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I’m Starting a New Weblog

Because two blogs aren’t enough, obviously.

So, The Green New Deal was put forward without an explanation of how to implement it. I have started a weblog to try and show ways in which the principal elements of The Green New Deal could actually work. It is here:

Here is a sample: If all elements of the Green New Deal were successfully put in place, what would America look like?

Umm, Norway, maybe? They currently have an unemployment rate of 3.9%, similar to our current level in the U.S. They were the first country to provide universal health coverage with a single payer system, way back in 1902. College is basically free there, and more than a third of the population has a degree. 99% of their electricity comes from renewable resources. Energy efficiency of homes and buildings in Norway has improved by more than 30% since 2000.

If we adopt the Green New Deal, that’s pretty much what we would see in America.

So how does having those elements of the GND affect the lives of Norwegians?

Well, life expectancy is 84.3 years for women and 80.9 years for men, compared to 78.6 for adults in the U.S. Norway has the second highest score in the Happiness Index, 7.59. The US is 18th on the list, with a score of 6.89.

Reconciling Emissions Data With Concentrations and Energy Consumption

According to the US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, in 2016 the world consumed 580.7 quadrillion British Thermal Units, lovingly known as ‘quads.’ In 2010 we consumed 512 quads,a growth rate of about 2%.


Reported emissions of greenhouse gases have plateaued for the past three years and have not risen much since 2010. March 2017: “For the third year in a row, the carbon dioxide emissions that drive climate change worldwide have been level.
The emissions pause is particularly noteworthy because it comes despite a growing global economy, the International Energy Agency announced. That’s a sign that carbon emissions are “decoupling” from the economy as other sources of energy come online.”

Peak CO2

And yet, concentrations of CO2 have risen sharply over this period. Whereas in the past century, concentrations rose by about 0.5 ppm, they are now routinely rising by over 2 ppm. And the last two years have been worse: “For the second year in a row, carbon dioxide concentrations as measured at Mauna Loa Observatory rose at a record-fast clip, according to new data released by the Environmental System Research Laboratory (ESRL). The annual growth of 3 parts per million in 2016 is the slightest shade below the jump in 2015 of 3.03 ppm.”


This is despite the ‘greening’ of the planet, the increase in vegetative cover due in no small part to an increase of CO2. This greening draws CO2 out of the air and should work to lower concentrations.

There is a clear disconnect here.But it’s fairly easy to explain.

There is no automatic meter on power plants or cars measuring their emissions. Statisticians take reports of national energy consumption (and sometimes sales of fossil fuels, when they have to) as proxies for emissions.

They can spot some errors in national data and work hard to be as accurate as possible. But they cannot overcome the difficulties caused by intentional misreporting of data.

Widespread misreporting of harmful gas emissions by Chinese electricity firms is threatening the country’s attempts to rein in pollution, with government policies aimed at generating cleaner power struggling to halt the practice.

…”No official data on the extent of the problem has been released since a government audit in 2013 found hundreds of power firms had falsified emissions data, although authorities have continued to name and shame individual operators.

“There is no guarantee of avoiding under-reporting (of emissions) at local plants located far away from supervisory bodies. Coal data is very fuzzy,” said a manager with a state-owned power company, who did not want to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.”


Let’s be clear about what I’m writing. China is not lying about their CO2 emissions. Chinese coal companies are lying about how much they emit conventional pollution. However, those who spend their days trying to figure out how much in the way of greenhouse gases we are emitting end up using these statistics.

If concentrations of CO2 are rising higher than we perhaps expected, that might be the reason. If we need to look elsewhere, we might find that other countries are doing the same. And let’s not even start to examine the effect of perverse incentives caused by Emission Trading Schemes in places like the European Union.

It is hard enough to discuss climate change and human contributions to it when we trust the numbers. What happens when we can no longer do so?

Building For The Past, Remembering The Future

Okay, I’m back–at least for this post. Whereas in recent incarnations I have been focused on the fact I was convinced I had something worthwhile to write, I am now (for today at least) going to try and write something I’m convinced is worth reading.

Michael Tobis (aka Dr. Doom) is someone I have opposed frequently and vehemently across the climate blogosphere. Nonetheless, he has a post up now that is thought-worthy, if not noteworthy. Titled ‘The Seventieth Generation, he makes an impassioned plea for all of us to remember the effects of our actions and choices for generations far in the future.

In it Tobis writes, “In this secular way of thinking, we owe little to the distant future. The more distant in time our impacts, the less we need care about them. Our ancient obligation to carry the torch of civilization is invisible to this way of thinking. Our new obligation to leave the world viable at all for our distant descendants is considered actually beneath mention, a sort of contemptible hysteria.”

“…We are behaving insanely. Insanity is, above all, a failure of love. And we cannot muster the imagination to act from love for our descendants, or for what remains of the world in which they will live.

It’s not as if ethical constraints on economic activity themselves are unimaginable. We no longer tolerate slavery or murder, at least not at the scale they occurred in the past. Money is no object. There is no amount of compensation that (we suppose and hope) absolves a person of murder. We just don’t do that.”

Once again I find myself on the opposite side of the fence from Tobis. We are not given to know the future. Given the incredible amount of change we have experienced in just my lifetime, what I see as real arrogance is to presume we know what will happen in 30 years time, let alone 300. Facebook is 13 years old, Google is 20. The Worldwide Web as we use it today is 25. Mobile phones didn’t start being commonplace until 20 years ago. What with the daily news about drones, driverless cars, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, biogenomics and nanotechnology, anybody who can say what the world will be like in 50, even 30 years, is truly a new Nostradamus.

Tobis is of course writing of climate change and of course is condemning those who don’t adopt his vision of the future, a future where our ‘inaction’ in curbing the burning of fossil fuels creates a planetary hell.

He wants us to build for the future, a greener place unperturbed by human contributions to global warming. In exhorting us to do this he is ignoring the present–a present where renewable energy is set to increase by 33% over the next five years, according to the IEA, after growing 9% in 2015Global emissions have plateaued for three years, again according to the IEA.  These and other actions (the adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles, reforestation, etc.) have already rendered RCP 8.5 inoperative. We may not be doing enough to address climate change, depending on your point of view, but we are doing a lot.

To adopt his vision–building for a greener future for distant generations, we will have to make sacrifices. Well, not ‘we’–those who will pay the price will be those in the developed world who are poor, and those throughout the developing world. Tobis has insisted for most of this decade that we need to get to net zero emissions almost immediately. It is a draconian remedy, and one we are naturally reluctant to adopt without a clearer idea of what the future holds. Tobis doesn’t describe a future–not one based on our continuing in our evil ways, nor one where we successfully convert our entire way of living to satisfy his concerns.

But it is obvious that we will not have resources to build for a Utopian future with zero carbon emissions and address the clear and present environmental dangers we can see clearly by looking at the past. Those who have provided estimates for conversion to a green life have used figures in the tens of trillions of US dollars.

Here in America we can see that cities like Houston and Miami are vulnerable to hurricanes, and modest sea level rise coupled with large-scale subsidence makes them a ‘bowling pin for the gods.’ The same is true internationally, for cities like Manila, Havana and many more.

My very good friend and co-author Steve Mosher is enjoying a period of well-deserved recognition for his statement “We don’t even plan for the past.” And clearly we don’t.

But we could. Countries like the Netherlands and cities like Tokyo have addressed vulnerabilities highlighted by past storms or sea level rise and have managed to prosper despite these efforts. For a fraction of the money needed to eliminate fossil fuel emissions we could retrofit coastal cities (instead of rebuilding them in the same mindless manner we have rebuilt them before) and move people out of flood plains and river deltas (yes, even in Bangladesh).

We should build for the past–it is a far clearer guide to the dangers we will face than that provided by climate models and the fever dreams of those too long focused on the perils of CO2. After all, if the past is not there to learn from, why do we have a memory?

But we should remember the future. It exists and although it is uncertain, it should be a part of our planning.

We could prepare agriculture and agriculturists for the coming decades. We could build a safety margin in our construction to allow for sea level rise and higher temperatures, more violent storms and more frequent local flooding. Incorporating these into planning for future construction would be, again, an order of magnitude less expensive than tearing the planet apart and rebuilding it on an emissions-free model.

Michael Tobis is a terribly conflicted man. He is admirably concerned about the future of the planet, something that has caused him to make very poor choices in how he behaves in public discourse. We can admire his concern while lamenting his behavior. He is certainly not an optimist–so perhaps we can adopt the optimism on his behalf and remind him that not all is lost.

It isn’t even always all that serious.


Last Post: The Lukewarmer’s Way

Well, the blog has that title, I wrote a book with that title–it’s only fitting that my last post for the foreseeable future should have it as well.

I’d like to thank all my readers for their patronage, and especially those who have been commenters here. I won’t mention names, as I don’t want to leave anyone out, but you have made this a very rewarding experience.

This blog will stay up, if it is of any use as a reference tool for you. So will its companion blog, 3000 Quads. And I’ll remind you that when the EIA finally publishes its International Energy Outlook, I’ll do a few brief posts analyzing it. Otherwise, I’ll see you all in the comments section of other blogs.

I’ll close with parts of some of my first posts–hope they still seem valid:

Everybody’s tired of the climate wars.

But not tired enough to quit fighting. This weblog is an attempt to differentiate some of us involved in the discussion from people at the extremes, those who hold either unwarrantedly skeptical views of what really is basic science or those who have let their imaginations run wild with apocalyptic visions of a future that the science does not predict.

We are Lukewarmers. We’re not organized. There is no motto, no creed, no manifesto. We don’t meet, we converse infrequently and we don’t have a secret handshake.

What we seem (so far) to have in common is an understanding that the basic underpinnings of climate science are understandable, well-grounded and not controversial, plus the growing realization that one of the key components of an extended theory of climate change has been pushed too far.

That component is the sensitivity of our atmosphere to a doubling of the concentrations of CO2. The activists who have tried to dominate the discussion of climate change for more than twenty years have insisted that this sensitivity is high, and will amplify the warming caused by CO2 by 3, 4 or even 10 times the 1C of warming provided by a doubling of CO2 alone.

Lukwarmers, for  a variety of reasons, think it’s lower.

I’ve said it often enough, but I’ll repeat what I think we should do while waiting for clarity regarding sensitivity and other unresolved issues with the science:

1. Tax CO2 at a starting rate of $12/ton and revisit the rate every 10 years, adjusting the rate to reflect changes in CO2 concentrations and a pre-agreed metric for climate change that has occurred in the interim.
2. Spend a global total of $100 billion for the transfer of technology to the developing world for the purpose of reducing the impact of development technologies, in hopes that they can leapfrog one or two generations of energy development.
3. Commit to spending over the course of this century on moving roads inland, removing permission for construction on threatened coasts and flood plains. The EPA found that this would cost about $400 billion for the United States about 20 years ago–adjust for inflation. But that’s a one-time cost.
4. Continue Steven Chu’s investment strategy for reducing costs in renewable energy, storage and transmission. Continue with ARPA-E at full funding. We may have another Solyndra–probably will, in fact. But we may also have another Tesla, which didn’t technically come from that program, but serves as an inspiration.
5. Encourage the U.S. EPA to regulate CO2 emissions from large emitters.
6. Accelerate permitting for new nuclear power plants to maintain nuclear power’s percentage of electricity at 20% in the U.S.
7. Uprate existing hydroelectric plants to take advantage of advances in turbine technology.
8. Mandate uptake of GPS within the air traffic control infrastructure and controlled and one-step descent on landing.
9. Homogenize permitting and regulation for installation of solar and wind power. Maintain current levels of subsidies and RPS.
10. Increase utilization of Combined Heat and Power facilities from its current 7% of primary energy production to the world average of 9% and then by steps in northern regions to benchmark levels found in Denmark, Holland and other northern European countries.
11. Support introduction of charging stations for electric vehicles.
12. Force existing coal power plants to meet best available technology standards or close.

Happy Trails.



A Winning Political Strategy Against The Konsensus

Yesterday I painted a rather gloomy picture of brownouts and forced rationing of CO2 emissions, the logical outcome of the Konsensus strategy to defeat global warming.

(Repeated disclaimer: There is a broad consensus in science on a narrow interpretation of human-caused global warming. 66% of climate scientists believe half or more of the current warming period is caused by human emissions of CO2. I don’t dispute that–in fact it would not surprise me if that turned out to be the case. However, there is a parallel Konsensus of media hounds, NGOs, marketers and even a few scientists who have made it their mission in life to exaggerate the impacts for political effect, and it is this latter group that concerns me.)

As I pointed out yesterday, the Konsensus has already greenmailed many multinational companies into greenwashing their corporate image. They have most governments cowed into submission on this issue. Most people in the developed world agree with the scientific consensus and have not yet seen the over-reach in what the Konsensus proposes.

The Konsensus is winning the political battle. The Tobacco Strategy will get them where they want to go. And this strategy, which failed utterly in stopping smoking or curbing the activities of tobacco companies, is the one that opponents of the Konsensus have to beat. The strategy being used today by the Konsensus will not reduce emissions–they will just offshore them–but it is not likely to matter much to the activists and lawyers who will be enriched by the spoils of the battle.

Nonetheless, the Konsensus will use the political legitimacy garnered by show trials of fossil fuel companies and media coverage of them to move towards limits on individual emissions of CO2. The first effect of which will be a reversal of the reforestation we have seen for the last 40 years, as enterprising scofflaws will chop down trees to feed wood stoves ‘off the meter.’

To beat them, skeptics and we lukewarmers will have to look a bit further back in history. Tobacco is not the only substance that was legislated against in the past.

For a strategy to beat the Konsensus, I offer for your examination Prohibition.

interrupt your enemy

Alcohol was banned in the United States for 13 years and was demonized in a way not seen since–until tobacco and CO2 became the next targets. According to Wikipedia “It was promoted by the “dry” crusaders, a movement led by rural Protestants and social Progressives in the Democratic and Republican parties, and was coordinated by the Anti-Saloon League, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Prohibition was mandated under the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Enabling legislation, known as the Volstead Act, set down the rules for enforcing the ban and defined the types of alcoholic beverages that were prohibited.”

Despite support from activists that led to a constitutional amendment, Prohibition only lasted 13 years. This offers hope to those of us who think that the activists are wrong in their approach and anti-democratic in their methods.

We Want Beer

Prohibition instantly created one of the biggest black markets the world has ever seen. Canada and Mexico sold liquor to Americans who chose not to abide by the law, rendering it almost unenforceable.

Funnily enough, Canada and Mexico are very large suppliers of fossil fuels.

Prohibition led to Al Capone and a massive increase in organized crime, helping drive public opinion against the legislation. Punitive controls on family use of fossil fuels will quite likely have a similar effect.

Although today’s public accepts the scientific consensus, they are not terribly concerned about climate change as a problem to be solved. Although the Konsensus may be able to put controls on fossil fuels into place, as these controls begin to bite, the public will turn against them.

The only way the Konsensus strategy would work is if renewable energy stepped up to the plate and actually delivered what the Konsensus has promised (or alternatively, if the Konsensus embraced nuclear power as an acceptable alternative to fossil fuels). In which case it wouldn’t matter. It would be a nice touch of irony if the Konsensus had to make the move to nuclear to save their necks.

The winning strategy is to let the Konsensus beat themselves. Sandbag the heck out of ’em.

I Believe They Will Ration Your CO2 Emissions. I Believe They Will Cheat On The Numbers.

As a progressive liberal I found a lot to like in Richard Thaler and  Cass Sustein’s book ‘Nudge.’ Boiled down to an elevator pitch, it argues that if the school cafeteria places fruit at eye level and the chocolate brownie at the bottom, kids will eat more fruit and be healthier. And I like that. Committed choco-holics can still get their fix, but overall, kids will eat more fruit and less chocolate. It’s not taking away anybody’s choice, but ‘nudging’ people towards an option that most think is healthier.

Nudge was widely praised and quickly accepted. However, it is my opinion that it triggered a new wave of policy measures that, if written up in a book, might have the title ‘Compel.’ That’s the thing with us liberal Democrats–we make a lot of sense in opposition, but give us a little power and you gotta watch us like hawks. That’s why Hillary is safer for conservatives–she’s even more pragmatic and centrist than Obama. (I like Bernie, but… no.)

We are now engaged in the public ritual of shaming fossil fuel companies for… what? Selling us what we need to survive in a modern world? Accurately estimating the ongoing demand for their products? Agreeing with the IPCC about the various uncertainties involved in predicting future climate?

This is Phase 2 of an activist strategy. Phase 1 was persuading companies to adopt a Greenwash stance, publicly praising efforts to reduce emissions, adopting high profile and highly visible signature efforts to seem Green and to award legitimacy to activist efforts to pursue EverGreener targets. For them, it is just another unavoidable cost of doing business.

As I’ve written before, this is because climate activists have chosen to pursue a strategy that emulates the activist strategy against tobacco companies. As I’ve written before, the tobacco strategy failed–tobacco companies make far more money and sell far more cigarettes than before the show trials and reparations. But as activists and lawyers reaped a lot of the reparations paid by the tobacco companies, it’s apparently considered viable by at least the activists of today.

Let’s talk briefly about Stage 3 of the strategy. Government is already on the side of activist efforts throughout the developed world. So are the multinationals. As taxes, targets and penalties are enacted to lower emissions, the focus will quickly shift to individuals–we the people.

Lest you think this a bit paranoid, I remind you that this is what happened with tobacco. No smoking zones, higher insurance, fines for smoking in designated smoke-free zones, ever-higher taxes on tobacco products, etc. Once the tobacco companies paid obeisance to the activists, it legitimized ever stronger measures targeting smokers.

This is as far from the concept of Thaler and Sunstein’s Nudge as it is possible to get. Nonetheless, it worked as a policy, despite the fact that it barely reduced the percentage of people who smoke. It became public anathema and smokers were forced to sacrifice large parts of their freedom.

(I’m an ex-smoker who has lost several family members to the consequences of smoking. I’m tolerant of smokers but hope it disappears as a practice as soon as possible.)

The logical outcome of the activist strategy against emissions will be to ration emissions for the populace. As green energy is not going to scale up fast enough to meet the perceived needs of the climate community, reductions in conventional fuel usage will become the order of the day.

Although I wish they would at least consider ‘Nudge’ options to achieve their goals, the cost of presenting feasible alternatives is high and the temperament of the activist community is vengeful. So instead of building bike lanes and making public transportation easily available, safe and comfortable (which would cost a lot of money), it is likely that they will institute brownouts, mileage limits and other constraints on the use of energy derived from fossil fuels.

The growing proliferation of smart meters will be hijacked away from their original purpose (to allow you to time your consumption to coincide with the lowest rates available) and be used to penalize what someone considers high consumption (don’t hold your breath waiting for rewards for low consumption).

