Quick bleg

This is entirely unrelated–feel free to skip over to the next post.

My wife has entered a photography contest and I’m asking for ballot-stuffing by my regular readers.

She writes, “Can you please help me on this?

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Can We Power Our Civilization on Water, Wind and Air?

Stanford’s Mark Jacobson certainly thinks so. He’s developed a road map for all 50 of the United States and 139 countries accounting for 95% of CO2 emissions. It leads to 80% adoption of carbon free emissions by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

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It’s being analyzed and dissected by many who have featured in the climate conversation. Here’s a debate involving Jacobson, Ken Caldeira, Michael Shellenberger and a woman whose name I couldn’t catch (Help from readers?). Update: Commenter Harold W. writes “The fourth panelist was Dale Bryk, director of programs at the National Resources Defense Council.” It’s quite interesting.

Jacobson’s plan has some heroic assumptions, such as battery powered aircraft, mass adoption of electric heat pumps etc., and of course immediate and widespread installation of lots of solar and wind.

Most of the objections I’ve read or heard are about Jacobson’s pruning of nuclear and biofuels from the portfolio of available sources of energy. However as a thought experiment Jacobson’s roadmap is interesting.

I don’t object too much to his technology assumptions. Some of his ideas may happen, some will not, some he hasn’t considered may replace them. I don’t object to his relying on wind, air and water–if it comes down to it, we may supplement his plan with carbon free fuels he didn’t include. No big deal.

I do have two objections that I haven’t really seen raised elsewhere. First, his roadmap isn’t costed. He shows lots of formulae showing that operating the new energy system will provide more benefits than costs–and I don’t really question them. Getting pollution out of the system will save a lot of lives and lives are worth money. There are no fuel costs associated with wind, air and water.

But building out the system will require a lot of money. $30 trillion, by my back of the envelope calculations, and my calculations don’t include additional transmission lines required due to the distributed nature of his system. I think he should have put a price tag on it, if he really wanted it to be taken seriously.

We could afford $30 trillion over 34 years. But we wouldn’t like paying it at the time.

My second objection is more philosophical. The level of effort this would take would eclipse the effort put into fighting World War II. A lot of other worthy projects would suffer as a result. Do we want to concentrate the planet’s energies into this?

I would vote no for one simple reason: We are moving rather quickly in the direction of something similar to what Jacobson proposes already. Left alone, we will probably get where Jacobson wants us to be in 50-75 years, albeit we will probably not give up on nukes or ethanol, and we may even hang on to a lot of our natural gas plants.

Telesocoping the timeframe for this energy transition is one reason for its high costs. It is only worth it if you believe the outlier predictions for climate change impacts. If atmospheric sensitivity is as low as recent papers suggest, rather than as high as some activists want us all to believe, we have time to let the market move and for market signals to refine the portfolio of energy sources, rather than dictating them in 2016, essentially the starting point for some fuels. Scenarios based on Representative Concentration Pathways are horribly flawed–saying we must act because of what they suggest is close to madness.

Once again, I think Bjorn Lomborg pointed the way back when he wrote The Skeptical Environmentalist. Spend money on research now and wait for clear winners before committing to such an expensive overhaul of our energy system.

 

Warren Buffett on Climate Change

We recently gave space to Bill Gates to talk about energy, so it’s time to provide equal time to the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett. You know, when two of the richest people on the planet team up…

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Mr. Buffett’s business judgment and acumen is widely respected across the planet. As he has frequently been labeled the richest man on the planet (an annual award that probably doesn’t mean very much to him) his ideas carry a lot of weight. Mr. Buffett has built a conglomerate covering a wide variety of sectors, some of the biggest being in insurance.

An activist organization bought one share of Buffett’s company so they could ask Buffett’s company (Berkshire Hathaway) to discuss how climate change posed a risk to the company’s future.

In his letter to shareholders (which everybody should read in its entirety) Mr. Buffett was blunt: “It seems highly likely to me that climate change poses a major problem for the planet. I say “highly likely” rather than “certain” because I have no scientific aptitude and remember well the dire predictions of most “experts” about Y2K. It would be foolish, however, for me or anyone to demand 100% proof of huge forthcoming damage to the world if that outcome seemed at all possible and if prompt action had even a small chance of thwarting the danger.

This issue bears a similarity to Pascal’s Wager on the Existence of God. Pascal, it may be recalled, argued that if there were only a tiny probability that God truly existed, it made sense to behave as if He did because the rewards could be infinite whereas the lack of belief risked eternal misery. Likewise, if there is only a 1% chance the planet is heading toward a truly major disaster and delay means passing a point of no return, inaction now is foolhardy. Call this Noah’s Law: If an ark may be essential for survival, begin building it today, no matter how cloudless the skies appear.

It’s understandable that the sponsor of the proxy proposal believes Berkshire is especially threatened by climate change because we are a huge insurer, covering all sorts of risks. The sponsor may worry that property losses will skyrocket because of weather changes. And such worries might, in fact, be warranted if we wrote ten- or twenty-year policies at fixed prices. But insurance policies are customarily written for one year and repriced annually to reflect changing exposures. Increased possibilities of loss translate promptly into increased premiums.”

…”Up to now, climate change has not produced more frequent nor more costly hurricanes nor other weather-related events covered by insurance. As a consequence, U.S. super-cat rates have fallen steadily in recent years, which is why we have backed away from that business. If super-cats become costlier and more frequent, the likely – though far from certain – effect on Berkshire’s insurance business would be to make it larger and more profitable.

As a citizen, you may understandably find climate change keeping you up nights. As a homeowner in a low-lying area, you may wish to consider moving. But when you are thinking only as a shareholder of a major insurer, climate change should not be on your list of worries.”

I wrote this and then realized I don’t have anything to add, except to mention that one of Warren Buffett’s companies makes an awful lot of money transporting oil by rail because the Keystone Pipeline was not approved. Perhaps my commenters will have more to say. The floor is open.

How to Create a Pile of Climate B.S. in Mere Seconds

Step 1: Take a fairly respectable study from the University of Chicago showing “Health care in America, including activities such as hospital care, scientific research and the production and distribution of pharmaceutical drugs, was found to produce 8 percent of the country’s total carbon dioxide output despite accounting for 16 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.”

Step 2: Ignore the study you have just read. Then, tell a lie: Write  a story that says, “Climate change is a critical public health issue — one that hospitals need to do more to address. Every year, U.S. hospitals are emitting 8 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gases.”

Voila! Instead of a sector that is out-performing many others in ratio of emissions to gross value added, you have one that is scandalously putting us all in danger due to careless outgassing from the nurses stations across the country.

You can use it, as this story does, to call for a massive redirection of resources away from the trivial fripperies of saving lives and delivering babies to the much more important task of eliminating the deadly poison of CO2.

You can include a mind-numbingly stupid statement such as “I know firsthand how significant an undertaking these commitments can be, which is one reason why progress in adopting sustainable practices has been slow” and nobody will even notice! Is it really your knowledge that is slowing progress?

You can gloss over the obvious, even in your own story: “According to the 2015 Health Facilities Management (HFM) Sustainable Operations Survey, 61 percent named competing investments/spending priorities as the top challenge/barrier to realizing environmentally sustainable measures, followed by employee time limits (52 percent) and lack of adequate staff (50 percent).” They are hospitals. They get funding for research and healthcare. Not going green. If they are going to go green they will need outside sources of investment and people to implement them. Call us back when all that is in place. Operators are standing by.

