now.

2. “There is no evidence for enhanced aridity in the northern Neotropics”, says the Abstract of the research paper “Effects of Rapid Global Warming at the Paleocene-Eocene Boundary on Neotropical Vegetation” by Jaramillo C. et al., in Science, 12 November 2010, Volume 330. Number 6006, Pages 957 – 961, DOI: 10.1126/science.1193833

Yet evidence of severe droughts in the Amazonian rainforest area today makes the analogy with the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum rather thin. With the current incredibly fast rate of warming in South America, it’s unlikely that regular, intense, droughts are going to reduce in the rainforest area.

Added to the current data, there is every reason to believe that the climate in the tropics was very different at the time of the PETM – the Americas had not yet met, and no Gulf Stream northwards existed.

3. “”It is remarkable that there is so much concern about the effects of greenhouse conditions on tropical forests,” says Jaramillo’s Smithsonian colleague Klaus Winter”, write Lewis Page. Klaus, who ? He’s not even listed on the research paper author listing. Does Mr or Dr Winter have anything to do with this research ? Why does Lewis Page quote hiim ?

4. Have you seen the organisations that contributed to this research ? They include “Colombian Petroleum Institute”, “Petróleos de Venezuela S.A.” and “Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos, Bogotá, Colombia” and a number of mining companies. What do they want out of research into rainforest productivity 55 million years ago ?

5. Have we talked about the massive extinction of animal life that took place at the PETM ? Well, perhaps we should…

I wonder what Dr Simon Lewis, rainforest expert, will make of this latest “atrocity” from The Register ?
[ UPDATE : The Daily Mail reported Dr Simon Lewis’ views some way down in an article on the subject here. By e-mail, Dr Simon Lewis wrote to me, “[One] obvious point is they are happy to extrapolate 56 million years to now from three points in a tiny corner of South America, which is a bit different from their usual views about historical proxy data…” ]

When I get the access to this report, I will need to delve deeper into the reasons why Lewis Page has proved, once again, that he doesn’t understand current Climate Change science, and doesn’t understand why the climates of yesteryear often have very little to say about the climate of today and tomorrow.

Unpicking Kyoto (5)

Unpicking Kyoto
Jo Abbess
20 June 2010


CONTINUED FROM : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

Linking Climate Change to other Environmental Problems

The Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from humankind’s activities is accumulating very rapidly in the Atmosphere, and this is why the international Climate Change negotiations and Climate Change Science focus on it so heavily.

The warming response of the Earth’s surface correlates strongly with the rise in Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere, so Global Warming can be treated almost entirely as the Earth system’s reaction to rising levels of this one gas.

Other Greenhouse Gases, such as Methane (CH4) and high level water vapour (H2O), are increasing in line with the rise in Carbon Dioxide.

Logic and experiment dictates that they are doing this in response to the rise in Carbon Dioxide, so their rise is a feedback effect in the Earth system – a reaction to rising temperatures – caused by the warming due to increasing airborne Carbon Dioxide.

However, Carbon Dioxide is not the only Greenhouse Gas that humankind is pumping into the Atmosphere in excess of natural levels – a rather famous example being that growing numbers of livestock are belching Methane that is adding to the up-tick on concentrations of Methane in the Atmosphere.

There are still high levels of various gaseous industrial pollution, some of which is in the form of Greenhouse Gases.

In addition, Global Warming is not the only environmental problem, although it is exacerbating other environmental problems.

Climate Change is an added stressor on natural habitats that are being degraded by pollution, bad land management and deforestation.

It seems obvious to take a step back to the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and mesh together once more the environmental threads of the United Nations conventions : on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Desertification.

Continue reading Unpicking Kyoto (5)