The RAMA Questionnaire, Part 1

I need your help. I am going to ask a bunch of questions of scientists and the general public for my RAMA Initiative. Below are the questions I have come up with so far regarding Recognition as regards to climate change.

I would like your input (not your answers–yet–I will input it into a survey program) on whether the questionnaire is clear and complete. Are there questions where your preferred answer is not possible to state? Are some of the questions ambiguous? Are there enough options for an answer?

Let me know.


As with all RAMA questionnaires, the format here is to provide questions and potential answers with a box below for you to add comments.
It is a commonplace that climate is always changing—otherwise we probably wouldn’t study it. However, human causes seem to be providing new drivers of climate change.
1. For whatever reason, do you believe the climate has been changing more since 1950 than has been the case in most prior periods for which we have adequate records? (We ask more quantitative questions on this subject below.)
a. Yes
b. No
c. I don’t know / I am not sure
d. I don’t think this is the right question to ask
i. Comments:

2. (If responded ‘a’ to Q1) If the climate has been changing more since 1950 than has been the case in most prior periods, do you think the climate….
a. Is getting warmer
b. Is getting cooler
c. I don’t think temperature is the right metric to use in answering this question.
d. I don’t know / I am not sure
i. Comments:

3. Many scientists who work with data from temperature observations agree that global average temperatures now are about 1C higher than in the period between 1850 and 1880. Do you broadly agree?
a. Yes
b. No, I think it has warmed but by less than 1C since the latter part of the 19th Century
c. No, I think it has warmed by more than 1C since the latter part of the 19th Century
d. I don’t think temperature observations are accurate enough to quantify recent warming.
e. I don’t know / I am not sure
i. Comments

4. Many scientists working in atmospheric sciences agree that the concentrations of CO2 are rising by about 2 to 2.5 ppm(vol) per year. Do you broadly agree?
a. Yes
b. No, I think CO2 concentrations are rising more than 2-2.5 ppm(vol) per year
c. No, I think CO2 concentrations are rising, but by less than 2-2.5(vol) per year
d. No, I don’t think CO2 concentrations are rising.
e. I don’t know / I am not sure
i. Comments

5. Many scientists working with data from sea level observations agree that sea levels are currently rising by about 3.2 mm per year +/- 0.4 mm. Do you broadly agree?
a. Yes
b. No, I think sea level rise is greater than 3.2 mm / year
c. No, I think sea level rise is lower than 3.2 mm / year
d. No, I think sea levels are not rising
e. I don’t know / I am not sure
i. Comments:

6. Do you think the incidence of drought as measured globally is…
a. Increasing quite a bit
b. Increasing a little
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little
e. Decreasing quite a lot
f. I don’t know / I am not sure
i. Comments

7. Do you think the intensity of drought as measured globally is…
a. Increasing quite a bit
b. Increasing a little
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little
e. Decreasing quite a lot
f. I don’t know / I am not sure
i. Comments

8. Do you think the incidence of floods as measured globally is…
a. Increasing quite a bit
b. Increasing a little
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little
e. Decreasing quite a lot
f. I don’t know / I am not sure
i. Comments

9. Do you think the intensity of floods as measured globally is…
a. Increasing quite a bit
b. Increasing a little
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little
e. Decreasing quite a lot
f. I don’t know / I am not sure
i. Comments

10. Do you think the incidence of storms as measured globally is…
a. Increasing quite a bit
b. Increasing a little
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little
e. Decreasing quite a lot
f. I don’t know / I am not sure
i. Comments

11. Do you think the intensity of storms as measured globally is…
a. Increasing quite a bit
b. Increasing a little
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little
e. Decreasing quite a lot
f. I don’t know / I am not sure
i. Comments

12. Do you think precipitation as measured globally is…
a. Increasing quite a bit (more than 10% over the past four decades)
b. Increasing a little (less than 10% over the past four decades)
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little (less than 10% over the past four decades)
e. Decreasing quite a bit (more than 10% over the past four decades)
f. I don’t know / I am not sure
i. Comments

13. Do you think the mass of the majority of glaciers worldwide is…
a. Increasing quite a bit (more than 5% over the past four decades)
b. Increasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
e. Decreasing a lot (more than 10% over the past four decades)
i. Comments

14. Do you think the mass of the Greenland Ice Cap is…
a. Increasing quite a bit (more than 5% over the past four decades)
b. Increasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
e. Decreasing a lot (more than 10% over the past four decades)
i. Comments

15. Do you think the mass of Arctic sea ice is…
a. Increasing quite a bit (more than 5% over the past four decades)
b. Increasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
e. Decreasing a lot (more than 10% over the past four decades)
i. Comments

16. Do you think the mass of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is…
a. Increasing quite a bit (more than 5% over the past four decades)
b. Increasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
e. Decreasing a lot (more than 10% over the past four decades)
i. Comments

17. Do you think the mass of the other ice sheets in Antarctica are..
a. Increasing quite a bit (more than 5% over the past four decades)
b. Increasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
e. Decreasing a lot (more than 10% over the past four decades)
i. Comments

18. Do you think the geographic spread of infectious and vector borne diseases is…
a. Increasing quite a bit (more than 5% over the past four decades)
b. Increasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
e. Decreasing a lot (more than 10% over the past four decades)
i. Comments

19. Do you think the land area of small islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean are overall, mostly…
a. Increasing quite a bit (more than 5% over the past four decades)
b. Increasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
c. Neither increasing nor decreasing
d. Decreasing a little (less than 5% over the past four decades)
e. Decreasing a lot (more than 10% over the past four decades)
i. Comments

Recognizing a Changing Climate

The ‘R’ in my RAMA Initiative stands for recognition. Recognition, Attribution, Mitigation, Adaptation–cute, huh?)

Recognizing a changing climate is easy because the climate is always changing. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t study it so carefully.

Recognizing unusual changes and even a pattern of unusual changes is an important part of the climate debate. It’s important because it is logical to assume that human actions are influencing the climate. In 1945 there were 5 million cars on the planet. There are now 1 billion. From coal-fired power plants to washing machines we have exponentially increased our emissions of CO2. We have cut down forests, built dams, freeways and huge cities. Without exaggerating our importance it is still safe to assume that what we have done has had some effect. But can we see it?

Starting in 2005, scientist Kevin Trenberth began writing that storms, heatwaves, floods and droughts were partially influenced by the climate changes seen since 1945. I dubbed it ‘Xtreme Weather’ and have been extremely skeptical of Trenberth’s desire to reverse the null hypothesis and automatically attribute some percentage of whatever the weather brings to human contributions to our changing climate. Floods in Pakistan, droughts in Texas, heatwaves in Moscow and France, tropical storm Sandy, revolutions in Egypt and Syria have all been cited as evidence that we now can recognize some changes to the climate that are due to our actions.

However, apart from whatever contribution a drought in Syria might have made to their current civil war, the rest of those famously cited occurrences have disappeared from the conversation. This quite possibly means that some were too quick to seize on them as evidence of anthropogenically caused climate change. Perhaps it’s because the last few years haven’t thrown up more examples. Perhaps it’s because scientists who took the trouble to look at the record found that canicules in France and heatwaves in Moscow are not that unusual, that Pakistan’s floods were no stronger than seen in decades prior to 1945, that there is no global trend in drought and no national trend in U.S. heatwaves.

There is no doubt that the globe has warmed. It has warmed by 1 degree Celsius since 1880, more or less. I personally have little doubt that we have contributed significantly to that warming, via our CO2 emissions, deforestation and other land use changes. But to my mind there are remarkably few impacts extant from those changes. Even if human contributions to global warming added strength to the floods and storms, heatwaves and droughts that we have seen over the past decade, it hasn’t been enough to make those phenomena exceptional in any way.

Polar bears do not seem to be affected by the very real warming they have experienced.

polar_bear_pop (1)

Neither have coral reefs. Although more glaciers are receding than increasing, many of those in a state of decline started that decline long before we started to have an impact on our climate.

coral reefs

Diseases like malaria have decreased in range, while others such as dengue and now Zika are increasing. It’s possible that global warming has made larger sections of the world more hospitable to mosquitoes. It’s also possible that globalization has carried the mosquitoes along for the ride in luggage and clothing to more places than previously.


Many animals have moved polewards in response to warmer temperatures. But this is well-documented in almanacs from previous centuries. Lakes in North America are ice-free for larger percentages of the year. But that too has happened in the past.


What we can clearly recognize is a rise in global average temperatures, a modest rise in sea levels, lower summer minimums for Arctic ice–and what else?

Are there plausible changes to our environment and the species who inhabit it that we can note over the past few decades? I’d really like some help with this.


Climate Scientists: In Like Flint?

I confess I chose the title for this post so I could put up another picture of James Coburn, one of my favorite actors since I saw The Magnificent Seven. Here’s another from his ouevre.

In Like Flint.jpg

Via Kevin Drum, the scientist who uncovered the lead poisoning in the Flint (Michigan) water supply has some interesting things to say. Things that are of relevance to the climate conversation.

Drum links to the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The title is ‘The Water Next Time: Professor Who Helped Expose Crisis in Flint Says Public Science is Broken.’ It’s well worth a read, even on Super Bowl Sunday. (Who’s winning, btw?)

The scientist is Marc Edwards and this is some of what he has to say:

“I am very concerned about the culture of academia in this country and the perverse incentives that are given to young faculty. The pressures to get funding are just extraordinary. We’re all on this hedonistic treadmill — pursuing funding, pursuing fame, pursuing h-index — and the idea of science as a public good is being lost.”

“I don’t blame anyone, because I know the culture of academia. You are your funding network as a professor. You can destroy that network that took you 25 years to build with one word. I’ve done it. When was the last time you heard anyone in academia publicly criticize a funding agency, no matter how outrageous their behavior? We just don’t do these things.

If an environmental injustice is occurring, someone in a government agency is not doing their job. Everyone we wanted to partner said, Well, this sounds really cool, but we want to work with the government. We want to work with the city. And I’m like, You’re living in a fantasy land, because these people are the problem.”

” But the expectation is that there’s tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars that are going to be made available by these agencies. And some part of that will be directed toward research, so we now have a financial incentive to get involved. I hate to sound cynical about it. I know these folks have good intentions. But it doesn’t change the fact that, Where were we as academics for all this time before it became financially in our interest to help? Where were we?”

“I grew up worshiping at the altar of science, and in my wildest dreams I never thought scientists would behave this way. The only way I can construct a worldview that accommodates this is to say, These people are unscientific. Science should be about pursuing the truth and helping people. If you’re doing it for any other reason, you really ought to question your motives. Unfortunately, in general, academic research and scientists in this country are no longer deserving of the public trust. We’re not.”

“We are not skeptical enough about each other’s results. What’s the upside in that? You’re going to make enemies. People might start questioning your results. And that’s going to start slowing down our publication assembly line. Everyone’s invested in just cranking out more crap papers.”

“But when you reach out to them, as I did with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they do not return your phone calls, they do not share data, they do not respond to FOIA [open-records requests], y’know. … In each case I just started asking questions and turning over rocks, and I resolved to myself, The second something slimy doesn’t come out, I’m gonna go home. But every single rock you turn over, something slimy comes out.”

No transparency no consensus.jpg

Those of us involved in the conversation about climate change have probably already zeroed in on some of Edwards’ comments as being particularly apropos of our own areas of interest. I know I have.

But his closing quote is also worth remembering: “Do not let our educational institutions make you into something that you will be ashamed of.”

Please remember that one of the central pillars of my personal arguments against the consensus view of climate change is that most of the climate scientists are hard working, professional and honest. However, they have let a motley crew of band wagoners, lobbyists and glory seekers step in front of them on the public stage–that these charlatans have grabbed the microphone out of their hands and changed the nature and the content of the conversation away from the points we should be discussing.

I am specifically thinking of people like Stephan Lewandowsky, Naomi Oreskes, Jim Prall, Michael Mann and a double handful of others. That’s out of perhaps 30,000 working in the field.

Marc Edwards gives us all a compelling reason for some of the other climate scientists to step up to the plate and confront the nonsense peddled by a few bad apples. Sadly, he also shows the obstacles confronting anyone who has considered it.

What’s Going On At The Department Of Energy?

The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration has delayed the release of their International Energy Outlook for the fourth time. It was originally scheduled to be released in the spring of 2015. When I contacted a member of staff, she said that they ‘had problems with their model.’


This almost certainly affects me more than almost every other human on the planet, so I won’t be upset if you don’t share my growing impatience. My other weblog, 3000 Quads, contains about two years of work showing that we’re going to use more energy in future than we currently are estimating. I based my calculations for ongoing energy consumption on the DOE’s previous reports and I need to use their model to compare apples to apples. Faithful readers know that I am extremely concerned about future energy consumption in the developing world. Not that I want it to stop–they deserve to use the energy they need to develop–I just want it calculated properly.

I challenged the DOE numbers–they predicted growth in energy consumption in the developing world at 2.4% per year through 2040, while my figures show growth at almost double that rate. (My figures agree almost perfectly with theirs for energy consumption in the developed world.)

Nobody on this planet would be happier than me if I prove to be wrong. If the DOE’s earlier predictions are right, conventional calculations about how much energy we can use without tipping the atmosphere over into a soup of conventional pollution and CO2 can stand (although the models used to generate those estimated levels surely need work).

However, if my figures are correct we stand to consume almost six times as much energy in 2075 as we did in 2010. My calculations are based on comparing energy consumption trajectories for countries developing now with similar countries that went through a development cycle similar in the recent past. The anecdote from 2015 that I would refer to today is the 8% growth in purchases of air conditioners in India.

My calculations are higher than the DOE, higher than the International Energy Agency and higher than BP. I take some small comfort in the fact that some published reports (by Roger Pielke Jr. for one, and Dan Nocera for another) have come up with similar totals to mine.

As I said, I hope I’m wrong. So far, I’ve seen no evidence that I am. The Department of Energy could have calmed my fears a year ago. I’m frustrated that I have to continue waiting. Sigh…

So, you good folks at the DOE EIA…

In Which Lewandowsky and Oreskes Discover an Interesting Variation on ‘Utterly Wrong’

Harken ye back to May of 2015, when charlatan Stephan Lewandowsky and pseudo-historian Naomi Oreskes trumpeted their finding–that scientists were being intimidated by nasty skeptics and letting words–yes, words and even memes!–seep into their language. Words like… ‘swell.’ And ‘So’s your old man.’ And that starts with Hiatus and it rhymes with Afflatus and that stands for… well, typical activist garbage, actually.


According to Lewandowsky and Oreskes, climate scientists were unconsciously kow-towing to the mighty power of the evile Skeptic Brigades. You will recall that they wrote “Stereotype threat refers to behavioral and emotional responses when an individual is reminded of a stereotype against the group they belong to. So when climate scientists are dubbed as alarmists, they respond by downplaying threats to distance themselves from the stereotype.”

From the Stopped Clock Department, we find that not only were they wrong, the exact opposite has been happening. Via the ever-vigilant Bishop Hill we are led to an academic paper (Communicating Science In Public Controversies: Strategic Considerations Of The German Climate Scientists) which reports the findings of research revealing that “although most climate scientists think that uncertainties about climate change should be made clearer in public they do not actively communicate this to journalists. Moreover, the climate scientists fear that their results could be misinterpreted in public or exploited by interest groups. Asking scientists about their readiness to publish one of two versions of a fictitious research finding shows that their concerns weigh heavier when a result implies that climate change will proceed slowly than when it implies that climate change will proceed fast.”

As Bishop Hill wrote, “Some of the more “politically aware” climate scientists have been keen that nobody should publish anything that might work against the green agenda. Michael Mann’s infamous comments are a case in point. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that climate scientists moderate their behaviour accordingly, withholding anything that might give “fodder” – in Mann’s words to the sceptics. They either do this willingly, because they share Mann’s political outlook, or unwillingly, because they fear the consequences.”

Why would climate scientists worry about offending the consensus?

Well, maybe they’re worried that they’ll get thrown under the bus, like Roger Pielke Sr., Roger Pielke Jr. Andrew Revkin, Mark Lynas, George Monbiot, Judith Curry, James Hansen and President Barack Obama, all of whom have been labeled ‘deniers’ by members of the activist crew, despite several of them being climate scientists and the rest being staunch advocates of a vigorous climate policy.

Well, being labeled a ‘denier’ isn’t the end of the world, so maybe they’re afraid of something more… concrete?

concrete boots

“I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.” (Phil Jones, Climategate email)

“I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal.” (Climategate email, Michael Mann)

“Mike’s idea to get editorial board members to resign will probably not work — must get rid of von Storch too.” (Climategate email, Tom Wigley)

Perhaps the scientists are afraid of ending up labeled climate deniers in someone else’s pseudo-scientific paper, such as Anderegg Prall et al 2010, which copied the names of some scientists from open letters signed over the years and labeled them deniers, complete with a link to a website that had their names, institutions and even photographs of the offending scientists? Or worse yet, like Richard Betts, they could end up labeled as a conspiracy theorist by Stephan Lewandowsky himself in a paper that saw wide circulation before being retracted for numerous errors and violations of privacy.

Surprisingly, although Lewandowsky and Oreskes couldn’t find it (they have a track record of not finding things), the seepage they claimed to find coming from heavy-handed skeptics is actually there. But the climate of fear among scientists actually is due to pressure from climate activists who have set themselves up as judges of the true and faithful. These… people… are not usually climate scientists (Lewandowsky pretends to be a psychologist and Oreskes pretends to be a science historian). They are not part of the very real consensus on climate science. They want to go much further. They have created a climate cult and woe betide any unfortunate scientist who crosses their line in the sand.

The fact that James Hansen, one of the most respected figures in climate science, can be called a denier by one of the activists (Guess who? Naomi Oreskes), just shows how pervasive their Climate of Fear has become. That Barack Obama–the president who has done more to reduce emissions than any other president–can be called a denier by one of the most deranged of the activists is just the topping on the cake.

The extreme climate activists. Wrong on the science. Wrong on the ethics. Wrong on the message.

Wrong on every level

24 Cents A Gallon

Americans currently pay $0.18 per gallon in federal gasoline taxes at the fuel pump. Most states tack on their own fuel taxes, but the federal share is pretty low. It hasn’t been raised in decades and during those decades the quality of our transportation infrastructure has declined dramatically.

