Weekly climate and energy news roundup #169

The Week That Was: February 21, 2015 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) – Re-Blogged From http://www.WattsUpWithThat.com

Sea Level Change: The threat of global warming is no longer intensely promoted by governments. No significant temperature rise for over a decade has had its effects. The threat of climate change is apparently wearing thin with the public, Perhaps the public realizes that the climate has been changing for hundreds of millions of years, long before humanity existed. It appears that some governments, including the US Administration, are using the threat of significant sea level rise to compel the public to do their bidding.

As with carbon dioxide-caused global warming, the threat of sea level rise has an element of truth, which is then greatly exaggerated. Sea levels have risen about 400 feet (120 meters) since the maximum extent of the last glaciation, about 18,000 to 20,000 years ago. Prior to 5,000 years ago, sea level rise was rapid as the massive ice sheets covering much of North America and Eurasia melted. Since then, the rise has moderated, with only two massive ice land-grounded sheets remaining – Greenland and Antarctica. [The melting of floating ice does not contribute to sea level rise.] Ever-enterprising groups, usually funded by governments, often focus on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is partially grounded, ignoring the bulk of the continent and the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which contribute little to current sea level rise, if anything.

The October 4, 2014, TWTW discussed a significant study on sea level rise for coastal management policy by the independent, Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). Although the report is focused on sea level rise for New South Wales, AU, the general principles apply world-wide.

“World-wide, sea-level rise varies significantly by location and time frame. No effective coastal management plan can rest upon speculative computer projections of idealized future sea levels, such as those used by the IPCC.” If the computer modelers have not bothered to validate their models, there is no reason to assume they are valid.

“Coastal management must instead rest upon accurate knowledge of local geological, meteorological and oceanographic conditions, including, amongst other things, changes in local relative sea level.

The three general guidelines provided are: 1) abandon global sea-level rise policy, 2) recognize the local or regional nature of coastal hazards, and 3) use planning controls that are flexible and adaptive.

On July 5, 2014 the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) issued a report titled: “Sea-Level Change: Living with Uncertainty” by Willem de Lange and Robert M. Carter with a forward by Vincent Courtillot. [Note that Robert Carter was a principal author in both reports.]

Although more general, the GWPF report reaches similar conclusions as the NIPCC report. Sea level rise is chiefly a local and regional issue with a global component. Due to plate tectonics, in parts of the world, local sea levels are falling (Scandinavia with rebound from the melting ice sheets) in other parts of the world local sea levels are rising.

The global influences include: 1) changes in the ocean basin volume (tectonic and sedimentary); 2) changes in seawater density (variation in ocean temperature or salinity); and 3) changes in volume of water (melting or freezing of land-based ice).

Ocean basin volume changes occur too slowly to be significant over human lifetimes and it is therefore the other two mechanisms that drive contemporary concerns about sea-level rise.

Warming temperature in itself is only a minor factor contributing to global sea-level rise, because seawater has a relatively small coefficient of expansion and because, over the timescales of interest, any warming is largely confined to the upper few hundred metres of the ocean surface.

The melting of land ice – including both mountain glaciers and the ice sheets of

Greenland and Antarctica – is a more significant driver of global sea-level rise. (p.11 of GWPF report)

…tide-gauge measurements indicate that global sea-level has been rising at a rate of about 1.8 mm/y for the last 100 years, whereas the shorter satellite record suggests a rise of more than 3 mm/y. However, a recent reanalysis of the satellite data, alongside the possible contributions from recent warming and ice-melt estimates, has given a rise of 1.3±0.9 mm/y for 2005–2011, which is more consistent with the tide-gauge measurements (Leuliette, 2012). (p. 12)

… the influence of major ocean circulation systems that redistribute heat and mass through the oceans. The upshot of these processes is that at any location around or within the oceans, the observed sea-level behaviour can differ significantly from the smoothed global average. Furthermore, when attempts are made to estimate global sea-level from studies at specific locations, it is found to constantly vary through time. (p. 12).

In addition to the position of the coastline to the sea, local influences include rise or fall of land, supply of sediment, weather and climate, oceans (waves, tides, storms, and tsunamis). In some areas such as the mid-Atlantic states of the US, ground water extraction may be an important issue.

Because they represent a worldwide average, neither the tide-gauge nor the satellite estimates of global sea-level have any useful application per se to coastal management in specific locations. (p. 12).