This will succeed just as well as the Tobacco Strategy, which means not at all. Just as the tobacco companies turned their focus to the developing world for increased sales, so too will fossil fuel companies. They will be joined by manufacturers fleeing from rationing and high prices.

The partisan affiliation of whoever is in power when this happens won’t matter. Republican or Democrat, Labour or Tory–the politicians will fall in line. The momentum built up by Stages 1 and 2 of this strategy will prove impossible to thwart.

There will be many losers and the winners will again be limited to activists and lawyers.

As for cheating on the numbers, given that electricity and oil are both fungible, it will be easy for regulators to apportion ‘fossil fuel burdens’ as they choose. Already, if you drive an electric car you get criticism for the coal that generates the electricity that powers your car. Natural gas will be penalized because of fracking, coal because of fly ash and mercury, oil because of spills. Nothing to do with emissions, but other environmental burdens will be added and you will pay the costs.

In the future, energy for the consumer will not only be rationed, it will be more expensive.

In my next to last post I will talk about possible counter-strategies–activists aren’t the only ones who paid attention to the tobacco wars.


Start of the Next Hiatus

Well, I’m not referring to global average temperatures…


I intend to put The Lukewarmer’s Way in mothballs for an undetermined period of time. My farewell post will probably be Sunday or Monday.

I’ve stopped blogging several times in the past, mistakenly using the words ‘quitting’ or ‘retiring.’ I’m now under no illusions that this hiatus is anything else. I’m sure I’ll be back.

The major reason is lack of time. However, there are other contributing factors.

  1. I have said most of what I have to say about climate change, human contributions to same and the Lukewarm response. While it’s amusing to point out the flaws of activist papers and the foibles of activists, it is getting repetitive and less interesting.
  2. I find the current state of the climate conversation both sterile and a bit depressing. There is no real communication happening. Instead, each of the three sides publishes a broadside, waits for opponents to react and then starts insulting the other two.
  3. To really contribute beyond what I have offered to date would involve more study than I can realistically commit to. I’m not a scientist and would need to become one to say more at this time. I’m hopeful that when (not if) I return to the fray the pendulum will have swung back to a point where my perspective will be useful.

I’m happy that there are new voices that can more than adequately substitute for mine. Most of them are more to the skeptical side than ‘proper’ lukewarmers, but I view the climate blogosphere as composed of ecological niches, and I don’t think the niche I occupy is really under-inhabited.

You will probably continue to see me in the comments sections of weblogs that will tolerate my presence and I may from time to time post on Cliscep.

I will also be back for a one-time analysis of the International Energy Outlook when it is finally released. I have been told that the oft-delayed report will finally make its appearance in May. While I am hoping that it will give me the opportunity to say I was wrong about my pessimistic forecast of energy consumption, we’ll have to wait for the numbers.

As I said, this is just a warning post. My actual good-bye will be in a few days.

Yep, That Sea Level Rise Will Get ‘Em

Apologies for the less than substantial nature of this and other recent posts. Lots going on and I’ll explain a bit more in a future post.

In news that may surprise you, The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme has announced that climate change is dangerous… to whales. No mechanism for this harm was mentioned…

It can’t be warming oceans. Whales routinely navigate between warm and cold waters and can easily go a bit extra to get where they want to go.

It can’t be the CO2 itself–they’re mammals, after all, and the outgassing of CO2 by warming oceans would not be a problem.

Whales are not troubled by hurricanes, droughts or floods. I’m sure they sing light-hearted whale songs about the grief those give humans, understandable after what humans have done to whales over the last couple of centuries.


It has to be sea level rise, then. No other means is possible.

Funny, I Thought We’d Have More Choices

Bill Nye the Science Guy apparently wants to send me to prison because I don’t support his policies on climate change.

Sarah Palin thinks climate change is not real and that Bill Nye is not a scientist.

Are these the voices of the climate debate?


Bill McKibben called President Obama a climate denier and Naomi Oreskes used the same term for James Hansen.

The U.S. Attorney General from the U.S. Virgin Islands wants to throw Exxon executives in jail (I guess I could share my cell) for not telling them about climate change, despite the fact that Exxon has no offices or operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands and that place could sure use an attorney general to help reduce the backlog of criminal cases in their justice system.

I’m not sure if I’m reading the script from Idiocracy or Dumb, Dumber and Dumbo Part 3.

There used to be sane voices in the climate conversation. Where did they go?


Three Cities That Actually Get It Regarding Climate Change

Although much of the coverage of climate change just depresses me (Sarah Palin talking about Bill Nye the Science Guy? Really?), I occasionally find an article that gives me hope.

Today that article comes from Mail and Guardian Africa, titled “Porto Novo: A Small African City Taking Big Action Against Climate Change.”

The article talks about three cities doing exactly what they should be doing to prepare for the future. It is Pre-Adaptation, pure and simple. They aren’t sitting around waiting for someone to put up wind turbines or legislate your car out of existence.

These three cities–Porto Novo, Rouen and Da Nang are subject to flooding now. As best as they understand climate change, the odds are good that flooding will continue and might get more serious in the future.

“This is not surprising in coastal cities such as Porto Novo and Da Nang, or in cities located on the banks of a major river like Rouen.

All of the infrastructure that is clustered around the banks of the river Seine, in Rouen, can’t, realistically, be removed. The best many cities can do with their existing at-risk infrastructure is try to protect it in some way. One of the best opportunities for preparing for the effects of climate change comes from new urbanisation and development plans.

Rouen has taken this approach with its new, mixed-use eco-district Luciline – Rives de Seine – which is being built on an industrial wasteland. Rouen has integrated climate change adaptation into the project by creating specific infrastructure requirements in order to protect the area against floods, both from the river Seine as well as those caused by extreme rains.

Ground floor levels must be built above the level of the Seine. Green roofs will trap rainwater and water ditches. All developers have to commit themselves to the specifications laid down by the city if they want to invest in the new neighbourhood.

Vietnam’s Da Nang is revising the city’s 2030 master plan. It plans to widen the flood plains and allow more land for green areas and lakes.

Da Nang also adopted an innovative approach to retro-fitting existing buildings that are heavily affected by typhoons. The city has a fund in place to provide loans to people in vulnerable areas who generally are those with least resources for strengthening their houses against typhoons, repayable after three years.

In Porto Novo, the capital of the West African nation of Benin, the creation of appropriate urbanisation and development plans that take climate change into account is key to protecting the city.

Where Porto Novo stands out is in the opportunity it has to develop a city-wide response to adaptation – as expressed by the initiative’s name, “Porto Novo, Green City”.

With 310,000 inhabitants as of 2013, Porto Novo’s rapid geographic spread is at odds with its low growth in terms of demographics and the economy. In its peri-urban areas, the majority of the population lives in poorly structured, informal settlements and is encroaching upon flood-prone wetlands and marshy areas.


The city is geographically large but under-developed. Only a small proportion of its area is built-up. This gives the city a chance to develop in a far more climate-compatible way than many other cities whose early urbanisation patterns have not been informed by climate change.

The Green City initiative, which started in 2014 with global funding, aims to result in an urban development plan that is based on sustainable development principles. It plans to roll out development solutions on the ground that employ simple techniques, allowing the local population’s social and economic practices to be adapted to the city’s environmental challenges.

There are three development plans which the city hopes can tackle climate change. The first is to implement a promenade between land and water for the protection and development of its wetlands. To maximise the value from peri-urban agriculture backed by a multi-stakeholder platform and by a study on agricultural land in the wetlands.”

By planning carefully and thinking hard, they are solving many of their current problems while preparing for a possible future.

This contrasts so completely with over-built emssions trading schemes,  Regional Power Purity Programs that ignore the good while chasing the perfect, trying to force wood pellets to magically become less damaging than the wood peasants burn on a stove… well, it just gives me hope.

Evaluating the Expertise of Climate Scientists

James Hansen took his degree in astrophysics, not normally a climate-related field. Nonetheless, few would argue that he is not an expert on climate change.

On the other hand, Freeman Dyson is possibly the second smartest person on the planet, a theoretical physicist who worked in the field of climate science for 15 years. And yet, because he does not support the consensus, climate activists dismiss him as unqualified.

How do we estimate the expertise of someone in a field where we ourselves are not expert?

This is a current events question, given the recent publication of ‘Consensus on Consensus: A Synthesis of Consensus Estimates on Human-Caused Global Warming,’ written by (among others) John Cook, Naomi Oreskes, Stefan Lewandowsky and William Anderegg, all authors of papers much criticized here.

The point of their paper is simple: The work of some of the co-authors of the paper were cricitized by Richard Tol. The thrust of his criticism is that many studies of climate consensus eliminate large amounts of data considered unqualified by the researchers. Tol writes, “Cook et al (2013) estimate the fraction of published papers that argue, explicitly or implicitly, that most of the recent global warming is human-made. They find a consensus rate of 96%–98%. Other studies6 find different numbers, ranging from 47% in Bray and von Storch (2007) to 100% in Oreskes (2004)—if papers or experts that do not take a position are excluded, as in Cook et al.If included, Cook et al find a consensus rate of 33%–63%. Other studies range from 40% in Bray and von Storch (2007) to 96% in (Carlton et al 2015). Cook et al use the whole sample. Other studies find substantial variation between subsamples. Doran and Zimmerman (2009), for instance, find 82% for the whole sample, while the consensus in subsamples ranges from 47% to 97%. Verheggen et al (2014) find 66% for the whole sample, with subsample consensus ranging from 7% to 79%.”

This most recent paper by those for whom the Tol belled is an attempt to justify their decisions. Their reasoning is simple. If you eliminate the non-experts from the total being surveyed, the experts will agree with you.

In the Supplementary Information to their paper they write, “We define domain experts as scientists who have published peer-reviewed research in that domain, in this case, climate science.” (Despite this, they eliminate many peer-reviewed respondents in Verheggen et al, for example.)

As I mentioned the other day, a simple publication count is a remarkably weak way of estimating expertise. I wrote, “The weaknesses of publication records are:

1. Very capable younger scientists have not had time to establish a record of publications. Dismissing their opinions leads to loss of useful information.

2. As ‘alarmists’ like to point out whenever an older scientist expresses a skeptical viewpoint, at some point in the natural cycle of a person’s career, ongoing education becomes less important. One can make the case that someone reaching the end of their career actually knows less than a freshly minted scientist.

3. The tools and techniques used in tertiary education are different than they were when many older scientists were educated. In addition, new knowledge is incorporated into texts available to younger scientists. This again may advantage the young at the expense of the old.

4. Some scientists are co-authors of numerous papers for reasons other than their ability to contribute to the main body of the scientific arguments advanced in the paper. Their publication count may be more impressive than their actual command of the field.

5. Some very good scientists work outside the academic world and publication may not be a priority for them. Using publications as a proxy for expertise again may devalue their opinions.”

When I made those points to another of the paper’s co-authors (Bart Verheggen), he agreed but basically said it was the only way he could think of.

While Lewandowsky, Cook and Oreskes are not climate scientists, it seems that none of the team involved with the paper thought to look at how others evaluate expertise. It didn’t occur to them that there is a body of work that could have informed their paper. As many of the co-authors were in fact authors of papers cited in the most recent work, it really seems as if they missed the boat.

This surprises me a little, given the frequency with which they throw around the term ‘Dunning Kruger Effect,’ which describes the tendency of individuals to overestimate their own knowledge or abilities. It’s part of the field of expertise evaluation, yet that name is the only thing that seems to have stuck.

Expert recommendations are an oft-used technique to identify those with expertise. People refer those they think are experts and if enough of them do it,they are awarded the title.

Expertise is a highly relevant topic in the field of law, where my expert goes against your expert in the courtroom, and establishing who’s better is pretty important. It’s also important in discovery, especially with the new game of ‘e-discovery’, the evaluation of mountains of documents using software to sort it. Again, this is a well-researched topic ignored by Cook et al.

It’s relevant to military decision making, high technology research, and in academia.

In academia,a publication count is considered the crudest method of evaluating expertise, mostly for the reasons I cited above. More common are techniques such as citation measuring (how many times your work has been referenced by others) or impact measurement (the perceived quality of the journals where you are published, often combined with publication counts and citation counts).

I mentioned in my previous post that few of the co-authors have expertise in climate science. Fewer have experience in surveys. None appear to have relevant expertise in evaluating expertise.

They did not utilize the methods most commonly used and most trusted in academia. Worse, they do not appear to have consulted the large body of literature on the subject. There are no references to the appropriate literature in their paper.

They…just did a pub count and called it a day.

There’s no doubt they desperately need to defend their 97% claim of consensus. Going after Exxon and threatening to put skeptics in jail requires that high a level of confidence.

But you would think that if they were going to defend it, they would do a better job.

Most of the original papers referenced in their latest effort are remarkably weak. It seems they didn’t learn from experience.




Value Put At Risk By Climate Change

Harvard Business Review alerts us to a study in Nature that uses an integrated assessment model to estimate the value at risk due to climate change.


“An important new study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, says that climate change will be expensive. Extremely expensive. It turns out that if you mess with the planet’s thermostat, it’s not great for the economy or investments. Forget the polar bears; your pension and retirement funds are in trouble.”

The study is paywalled and I’m not convinced that there is real value in looking at someone’s use of a model to tell us we’ll all go broke. But the abstract from the paper says “We find that the expected ‘climate value at risk’ (climate VaR) of global financial assets today is 1.8% along a business-as-usual emissions path. Taking a representative estimate of global financial assets, this amounts to US$2.5 trillion. However, much of the risk is in the tail. For example, the 99th percentile climate VaR is 16.9%, or US$24.2 trillion.”

Of course, the tail is the part of climate change that keeps getting lopped off as scientists come in with lower sensitivity estimates. And that estimate is over the course of a century, during which global GDP is expected to grow to between US$ 309 trillion  and US$ 906 trillion  in 2100. Even a loss of 24.2 trillion dollars over the next 85 years doesn’t look catastrophic with such growth as a backdrop.

drop in the bucket

HBR continues: “When investors look at climate risk – if they do at all – they’ve focused mainly on what worldwide action to reduce carbon will do to the fossil fuel industry. Holding global warming to 2-degrees Celsius will require keeping huge quantities of fossil fuels in the ground. These so-called “stranded assets,” sitting on petro-company balance sheets, are essentially worthless. And thus those companies are massively overvalued.

The stranded assets argument sounds (financially) scary, but it hasn’t been quite enough to truly shift capital flows toward the clean economy. Dietz’s new research, by saying that climate change is a threat to all assets, could get a much broader coalition of investors moving.”

As for stranded assets, fossil fuel consumption is projected to double by 2050. Assets are more likely to be depleted than stranded, given the expected growth in energy consumption in the developing world, the expected growth in air travel, the expected growth in automobiles on the road, etc.

The only factor that can strand fossil fuel assets is political. The demand for fossil fuels is there.The market is ready to supply it.

The problem is that stranding fossil fuel assets will have more of an impact on global GDP and asset values than climate change.

“This new infographic by QuidCorner shows that the global cost of switching to renewable energy is high at £29.46 trillion – but that’s still only 21% of global wealth.”

There may be cogent and compelling reasons to abandon fossil fuels and turn instead to renewables. I’m willing to be convinced, although I haven’t been yet. (I favor a phased transition starting with natural gas and depending in future upon a much higher use of nuclear energy, assisted where possible by renewables.)

But that cogent and compelling case will not be financial in nature.

it aint about the money

We Need A Census On Consensus

Here we go again. Read the tale of how inexpert researchers incorrectly claim that expert researchers are more reliable, both proving and disproving their thesis in a convoluted construction that resembles an Escher print.


Richard Tol, former lead author of a section for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Assessment Review, recently published a critique of John Cook’s literature review that came up with a 97% consensus of climate scientists supporting the view that more than half of the recent warming in global temperatures is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

Yesterday the Empire struck back, with a letter co-authored by, among others, Naomi Oreskes, John Cook, William Anderegg, Dana Nuccitelli, J. Stuart Carlton and Ken Rice (who we know better as operator of the weblog And Then There’s Physics).

In the abstract of their letter they write, “Tol (2016 Environ. Res. Lett. 11 048001) comes to a different conclusion using results from surveys of non-experts such as economic geologists and a self-selected group of those who reject the consensus. We demonstrate that this outcome is not unexpected because the level of consensus correlates with expertise in climate science.”

In their introduction they continue, “Tol’s erroneous conclusions stem from conflating the opinions of non-experts with experts and assuming that lack of affirmation equals dissent.”

This is somewhat inconsistent with their dismissals of senior skeptical scientists with hundreds of papers to their credit, such as Richard Lindzen or Judith Curry, as well as their over-use of the term ‘Gone Emeritus’ to describe other, older scientists who disagree with them.

Perhaps we should pause for a moment and use their own logic about their own papers. Most of the letter’s authors neither claim nor show expertise in climate science or conducting social research of the type they presented in their original papers and the letter just published.

These people are clearly interested in the consensus regarding climate change, but they just as clearly show no background or expertise that would automatically confer credibility on the subject.

John Cook is a cartoonist. “He studied physics at the University of Queensland, Australia. After graduating, he majored in solar physics in his post-grad honours year. He is not a climate scientist.”

Naomi Oreskes is a historian, not a climate scientist, not a social scientist.

William Anderegg was until 2015 a post doctoral candidate at Princeton who taught a course on ‘The Life and Literature of John Steinbeck.’ To be fair, his focus has been on climate change.

J. Stuart Carlton writes of himself “Hi there. I’m Stuart Carlton, and I’m a Healthy Coast Ecosystems & Social Science Specialist at Texas Sea Grant. I study the human dimensions of natural resource issues, including climate change, stakeholder controversies, and the conservation of rare and imperiled species.”

Dana Nuccitelli is an environmental scientist at a private environmental consulting firm in the Sacramento, California area. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in astrophysics from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Master’s Degree in physics from the University of California at Davis.” That private consulting firm has at least one large fossil fuel company as its client.

Ken Rice is not a climate scientist, nor a social scientist. “I currently focus mainly on understanding the formation and evolution of planets and planetary systems.  In particular I am interested in the formation of directly imaged, massive planets that have large orbital radii.”

Bart Verheggen is one exception, being an aerosol scientist and someone I think very highly of. Sadly, I disagree with what he writes, as you will see.

Considering that many of these same people have dismissed luminaries such as Freeman Dyson and Ivar  Giaevar because of the lack of a supposed requisite background in climate science, it is curious that they consider themselves qualified to pronounce upon subjects like expertise or the analysis of this type of research.