Bridge Collapse

Enter (Or should I say exit? It is kind of a swan song for the proposer of this) President Obama’s proposal for the 21st Century Clean Transportation System. (Hat tip to Watts Up With That for their rather disapproving coverage of this. As I am going to come out in favor of this below, if you want the other side of the story check out WUWT.)

It’s actually a $10 per barrel tax on oil, which would translate to about $0.24 per gallon at the pump if it were passed through to consumers, as it most likely would be. The revenue raised from the tax would be used to “make public investments and create incentives for private sector innovation to reduce our reliance on oil and cut carbon pollution from our transportation sector, which today accounts for nearly 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions,” “increase the competitiveness of U.S. businesses and the productivity of our economy by making it faster, easier, and less expensive to move American-made products,” and “expand clean, reliable, and safe transportation options like public transit and rail, making it easier for millions of Americans to get to work, access new jobs, and take their kids to school—reducing the 7 billion hours that American waste in traffic each year.”

It also might spur conversion to transportation not reliant on oil, something I’m sure is on the President’s mind as well.

So why not just raise the gas tax? Vox has a good story on this, writing “In theory, there’s not a huge difference between a broad oil tax and a tax on gasoline. An oil tax might sound better — the White House says it will be “paid for by oil companies” — but the costs presumably pass through to consumers anyway. …”A gasoline tax mainly affects drivers; a broader oil tax would hit air travel, home heating, and a few other sectors as well” and crucially, “If you were going to tax oil or gasoline, right now would be the time to do it. The price of crude oil has been plummeting over the past year, down to around $30 per barrel, a level not seen since 2004. A $10/barrel tax would lift that to $40 per barrel, which is roughly the (still-low) price we saw… last November.”

I’ll quote the next part of the Vox article in full: “The oil tax will get all the headlines, but perhaps the most radical part of Obama’s budget proposal is the outline for a “21st century clean transportation system.” Generally speaking, US transportation policy over the last 50 years has largely focused on funding and building new roads and highways, with a smaller fraction carved out for mass transit. That build, build, build dynamic has led to more driving, more suburban sprawl, more gasoline use, and more CO2 emissions.

The White House wants to break that pattern, diverting a greater share of federal funds to transit and rail instead:

The President’s plan invests nearly $20 billion per year above current spending to reduce traffic and provide new ways for families to get to work and to school.

The plan would expand transit systems in cities, suburbs and rural areas; make high-speed rail a viable alternative to flying in major regional corridors and invest in new rail technologies like maglev; modernize our freight system; and expand the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program begun in the Recovery Act to support high-impact, innovative local projects.

Republicans have already come out against the plan, vowing it will not pass. I guess their limousines can handle the potholes and traffic without disturbing them.

Seriously, although I would prefer a revenue neutral carbon tax to deal with the negative externalities of CO2 emissions, this seems broadly like a good idea. Lord knows American infrastructure needs the work. Lord also knows that American transportation needs an upgrade. Especially the poor (and mostly Democratic) need help getting to work and school. Getting better trains and bus lines will help.

Our President has made some real mistakes regarding climate change and energy. But he was correct, IMO, in starting the big transition away from coal in energy generation and he is broadly correct here in taxing oil to pay for the infrastructure oil-using vehicles depend on.

To those who would oppose it just because it comes from Barack Obama, I ask: Does America deserve to have infrastructure as bad is it has become? How long do you want it to get worse before something is done about it? And finally, what would you offer as a proposal instead?

infrastructure grades



Back to the Climate Panic Attacks

It’s been clear for years that editors have decided that there is a hole in their publications that only a climate story can fill on a daily basis. Rain or shine there must be a story lamenting said rain or shine. Having worked in the journalism business on several occasions, I know only too well that any news hole can become like a black hole, sucking the life out of journalists with its constant demand for copy.

black hole.jpg

It’s true in sports, politics, food and health–news holes ruin journalists, if not journalism. Now that climate change is a beat, we are all getting beaten over the head with our daily dose of Ruination!

When there is a big story, like the COP21 conference in Paris or a flood, the climate journalist’s job is easy. It is made easier by the flood of releases of story ideas–and even pre-written stories–emanating from NGOs and the constant drumbeat of sexed up releases by the PR departments of academic institutions trumpeting the latest findings from their climate scientists.

When there isn’t big news, however, the journalists tend to look for just about anything to fill the gaping maw that is their editor’s news hole.

As you may have guessed by now, today is such a day. Welcome to the wonderful world of Google News, search string ‘climate change.’

It starts with a legitimate story (the black hole luring me in), something that I am concerned about and have written about myself: ‘We Can Expect More Outbreaks Like Zika As The Climate Changes.” And we may, although international travel and our reluctance to use mosquito destruction tactics that have worked in the past are probably bigger contributors to the spread of the disease than climate change. But it’s a legitimate concern.

But from there the string of 79,500,000 (really) news stories just goes down hill. Fast.

Can Climate Change Break The Global Food System?” advertises a symposium sponsored by the Center For American Progress, sponsors also of Joe Romm–nuff said. I’ll save you the price of a ticket–the short answer is no.

Will Climate Change Move Agriculture Indoors? And Will That Be A Good Thing?” Umm, no, and I wonder at the seeming lack of perspicacity of anyone who could pose either question.

Chickens The Latest Animal To Be Threatened By Climate Change.” Actually not true–see below. And while we can’t move agriculture indoors, the journalist responsible for this story might be amazed to know just how many chickens live their lives indoors. Problem solved?

Climate Change And Pets: More More Fleas, More Heartworm.” My heart (no worms) goes out to Margery Cooper, cited in the story, who “lost her beloved dog Scout to complications from Lyme disease a few years ago.” and “Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, has even noticed changes in her 18-year-old tortoises, George and Mulan. They normally hibernate from October or November to April or May. But they were late going down this season and in mid-January, one of them was up walking around in 70-degree weather, Bernstein said.” I literally have no words to express my reaction to this story.

Will Climate Change Make The Koala’s Diet Inedible?” “The koala could soon be even more endangered than at present, if it turns out that climate change alters the nutritional value of the only food it can eat—Eucalypt leaves. Assistant Professor Elizabeth Neilson from the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences from University of Copenhagen has received a $5 million grant from the Villum Young Investigator Program for the search of how the chemical structure of the leaves is disrupted.” I literally have no words to express my feelings about the amount of money being spent on this research study.

However, the stories above provide a convenient answer to the question posed in this story: “What Will It Take For Us To Take Climate Change, Global Warming Seriously?” It’s a story that poses an even more interesting question: “Imagine living with a small temperature that never goes away. What would that do to a body’s health?”

I’ll leave it to my readers to answer that question. My own advice is simple:


Can Government Kill Solar?

Well, they have the guns.

Many of the skeptics who come here frequently subscribe to the notion that government is taking aim at fossil fuels. I come here hat in hand to inform you that their targets go far beyond fossil fuels.

Case in point #1: Nevada. “In late December, the state’s Public Utilities Commission, which regulates Nevada’s energy market, announced a rate change drastic enough to kill Nevada’s booming rooftop solar market and drive providers out of the state. Effective Jan. 1, the new tariffs will gradually increase until they triple monthly fees that solar users pay to use the electric grid and cut by three-quarters users’ reimbursements for feeding electricity into it.”

Why would they do such a thing? Solar is touted as our saviour, the replacement for those dirty fossil fuels. From the same article comes a possible answer: “Three years ago, the Edison Electric Institute, the utilities’ trade group, published a report called “Disruptive Challenges” that became famous in the utilities sector for its seeming candor. It describes how distributed forms of energy could send the industry into what has become known as the “utility death spiral.”

“The industry’s response has been to try to protect its revenue stream by limiting the growth of rooftop solar, in particular by claiming that solar users benefit from the grid’s existence without paying for it, as the utilities’ ratepayers do.”

Utilities don’t get discussed much when it comes to climate change. However, they are very large companies with (usually) a monopoly market. Their executives often end up on bodies like Public Utilities Commissions and they benefit from a government-sanctioned profit percentage.

And utilities love solar when it’s on their side of the meter. They get the federal subsidies and tax credits and can charge consumers whatever they are allowed. But they hate solar when it’s on your rooftop, reducing the amount of electricity you buy from the utility. They hate it so much they are trying to kill it.

If you don’t like sunny Nevada, how about equally sunny Arizona?


I don’t know what they’re smoking in Arizona… but it seems to have triggered both money-grubbing and insanity. First, the greed…

Salt River Project (SRP), the utility for the Phoenix area, just proposed a new rate plan. Specifically, one that hammers well-meaning, energy-conscious solar customers with an average rate hike of $600 per year.

“Home solar generators currently receive up to $0.10 per kilowatt hour that they sell to the utility… but SRP wants to reduce that to $0.04. That’s less than SRP will be paying to generate solar power at its own new massive plant. This will effectively increase solar customers’ bills.

“Rate Increase Part #2: Grid Access. SRP is raising the flat fee that it charges to access the electric grid.

“Rate Increase Part #3: Demand Surcharge. There’s a maximum-draw surcharge that depends on each user’s peak demand.

“Now, here’s where the real insanity comes in. Incredibly, SRP says users can reduce their peak-demand fee by placing the solar panels on their roofs to face west, so they’ll generate maximum energy as demand peaks in the afternoon and evening. That’s all very well… but the utility must know that customers would already do this if they can. More to the point… what if homes don’t face east-west? Do they expect customers to dig up the foundations and rotate their houses?”

After the Arizona policy took effect, applications for rooftop solar installations dropped from hundreds a month to a handful, said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Assn.”

How about California? “One of the main reasons that solar energy is growing so fast  in California is “net metering” … i.e. crediting rooftop solar users for surplus power their systems create, which is fed back into the grid for use by other customers.

Currently, rooftop solar owners are credited at the same rate they would pay the utility for electricity.

Not only is net metering a huge incentive to buy solar panels, but it is part of a wave of decentralized energy production which could help to solve our protect against terrorism, fascism and destruction of our health, environment and economy.

But the giant California utilities – PG&E, Southern California Energy and San Diego Gas & Electric – are determined to kill net metering, because it cuts into the profitability of their centralized energy production business.”

A recent assessment by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center found that 16 of the 44 states with net-metering policies were considering or enacting changes. Wisconsin and Arizona recently imposed significant increases in the amounts that utilities can charge solar users.

Can government regulate rooftop solar out of existence? Yes, of course. But why would they subsidize with one hand and hammer with the other?

If utilities can buy government favor so easily, why don’t we just declare them in charge?

Back in the day when Ma Bell was a regulated utility, their power was legendary. So legendary that one movie painted them as more or less running the country. And it even had James Coburn portraying…



3 New Human Rights Combine and Conflict Over Climate Change

Americans are familiar with three ‘inalienable’ rights–to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Strictly speaking, nobody actually has a ‘right’ to any of them. Witness the (to-date) 100% mortality rate, full prisons and the number of prescriptions for anti-depressives. But We The People want everyone to have access to them so we call them rights.

New rights are claimed all the time. Kids in college now think they have a right to be free from unwanted speech and opinions. We even claim a right to chicken done right.


All of these are aspirational goals and should be lauded (or derided) and accepted as such. Now there are some new rights associated with the environment that are being discussed and they have a lot to do with climate change.

Do humans have a right to a pollution-free environment? It’s a new right–pollution is just a couple of centuries old, although residents of Auld Reekie (Edinburgh back in the day) and The Big Smoke (London) might push the date a bit further back. I would argue that in the world I want to see us striving for, yes. Starting from the indoor haze that kills 4 million a year cooking with dung over a primitive stove and moving straight to the inner cities of the developed world that were for too long contaminated by lead, from the people living downstream from factories to those living in proximity to the fly ash from coal mines, all of these are abuses of innocent people and should be taken care of as an urgent priority.

Do humans have a right to access to affordable energy? Again, I would respond in the affirmative. It’s another new right–energy was free but hard to get until the 1880s, at which point it spread through parts of the world leading to them being called developed. In fact one definition of ‘developed’ is having access to plentiful energy.

But if affordable energy means dung (which is free), or coal, which is a horrible pollutant, then it surely conflicts with the right previously enumerated. So should we say then that everyone should have a right to affordable, clean energy? If so, then governments will be called on to help make expensive forms of energy affordable to its citizens.

What do we do when two rights we wish to guarantee to all conflict?

We make it worse. We add a third potential right that conflicts with both. Should humans have a right to live on a planet where our species does not contribute to climate change? Certainly many activists and philosophers would say yes.

This would involve the reduction or elimination of fossil fuels for most of its current uses. And at considerable expense we could do this. We have the technology to do so today, should we choose.

This would also work in tandem with the right to a pollution free environment–or would it? It would be almost impossible to achieve without nuclear power. Is nuclear waste a pollutant in the same way smoke or fly ash are? Many would say yes. Some say the rare earths used in wind turbines and solar arrays are pollutants–does this disqualify them?

Champions of these three new human rights already fight with those favoring older, more established rights to commerce, profit, freedom from onerous regulation. But it is clear that their biggest fights will be with each other.

This means prioritizing. Which is more important? Freedom from pollution, access to affordable energy? Life without anthropogenic contributions to climate change?

Funny that this doesn’t get discussed more.


2015 Climate Commenter of the Year

It’s Almost Iowa. This year’s award for Commenter of the Year was judged a bit differently than previous awards (last year went to consensus commenter Hank Roberts). Almost Iowa won the day almost exclusively based on comments here.

Star commenter

Almost Iowa came up with gems such as ‘Merchants of Doom’ to describe Naomi Oreskes and her ilk. He felt free to disagree with me on issues of substance, but always maintained a friendly disposition about it.

Almost Iowa also came up with suggested topics and provided a lot of very useful information. Here he is on one of the Alaskan towns being evacuated, ostensibly because of climate change: “here we go again. The very name of the town reeks of government boondoggle. Tok is the Yupik name for place, thus NewTok is a “new” place.

In 1959, the government decided that the Yupik, who were nomadic, needed a permanent place to live. The town site was then selected, not by the Yupik people but by bureaucrats who needed barge access on Ninglick River to haul in westernized building materials. At the time, the English speaking southerners failed to understand that heated structures quickly fail by melting into the permafrost (which is why the pipeline and all buildings in the arctic are elevated). They also had little experience in building roads, landing strips and garbage pits in the delicate arctic environment. The people of Newtok are now paying the wages of all of these sins.

If it is climate change….. it is only ten acres of warming.

The Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Alaska and Bureau of Indian Affairs has all written extensively on what caused the problems at Newtok and all have concluded it was poor siting and inappropriate construction techniques. The New York Times knows this, The Atlantic knows this. The Guardian know this but they all continue to flog the climate change angle despite the facts.”

And on May 19th of last year, when I asked the following: “Let’s say we knew without a doubt that anthropogenic influences meant that temperatures were going to rise 2C over the course of this century. Please take a minute to marshal your list of what we would do to either prevent it or adapt to it before, during and after. Order your list–what’s the first thing you would have us do? What’s next?

Now let’s imagine that we learned that our treatment of the planet meant that temperatures were going to rise by 3C over the same period. What would we do differently? I have asked this question repeatedly without anyone ever giving an answer. And for 4C–same question.”

Almost Iowa was first out of the blocks and provided the most responsive answer to the question:

“When you ask, what is the first thing, I take that literally, what can we do in the next hour to mitigate adverse greenhouse gas emissions.

1) The president goes on television and announced a goal of having 10% of the workforce telecommute. The ripple affect would be tremendous, anyone who lives in a metro area knows the difference between summer (vacation time) driving and the traffic when school is in session.
2) Conversion of all coal-fired power plants to natural gas. accelerated roll-out of nuclear.
3) CAFE standard of 70 MPG (Yes, it is doable).
4) Energy standards for all devices powered by electricity.
5) Beefed up funding for alternative energy R & D.

1) Workforce telecommuting goal of 30%
2) Conversion of all coal-fired power plants to natural gas. accelerated roll-out of nuclear.
3) CAFE standard of 70 MPG (Yes, it is doable).
4) Modification of protection for specified patents, like hybrid technology, to allow licensing but not competitive advantage.
5) Energy standards for all devices powered by electricity.
6) Beefed up funding for alternative energy R & D.

1) Restriction on all unnecessary travel. Workforce telecommuting goal of everyone who can. Banning of all unnecessary air travel.
2) Conversion of coal-fired power plants to natural gas, accelerated roll-out of nuclear.
3) CAFE standard of 70 MPG (Yes, it is doable). Removal of all vehicles that do not comply with CAFE standards within 5 years.
4) Modification of protection for specified patents, like hybrid technology, to allow licensing but not competitive advantage.
5) Incorporation of solar technology into building materials.
6) Energy standards for all devices powered by electricity. Restrictions on air conditioning.
7) Manhattan project-type funding for alternative energy R & D.”

Congratulations, Almost Iowa. The first round is on you!

Transparency in Science Over-rated: Stephan Lewandowsky

All science is undermined by the actions of those few scientists that engage in research fraud. This has led to a broad movement to increase transparency in science, with calls for speedier archiving of data and insuring scientists respond to requests for data, code and information needed to replicate their research.

Celebrated cases of outright fraud lead off with the story of Andrew Wakefield, who claimed to have shown a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. There was no demonstrable link. Wakefield committed scientific fraud. There are many more cases that have made headlines (click here and scroll down) and doubtless more that have not yet come to light.

However, Social Psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky thinks things have gone far enough and that scientists should be less transparent. His paper, “Research integrity: Don’t let transparency damage science” has just been published in Nature. I learned of this via And Then There’s Physics,

He writes, “Endless information requests, complaints to researchers’ universities, online harassment, distortion of scientific findings and even threats of violence: these were all recurring experiences shared by researchers from a broad range of disciplines at a Royal Society-sponsored meeting last year that we organized to explore this topic.”

Lewandowsky offers ‘Ten Red Flag areas that can help to differentiate healthy debate, problematic research practices and campaigns that masquerade as scientific inquiry.” I believe Brad Keyes might profit from examining this in detail.

What prompts Lewandowsky’s work? Well, it may stem from him being accused of being a poster child for bad science. I am one of his accusers, in case you have any doubt.