You can write things that I strongly suspect are not true. “And increasingly, our patients are beginning to expect and demand that we make sustainability a priority.” Actually, as someone who has administered many, many patient satisfaction surveys in several different countries, I can tell you that the question has never been asked of patients to my knowledge. Hospitals that are smart enough to ask their patients how they are doing focus on their mission–keeping people alive and returning them to good health. (They don’t often ask about the quality of hospital food either.)

The author of this bizarre article is a certain Lloyd Dean, the President and CEO of Dignity Health. Dignity Health is a California-based not-for-profit public-benefit corporation that operates hospitals and ancillary care facilities in 17 states. As such, it is exempt from federal and state income taxes. Despite their non-profit status, they had a profit of $132 million in 2012 on revenues of over $10 billion.

In news that some might think is related, “San Francisco-based Dignity Health settled with the U.S. Department of Justice for $5.9 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that they improperly billed Medicare for implantation of cardiac devices, Justice Department officials announced Wednesday.”

The extra money to go green has to come from somewhere.

medicare fraud

Fleeing When No Flood Pursueth

Dan Kipnis has a beautiful house in Miami Beach, Florida. He just sold it.

Mr. Kipnis is moving because he fears sea level rise. He has seen it rise 4 inches in the last 23 years and he says he thinks it may rise 2-3 feet more by 2040. Miami Beach floods frequently these days, even when the sun is shining brightly.

Flooding Miami Beach

Of course, there’s a big difference between the 4 inches Mr. Kipnis has witnessed and the 6.2 cm of global sea level rise that we’ve experienced this century. One of the differences is subsidence–Miami Beach is sinking as fast or faster than the sea levels are rising. (Another is the somewhat counter-intuitive fact that sea level rise is very uneven.)

Considering that the IPCC has a worst case projection of 3 feet of sea level rise by 2100, I wonder if Mr. Kipnis is abandoning ship prematurely. If sea level rise occurs as predicted by the IPCC, he may not have needed to sell his house. The city is already raising the roads and putting in new storm drains to deal with frequent flooding–he might have waited to see the effects.

How many more like Mr. Kipnis are making decisions that will have a huge effect on their lives based on the scary stories put out by Rolling Stone, for example, which published an article called ‘Why the City of Miami is Doomed‘ in June of 2013. The story starts in 2030 with an account of the aftermath of a fictional hurricane:

“When the water receded after Hurricane Milo of 2030, there was a foot of sand covering the famous bow-tie floor in the lobby of the Fontaine­bleau hotel in Miami Beach. A dead manatee floated in the pool where Elvis had once swum. Most of the damage occurred not from the hurricane’s 175-mph winds, but from the 24-foot storm surge that overwhelmed the low-lying city. In South Beach, the old art-deco­ buildings were swept off their foundations. Mansions on Star Island were flooded up to their cut-glass doorknobs. A 17-mile stretch of Highway A1A that ran along the famous beaches up to Fort Lauderdale disappeared into the Atlantic. The storm knocked out the wastewater-treatment plant on Virginia Key, forcing the city to dump hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage into Biscayne Bay. Tampons and condoms littered the beaches, and the stench of human excrement stoked fears of cholera. More than 800 people died, many of them swept away by the surging waters that submerged much of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale; 13 people were killed in traffic accidents as they scrambled to escape the city after the news spread – falsely, it turned out – that one of the nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, an aging power plant 24 miles south of Miami, had been destroyed by the surge and sent a radioactive cloud over the city.”

The story parrots alarmist predictions of ‘six feet of sea level rise this century’ and quotes James Hansen’s unfortunate SWAG of 16 feet this century. It ignores mainstream science.

The word ‘subsidence’ does not occur in the story.

I hope Mr. Kipnis does not come to regret his decision–he obviously loves the house he is leaving. I hope that he did not depend overmuch on the scare stories that are so clearly anti-science.

On the other hand, somebody bought his house. Perhaps someone who didn’t read Rolling Stone, who read the IPCC reports instead. I wish him or her every happiness in their new home.

Wherein Huffington Post Gets It Exactly Right On ‘Pre-Adaptation’

Readers here will know that I have not been kind when referring to Huffington Post and their various writers on the subject of climate change. Their efforts can best be described as banal support of conventional wisdom, which means on a variety of issues they have been very wrong.

So I’m pleased to tell you all that Huffington Post has a very good article on efforts to improve U.S. infrastructure to deal with current weather impacts. It is titled “Thinking Big on Climate Change,” by Ana Baptista. It talks about efforts to improve resilience to storm surge in New York and quite properly laments the failure to expand this protection to poorer communities in New Jersey and other parts of the Empire State.

Senator Chuck Schumer recently announced that New York City will get $176 million in federal funding for storm protections. The ambitious project will fortify the Lower East Side and Southern tip of Manhattan, a densely populated coastline that is vulnerable to flooding. The plan includes state-of-the-art sea walls, temporary floodwalls, and expansive grass river beams to absorb waves and double as recreation areas when the sun is shining. It will improve the resilience of an area that needs protection against increasingly extreme weather and shield vulnerable public housing as well as the city’s financial nerve.”

The HuffPo story notes that the U.S. has been reluctant to fund badly-needed infrastructure projects and it makes some interesting points about how current climate affects the poorer even in the U.S. “The reality is that the United States has a structural deficit when it comes to funding climate resilience projects across the board. This deficit is exacerbated by the deteriorated infrastructure and lack of services in the most vulnerable communities. Low-income communities–often communities of color–experience the worst climate impacts and are usually the last to get help.”

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“Investing in climate adaptation projects in low-income communities should be at the top of our priority list. The prolonged drought in California has disproportionately impacted communities of color and the poor from tribal, rural and farming communities. Farming communities in places like Porterville are seeing their wells dry up and have no reliable water infrastructure to fall back on. Poor-quality housing and infrastructure, proximity to environmental hazards and lack of economic security have hampered communities and individuals’ ability to survive and recover from climate related disasters.”

Of course I would characterize these efforts differently–preparing to meet the climate of today, not tomorrow (and insisting these efforts include a margin for impacts of future climate), this type of ‘Pre-Adaptation’ is exactly what we need to be doing today. Hurricane Katrina, also discussed in the article, was not a result of climate change, but we need to upgrade the infrastructure to handle the next, perhaps stronger, hurricane that hits New Orleans. That’s what they’re doing in New York and that’s what we need to be doing across the country.

The climate activist response in the past has been to dismiss adaptation efforts. They say adaptation only helps communities that can afford to build protection. They prefer mitigation, lowering CO2 levels so that disasters caused by human contributions to climate change are minimized, if not eliminated.

I consider the activist response short-sighted in the extreme. Weather-related disasters won’t disappear even if we keep CO2 at pre-industrial levels. We need to build up resilience, even in the U.S., to help us deal with the inevitable vagaries of the elements. After all, the worst floods, the worst storms, the worst droughts all preceded the era of our industrial level of emissions.

We need to prepare for the climate events we have seen come to pass–and to help others do the same. I am not calling for a cessation of efforts to reduce emissions. I am saying plainly that the type of adaptation discussed in Huffington Post today should have a higher priority.

 

Wrong Romm Hates Gates

Sigh. I’ve been an energy analyst for most of a decade, with half of that period spent studying renewable energy.

So when I see Bill Gates coming forward with ideas on how to create a fossil fuel free energy future and even more important, putting his money into it and persuading other billionaires to do the same, I’m excited. He advocates a venture capital approach that has succeeded in IT, biotechnology and healthcare devices, understanding that a shotgun approach may produce losers (like Solyndra) but will also produce winners.