But, as it happens, I disagree with their insistence on formal credentials. I think their work should be judged on its merits. Indeed, I have written frequently in judgment of their work. On Oreskes here, On Cook here and here, On Anderegg, Prall et al here and on Verheggen et al here and here.

And I know, as does almost everybody following the subject, that there is a consensus among climate scientists that human contributions have caused half or more of recent warming. Two surveys conducted by climate scientists of climate scientists found that 66% of climate scientists support this narrowly constructed consensus statement. Bart Verheggen, who I respect highly, conducted one of the surveys. However, he buried the headline finding of a 66% consensus, subtracted those who answered ‘I don’t know’ or ‘it is unknown’ from his respondent pool and reported a higher percentage. He then spent the remainder of his analysis looking at the higher percentage found in scientists with more publications. He said that having more publications made these scientists more expert.

Some of the other studies mentioned in this letter responding to Tol are literature searches. They were not conducted properly. Oreskes wrote a short essay on the scientific consensus titled ‘Beyond the Ivory Tower.’ She has never published her methodology, but she missed 117 skeptic papers found on the Skeptical Science website while reporting there were no skeptical papers found during her search.

Anderegg, Prall et al, PNAS 2010 conducted their search using Google Scholar in English only, misreported details on job specializations and numbers of publications, botched the mathematical analysis of their ‘consensus’ and created a blacklist of skeptical scientists, leading Joe Romm to call for the withdrawal of funding and a media blackout on scientists named as ‘deniers’, the metatag for the paper’s publication.

John Cook’s paper is a nightmare of shoddy workmanship. He recruited regular visitors to his website to rate abstracts of 12,000 plus papers. One was so enthusiastic that he rated 675 papers in 3 days. They were supposed to be isolated from each other, but were not. They were supposed to be unaware of the authors of the paper, but they looked them up as they read the transcript. After the fact, many scientists said that their papers had been misconstrued by the researchers.

This letter contains many of the same flaws. Brandon Schollenberg has highlighted the usual difficulties with basic mathematics that has afflicted these consensus searchers. I want to focus two other issues here.

1.The first is their statement that ‘lack of affirmation does not equal dissent.’ This refers to the fact that when climate scientists said they didn’t know if humans were the cause of half or more of the climate change, Verheggen et al removed their answers from the total. Verheggen feels that this is justified. I do not.

A consensus is a positive agreement on an overarching theme. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything put forward and it doesn’t mean you have to support the conclusions others reach. But it is a positive affirmation.

It would be very fair to say that those who answer ‘I don’t know’ or ‘It is unknown’ to such a question are not necessarily skeptics or opponents, and I would support an explicit statement to that effect.

But it certainly does not warrant excluding their data because they don’t know. It skews the results. They are quite clearly not sharing the affirmative nature of a consensus view on climate science and that should be reported.

2.I have corresponded with Bart Verheggen on the use of the numbers of publications as a proxy for expertise in the past.

I wrote, “The weaknesses of publication records are:

1. Very capable younger scientists have not had time to establish a record of publications. Dismissing their opinions leads to loss of useful information.

2. As ‘alarmists’ like to point out whenever an older scientist expresses a skeptical viewpoint, at some point in the natural cycle of a person’s career, ongoing education becomes less important. One can make the case that someone reaching the end of their career actually knows less than a freshly minted scientist.

3. The tools and techniques used in tertiary education are different than they were when many older scientists were educated. In addition, new knowledge is incorporated into texts available to younger scientists. This again may advantage the young at the expense of the old.

4. Some scientists are co-authors of numerous papers for reasons other than their ability to contribute to the main body of the scientific arguments advanced in the paper. Their publication count may be more impressive than their actual command of the field.

5. Some very good scientists work outside the academic world and publication may not be a priority for them. Using publications as a proxy for expertise again may devalue their opinions.

I see no good reason to accept your statement that “Number of publications relates logically to how much scientific research somebody has been engaged in.” Are there publications supporting this point of view?

It seems in the way you refer to it that it is an assumption on your part. I think the 5 points I list constitute an argument that the assumption, if that is what it is, is unwarranted.

Because your analysis framework emerged after viewing the results of the survey, as you mention above, it seems that you are in the position of trying to compensate for unwanted results.

And I know you better than that, Bart. I don’t think you operate that way. But you haven’t adequately (for me, at any rate) explained your analytical choices.

You might find this of interest:

This paper suggests that citation counts might have been more productive in determining expertise:

Several publications that discipline normalization would have been valuable to your research efforts, eg.

In fact, a cursory overview of publications regarding publication counts shows that the problems pub counts face in providing valid information are formidable.”

It is obviously easier to attract attention, funding and political support for a slow-moving problem like climate change if you can claim 97% of the scientists agree with you. But the fact is the consensus is (a still healthy) 66%.

Whitewashing the higher level of uncertainty felt by younger, better educated and more aware scientists is bad enough when it happens in academia. When it is done by inexpert enthusiasts pushing a political program and labeled ‘science’ it is far worse.


The Ignorance of Experts

The World Economic Forum surveyed ‘750 experts  from business, academia, civil society and the public sector.’ “Surveyed by the World Economic Forum for its latest Global Risks report, the respondents rank climate change as the gravest threat facing the planet over the next decade.”

This is insane. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change there will not be any impacts from climate change over the next decade. Sea level rise will be modest, temperature rises as well. Heat waves and storms, expected to increase in intensity and/or frequency starting around 2040,will not be an issue between now and 2026.

Why would they ignore the science?

“According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the two greatest existential threats to human civilization stem from climate change and nuclear weapons. Both pose clear and present dangers to the perpetuation of our species, and the increasingly dire climate situation and nuclear arsenal modernizations in the United States and Russia were the most significant reasons why the Bulletin decided to keep the Doomsday Clock set at three minutes before midnight earlier this year.”

Hit the snooze button, will ya? This appeared in an article claiming that another potential disaster should be ranked along with climate change and the threat of nuclear war. Biodiversity!

The sixth extinction. The repercussions of biodiversity loss are potentially as severe as those anticipated from climate change, or even a nuclear conflict. For example, according to a 2015 study published in Science Advances, the best available evidence reveals “an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way.”

Well, no. Although it is reasonable to suspect that more species are disappearing than in the recent past, (due to the invasion of alien species, habitat loss and over-hunting or over-fishing), we do not know. We are not even close to knowing.

We don’t know how many species there are. We don’t know how many species are going extinct now. We don’t know how many species existed at any period in the past for comparison. We don’t know how many species went extinct at any given point in the past. All we have are our suspicions.

Experts don’t seem… very expert.

However, the United Nations asked 7 million people across the world to list the top six things they want from life.

Here is what we want:

My world votes

Climate change is the last thing on peoples’ minds.

Someone tell the experts.  There’s a parade going in the other direction. There’s still time to jump in front of it so you can pretend you’re leading it–but you’ll have to act fast.

leading the parade

Lawrence K. Ho –– – 006070.ME.0409.ZAPATA.1.LH Marchers in costume leading the parade in the seventh annual march to commemorate the life and struggle of Mexican revolutionary Gen. Emiliano Zapata. LAWRENCE K. HO/LAT

After They Finish With Exxon…

About the only nice thing to come from the wholesale adoption by climate activists of the Tobacco Strategy is that we can predict what’s coming next.

Why they adopted the Tobacco Strategy is an open question–the activist strategy against tobacco companies failed miserably.


Oh, the activists got their show trials and reparations were paid to some. But Big Tobacco is bigger and richer than ever before. The strategy failed.

At any rate, it is easy to see the next steps in the climate activists’ march to glory–glory, perhaps, but not success.

Activists may be able to convince a jury or even a judge somewhere that fossil fuel companies should have told investors that some day their products would fall out of favor. And it is indeed possible that politicians will regulate fossil fuels or impose a carbon tax that will make this chart from BP obsolete:


If activists are successful in the demonization of fossil fuels and their producers, however, it is just one step in a path that parallels that taken by those who successfully demonized Big Tobacco without harming their businesses in any way. As Exxon has some bright people on board, they may recognize this and accede to public shaming for a while and then get back to business.

That business is selling fossil fuels to us. We are the ones who clamor for their product, who can’t live without it.

And make no mistake, we are the next ones in the sights of climate activists. In the same way that the tobacco activists followed their show trial ‘victories’ over Big Tobacco with a concerted attack on public behavior, so too will climate activists segue into a never-ending attack on consumers of fossil fuels.

Oh, they’ll go after the big consumers first, of course. But once they’ve established the logic of punishing consumption, it will trickle down to we the people. Just as no-smoking zones were first trialed on airplanes and in hospitals but then grew to public parks and beaches, stadiums and 30 meter zones outside of any public building, so too will rationing, permissions and mandatory cutbacks be the new order of the day.

Tobacco activists achieved their temporary victories, not because of what they did to tobacco companies, but because of the social change they induced in the general population. They shamed the companies, but then blamed the smokers. As long as tobacco companies sold their wares to the developing world, the companies didn’t mind and neither did the activists. It was a win-win situation.

This is the strategy explicitly adopted by climate activists. It may well achieve the same results–fossil fuel consumption being channeled heavily into the developing world while the richer countries adopt a puritanical aversion to the stuff. But hey–we already import toys and electronics from the developing world, we can get all the stuff made using fossil fuels from them, too. We can pedal our bicycles past the abandoned factories and use our laptops for six hours a day when the sun is shining on our solar panels.

The net impact on climate change will be zero. Just as tobacco companies today churn out three trillion cigarettes annually, fossil fuel consumption will double, conveniently out of sight, just as those dying from their nicotine consumption are hidden from Western view. But those activists will sure get rich and famous–which is all that matters from their strategic point of view.

Where’s Shailene Woodley when we need her?


Climate Hyperbole Is Dead

We have reached a point in the climate conversation where it’s almost impossible to say something too outrageous. The outrageous keeps happening. But let me try. An Attorney General from the impoverished U.S. Virgin Islands is trying to nail fossil fuel companies by grabbing documents from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Nah, too crazy, right? An Attorney General faced with a huge backlog of criminal cases going after climate skeptics?

Maybe the leaders of the CEI will end up in a U.S. Virgin Island prison, where those accused can wait seven years for a trial. Nah, too crazy, right? We couldn’t end up in this place just because we oppose the activists and NGOs who spend their days exaggerating about climate change. Could we?


When Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli tried to get documents from Michael Mann, I wrote an open letter to him comparing it to a witch hunt and advising him to get advice from his colleagues in Salem on the advisability of his actions.(Not often I get to link to myself in the New York Times… couldn’t resist.)

When Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva called for investigations of 7 scientists who dispute the consensus view (as promulgated by NGOs and other hysterics), I wrote, “This is a witch hunt. Representative Grijalva, call off your dogs. You make me ashamed of my political party.

When Republican Congressman Lamar Smith issued a subpoena for emails and records from NOAA scientists participating in Thomas Karl’s rather desperate attempt to prove the ‘pause’ in global warming never existed, I wrote “What Representative Smith is doing is both wrong and stupid. Wrong, because we don’t need to create a climate of fear in science. Scientists should be able to communicate via email without re-reading every word they write with an eye on future investigations. Stupid, because witch hunts don’t increase your stature, reputation, amount of information or even the size of your… big toe.”

When hardball climate activists from both  parties signed an open letter calling for RICO investigations of climate skeptics and fossil fuel companies I wrote “I oppose these political prosecutions on principle–they are abhorrent to believers of the rule of law and representative democracy. I also oppose them on grounds of efficacy–these prosecutions will delay the finding of appropriate answers to the important question of what we should do about climate change. These prosecutions are wrong. They are worse than wrong, they are stupid. They are worse than wrong and stupid–they are unnecessary mistakes.”

Now, says the Wall Street Journal,  “The Competitive Enterprise Institute on Thursday said Thursday it received a subpoena from U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker giving the group less than a month to turn over public and private records of its communications with Exxon concerning climate change. The subpoena, which was reviewed by Law Blog, covers a 10-year period ending in 2007.”

I guess you can guess my reaction. I’m a staunch Democrat who firmly believes that we need to act to limit the future damages that may be caused by climate change. Like each of the preceding incidents, I am convinced that this action by Walker is stupid, wrong and ultimately injurious both to the cause of fighting climate change and even more so to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

The Attorney General of the Virgin Islands joined 17 other Attorneys General in their search for as yet undefined climate crimes. Why is the AG of the US Virgin Islands the one to file this subpoena? Why not one of the larger states?

According to Wikipedia, “Until February 2012, the Hovensa plant located on St. Croix was one of the world’s largest petroleum refineries and contributed about 20% of the territory’s GDP. It has since been largely shut down and is now operating as no more than an oil storage facility, provoking a local economic crisis.” In fact, “The per capita income for the territory was $13,139. About 28.7% of families and 32.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 41.7% of those less than 18 years old and 29.8% of those 65 or more years old.”

So there might be a political motive for Walker’s move against CEI. Closing the plant caused considerable economic distress–now they need to demonize fossil fuel to explain why being poor is okay in a good cause–as long as it doesn’t extend to Attorney General Walker, whose executive assistant makes $56,000…

Crime in the Virgin Islands statistically speaking is fairly high, particularly on St. Croix and St. Thomas. Crimes on St. Thomas and St. Croix fall into similar categories for the most part; domestic abuse and domestic violence including child molestation. These incidences often happen where victim and perpetrator know each other. Murder is also high; again this crime is often among persons who have knowledge of each other, often within the illegal drug business and taking place in known areas with drug problems.”

The Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Kenneth Mapp, said recently ““We have prisoners sitting in Golden Grove, some for as high as seven years waiting for trial — five years, three years — some of these persons are charged with aggravated assault, destruction of property, burglaries,” he said. “Yes, there are one or two that have been charged with murder. But at the end of the day, housing a detainee at the cost of $150 a day at the Bureau of Corrections and waiting as long as seven years and seven months for trial is totally unacceptable.”

That would be the job of Attorney General Claude Walker. Pity he’s busy with other things.


It’s a Start–Right Actions From the World Bank

“The World Bank has announced plans to fight climate change through a new Climate Change Action Plan that it hopes will see investment in environmental projects reach $29 billion a year by 2020.” So writes CNBC on their website.


“In a statement on Thursday, the Bank said that, in the next five years, it planned to help countries in the developing world add 30 gigawatts of renewable energy to global energy capacity; provide “early warning systems” to 100 million people; and develop “climate-smart agriculture investment plans for at least 40 countries.”

Green energy does need financing–I’m on board with that. But… early warning systems? Considering the pace at which climate changes that seems a bit strange. If it’s conventional early warning for storms, fine–that’s cool.

As for climate smart agriculture investment plans, well, again I’d like to see some specifics.

The World Bank has some more info on their website, although details seem a bit scant. Turns out I worried needlessly–the early warning system is indeed for natural disasters, so good on them!

Regarding agriculture, they say “Priority areas will include the use of climate resilient seeds, high-efficiency irrigation, livestock productivity, and risk management.” Considering the developing world desperately needs all of those even if the climate stays exactly the same as it does today, hooray!

Let’s fix the developing world and say we did it to stop climate change! People are already using the threat of climate change to do any number of strange things–why not something useful?

The World Bank has a track record of ignoring the plight of the developing world in previous endeavors, forcibly relocating indigenous tribes, etc. Here’s a chance for them to get it right.

I hope we all take advantage of this opportunity.

The Greenpeace Guilt Trip: Tainted by Association

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is learning what Bjorn Lomborg knew all along–that environmental organizations don’t play fair with their opponents.

She is accused of getting gazillions of dollars in campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies. Environmental NGO Greenpeace, evidently supporting Bernie Sanders, made the claim and published a list of donors they say are fossil fuel drones, hacks, zombies… whatever.

The problem is that the huge majority of these evile villains are actually lobbyists with long client lists that include bankers, lawyers, other NGOs, etc. Plus some clients from the fossil fuel industry. In the eyes of Greenpeace, if you have ever had any business dealings at any time with a fossil fuel company–you are corrupt. Tainted.

Unless you’re the Sierrra Club, recipient of $10 million in donations from fossil  fuel companies. It’s okay, because their hearts are pure. Or Stanford University, recipient of $100 million from Exxon. It’s okay because it’s the hallowed halls of academia.

Greenpeace is the organization that famously said to skeptics, “We know where you live and we be many while you be few.” They are the organization that trashed the archeological site at Nazca, Peru.


They militated against World Bank loans to developing countries to build electricity generating plants because they were fueled by coal. Greenpeace also fought the use of DDT to combat malaria.

Not the people I would normally choose as moral arbiters.

Greenpeace has a long track record of taint by association. They’ve done it to climate skeptics and lukewarmers for decades. Bjorn Lomborg spoke at the Marshall Institute, which had hosted a separate event sponsored by a fossil fuel company–so Lomborg was automatically labeled as ‘funded by fossil fuel.’ It’s happened to many others as well.

There are probably many reasons not to vote for Hillary Clinton. I’m going to vote for her, but I don’t have anything against people who are going to vote the other way. Di Gustibus Non Disputandem Est, as they say.

But don’t buy into the Greenpeace garbage. They quit being the good guys a long time ago.

Soil and Stubble Fighting Climate Change


While some say that cities are ground zero in fighting climate change, they are talking about adaptation–sea barriers, lifting buildings, easing the flow of water through urban watercourses. Cities already are better at using energy efficiently than non-urban environments, although there is considerable room for improvement.

In terms of mitigating the impacts of climate change–stopping those impacts before they start, look to the land. Farmland to be specific.

The linked article from Scientific American says, “The earth’s soil stores a lot of carbon from the atmosphere, and managing it with the climate in mind may be an important part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.”

This is pretty much what Freeman Dyson has argued for the past two decades, and it has earned him plenty in the way of insults from people who are not as civil and not as smart as he is.

“About three times the carbon currently in the atmosphere is stored in the Earth’s soil—up to 2.4 trillion metric tons, or roughly 240 times the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels annually. …The study says that if all the Earth’s farmers were to manage their fields so the soil stored more carbon, the impacts of the greenhouse gases emitted from burning fossil fuels annually could be cut by between half and 80 percent.”

It’s another arrow in the quiver for those hoping to stop climate change before it becomes dangerous–and another argument against those who think the only permissible strategy is revolutionizing the world’s infrastructure to stop emissions in manufacturing, transportation and the generation of electricity.

You’ll see in the Scientific American article that some are negative about the potential of soil management. There are those who are negative about the Hartwell Paper, Eco-Modernism, Fast Mitigation and other common-sense plans to actually start doing things that we can do. It’s emissions, always emissions, only emissions, 24 hours a day. They’re the same 2-digit IQs that have harassed Freeman Dyson.