A little background:

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reviewed 2,047 retractions of biomedical and life-sciences articles and found that just 21.3 percent stemmed from straightforward error, while 67.4 percent resulted from misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4 percent) and plagiarism (9.8 percent).

Perhaps hardest hit in recent times is the broad field of social science. “The past several years have been bruising ones for the credibility of the social sciences. A star social psychologist was caught fabricating data, leading to more than 50 retracted papers. A top journal published a studysupporting the existence of ESP that was widely criticized. The journal Science pulled a political science paper on the effect of gay canvassers on voters’ behavior because of concerns about faked data.

Now, a painstaking yearslong effort to reproduce 100 studies published in three leading psychology journals has found that more than half of the findings did not hold up when retested. The analysis was done by research psychologists, many of whom volunteered their time to double-check what they considered important work. Their conclusions, reported Thursday in the journal Science, have confirmed the worst fears of scientists who have long worried that the field needed a strong correction.”

One scientist whose work has been offered as an example of faulty research practice is social psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky. Psychologist Lee Jussim recently gave a talk at Sydney University on the subject and singled out Lewandowsky for providing misleading results.

“Jussim’s talk began with one of the most egregious examples of bias in recent years. He drew the audience’s attention to the paper: “NASA faked the moon landing – therefore (climate) science is a hoax.” The study was led by Stephan Lewandowsky, and published in Psychological Science in 2013. The paper argued that those who believed that the moon landing was a hoax also believed that climate science was a fraud. The abstract stated:

We…show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin-Luther King or that NASA faked the moon landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific findings above and beyond commitment to laissez-faire free markets. This provides confirmation of previous suggestions that conspiracist ideation contributes to the rejection of science.

After describing the study and reading the abstract, Jussim paused. Something big was coming.

“But out of 1145 participants, only ten agreed that the moon landing was a hoax!” he said. “Of the study’s participants, 97.8% who thought that climate science was a hoax, did not think that the moon landing also a hoax.”

His fellow psychologists shifted in their seats. Jussim pointed out that the level of obfuscation the authors went to, in order to disguise their actual data, was intense. Statistical techniques appeared to have been chosen that would hide the study’s true results. And it appeared that no peer reviewers, or journal editors, took the time, or went to the effort of scrutinizing the study in a way that was sufficient to identify the bold misrepresentations.”

I have frequently described Lewandowsky as a charlatan at this blog and I see no reason to change my views. See here, here  and here. His work on perceptions of climate science is worse than flawed–it can only be explained by bad intent.

That he would now call for being shielded from his critics is perhaps natural. It should not, however, be accepted. Or even tolerated.


I don’t think the ‘Roman Optimum’ means what you think it means

Independent, a UK newspaper, has a story online starting with the line “Summers in Europe since 1986 have probably been the hottest in two millennia, according to a scientific survey.” They’re referencing a paper published in IOP Science that analyzed European summer temperatures since the time of the Romans. The abstract is here.

Funnily enough, the Independent thinks that’s evidence of human-caused climate change, writing, “The study claims that the mean summer temperatures across Europe “appear to reflect the influence of external forcing during periods”, or, to put it another way, are the result of man-made climate change.”

Umm, warmer temperatures in the past doesn’t sound like convincing evidence of human-caused climate change, actually. What am I missing?

Recent warming probably does have an element of human contributions as a partial cause, and one of those human contributions is human emissions of CO2. But if they’re telling us that current temperatures were matched (in Europe–this isn’t a global study) 2000 years ago, then human contributions may not be that unusual. Our contributions may just be replacing another cause of warming way back when. Perhaps more importantly, those who fret about Paris and Moscow heatwaves, floods in the UK, etc., may need to reflect–if climate now is like climate then, perhaps weather is too.

The Roman warm period started quite suddenly around 250 BC and ended about 400 AD. The ancient Greeks and Romans lived in a fairly pleasant climate, which you can also see from the airy robes, in which the antique statues are often dressed.

Some studies in a bog in Penido Vello in Spain have shown that in Roman times it was around 2-2.5 degrees warmer than in the present.

The Roman warm period is amply documented by numerous analyzes of sediments, tree rings, ice cores and pollen – especially from the northern hemisphere. Studies from China, North America, Venezuela, South Africa, Iceland, Greenland and the Sargasso Sea have all demonstrated the Roman Warm Period. Additionally, it has been documented by ancient authors and historical events.

…Locating vineyards and olive trees is also a good indicator of climate. During the culmination of the Roman warm period olive trees grew in the Rhine Valley in Germany. Citrus trees and grapes were cultivated in England as far north as near Hadrian’s Wall near Newcastle. Scientists have found olive presses in Sagalassos in the Anatolian highlands of present-day Turkey, which is an area, where it today is too cold to cultivate olives.

The continued spread of vineyards to the north can be deduced from a decree of the Emperor Domitian, which prohibits the cultivation of wine in the Empire’s western and northern provinces beyond the Alps. The decree was 280 AD revoked by Probus, who allowed the Romans to introduce vineyard in Germany and England.”

The Roman Optimum was called ‘Optimum’ because the effects of the climate were better than preceding and following climate regimes. Better for agriculture. Better for transportation. Better for health and prosperity. Better for us and the species we share the planet with.

We haven’t reached that point yet, apparently. However, instead of trying to scare us with mythical and mystical stories about how Xtreme Weather is threatening us all today, perhaps scientists should be telling us where we can add our next olive groves and vineyards.

The climate is benign at present.

I know we need to worry about overshooting the climate optimum. Indeed, I fear we will. Developing countries consume a lot of energy and the developed world isn’t going to renounce their lifestyle.

But while I agree with those who advocate taking precautions to protect our future, I also think we should take some time out and enjoy the Optimum we are experiencing today.

The Future of Solar Energy

Whenever a pundit remarks that solar power is the energy source of the future, another pundit chimes in with ‘Yeah, and it always will be.’ I will try here to explain why both statements are incorrect.

As a background to this post, my contribution last year might be relevant. I have worked in the solar industry and covered it as an analyst for most of a decade. I hope what follows makes sense to you–it does to me.

Solar power will undoubtedly make a significant contribution to our energy portfolio in the future. So if you change the statement ‘the energy source of the future’ to ‘an energy source of the future’ I have no problem with it. Just change the article and I’m a happy camper.

Remember that the goal set for renewables (by which I mean new renewables without counting hydroelectric power, which was put beyond the Pale by most environmentalists, shivering alone and unloved outside with only nuclear power to keep it company) is a very reasonable 30% of electricity generation. That would amount to about 15% of total energy in most countries. Combined with wind energy and biofuels (by which I mean ethanol, as next gen biofuels will take a very long time to be even worth considering), solar power has a very real chance to be the success story long predicted for it.

To do that, take-up of solar power has to roughly triple before 2030. When it gets to about 150 GW per year of new solar, the total capacity will reach about a terawatt fairly quickly. Right now solar power supplies about 1% of the world’s electricity and new capacity amounted to about 55GW in 2015. Total solar has to reach about a terawatt before it hits critical mass, despite what fans of the technology will tell you. That’s when real manufacturing efficiencies will kick in and drive the next generation of price drops. Perhaps more importantly, that’s when the industry will have reached the critical mass required for them to deal more effectively with utilities and governments.

I divide solar power into two categories: Utility scale arrays that are financed by power companies with tax subsidies and contracts for lucrative delivery of power and residential solar panels, rooftop arrays that lower a household’s electricity costs.

Utilities, being bureaucratic monopolies bent on maintaining control of the supply of electricity, lobby hard for government support of utility scale arrays and have been fairly successful. Utility scale solar has grown dramatically, both in the U.S. and worldwide. Utilities also fight hard to capture the savings from residential PV systems, adding connection costs and lobbying to eliminate subsidies to homeowners in favor of their own businesses. Residential installations have been increasing rapidly, but still amount to a vanity purchase for upper middle class homeowners due to cost and the requirements for a good roof placed strategically.

Both are growing robustly, at about 20% last year, but the political climate is leaning strongly in favor of utility based solar going forward.


The sweet spot for solar geographically amounts to ‘anywhere with high solar insolation.’ Insolation values range from 800 to 950 kWh/(kWp·y) in Norway to up to 2,900 in Australia. (Places like Germany and the UK would do the planet more good by financing solar installations in the developing world, most of which has much higher insolation. Tell ’em, will you?) Solar works well pretty much in any area not colored blue or green in this map:


There’s room for a lot of solar, obviously. The key is falling prices and continued government support.

Regarding prices, after 6 years of dramatic decreases in solar costs, can it continue? As I mentioned above, there’s a chicken and egg element to the answer. If solar keeps selling well, manufacturers will be able to continue introducing efficiencies and accept lower margins. And newer and less affluent customers will be able to afford solar power at lower prices. You can buy modules today at about $0.50/watt. Last year it was $0.60. The question is will next year be $0.40? The answer is probably not–but $0.45 is achievable.

Solar capacity used to grow at about 37% a year–for 4 decades that was its CAGR. That has dropped to between 20% and 25%. If it can continue at that rate for another decade it will reach the terawatt level that will spark a new wave of innovation and cost reductions.

In the U.S., the government recently approved a 5-year extension of their 30% tax credits, a boon for solar hopefuls. In other countries, support for solar has waned along with the economies of former champions of solar. Solar growth has traditionally followed the subsidy–expect China and the U.S. to be the favored location for the next few years of solar.

The technology is improving. There are now being developed clear pane solar panes that can be used as windows or skylights. There are modules that work pretty well on cloudy days. The efficiency of the best panels has climbed about 10% over the past couple of years.

I predict that solar will be producing adequate amounts of electricity to be taken seriously by 2030 and will be producing about 10% of the world’s electricity by 2040. That’s based on past performance, knowledge of the improvements manufacturers can make as volume scales up and the likelihood of continued government support.

I have probably shown this chart five or six times on this weblog–it shows performance versus adoption of solar and it still seems valid. Solar is now as cheap as the fuels it seeks to replace in many (smallish) areas around the globe. The bubbles are increasing in number and getting larger and that’s due to both technological and financial improvements of the solar offer. Long may it continue thus.



The Doomsday Clock and Our Great Good Fortune

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has been maintaining the Doomsday Clock since 1947. When the clock started running, it was set at seven minutes to midnight. The closest the Doomdsay Clock got to midnight was in 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union both tested hydrogen bombs. That year, the clock was set at two minutes to midnight. In 1949 they set the clock at 3 minutes before midnight, after the Soviet Union exploded an atomic bomb, taking the Cold War to new depths.

They have set the Doomsday Clock once again at three minutes to midnight.

As an article in NPR notes, “Despite the progress represented by the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate summit, the BAS says rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia, conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, North Korea’s recent nuclear test, as well as nuclear modernization by a number of countries, including the U.S., has offset the positive work achieved in the past year.”

And then there’s climate change. The Atomic Scientists running the Doomsday Clock have started to consider climate change as a present threat to humanity. Their editor wrote in their issue of January 2, 2016, “Carbon emissions must decrease quickly, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if the world is to avoid “severe, widespread, and irreversible [climate] impacts.” Other factors they consider include killer robots, the escape of lethal pathogens from laboratories and Ebola and other zoonotic diseases that ‘threaten humanity.’

As their website notes, the number of nuclear warheads has dropped from 64,449 in 1986 to 10,215 in 2013. Such a pity that climate change miraculously appeared on their horizon in 2010, just in time to keep us tied firmly so close to midnight. As their website also notes, sea levels have risen 2.24 inches since 1997 and temperatures have risen about 1 degree Celsius since 1850. The average minimum value for Arctic ice was 7.85 million square kilometers in 1980 and that minimum is now 5.02 million square kilometers.

Somehow that doesn’t seem as threatening as hydrogen bombs controlled by Leonid Brezhnev. And given that we have seen very little in the way of impacts–there is no increase in global drought or heatwaves, precipitation is unchanged and only flooding seems to be causing more damage–it almost feels like the Atomic Scientists suddenly pronounced themselves climate scientists instead and pounced on the new sexy issue that would keep them in the news. Nah, couldn’t happen.

I think that we should consider carefully–if climate change, which I accept is happening and I accept we are contributing to, is really the biggest problem humanity faces, what a joyous time to be alive!

After all, the IPCC does not think that climate change will pose a dire threat to humanity. Neither does the Stern Report. All of those who have tried to calculate the financial costs of climate change come back with a relatively modest percentage of global GDP.

Come to think of it, I’m not worried about killer robots either.



A Climate Change On Both Their Houses

“Locust swarms can be devastating to farmers and, potentially, the food supply.” For that startling bit of information we can thank Tove Danovich, writing in TakePart. For a moment I misread the name of the publication, perhaps because I fully intend to take the story apart.

The story’s title should be the first clue: “Climate Change Makes Biblical Plagues a More Regular Threat to Farmers.” Using the word ‘Biblical’ is perhaps not the best way to announce a new threat.

Indeed, the story leads off with a current account of locusts swarming in Argentina. However, it says that it is the worst in 60 years. To my mind that means that a locust plague 60 years ago was worse. Worse, it means that the period of warming since the 1950s did not see locust swarms that were worse than the period before global warming.

The story cites the UN FAO as writing, “Locust are becoming even more dangerous in the context of exceptional weather events associated to climate change.” But confusingly, they also write that drought, which has afflicted East Africa and which climatologists predict to become more frequent, will ‘decrease locust numbers.’

However, the FAO warns that higher temperatures could “shorten the incubation and maturation periods and lead to a rise in the number of locust generations in a year.” Could? Umm, when? According to Wikipedia, locusts change their behaviour from grasshopper-like to locust like after the droughts have finished. I should also point out that the Wikipedia article says “Swarming behaviour has decreased in the twentieth century.”

Although the headline of Tove Danovich’s story is “Climate Change Makes Biblical Plagues a More Regular Threat to Farmers,” her story in fact concludes “All signs point toward locust swarms becoming more prevalent, making it all the more important that preventive measures become the norm.” So, umm, in fact climate change hasn’t made biblical plagues more frequent at all. Tove just thinks they might become more frequent in the future due to climate change.

I note that the headline uses the plural for plagues. Although Tove doesn’t discuss anything besides locusts, perhaps scientists should investigate the effects of climate change on the others.


Perhaps here we see the inspiration for Climate Cartoonist John Cook’s ‘Characteristics of Climate Denial.’

Cook denier

Perhaps some of those characteristics are shared by more than just the ‘deniers.’

In “Cycle 1,” there was the plagues of blood, frogs, and gnats or lice. In “Cycle 2,” there was the plagues of flies, livestock, and boils. In “Cycle 3,” there was the plagues of hail, locusts, and darkness. And the 10th plague was the death of the firstborn.

Oh–they already have! “The Biblical plagues that devastated Ancient Egypt in the Old Testament were the result of global warming and a volcanic eruption, scientists have claimed. From the linked story: “”Pharaoh Rameses II reigned during a very favourable climatic period. “There was plenty of rain and his country flourished. However, this wet period only lasted a few decades. After Rameses’ reign, the climate curve goes sharply downwards.” And it all went downhill from there. You should really read the story–it’s very interesting.

However, unless Rameses’ chariot was built Rameses Tough…

ram tough

…it will be hard to link their plagues to human contributions of CO2 emissions to our beleaguered atmosphere.



Climate Blogger of the Year, 2015

I don’t have Amy Schumer or Tina Fey to present the most coveted award in the climate blogosphere. I apologize for that. I tried to channel Amy Winehouse and get Tina Turner, but that didn’t work so well.

Former award winners Steve McIntyre, Gavin Schmidt and Judith Curry will now have to make room on the stage for Brad Keyes, proprietor of Climate Nuremberg and contributor to Cliscep. He beat out other nominees Fabius Maximus and Jose Duarte and perennial bridesmaids Bishop Hill and Only In It For The Gold.

Keyes is one of the new wave of climate contributors, and is without doubt the funniest blogger in the climate world. You can pick almost any sentence at random from his website as evidence:

“Students started out well when asked if they would rather live in the United Kingdom or the Kingdom of Bhutan, with 91% of candidates correctly choosing the English-speaking pro-American proto-America, far and away the less sub-American of the two non-American monarchies.”

Psychologist Dan Kahan works closely with climatologists and was on first-name basis with some of the Scared Scientists. The Yale Professor says they’ve been at risk of abduction for years, and recent tragic events were virtually waiting to happen.

“The [climate] community has always been an open invitation to a certain kind of sicko, who gets off on playing Jedi mind games with unarmed opponents. They’re amazed to learn that they don’t have to get in the car with anyone they don’t know, no matter how much candy he offers them.”

Perhaps one of the strongest arguments in favor of Keyes as this year’s winner is the complete lack of charts, tables or graphs, with Mr. Keyes making the bold editorial decision to replace those irrelevant fripperies with GIFs of one of his favorite targets, Stefan Lewandowski.

I offer my congratulations to Mr. Keyes on his well-deserved award and my apologies for our removal of the substantial cash prize that would normally accompany it. We will let him choose between CDs from the late Ms. Winehouse and the immortal Ms. Turner as found on YouTube.

Next up: Climate Commenter of the Year!

Climate Change Killed The Aliens, Not Will Smith or Sigourney Weaver

Jodi Foster, take off the sunhat and walk away from the array. They’re not out there anymore. It were climate change that done for them. Will Smith, put away that cigar. You didn’t earn  it. It were climate change that done for them. Sigourney, get out of that exoskeleton and quit yelling ‘Get away from her, you bitch!” Unnecessary. It were climate change that done for them.

All of you letting the folks at SETI use your computer–reclaim your flops! They’re not going to find anything. No Wookies, no cookies, no gripping hand. Richard Dreyfuss can eat those goddam mashed potatoes instead of using them for finger art.

Climate change might have killed most extraterrestrial life forms in the universe, with planets burned by greenhouse gases and frozen by a harsh environment.

Despite lack of concrete proof that extraterrestrial life exists, astronomers at the Australian National University (ANU) think climate change contributed to the extinction of life forms on other planets. The researchers believe the universe is filled with habitable planets that “so many scientists think it should be teeming with aliens,” said Dr Aditya Chopra, lead author of the new study published in the journal Astrobiology.”

“However, the study suggests that these inhabitants potentially did not survive the rapid evolution on their planets. Aliens might have struggled to maintain a habitable planet due to unstable early planetary environments.