Here’s a man who has succeeded mightily twice–first with Microsoft and second with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As much as I curse some of his products while using them, Microsoft has changed the world for the better. So has the B&M Gates Foundation.

Naturally, the usual activist suspects, Luddites longing for solar and wind to be the primary solution to the energy issue, immediately leaped to attack Gates. Who other than Michael Mann and Joe Romm are better qualified to represent those driven by pre-determined political stances as opposed to looking at what science can actually do?

It’s safe to say Michael Mann is unable to understand the potential of new approaches and the difficulties facing current renewables. He blew his chance at being a leading scientist (not by his mistakes in creating the flawed Hockey Stick Chart, but by his intransigent refusal to acknowledge and learn from his mistakes), and has nothing but political drama to bring to the  debate. His criticism of Gates is based on Gates’ late arrival to the party and reinventing the Kaya Identity.

Mann’s pointless criticism was approvingly quoted by Joe Romm, the logorrheic climate thug who has attacked everyone who doesn’t accept his policy demands. But (of course) Romm went much further, dictating an apoplectic screed into his speech to text software program.

Romm insists that we don’t need an energy revolution, that what we desperately need to do right now is spend lots more money on wind and solar–50 times more than we are spending now.

To do this with a straight face he has to ignore the horrible operating record of offshore wind turbines and the nascent state of the solar industry. His insistence that all we need to do to fix the climate is spend insane amounts of money on solar and wind today is just pie-in-the-sky nonsense.

I’m a big fan of solar power. I believe that 50 years from now it will be the dominant form of energy on this planet, and perhaps another (one can hope). But it needs work. Photovoltaic modules that produce at 21% are still too expensive and the modules that people can afford are producing far less–13% or even below. Building materials that can integrate solar into roofs, walls and windows are just beginning to move from design to prototype. The last thing we need right now is brute force plugging and playing of inefficient arrays that won’t last and won’t produce the power that we need.

As for wind power, the problems with maintenance that drive up the operating cost of the technology are huge, but they pale against the simple fact that the best sites are either already taken or will never be available. When Bill Gates talks about using the jet stream as a source of wind power, it’s not only because there’s more wind power there to harvest. It’s because that’s where you can actually site collection machines.

This chart is from 2010, but the percentages haven’t changed:

Total_World_Energy_Consumption_by_Source_2010 (1)

Current renewables cannot make a difference today, no matter how much money you throw at them. They are on track to do exactly what we asked them to do, provide 30% of electricity generation in the developed world by 2050. They are a huge success story.

They are a huge success story but they are not the answer. We badly need the ‘energy miracle’ that Bill Gates wants to find and is willing to finance.

Trust Michael Mann and Joe Romm to be wrong on the facts, mean spirited in their approach to the issue and Luddite in their world view.

Another New Term Is Added To The Climate Lexicon: Welcome To Your New ‘Semi-Empirical’ World

As a term, ‘semi-empirical’ has been around since 1935, according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary. It’s not a term I have come across during my years involved in the climate conversation. It kind of sounds like using your favored assumptions to help you get the answer you want.

semiempirical

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adjective semi·em·pir·i·cal \-im-ˈpir-ə-kəl, -em-\

Definition of semiempirical

Popularity: Bottom 20% of words
  1. :  partly empirical; especially :  involving assumptions, approximations, or generalizations designed to simplify calculation or to yield a result in accord with observation

However, that’s what climate activist site Real Climate is using to publicize their paper on 2,500 years of sea level rise. Astonishingly, their graph of sea level rise over the past 2,500 years has the shape of a Hockey Stick.

Sealevel rise

The paper is Kopp et al, found here. The Real Climate co-author of the paper is Stefan Rahmstorff (introduced in greater detail below).

Astonishingly, the paper claims to have charted sea level rise for the past 3,000 years, not the 2,500 claimed by Real Climate. I don’t know if that’s modesty or just an example of semi-empiricism.

Anyhow, here’s how they did what they did: “We present the first, to our knowledge, estimate of global sea-level (GSL) change over the last ∼3,000 years that is based upon statistical synthesis of a global database of regional sea-level reconstructions. …”We assess the relationship between temperature and global sea-level (GSL) variability over the Common Era through a statistical metaanalysis of proxy relative sea-level reconstructions and tide-gauge data.”

Okay… proxies again. I start to see where the term ‘semi-empirical’ is relevant here.

Here’s the money graph:

SLR by century

Why, that’s… that’s… more than 5 inches! It’s 5.1 inches, to be more precise.

They continue: “A significant GSL acceleration began in the 19th century and yielded a 20th century rise that is extremely likely (probability P0.95P≥0.95) faster than during any of the previous 27 centuries. A semiempirical model calibrated against the GSL reconstruction indicates that, in the absence of anthropogenic climate change, it is extremely likely (P=0.95P=0.95) that 20th century GSL would have risen by less than 51% of the observed 13.8±1.513.8±1.5 cm. The new semiempirical model largely reconciles previous differences between semiempirical 21st century GSL projections and the process model-based projections summarized in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report.”

Well, we’re all in favor of reconciliation, right? And Real Climate wants to share the wealth–they cite other papers as they begin to talk about future sea level rise:

“This brings us to a second study, also published this week in PNAS (Mengel et al. 2016). In this paper a new method of sea-level projections is developed. It is not based on complex models, but also on simple semi-empirical equations. But not for sea level as a whole but for the individual causes of sea-level changes: thermal expansion of sea water, melting of glaciers and mass loss of the large ice sheets. These equations are calibrated based on data from the past and then extrapolated to a warmer future. It is a kind of hybrid between the semi-empirical and the process-based approach (favored by the IPCC) to sea-level projections. The following table compares the projections of the various methods.

Scenario IPCC 2013 Kopp 2016 Mengel 2016 Horton 2014
RCP 2.6 28–60 24–61 28-56 25–70
RCP 4.5 35–70 33–85 37-77 n.a.
RCP 8.5 53–97 52–131 57-131 50–150

Table 1 Global sea level rise in centimeters over the 21st century according to various studies for different emission scenarios. The first scenario (RCP 2.6) assumes successful climate policies limiting global warming to about 2°C; the last (RCP 8.5), however, unabated emissions and heating by around 5°C. (The ranges indicate the 90 percent confidence intervals except for the IPCC, which only provided a 66 percent confidence interval.)”

Note again the use of the term ‘semi-empirical.’ Perhaps that’s appropriate because using RCPs for this type of forecast is similar to examining the entrails of chickens, as the Representative Concentration Pathways started off with the conclusion and worked backwards to find a plausible scenario for reaching said conclusion.

Update: (I slipped a decimal point. Corrected figures here.) Using empirical observations without the need for a ‘semi’ gives us this. So far during the 21st Century, sea level rise has totaled 6.2 cm. Should sea level rise continue at this breathtaking rate we will reach 10 centimeters of global sea level rise by 2025, nine years from now. That will give us 75 years to achieve the other 120 centimeters Stefan Rahmstorff thinks may befall us by 2100.

You can sort of drive a semi through some of these projections.

However, I must be careful. Stefan Rahmstorff was convicted of libeling a German journalist a few years ago when she dared question some of his more alarmist scribblings. He actually drove her out of the profession, despite his being found guilty of libel. As the German newspaper Der Spiegel noted, “Time and again he has not only gone after journalists, but also after scientists who have openly expressed views that Rahmstorf didn’t like.” Sure would hate to annoy this master of ‘semi-empiricism.’ He might tell some ‘semi-truths’ about me.

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Which Metrics Best Capture Climate Change?

Mauna Loa reports CO2 concentrations of 404 ppm for February 20, 2015. On the same date in 2015 concentrations were 399 ppm.