Such negativity deserves a response. Here’s mine (and yes, it also serves as a comment on my emotional maturity–I have little time and less energy any more for those fools):



Esquire Goes A Wee Bit Over The Top

Climate Change Is Not About Temperature. It’s About Dying, Starving, Displaced People.

Esquire wins our Over The Top Award for 2016, only four months into the year.


The picture is supposed to harken us back to a time when we plunged into a senseless war for no real good reason. We would never be so stupid again, right?

Esquire says of itself “As the only general-interest lifestyle magazine for sophisticated men, Esquire defines, reflects and celebrates what it means to be a man in contemporary American culture.”

Their commitment to climate change is clear from the cover of their magazine:


Okay, maybe it’s not clear. Charles Pierce, writer of the Esquire article, says “The other day, I mentioned that the problem of the climate crisis simply may be too big and too deadly to be handled by our political system. So, it seems, the system has decided not to talk about it—or, at least, not to talk about it seriously.”

Perhaps Mr. Pierce has been asleep since the spring of 1988, the last moment in our history when the system did not talk about climate change. Perhaps he missed the messages emanating from Al (‘The planet has a fever’) Gore, Bill (” global climate change clearly is one of the most important of those challenges and also one of the most complex, crossing the disciplines of environmental science, economics, technology, business, politics, international development, and global diplomacy, affecting how we and all others on this planet will live, support our families, grow our food, produce our energy, and realize our dreams in the new century.”) Clinton, George (“The issue of climate change respects no border. Its effects cannot be reined in by an army nor advanced by any ideology. Climate change, with its potential to impact every corner of the world, is an issue that must be addressed by the world.”) Bush, Barack (“Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree: Man-made climate change is a reality. In early 2014, two landmark reports spelled out the reality of the challenge we face. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment both showed that, left unchecked, climate change has the potential to affect Americans everywhere—no matter where they live.”) Obama and various other members of ‘the system.’

Mr. Pierce characterizes climate change as ‘an existential crisis,’ analogizing it to slavery in the U.S. “Throughout the run-up to the Civil War, there were consistently successful attempts to deal with the slavery crisis by not talking about it.” Pierce offers only one example, “The congressional “gag rule,” enacted in 1836, that automatically “tabled” any petition to the Congress regarding slavery.” It was shameful and lasted 8 years. That was five years after Virginia’s ‘Great Slavery Debate.’ Perhaps Mr. Pierce hasn’t had the chance to read Theodore Weld’s ‘The Debate Over Slavery,’ published in 1839. Perhaps he isn’t familiar with the constitution of the American Anti Slavery Society, published in 1833. Or the best-selling “The Narrative of the Life and Adventures of an American Slave (1849) by Henry Bibb.

Of course, Pierce could have looked even further back in American history. “Convinced of the utter sinfulness of physical coercion, American Quaker activists, following Anthony Benezet and John Woolman, succeeded in making abolition a test of religious truth. In 1758, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting made involvement in the slave trade a disciplinary offence, leading to exclusion from all its business meetings.”

Possibly Charles Pierce is as utterly ignorant of the public debate on slavery as he is of the non-stop public debate on climate change that is almost 30 years old.

Pierce is referring, of course, to the report I discussed in yesterday’s post, the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: An Assessment.”

Pierce writes, “Among the range of physical health impacts, Americans can look forward to a future of more food and water contamination, increased asthma rates, and tenfold jumps in death from heat exposure, the report found. The report also devotes an entire chapter to the mental health impacts of climate change, which are often symbiotic.”

The Center for Disease Control publishes trends in food contamination. After 15 of the 16 hottest years in the global record, six of the eight contaminants they follow have decreased in incidence. Only Vibrio and Cryptosporidium have risen since 1996.

“Comparison with the first three years of FoodNet surveillance (1996–1998) shows some clear changes:

  • The incidence of infections caused by Campylobacter, Listeria, STEC O157, Shigella, and Yersinia has declined, mostly in the first years.
  • The overall incidence of Salmonella was unchanged, but the incidence of some types of Salmonella have increased while others have decreased.
  • The incidence of Vibrio infection is now 116% higher.
  • The overall incidence of infection with six key foodborne pathogens (Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, STEC O157, Vibrio, and Yersinia) was 22% lower.”

For water born diseases, let’s just show the chart published by the Center for Disease Control:

water born diseases

As for asthma, the recent hot years haven’t had much of an impact:



As for heat related deaths, the number of deaths per million has risen over the past two decades–as has the number of cold-related deaths, which are higher.


The total number of all deaths captured in that graph is around 2,000, an asterisk in mortality considering 2.6 million deaths occur each year in the U.S. And some scientists do believe that the lowering of death by cold will be greater than the rise in death by heat.

As for mental illness, I confess to a very real prejudice–I believe the growth in the number of conditions described as mental illness, coupled with the drug treatment based paradigm currently extant in the U.S. is entirely responsible for the rise in reported mental illness and that these two factors will outweigh any contributions from climate change by an order of magnitude.

It would appear to me that Charles Pierce is not familiar with the extent of policy discussions on climate change. That he is not familiar with the extensive debate on the issue he wishes to compare climate change to–slavery in America. And then he accepts without question misleading data offered in the report that set him off.

As for the headline,people are not now dying of climate change. They are not now being displaced because of climate change. They are not starving because of climate change.

Will they suffer these fates in the future? Perhaps, although probably not in America, which has the wealth and power to adapt to whatever climate change our (much-debated) efforts cannot prevent.

Perhaps Esquire should stick to its strong points–like interviewing Megan Fox, of whom they write “[Her skin is] the color the moon possesses in the thin air of northern winters.”

I guess.


The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States–Latest Government Report

“The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established by Presidential Initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990 to “assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”

USGCRP is a confederation of the research arms of 13 Federal agencies, which carry out research and develop and maintain capabilities that support the Nation’s response to global change. USGCRP is steered by the Subcommittee on Global Change Research (SGCR) of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability (CENRS), and overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Their budget in 2014 was $2.5 billion dollars.

They just released a report titled ‘The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: An Assessment.’

In the report they claim that people living in the United States are suffering damaging health impacts due to climate change. However, most of the ‘claims’ about present effects are in the Executive Summary. Most of the sections with detailed findings speak about future effects.

In the Executive Summary they write, “Already in the United States, we have observed climate-related increases in our exposure to elevated temperatures; more frequent, severe, or longer-lasting extreme events; degraded air quality; diseases transmitted through food, water, and disease vectors (such as ticks and mosquitoes); and stresses to our mental health and well-being.”

But in their section titled ‘Temperature-Related Death and Illness’ that changes to “This is expected to lead to an increase in deaths and illness from heat and a potential decrease in deaths from cold…”

Globally, temperatures have rise about 1C since 1880. Different parts of the United States have very different temperature records, with some regions showing at least that much warming and others either no change or even a decrease.

I find it a bit odd that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one of the funders of the USGCRP, didn’t tell them that there is no trend in heatwaves for the U.S.

This is their chart:


The report states, “For example, the reduction in cold-related deaths is projected to be smaller than the increase in heat-related deaths in most regions.” This is contentious. Some serious scientists believe that the reduction in deaths from cold weather will in fact be larger than the increase in heat related deaths.

Stunningly, the IPCC gives for the U.S. the results of a study conducted in 4 hot weather cities including Los Angeles, to bring them to the conclusion that we will suffer more from the heat than the relief that the cold will bring us.

However, the U.S. Center for Disease Control states that “During 2006–2010, about 2,000 U.S. residents died each year from weather-related causes of death.” (About 2.6 million people in the U.S. die every year.) “About 31% of these deaths were attributed to exposure to excessive natural heat, heat stroke, sun stroke, or all; 63% were attributed to exposure to excessive natural cold, hypothermia, or both; and the remaining 6% were attributed to floods, storms, or lightning.”

As with heatwaves, there is no statistical trend on which the report can base their conclusions.

As for other extreme weather events, again they go from bold claims of present effects in the Executive Summary to more modest fears of the future in their section titled ‘Extreme Events.’ “Climate change projections show that there will be continuing increases in the occurrence and severity of some extreme events by the end of the century, while for other extremes the links to climate change are more uncertain.”

I’ll have to leave the rest of the exercise of putting the report into perspective to more patient readers. This appears to be the latest attempt to take scientifically reasonable concerns regarding future impacts of climate change and manhandle them mistakenly into the present tense.

I don’t know if I have lost patience or interest more quickly–but I’m out of both.

tired of bullshit


A Cure For Climate Depression

I take all this… stuff… seriously. Perhaps too seriously. Some things infuriate me, some just depress me. It’s easier to deal with anger than sadness.

I’m a little down right now. James Hansen, in my view, just made a blatant attempt to turn the climate conversation back two decades with what seems like the flimsiest of science papers. And I don’t want to go through the last decade of argumentation again.

The climate blogosphere seems close to moribund. The blogs on each side that I followed faithfully have either retired or slowed to a crawl–or gotten stuck in a rut. As for commenters, on most blogs (although not so much here… so far…) if I see the commenter’s name or pseudonym, I pretty much know what they’re going to write before I read it.

So, when the dog bites, when the bee stings…

Today there are some 437 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries plus Taiwan, with a combined capacity of over 380 GWe. In 2014 these provided 2411 billion kWh, over 11% of the world’s electricity.

Over 60 power reactors are currently being constructed in 13 countries plus Taiwan (see Table below), notably China, South Korea, UAE and Russia.”

Solar deployment worldwide was 59GW in 2015, according to provisional figures released by analyst firm GTM Research.”

Powered by an astonishing 30,500 MW of new installations in China, the global wind power industry installed 63,013 MW in 2015, representing annual market growth of 22%.”

New and authoritative figures from the REN21 Renewables Global Status Report 2015 indicate some 37 GW of new hydropower capacity was commissioned in 2014, increasing total global capacity by 3.6%. Globally, total installed hydropower broke 1,055 GW while worldwide hydro generation – which naturally varies each year with hydrological conditions – was estimated at 3,900 TWh in 2014, an increase of more than 3% on 2013 figures.”

We’ll get there. Despite the b.s and doubletalk, we’ll get there.

This is for Fernando. Visit his blog and you’ll see why.

Arguing with idiots is like playing chess with

Climate Change and Company Risk

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Institutions such as the Bank of England, the Financial Stability Board and the European Systemic Risk Board are examining how banks, insurers and pension funds would cope if policies designed to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions led to a sharp drop in the share price of oil, gas and coal companies.”


“The regulators’ concerns rest on scientific assessments that much of the world’s known fossil-fuel reserves would have to stay underground if governments want to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. If they aim to contain average temperature increases to 1.5 degrees, as set out in an international climate deal sealed in Paris in December, the so-called carbon budget would shrink even more.

That has triggered fears that a poorly managed switch to less-polluting energy sources, such as solar or wind power, could cause selloffs of fossil-fuel companies and broader economic problems caused by energy shortages.”

I wonder who’s advising these regulatory bodies? Certainly not IPCC Lead Author Richard Tol, who in 2009 did a meta-review of various analyses of the economic impacts of climate change, finding broad agreement “that the welfare effect of a doubling of the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gas emissions on the current economy is relatively small–a few percentage points of GDP.”

Companies run two risks regarding climate change. One is climate change–if it comes in at the high end of estimates it could be a truly disruptive force, changing where companies operate, how they operate, how they move goods, what markets they do business in, etc. And of course those who plan beyond five years should take a look at climate change.

However, most recent estimates of the impacts of climate change show very small effects over the next 30-50 years, longer than all but the most visionary companies keep as a planning horizon. If they were to advise their shareholders of possible impacts due to climate change, they would say ‘it’s not a factor for your lifetime’. Warren Buffet said pretty much that in his most recent letter to shareholders and as someone running a conglomerate that includes insurance, transportation, food production and  retail, we might consider his opinion a proxy for the developed world’s companies.

The second risk is much larger. Companies may be damaged, even destroyed, by inappropriate climate policy. This is explicitly what the Wall Street Journal refers to in the linked article–“how banks, insurers and pension funds would cope if policies designed to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions led to a sharp drop in the share price of oil, gas and coal companies.”

Global energy use is set to double over the next 30-50 years. The world’s use of fossil fuels, pretty much the same, although it is (thankfully) starting to look as though natural gas will substitute for coal. The current low price of petroleum will climb again in the fairly near term and in normal times fossil fuel shareholders would be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of continuing good times for the foreseeable future.

But now that they are being labeled as akin to the tobacco industry and considered as Public Enemy Number One, factors like reputational risk, liability, regulatory and legislative impairment of assets all become issues to contend with.

In short, companies face little risk from climate change for the lifetime of current shareholders. It should not be the cause for worry. It is the cure for climate change that can kill them.

The insanity of this should be obvious. Governments own 70% of the oil that companies are pumping. Consumers the world over are buying these fossil fuels. To blame our current situation on those extracting the fuel, refining it and shipping it is just addictive whining, blaming those selling hillbilly heroin or inattentive pharmacists for the problem.

For normal observers of the economic landscape, this is akin to killing the golden goose. But for committed climate activists, this is a feature not a bug.

What Hansen Hath Wrought

James Hansen and about a dozen co-authors have published their long-trailed paper on the danger of dramatic sea level rise they think could be triggered by even moderate global warming.


The paper has received much criticism, coming from both skeptics and those supporting the consensus view on climate change impacts–and I have seen little in the way of support for the paper from the scientific community. For example, IPCC Lead Author Kevin Trenberth calls Hansen’s study ‘rife with speculation and ‘what if’ scenarios’ and based on ‘flimsy evidence.’ Staunch consensus advocate Michael Mann said Hansen’s sea level rise estimates are ‘prone to a very large ‘extrapolation error’

Hansen’s paper is flat out contradicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which predicts sea level rise of between 26 and 98 cm this century. It considers and flatly dismisses arguments similar to those Hansen makes in his paper.

That criticism has not stopped an outpouring of scare stories from the media.

The New York Times sings from the same page of the hymnal as many others: “The likely consequences would include killer storms stronger than any in modern times, the disintegration of large parts of the polar ice sheets and a rise of the sea sufficient to begin drowning the world’s coastal cities before the end of this century, the scientists declared.”

As did The Guardian (“Without a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the global sea level is likely to increase “several meters over a timescale of 50 to 150 years”), the Kansans City Star (“Because of climate change, time may be running out for many coastal cities throughout the world”), the Huffington Post  and many, many more.

To what end? Following the COP21 Conference in Paris it seemed as if the need for panic attacks had ended. The world’s countries had agreed to address climate change–the battle seemingly won. China and the U.S. had jointly agreed to drop emissions, something the U.S. at least has achieved. Indeed, the world’s emissions have been flat for a couple of years, as coal plants convert to natural gas and more countries avail themselves of renewable energy sources and nuclear power.

Why come out with such a thinly supported scenario (which is what Hansen’s paper essentially amounts to) when the tide is running in favor of the solutions he supports.

Well, Hansen did call COP21 ‘bullshit’, saying that without an enforcement mechanism nothing would change. Perhaps he needed to once again pull the lever that sets us all to Climate DEFCON Level 3, just to make sure the issue stays in the public eye.

If that’s what it was, I give him credit for courage. For he has put his reputation and scientific credibility at risk with his paper. The publications echoing his alarm do the same.

Sea level rise is a steady 3.2 mm a year. As much as two-thirds of the current rise is from the heating of the ocean’s waters, with only one-third coming from contributions from melting ice. The great ice sheets of the world show no sign of disintegration.

James Hansen has contributed greatly to our understanding of the climate, both as a scientist and leader of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. However, much as another great scientist, Steven Schneider, ended his career on the saddest of notes, collaborating on some of the worst junk science ever to be published, James Hansen may have done much the same.

It was said by the UK’s Enoch Powell that ‘all political careers end in failure.’ Certainly his did and thankfully so. Will the outcome of this episode be to extend the quote to scientists or to classify Hansen as, in the end, a politician first and foremost?


Climate’s Sucker Bet

Insurance companies have been quietly pushing the climate activist line for quite some time. Munich Re has published numerous reports regarding Xtreme Weather. Most of the reports have gaping holes, which scientists like Roger Pielke Jr. have been busy debunking for more than a decade. But they remain heavily engaged on the issue.

The U.S. National Association of Insurance Commissioners is meeting in New Orleans next week and by all accounts, the working group on climate change is the must-see event.

The froth at the top of the wave is a movement to start disinvesting in fossil fuel companies. The premiums you pay insurance companies are invested while waiting for claims to come in. If the claims don’t come in they keep the cash. Or stocks. And a lot of the stocks they invest in are tainted by association with demon fuel. (Don’t bet on this producing anything more than noise. Fossil fuel companies (apart from a few Western coal companies) are very profitable and will continue to be so for the next 50 years. They are also good clients of insurance companies who might be reluctant to offend.)

The real meat of the meeting is explained here:

“The group’s listed “2016 Charges,” along with their degree of importance, are as follows:

  1. Review the enterprise risk management efforts by carriers and how they may be affected by climate change and global warming.—Essential
  2. Investigate and receive information regarding the use of modeling by carriers and their reinsurers concerning climate change and global warming.—Important
  3. Review the impact of climate change and global warming on insurers through presentations by interested parties.—Important
  4. Investigate sustainability issues and solutions related to the insurance industry.—Important
  5. Review innovative insurer solutions to climate change, including new insurance products through presentations by interested parties.—Important”

It’s fairly clear that the impacts of climate change on insurers to date are negligible. And while I laud their efforts to prepare for the future, I worry that they might in effect confront us with a sucker bet–one which only they can win. If they charge higher premiums for climate risks on conventional weather disasters, it will be up to the victims to prove that the disasters are caused by climate change–and we might then see the spectacular reversal wherein insurance companies start being… skeptical. If on the other hand they engineer new insurance products specifically for climate risks, they can collect premiums for decades before those risks become reality–at least, if you believe the IPCC.

In fact, I don’t think insurance companies are making stuff up or hiding the truth from us all. If climate change is a risk, managing it is what they do. But they certainly are not going to be at the forefront of questioning the impacts of climate change.

With insurance, the safest bet is that the house always wins. Insurance companies are of course interested in keeping it that way. That’s their job.

sucker bet



No Good Climate News Goes Unpunished

Climate change is obviously composed of benefits as well as drawbacks. A phenomenon that is talked of globally, it is expressed regionally and large differences in impacts will be felt according to fate and geography.

Hot summers will be damaging to some, but mild winters will be a boon to others. Although the rain will continue to fall on the just as well as the unjust, for some it will be welcomed, by others lamented.

However, climate activists focus on the risks and the negatives. They are vigilant in monitoring the media. When a meme appears that tends to undercut their narrative, the marketing types at NGOs are quick to respond.


No good news goes unpunished.