“Most early planetary environments are unstable,” said Chopra. “To produce a habitable planet, life forms need to regulate greenhouse gases such as water and carbon dioxide to keep surface temperatures stable.”

I wonder if he’s related to Deepak Chopra, who famously said “All great changes are preceded by chaos.” I wonder at the poverty of imagination that underlies his assumptions. I wonder if he’s ever heard of the Drake Equation N = R_{\ast} \cdot f_p \cdot n_e \cdot f_{\ell} \cdot f_i \cdot f_c \cdot L

I wonder if he’s ever read a science fiction book in his life. Has he missed the description of methane breathers, sentient plants, aquatic life that might thrive under the conditions he thinks inimical to life? Should the spark of life touch other planets than ours, it will do so in strange places and do strange things, and some of those things which would throw us for a loop might be looked on as a boon by someone who breathes CO2  and exhales oxygen. As most of the biomass on this planet does.

Underlying this arrant tripe is obviously the warning that we will render ourselves extinct, thus falling in line with the other unfortunates of the Universe. That this comes from the land of Lewandowsky is clear from the description above: “Despite lack of concrete proof that extraterrestrial life exists, astronomers at the Australian National University (ANU) think climate change contributed to the extinction of life forms on other planets.”

We have seen global warming blamed for all manner of things. Now it is blamed for the extinction of creatures who may never have existed. That’s better than a South American frog.

I think Mr. Chopra would have better luck with astrology. Otherwise I might have to introduce him to my old friend:



Part 7, State of the Climate: Summary and Conclusions

This is the final post in my series on the State of the Climate 2015. You can find the other posts in the series here:

It has been fun working on this series and I hope some of it was useful.

The takeaways for me, not necessarily in order, are:

  1. 2015 was quite possibly the hottest year on record, beating 2014, the previous record holder. Temperatures have risen about 0.165C over the past decade.
  2. Sea levels rose about 3.2mm, much the same as in recent years. That would yield roughly one foot of sea level rise this century.
  3. Storm intensity increased but not above recent historical levels. Since publishing that post, I have read on that 2015 was a record year for strong hurricanes and typhoons in the Northern Hemisphere. (Hat tip to commenter Joseph at ATTP). As noted at ATTP, it may just be our good fortune that so few of these storms touched land.
  4. Drought has declined over the past century worldwide, but regions such as East Africa have experienced high levels of drought in recent years. Due to a paucity of good data, it’s a bit difficult to say if the locales most affected by drought are experiencing unusual levels. It is certainly possible.
  5. The number of reported floods is rising, although thankfully these floods are causing far fewer deaths than in the past.
  6. Arctic sea ice experienced its lowest maximum in the short time we’ve been keeping records and the maximum came at the earliest date in the records.
  7. Antarctic and Greenland ice show little if any unusual activity.
  8. The hottest year on record did not seem to impact agriculture, with yields just below 2014’s record harvest.
  9. 2015 saw the highest displacement of people worldwide since WWII. However, it seems clear that the reported 60 million refugees are fleeing conflict. The 21 million who temporarily left their homes because of storms, floods or droughts by and large returned home after conditions returned to normal.
  10. Armed conflicts are fewer in number but are growing deadlier. There were 42 armed conflicts underway in 2015, about half as many as two decades ago. But the number of battlefield deaths is roughly three times as many and that doesn’t count fatalities away from the battlefield.
  11. As for infectious disease, malaria is serving as the poster child of the phenomenon and as such is getting resources thrown at it. Malaria is retreating and affecting fewer people–and thank the heavens for that. However, other diseases such as dengue fever are spreading and infecting more people in the developing world.


I have to tread carefully here. Activists often characterize the arguments of those of us on the other side of the fence as consisting of a progression:

  1. It isn’t happening
  2. It’s happening but it isn’t us
  3. It’s us, but there’s nothing we can do without destroying our way of life

Or some such nonsense. Acknowledging their meme may not rob it of its potency, but I am aware of it as I make the following points:

If there were no concerns about climate change, 2015 would not have been thought of as a ‘bad’ year for the weather. El Nino often brings intense storms and weird weather in different parts of the world. We had our share of droughts and floods, hurricanes and typhoons, but it didn’t seem to set us back and thankfully didn’t kill too many of us. We had no Katrinas, no Haiyan, no onset of clusters of tornadoes. We didn’t have a repeat of the horrible flooding in Pakistan or heatwaves in Moscow or Paris. Not a bad year, viewed in isolation.

Of course there are concerns about climate change and this review notes some that bear watching–the number of floods, number of intense storms and the spread of some infectious diseases. What we saw in 2015 in those areas may not be due to anthropogenic contributions to climate change. They may not have even been influenced much by our actions. But they should certainly alert us to what one possible future may look like.

Next up on this blog: More on renewables and our Blogger and Commenter of the Year awards. Nominations welcome.


What Does This Picture Represent To Readers Of The Lukewarmer’s Way?


Part 6, State of the Climate 2015

One area where we would expect to see impacts of a prolonged warming period would be in the incidence of infectious and/or vector borne diseases. And we do.

Because malaria is the poster child for infectious disease, and because considerable resources have been deployed in its containment, our very real progress in fighting malaria perhaps causes us to overlook the spread of other diseases. And some diseases that thrive in warmer weather are on the increase.

According to the WHO, “there were 214 million cases of malaria in 2015 and 438 000 deaths. Between 2000 and 2015, malaria incidence fell by 37% globally; during the same period, malaria mortality rates decreased by 60%. An estimated 6.2 million malaria deaths have been averted globally since 2000.”

The rest of the quotes in this post are taken from The Disease Daily and their report “Outbreaks in 2015: A Year in Review.”

In recent years, dengue has spread rapidly across the globe, but 2015 has been explosive in terms of scale and quantity of outbreaks.” I live in Taiwan, where Dengue fever set records in number of cases this past year. Brazil had a bad year as well, with half a million cases. Not as bad as in 2013, when they had 1.5 million cases. “The disease was first recognized in Southeast Asia in the 1950s but as a result of exponential spread, over half of the world’s population is now at risk and the disease is endemic in over 100 countries.”

Remember that dengue was first recognized in Southeast Asia in 1950. Look at it today:

Dengue Map+

There was better news regarding Ebola, as the disease that ravaged parts of West Africa waned through the latter part of 2015.

Measles is considered one of the most contagious diseases in the world. In America, some parents didn’t have their children vaccinated and in some school districts measles broke out. Kinda stupid, that. “The outbreak that remained largely hidden from the spotlight, despite its unfathomable size and effects, is occurring in the Katanga province of southeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [6]. The outbreak began in February but is attributed to a larger, ongoing epidemic starting in 2010 [7].  This year’s outbreak has exploded to over 47,000 cases and resulted in over 500 deaths [6].” That’s just tragic.

“Chikungunya, a viral vectorborne disease, was first described in 1952 in Tanzania [1]. Infection results in flu-like illness with pronounced arthralgias, and is difficult to clinically distinguish from dengue infection [1]. Since its discovery in 1952, Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) has resulted in outbreaks in Africa, Asia and Europe [2]. On 5 December 2013, the first autochthonous transmission of CHIKV was confirmed in the Americas, on the Caribbean island of St. Martin [3]. Since then, over 1.7 million cases have been reported in the region [3] with 607,961 autochthonous cases reported this year [4].”

“Plague, otherwise known as Yersinia Pestis infection, remains endemic in three countries: Madagascar, Peru and the DRC [1]. However, 2015 was a comeback year for plague in the United States, with 15 human infections and four deaths [2]. The United States averages seven cases of plague reported each year, but there have been other years with high case counts – in 2006 there were 17 human infections [2]. The uptick in cases in the United States this year is suggested to be linked to El Nino and precipitation rates, lush vegetation and a burgeoning rodent population which hosts the Yersinia Pestis-transmitting fleas.”

It would appear to this lay observer that having 15 of the hottest 16 years on record during this century has coincided with an increase of vector born and infectious disease, something that should trouble us. I wonder what would have happened to the incidence of malaria if Bill and Melinda Gates hadn’t devoted so much energy to its eradication.

In any event, this should stay on the minds of those of us who, like me, feel that climate activists have exaggerated the threat of climate change. And as we are the ones who say that fighting climate change redirects resources that could be better used to help the developing world, here’s an opportunity for us to put our money where our mouths are.


Part 5, State of the Climate 2015

The International Institute for Strategic Studies has published the 2015 Armed Conflict Survey. As it costs more than $100, I will content myself with the free material written about it on their website.

With 15 of the warmest 16 years in the historical record occurring during the 21st Century, it is time to look at the impact global warming has had on conflict. Several papers and numerous pundits have put forward the proposition that global warming increases conflict.

According to the IISS 2015 Armed Conflict Survey, “Perhaps the most telling graphic in the entire Armed Conflict Survey is the one showing that in 2008 there were 63 armed conflicts taking place around the world giving rise to a total of 56,000 fatalities, whereas in 2014 there were only 42 armed conflicts producing a total of 180,000 fatalities. The number of armed conflicts around the world has been progressively declining since the Armed Conflict Database was launched and this is obviously something to be welcomed. But the decline in the number of conflicts has been more than compensated for by an inexorable rise in the intensity of violence associated with them.”

That’s a perfect statistic for the climate conversation, as climate activists can point to the rising intensity of conflict while those on the other side can point to the reduced number of conflicts. The material about the survey doesn’t mention climate change at all, so we must infer what we can from the freebie stuff.

But perhaps further details can shed light on it. What the IISS writes is, “If we look at the Chart of Conflict we see a swathe across the middle of the globe, running from Central America through Northern, Central and East Africa, the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula and South Asia, that is affected by different forms of armed conflict. This should perhaps not surprise us: these are areas that are both populous – and conflict happens where people are – but also in the main characterised by poor levels of economic development and weak institutions of governance. The drivers of conflict are a complex mix of the local, national and transnational. Ideology plays a significant role but so too does organised criminality either as a cause or as a significant by-product of conflict. And while the drivers for the majority of the conflicts covered are internal, some are a function of a wider regional geo-political contention. And now with the crisis in Ukraine the threat of state-on-state conflict is re-emerging.”

Although they don’t mention climate change, it is interesting that the areas they highlight as experiencing the most conflict are the areas that have experienced the least climate change in terms of temperature. East Africa has, however, experienced an unusual number of droughts and Syria had perhaps the most famous drought in terms of conflict discussions.

Perhaps a longer view would be useful here:


We should not ignore all the caveats associated with this type of overview. Battle deaths are certainly lower than in the past, but conflict kills people far away from the battlefield and creates refugees, as we are seeing all to clearly. And refugees have skyrocketed to 60 million, as we saw yesterday. Although conflicts in Afghanistan and Myanmar are probably not connected in any way to climatic conditions, we cannot be so sure regarding conflicts in Sudan. Although enough has been written about the drought in Syria prior to their civil war to convince me that the drought could only have had a marginal influence on events, I haven’t seen anyone argue that it helped matters.

Turning away from civil and other war, crime in the streets is also projected by some to worsen with climate change. We have had 30 years now when temperatures were higher than the average. How has this impacted crime?


For most of the areas for which we have data, this period of global warming has coincided with lower crime, not higher.


Because of the many factors involved in both war and crime, ranging from good governance and economic conditions to levels of lead and consumption of drugs, it would be foolish to give credit to a warming world for lower conflict and crime.

But recent history at least should cause those who had foreseen increases in both to re-evaluate their positions.


Part 4, State of the Climate 2015

Again, with the hottest year in the record books under our belt and a string of very hot years this century trailing right behind it, what impacts have we seen on our planet and on society?

2015 saw a large jump in the number of refugees, and climate activists have been predicting that unfriendly climate changes would produce up to 200 million ‘climate refugees’ by 2050. There are now 60 million refugees on the planet. The question is how many of them are fleeing the climate?


The 60 million figure actually refers to ‘forcibly displaced persons’ and the UNHCR specifically refers to them as displaced by war.

Are there any climate refugees at all? Yes, of course. People have left homes due to desertification and drought, flooding, storms, soil depletion, etc. for thousands of years and they are doing so today. As there are more people on the planet, it would seem logical to expect that more are affected by deteriorating climate, soils, etc.

But the conversation regarding climate refugees is a bit different from discussions of climate change refugees, with the latter term referring to changes in the climate caused by human contributions, primarily of CO2, since about 1945. The biggest difference is that all the conversation about ‘climate change’ refugees is conducted in the future tense. People expect that the changes to the climate will create refugees in the future. But it hasn’t done so yet, and ‘yet’ includes 2015.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center writes, “Take natural hazards. Our research shows that natural hazards – whether climate-related or geophysical – don’t in themselves cause displacement. It is only when hazards hit highly populated areas and vulnerable communities that they become disasters and cause people to flee.

Additionally, although the relationship between climate change and displacement is not straightforward, we know we can expect climate change to magnify the risk of displacement in the future.

Human-made factors further contribute to the increasing trend in disaster displacement. These include rapid economic development, urban growth and population growth in hazard prone areas.”

“Evidence from past and recent events shows that weather-related disasters have resulted in significant levels of population displacement worldwide. Considering the impact of sudden-onset, weather-related hazards alone, a global average of at least 22.5 million people have been displaced each year from 2008 to 2014, and disaster displacement since the 1970s is on the rise (IDMC 2015). Since 2008, close to 175 million people who live in developing countries have been displaced by disasters, accounting for 95 per cent of the global total (IDMC 2015).” This quote is from ‘Human Mobility In The Face Of Climate Change,” a report developed in advance of the COP21 held in Paris last December. The report talks about future increases in the numbers due to climate change, but has no numbers at all for the present or the past.

An hour’s search on the Internet–what is that worth? How much information can it be expected to unearth? Whatever your answer is, that’s how much time I spent looking for any kind of data on current human displacement due to climate change.

I found none. I found lots of information about what is expected from the future. Nothing about today, nothing about yesterday.

Given that none of the expected climate impacts–drought, sea level rise, flooding or storms–have worsened in recent decades, I suppose it isn’t surprising that climate change has not moved people out of their homes. Disasters have temporarily displaced more people than in the past, but that is clearly because population increase has placed more people in harm’s way.

Part 3, State of the Climate 2015

In the hottest year of the historical record, what were the impacts on global agriculture?

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations publishes on these issues. Perhaps their signature publication is their annual ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World’. Their 2015 version can be found here. The first sentence of the report bears quoting:

“Global hunger has continued to decline, albeit gradually, to an estimated 795 million undernourished people, or a reduction of 167 million hungry people over the last ten years. This decline has been most pronounced in developing countries, despite signifi cant population growth.”

They provide this helpful graphic here:

Trajectory of undernourishment

They emphasize, “Since the early 1990s, the number of hungry people has declined by 216 million globally, a reduction of 21.4 percent, notwithstanding a 1.9 billion increase in the world’s population.”

This good news is thanks primarily to a bumper harvest of cereals and grains. While it did not match the record of 2014, it was a very good year for agriculture.


Conclusion: The hottest year on record did not cause noticeable harm to farmers or their harvests. 72 countries have achieved their Millenium Development Goal of halving the number of hungry people.

Skeptics have claimed that a warmer world would bring real benefits to the people living on it. Regarding agricultural production they may have a point. Obviously there may come a time when we collectively say ‘enough is enough.’ Obviously that point has not been reached.

This brings up a point that I hope to develop in a future post. If we looked at 2015 in and of itself, without the specter of climate change coloring our thoughts and without a climate history, how would we describe last year’s climate?

Instead of a Tip Jar…

For those of you who would like to support my efforts in expounding the Lukewarmer view of the climate conversation, I would like to offer two methods for doing so.

I don’t like tip jars. So:

  • You can support my efforts by buying either of my two books. The most recent is ‘The Lukewarmer’s Way–Climate Change For The Rest Of Us‘, published by Stairway Press last September. You can also still get a copy of ‘Climategate: The CRUTape Letters‘, which I co-authored with Steve Mosher back in 2010.
  • For those of you who have had enough of reading about climate change, some of my wife’s photographs are now exhibited and offered for sale here at Your Art Gallery. For those of you tempted to joke that she’s the real artist in the family, you will get no argument from me.

Thanks for your support!

I’ll leave you with another of my wife’s pictures of the Bund in Shanghai. We’ll be back with our regularly scheduled programming soon.


Part 2, State of the Climate 2015

Yesterday we talked about the big stuff–temperature rises, sea level rise, droughts, floods and storms. Today we’ll shift focus a bit and talk about ice.

There are three major accumulations of ice on Earth–Greenland, the Arctic Ocean and Antarctica. The National Snow and Ice Data Center is the go-to source for information about ice.

According to their 2015 Year in Review, “December ended with Arctic sea ice extent tracking between one and two standard deviations below average, as it did throughout the fall. This caps a year that saw the lowest sea ice maximum in February and the fourth lowest minimum in September. In Antarctica, December sea ice extent was slightly above average but far below the exceptionally large ice extents recorded for December 2013 and 2014. A slow-down in the rate of Antarctic sea ice growth in July was followed by near-average extents in the subsequent months.”

Arctic Sea Ice

For the ice covering the  Arctic Ocean, it’s the mirror image of surface temperatures. Where global average air temperatures are bouncing on top of a plateau reached in 1998 (the pause which apparently is ending), Arctic ice levels are bouncing on top of a recently reached (and by no means permanent) floor. Both metrics have stabilized within a band of values, but nobody knows if they will stay there for any length of time.

“The record-low Arctic maximum occurred on February 25, 2015 and was among the earliest seasonal maxima in the 37-year satellite record. It was likely a result of very warm conditions in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Barents Sea (4 degrees Celsius or 7 degrees Fahrenheit above average), and low ice extent in the Bering Sea in March (when the maximum would more typically occur). The fourth lowest Arctic minimum occurred on September 11, 2015 and was likely a consequence of very warm conditions in July and an increasingly young and thin ice cover.”

Arctic ice 2015

Antarctic Sea Ice

The year will be remembered for  a return to average levels for Antarctic sea ice extent after more than two years of record and near-record highs.

Again according to NSIDC, “From February 2013 through June 2015, Antarctic sea ice was at record or near-record daily extents. Antarctic sea ice set consecutive record winter maxima in 2012, 2013 and 2014. But during this year’s austral mid-winter period, Antarctic sea ice growth slowed. Since then, extent in the Southern Hemisphere has generally been slightly above average.”