Arctic sea ice covered 14,179 million square kilometers as of yesterday. In 1980 it covered 16,182 million square kilometers on the same day of the year.

The January 2016 globally-averaged temperature across land and ocean surfaces was 1.04°C (1.87°F) above the 20th century average of 12.0°C (53.6°F), the highest for January in the 137-year period of record.

Sea level rose by 3.39 mm last year, plus or minus 0.6 mm. Sea levels have risen 72 mm since 1993.

(I can’t believe there isn’t a dashboard somewhere capturing all of these on the same screen. Get to work on it, people!)

These are the measurements that have scientists intensely interested and activists alarmed. CO2 concentrations rising, Arctic sea ice falling, temperatures and sea levels reaching new heights in our short history of keeping good records.

Although I’m not alarmed by these numbers, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be pleased if they were all moving in the other direction. I wish they were.

But these measurements are not scaring the public. Most people in the developed world (40% of the world’s population have never heard of climate change) understand and accept that the climate is changing and we have contributed. But because it isn’t affecting their lives or livelihoods, most just don’t care.

Measuring the wrong things

At the same time as the measurements above are being reported, we also see that our planet’s vegetative cover has risen by 11%, harvests are rising, malaria is falling and economic growth has not been impacted. Those make more of a difference to most of us.

So what metrics are important in the climate conversation? Well, why would anyone besides a scientist care if the Arctic ice was decreasing or the proportion of molecules of CO2 in our atmosphere was increasing? What possible difference could it make to their lives or how they lived them?

Eventually someone realised this and activists tried to substitute metaphors and poster children for metrics when they encountered difficulties implementing their policy agenda. But polar bears stubbornly refused to die and islands stubbornly refused to sink. Malaria didn’t spread and bees didn’t disappear.

Since the failure of that messaging campaign, the activists on climate change have been floundering, forced to relentlessly hammer home the ‘overwhelming consensus’ message, a message that crumbles into dust if examined closely. And even that doesn’t seem to sway the public. In a world where Barack Obama can be called a denier by Bill McKibben and James Hansen is called a denier by Naomi Oreskes, it is clear that climate communications is in need of a reboot.

I would, if advising these yammerheads, counsel small metrics. Go local. Tailor the story to fit the locale. Of course, the same yammerheads call me a denier, so there’s scant chance of them taking me up on it. Pity, that.

To me, it would be smart to talk about the number of ice free days in lakes in the Northern Hemisphere. It would be smart to talk about earlier springs and shorter winters. It would be smart to talk about degrees of latitude in changes of the habitats of plants and animals.

Of course, each of these phenomena have had changes recorded in the past that might equal those they are undergoing now. But they are things that can be measured fairly easily, fairly quickly and… um… fairly.

As for Arctic sea ice, although I wish it were growing in extent rather than decreasing, as someone recently sang, ‘the cold never bothered me anyway.’

 

Climate Tragedy

“Now that governments have signed up to the unambitious Paris climate agreement and pledged to try to limit greenhouse gas emissions, we must ask whether we have lost sight of everything else. Is the environment just about carbon and parts per million of gases in the atmosphere? What about the environment that we can smell, see and touch today?

For 20 years or more concerns about nuclear waste, food production, the quality of river water, the health of our soils and seas, the fate of our forests, the impact of road-building and many other important ecological issues have been steadily marginalised, starved of resources or pushed off the agenda by climate change.”

So the UK’s Guardian, long a bastion of climate orthodoxy, writes. To which those of us who have long bemoaned the sacrifice of the environmental agenda to the supposed exigencies of the Climate Activists, are likely to reply ‘What took you so long?’

awakening

When Bjorn Lomborg wrote that air pollution should be addressed as a higher priority than climate change, he got a pie in the face from climate activist Mark Lynas and was trashed repeatedly by another bastion of climate orthodoxy, Real Climate. Lomborg has noted for more than a decade that conventional air pollution kills millions. He has been dragged through the mud by countless climate activists eager to keep attention–and funding–focused on their pet peeve.

When I wrote that “99% of stress on environments has other causes, most man-made, and addressing global warming in a mad and expensive rush without ameliorating our other impacts is madness, like treating a woman with cancer using a facial cleanser”, climate activist and Portlandia auditioner dhogaza said “The noise from Fuller can be ignored.” That was the politest thing he wrote about me.

London converted its famous bus fleet to diesel because it emitted less CO2. Now, according to the Guardian, “In Britain, 29,000 people die a year from breathing in particles of unburned carbon and construction dust, and an estimated 23,500 more as a result of nitrogen dioxide. …Our industries and governments have known for well over a century the health effects of polluted air. Yet they have fought in Europe to be allowed to continue polluting, and people have been encouraged to switch to diesel and more polluting fuels because they emit less CO2.”

The major threats to our environment in the 1970s were identified as pollution, habitat loss, introduction of alien species and over-hunting/fishing. Those are still the major threats today. None of them have improved–most have gotten worse.

Climate activists have a lot to answer for. I speak as someone convinced that human contributions to climate change will prove significant–in about 40 years or so–and should be addressed as a real and pressing problem. However, the bandwagonning, sliming of opponents, over-hyping and overall hysteria has left the planet in a worse position than it was 40 years ago.

While we were fretting and jetting India has managed to make itself more polluted than China. We cut down tropical rainforest to plant plantations for palm oil for biofuels. We evict indigenous people from their ancestral lands to preserve forests’ CO2–and then cut the trees down anyhow. We kill millions of birds with wind turbines and blame climate change for decreases in biodiversity.

Welcome back to reality, Guardian. It took you long enough.

 

Most Science Teachers Are Smarter Than Most Climate Journalists

There has been a flurry of stories in recent days about a study that showed that many science teachers in U.S. schools are not doctrinaire enough in their communications to students on the subject. Indeed, many stories point with alarm to the factoid that science teachers don’t know there is a 97% consensus on the stuff.

This U.S. News and World Report article links to the source of their ‘97% consensus.’ As you might have guessed, it’s Cook’s junk science report on their slipshod analysis of abstracts (one of their ‘citizen scientist’ analysts managed to get through 672 abstracts in 72 hours, a hallmark of thoroughness to which we all can aspire).

The story says, “In a new study published in Science magazine last week, Eric Plutzer and colleagues report a finding that should alarm the nation: Only 30 percent of middle-school and 45 percent of high-school scienceteachers in the U.S. are aware of the fact that nearly all climate scientists are convinced that global warming is caused mostly by human activities.

“Here’s the kicker: The authors explain that although many science teachers themselves believe that climate change is happening, because most are not aware of the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change many opt to teach “both sides” of the so-called climate debate, mistakenly giving students the impression that the basic facts are still contested, rather than conveying the fact that there is a deep and well-established consensus among climate scientists. A great deal of our own research, as well as that of many other researchers, has identified the importance of communicating the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.”

That’s not the kicker–that’s an accurate portrayal of the debate as it stands today. The ‘97% consensus’ figure is bogus. Surveys of climate scientists show 66% of climate scientists believe that half or more of recent warming is caused by humans. That’s a healthy majority. It’s enough to justify action and to acknowledge in the classroom. But a 34% minority that includes Nobel Laureates in physics and other luminaries with very respectable pedigrees means that the minority report deserves attention too.

The way climate change should be communicated is this:

100% of scientists agree that climate changes. Almost all (99%) agree that our planet has warmed 1C since 1880, for example.

Almost all (97% or even more) agree that humans can affect the climate and that our effects have contributed to the warming we have seen since 1945.

