Fact Checking the Third Assessment Report from the CA Climate Change Center, Part III

Russ Steele

In part III of my fact checking and analysis let’s take a look the section titled Our Resilient Future, which looks at strengthening mitigation, specifically the reduction of green house gasses.

The state’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32, passed in 2006) established greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for 2020. A separate Executive Order established a goal for even more dramatic reductions (80 percent below 1990 levels) by 2050 and beyond.

Here are the statements in this section that caused me the greatest concern, my high lighted text:

Given the State’s commitment to reducing emissions, the energy sector is changing rapidly. This presents both challenges and tremendous opportunities to change the sector to be more resilient to climate change. Solar photo-voltaic and wind energy are less vulnerable than conventional power plants to climate change, and these renewable sources use much less water than fossil fuel or nuclear power plants.

The report writers are assuming that climate change is only warming, and does not consider cooling.   According to scientists, we are entering a long period of reduced sunspots. Some scientists, Livingston and Penn, are predicting the disappearance of sunspots between 2015 and 2020. Historically, this has produced a colder drier climate in the South Western United States, including California.  Colder climate will increase the demand for energy, as citizens heat their homes and businesses.

Increased volcanic activity is evident in the paleoclimate record during low sunspot cycles. While volcanic activity only has a 2-3 year impact on the climate, that is a long period of increased cloud cover, which could have a significant impact on the generation of solar energy. Three years of cloud would be a disaster for solar energy.

According to the recent studies and simulations an increase in cosmic rays produce more low clouds, which is one of the cooling mechanisms associated with sunspots. Fewer sunspots, results in more cosmic rays, thus more clouds means less solar power.

If volcanic or cosmic ray generated clouds obscure the sun, then there is no solar energy. This makes solar energy very vulnerable during climate change.

Wind has proven to be ineffective in providing the need power during very hot days, and long term cold periods when California is under a sustained high pressure or low pressure created when the jet stream blocks the normal progression of weather patterns.  The wind does not blow during the peak periods when the power is needed. The attached graphic shows that as the day heats up the wind energy drops. This increase the risk of wind power.


Windmills operate at around 10-40 percent of maximum production level, this means that producers have to over build. The wind efficiency is small when compared with 50-60 percent for coal and 60-70 percent gas and 90 percent for nuclear. Wind energy will have to become much more efficient in years to come in order to compete with fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

If climate change includes both warming and cooling, then the best energy generation options would be natural gas fired power plants, which can come on line in 30 minutes of the demand. Gas powered plants can function effectively under both climate conditions, warming or cooling, thus reducing the risk regardless of the climate change, warm or cool.

In summary:  The report writers only considered only one option for climate change, when climate history has shown the state experiences climate cycles of both warming and cooling. Not considering both options misleads the policy makers considering the threat of climate change.


About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

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