The Antarctic Ice Sheet

The Antarctic Ice Sheet covers nearly 14 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles), and is divided into three sections: the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and the Antarctic Peninsula. A recent paper by Zwally et al (a paper being vigorously challenged by scientists with activist leanings) says, “Mass changes of the Antarctic ice sheet impact sea-level rise as climate changes, but recent rates have been uncertain. Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) data (2003–08) show mass gains from snow accumulation exceeded discharge losses by 82 ± 25 Gt a–1, reducing global sea-level rise by 0.23 mm a–1.”

Parts of Antarctica are losing mass faster than before,” says Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of a paper to appear in the Journal of Glaciology1. “But large parts have been gaining mass, and they’ve been doing that for a very long time.” According to, “So much ice is piling up in the vast expanses of East Antarctica that, overall, it counterbalances the losses seen at glaciers thinning elsewhere on the frozen continent. It will take decades for Antarctic melting to overtake the mass gains and begin contributing substantially to sea-level rise.”

Essentially, the Western Ice Sheet, one of the smaller sheets, is losing ice quite rapidly. However the huge, huge Eastern Ice Sheet is gaining more ice than the WAIS is losing. For now.


The Greenland Ice Sheet covers roughly 1.7 million square kilometers (650,000 square miles).

Melt can occur at surprisingly high elevations on Greenland ice sheet. For example, observation stations operated by PROMICE regularly record melting at an altitude of 1,800m near Kangerlussuaq in western Greenland – even during cool summers.

2015 started off cold in Greenland but an unusually high melt occurred in July. SMB in the chart below refers to Surface Mass Balance:


Greenland is losing mass at about 250bn tonnes per year. That sounds like a lot, but it means that in the past decade, Greenland has lost less than 1% of its ice. We’re not going to lose the Greenland Ice Cap any time soon–scientists estimate that it would take 3000 years of global warming to lower the ice there by 50%.

However, as the Greenland ice sheet sits on land, meltwater that flows into the oceans will contribute to sea level rise. This is currently adding around 0.7mm a year to global sea levels, but if the ice loss continues from Greenland, this will likely increase through the 21st century.

Conclusion to Part 2

In the Arctic, sea ice minimums (and recently the maximums) decreased from 1979 to about 2008 and then stabilized roughly where they are now. Nobody really knows if it will stay at this ‘new normal’, return to previous highs or move on to even lower levels.

This obviously won’t affect sea level, but an ice free Arctic summer would undoubtedly have an impact on regional weather patterns. In addition it would contribute to global warming by having sun drunk in by open water as opposed to being reflected back into space by ice. If the more pessimistic scientists are correct, that could happen sometime within the next 30 years.

Really, not much of note is happening in either Greenland or Antarctica. When and if the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet finally collapses (as has been predicted for mechanical reasons since the 1920s–climate change is not involved except at the margins), we will all take notice. It will cause significant sea level rise. However, it hasn’t started yet and when it does start it is expected to take 25-50 years, giving us some time to prepare.

Both Greenland and Arctic ice are now being watched more carefully to see the impact of the soot coming out of China’s chimneys. It changes the albedo of the ice it lands on and hastens melting. Let’s send a Care Package of smokestack scrubbers to Beijing ASAP.


State of the Climate 2015, Part 1

Update: I have changed the section on storms, specifically storm intensity (ACE). As commenter MikeM noted, intensity was higher than the original information I showed.

Welcome to the second annual State of the Climate Report, brought faithfully to you by The Lukewarmer’s Way. (Buy the book…)

In this first part of the series we will look at the first order metrics by which we judge our climate.

The ‘first order effects’ are those of most concern to most of humanity. Are we going to bake, are we going to drown, are we going to die of thirst or is a tornado going to move in next door? These questions can be quickly answered for 2015 without too much in the way of controversy. (Some will argue that I should use different data sets for some measurements, but the differences are actually quite slight.)

Global Average Temperature Rise

2015 was one of the hottest years in the 180 year temperature record. They’re still fighting about whether it was tops or not (satellite data suggesting it was not a record, land-based data suggesting that it was), but it certainly was one of the top five. The robust El Niño experienced through most of 2015 contributed to the high temperature rise, but with 15 of the top 16 temperatures recorded during this century, the El Niño does not explain all of it. The last time temperatures were below the 30-year average was February, 1985. That’s 30 years. Almost 31. The globe has warmed, even counting the ‘pause’.

30yearsofabo (1)

Temperatures rose about 0.165C over the past 10 years. If it continues to rise at the same rate for the rest of the century it would amount to 1.65C, far lower than predicted by those most concerned about our climate.

Temperature trends

Sea Level Rise

Global sea levels continue to rise at about 3 millimeters per year. This is fast than was observed through most of the 20th Century, but at 30 centimeters per century is not very alarming. If sea level rise were to remain constant through the rest of the century it would amount to 12 inches, slightly more than the 8 inches of sea level rise observed through the 20th Century.

In its most recent report, the IPCC predicted sea levels are likely to rise by between 0.28m (11 inches) and 0.98m (38.5 inches) by 2100 – a range encompassing both its highest and lowest emissions scenarios. Tol and Yohe predicted that a mid-range sea level rise of 50 cm would result in the loss of 0.23% of habitable land area.


Droughts are a local phenomenon. Measuring them globally is fraught. As of 2009, trends in drought worldwide were negative. However, in some parts of the world like East Africa, drought is certainly severe, even if it is hard to say if it is increasing, due to poor record keeping. Princeton’s Justin Sheffield has published saying that global drought has declined over the past century.



Floods are actually the climate phenomenon that affects the most people. It isn’t mentioned much in the climate debate. I wonder why? Oh…


Because these countries also account for a good portion of the population increase since 1950, it is no surprise that floods have impacted them disproportionately. But are floods increasing or getting stronger?

Again, that’s hard to say. How people develop the land around rivers has a big part to play in flooding, as people in the UK are starting to realize. And population increase pushes people into areas at risk for flooding, so some floods are being recognized that weren’t before.

The number of floods being reported is rising.

Loss events

However, loss of life due to floods has declined dramatically.

Flood mortality

What drives flooding is precipitation. 2015 had above average precipitation, recovering from 2014, which was 52 mm below average. Unfortunately, I don’t have final figures for 2015.


The 2015 Atlantic hurricane season was a slightly below average season featuring eleven named storms, of which four reached hurricane status. According to ACE Indices, with a low number of a three-year period of 2013–15, it signaled the possible end to the active phase of Atlantic hurricane activity which began in 1995.

The 2015 Pacific hurricane season is recognized as the second most active Pacific hurricane season on record. A record 31 tropical depressions developed, of which 26 became named storms, just shy of the record 27 set in 1992. A record-tying 16 became hurricanes, and a record 11 storms became major hurricanes throughout the season.

Update: The original information I showed was based on an incomplete data set. I have replaced it with this:


As residents of California and other places will testify, El Nino years can bring a lot of stormy weather.

For those concerned that storms are getting more frequent, Dr. Ryan Maue provides equal comfort:

frequency_12months (1)

Conclusion of Part 1

There are two areas of concern highlighted here: The rise in global average temperatures and the incidence and severity of flooding.

About the temperature rise there is little question. Whether or not 2015 was a record, it was warmer than 2014 and 2014 was very warm. Although a rate of .165C per year is not frightening in and of itself, it would certainly be comforting to see a couple of years when temperatures dropped.

Regarding floods, it is obvious that collecting good data has proven a challenge. I wouldn’t trust anyone who said that floods were getting more frequent or stronger, but I wouldn’t trust anyone who said the opposite. Building on flood plains is still a very bad idea, in any event.

Regarding sea level rise, drought and storm activity, this period has been remarkably benign and this period is stretching on a bit. For those of us not in East Africa, the weather has not been very bad.

After 15 years of this century, our climate does not seem to be going to hell in a hand basket. Each year like 2015 should be counted a victory for the huge majority of us who are not made homeless or killed by the weather. For those unfortunates we can only offer succor and sympathy.

If the rest of this century proceeded in the same fashion, we would hopefully be well-pleased.

That’s a big if, however.


Exactly When Should Exxon Have Warned The World About Climate Change?

Because climate activists are working from a strategy borrowed wholesale from those who went after Big Tobacco in the latter half of the 20th Century, it is natural that they borrow a tactic that worked against Big Tobacco and try to use it against Big Oil.

During the tobacco wars it was shown that tobacco companies knew of the oft-lethal nature of their product for a long time, during which time they denied its harm and continued to advertise mythical health benefits.

By simple substitution, Big Oil equals Big Tobacco, ergo they must have hid the lethal nature of their product for decades while advertising its benefits.

As Democratic Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley tweeted, “We held tobacco companies responsible for lying about cancer. Let’s do the same for oil companies & climate change.”

Hence we see many stories saying things like, “Exxon has known about climate change for almost 40 years, despite its efforts to continue to promote fossil fuels and deny its existence throughout the 1990s as a leader of the Global Climate Coalition, according to an internal investigation by InsideClimate News.

The reporters reviewed internal records from Exxon and found that the company long knew about the harmful effects of fossil fuels on the environment. Exxon researchers even said in a 1978 internal memo that a doubling of carbon dioxide levels would increase average global temperatures by as much as 2 to 3 degrees Celsius.”

So should Exxon have closed up shop in the 70s due to the harmful nature of its product? When did the consensus form and how strong was it? What was Exxon actually accused of concealing?

Well, remember that in the early 1970s some speculated that the cooling effects of aerosols might dominate over the warming effect of emissions of CO2: see discussion of Rasool and Schneider (1971). And as I wrote yesterday, the EPA actually forced power plants to quit using Exxon’s product in 1974–but that’s because there wasn’t enough of it due to OPEC’s oil embargo. The EPA ordered power plants that could convert to change their fuel to coal, which is even worse for CO2 emissions than oil and gas.

Can you blame Exxon for not trumpeting the evils of CO2 from the rooftops?

Of course, James Lovelock had announced in 1973 that the globe might warm, but his target for elimination was CFCs, not fossil fuels.

Wikipedia reports that “The National Science Board‘s Patterns and Perspectives in Environmental Science report of 1972 discussed the cyclical behavior of climate, and the understanding at the time that the planet was entering a phase of cooling after a warm period. “Judging from the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high temperatures should be drawing to an end, to be followed by a long period of considerably colder temperatures leading into the next glacial age some 20,000 years from now.” And in 1975 the National Academy of Science reported “The average surface air temperature in the northern hemisphere increased from the 1880’s until about 1940 and has been decreasing thereafter.”

As late as 1979 scientist F.K. Hare announced at a WMO conference that “1938 was the warmest year. They [temperatures] have since fallen by about 0.4 °C.”

So perhaps we should give Exxon a pass for the 70’s. But surely by the 80s Exxon should have stepped up to the plate (or the hara-kiri chopping block) and sacrificed its corporate self for the good of humanity.

But again, according to Wikipedia, “Concerns about nuclear winter arose in the early 1980s from several reports. Similar speculations have appeared over effects due to catastrophes such as asteroid impacts andmassive volcanic eruptions. A prediction that massive oil well fires in Kuwait would cause significant effects on climate was incorrect.”

However, in 1988, James Hansen, then the leader of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences, spoke before the U.S. Senate and laid the blame for recent and future global warming on CO2 emissions.

Is that when Exxon should have copped a plea? Well, perhaps they can be forgiven for not jumping up and down about climate change, when there had been widespread news articles about a coming ice age, not just in the 70’s, but in the 1880s. And the 1920s. And the 1930s. And the 1940s. And the 1950s. And the 1960s.

As late as 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did not definitively attribute global warming to CO2 in their First Assessment Report. What they said was,

  • Our judgement is that: global mean surface air temperature has increased by 0.3 to 0.6 oC over the last 100 years…; The size of this warming is broadly consistent with predictions of climate models, but it is also of the same magnitude as natural climate variability. Thus the observed increase could be largely due to this natural variability; alternatively this variability and other human factors could have offset a still larger human-induced greenhouse warming. The unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect is not likely for a decade or more.

Exxon scientists did publish research in peer-reviewed journals around this time saying pretty much the same thing as the IPCC. What was Exxon doing wrong in 1990?

The IPCC’s Second Assessment Report was a bit more definitive in 1995, saying “these results indicate that the observed trend in global mean temperature over the past 100 years is unlikely to be entirely natural in origin. More importantly, there is evidence of an emerging pattern of climate response to forcings by greenhouse gases and sulphate aerosols in the observed climate record. Taken together, these results point towards a human influence on global climate.”

Exxon began advising investors about climate change and its risks to Exxon’s business in 2006. Their research on climate science was like that of everybody else’s research–uncertain at first, having to deal with decades of contradictory claims about the dominance of aerosols, then gradually coming to the same conclusions as other researchers at about the same time as those researchers. It took them about a decade to come to grips with the latest trends in climate science. It’s taken governments a lot longer–they only agreed en masse to fight climate change last December.

I’m not a fan of Exxon. I won’t forgive them for the Valdez incident. Simple as that.

But this is a witch hunt that completely ignores the real culprits in the CO2 emissions game: Us. We are the ones who use Exxon’s products. We have been warned by hundreds of organizations, governments and scientific bodies about the harm that CO2 will bring. We have chosen for forty years to ignore the available alternatives–we could have built more nuclear power plants, more dams, more wind farms and more solar facilities.

We could have put Exxon out of business the way business is supposed to be done–by buying the competitors’ products. But we were lazy, cheap and not concerned.

That’s not Exxon’s problem. That’s not Exxon’s fault.


What The EPA Giveth, The EPA Taketh Away

In 1974 Congress passed the Energy Supply and Environmental Coordination Act in response to the oil embargo imposed by OPEC countries. It moved U.S. power generation away from oil and natural gas to coal. Any power plant that could convert from oil or gas to coal was ordered to do so by the new bureaucracy created by Richard Nixon, the Environmental Protection Agency. The use of coal as the fuel of choice for power generation climbed dramatically.

42 years later the party for coal has ended. What the guvmint gave to Big Coal the guvmint is taking away. Not soon enough in my view.

“The Obama administration on Friday brought a temporary halt to new coal mining leases on federal lands while it conducts a three-year review meant to bring coal leasing in line with U.S. climate policy.” This comes to us via a Scientific American blog post, so you might want to check twice–S.A. has gone all dodgy on climate issues, having drunk the activist Koolaid long ago. But the handwriting has been on the wall for old King Coal since it peaked in 2006:


Our dash for coal has always struck me as a big step backwards–like abandoning the Concorde for cattle car Boeings. Coal is poisonous; fly ash, mercury, smog, particulates–and yes, CO2. Why we didn’t go after nuclear instead is probably down to Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and the others involved in The China Syndrome, the movie that was released coterminous with the Three Mile Island accident.

china syndrome

Ah, well. Bygones. Better late than never.

To be clear, I am not one of those agitating that the world follow our lead. India needs their coal and so do many other countries.

But for the U.S. in 2016, moving away from coal is good, sound policy and I applaud the Obama administration for finally doing so. What was probably a needed policy in 1974 no longer serves us–and neither does coal.

With Oil So Cheap, What’s Happening With Renewable Energy?

It’s been quite a while since oil has been this cheap. It isn’t having the dramatic effect people have expected–people are still drilling, in some places gas at the pump is still pretty high, people haven’t doubled their driving.

And people are still investing in renewable energy. This is actually important, as for those of us who hope that renewables can help lower emissions, there is a perennial worry that short term events can slow down innovation. Fossil fuels have a lot of history behind them and a lot of very real advantages to overcome.

If we want renewables to comprise about 30% of electricity generation worldwide, which is a sane total to shoot for (especially if we can get another 30% from nuclear power and maybe 9% from hydroelectricity) then what we need to see is steady investment in plant, installation and research.

We seem to be getting it now.

Chris Mooney, a writer I don’t have much time for, looked at Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance’s report on investment and found that “2015 was a record year for global investment in the clean energy space, with $ 329 billion invested in wind, solar panels, biomass plants and more around the world. (The number does not include investments in large hydroelectric facilities).”

About half came from China and the U.S. “Fully one-third of the 2015 clean energy investment occurred in China — a punchline we’ve come to expect by now. That country saw investments of $ 110.5 billion last year. The United States was second with $ 56 billion.”

Perhaps most importantly, “Measured in terms of electricity generating capacity, the world saw an additional 64 gigawatts of wind capacity added and 57 gigawatts of solar capacity, BNEF estimates. The most striking figure here is that while 2015 only saw about 4 percent more clean energy investment than 2014 (when $ 316 billion was invested), the growth in renewable energy generating capacity was much higher at 30 percent. This, again, signals declining cost.”

Are subsidies still important to renewable energy? Yes. Is renewable energy still more expensive than fossil fuels? In most places, yes. Is renewable energy still growing rapidly from a small base? Yes.

And to emphasize, should developing countries like India continue to use cheap coal to lift their populations out of poverty? Yes, yes and again yes.

But we will switch our emphasis to renewables over the course of this century regarding the optimum fuel portfolio and this shows that investors are for once thinking more long term than usual.

Investment is freer from the politics of subsidy, the fiddling with capacity vs. generation games, the fantasy of Levelized Cost Of Energy. It reflects where people with money think that money can get a return.



Scientists, Privacy, Emails, Climategate…

Judith Curry has a post up on what expectations scientists should have regarding their email correspondence, writing “One would think that, following Climategate, climate scientists should expect that their emails might by made public, either through hacking or FOIA requests. Nevertheless, more than 6 years later, the debate continues to rage over the sanctity (or not) of climate scientists’ emails.”

We should first ask if scientists are entitled to more protection in their correspondence than the rest of us. I am not sure I see any reason for scientists to be singled out on this issue, so I say what’s good enough for scientists is good enough for the rest of us–and vice versa.

Which then brings us to the overwhelming question, what expectation of privacy should we all have with regards to our email correspondence?

I think we should have a presumptive right to privacy in personal communications of all types, including emails. (I believe for example that the NSA routinely violates these rights and I don’t think they should.)

Emails we write using company property (servers, computers, email programs) are a matter of contract between employer and employee and if that contract is freely entered into by both parties I think it’s fine for organizations to have the right to examine work emails.