March 21, 2016: “While climate change threatens coastal cities and generates extreme weather, the effects of global warming could bring good news to some of France’s most esteemed vineyards. Here, the conditions needed to produce early-ripening fruit, which is historically associated with highly rated wines, have become more frequent, according to research published online Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.”

March 23, 2016: “We’ll stop whining about climate change when it stops affecting our wine. The warming climate is helping vineyards produce better wine. However, producers in Western Europe and beyond may have to move their production elsewhere if they want to stay in business for the long run — and that includes France, new evidence suggests.

Droughts are the reason for this shake-up. …While global warming is currently improving wine, it spells upheaval and disaster in the long term. For now, the heat has brought out some “grands millesimes,” a French term for great vintages, according to Discovery.”

…”The Columbia study examines where certain vineyards could end up moving. California’s Napa Valley grapes could theoretically end up in Washington or British Columbia. The hills of central China could become the new Chile.”

I’ve seen this too frequently to take it for a coincidence. Every silver lining has its cloud.

Perhaps the Columbia study should have taken a look at the current state of the vintners of the Pacific Northwest. My wife recommends this wine highly.




There are 31 homicides every day in the United States of America.

Attorneys general from Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands announced Tuesday that they will follow the lead of California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harrisand New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman and launch their own independent investigations into whether Exxon Mobil Corp. misled investors and the public about climate change risks. Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Maura Healey said at a news conference in New York that her office had a moral obligation to act.

“Part of the problem has been one of public perception,” Healey said. “Certain companies, certain industries, may not have told the whole story.” Seventeen states and territories — including Vermont, Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut and the District of Columbia — are working together to explore legal avenues for fighting climate change, said Schneiderman, who led the event.”


Here are some highlights from Crime in the United States, 2014:

  • There were an estimated 1,165,383 violent crimes (murder and non-negligent homicides, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults) reported by law enforcement.
  • Aggravated assaults accounted for 63.6 percent of the violent crimes reported, while robberies accounted for 28.0 percent, rape 7.2 percent, and murders 1.2 percent.
  • There were an estimated 8,277,829 property crimes (burglaries, larceny-thefts, and motor vehicle thefts) reported by law enforcement. Financial losses suffered by victims of these crimes were calculated at approximately $14.3 billion.
  • Larceny-theft accounted for 70.8 percent of all property crimes reported, burglary for 20.9 percent, and motor vehicle theft for 8.3 percent
  • Police made an estimated 11,205,833 arrests during 2014—498,666 for violent crimes, and 1,553,980 for property crimes. More than 73 percent of those arrested during 2014 were male.
  • The highest number of arrests was for drug abuse violations (1,561,231), followed by larceny-theft (1,238,190) and driving under the influence (1,117,852).”

Exxon’s unusually long and pointed statement criticizing the probes said the company recognized the risks posed by climate change. It said any assumption it withheld information on the topic is “preposterous” and based on a “false premise that Exxon Mobil reached definitive conclusions about anthropogenic climate change before the world’s experts and before the science itself had matured, and then withheld it from the broader scientific community. In her emailed statement to Reuters, McCarron noted that Exxon scientists had participated with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

2014 saw 19 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil that took the lives of 18 people.

Former Vice President Al Gore today lauded what he called “the best, most hopeful step” in years to contain global warming: 16 state prosecutors joining New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s crusade against energy giants that they assert have fraudulently fought caps on greenhouse gas emissions.”

An unprecedented push by the state court system to wipe out the large number of languishing criminal cases in the Bronx didn’t eliminate the problem, but it did significantly reduce it, statistics revealed Wednesday.

The number of felony cases that are over two years old has been slashed from 952 to 397 in the past year, while the number of pending cases overall is 3,880, compared to 4,775 at the beginning of the year, the state Office of Court Administration said.”

T’was Grace That Taught My Heart To Fear And Grace My Fears Relieved


Compare and contrast the following statements. The first comes from the CU Sea Level Research Group: “It is well known from observations by altimetric satellites (predominantly TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1) that global sea level is rising. What is less well known is exactly how the observed sea level rise is partitioned between a steric contribution (sea level rising because of changes in ambient temperature and salinity) and a contribution arising from the addition of new water mass to the oceans. Strictly speaking, such a separation is not possible because of the non-linearity in the equation of state for sea water, but in practice the non-linearities are sufficiently small to allow this separation as a very good first approximation.A careful comparison of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) one-time survey with recent observations by the Argo array indicate a steric component to sea level rise of 2.2 mm y-1 between the early 1990s and 2006 to 2008. This is a significantly larger rise rate than previously estimated and, along with recent estimates of melt rate from ice sheets, is in much closer agreement with the total rise rate as reported by altimetric satellites, 3.2 ± 0.4 mm y-1 over this period.”

The second comes from JPL’s website dedicated to GRACE, or Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment: “Over the last decade or so losses from land ice have been implicated in causing two thirds of the observed rise in sea level (Gardner et al., 2013 and Shepherd et al., 2012).

I’m not a scientist but I think that adds up to 4/3rds of the total.

When the GRACE satellite was first launched and started reporting data, it indicated that the Greenland and Eastern Antarctic ice caps were losing hundreds of gigatonnes a year of ice. This was picked up and reported eagerly by climate activists everywhere, all of whom neglected to mention that the reported loss was a fraction of one percent of the total.

I got in a protracted fight over at Michael Tobis’ blog, Only In  It For The Gold, as I argued that it being a newly launched satellite it might be wise to wait for a couple of extra orbits before panicking over a reported loss of ice that amounted to 0.7% of the total mass involved. For this I was labeled a denier, a pimp, etc. (Most of you know the drill.)

About a day later, a press release was issued: “However, it now turns out that these results were not properly corrected for glacial isostatic adjustment, the phenomenon that the Earth’s crust rebounds as a result of the melting of the massive ice caps from the last major Ice Age around 20,000 years ago. These movements of the Earth’s crust have to be incorporated in the calculations, since these vertical movements change the Earth’s mass distribution and therefore also have an influence on the gravitational field.” They lowered the already minute percentage of ice loss by half.

Nobody unsaid any of the unkind things they had said. GRACE giveth, GRACE taketh away.

Since then, GRACE has been used a lot–In February of 2016 they announced “New measurements from a NASA satellite have allowed researchers to identify and quantify, for the first time, how climate-driven increases of liquid water storage on land have affected the rate of sea level rise.

A new study by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the University of California, Irvine, shows that while ice sheets and glaciers continue to melt, changes in weather and climate over the past decade have caused Earth’s continents to soak up and store an extra 3.2 trillion tons of water in soils, lakes and underground aquifers, temporarily slowing the rate of sea level rise by about 20 percent.”

This was in sharp contrast to their statement in 2014: “Many Americans might not realize it, but the country is headed for a brutal reality check in terms of access to clean, cheap water. Climate change’s amplifying effects are turning dry regions into virtual deserts and wet ones into flood zones, setting the stage for a horde of “water-related catastrophes, including extreme flooding, drought, and groundwater depletion,” warn scientists at UC Irvine.”

To be fair, the first article was talking of the world while the second was about the U.S. only. But it does seem that GRACE is suffering from the New Toy syndrome, where every bit of data it collects is new and is reported somewhat breathlessly without much in the way of context.

Like many new techniques, there have been errors associated with it. But the need for new headlines meant the errors made it into print before they could be corrected. And while the scientists reported the errors and corrections, often the activists did not.

The idea that in 2016 a quick Google search on sea level rise would find two stories that between them report vastly different figures for steric vs. melt would have shocked me a few years ago. After all, isn’t the science settled?

No. It isn’t. Forensic science can go in after the fact and probably get incredibly useful information from GRACE, not to mention other measurement tools misused by activists in search of hysterical headlines.

But the way the data was misreported and taken out of context is enough to make me wish for a hymn to help me forgive.

Concentrations are Calculated, Emissions are Estimated

For the past two years, CO2 emissions have not risen globally. Hooray for us and our restraint!

premature congratulations

Despite this, the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere rose dramatically. “It was the fourth year in a row that carbon dioxide concentrations grew by more than 2 parts per million, with an annual growth rate of 3.05 parts per million in 2015.”


Was it El Niño? Umm, no… “Writing in the April 15 issue of Nature, Feely and his colleagues suggest that the findings, based on direct measurements in the equatorial Pacific from 1992-1996, indicate that during the strong El Niño events, the release rate of CO2 from the ocean to the atmosphere was reduced to 30-80% of that of normal non-El Niño periods. This decline in carbon dioxide release from the sea to the air is large enough to be seen as a CO2 anomaly in the atmosphere.”

Did we burn down a lot more forests? Umm, no… “the rate of net global deforestation has slowed down by more than 50 per cent, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a report.”

Maybe it’s industrialization in China? Umm, no, “China’s economy slowed in December, capping the weakest quarter of growth since the 2009 global recession, as the Communist leadership grapples with a transition to consumer-led expansion. Industrial production, retail sales and fixed-asset investment all slowed at the end of the year”

So why did concentrations rise dramatically in a year when emissions stayed the same?

It’s quite possibly because emissions didn’t in fact stay the same, sadly enough.

We can accurately measure the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Once they are emitted, they mix with the rest of the atmosphere fairly quickly and it’s pretty easy to measure.

However, there aren’t any CO2 meters attached to smokestacks, cars, rice paddies, digesting cows and other sources of greenhouse gases. Our emissions aren’t measured, they’re estimated.

Here’s how Carbon Fund does it: “’s Carbon Calculators use information from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other leading sources to develop an accurate assessment of carbon dioxide emissions emitted per energy type or use.

…”We calculate emissions from electricity generation based off figures from the EPA’s eGRID emission factors based on 2009 and 2012 data. On average, electricity sources emit 1.222lbs CO2 per kWh (0.0005925 metric tons CO2 per kWh). State CO2 emissions per kWh may vary greatly in accordance with the amount of clean energy in the energy supply (Vermont: 0.0055 lbs/kWh; North Dakota: 2.0685 lbs/kWh).”

…”The average person’s diet contributes 2,545 kilograms CO2e to the atmosphere each year. By dividing by 365, it is deduced that the average person’s diet contributes, on average, 7 kg CO2e a day from their meals.”

Are you starting to get the picture? On that web page alone, the word ‘average’ occurs 21 times.

How about the EU? Well, they have a published document with a title that says it all: “European Union CO2 Emissions: Different Accounting Perspectives.” In their Executive Summary the subhead titled “Different Data Gives Different Results” we read, “However, before using these perspectives in a complementary manner, users should be aware of some issues. These three perspectives are all based on different datasets. These datasets use different ‘system boundaries’ (the type of information that is included) and calculation methods. They also vary in terms of the quality of data they use. These differences in underlying methods and input data affect the resulting emissions calculations. Some results therefore have a percentage of ‘uncertainty’ attached to them that reflects the gaps that exist in the data they are based upon. This in turn has an effect on how applicable some of the resulting data is to policymakers.”

The University of Cambridge in England has a webpage called “The Naked Scientists.” When visitor Jenny Boyd asked “How do countries measure their carbon dioxide emissions?” the Naked Scientists asked for help, bringing in Gregg Marland at the Environmental Sciences division, Oakridge National Laboratory in the U.S.

He said, “Actually, I think there’s a misconception that CO2 emissions are measured.  What you try to do is to measure how much fuel is burned and if you know how much carbon is in the fuel, you can calculate how much CO2 must be produced, and very seldom is that, in fact, measured.” …”For countries like those in the EU or the US or Japan, my guess is that the error margin is something in the order of plus or minus 5%.  For those discharging smaller quantities of CO2, the error bars, I think can be as high as 20 to 25% and there are some very large countries – in China, we’ve actually published the estimate that they are maybe as large as 15 or 20%.”

China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, has been burning up to 17 percent more coal a year than the government previously disclosed, according to newly released data.” This was reported in November of 2015.

Maybe that margin of error should be a bit more than 20%. In fact, it looks like what we are celebrating is not a flat lining of emissions. It’s more like ‘the stuff we were able to measure last year didn’t go up this year.’ Which is… nice, but not quite the same thing.

Concentrations are not expected to rise exactly at the same time as emissions. The various carbon sinks work at their own rhythm and they draw down CO2 at different times of the year. As Freeman Dyson has noted, we don’t really know too much about how the five major carbon sinks interact with the rest of the complicated climate system. So we don’t know if the striking rise in concentrations is in response to something we’re doing now or something we did ten or twenty years ago.

But it’s kind of funny that in a world where policy makers are constantly talking about capping emissions, they don’t really know what emission levels are.

Which is one more argument in favor of my preferred policy option, a small carbon tax leveled at production source, balanced by a rebate of equal size to citizens.

Revealed Preference Regarding Climate Change

Update: I’ve tweaked this post a lot, which is unusual for me–if anybody re-reads this I hope that you don’t find the changes unsettling.

In market research you learn to trust but verify. People will give you their honest opinions usually (unless you’re talking about their sex life or their bank balance), but their honest opinions may actually be their perception of what they should be saying. If they say they like a brand of cereal, they probably do–but if you ask them why, you often get rationalizations rather than rationality. People will invent logical reasons for their preferences that make them sound like better people, when it’s possible they like the cereal based on a forgotten childhood association or the attractiveness of the person featured in the cereal ads.

If you ask someone which brand of cereal they will buy on their next shopping trip they will state their preference. If you peek into their shopping bag when they get home from the store it will reveal their preference. Much more frequently than you might expect there is a difference between stated and revealed preferences. (Economists have an entirely different discussion about revealed preferences that sometimes, but not always, refers to the real world.)

What’s interesting is that people believe these after-the-fact rationalizations and dispute the real motivations for what they like or dislike, even when confronted with evidence to the contrary using tools like choice modelling. Justifying what you believe is a common trait–so too is an automatic defense of your justifications. (If you haven’t yet read ‘Thinking Fast and Slow,’ you should–it covers a lot of this as well as many other interesting topics.)

People talk a lot about the magnitude of climate change–how it could be disastrous, how we need to change our lives to prevent it.

However, their behaviour does not always correspond with what they say their beliefs actually are. This shouldn’t surprise those of us in market research–it happens a lot. And it isn’t anything as easy to categorize as garden variety hypocrisy. People have real trouble connecting their stated beliefs with what their choices reveal about their preferences.

We see it within the climate change establishment–climate scientists will say that they need to fly and admit that their carbon footprint is huge. They give what are logical sounding reasons: one person’s carbon footprint can’t make a difference, the work they are doing is so valuable it outweighs their emissions, their careers depend on face to face interactions, etc. But their choices reveal their preferences.

This hit home to me this morning as I read an article in Nation (I keep telling you I’m a leftist–when will you start believing me?) about the difficulty one woman had in reconciling her fears about climate change with her growing desire to have a child.

The article is “How Do You Decide To Have A Baby When Climate Change Is Remaking Life On Earth?

The premise alone should tell us all how much life has already changed on Earth. Historically, difficult times spurred increases in women giving birth, so much so that scientists postulated that it was an instinctive reaction–having more babies in times of trouble increased the chances that some would survive, perpetuating the bloodline and winning the evolutionary race to pass on your genes. This goes in an entirely different direction.

The author writes, “ In 1970, the biologist Paul Ehrlich leaned over a podium at Northwestern University and declared, “The American woman of the year is the sterile woman who adopts two children.” It was the beginning of a half-century of ambivalence among environmentalists over the nature of motherhood.”

Hey–my sister adopted two kids and had none of her own–can I nominate her?

Paul Ehrlich is the father of Lisa Marie Ehrlich.

The author writes, “ According to scientists’ predictions, if society keeps pumping out carbon dioxide at current rates, any child born now could, by midlife, watch Superstorm Sandy–size disastersregularly inundate New York City. She could see the wheat fields of the Great Plains turn to dust and parts of California gripped by decades of drought. She may see world food prices soar and water in the American West become even scarcer. By 2050, when still in her 30s, she could witness global wars waged over food and land. “It does make me wonder if maybe I shouldn’t have kids,” one of my friends whispered to me. A year later, she was pregnant. What had changed her mind?”

The author herself finally gets pregnant, although sadly miscarries.

We might look at how stating her fears about climate change related to bringing a baby in this world wins her acclaim as both a prospective mother and an environmentally aware person. We might look at it as a fight against the evolutionary imperative to reproduce. We might look at it as the changing dynamic brought about by the ticking of the biological clock, or by moderating influences of ongoing education about the environmental impacts of climate change. No shortage of possible explanations to explore. Heck, maybe she just flipped a coin and changed her mind. If you think making a decision is tough, wait until you have to explain someone else’s.

Seen through the lens of the modern conversation about climate change, these stories show the ambivalence attending our concerns over something that will take generations to make itself evident–unless you believe the over-hyped claims of those who see Xtreme Weather trailing in every cloud.

But there are other lenses we can use to examine this–my experience in market research shields me from being surprised by the disconnect between what people say and what they do. Much of market research stems from sociology, which in turn was kick-started by social anthropologists, and both disciplines can shed light on this.

Of course, you can use simpler world views to look at it. Skeptics can hark back to the hypocrisy meme, while activists might focus on the reduction in the number of children born to each female. And one or both of them may be right.

The change that this might point to is simple: Climate activists have largely dismissed the thought of individual actions to mitigate climate change, much to the distress of people like Paul Kelly and myself. But this leads to an unfortunate tendency for people to collect the kudos for caring about climate change without any additional incentive to act on their stated preferences. All the kudos are front-loaded into accepting the establishment’s beliefs. And that could explain (partly) why climate change scores high on acceptance but low on priority.

This type of analysis may provide an adequate (if somewhat cynical) explanation to the conundrum of majorities accepting climate science and its existence as a problem with their pattern of placing it very low on the list of priority tasks to address. They get all of the social credit there is to be had by acknowledging climate change and lose no societal status by addressing other problems first. People are complex and decision-making is more so–there may be many other factors involved.

One counter-intuitive thought inspired by stated vs. revealed preferences. Much of the climate establishment thinks that if people accept climate change they will act on it (in their view, supporting activist policy). But as I just mentioned, that may not happen.

What if it’s the reverse? What if having people act in a manner consonant with lower emissions, adaptation and general respect for the environment is the way to build acceptance? When people act as if they believe, they may well come to believe…

Under this assumption, people buying high mileage (or hybrid) cars may well use established behavioral mechanisms to believe more in climate change than those buying an SUV. Those putting solar panels on their rooftops to lower their electricity bill might also be more amenable to convert their beliefs as well as their energy source. Something to think about.