Two-thirds (66%) believe our contribution has been significant–half or more of the current warming.

There is no consensus on some of the most important issues involved in assessing human-caused climate change, including atmospheric sensitivity, the most important factor.

There is little agreement on what the impacts of the warming will be, how much warming we will experience due to our actions or what actions we should take to change the course of the climate trajectory.

Climate activists aren’t angry because science teachers are getting it wrong. They’re angry because the teachers are getting it right.

how-dare-you

Seeing REDD About Climate Change

Some climate activists, convinced we need to do something now to reduce emissions, are willing to put their money where their mouth is. They buy forests to protect them.

we must do something

Sometimes this is a good thing. But as California Governor Jerry Brown recently learned, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) is not without controversy.

Jerry Brown basked in adulation during his whirlwind trip to Paris, and the evening of December 8 figured to offer more of the same. Standing alongside governors of states and provinces from Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, California’s governor planned to tout his state’s leadership role on global climate policy. …The December 8 event was held at a mid-19th-century-mansion-turned-hotel and was hosted by the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, which is a collaboration of 29 states and provinces in forest-rich countries that are preparing to join a program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).

“As Brown concluded his remarks, Pennie Opal Plant, an East Bay resident and member of the group Idle No More Solidarity San Francisco Bay, stood up near the front of the room, directly in front of the governor. “Richmond, California says ‘no’ to REDD!” she shouted, ‘”no’ to evicting indigenous people from their forests, and ‘no’ to poisoning my community!” About thirty people, who had dispersed themselves throughout the room to avoid prior suspicion of coordinated dissent, soon joined in a chant of “No REDD! No REDD!”

Governor Brown fled the room in a hurry.

California wants to buy forest land in developing countries so that it can continue clear cutting its own forests with a clean conscience and a noble record on reducing global emissions of CO2. However, a lot of the land that is bought for REDD has people living on it.

As the Guardian pointed out way back in 2008, “Conservation has immeasurably worsened the lives of indigenous peoples throughout Africa,” says Simon Colchester, director of the Forest Peoples Programme, which works throughout the tropics. His researchers have documented forced expulsions, human rights violations and the progressive destruction of livelihoods as a direct result of conservation in the region.

In Botswana, local conservationists once worked with the government to evict the remaining Bushmen from their ancestral land, which has been turned into a national park. In India, the Gujjar nomads in Uttar Pradesh have been victims of international conservation charities in the past, too. In Cameroon, whole villages were removed from a particularly rich piece of forest. The aboriginals of Palawan island in the Philippines were forced out to make way for a national park.”

REDD

There are other, lesser, problems with REDD, as noted here:

  • Leakage refers to the fact that while deforestation might be avoided in one place, the forest destroyers might move to another area of forest or to a different country.
  • Additionality refers to the near-impossibility of predicting what might have happened in the absence of the REDD project.
  • Permanence refers to the fact that carbon stored in trees is only temporarily stored. All trees eventually die and release the carbon back to the atmosphere.
  • Measurement refers to the fact that accurately measuring the amount of carbon stored in forests and forest soils is extremely complex – and prone to large errors.”

This open letter from the No REDD In Africa Network is addressed to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ban Ki Moon of the U.N., the President of the World Bank and many other worthies. It should however be read by all.

The letter states, “We, the No REDD in Africa Network (NRAN) together with the Sengwer Indigenous Peoples Programme and the undersigned 66 organizations and over 300 individuals, strongly condemn the massive evictions and forced relocation of the Sengwer Indigenous People, one of the few remaining hunter-gatherers of the world, from their ancestral home in Kenya’s Cherangany Hills. The Kenyan government calls the Sengwer People ‘squatters and or Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs),’ despite the fact that they and their ancestors have lived in the Cherangany Hills since time immemorial; and that Article (63d) of the Kenyan constitution (2010) grants them inalienable rights to their ancestral lands.”

“We take great exception to the press statement issued by the World Bank in which it attempts to distance itself from the forced relocation of the Sengwer People. The cause and effect is perfectly clear; the Bank in its highly controversial role as both carbon credit financier and broker is aiding and abetting the forced relocation of an entire Indigenous Peoples through its Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP) which includes REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), in the Cherangany Hills.

“Forced evictions and displacements were started in early 1980s, unsuccessfully. However, from 2007 when an Indigenous Peoples Planning Framework (IPPF) for NRMP was adopted by both Kenya Government and World Bank, there have been almost yearly forced evictions of the Sengwer People with the latest evictions being the most violent of them all. It is no coincidence that the evictions began in 2007, the very same the year that the World Bank’s Natural Resource Management Project started.”

The Sengwer join indigenous people in dozens of countries that have been displaced for green initiatives and the reduction of emissions. They won’t be the last.

REDD is poised to join a veritable Pantheon of well-meaning measures that have done little good and quite a bit of bad in efforts to combat climate change. Using corn for ethanol when people are going hungry? Cutting American forests to create wood chips for European power plants? Offshore wind farms? Stopping German nuclear power and replacing it with the dirtiest coal on Earth? Cap and Trade?

It’s all symptomatic of the same syndrome: ‘We must do something. This is something. We must do this.’

The most effective measures to date in reducing emissions have been byproducts of other forces at work: The growth of natural gas, economic hard times, natural improvements in energy efficiency.

It’s understandable that initial efforts to combat climate change would have some losing ideas as well as winners. But where are the winners?

Political Professionals Assess Climate Change As An Issue

The title in the Western Journalism article pretty much says it all: “Campaign 2016: Nobody Cares About Climate Change (And That’s Good!)”

The lede graph: “On February 11, Politico released survey results from “a bipartisan panel of respondents” who it claims are “Republican and Democratic insiders”…“activists, strategists and operatives in the four early nominating states” who answered the questions anonymously. The results? As one Republican respondent from South Carolina (SC) put it: “Climate change is simply not a front burner issue to most people.” A Nevada Democrat agreed: “I don’t believe this is a critical issue for many voters when compared to the economy and national security.”

Notable quotes from the story: “no “blue-collar swing voter” ever said: “I really like their jobs plan, but, boy, I don’t know about their position on climate change.”

“Energy is a second tier issue. Climate change is fifth tier. Nobody cares about it. It is always at the bottom.”

what-me-worry-715605

More from the story that echoes what I have been writing at this weblog for years: “The climate change agenda has been the most expensive and extensive public relations campaign in the history of the world. Gallup has been polling on this issue for 25 years. Despite the herculean effort, fewer people are worried about climate change today than 25 years ago. Pew Research Center has repeatedly found that when given a list of concerns regarding the public’s policy priorities, respondents put jobs and the economy at the top of the list, with climate change at the bottom. Polling done just before the UN climate conference in Paris found that only 3% of Americans believe that climate change is the most important issue facing America.

“Even Democrat Jane Kleeb, an outspoken opponent of the Keystone pipeline, acknowledged that climate change, as an issue, doesn’t move people to act.

“David Wilkins, a former U.S. Ambassador to Canada who has worked on issues such as energy, national security, and the environment, said that voters are “not going to let the environment trump the economy.” He believes there will be a reapplication for the Keystone pipeline and that eventually, it will be built. Another insider, Democrat Inez Tenenbaum, disagreed, saying: “people don’t want to be energy dependent.” To which Wilkins quipped: “All the more reason to get oil from our friends.”

“When it comes to energy, there are clearly differences between the parties; but strangely, both agree that climate change isn’t “a major issue for voters.””

The author doesn’t get around to explaining the ‘And That’s Good!’ part of her headline. I certainly don’t think it’s good.