But I don’t think that outside organizations should have the right to look at emails without a warrant. There should be a specific accusation of a specific crime and prima facie evidence justifying examination of those emails.

I therefore think that people like Raul Grijalva and Lamar Smith are doing both insult and injury to the American constitution and the rights of Americans when they go after scientists’ emails.

As I wrote in comments at Curry’s, “Want data? Yes. Want records? Yes.

Want emails? No. It’s like retroactive wiretapping.

My concern is inhibiting frank discussion and the exchange of ideas that might put the writer in a bad light if taken out of context.

I co-wrote a book on the Climategate emails. Once they were in the public domain there was no reason not to. However, I received the emails in advance and decided I would not publish them.

The signature example from this experience that I would give of the danger of this is the use skeptics made of ‘Hide the decline,’ where several (many?) skeptics cut the phrase and used it out of context to mean a decline in temperatures when it clearly was not.

In China I had ‘sensitive’ (from a business standpoint) discussions face to face at the request of people I met. Emails were presumed to be read as a matter of course. Telephone conversations were presumed to be tapped. As a foreigner I was advised that I would be a target for surveillance just on that basis. Do we want to be like China?

Do we want scientists self-editing their brainstorms, conjectures and opinions based on a fear that some day some one will do something that prompts a FOI request?

Doing so will negate many of the benefits the internet has brought us and will return influence to those in proximity to each other and sources of power, whether that power be over funding, publication or research directions.

I’m not afraid of Big Brother so much as I am of a never-ending procession of information requests trying to find fault with procedure or politically incorrect speech to harass those on the other side of the fence on any issue.

If there is prima facie evidence of wrong-doing, email correspondence can be subpoenad through existing due process. Let’s leave it at that. Unlike our hostess, I see no difference between Grijalva and Lamar Smith–in their potential effects on scientific conversation.”

I followed up with “The argument about what is covered by FOI and what is not is just a preview of coming distractions. No matter how it is worded, political opponents will always find a reason why this time it’s different and they should be able to look at their enemy’s emails.”

and, “Do we want people outside those organizations to have the ability to inhibit conversations between scientists and hinder the progress of research because at some point in the future someone may have a problem with something one of the scientists has said, written or done?

I argue that it is not in the best interests of either science or society for the answer to that question to be yes.”



Give us back that $1.4 trillion, you nasty climate change, you!

Close followers of the climate debate will surely be familiar with Munich Re, the reinsurer known for pessimistic, perhaps even alarmist, claims with regards to climate impacts. Roger Pielke Jr. fought against their wilder claims regarding storm damages and floods, until he was driven from the climate debate by hectoring alarmists from the climate activist community.

Roger, come back! The disease has spread from European insurers to European banks. UBS has released a report saying that climate change has inflicted a $1.4 trillion loss on the middle class between 1980 and 2014.

UBS claims that residents of cities at risk for climate change spend more on housing than people who live away from the risks of global warming.

Now, I suppose you could argue that people in Shanghai or Los Angeles spend that extra money on sandbags, portable generators and an annual subscription to The Wisdom of Michael Mann. And that seems to be what the report is arguing.

“In the US, middle class residents of high climate-change risk cities spend between USD 800 and USD 1,600 more annually on housing compared to a lower risk city. To compensate, middle-class households spend proportionately less on luxuries, entertainment and durable goods.”

There may be an alternative explanation, however. The cities at risk for climate change are almost exclusively coastal cities, like Los Angeles, Shanghai, San Francisco and Seattle. And people like to live in coastal cities. They like it so much that property owners get a better price for housing, allowing them to raise rents and sale prices. My home town of San Francisco has very high property prices and it has nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with software engineers moving into the city.

It is this level of thinking that has perhaps contributed to UBS’s rather checkered record. As Wikipedia tells us, these are the same guys that were caught destroying documents so they wouldn’t have to give money back to Jewish families who lost loved ones in the Holocaust. Perhaps UBS are the real deniers. UBS was fined $100 million for illegally transferring money to Iran while it was under a trade embargo. They were the guys sued in the landmark sexual harassment case, Zubulake vs. UBS Warburg.

They also paid a further $780 million in fines for conspiring to defraud the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, after being caught hiding who had offshore accounts. And they were the guys who lost $2.3 billion when one of their investment traders went rogue.

They also were fined $160 million in restitution, penalties and disgorgement of profits for rigging bids in the U.S. municipal bond market contributing to the Great Recession. In December 2012, UBS agreed to pay US$1.5 billion to settle a case filed by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission alleging that UBS engaged in a criminal conspiracy to rig the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) benchmarks used on loans via company’s Japan-based subsidiary. For currency rigging charges discovered in 2013, UBS paid US$800 million to American, British, and Swiss regulators.

Amazingly, I could go on with even more UBS scandals, but I think you get my point.

I wouldn’t listen to UBS about banking, let alone about climate change. They take once again an estimated total for all weather-related damages and deaths, attribute them all to climate change, ignore any other contributing factors and say the middle class is being hit with higher housing prices because of climate change. Despite the fact that there are no noticeable impacts of climate change to blame. Not storms. Not floods. Not drought. Not heatwaves. Not sea level rise.

Once again, they are crying wolf. Once again, there is no wolf. Once again, they are making it less likely that we will take the correct actions when (or even before, if we’re smart enough) the wolf actually arrives.

These are the people telling us about climate change?




Redefining ‘Unprecedented’ in Climate Terms

Beg your pardon? The website for the organization Centre For Research On Globalization may need to actually think about the definition of the term ‘unprecedented.’ 

They write, “n June 2008 the Community Climate Change Consortium for Ireland (C4I) produced a 118 page report entitled Ireland in a Warmer World: Scientific Predictions of the Irish Climate in the Twenty-First Century (supported and co-funded by Environmental Protection Agency, Sustainable Energy Ireland and the Higher Education Authority) which forecast “an increase in the frequency of very intense cyclones, and also increases in the extreme values of wind and precipitation associated with them. This implies an increased risk of storm damage and flooding in vulnerable Irish coastal areas.” The report also suggested that the “[d]emand for heating energy is likely to reduce significantly as the climate warms.”

Now in 2016, we are already seeing these predictions come true. There have been six storms already since the beginning of winter and a weather station in Donegal recorded its wettest day for any month since 1885 and its highest December temperature in 60 years. There has been unprecedented flooding in many parts of rural Ireland combined with severe winds. 70 millimetres of rain and gusts of up to 120km/h have been recorded along the Atlantic coast and around the country ferry sailings have been cancelled, roads closed and rail services disrupted.” That 70 mm is for 24 hours. The record in County Antrim for one hour’s precipitation is 97mm, set in 1980. The highest wind speed ever recorded in Ireland was 98 kn (181 km/h; 113 mph) at Malin Head, County Donegal on 12 January 1974.

How can Kevin Trenberth’s assumption that global warming is baked into all weather be taken any further? It’s not enough that science has shown that there has been no increase in storms, floods, droughts or heatwave. Now science must prove that global warming was not involved.

It rained more at that weather station in Donegal 130 years ago than it did this year. And that is now proof that the weather is unprecedented. It was warmer 60 years ago than today. So that is proof that global warming has produced unprecedented weather.

This is shaman dancing, entrail reading, sky is falling madness.

Science has left the building.



Why is the DOE a year late on their International Energy Outlook?

Regular readers will know that I eagerly await the publication of the U.S. Department of Energy’s  Energy Information Administration’s bi-annual report titled ‘International Energy Outlook.’

They’re almost a year late. They were supposed to publish in Spring of 2015 and the EIA website now says it will be in February 2016. One of their staff told me a couple of months ago that it would be January because they were having some problems with their model.

The reason it’s important to me is that I used their figures for my baseline projection of energy consumption going forward. As my figures are much higher than theirs–heck, my figures are much higher than everybody’s–I pore over energy consumption projections avidly. A handful of them come out every year, such as BP and the International Energy Agency, but I like the DOE’s, even if I don’t agree with their totals.

For non-regular readers, I spent over a year analyzing global energy consumption trends at my other blog (3000 Quads) and came to the conclusion that we would consume almost twice as much in 2030 as we did in 2010 and an incredible six times as much by 2075. That’s what happens when developing countries develop.

Where the EIA estimated that the developing world would increase their consumption by 2.4% per year, I estimate that the developing world will increase consumption by 4.19% per year. That explains all the difference between their totals and mine.

Which is why I’m getting itchy to see their reported consumption for the last couple of years.

C’mon, February!


The Value of Individual Actions to Reduce Emissions

For those of you convinced that we should reduce emissions (perhaps a minority among my readers), is it worth taking individual action to lower your own CO2 footprint?

Paul Kelly has been making the case for years that we should, and he has been acting in accordance with his principles, working in Chicago to help people lower emissions one family at a time. Paul says that for a variety of reasons it is becoming important that we change the fuels that run our economy. He adds that for the first time in recorded history it is now possible to do this.

I agree with Paul, but for slightly different reasons. If I quit emitting CO2 completely (well, I’d still like to breathe…) it would not dent the planetary totals for emissions. So why bother?

Especially for those who are not overly concerned about climate change, that’s a big ask. But even many of the true skeptics understand that fossil fuels won’t last forever, that conventional pollution is destroying lives today and that we will need to change our infrastructure to handle those two facts–and it doesn’t hurt to start early.

I believe people who can afford to should put solar panels on their roofs, drive hybrid or completely electric cars, walk whenever they can, use public transportation and generally make a conscious effort not to needlessly contribute to climate change.

The reason is not so much about individual emissions. It’s about sending a message. Not just to politicians–they’re pretty deaf on their best days. If enough consumers send purchasing messages to manufacturers, distributors, utilities, etc., they will make changes to their manufacturing, distributing and power generation.

And that will make a difference.


More Climate Cognitive Dissonance: Wildfires

Scientific American reports “Scientists and forest agency officials yesterday said they see a link between climate change and the record-breaking 2015 wildfire season.

“Parsing the exact role a changing climate played in the historic burns can be challenging, especially in Western forests overstocked with woody kindling due to decades of fire suppression and a relatively hands-off forest management policy. But, experts agreed, there is clear evidence that a warmer, drier climate played a central role.

“…More than 10.1 million acres of U.S. forests — private, state and federal — were scorched last year, marking 2015 as the most extensive and expensive fire season on record, according to numbers released Wednesday by the Forest Service.”

In sharp response, Tony Heller over at the skeptic blog Real Climate Science writes, “Their claim is flagrantly false. In 1937, more than twice that many acres burned.” He offers this shot of an article in The New York Times for October 9, 1938:

ny times wildfires 1938

You’ll note in the article that 1937’s total was lower than 1936.

This presents me with a dilemma. Scientific American is a respected media outlet (although I am less than thrilled with their overly-accepting editorial stance on climate change and I won’t soon forget their despicable hatchet job on Bjorn Lomborg). Tony Heller, like me, is ‘just a blogger’ and a skeptical blogger at that. But Heller shows an article from another respected media outlet, The New York Times, that clearly contradicts Scientific American.

Who should I believe? If scientists claim to discern a climate change influence on 10 million acres burnt in 2015, what do they discern from 21 million acres burnt in 1937, years before humans began their mass emissions of CO2?

I am willing to believe that both figures are correct and that humans contributed to both–that’s why Smokey the Bear became a cultural icon.

But could Scientific American be so careless in their fact checking? Indeed, could Penelope Morgan, a professor and fire ecologist at the University of Idaho, who said there “is no doubt” changes in climate are contributing to an uptick in fires, especially across the West…” be equally as ignorant?

By not looking carefully at the historical record and rushing to blame human emissions of greenhouse gases for wildfires caused by lightning strikes, cigarettes and engine backfires, it seems that once again science is reaching for straws–or perhaps grasping at them.

Smokey the Bear says, “Buy Tom Fuller’s book The Lukewarmer’s Way and you can stroll through parks in our nation’s capital with Girl Scouts!”


That should help sales.

This probably won’t, but some readers are surely waiting for it:



What is our duty to the future?

When I was a Boy Scout and we went camping it was drummed into us that we should leave the campsite cleaner than we found it.

I’m a Boomer and some day I’ll write an ode to what we accomplished during our watch. But not today.

However, it seems clear that we will leave the world a cleaner place than we found it–the rivers don’t burn nowadays at least, and many other indicators of planetary ecology are on the upswing.

So should we turn our thoughts to the world our grandchildren will inherit? Specifically should we do everything in our power to mitigate the climate change to which we are contributing?

I think not. Only 2 of 7 people on this planet today are living a modern lifestyle, and a modern lifestyle, imperfect as it is, is what the other 5 are looking for. There are still too many who starve, who die of disease, who die of pollution in poorer countries that we in the richer ones have gotten rid of.

I believe we should orient the bulk of our efforts towards current problems. I’m not saying ignore climate change–I think we need to spend time and money on both mitigation and adaptation–but we need to have a clearer perspective on what we can and should do.

The developing world needs our help cleaning their part of the campsite. They also need our help ridding themselves of the poverty and disease that afflict so many. They need our help developing energy sources that fit their needs–clean and green when we can get it to them, but any sort if we can’t.

My mantra of the month is that future generations cannot help today’s poor. I thought I’d explain it here. Climate change is not a political issue and only tangentially an economic one. What it truly is is a moral dilemma. Do we save who we can today or focus on the future?

Yes, the climate is changing and it will pose a problem. But my hope for the future is that we turn over a world where the other 5/7th have achieved a middle class income and the comforts that go with it. I am convinced that having done so they will adopt the same middle class fear of pollution and the same love for a cleaner environment that is evident in the developed part of the world.

Our children will have more resources–more wealth, more power, more and better technology. They will also have a better understanding of the climate and what we are doing to it.

Our task is clear–we can’t do everything but we must do something. We should focus on the 5 billion who need our help today.

Feed the world

Cognitive Climate Dissonance

From Tech Times: “As average global temperatures begin to rise due to human activity, scientists say the drastic effects of climate change continue to take effect all over the world.”  (Umm, what effects?)

“One of the most severely affected sectors is the field of agriculture. In the past decades, extreme weather conditions caused by climate change have disrupted global food production. “The food system is already stressed in many ways,”said Professor Navin Ramankutty of the University of British Columbia, an expert on global food security and sustainability.

Ramankutty is the senior author of a new study featured in the journalNature, which examined the link between weather-related disasters and food production.

Along with a team of researchers from UBC and McGill University, Ramankutty found that extreme heat waves and droughts have reduced global cereal harvests such as maize, wheat and rice by 10 percent in a span of 50 years.”

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Grain production

Last year set records.

Now both Ramankutty and the USDA could in theory be correct–we could have set records for production and still been 10% below our potential harvests.

But given that between a quarter and a third of the world’s food either rots or is eaten by rodents and insects before it gets to the table and almost a quarter is thrown away unconsumed, perhaps focusing on harvests is a tad misguided…


And given that in the developing world agricultural productivity is far lower than found in the West, perhaps better farming practices and procedures would more than compensate for the effects of climate change to date and maybe even into the future.


Finally, given that increased CO2 has helped the planet green by about 15%, shouldn’t we note the good along with the bad?

Greening the planet

Don’t get me wrong. Food security is a serious issue in a world with a rapidly growing population, a changing climate and a diminishing habitat for non-domesticated species,both animal and plant.

But focusing on an issue that has not materially affected the well-being of humanity or our ability to feed ourselves isn’t contributing to the discussion. Instead it is distracting us from the more serious issue while pandering to the obsession of the moment.

Not. Helping.


Were Americans ‘Duped’ About Climate Change?

That’s the accusation from an opinion piece found at the Washington Post. And it got me thinking enough to distract me from writing about renewable power.

I believe the short answer is no. The Post piece argues otherwise. It is by Robert Brulle, a professor of not only sociology but also environmental science at Drexler University, qualifications I assume to pronounce on the subject. But a pronouncement is all it is–he doesn’t really offer any concrete evidence.

Were Americans duped? Not if public opinion is any gauge. Majorities of the American public have repeatedly indicated they accept both the fact of a changing climate and the conclusions of climate scientists that humans are responsible for about half the warming since 1950. Right or wrong, Americans have accepted the position Brulle advocates.

Brulle seems to think Americans are duped, however. He writes, “Future generations will look back on our tepid response to global climate disruption and wonder why we did not act sooner and more aggressively. Climate change will adversely impact present and future generations, as well as all species on Earth. Our moral obligation to protect life requires us to act.”

I guess it’s the ‘tepid response’ that makes Brulle think we were duped. And it’s true that Americans, like people everywhere, have put addressing climate change at the bottom of their priority lists. But why does he limit his criticism to Americans then? The U.S. response–regulations, higher fuel efficiency standards, a move away from coal–have led to our meeting the goals of the Kyoto Treaty America did not sign. Not only that, American policy, combined with unfortunate economics and a boom in natural gas, have produced better results than found in countries with public reaction more congenial to Brulle’s taste.

Brulle cites the amazing evidence that fossil fuel companies knew something about climate change back in the 80s. Well, they knew as much as scientists everywhere, which back in the 80s was not so much.

So did the public. And it is the public that consumes the products of the fossil fuel companies. If you want to blame someone, blame us. We had non-fossil fuel options available to us. But we all thought solar power was still too expensive. We thought that hydroelectric power disturbed the landscape and was not good for wildlife. We thought energy efficiency was for nerds and insulation roughed up our hands. So we kept using fossil fuels, as did business, as did government.

Brulle writes, “For years, ExxonMobil had been a participant in public efforts to sow doubt about climate change. Yet at at the same time, the corporation was at the leading edge of climate science and its executives were well informed regarding the scientific consensus on climate change.”

I don’t remember Exxon messages ‘sowing doubt.’ There was a lot of doubt about climate change up until 1990 or so. Their scientists published in the peer-reviewed literature–what were they hiding?

The scientific consensus on climate change was not clear in the 1980s, nor in the 1990s. The ‘fingerprint’ of human contributions to climate change was not even part of IPCC doctrine until the mid-1990s and it was controversially inserted at the last minute.

Hypocritically blaming Exxon for not being 20 years ahead of the science, for actually promoting its products, for giving us the products we craved instead of going out of business and pushing us towards products we did not want.

Brulle is duping himself.

Self delusion


The Golden Age of the Climate Conversation

It wasn’t really that long ago that a day with substantial posts from Steve McIntyre, Real Climate and Judith Curry would not have been unusual.