We also might consider that when hope conquers fear it not only helps us as a person, it helps us as a species.

hope conquers fear

Has This Blog Been Hijacked? Defending Hansen, Praising ATTP

James Hansen, former head of NASA’s GISS and long-time climate activist, finally got his paper published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Titled “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming could be dangerous“, the paper was put online some months ago in draft format and it has received a lot of critical commentary. Perhaps surprisingly, much of the criticism has come from his own ‘side’ of the fence–from the climate orthodoxy, including practicing climate scientists.

As I understand it after a cursory reading, Hansen’s paper is advancing a hypothesis–a ‘what if’ scenario that involves melted water from glaciers and the great ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica, resulting in a cascade of unfortunate events leading to… increased melting from glaciers and the great ice caps.

James Hansen.png

It doesn’t seem like a normal scientific paper, although it reports on the results of a model run from a climate model. It seems more like a tract, almost philosophical in nature rather than a paper in Nature.

I have little doubt that the various technical critcisms of the paper are well-grounded. And I don’t share Hansen’s fears about near term drastic sea level rise. But as a non-scientist I perhaps am not as concerned with some of the things that his critics have noted and am perhaps more sympathetic to the spirit driving Hansen on.

Critics of the paper started with the title and never quit. They got Hansen to change it from ‘is highly dangerous’ to ‘could be highly dangerous.’

Surprisingly, the best summary of all this back and forth is found at And Then There’s Physics, who reblogged Peter Thorne’s take on it all. Surprising because ATTP, who I have criticized roundly and frequently, is a staunch advocate of the trumped up exaggeration of the real consensus on climate change and he doesn’t suffer criticism of consensus icons lightly. ATTP should be congratulated on his matter-of-fact publishing of Thorne’s criticism–activists have long complained that if they admitted to any chink in the edifice of climate ‘dogma’ (too strong a word, but I can’t think of another), their opponents would rush into demanding more and more and use any admission as an excuse to attack the entire construct. So well done, ATTP.

And make no mistake, James Hansen is an icon. He led the activist fight for many years, finally retiring from GISS to move into an even more activist role. He’s taken flack recently, having been called a ‘denier’ by pseudo-scientist Naomi Oreskes, because Hansen frankly acknowledges that our emissions are unlikely to decline unless we take full advantage of nuclear power. But for 25 years before that, he received what amounted to hero worship for his dual role as scientist and policy activist.

For me, this paper amounts to a summary, perhaps a coda, of Hansen’s career. He is unapologetically scared of the possibility of dramatic impacts from climate change and is unapologetically convinced that humans are driving this change. Although there are many findings in science (many recent, many historical) that indicate Hansen’s case is unlikely (to say the least), Hansen has not been convinced, as this paper makes very clear.

Whether it’s a stake in the ground or a line in the sand, Hansen’s paper is a very clear attempt to make the case that as little as 2C in warming can have dramatic and unwelcome impacts on how we live on this planet. That I don’t think he succeeds doesn’t detract from my respect for what he has done for climate science.

He deserves a forum and a respectful audience. His paper also deserves the criticism it is receiving. To me, there is no conflict in having the two together.


Methane, McKibben, Madness

Mauna Loa, the observatory in Hawaii that produces the much-watched chart of the Keeling concentrations of CO2 in our atmosphere, also measures methane concentrations.


While not as monotonic as CO2’s relentless rise, it is clear that the amount of methane in our atmosphere has risen from 1700 nmol in 1988 to about 1830 nmol in 2015. Estimates of pre-industrial levels are 722 nmol.

Climate activist Bill McKibben, the man who called Barack Obama a ‘denier’ of climate change, has an opinion piece in Nation about natural gas and climate change. It is titled ‘Global Warming’s Terrifying New Chemistry,’ which seems odd, as there is nothing particularly terrifying and absolutely nothing new about the chemistry of global warming mentioned or even alluded to in his article.

I came to his article to scoff, and as you see below I scoff aplenty. However, at the end of the day McKibben has fulfilled his mission–although I think he foams at the mouth too much to be an effective advocate, he has caught my attention on the issue of methane and has forced me to pay closer attention to it, just for the sake of catching his errors. So now I will acknowledge that methane emissions are increasing and they do deserve our attention. I wish I could damn with even fainter praise, but let’s give the devil his due.


But before I give him his due, there’s a lot of criticizing that stands in the way. In his article, McKibben gets important things flat wrong, accepts unquestioningly a new metric put forward by an opponent of fracking and consistently looks at worst case scenarios as gospel truth. Nothing new in any of that, of course.

The subhead of his rant is ‘Our leaders thought fracking would save our planet. They were wrong. Very wrong.’

That’s error number one. Actually, our leaders didn’t think that. At most they thought natural gas would serve as a bridge from our dependence on coal to a future filled with renewables. More often, they couldn’t think of a reason to stop fracking and stood aside and let it happen despite objections from other fossil fuel producers, once some of the scare stories about fracking were exposed as propaganda.

McKibben writes, “ In February, Harvard researchers published an explosive paper in Geophysical Research Letters. Using satellite data and ground observations, they concluded that the nation as a whole is leaking methane in massive quantities. Between 2002 and 2014, the data showed that US methane emissions increased by more than 30 percent, accounting for 30 to 60 percent of an enormous spike in methane in the entire planet’s atmosphere.”

Umm, error number two. The chart above shows a steady rise totaling 10% in 30 years. I don’t see an enormous spike–do you?

There is a spike in methane emissions, but it began in 1900, long before fracking could be blamed. That was about the time that large cities began using landfills to hold great piles of waste that generated methane. That was about the time that huge herds of livestock were held in confined spaces and their waste was collected and later liquefied.

In fact, methane from cows is the largest source of human-caused production of methane.


But onwards. McKibben is worried about leaks from natural gas production and distribution, as methane emitted from the production and distribution of energy is the second largest source of human-caused methane emissions. (He says nothing about cows.) He does say “These leaks are big enough to wipe out a large share of the gains from the Obama administration’s work on climate change—all those closed coal mines and fuel-efficient cars. In fact, it’s even possible that America’s contribution to global warming increased during the Obama years.”

America’s contributions to global warming are estimates based on sales of emissive products, mileage estimates for the fleet of cars, trucks and buses driving around, etc. As greenhouse gases mix fairly quickly in the atmosphere, there’s no way to say X% comes from America, Y% comes from  Mexico and Z% from Canada. So where does he get his estimates?

The Harvard study was done by someone who McKibben admits is ‘an outspoken opponent of fracking’ and part of McKibben’s panic is based on a revised estimate of the impact of methane as a contributor to global warming–the revision being done, obviously, by the ‘outspoken opponent of fracking,’ a man named Howarth.

The EPA’s old chemistry and 100-year time frame assigned methane a heating value of 28 to 36 times that of carbon dioxide; a more accurate figure, says Howarth, is between 86 and 105 times the potency of CO2 over the next decade or two.”

I won’t classify this as an error, but I think I’ll stick with the old figures for now.

Wikipedia notes “Methane in the Earth’s atmosphere is a strong greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of 29 over a 100-year period. This means that a methane emission will have 29 times the impact on temperature of a carbon dioxide emission of the same mass over the following 100 years. Methane has a large effect (100 times as strong as carbon dioxide) for a brief period, having a half-life of 7 years in the atmosphere. (My bold).”

Error number three. I put that last phrase in bold because McKibben writes “ But a methane molecule lasts only a couple of decades in the air, compared with centuries for CO2.”

McKibben offers a solution: “ We need to stop the fracking industry in its tracks, here and abroad.” He wants to move to solar.

However, Wikipedia also provides this table showing sources and sinks:

Origin CH
Mass (Tg/a) Type (%/a) Total (%/a)
Natural Emissions
Wetlands (incl. Rice agriculture) 225 83 37
Termites 20 7 3
Ocean 15 6 3
Hydrates 10 4 2
Natural Total 270 100 45
Anthropogenic Emissions
Energy 110 33 18
Landfills 40 12 7
Ruminants (Livestock) 115 35 19
Waste treatment 25 8 4
Biomass burning 40 12 7
Anthropogenic Total 330 100 55
Soils -30 -5 -5
Tropospheric OH -510 -88 -85
Stratospheric loss -40 -7 -7
Sink Total -580 -100 -97
Emissions + Sinks
Imbalance (trend) +20 ~2.78 Tg/(nmol/mol) +7.19 (nmol/mol)/a

Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to work on all the sources of methane emissions? We literally cannot quit using natural gas to generate electricity in the short term unless we return to coal. We cannot put up enough solar even if we want to in a short time frame.

The EPA is already coming out with regulations to make the energy part of methane emissions ‘better’. Geneticists are working on making cows less emissive. Waste to energy plants could make a big difference, but are blocked by McKibben’s spiritual comrades in arms, who just want us to put out less waste.

McKibben’s article contains a lot of what-if estimates that I haven’t gone into here. While it should be clear (if it wasn’t before–they called it a ‘bridge fuel’ for a reason) that natural gas is not an end-state solution (there probably isn’t enough of it to last past the middle of the next century if we dive into it big time), it is a useful temporary solution that gets us off of coal while we figure out what combination of renewables and nuclear will best suit our needs.

So, yeah, okay McKibben. I’m now aware of methane. So would you please just quit foaming at the mouth?

foaming at the mouth

Climate Change Good For Biodiversity–In The UK, For Now

Climate activists have been quick to claim that rising temperatures would be harmful to many species. Taken to an extreme, that would be obvious. Plant and animal species have a range of temperatures (and other weather conditions) within which they comfortably live and reproduce. Going outside that range makes life difficult for them, forcing them to adapt or suffer the consequences.

But temperatures (and other weather conditions) may not see an extreme. Since 2011, a number of studies indicate there is a strong possibility that atmospheric sensitivity may be much lower than original, alarming estimates, limiting the positive feedback added to the effect of CO2. Plus, for two years in a row, CO2 emissions have not risen, despite good economic growth.

The effects of more moderate temperature rises may well be beneficial. This story in the UK’s Telegraph certainly suggest that is so far the case: “Climate change has so far helped more species than it has hurt in the UK, a major study by wildlife groups including the RSPB has found.


The study of the fortunes of 398 plant and animal species since 1970 found that 152 had been affected in some way by climate change, with “more species impacted positively than negatively in the short-term at least.”

While 61 species had experienced a negative impact overall, 91 species had benefited from having 14 of the warmest years on record in the past 15 years.

As I have often argued at this blog, the most negative impacts on the species with whom we share this planet are other harmful things that people do. “The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that the biggest impact on wildlife over the period had been the dramatic shift to intensive farming methods, which have led to the loss of hedgerows and farm ponds and the use of novel pesticides and herbicides.

“These changes have had overwhelmingly negative impacts across many groups of animals and plants – including butterflies, beetles, bees, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, grasshoppers, birds and plants,” the RSPB said.”

This is not necessarily a Get Out of Jail Free card for climate change. Temperatures may rise more than we Lukewarmers expect. The changes in weather apart from temperatures may prove more harmful than we now see. The impacts of further climate change may combine with our other harmful activities–introduction of alien species, habitat loss, over-hunting/fishing–to place too heavy a burden on some, perhaps many species.

But it stands as a useful counterpoint, if not an antidote, to some of the screaming from activists about Extreme Weather and Mass Extinction. Let’s hope for similar reports from other countries–and let’s hope they continue.

Are the Threats From Climate Change More Social Than Physical?

This is a thought piece, so please be patient while I work through some ideas with you.

The 5th Assessment Review (AR5) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lists the risks posed by climate change, broken out by region. It is here and a previous post I wrote on them can be found here. As I wrote there it is obvious that none of the risks identified by the IPCC rise to the level of existential threat. The IPCC uses phrases like ‘increased risk of flooding,’ ‘increased risk of heat mortality,’ etc. Which is appropriate, especially given that they took a regional approach to analysing the risks of climate change and we don’t really know how individual regions will be impacted. Models don’t resolve to the regional level and we don’t know which direction major climate systems will move in.

Comedian John Oliver just took Donald Trump to task over Trump’s blithe assumptions that he could build a 1,000 mile wall for $4 billion (and get Mexico to pay for it). Oliver consulted some construction experts and came up with a cost of $26 billion for a 30-foot high wall across large swathes of inhospitable territory including the roads to move the materials on site. It’s quite funny, if you haven’t seen it.

After watching that, do you doubt that it is feasible to deal with sea level rise with present day technology at a reasonable price? The Netherlands spends about 2.5 billion Euros a year on flood defenses, about 2% of their GDP. The Great Wall of China was built to keep out another threat, but it’s even longer than Trump’s Folly and was built with considerably less in the way of technology.

So too with rising temperatures. If, finally, droughts and heatwaves actually do increase (predicted to start within the next couple of decades), it will coincide with progress in technology and social structures, bringing air conditioning within reach and moving workers off the farms and into the cities. The Romans and the Hohokam Indians of Arizona built canals to manage water shortages a long time ago–surely we can profit from their example. There is no shortage of fresh water worldwide–we just need to move it where it’s needed.

Hohokam canal

Exciting news about the development of a vaccine for Dengue fever highlights our ability to combat vector borne diseases, which the IPCC also worries about. This would be most welcome here in Taiwan, which last year saw a marked increase in cases in the southern part of the country.

Long story short, it seems clear that we have the resources and know-how to deal with the physical consequences of climate change. But if that’s so, why are so many so worried about it?

Yesterday I wrote about the U.S. military’s focus on climate change and concluded that climate change would have little effect on either operational capabilities or planning. The major risk to the U.S. defense forces is social–if climate change causes unrest or instability there may be an increased call for their services.

I think we can expand that idea. I suggest that the major risks of climate change are not sea level rise, risk of flooding, increased frequency of drought or heatwaves, etc. We have all the tools to fight those and for the most part have had the solutions available for more than a millenium.

It is the reactions of people that can cause the most problems, if climate change hits them quickly and they haven’t been prepared. And I think this is a real risk. It’s just very different from the risks being promoted by environmental NGOs.

After 30 years of non-stop campaigning on climate change issues, 40% of the world’s population have never heard of it. Instead there has been a drumbeat of ‘messaging’ designed to cow the population of rich countries into acquiescence to largely mistaken policy initiatives. This messaging, ranging from ‘the planet has a fever’ to the No Pressure video of schoolkids being blown up if they don’t accept The Truth about Climate Change, has not only been ineffective. It has sucked the oxygen out of the room for rational dialogue about educating the public.

People who are actually at risk from some of the impacts of climate change need to be told what the potential impacts are, what can be done to address them and what resources are being made available to help them.

Conversations about sea level rise need to be balanced with discussions of subsidence, which is a far greater threat to coastal communities. So too with discussions of biodiversity, where the potential future impact of climate change is currently being promoted to the neglect of far more important factors such as the introduction of invasive species, over-hunting and over-fishing and habitat reduction. Discussions of flooding have to account for construction in floodplains, watercourse management, flood insurance and population growth in vulnerable areas.

These are social issues dealing with man’s other impacts on the planet and many of them are of not only current but historical relevance to communities. They should be approached in a 360 degree fashion, not excluding climate change but integrating it into a broader discussion.

The IPCC quite clearly says that human caused climate change is not an existential threat, just as they say that extreme weather is not yet here, just as they say that the impacts of climate change can be addressed by increasing the resiliency of local populations.

Those pushing the message of catastrophic consequences have done us all a grave disservice, diverting time, attention and resources away from a more balanced approach that would have greater benefits.

It is not our coastlines, riverbeds or arid lands that require immediate attention. It is the social structures of countries that are struggling to get out of poverty while adapting to an ever-changing climate that need to be strengthened.

So at the end of this I am once again arguing for resiliency as our best defense. I suppose that was inevitable, given my preconceptions and my admitted bias. No matter what angle I use to view the issue and no matter which starting point I choose, I keep convincing myself that helping societies get stronger will solve not only climate change but our other environmental challenges as well.

End of sermon.

The Climate Threat to the U.S. Military

I’m not trying to compete with Fabius Maximus here, but with the spate of stories about the U.S. Department of Defence mandating a focus on climate change it seems to be something a vet can opine about.


Taking the obvious threats of sea level rise, rising temperatures and increased areas for vector-borne diseases (which in all wars prior to WWII killed more soldiers than any enemy), it is not clear to me that U.S. defence capabilities are threatened by the climate change that the IPCC forecasts–between 26 and 98 cm of sea level rise, 1.5-4C average temperature rises, increased spread of vector-borne diseases in limited areas of Africa, South Asia and South America.

The U.S. military has bases (oh, does it have bases–over 500 outside the U.S., almost 6,000 within) and some of them could be affected by climate change. It also has the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Seabees and other units that could climate proof them quite quickly. The U.S. has more military bases than it needs and if it wanted to close a few it could start with those most at risk. Kwajalein, Diego Garcia, etc. I imagine they’ll want to hang on to Pearl Harbor, but we could let go of Gitmo.  As shown on the map above, most bases located outside America are well inland–think Ramstein, Incirlik, etc.

The ability of the U.S. military to project a credible deterrent force outside the U.S. relies primarily on its dozen carrier groups, the strategic bombing capabilities of its Air Force and its nuclear powered submarine fleet. They would not be affected by climate change.

A good part of U.S. naval capabilities are centered around littoral combat, landing troops on a beach safely and effectively. Again, these would not be affected by climate change even if the beach is a bit further inland.

Strategic and tactical planning both have always taken weather into account, the famous example being the careful forecasting required for D-Day in 1944. So too with navigational threats for both the Navy and Air Force. As climate change from a military standpoint is just slow weather, I don’t know how it would affect planning.

It is apparent that the major operational threat would consist of the mobility and effectiveness of ground-based troops operating in an offensive posture. If it’s hotter, troops are slower and less effective. The U.S. has a lot of recent practice operating in very hot climes, although the lack of humidity may have made it easier.

The Cadillac nature of the military as it is currently constituted weighs down our ground forces. They are asked to carry too much. Technology seems to be well on its way to resolving this, from robot sherpas to carry the load to exoskeletons that will strengthen the soldiers, to drones that will extend the eyes and ears of troops and are armed as well. It would seem possible–perhaps even probable–that the Army will be less vulnerable to climate conditions, rather than more so.


The strategic threat then seems to be that climate change will unsettle the world to such an extent that there will be more call for the armed forces to be used. Certainly some of the areas vulnerable to sea level rise, flooding and increased temperature and disease are poor, unstable and under authoritarian regimes. It is a possibility that planners should take into account. The famous example of the Syrian civil conflict preceded by drought will weigh on their minds, perhaps more heavily than it should.

However, looking at the threats to the U.S. today, we see Russia, unaffected by present and probably future climate change, North Korea, unaffected by present and probably future climate change and mainland China, unaffected by present and probably future climate change. (Agriculture will perhaps have to shift geographically in China if climate change comes in at the high end of IPCC predictions, but it is fully capable of doing so and improving productivity as a result.) I don’t consider Iran a strategic threat to the U.S., and I frankly see little appetite for further adventures in either Asia–we still remember Vietnam–or Central or South America. If Mexico were to destabilize that would be problematic, but I find it difficult to assess either the likelihood of that or Mexico’s capabilities should it occur.