Climate change deserves to be on the public agenda. Not at the top, but certainly not at the bottom. The globe has warmed, even if we haven’t suffered much in the way of consequences as a result. Should the warming continue, most climate scientists think it will pose problems. Not earth-shattering, crisis time, let’s drop everything to fix it problems, but problems that will cost  money to fix (or hopefully prevent), problems that will slow down the development of the developing world and add to the mix of problems that will face a world with 10 billion people striving to get rich, eat rich and live rich simultaneously.

That Republican and Democratic political strategists have correctly assessed the political impact of climate change on the upcoming election is one thing. But that should not substitute for a more careful assessment of its impacts beyond the electoral horizon.

Climate Change, 1861 Style

You might be forgiven for not knowing the details of one of the most catastrophic climate events to have ever struck the United States. It happened 150 years ago, in 1861. That’s more than 150 years ago and that’s a long time. People in America are likely to remember the initial year of the Civil War, while Europeans are perhaps more likely to remember the unification of Italy under King Vittorio Emmanuele. 1861 was the year Benito Juarez captured Mexico City. The apolitical among us might mourn the deaths that year of Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Lola Montez.

But December of 1861 saw a 43-day storm in California, one that turned much of Central and Southern California into inland seas.

last days of california

Sixty-six inches of rain fell in Los Angeles that year, more than four times the normal annual amount, causing rivers to surge over their banks, spreading muddy water for miles across the arid landscape. Large brown lakes formed on the normally dry plains between Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean, even covering vast areas of the Mojave Desert. In and around Anaheim, flooding of the Santa Ana River created an inland sea four feet deep, stretching up to four miles from the river and lasting four weeks.”

An “enormous pulse of water from the rain flowed down the slopes and across the landscape, overwhelming streams and rivers, creating a huge inland sea in California’s enormous Central Valley—a region at least 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. Water covered farmlands and towns, drowning people, horses and cattle, and washing away houses, buildings, barns, fences and bridges. The water reached depths up to 30 feet, completely submerging telegraph poles that had just been installed between San Francisco and New York, causing transportation and communications to completely break down over much of the state for a month.”

The flood decimated California’s burgeoning economy. An estimated 200,000 cattle drowned, about a quarter of all the cattle in the ranching state (the disaster shifted the California economy to farming). One in eight houses was destroyed or carried away in the flood waters. It was also estimated that as much as a quarter of California’s taxable property was destroyed, which bankrupted the state.”

The capital of the state was shifted from Sacramento to San Francisco for six months, after Governor Leland Stanford had to row to his office and clamber in through a second story window. After the waters receded (thank you Morgan Freeman), the downtown portion of Sacramento was raised by 10-15 feet. Governor Stanford built a third story on his mansion.

The 1861-62 floods extended far beyond the borders of California. They were the worst in recorded history over much of the American West, including northern Mexico, Oregon, Washington State and into British Columbia, as well as reaching inland into Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

This kind of flood has occurred about once every 100 to 200 years over the past 1,800 years. It will happen again. (This time it will be blamed on climate change.)

One of the aspects of the climate change conversation that has frustrated me for close to a decade is that we are arguing so much that we can’t agree on common-sense preparations for climatic events we have seen in the past because we are arguing so much about the future. California is obsessed with earthquakes and has numerous regulations about building safety to ensure the buildings don’t collapse. California has regulations regarding almost everything, to the point of being the butt of jokes from many in less-regulated states. But they’ve done almost nothing to prepare for a repeat of flooding that is almost certain to occur and possibly in the lifetimes of the two people under 50 who are reading this.

Climate activists won’t push for preparation because it is sinful adaptation, which helps locally instead of globally, the way mitigation efforts do. Skeptics would regard this as wasteful spending on climate change they insist is not occurring, even though this isn’t climate change, it’s climate repeating itself.

To paraphrase my friend and co-author Steven Mosher, it’s bad enough that we cannot prepare for the future. But we can’t even prepare for the past.

One final note–this massive flooding occurred after two decades of devastating drought. California is not a user-friendly habitat.

 

Some Questions Are Easier Than Others

Yesterday I argued in circles about the value of studying lakes as sort of a canary in the coal mine for climate change. I still don’t have it figured out.

Fortunately for my ego, the Guardian has posed a question that is much easier to answer. It’s in the title of their article: “Why Don’t We Treat Climate Change With The Rigor We Give To Terrorist Attacks?

Answer: Because climate change hasn’t killed anyone.

Weather continues to take a toll, although it is a pale shadow of the spectre it used to cast. Weather probably will always take lives.

But the 1C of warming the world has experienced has not made storms stormier, floods floodier or droughts droughtier. When the Guardian writes, “Extreme weather, water shortages and the spread of mosquito-borne diseases like Zika are all having very real effects on everyday realities globally, and they are all linked to a fast-heating earth system. Yet we still don’t treat climate change with the reverence we reserve for something like a terrorist attack” they are wrong on the facts. If anything the world is seeing less extreme weather. Dengue and Zika are traveling all right, but they’re traveling in the container ships and tourist luggage of humans, not expanding wildly due to climate change.

32,658 people were killed by terrorism in 2014 compared to 18,111 in 2013: the largest increase ever recorded.

Although a (frequently challenged and basically repudiated) report tried to implicate global warming in 300,000 deaths a year by attributing 40% of disaster deaths to climate change, the fact is that whatever terrors human-caused climate change hold for us, the gods are mercifully holding back from delivering.

The Guardian article does say one important thing: “…we only pay attention to climate change from time to time, and usually when it hits us in the face – Hurricane Sandy or drought if you are a farmer in California. But disaster rarely hits all humanity at the exact same time. And life goes on – our memories of tragedy fade, a survival mechanism also bequeathed us by evolution.”

I have been writing for years that it is a huge mistake for climate activists to hype and over-hype Xtreme Weather for just that reason. They have given hostages to fortune now and unless Xtreme Weather shows up, the people will begin to look askance. Which may explain some of the attempts to label weather phenomena as extreme when in fact they are pretty common. Heat waves in Moscow and France turned out not to be exceptional, nor did floods in Pakistan, droughts in Syria, Texas and California.

If there is a serious mistake that activists haven’t made in their campaign against the climate, I’m unaware of it. Their carefully thought-out strategy can be boiled down to once concept: Shoot yourself in the foot. Repeat as necessary.

shoot yourself in the foot.jpg

Northern Hemisphere Lakes And Climate Change

For non-scientists like myself, trying to observe the effects of climate change can be daunting. Which dataset should we trust for temperature measurements? Should we jump on board the lower estimates of sensitivity provided by observation-based analyses or stick with the models that have not performed well at all over the past decades?

Should we follow the melting of glaciers, despite the low numbers that are analyzed? Should we put a lot of stock in GRACE satellite measurements of the great ice caps of the world? The hoops you have to jump through to really get a handle on ocean heat content are intimidating–is the very slight warming of very deep water really happening due to surface warming of the past 50 years?

One underlooked resource is measurements of the lakes of the Northern Hemisphere. They are contained and easier to watch and measure. They are in the part of the world where climate change is noticeable. There are a lot of data points to look at. For example, Lake Erie’s lowest maximum of ice cover since 1973 was in 1998, the famous El Nino year. But one of its highest maximums was in 2014.

Lake Erie max ice cover

Data for most Connecticut lakes is scattered, but summertime measurements at Candlewood Lake show a clear warming trend, with average surface temperatures increasing about 1.2 degrees Celsius, or near 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit, since the Candlewood Lake Authority began monitoring in 1985.”