Now it is. McIntyre and Real Climate have become occasional bloggers, although Curry still posts frequently. The truancy of McIntyre and Real Climate has not improved the climate debate.

In today’s climate blogosphere, we have sort of a ‘post-panic’ crew of bloggers, myself included, who (on good days) post relevant commentary on the politics, policy and media antics surrounding climate change. People like Brad Keyes of Climate Nuremberg, Fabius Maximus, And Then There’s Physics and Michael Tobis and myself–what we’re doing is often interesting (or hilarious, in Climate Nuremberg’s case)–however, we’re focusing on WG2 and WG3 issues.

As today’s posts by the big 3 mentioned above show, WG1 still needs attention.

Real Climate has one of the best posts from that venue in a couple of years, writing about the consensus reaction to recent papers hinting at lower sensitivity. It’s Gavin Schmidt at his best–clear, reasonable and, well, scientific. He’s co-author of a paper challenging these skeptic upstarts regarding sensitivity, and regardless of your opinion on the subject, those upstarts will have to respond. As Schmidt notes over at RC, this is the way it’s supposed to work in science.

Judith Curry has an extremely well-organized and clear response to an essay by Nassim Taleb (author of The Black Swan). Taleb argued that our response to climate model output should be a strong effort to lower emissions, no matter how uncertain those models actually are. His argument amounts to Pascal’s Wager, as pointed out by a commenter on the post, and Curry (IMO) more or less demolishes Taleb’s assertions.

It’s McIntyre who pretty much steals the day, however, with another concisely argued and clearly presented view of the disparity between model projections of temperature and actual observations.

But it’s not just the coincidence of these three posts from the big 3 happening at the same time that is getting rarer.There was a time when conversation about all of this would have ranged from boisterous to merely lively at places like Bart Verheggen’s or Keith Kloor’s. Both of those venues hosted regular commentary from all sides of the climate issue. But Bart’s site has gone fairly quiet and Keith’s is simply gone. Other venues such as WUWT, Bishop Hill, Deltoid, Open Mind, etc. seem to be getting staler, as their posts and commenters are becoming less about the debate than about pushing a point of view.

What saddens me about the current crop of climate blogs, including this one, is how little migration there is of readers between them. Lucia Liljegren’s Blackboard seems to be the only holdout, where both skeptics and the climate concerned get together. We have created two (or more) echo chambers and our utility is vastly diminished as a result.

Reminiscing about the Golden Age of the Climate Blogosphere is not a bad thing–I occasionally page through old posts on all of the sites mentioned here, and there’s a lot of good stuff there. And what’s happening now isn’t bad at all–it’s just different.

But what I’d rather be doing is contributing to the next golden age of the climate conversation.

GoldenAge beer label

Renewable Fuels 2: Biomass

From the NRDC website: “Biomass power comes from plants — crop and forest residues, corn kernels and stalks, energy crops, perennial grasses, and fast-growing trees like poplars, to name a few. It can be used to make liquid biofuels that serve as alternatives to oil, or to produce heat or electricity to power our homes. Biomass power accounts for roughly half of all the renewable energy produced in the United States, and we use more of it than any other country in the world.” Given Brazil’s heavy use of ethanol made from sugar cane, that’s saying something. U.S. ethanol made from corn is probably the reason.

Here’s how biomass looks in the U.S. It produces roughly 3% of America’s energy.


The NRDC adds the useful caveat: “Most of the biomass energy we use today comes from unsustainable sources that are not an improvement over fossil fuels: ethanol, made by fermenting food crops like corn and sugarcane, which require large amounts of land, water and chemicals to grow; and wood or even whole trees from forests, which are often “co-fired” with coal in power plants, increasing global warming pollution and threatening our forests as well.

Focusing on food crops like corn or soybeans as sources of biofuels can have unintended economic and environmental consequences. Harvesting these crops for biofuels could raise the price of feed for livestock and possibly food as well. Because these crops are grown using large amounts of fertilizer, land, and water, water quality and availability could suffer, due to soil erosion and pollution from fertilizer runoff. All in all, the production of corn ethanol creates more carbon pollution than the oil it is supposed to replace.

Wood can also be a problematic source of biofuels, if it’s not sustainably harvested. Demand for wood pellets is expected to increase significantly over the next few years, as European countries strive to meet renewable energy goals of 20 percent by 2020.[1] Pellet manufacturers in the southeastern United States are gearing up to satisfy this growing market, as European suppliers will not be able to meet this demand — unfortunately, they are increasingly looking to whole trees for energy.

Burning a whole tree not only releases stored carbon — it takes away the tree’s ability to absorb more carbon in the future. Harvesting whole trees for energy increases carbon pollution and degrades our forests, one of our best defenses against global warming. Furthermore, forests in the southern United States already produce more wood and paper products than anywhere else in the world, so increased demand from the bioenergy market could put even more pressure on these overworked ecosystems.”

Worldwide, biomass is a major source of energy, about 12% of all energy consumed worldwide.


It is used especially in the developing world. Sadly, the biomass is really just branches and dung and is burned over simple stoves for cooking, contributing to or directly causing about 4 million deaths a year.

Europe is a big fan of biomass, especially when it is not their biomass being used. They import large quantities of U.S. wood pellets for use in power generation, usually alongside coal.

Given the very real negative impacts of biomass on the health of those in the developing world and the negligible benefits to the climate from most uses, the rush to biomass seen over the past 15 years seems misguided.

Indeed, I would say that every ton of biomass not burned (with some exceptions, such as Brazilian ethanol) is perhaps of more benefit to humanity than an equivalent number of negawatts.

Biomass as it stands today—not efficient, not useful, camouflaging the damage done to the developing world–seems like a modern example of the idiot’s solution: ‘We must do something. This is something. We must do this.’

An additional 3.05 ppm to our CO2 concentrations

I’ll get back to dissecting renewable fuels shortly, but I thought I’d share with you the reading of Mauna Loa’s CO2 concentrations for Dec. 31, 2015. It was 402.07.

That total in and of itself does not mean much. It has been much higher in the past and much lower more recently. Most plants would express pleasure in the new total if they were capable of doing so. Most climate scientists feel the opposite.

What gets my attention is the fact that it grew 3.05 ppm in one year. It has jumped that much on more than one occasion since 1959, but certainly not often. In recent years it has tended to grow about 2.25 ppm per year.

When I couple that observation with the fact that emissions did not grow at all in 2014, it bothers me.

It doesn’t panic me. It doesn’t make me change my perceptions of the climate debate or the climate itself. I still have a Lukewarm view of sensitivity, temperature and sea level rises and impacts on our planet.

But I confess that it bothers me.


Renewable Energy, Part 1: Where Renewables Fit In A Sane Climate Policy

From an older edition of the Economist: “The International Energy Agency, a think-tank, estimates that 13.5% of the world’s primary energy supply was produced from renewable sources in 2013. That sounds like a decent slice, but almost three-quarters of this renewable energy came from what are euphemistically known as “biofuels”. This mostly means burning wood, dung and charcoal in poor countries. Hydro-electric power, which has fallen from favour in the West because of its often ruinous effect on river ecosystems, was the world’s second most important source of renewable energy. Nuclear power, which is green but not renewable, supplied 5% of energy needs, and falling. Wind turbines, solar farms, tidal barriers, geothermal power stations and the like produced just 1.3% between them.”


Now, renewables have been growing strongly, but it is clear that they have a long way to go before they replace oil and natural gas.

What that makes clear is that efforts at mitigation cannot rely on ‘new’ renewables (wind, solar and biofuels, including ethanol) to get the job done.

This doesn’t mean we consign renewables to the dustbin of history. Far from it. We need to keep pushing not only on renewables but on the enabling technologies (storage, battery improvements, smart grids, etc.) that will accelerate their take-up.

But that can only be a part of our strategy. We also need to focus on initiatives such as Fast Mitigation, the removal of black soot, CHFCs, methane and the reversal of deforestation.

We need to work harder on energy efficiency–‘negawatts’ usually mean a lump of coal isn’t burned. We also need to stop doing stupid things. Airplanes fly longer routes than necessary because of no-fly zones put in place for the Cold War that could easily be removed (although we might want to leave them for the Ukraine for now). We could mandate the accelerated take-up of energy efficient aircraft and ships for that matter.

I wrote in an earlier post that successful mitigation was far more likely to consist of 50 ‘Two Percent Solutions’ than one over-riding answer.

Renewables can be one of those Two Percent Solutions. It has the potential to be a lot more. But renewables alone cannot be our answer to climate change.

Clustering partial solutions

Grey Lady Down On Climate Story

Via Bishop Hill we are led to an article by Tony Thomas in Quadrant. The article is about the results of Steve Milloy’s successful Freedom of Information requests for emails regarding the NOAA’s involvement with an opinion piece published in the New York Times regarding ocean acidification. I recommend you read the whole thing.

I just want to excerpt portions of emails that I believe showcase abysmal decision-making by members of the Times staff. I want to separate this from the ongoing climate debate–what the Times is doing here would be wrong no matter what the topic.

The named authors of the Times’ opinion piece were The named authors were Richard W. Spinrad, chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser to UK’s Department of Environment. That certainly sounds like a prestigious pair of writers, eminently qualified to opine on the subject.

New York Times: “It’s very interesting, but in order to work for us it needs to be geared more toward the general reader. Can the authors give us more specific, descriptive images about how acidification has already affected the oceans? Is the situation akin to the acid rain phenomenon that hit North America? What can be done to counteract the problem?”

NOAA Dr. Shallin Busch: “Unfortunately, I can’t provide this information to you because it doesn’t exist. As I said in my last email, currently there are NO areas of the world that are severely degraded because of OA or even areas that we know are definitely affected by OA right now. If you want to use this type of language, you could write about the CO2 vent sites in Italy or Polynesia as examples of things to come. Sorry that I can’t be more helpful on this!”

…”Thanks for letting me chime in on this piece.   My two general impressions are the following:

1) This article is mostly gloom and doom, which research has shown that people don’t respond to well. In fact, people just stop reading gloom and doom environmental stories. It could be good to highlight ways we can and are dealing with OA [Ocean Acidification] now and that we have an opportunity to prevent the major predicted impacts of OA by stopping carbon emissions before larger chemistry changes happen…

2) I think it is really important to resist the NYT editor’s impulse to say that OA is wreaking all sorts of havoc RIGHT NOW, because for ecological systems, we don’t yet have the evidence to say that. OA is a problem today because it is changing ocean chemistry so quickly. The vast majority of the biological impacts of OA will only occur under projected future chemistry conditions. Also, the study of the biological impacts of OA is so young that we don’t have any data sets that show a direct effect of OA on population health or trajectory. Best, Shallin. 

The title of the New York Times’ opinion piece was ‘Our Deadened, Carbon-Soaked Seas.’ The title the authors suggested was ‘In A High CO2 World, Dangerous Waters Ahead.’ This is the graphic used to illustrate the piece:


The opinion piece says “Research already points to the unnatural behavior of coral clownfish in an acidified environment. These fish wander farther from their natural protection, making them more vulnerable to predators.”

But while researching the story they heard this: “I have asked everyone I can reach and nobody is aware of a study that suggests that Nemo’s hearing would be impaired by ocean acidification. I did find one article on the web that suggested the opposite. I am aware of studies indicating that Nemo would lose sense of smell orability to detect predators and therefore would be more likely to be eaten. Perhaps you can ask the UK people to check on that sentence.”

The opinion piece says, “In the past three decades, the number of living corals covering the Great Barrier Reef has been cut in half, reducing critical habitat for fish and the resilience of the entire reef system.”

But they fail to note that: “The losses were due to cyclones (48%),  crown-of-thorns starfish (42%) and coral bleaching (10%) – none of this involves the “acidification” peril.  And the pristine northern Reef area showed no decline.”

The New York Times could try and blame the authors of the opinion piece for the tone and factual inaccuracies. But the leaked emails show that the New York Times was pushing them to sex up the story, to make it worse than we thought.

Perhaps Andy Revkin is better off walled safely away on a NY Times blog.

The media deck has been stacked against opponents of the Konsensus for decades. It’s just that we don’t see it in print very often.

This is not the voice of science speaking to us. This is people trying to elbow scientists aside and speak for them, to pronounce doom to motivate our politicians, scare us and cow opponents into silence.

Yellow journalism at its lowest.


A Fascinating Survey on Climate Change of Scientists (and Engineers) in Alberta, Canada

I may have some future posts on this but I wanted to link to it here and give the topline numbers. The paper is titled, ‘Science or Science Fiction? Professionals’ Discursive Discussion of Climate Change.’ The paper’s intent is to understand how professionals confer legitimacy upon themselves, something I’d like to investigate further. But the broad findings by themselves are very interesting.

This survey of scientists and professionals gives far different answers to climate questions than surveys of scientists drawn primarily from academic fields. So the catch is obvious–most of these scientists and professionals work in the petroleum industry in Alberta, Canada. The view that would normally be labeled ‘consensus’ in academia received only 34% backing from this group, with a further 5% backing action despite being brutally unsure about the extent or attribution of climate change.

This means that in private industry the consensus of scientists and professionals is almost the exact opposite of academic opinion, where 66% support the consensus. Here, 61% oppose the consensus.

Those preaching the consensus today will dismiss the findings for two reasons: First, because so many of the respondents to this survey work in the petroleum extraction sector. Second, because 70% of the respondents are engineers (rhymes with ‘sneers’, for the climate activists of today).

Fortunately, I don’t share the prejudices of climate activists so I can look at the survey results and enjoy and perhaps appreciate what is there to be learned. It’s a pity the climate concerned aren’t a bit more open-minded. They could learn a lot from this paper.

learning from your opponent

From the abstract: “This paper examines the framings and identity work associated with professionals’ discursive construction of climate change science, their legitimation of themselves as experts on ‘the truth’, and their attitudes towards regulatory measures. Drawing from survey responses of 1077 professional engineers and geoscientists, we reconstruct their framings of the issue and knowledge claims to position themselves within their organizational and their professional institutions.”

From the paper: “A survey of scientists in Alberta Canada produced 5 broad groupings of opinion.

The largest group of APEGA respondents (36%) draws on a frame that the researchers label ‘comply with Kyoto’. In their diagnostic framing, they express the strong belief that climate change is happening, that it is not a normal cycle of nature, and humans are the main or central cause. They are the only group to see the scientific debate as mostly settled and the IPCC modeling to be accurate, e.g., ‘I believe that the consensus that climate change is occurring is settled.

The second largest group (24%) express a ‘nature is overwhelming’ frame. In their diagnostic framing, they believe that changes to the climate are natural, normal cycles of the Earth. Their focus is on the past: ‘If you think about it, global warming is what brought us out of the Ice Age.’ Humans are too insignificant to have an impact on nature.’

Ten percent of respondents draw on an ‘economic responsibility’ frame. They diagnose climate change as being natural or human caused. More than any other group, they underscore that the ‘real’ cause of climate change is unknown as nature is forever changing and uncontrollable. Similar to the ‘nature is overwhelming’ adherents, they disagree that climate change poses any significant public risk and see no impact on their personal life. They are also less likely to believe that the scientific debate is settled and that the IPCC modeling is accurate.

Fatalists’, a surprisingly large group (17%), diagnose climate change as both human- and naturally caused. ‘Fatalists’ consider climate change to be a smaller public risk with little impact on their personal life. They are sceptical that the scientific debate is settled regarding the IPCC modeling: ‘The number of variables and their interrelationships are almost unlimited – if anyone thinks they have all the answers, they have failed to ask all of the questions.’

The last group (5%) expresses a frame the researchers call ‘regulation activists’. This frame has the smallest number of adherents, expresses the most paradoxical framing, and yet is more agentic than ‘comply with Kyoto’. Advocates of this frame diagnose climate change as being both human- and naturally caused, posing a moderate public risk, with only slight impact on their personal life. They are also sceptical with regard to the scientific debate being settled and are the most indecisive whether IPCC modeling is accurate: ‘the largest challenge is to find out what the real truth is… I don’t know what the impact really is. I suspect it is not good.’

They believe that the Kyoto Protocol is doomed to failure (‘can’t do it, even though we should’), yet they motivate others most of all to create regulation: ‘Canada should implement aggressive policies to reduce GHG emissions in the spirit of the Kyoto Accord.’ They also recommend that we define and enact sustainability/stewardship, reduce GHGs, and create incentives.”


Huffington Post and Climate Mythology

Chandran Nair, Founder and CEO of the Global Institute For Tomorrow, has an article in today’s Huffington Post titled “4 Myths About How To Deal With Climate Change Effectively.”

As I have come to expect from Huffpo, the article has more than 4 myths of its own. In fact, readers are liable to come away from this article knowing less about fighting climate change than before they clicked on the link.

The article starts well, with the first myth it seeks to debunk being “We Can Firmly Connect Global Action On Emissions To A Temperature Target.” Mr. Nair rightly says that we cannot. I wonder if he mentioned that at Paris, however.

He’s right about Myth No. 2, “Resolving Climate Change Is Ultimately A Question Of Money.” It isn’t. However, here he starts to introduce his own flavor of mythology, writing that fossil fuel subsidies amount to $5.3 trillion, a wild-eyed guess of some eco-lobbyists that tacks on almost $5 trillion to the real figure as damages caused by fossil fuels to the environment that should in the activists’ eyes be labeled a subsidy.

This is nonsense, of course. There are negative externalities connected to the use of fossil fuels and not just from CO2 emissions. But for the lobbyist’s exercise to have any meaning at all, these harms would have to be balanced against the benefits of fossil fuels. The resulting figure would probably net out as a benefit for us all (or why would we still be using them?). In truth, most of what are counted as subsidies for fossil fuel consist of artificially low prices for petrol at the gas stations of poor countries like Iran and Venezuela. This should be a non-issue.

Worse yet, Mr. Nair comes perilously close to supporting the activists’ active campaign against adaptation, remarking that “Helping poor countries adapt to climate change is worthwhile, but this is justified by humanitarian and justice concerns and not by reduced emissions.”

What we are seeking to do is to improve the condition of humanity. To the extent that fighting climate change does this we should all climb on board the train. But the poor people of the world are facing death, disease and further immiseration from today’s climate, not to mention tomorrow’s. It is a justifiably correct use of our money and time to help them deal with the storms, floods and droughts of today–and to build in a margin to deal with the climate of the future.