Therefore I think that climate change is something that the Pentagon will use as a barometer for evaluating its support infrastructure–they own a lot of buildings that could go green–and its operating budget, looking at renewable energy to lower their fuel costs. And those are worthy things to do.

But I doubt if anybody in the military is actually losing sleep over climate change.

sleeping solder


Is it something about the name ‘Naomi?’

Let us start by praising some of the ‘good’ Naomis. Naomi Campbell the model. Naomi Nishida, the actress. Naomi Judd, the singer.

Hopefully having convinced you that I’m not allergic to the name, let us now ponder the coincidence that finds two of the most strident and annoying activists currently on the world stage sharing the same name.

I refer, of course, to Naomi Oreskes and Naomi Klein.

I have discussed my problems with Ms. Oreskes before–see here, here and here. She is not a scientist–she is a ‘science historian’, and she is busy rewriting the history of climate change and the conversation surrounding it. She teams up with people like the charlatan Lewandowsky and Eric Conway to come up with bizarrely unscientific sci-fi scenarios, contorted reasoning on why deniers are infiltrating the minds of scientists, etc.

She’s a bad actress, unlike this Naomi.

Today we will focus on Naomi Klein, as she is interviewed by Al Jazeera (no relation to Al Gore, Al Hirt or Al Capone).

The title of the article is ‘Is Capitalism Driving Climate Change?‘ (The short answer is no. Increasing population, development (much of which is happening in anti-capitalist countries, and growth in GDP all contribute to climate change. Capitalism is no worse than communism in that respect.)

The article starts with a bold assertion: “Scientists say the world is in the midst of a “climate emergency”.” It does not provide a quote, citation or anything to back that up. A search on Google News using the term returns 262,000 results and many NGOs, weblogs and commentators do say much the same thing. But I could not find one scientist doing so.

Anyway, on to Ms. Klein. “The idea that we can deal with climate change within the confines of our current system is exactly what we’ve been trying for two decades, and it’s failed miserably,” Klein says.  “If we want to avoid climate change, we need system change,” the author adds.

This is called hijacking. Ms. Klein has been trying to boot capitalism off the globe since she started writing. She is simply using climate change as a front. As Wikipedia notes, “Naomi Klein (born May 8, 1970) is a Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization and of corporate capitalism.[2]”  

Ms. Klein is not a scientist (neither am I) and does not discuss the science (recent posts will show that it is heavy going for me as well). Like me, she is focused on policy.

However, I care about climate change, getting the science right and about policy possibilities focused on the people who need help with the weather now and the climate in the future.

Klein is just piggy-backing on a popular issue that appeals to the demographic she’s been trying to reach with her other books (No Logo, This Changes Everything and The Shock Doctrine). Her 2014 book This Changes Everything is just another tirade against capitalism with green camouflage. She took her cue from capitalist companies that adopted green mission statements and other accoutrements of environmentally friendly organizations, but she cares just as little about climate change as most of them.

Evidence of that can be found on, where she writes, “For me, the road to This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate begins in a very specific time and place. The time was exactly ten years ago. The place was New Orleans, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.”

Somebody should tell her that Katrina had nothing to do with current climate change. It was a run of the mill Cat 3 hurricane that landed in the wrong place at the wrong time. That she would use it as inspiration for her books is hilarious. In a not-really-laughing sort of way.

Ms. Klein posts an entire section from her book The Shock Doctrine underneath that preface. It’s quite long.

It doesn’t mention climate change.

Naomi Klein doesn’t understand the issue.

I am a leftist. (I think Barack Obama is too centrist, much to the amusement of many of my readers.) I have problems with capitalism being subject to corporate capture and being able to resist needed regulations.  But I try to keep most of that under wraps when talking about climate change, as the economic system driving a country’s economy shows no correlation to their emissions or attempts to control them.

If Naomi Klein could find an angle in used tires to further her attacks on capitalism, she would write a book about it.

This Naomi is perhaps most famous for her Joan of Arc-based character in the 1917 movie Womanhood, the Glory of the Nation.


I like her a lot better.


Anthropogenic Forcings on Climate

Well, I messed up my post on methane, giving it far greater weight as a contributor to human influences on the climate than does the IPCC.

Since I couldn’t find what I was looking for (a stacked bar chart showing in Column A all positive human contributions and in Column B all negative contributions, I am trying to do it myself.

Radiative forcing has been used as a proxy to express the climate response of different GHGs. It is a hypothetical figure, as it doesn’t include the response of the rest of the climate’s components or natural variability. Increased warmth, for example, has produced a quick response in vegetative cover increase, which should reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, affect precipitation in the immediate region and have an effect on surface albedo as well. None of those is captured by radiative forcing estimates, an indication that physicists have superimposed their concept of the world on us all. All hail our new physicist overlords! (I suspect that biology and chemistry will eventually find their voice.)

My source is IPCC AR4 (I couldn’t find it in AR5), but the physics shouldn’t change that much in a handful of years, right?

So here’s about half the picture in my handmade chart:

IPCC AR4 Greenhouse Gas Forcing

According to the IPCC, human emissions of CO2 comprise 56.6% of the relevant gas emissions.

The total net forcing (subtracting the negative contributions of land use and cloud albedo) is 1.8 Watts per square meter. The total forcing of the elements listed in the chart above are 2.64 Watts per square meter, I think.

Here’s their chart:


There are a lot of things I don’t understand.

For example, their separate figure for deforestation. Much of the effects of deforestation is the liberation of CO2 from dead trees. Some of it is from the changed albedo of the cleared land. Is the separate figure for deforestation accounting for either, both or something else?

But I guess my major sticking point is black carbon. I’m not sure why they list black carbon is given by the IPCC as a negligible forcing of 0.1 W/m2. In a report by the EPA to Congress, the EPA writes,

“BC influences climate through multiple mechanisms: – Direct effect: BC absorbs both incoming and outgoing radiation of all wavelengths, which contributes to warming of the atmosphere and dimming at the surface. In contrast, GHGs mainly trap outgoing infrared radiation from the Earth’s surface. – Snow/ice albedo effect: BC deposited on snow and ice darkens the surface and decreases reflectivity (albedo), thereby increasing absorption and accelerating melting. GHGs do not directly affect the Earth’s albedo. – Other effects: BC also alters the properties and distribution of clouds, affecting cloud reflectivity and lifetime (“indirect effects”), stability (“semi-direct effect”), and precipitation. These impacts are associated with all ambient particles, but not GHGs. y The direct and snow/ice albedo effects of BC are widely understood to lead to climate warming. Based on the studies surveyed for this report, the direct and snow/ice albedo effects of BC together likely contribute more to current warming than any GHG other than CO2 and methane (CH4).”

The EPA gives the potential forcing of black carbon as “+0.34 to 1.0 W m-2 direct forcing +0.05 W m-2 (snow/ice albedo forcing) ± ? (cloud interactions) Net effect: uncertain, but likely warming.”

Way back in 2001, Mark Jacobson (Yes, him) published a paper in Nature saying “Soot -­ or black carbon ­ may be responsible for 15 to 30 percent of global warming, yet it’s not even considered in any of the discussions about controlling climate change,” says Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, author of the Feb. 8 Nature study.

Since then, the Guardian has published a story saying “The global warming effect of ‘black carbon’, or soot, has been greatly exaggerated due to mistaken assumptions about the atmospheric altitude at which its particles are concentrated, according to a new study” based on a paper by the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo.

The BBC countered with “Scientists say that particles from diesel engines and wood burning could be having twice as much warming effect as assessed in past estimates. They say it ranks second only to carbon dioxide as the most important climate-warming agent. The research is in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. Black carbon aerosols have been known to warm the atmosphere for many years by absorbing sunlight. They also speed the melting of ice and snow.

This new study concludes the dark particles are having a warming effect approximately two thirds that of carbon dioxide, and greater than methane. “The large conclusion is that forcing due to black carbon in the atmosphere is larger,” lead author Sarah Doherty told BBC News. “The value the IPCC gave in their 4th assessment report in 2007 is half of what we are presenting in this report – it’s a little bit shocking.”

I guess I’m not the only puzzled by all this.


Reducing Methane Emissions

As CO2 only accounts for about a third of our influence on the climate, it is fair to wonder if going after the other 67% might be a more effective use of our resources.

Certainly in the short term we would get a better bang for our buck by going after black soot, deforestation… and methane.

Methane is about 23 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2,so eliminating one tonne of methane from the atmosphere is equivalent to drawing down 23 tonnes of the more familiar bogeyman.

Here is a chart showing the sources of human generated methane in the U.S.


All of these sources are amenable to human mitigation.

For example, the U.S. EPA has this to say about methane leaks from natural gas operations: (They go into great detail, much of which concerns using correct and modern equipment.)

Good Housekeeping has this advice for farmers: “Anaerobic “digesters” utilize microorganisms to decompose cattle manure within a huge container. The resulting biogas can be harvested and used for “free” electricity production, rather than be expelled into the atmosphere.”

The EPA has more advice along the same lines:

“Trash decomposes (or rots) in landfills, creating methane gas. Methane rises to the top of the landfill and is collected in pipes. The methane is burned to produce heat or generate electricity.”

They cite some examples of this in use:

  • Putting waste to good use. More than 500 landfill–to–energy projects are currently operating in the United States, and another 500 landfills are good candidates for turning their methane into an energy resource, which would produce enough electricity to power nearly 688,000 homes across the nation.
  • Top producer. In 2009, Germany produced enough electricity from biogas to power 3.5 million homes.
  • A world first! Sweden has been operating a biogas-powered train since 2005. It shuttles passengers between two cities that are 75 miles apart.

Sadly, environmentalists often oppose capturing methane for energy as it ‘takes the pressure off of people to reduce, reuse and recycle…” Sigh.

waste plantHG

Methane often comes out of the ground during oil drilling operations. It is often burnt as it does so. But it can be captured and used as fuel.

The Obama administration has put in place a plan to reduce methane escape from oil drilling and operations by 40% to 45% by 2025. Secretary of Labor Jewell said “I think most people would agree that we should be using our nation’s natural gas to power our economy – not wasting it by venting and flaring it into the atmosphere,” said Secretary Jewell. “We need to modernize decades-old standards to reflect existing technologies so that we can cut down on harmful methane emissions and use this captured natural gas to generate power and provide a return to taxpayers, tribes and states for this public resource.”

Manure management accounts for about 12% of the total greenhouse gas emissions from the Agriculture sector in the United States. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture have increased by approximately 17% since 1990. One driver for this increase has been the 54% growth in combined CH4 and N2O emissions from livestock manure management systems, reflecting the increased use of emission-intensive liquid systems over this time period.

This too can be reduced. The EPA suggests:

  • Handling manure as a solid or depositing it on pasture rather than storing it in a liquid-based system such as a lagoon. This would likely reduce CH4 emissions but may increase N2O emissions.
  • Storing manure in anaerobic containment areas to maximize CH4 production and then capturing the CH4to use as an energy substitute for fossil fuels.
  • For more information see EPA’s AgSTAR Program, a voluntary outreach and education program that promotes recovery and use of methane from animal manure.

Enteric Fermentation means the infamous cow belches–ruminant animals produce methane as they digest and they burp it out (they don’t fart it out–that’s a myth.)

cow burping

“Methods to mitigate enteric fermentation emissions are still in development and need further research, but early studies looking at potential mitigation options have yielded some promising results. Most research has focused on manipulating animal diet in an effort to inhibit a rumen environment favorable to methanogens. Diet manipulation can abate methane by decreasing the fermentation of organic matter in the rumen, allowing for greater digestion in the intestines—where less enteric fermentation takes place. This inhibits methanogens and limits the amount of hydrogen (H) available for methane (CH4).”

All of these actions have appropriate technologies designed and available for use. Methane produces (apparently) about one third the effect on our climate as does our emissions of CO2.

Why would we ignore this opportunity? We can use it as natural gas to produce heat and electricity and lower our impact on the planet.




“I feel the earth is going to melt very soon.”

“Designer Gaurav Gupta chose to display his collection at the ongoing Amazon India Fashion Week (AIFW) 2016 outside the show area to create awareness about the ill-effects of climate change.

“Titled as “melt”, the collection is inspired by the melancholic apocalypse.

“”I have been thinking a lot about climate change and I feel that the earth is going to melt very soon. I have been over-thinking about the pollution in Delhi as it is one the most polluted cities in the world. It affected me deeply and inspired my whole collection.”

“The collection, predominantly in the shades of orange, blue and grey, presented the melting glaciers in the form of hand embroideries.”

I have nothing to add.


(Gaurav Gupta at AIFW 2016. Image Credit – FDCI Facebook account)

Peak CO2?

Peak CO2

Globally, GDP grew by 3% last year, an average rate for an average year.

Surprisingly, for the second year in a row, CO2 emissions stayed flat, according to the International Energy Agency. At 32 billion tonnes, it’s almost 2 billion tonnes less than the U.S. Department of Energy predicted for 2015.

“The new figures confirm last year’s surprising but welcome news: we now have seen two straight years of greenhouse gas emissions decoupling from economic growth,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.

Smarter people than I will deal with the fact that temperatures jumped while CO2 stayed flat. I don’t think they will find much in the way of causation for this lack of correlation.

What I think may prove to be a fruitful exercise is looking at the very high jump in CO2 concentrations in a year when we didn’t put out any more than the last couple of years.

Although the Guardian writes “Fossil fuel burning and a strong El Niño weather pattern pushed CO2 levels 3.05 parts per million (ppm) on a year earlier to 402.6 ppm, as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said on Wednesday” I think it’s mostly El Niño this year.

I actually think climate activists will do their best to ignore this good news, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to follow suit.

China has reached a plateau in their massive infrastructure and housing buildout. Most new power generation is coming from renewable resources–massive dams are being built throughout the developing world and wind and solar are growing quickly as well.

I doubt if we’ve turned the corner on emissions–India, Indonesia, Malaysia and other  developing countries are just getting started.

But let’s enjoy this good news today, even if it’s only for today.


After information deficit, after framing, what will be next?

In the developed world most people accept that the climate is warming and that humans are at least partially responsible. (In the developing world most have never heard of the issue.)

However, they don’t much care, consistently rating climate change somewhere between hangnails and the heartbreak of psoriasis on their list of things requiring attention.

As Vox puts it, “The danger of climate change does not arouse much public passion, certainly nothing like what the facts would warrant. This drives climate campaigners crazy. Always has.”

There have been several strategies used by climate activists to try and change it. The two ‘legitimate’ efforts have been to try and overcome an ‘information deficit,’ which translates into educating people about the issue, and ‘framing’ the issue, which used to be called finding the right sales pitch.

Vox writes, “A letter published this month in Nature Climate Change attempts to settle the question. Researchers Thomas Bernauer and Liam F. McGrath, political scientists at Switzerland’s Center for Comparative and International Studies, set up experiments in which people (drawn from different demographic and ideological backgrounds) were randomly assigned texts that framed climate change in different ways.

One was “climate risk reduction,” the standard frame. The other three were “economic co-benefits, community building, and health benefits.” At the end, subjects were tested on three different measures of willingness to support action on climate change, ranging from personal action to policy action.Long story short: None of it worked. The researchers found that different framings had no consistent or statistically significant effects on subjects’ willingness to support climate action.”

Climate activists have also engaged in ‘guerrilla marketing,’ mounting campaigns against their opponents and using emotive iconography to paint a picture of a world threatened by climate change that has in fact barely begun to register on the measuring devices of environmental scientists.

But, as Vox says, none of it has worked. The public still accepts climate change and still refuses to be overly concerned about it.

The activist community is stubborn–and I don’t mean that as an insult. Dogged determination has been one of the root causes of success for many social causes. So I don’t think they have any intention of abandoning the fight. The political successes they have had are a) not enough to turn the tide (or lower it, for that matter) and b) are easily reversible with a change of governments, as shown in Australia, Canada and the UK.

Those who are convinced that climate change is the challenge facing this decade/century/millenium will continue to try and find the key to the public opinion puzzle.

If I were counseling them, I would suggest that a good look at  history might be of some value to them going forward. To date, the only playbook they have availed themselves of has been the struggle against Big Tobacco. They want to prosecute oil companies, jail dissenters, etc., because that’s what activists did fighting tobacco.

But this requires a certain blindness, to history as well as morality. As noted in 2012 by the Guardian, “Revenues from global tobacco sales are estimated to be close to $500bn (£316bn), generating combined profits for the six largest firms of $35.1bn – more than $1,100 a second.” What exactly did the activists win?

They managed to drag executives into court, won some high profile cases and won damages or reparations for families of some who were killed by smoking. They blackened the names of the industry that has blackened the lungs of millions–but that’s about it.

That climate activists have convinced themselves that this strategy is a winner is odd, but no odder than many of the things climate activists have done.

I wonder why they don’t pick a movement that actually succeeded? There are many to choose from, ranging from abolition to votes for women to civil rights. Why, there are even environmental campaigns that actually succeeded.

The most recent successful movement has been for legal and social acceptance of the LGBT members of society. Although the movement has a long history, actual movement of the issue was telescoped into this last decade.

There are lessons to be learned from each of these movements. But there’s one thing they all had in common–they were outside the establishment agitating for change.

Which means to me that, whatever path they choose next, claiming the mantle of authority and the legitimacy of consensus may not prove to be the best foundation for their future efforts.

Sometimes that tells the wrong story.


David W. Titley and Xtreme Weather

Followers of the climate conversation will remember David Titley as one of the panel convened by Senator Ted Cruz, the one where Judith Curry got slimed by Senator Whitehouse and Mark Steyn jumped to her defense.

Titley was the consensus star of the show, with a low-key presentation style and an easy familiarity with the Senate environment.

He’s back, this time pushing the somewhat tired Xtreme Weather meme. From my former home’s online newspaper, the Shanghai Daily, comes this report: “Extreme Weather Events Show Signal Of Climate Change: Report.”

“David W. Titley, who chaired the Committee of Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change Attribution, noted in the report’s preface that “the consequences of this change to the climate are seemingly everywhere: average temperatures are rising, precipitation patterns are changing, ice sheets are melting and sea levels are rising.”

He failed to note that average temperatures have been rising since 1880, sea levels have been rising even longer than that, that ice sheets do melt–but then refreeze and precipitation patterns have been changing as long as there has been precipitation.