Lakes in Canada are some of the fastest-warming in the world, a new study shows. A “study looked at 235 lakes on six continents representing half the world’s freshwater supply. Their surface temperatures between 1985 and 2009 had been measured both directly and using satellites. The lakes had different sizes, depths, locations and other characteristics, but despite their variability, “over 90 per cent of them had a clear signal of warming.” …”The study found that on average, lakes were warming at a rate of 0.34 C per decade — faster than either the ocean (increasing 0.12 C per decade) or the air (warming by 0.25 C per decade), the researchersreported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and announced at the American Geophysical Union meeting San Francisco Wednesday.”

Of course, nothing is ever simple. “a couple of factors are having a particularly strong effect on lakes like Superior. One is that lakes that are normally ice-covered in winter are melting earlier in the spring, exposing the lake to warmer air temperatures for a longer period of time. Another, ironically, is that decreased pollution in North America is leading to less smog and cloud cover. “So more solar radiation is hitting the lakes and water temperatures are warming faster than you’d just expect simply [from] climate change.”

And then there’s this, from June 2014: “With summer just around the corner, the Great Lakes are officially free of ice for the first time in seven months. While only weeks ago, chunks of ice could be seen floating on the lakes as residents and visitors flocked to the waters for Memorial Day, as of June 6, the lakes were classified as ice-free.

“This year is the longest we’ve seen ice on Lake Superior in our 40 years of records,” Physical Scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration George Leshkevich said.” But… wasn’t 2014 a record hot year, the year that killed the pause?

Sigh… Ah, well, at least I’m trying to think outside the box:

quote-the-measure-of-success-is-not-whether-you-have-a-tough-problem-to-deal-with-but-whether-john-foster-dulles-8-26-04

 

What Are American Conservatives Thinking?

I hope you don’t mind a brief digression from my monomaniacal focus on the climate conversation.

I’ve corresponded quite cordially with many skeptics on this website who (AFAICT) are Republicans by persuasion. I’ve had intelligent conversations with them and they certainly appear to be bright (maybe brighter than I am), well-informed, thoughtful people. I hope I don’t offend any of them by observing that they are not being well-served by their leadership at the moment.

Perhaps it’s the spotlight of the media that makes their current crop of leaders look deranged. But in all honesty, none of the Republican candidates for the presidency impress me at all. Which is fine by me, as I am a staunch Democrat fully intending to vote for either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, whoever is nominated by my party.

The last 24 hours provide buttressing evidence for my opinion. With the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Republicans rushed out with statements almost designed to cost them dearly in the Presidential race. It left me wondering with the late Casey Stengel, ‘Can’t anybody here play this game?’

Update: Apologies to all. I slapped up the first picture of Justice Scalia that came to hand and didn’t realize it came with an insult attached. Here’s a more appropriate photograph:

Scalia

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio immediately opined that President Obama should not nominate a successor to Scalia, while Trump more realistically said that nobody could stop Obama from putting a name forward, but that Republicans should ‘Delay, delay, delay.’

This is a special kind of stupid. Do Republicans want the next election to have as a major issue the prospect of electing the swing vote on the Supreme Court alongside the President? Do they really want to galvanize the often sluggish Democratic vote and guarantee the turnout that will swamp the Republican ticket at more than a federal level? Do they want to focus the remainder of the Republican race on who each candidate would nominate to take Scalia’s place? Do they want Hilary and Bernie both to have that club handy to brandish in every speech they make?

I thought it almost impossible to lower my opinion of the current slate of Republican candidates. I was wrong.

If they had a lick of sense they would rush Obama to put forward as centrist a candidate as they can leverage–and they have a lot of leverage–to get this issue off the front pages as quickly as possible. Given the ages of the rest of the bench, the next president may nominate three Justices during his/her first term.

Stalling a replacement for Scalia just makes it more likely that Hillary Clinton will nominate four judges, not three.

How Difficult Is The Climate Change Issue?

In 1945 there were 5 million cars on the planet. Now there are more than 1 billion. The first coal-fired  power plant was built in 1882. Now there are 23,000 planet-wide.

How difficult is it to say plainly that the 1C rise in average temperatures since 1880 probably have a human component? I’ve seen many ‘skeptic’ scientists acknowledge this, but not so many in the climate conversation carried out on weblogs. There are obvious follow-up questions (How much? To what effect? How much of that rise was before industrial scale emission? So what?) but we rush on to the follow-up questions without answering the first.

France gets about 76% (down from 85% a few years ago) of its energy from a fleet of nuclear power plants, most of which were constructed in one decade, a decade that saw some of the strongest economic growth in the country’s history. The safety record of these plants is admirable and their performance has been exemplary.

How difficult is it to say plainly that the solution to human contributions to climate change is well within our grasp? Nuclear power can not only provide us with electricity for homes and factories, it can power a renovated rail network and recharge the batteries in our electric cars. I’ve seen some activist scientists acknowledge this, but not many here in the climate conversation on weblogs. There are obvious follow-up questions (What will we do with the waste? Who will insure us against potential disasters? Where will the plants be located?) But again, we rush into the follow-up questions without addressing the primary point.

I’m all in favor of solar power. I am a strong advocate of reforestation. I accept that we don’t know what atmospheric sensitivity is and that human contributions consist of more than CO2 emissions. Our emissions may not be the dominant driver of the temperature change we have seen.

So what to all of that? The problem is clear–our emissions have helped raise temperatures and we know our emissions will increase. We don’t know where the off switch is on the climate control machine. Nuclear power can solve this problem.

Not wicked. Not wicked enough to justify the turmoil. If only Pachauri had written a different book…

Not wicked enough

 

 

How Wide is the Spectrum of Opinion on Climate Change?

One of the reasons I started this blog was to claim a piece of ideological territory for lukewarmers. I was tired of climate activists lumping me and other lukewarmers in with downright skeptics and calling me a ‘denier.’ To a much lesser extent, a few skeptics thought we were acting the part to gain sympathy from their side of the fence, but that we still believed more or less what the activists believe.

I think people like Steve McIntyre, Lucia Liljegren, Steve Mosher and others have helped stake out a centrist position. The position is defined not by the positions of others, but by our interpretation of the data as it exists today. We have no problems with the physics of the greenhouse effect, but we recognize that the largest issue in climate change–sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations of CO2–is not a settled issue. Indeed, most lukewarmers think that sensitivity comes in on the low side of the IPCC range of 1.5-4.5C. My personal view is that it is roughly 2.1C.

But today I want to investigate the entire spectrum, from Monckton and Morano on the skeptic side to James Hansen and Kevin Trenberth on the activist side.

ratings game

So I’ll put it to you. Using a scale from 0-10, where 0 means complete skeptic and 10 means complete climate activist, how would you rate the following people?

Richard Lindzen

Ben Santer

Freeman Dyson

Kevin Trenberth

William Happer

Gavin Schmidt

Roger Pielke Sr.

Richard Betts

Roger Pielke Jr.

Steve McIntyre

Scott Mandia

Ivar Giaevar

Lucia Liljegren

Michael Mann

John Christy

Eric Steig

Michael Tobis

Judith Curry

Ken Rice (And Then There’s Physics)

Please feel free to add more names and ratings if you like.

If enough people take the time to rate these public figures it will be interesting to see where the gaps are in the continuum.

Thanks for your help.

Why Do Some Skeptics Oppose Green Energy?

I consider Anthony Watts a friend. I’ve guest posted on his very popular weblog ‘Watts Up With That’, receiving brickbats as well as thoughtful commentary from his mostly skeptical audience as I tried to explain the lukewarmer’s way. I’m not sure I made many converts, but I enjoyed the experience, just as I have enjoyed Anthony’s company. We have different views on climate change, that’s all.