Future generations cannot help today’s poor. That is our responsibility. After (or concurrently–we should also fight climate change) that is addressed we can give a thought for the future–not before.

Nair’s Third Myth is that “Technology Will Provide A Solution,” where he writes, “Despite what many hope, it is not clear what technology the developed world has to offer. ” This is laughably false. Technology has already offered multiple solutions, ranging from nuclear power to cloud seeding. If Mr. Nair wishes to reject the solutions on offer he is certainly free to, but France has shown the world that a modern country with an excellent standard of living can provide more than adequate energy (they export their leftover energy to Italy) without relying on fossil fuels. Mr. Nair is conducting an exercise in myth making here, not myth busting.

Nair’s Myth number 4 is that ‘The World Can Decouple Economic Growth From The Use Of Fossil Fuels.” Again, Nair is creating not destroying a myth. Economic growth is not ‘coupled’ to fossil fuel usage. Fossil fuels have contributed greatly to increased productivity which has led to monumental economic growth. But economies have grown before without fossil fuels and again, France’s GDP grew very strongly during the period when they were divorcing themselves from fossil fuel dependency.

Nair is actually trying to decouple economic growth from prosperity, writing “So long as we understand economic growth as our only indicator of prosperity, the world will never have a specific plan to reduce emissions.”

Nair is creating another myth. Nobody is saying that economic growth is our only indicator of prosperity. There are numerous other indicators, from HDI to the Happiness Index. What has proven true, however, is that economic growth is a good proxy for human prosperity. When it moves up, so does prosperity however it is measured.

So when Nair writes, ” Creating a different indicator — one that is not reliant on a free ride on carbon — is the challenge that the developing world must meet,” he is creating yet another myth. Different indicators exist and are used.

And why should he limit their applicability to the developing world? Those emitting the most include exactly one developing country–India. If what Nair was saying was actually true, the indicators would be more useful in the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

The world has numerous, very specific, plans for reducing emissions. COP21 celebrated the diversity of these very specific plans for reducing emissions and a number of countries, including the USA, have implemented them. Successfully.

Mr. Nair’s mythmaking is far more pernicious than the myths he is trying to destroy. Huffington Post does no favor to its readers or to those anywhere trying to put together a sane strategy to fight climate change by publishing this drivel.


It’s Getting Warmer

As 2015 draws to a close bloggers will all be trying to put their stamp on the year. And Then There’s Physics leads off, calling 2015 the hottest year in the temperature record, breaking the brief record set by 2014. He’s right. He also cites the UK Met Office as predicting that 2016 will be hotter still. He’s taking a chance… they haven’t been too fortunate with their recent predictions.

If you’re younger than 30, you’ve never experienced a month in which the average surface temperature of the Earth was below average. (I wonder if I have any readers younger than 30. Heck, I wonder if I have any readers younger than 40.)


It doesn’t rise to the level of alarmist propaganda to be aware of this. And I’m not suggesting that alarm is the proper response. However, to ignore a 30-year unbroken trend of warmer than average temperatures is foolish. It means something.

This does not mean there was no ‘pause.’ James Hansen rightly noted the ‘stalled temperatures’ that lasted at least a decade and the fight over its existence is as silly as ignoring the fact that temperatures have been quite high for quite a long period.

It is now probably as warm as during the peak of the Medieval Warm Period, which lasted from 950-1250 A.D., another phenomenon alarmists want to airbrush out of existence.

Those of us who agree with the small ‘c’ consensus but agitate against adoption of the capital ‘K’ Konsensus (the lobbyists and marketers of NGOs trying to inspire panic about climate change) do ourselves no favors when we ignore the current warming period. It is real.

Impacts of this warming have been negligible. Arctic ice is melting and some strange storms and weather patterns in that part of the world are really interesting. However, the rest of the world has not yet paid a price for this warming. Storms are not yet more frequent or more intense. Sea level rise has not accelerated. Neither drought nor heatwaves have occurred more often or more strongly.

It’s getting warmer. But so far, that’s all that’s happened. It’s just… getting warmer.

I accept that should the warming continue at some point our luck will run out and that indeed storms will become more frequent and more intense, that sea level rise will indeed accelerate, that droughts and heatwaves will become worse.

And I also accept that our emissions of greenhouse gases, alongside our cutting down of forests, conversion of land to agriculture and our emissions of black soot, are contributing significantly to the warming we both see now and expect from the future. Kind of like the IPCC does.

This is a grace period, where the very real warming is doing not much more than greening the planet. I hope we take every advantage of it.


Can Climate Hyperbole Eat Us All For Breakfast?

The Atlantic’s article is titled ‘Can The Planet Be Saved?’ And although two of the experts consulted wrote about water resources and biodiversity, the rest were all in for gloom and doom because of climate change.

For those who say that climate activists don’t really preach catastrophe, this article should serve as an awakening.

Margo Oge, former director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality of the Environmental Protection Agency

“Reason for despair: Climate change is the biggest challenge our planet faces. The science is clear, the risks are real, and the phenomenon’s impact on every part of our planet is increasingly visible. …”I despair that time will have run out for future generations. I fear that killing, or endlessly delaying, the nation’s serious efforts to mitigate this threat will be catastrophic: rising seas swallowing island nations, floods wiping out towns and villages, unprecedented heat waves and drought destroying crops and lives, and even global instability that provokes wars.”

Elizabeth Marino, assistant professor of anthropology​ at Oregon State Unviersity

“Reason for despair: As an anthropologist working alongside indigenous communities in the United States, it’s hard not to see climate change as another wave of violence inherent in the colonial ideal. …”These burdens are all part of climate injustice. …”But even aside from this new form of colonial violence, I despair because, more than any other crisis, climate change needs alternative cultural models for framing problems and non-Western solutions.”

Juliet B. Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College​

“But how can one not despair at the certain destruction we’ve already ensured with the warming and chaos that is now built in to the climate system? …” It is 60 degrees in Boston, in  December, in what’s likely the world’s warmest recorded year, a distinction which may be eclipsed 12 months from now. All the while, the politics of hatred are rising, like the sea levels.”

Robin Bronen, executive director of the Alaska Institute for Justice and a senior research scientist at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks​

Reason for despair: Living in Alaska, the only Arctic state in the United States, I am witnessing the fast-forward of geologic time. My despair increases as I watch Arctic ecosystems collapse. The recently negotiated Paris Climate Agreement includes aspirational language to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But in Alaska, winter temperatures have already increased 3.5 degrees Celsius since 1975. Ice and snow, iconic elements of the land and sea in the Arctic, are disappearing.” And referring to three Alaskan communities that are relocating we read …”we are completely unprepared to respond to the humanitarian crisis which will be caused by rising seas forcing millions of people from their homes, their heritage, and the places they love.”

Gernot Wagner, senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund

“Reason for despair: Climate change. It’s the perfect problem: more global, more long-term, more irreversible, and more uncertain that virtually any other public-policy problem facing us. Climate change is a lot worse than most of us realize. Almost regardless of what we do on the mitigation front, we are in for a whole lot of hurt.”

All of the experts cited also offer reasons for hope, but it’s thin gruel. ‘Solidarity.’ ‘The Paris Climate Accord builds an important foundation.’ ‘COP21, the UN talks in Paris, ended with a degree of hope that is unprecedented in the world of climate.’ That sort of thing. If you were to believe their reasons for despair, you would not be comforted by their reasons for hope.

But their fears are largely unfounded, at least for the present. One of the Alaskan communities relocating has only been in existence for 50 years and was sited near land subject to melt from human heat, not climate change. As for climate change being a form of colonial violence, I have to wonder if the author has watched too many episodes of Portlandia–she is in Oregon, after all. Dr. Marino is undoubtedly aware that the largest emitter is China, not famous for its colonial exploits, while the big worry about emissions centers on India, which was a colony not a colonizer.

As for Ms. Oge of the EPA, someone should really inform her that island nations are growing, not shrinking. Floods have been wreaking violence on villages and towns for millenia, but they are no longer killing 3 million people in one flood. Damage is great, but loss of life is smaller than ever and decreasing rapidly. Someone should tell Ms. Oge that for the past century global drought has decreased slightly, not increased in unprecedented fashion and that her own organization has said there is no trend in U.S. heatwaves.

So the question that forms the title of the article needs to be turned on its head. We should not ask ‘Can the planet be saved?’ We need to ask ‘Is the planet threatened?’ And if so, by what? Certainly the impacts of climate change, costed out at a measly 5% of GDP, will pose a problem for this and future generations. But catastrophe?

Give it a rest.

the end is near

Moving the Climate Goalposts

2015 saw attempts to airbrush sensitivity out of the climate conversation, as folks like Micheal Tobis and the gentleman running And Then There’s Physics argued that we should move on. They (perhaps naturally, given their conviction that climate change is so catastrophic that ‘the survival of the f**king planet is at stake’) just want their assumptions of a high sensitivity accepted.

They want to replace sensitivity-based calculations with things like Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), which started out innocently enough as inputs to climate models with the end points given as a starting assumption but were then hijacked to become ‘predictions, projections and/or scenarios.’ All with another assumption embedded–high sensitivity.

We also saw the introduction of a new target for temperature. We’re now supposed to aim for 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, rather than 2C. I suppose I shouldn’t complain–the 2C target was admittedly grabbed out of thin air, not based on science. Why not 1.5C instead? Of course, given that we’ve already achieved 1C above pre-industrial levels, it’ll take some doing, but if you’re just making stuff up, why not?

Now And Then There’s Physics has a new post up on Zero Emissions. It was apparently prompted by a post from David Roberts, perhaps best known for calling for Nuremberg Trials for ‘deniers.’

ATTP writes, “The zero refers to net global emissions, not to temperature. The argument is essentially that

zero is a much more compelling and evocative goal than the longer-standing and better-established climate goal of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees or less.

And then ATTP writes one of the strangest sentences I have seen in the climate conversation:

“David Roberts is, of course, quite correct that if we want to stabilise temperatures we’ll have to aim to get emissions to zero. If this could be accepted and focused on, it may well be more effective than having some kind of warming target.”

Stabilize temperatures? Does ATTP think temperatures were stable before humans began emitting CO2? Does he think that if we actually ceased emissions temperatures would no longer change?

Zero emissions is not possible now, of course. I would argue that it will never be possible. I would further argue that it is not strictly necessary, that the IPCC doesn’t call for it and that the world we would see with zero emissions would be without doubt worse than a world with 1.5C, 2C, 4C or 6C higher temperatures. We would have to abandon air travel, cement, ocean shipping–and even barbecues. No thank you.

It’s a pity, because ATTP ends his post with something that makes common sense. It’s something I’ve been writing for most of a decade, but I’ll forgive ATTP for not properly attributing it.

It’s based on conversations Paul Kelly and I used to have over at Bart Verheggen’s weblog. I would frequently write that the initial steps we need to take to combat global warming of 4C are exactly the same as those we would take to fight global warming of 2C. (The steps I advocate are found here.)

ATTP rephrases it as “These debates are moot, however, as the decisions that need to be taken now to limit warming to 1.5 or 2 °C are very similar. We need to agree how to start, not where to end mitigation.”

When he’s right, he’s right. You’re welcome, ATTP.

broken clock

Note: ATTP and I have banned each other from commenting on our respective sites. As I have mentioned him here, he is welcome to comment on this thread should he wish to.


Time to Give Up on Carbon Capture and Sequestration?

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (or Storage, if you prefer), thankfully shortened to CCS, is often postulated to be one way of reducing emissions. The idea is simple. Capture the CO2 from fossil fuel emissions and store it deep underground. People who haven’t looked at it in depth tend to like it. The Stern Review, a celebrated report on the economics of climate change, considers it “essential”. People who have looked at it in depth do not.

“A two-month-long natural gas leak that has caused local evacuations and Federal Aviation Administration flight restrictions in southern California is highlighting the need to better control methane emissions from United States oil and gas production and storage.

“…The effect of the leak on the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions is comparable to adding 7 million cars to the road, says Timothy O’Connor, director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s oil and gas program in California.”

“…The gas is under enormous pressure – some 3,000 pounds per square inch. Southern California Gas initially tried to pump brine down the well in an unsuccessful attempt to counteract that pressure. The company is now drilling the first of two relief wells that must reach more than 8,000 feet below the surface to allow workers to seal off the leaking well.  The second well, which the company has said it plans to begin sinking next month, is a backup. If all goes well, the relief well should be finished by March or April, the company estimates.”

CCS is an expensive way to prevent carbon from being emitted. It is also energy intensive. Outside of a couple of pilot plants, there aren’t many that are up and running commercially. One in Saskatchewan seems to be the exception to the rule.

And what would happen to our atmosphere and indeed our climate if we hid a bunch of CO2 underground and the storage tank leaked?

A lot of the first generation solutions to climate change have proven problematic. Biofuels seem to generate more CO2 than is useful. Wood chips have various problems associated with it as a replacement for coal. Palm oil has triggered deforestation and mass relocation of people. Ethanol from Brazil seems a good idea, but ethanol from the U.S. does not. Offshore wind seems to be about as foolish an idea as possible, expensive, high risk, high maintenance and unsightly.

CCS, with its high costs and higher risks, seems fated to join this list of makeshift answers that were throw at the climate change issue, following the dictum ‘We must do something. This is something. We must do this.’

On the brighter side, that type of plant is ideally suited for use as a movie set for the next Terminator movie. Here are some mice built to the same level of specifications and about as functional.

white elephants


Polar Opposites… Or Not

Both the followers of the mainstream view of climate change and their opponents have heroes–for example, James Hansen and Michael Mann are lauded for their part in articulating the consensus, Judith Curry and Steve McIntyre for explicating the position on the other side of the fence.

What’s perhaps surprising is how thoroughly detested each of these people are by their opponents. Skeptics won’t say a nice word about James Hansen, who is a respected climate scientist who has contributed a lot to our knowledge. (I can understand why Mann is disliked–I’m a bit puzzled why he is defended so fiercely, to be honest.) My sympathies do lie with Mr. Hansen, who is now being equally reviled by those to the left of him for his support of nuclear power and his condemnation of the Paris COP 21 meeting as a trivial exercise yielding nothing concrete.

Similarly, Judith Curry, a respected climate scientist who has contributed a lot to our knowledge, is reviled by climate activists and called a denier by Michael Mann. Steve McIntyre is loathed, not for any element of his personality, but because his criticisms of some pieces of activist science were so to the point that it may have helped stop the stampede towards wholesale acceptance of activist policies.

If anyone is looking for evidence that the climate debate is not about science, the hostility engendered by these individuals surely qualifies. In World War 2 the Allies respected Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox and the Axis held similar respect for George Patton. The idea that policy opponents on climate change should be compared to evil characters of mythic proportions and assaulted on every front shows that no rational thought is pursued in the climate change Arena of Destruction.

With the possible exception of Mann, who really seems a bit unsavory, the figures being assailed are quite obviously persons of good will, good intentions and high accomplishment. (And it would be easy to replace Mann on the pedestal with any one of a number of scientific figures as praiseworthy as James Hansen.) They have stood up for a point of view, put their reputations on the line and worked very hard to make their views and the reasoning (and science) behind those views known to all. Truth be told, although partisans do detest these figures, either side would welcome the defection of their opponents.

Both the skeptical and activist sides of the climate debate are fortunate to have those figures as opponents. It keeps you sharp and keeps your arguments on a proper plane. If you don’t succumb to the easy temptation of demonization. The Lukewarmers I know look to each of the three with respect and have learned from each of them. (Mann, I believe, is as detested by Lukewarmers almost as much as by skeptics.)

On an issue as important as climate change, with the money to be made or lost and the stakes in play this high, each side should be glad to have worthy opponents.



The Real Climate Conundrum is Neither Scientific Nor Political

I suspect that this is a slow day in the climate blogosphere, which affords me the opportunity to write an exploratory post–the type where the blogger doesn’t really know where he or she’s going to end up but since it’s a blog, doesn’t take the time to plot an outline beforehand.

I don’t think the root cause of the climate controversy is scientific. There are two broad theories involved in anthropogenic climate change–the first being the greenhouse gas theory, a theory which is widely accepted by all sides in the climate debate, and the second being the feedback theory that has become labeled sensitivity to a doubling of the concentrations of greenhouse gases. This second theory is not settled at all, with the IPCC offering a very wide range of possible values, so anyone can pick a value that suits their prejudices and politics. This is as true for Lukewarmers as it is for skeptics and alarmists–I’m not trying to say otherwise, although I hope we don’t abuse the ambiguity of sensitivity. I’m just saying that for this important question people can choose a value for sensitivity that gives them comfort or advantage.

I don’t think that the climate controversy is actually political either. I think it is used as a convenient political club to bash opponents on the head, but if there were no climate controversy they would just find another club. Neither individual politicians nor political parties are coherent when they talk about climate change–it’s just a proxy for rooted opposition to the other side of the fence.

Outside the U.S. with its fevered atmosphere, climate change is not really a partisan political issue. Even in America, as recently as 2008 the Republican candidate supported Cap and Trade, as did the Republican House leader.

The true Climate Conundrum is moral. Climate change is a moral issue.

Do future generations have a legitimate claim on our resources? Even to the point where such a claim leaves many living today in poverty and peril? This goes far beyond the  prescriptions that we should leave the campsite cleaner than we found it and this is a moral issue that has largely gone undiscussed.

My first reaction (therefore suspect) is that the inhabitants of the future cannot help today’s poor, hence we are forced to take that as a higher charge. Only after we have addressed their needs can we turn our attention to the future.

Even if my first reaction is sound, that doesn’t give us a free pass with regards to the future and the climate we bequeath to future generations. It only places it in perspective. If the price for reducing emissions is only monetary and born mostly by the richest countries, it may be justifiable. But if the developing world is persuaded that for the sake of the grandchildren of rich and poor alike that they should leave large numbers of people in penury, cooking with dung over an open stove, then I think the future will not just be astonished at our decisions, they will condemn us in the way we judge slave owners of the past.

I recognize that there are other moral positions that can be taken. I’d love to see them simply expressed. Perhaps my readers can bring them before me.

Merry Christmas!