“Since 2012, the number of research groups issuing studies on the attribution of extreme weather events has exploded, shedding new light on the external “forcing” mechanisms of events and how they are similar or different from other events. “The clearest tie between climate change and weather is in heat-related events,” said (researcher for the report) Mote, who wrote the sections on heat and drought in the report.

“Droughts are getting worse and some aspect of every major heat-related event is stronger today because of climate change. In fact, most types of extreme events are getting stronger or more frequent, except those related to cold events, which are weaker or less frequent.”

This is just not true. Global drought has decreased since 1901.

David Titley is mentioned frequently in the news. A retired U.S. Navy Admiral, he commands respect because of his service and has the weight of the Pentagon behind his pronouncements. The Pentagon believes climate change will affect the defense capabilities of the U.S.A. Which is a weighty statement until you recall they also believed Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons.

military intelligence

Titley was interviewed in Slate, which began its article saying, “On our current path, climate change could pose an irreversible, existential risk to civilization as we know it—but we can still fix it if we decide to work together.”

That’s what is known as irresponsible alarmism. The IPCC does not think climate change could pose an irreversible, existential risk to civilization as we know it. Most mainstream scientists who have commented on the issue seem to classify it as a problem that will trouble, not doom us.

But Titley didn’t say that. What he said was much more common-sensical.  He said, “Where are the free-market, conservative ideas? The science is settled. Instead, we should have a legitimate policy debate between the center-right and the center-left on what to do about climate change. If you’re a conservative—half of America—why would you take yourself out of the debate? C’mon, don’t be stupid. Conservative people want to conserve things. Preserving the climate should be high on that list.” (Well, he should perhaps rethink that ‘science is settled’ bit…)

And later in the article, “Most people out there are just trying to keep their job and provide for their family. If climate change is now a once-in-a-mortgage problem, and if food prices start to spike, people will pay attention. Factoring in sea-level rise, storms like Hurricane Katrina and Sandy could become not once-in-100-year events, but once-in-a-mortgage events. I lost my house in Waveland, Miss., during Katrina. I’ve experienced what that’s like.”

And finally, “People working on climate change should prepare for catastrophic success. I mean, look at how quickly the gay rights conversation changed in this country. Ten years ago, it was at best a fringe thing. Nowadays, it’s much, much more accepted. Is that possible with climate change? I don’t know, but 10 years ago, if you brought up the possibility we’d have gay marriages in dozens of states in 2014, a friend might have said “Are you on drugs?” When we get focused, we can do amazing things. Unfortunately, it’s usually at the last minute, usually under duress.”

I like what he said in Slate. I don’t like what he said in the Shanghai Daily. I don’t expect perfect congruence or even high levels of consistency from the people I read and respect. But I can’t reconcile the two. And I’d like to and not just because we were both in the same branch of the service.

I’d like to find an intelligent, moderate voice on the consensus side–there are damn few of them. Not that intelligent moderate people with consensus views don’t exist–they don’t have a voice. They are crowded off the stage by activists with an agenda that can most charitably be described as hysterical.

Is it the diagnosis or the prescription?

Update: As pointed out by MikeM in comments, I got the numbers wrong for forcings in watts per square meter. Sorry! Here’s the chart from IPCC AR5–I’ll update numbers and text below and adjust the text accordingly. Let me know if I missed anything.


This is reposted from something I just wrote for Cliscep–I ran out of time for a separate post today… but Happy Sunday to all!

Patient disease

There are those who label opponents of the climate consensus as climate ‘deniers’ and some of those who do go out of their way to make sure that the term is as loaded as possible. When asked what it is these ‘deniers’ deny, the explanation varies, but usually boils down to ‘you don’t agree with our policy proposals so you must be denying climate science.’ If it hasn’t already, the conversation quickly breaks down when these climate activists are informed that ‘non-sequitur’ actually has a meaning.

As a non-scientist lukewarmer, I cheerfully accept the bulk of the science regarding climate change. I have no problems with the greenhouse effect, radiative transfer, the possibility of the amplification of warming caused by human effects, etc. Although what I see and read leads me to the belief that atmospheric sensitivity is at the low end of the IPCC’s 1.5C -4.5C range, it wouldn’t bring me to the point of existential crisis to find out I am wrong.

When Al Gore said ‘the planet has a fever,’ he introduced a medical metaphor that has persisted since he said it. Activists often say ‘If a doctor tells you you have cancer you normally accept it–even if you get a second opinion, it’s from another doctor.’

Although I think we should talk about climate change as complex interactions between various elements of the atmospheric and hydrological cycle, if you want to reduce it to a medical metaphor, I guess I can live with that. But it’s pretty clear that instead of talking about a fever, cancer or another favorite, heart disease, we should class human-caused climate change as a chronic condition along the lines of obesity, diabetes or alcoholism. Excess CO2 has led to a physical condition that we will have to manage or suffer serious (but not fatal) consequences.

But whatever. I accept the diagnosis. The climate has warmed and we are most probably a significant cause of this warming.

As a Lukewarmer my issues with the consensus are not about the science. Rather, I don’t agree with most of what is prescribed as a cure. Cap and Trade seems like a bad joke, REDD seems like a scam. Flying 44,000 people to Paris to talk about climate change partially due to air travel seems out of a Monty Python sketch.

Worst of all is the monomaniacal focus on CO2 emissions. These emissions constitute only one-third of human effects on the climate, yet that is the only thing that gets looked at, measured and combatted. Methane is actually a significant contributor to human influences, but it is rarely mentioned. Usually it is combined with CO2 to provide a larger total called ‘CO2 equivalents,’ then ushered quickly off stage so we can get back to the exciting conversations about sequestering CO2 underground and other megaprojects.

But, rice paddies aside, methane is easier to fight. We know where it’s coming from and we know how to stop it. Why is nobody making a fuss about it?

Similarly, black carbon causes about one-third as much as CO2 of human influences on the climate (as much as 1 watt per square meter in forcing), yet it is ignored. Deforestation causes about 17% of our influence but is left out of the conversation.

Enter ‘Fast Mitigation,’ a new strategy to eliminate SLCPs (Short-Lived Climate Pollutants) including methane, black carbon, hydrofluourocarbons and tropospheric ozone. All of these factors are subject to human mitigation with existing technology and would have a dramatic effect on climate change. If implemented now, they could reduce temperatures by 0.5C by 2050, all else being equal.

The reaction of climate activists to Fast Mitigation is telling–they have derided it and sought to deligitimize those who advocate it, inventing terms like ‘mitigation skeptic’ the better to marginalize the views and viewholders.

However, combined with current efforts to get coal out of the power generation business, reversal of deforestation and the continued growth of renewables at a market-based pace, it seems like it would be easier to chart a strategy aimed at the 70% of human-influences on climate change that are not related to CO2 emissions in a manner that is both easier and cheaper.

Call it Fast Mitigation Plus. It doesn’t mean we have to abandon efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. It just means we broaden our focus to include all human influences, not just the one that is most expensive to fix, which is also the one we don’t really know how to fix.

Call it treating the patient, not the symptom.

Attribution the hard way: black carbon soot

I’m on a quest–not for retribution but for attribution. The climate is warming and there are several factors pushing temperatures upward, as well as several others pushing back in resistance, trying to keep temperatures down. I really want to know how much each factor contributes to our effects on climate. I am having trouble finding specific numbers for each factor, so it’s going to take time–sorry to drag you all through this with me.

The common unit of measure for climatic forcing agents is the energy perturbation that they introduce into the climate system, measured in units of watts per square meter (W/m2).

According to the IPCC AR4…

  • The combined radiative forcing due to increases in carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide is +2.30 [+2.07 to +2.53] W m–2, and its rate of increase during the industrial era is very likely to have been unprecedented in more than 10,000 years (see Figures SPM.1 and SPM.2). The carbon dioxide radiative forcing increased by 20% from 1995 to 2005, the largest change for any decade in at least the last 200 years. {2.3, 6.4}
  • Anthropogenic contributions to aerosols (primarily sulphate, organic carbon, black carbon, nitrate and dust) together produce a cooling effect, with a total direct radiative forcing of –0.5 [–0.9 to –0.1] W m–2 and an indirect cloud albedo forcing of –0.7 [–1.8 to –0.3] W m–2. These forcings are now better understood than at the time of the TAR due to improvedin situ, satellite and ground-based measurements and more comprehensive modelling, but remain the dominant uncertainty in radiative forcing. Aerosols also influence cloud lifetime and precipitation. {2.4, 2.9, 7.5}
  • Significant anthropogenic contributions to radiative forcing come from several other sources. Tropospheric ozone changes due to emissions of ozone-forming chemicals (nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons) contribute +0.35 [+0.25 to +0.65] W m–2. The direct radiative forcing due to changes in halocarbons[8] is +0.34 [+0.31 to +0.37] W m–2. Changes in surface albedo, due to land cover changes and deposition of black carbon aerosols on snow, exert respective forcings of –0.2 [–0.4 to 0.0] and +0.1 [0.0 to +0.2] W m–2. Additional terms smaller than ±0.1 W m–2 are shown in Figure SPM.2. {2.3, 2.5, 7.2}

Today I’m interested in black carbon, also known as black soot or, just for the sake of variety, black carbon soot. You see above that the IPCC combined it with aerosols and other particulate matter and assigned the group a total forcing of -0.7 watts per square meter.

However, in 2013 a team of scientists 232-page report in the Journal of Geophysical Research. They estimate the radiative forcing of 1.1 watts per square meter. An article in Environment 360 from Yale University made the obvious point:  “If black carbon is responsible for trapping so much heat, then reducing soot may be an effective way to slow down the planet’s warming. It’s even more attractive because black carbon washes quickly out of the atmosphere, and so reducing soot emissions would lead to a fast fall in the concentration of black carbon in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, by contrast, lingers for centuries in the atmosphere.” Hence the focus on removing black carbon by the Fast Mitigation crowd, including me–and James Hansen, who came up with a similar forcing figure in a paper he co-authored with Makiko Sato (“Global atmospheric black carbon inferred from AERONET”).

The figure is net–black carbon heats when it’s in the atmosphere, but there are also cooling effects associated with it, not to mention its role in reducing the albedo of snow covered ground when it turns white into grey. But 1 watt per square meter is the end result of counting all that, far greater than the IPCC estimated.

If black carbon produces more than a third of the radiative forcing of greenhouse gases, and if it is true that black carbon is much easier to abate than gases, the Fast Mitigation posse should be making their point more strongly. If coupled with reductions in other areas, such as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) – including methane, black carbon, tropospheric ozone or hydrofluorocarbons, the claim is that we could reduce temperatures (all else being equal) by 0.5C by 2050. If we then make progress on deforestation, renewable sources of energy and large scale substitution of coal-fired energy plants, we’ve actually got something going on.

This is why attribution is key to a climate strategy. Activists claim that efforts to reduce other climate forcing agents are at best misguided, at worst evile strategies promoted by fossil fuel fanatics determined to sell their coal and oil.

But if climate change really is the challenge of the millenium, we will probably need more than one weapon with which to combat it. To rely on something as iffy and complicated as reducing CO2 emissions when it is possible to bring other forces to bear as well (not instead)… is daft. Silly. It’s like…


Priorities for Pakistan

I’m finishing a report today and traveling tomorrow and Thursday, so posting will be light.

Just to leave you with something to ruminate over, I find this interesting.

Pakistan leads the Global Terrorism Index with 13% of all terrorist deaths.


21% of the population makes less than $1.25 a day.


Pakistan has the world’s second highest number of children not in school.


Pakistan is facing a perpetual energy crisis. The reason is simple: the demand for electricity in Pakistan exceeds supply by 5,000 MW.


So we get this from Linda Heard, ‘Thinker,’ in a special to Gulf News:

“For decades, Pakistan has struggled to manage urgent crises, ranging from infrastructure woes to terrorism. While its policies focus on short-term conventional threats, a potentially devastating danger lurks in the shadows: Climate change. As the impact of global warming continues to grow, the political and economic instability it brings will threaten Pakistan’s security. The Pakistani government must prioritise its response to climate change in order to mitigate environmental threats and prevent future calamities.”

No, Ms. Heard. Pakistan needs to improve its energy supply, education and poverty reduction programs.

Rich countries can afford to do whatever is really needed to combat climate change. Pakistan’s emissions are an asterisk in global totals. Pakistan needs to improve the quality of life for its people.

60% of the emissions in 2040 will come from the top 5 emitters: China, the U.S., Japan, Russia and India. Talk to the top 4 and let’s wait for the rest.




Bailing In: Subsidence and Sea Level Rise

Since 1880 sea levels have risen about 8 inches. For most of us, that has not posed a problem.

bailing iin

Where it has posed a problem it is combined with both natural and human-caused subsidence. In parts of the globe threatened by rising tides, subsidence has played a bigger role than the rising seas.

Subsidence is a common cause of amplified relative sea-level rise, flooding, and erosion in coastal environments. In particular, subsidence due to sediment consolidation can play a significant role in relative sea-level rise in large deltas. We use a combination of InSAR (interferometric synthetic aperture radar), leveling, and global positioning system data to map absolute vertical land motion in the Fraser River delta, western Canada. We show that primary consolidation of shallow Holocene sediments is the main cause for the slow subsidence (−1 to −2 mm/a) affecting the delta lowlands. In addition, parts of the delta undergo increased anthropogenic subsidence. Rapid subsidence rates (−3 to −8 mm/a) are associated with recent artificial loads and exhibit a first-order exponential decrease with a time constant of ~20 years, consistent with the theory of consolidation. Assuming two sea-level rise scenarios of 30 or 100 cm by the end of the twenty-first century, natural subsidence will augment relative sea-level rise in the Fraser Holocene lowlands by ~50% or ~15%. Anthropogenic subsidence will augment relative sea-level rise by ~130% or ~40%, potentially raising it to as much as 1–2 m. In deltaic, lacustrine, and alluvial environments, anthropogenic sediment consolidation can result in significant amplification and strong spatial variations of relative sea-level rise that need to be considered in local planning.”

Subsurface fluid-pressure declines caused by pumping of groundwater or hydrocarbons can lead to aquifer-system compaction and consequent land subsidence. This subsidence can be rapid, as much as 30 cm per year in some instances, and large, totaling more than 13 m in extreme examples. Thus anthropogenic subsidence may be the dominant contributor to relative sea-level rise in coastal environments where subsurface fluids are heavily exploited.”

“Erban et al (2014) use satellite-radar interferometry (InSAR) to document recent subsidence rates of 1–4 cm yr−1 over large parts of the Mekong Delta, and show that this widespread subsidence is likely caused by groundwater pumping and associated water-level declines. They project ∼0.9 m of human-induced subsidence by 2050, versus ∼0.1 m of expected sea-level rise.”

“In some areas of the world, the obvious and expensive damage caused by anthropogenic coastal subsidence has prompted concerted efforts to arrest and reverse groundwater-level declines, often by importing additional surface water. For instance in the greater Houston (USA) area, nearly 3 m of coastal subsidence due to aquifer-system compaction caused billions of dollars in damage and in 1975 prompted establishment of a Subsidence District with regulatory authority (Galloway et al 2003).”

The Coming Energy Transition

How we deal with climate change will either speed up or slow down the energy transition that began more or less in the 1970s, which saw both the OPEC embargo and the arrival at market of photovoltaic solar arrays.

In 1974 the EPA mandated the conversion of many power generating plants to coal, the better to conserve precious oil. That is not their current policy. They now intend to get coal out of the generating market, and they look ready to succeed.

A key to saving tens of millions of lives is helping the developing world leapfrog one step on the energy ladder, just as they did with telecommunications. If they electrify without coal, lives are saved. But they must electrify, or lives are lost to dung fires indoors.

If we adopt the ideas of Marc Jacobson, we will spend upwards of $30 trillion converting the worlds’ power to sun, wind, water and air–but it will still leave the developing world short of the energy they need. That $30 trillion is in part because of the artificial deadline imposed by Mr. Jacobson, inspired no doubt by the hyperventilations of climate activists.

A saner approach would save almost half of that amount, with the quick replacement of coal with natural gas while we follow China’s lead and France’s example and move towards nuclear–hopefully safer, newer nuclear, but nuclear nonetheless.

Solar could be left to develop at its natural rate, which would see it contribute about 30% of electricity generation in developed countries by 2050. It still requires modest subsidies, but those subsidies are well spent–nothing like the subsidies Venezuela and Iran put on petroleum for their citizens.

We have undergone several energy transformations, from wood to coal, coal to oil, oil to the strange portfolio we have today. The only thing they all have in common is they take time.

If we have the time, the natural path I describe above will be cheaper, more effective and less painful.

If we don’t have the time we should quit messing around, put nuclear up in a forced march and take the financial hit that involves. It would be $23 trillion, still less than Jacobson’s approach, but it’s expensive, even if spread out over 30 years.

Those saying we don’t have time have yet to convince me–there are times it looks as though they are seeking to convince each other.

But I could be convinced. If the climate establishment could successfully answer the questions involved in Recognition, Attribution, Mitigation and Adaptation, I would come on board.

But they can’t even tell me what the sensitivity of the atmosphere is to a doubling of CO2 concentrations.

After almost 30 years of the climate debate, you would think we would be a bit further ahead.

When did this fight really start?


Attributing Current Climate Change to Specific Sources

Climate activists tend to skip over this part of the program, fast forwarding to policies to reduce emissions.

They’re furious at the recent movement in favor of ‘Fast Mitigation,’ many adherents of which think that we can reduce warming by 0.5C by the end of the century by focusing on deforestation, black soot and complex fluorocarbons. As even the most ambitious program to limit CO2 emissions will only reduce warming by 20% of that figure, the Fast Mitigation movement seems attractive.

However, both sides need to understand and (hopefully) agree on what is actually contributing to the current warming. We know that, for example, a strong El Nino can push temperatures up quickly and La Nina can sometimes (not always) erase those gains. Both skeptics and alarmists tend to forget that and other sources of natural variability when the current stats break in their favor.

This is how the IPCC viewed it in 2007:


This chart looks like the Fast Mitigation strategy might be able to have the impact proponents claim for it. If we could reduce Halocarbons to close to zero and black carbon, we would remove a lot of the forcings claimed for our existence on this planet.

But I don’t see on this chart anything to do with deforestation. And I don’t understand why land use is lumped in with black carbon on snow.

This chart, from Southwest Climate Climate Change (and sourced from UNEP), shows more detail. But no numbers. (When I make a chart I try to put the numbers on top of the bars. It really helps.)


I’d like to see a stacked bar chart with percentages for each.

Anyone know where I can find one?

My Guest Post on Cliscep

As I’m busy with a report, instead of my usual fare I can direct you to the new blog Cliscep, which has chosen to publish a guest post of mine.

Love to see your comments over there! Or here, if you like…

You have been…