Back in the day, say five years ago, it was common for me to see comments on WUWT and other climate blogs that went something like this (not a real quote): ‘I have nothing against green energy–if it succeeds in the marketplace more power to it.’ And while I support (modest) subsidies for green energy, that kind of comment seemed reasonable and rational. But attitudes seem to be changing.

I visited WUWT today and here’s what I found:

Amnesty International has released a shocking report, about conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the child labourers who mine much of the world’s Cobalt. Cobalt is an essential component of modern high capacity batteries, such as the batteries which power laptops, cell phones and electric cars.” The story continues, “Assuming electric car ownership becomes widespread, the amount of cobalt used in car batteries (which typically weigh 100s of kilograms) will utterly dwarf the amount of cobalt used in laptop and mobile batteries.”

There’s no question that cobalt is used in electric car batteries. But according to Wikipedia, “Cobalt-based superalloys consume most of the produced cobalt.[42][43] The temperature stability of these alloys makes them suitable for use in turbine blades for gas turbines and jet aircraft engines, though nickel-based single crystal alloys surpass them in this regard.[50] Cobalt-based alloys are also corrosion and wear-resistant. This makes them useful in the medical field, where cobalt is often used (along with titanium) for orthopedic implants that do not wear down over time. The development of the wear-resistant cobalt alloys started in the first decade of the 19th century with the stellite alloys, which are cobalt-chromium alloys with varying tungsten and carbon content. The formation of chromium andtungsten carbides makes them very hard and wear resistant.[51] Special cobalt-chromium-molybdenum alloys like Vitallium are used for prosthetic parts such as hip and knee replacements.[52] Cobalt alloys are also used for dental prosthetics, where they are useful to avoid allergies to nickel.[53] Some high speed steel drill bits also use cobalt to increase heat and wear-resistance. The special alloys of aluminium, nickel, cobalt and iron, known as Alnico, and of samarium and cobalt (samarium-cobalt magnet) are used in permanent magnets.[54] It is also alloyed with 95% platinum for jewelry purposes, yielding an alloy that is suitable for fine detailed casting and is also slightly magnetic.[55]

Why is Watts Up With That picking on electric car batteries? Both medical technology and aircraft engines are increasing their use of cobalt more rapidly than the take-up of electric cars. I know Anthony has solar on his roof and drives a hybrid–what’s up with this?

98-lb-weakling-285x248

Well, that’s just one blog post by guest blogger Eric Worrall, right? Well, umm… right next to Eric’s post is another by my friend Anthony titled “An Inconvenient Truth: Electric Car Battery Materials Can Harm Key Soil Bacteria.” This post reports the somewhat unsurprising fact that batteries need to be disposed of properly or they can harm the environment, writing “Scientists, in a new study in ACS’ journal Chemistry of Materials, are reporting that compounds increasingly used in lithium-ion batteries are toxic to a type of soil-dwelling bacteria that plays an important environmental role.”   And this is also true of electric car batteries.” Ummm, okay… but why is Anthony focusing on just the electric car batteries? As of today about 99% of all lithium ion batteries are in consumer electronics products.

Turning again to Wikipedia we find “Since Li-ion batteries contain less toxic metals than other types of batteries which may contain lead or cadmium[54] they are generally categorized as non-hazardous waste.”

Skeptic weblogs (including Anthony’s) have gone after solar for using rare earth materials, wind power for bird kills, noise and other reasons and of course there’s Solyndra, the failed solar power company that was subsidized by the government.

It’s not just the bloggers–their commenters can be just as cutting. And there are organizations that seem to exist just for the purpose of undercutting renewables. So what’s the deal?

Some of the criticisms have merit, of course. But why the seeming hostility? I don’t get that.

Probably there will be no answer to the critics until renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels. Oh, wait–probably not until the storage issue is settled. Oh, wait–probably not until all the grid matching issues are resolved.

To be honest, some (not all, by any means) skeptics seem to want renewables to fail.

 

 

The RAMA Questionnaire, Part 1

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

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

Let me know.

Recognition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recognizing a Changing Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

polar_bear_pop (1)

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

coral reefs

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

dengue

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

IceCoverAvg1973_2015

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

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

 

Climate Scientists: In Like Flint?

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

In Like Flint.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No transparency no consensus.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Going On At The Department Of Energy?

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

impatientlywaiting

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, you good folks at the DOE EIA…

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

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

 

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

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

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

Why would climate scientists worry about offending the consensus?

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

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

concrete boots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrong on every level

24 Cents A Gallon

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

Bridge Collapse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

infrastructure grades

 

 

Back to the Climate Panic Attacks

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

black hole.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Can Government Kill Solar?

Well, they have the guns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

solar-power-rate-increases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

presidentsanalyst_poster

 

3 New Human Rights Combine and Conflict Over Climate Change

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

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

chicken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funny that this doesn’t get discussed more.

 

2015 Climate Commenter of the Year

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

Star commenter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://thelukewarmersway.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/climate-questions-that-never-get-answered/#comment-7643

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

Transparency in Science Over-rated: Stephan Lewandowsky

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little background:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fraud-kit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The climate is benign at present.

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

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

The Future of Solar Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2-5-CumulativePVInstallationsMarketSegment

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

nasa_world_solar_map_900x439

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photovoltaic-cost

 

The Doomsday Clock and Our Great Good Fortune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ihmc-atlas-robot-darpa-drc-1433548962139

 

A Climate Change On Both Their Houses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

plagues-630x475.jpg

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

Cook denier

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

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

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

However, unless Rameses’ chariot was built Rameses Tough…

ram tough

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

day_of_the_locust

 

Climate Blogger of the Year, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up: Climate Commenter of the Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbarella-DI

 

Part 7, State of the Climate: Summary and Conclusions

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

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

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

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

Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let-Ideas-Compete-compressed

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

 

Part 6, State of the Climate 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dengue Map+

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Part 5, State of the Climate 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps a longer view would be useful here:

Battle-deaths-19462014

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

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

Crime

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

1411036624624_Image_galleryImage_violence_reduction_map_jp

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

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

 

Part 4, State of the Climate 2015

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

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

refugees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 3, State of the Climate 2015

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

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

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

They provide this helpful graphic here:

Trajectory of undernourishment

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

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

Harvest

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

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

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

Instead of a Tip Jar…

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

I don’t like tip jars. So:

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

Thanks for your support!

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

IMG_4128

Part 2, State of the Climate 2015

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

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

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

Arctic Sea Ice

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

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

Arctic ice 2015

Antarctic Sea Ice

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

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

The Antarctic Ice Sheet

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

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

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

Greenland

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

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

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

SMB-greenland_600x766

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

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

Conclusion to Part 2

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

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

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

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

 

State of the Climate 2015, Part 1

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

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

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

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

Global Average Temperature Rise

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

30yearsofabo (1)

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

Temperature trends

Sea Level Rise

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

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

Drought

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

Global_drought_map_past_50_yr_Sheffield_

Floods

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

dws-deltares-aqueduct-flood-risk-graphic-400px

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

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

The number of floods being reported is rising.

Loss events

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

Flood mortality

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

Storms

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

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

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

global_running_ace

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

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

frequency_12months (1)

Conclusion of Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a big if, however.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What The EPA Giveth, The EPA Taketh Away

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

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

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

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

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Ah, well. Bygones. Better late than never.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We seem to be getting it now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hooray.

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Scientists, Privacy, Emails, Climategate…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the people telling us about climate change?

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