In summary, the use of general sea level models to predict local sea level rise or fall, without validation from long-term local observations, is no more based on empirical science than the use of general climate models, which have not been validated, to predict local or regional climate change. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC and Challenging the Orthodoxy.

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Quote of the Week: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled-nonlinear chaotic system, and therefore that long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” IPCC Third Assessment Report (2001), Section 14.2.2.2, page 774 [H/t Cristopher Essex.]

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Number of the Week: 8%

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Going Personal Too Little, Too Late? There seems to be an effort to reduce the rhetoric that is polarizing what should be scientific issues about global warming/climate change. One of the latest appeared in the US edition of The Conversation, pleading for a toning down of labels such as deniers and alarmists. TWTW tries to avoid such labels, and to focus on the science. However, it does link to articles that use such labels, even in the titles, if the articles contain a useful discussion of scientific or policy issues. Also, it is difficult to ignore the decades-long attacks against those daring to question the science rigor in the reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and similar entities such as the US Climate Change Research Program (USCCRP). Many of the scientific criticisms against the IPCC are bearing out. It is becoming increasingly evident that the models relied on by the IPCC are failing, and the IPCC’s assertions of what causes changes in climate are fallacious.

All too frequently, those leading such attacks without producing the physical evidence, such as Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in Merchants of Doubt, have been honored by once respected scientific institutions. One cannot take this history back. The issue is the integrity of empirical science and its actors, as we move on. Will the general press be condemned by both sides for accompanying an article on carbon dioxide, or global warming/climate change, with a photo of a coal-fired power plant emitting condensing steam appearing to blacken the sky? [These are often taken under special lighting conditions or using special lenses, giving the false impression that carbon dioxide, which is invisible, is dark.] Will the authors of the article condemn the current attack on Willie Soon, who is co-author of a paper suggesting that a simple model outperforms the government-funded, complex climate models in predicting current temperature trends? See links under Seeking a Common Ground, Communicating Better to the Public – Exaggerate, or be Vague? and Lowering Standards, and in the Feb 14, TWTW, Models v. Observations, and Communicating Better to the Public – Go Personal.

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Evidence-Free? In light of the prior comments to avoid labels and the comments on sea level rise, it is difficult to succinctly describe the 2015 report by the New York City Panel on Climate Change. This panel includes climate researchers who are involved with the IPCC and the USCCRP. A major finding is that the city may experience a sea level rise of up to 6 feet (2 meters) by the end of the century. This is a greater rate of rise that has been documented during the melting of the great ice sheets after the maximum extend of the last ice age. Other findings have a similar tone. There is no empirical evidence given for such findings.

In the past, one could call the report alarmist. But in order to tone down the labels, TWTW will describe it as Evidence-Free Assertions. See links under Un-Science or Non-Science?

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Litigation Change? Based on SEPP’s experience with litigating against the EPA’s finding that human emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, endangers human health (Endangerment Finding (EF)), one of the characteristics of the Federal Courts of Appeal is that they will defer to the findings of the EPA or other government agencies. In effect, they will not tolerate challenges to what these agencies claim are science. The Supreme Court had a similar attitude.

A group of attorneys have suggested that an alternative approach would be to litigate under the Information Quality Act, also known as the Data Quality Act. This approach may put such litigation under the guidelines of the Office of Management and Budget rather than the Clean Air Act. SEPP is not qualified to comment on these legal technicalities.

However, in the EPA EF there are two deficiencies that clearly stand out and, if properly presented, should be understood by judges. One deficiency is the lack of a pronounced “hot spot” centered over the tropics at about 33,000 feet (10 km). EPA falsely claimed it is a human fingerprint, but it would occur no matter what the cause of the warming. The second deficiency is the failure of the climate models to predict the current trend of no warming. See links under Litigation Issues.

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Restoring Rigor in Government Science? Several commentators are suggesting that the new Congress will begin making demands on the EPA, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to substantiate certain parts of the science used for press releases and reports. One such demand may be to substantiate the data manipulation in the historic temperature network, particularly that for the US. No doubt, those who have participated in the manipulation will have slick answers, and the effort may get bogged down.

An alternative approach may be to ask for proof of the “hot spot”, which no one can empirically find. A second alternative approach may be to demonstrate how the climate models have been validated, which they have not. In SEPP’s view, and the view of many others, models that have not been validated should not be used to justify long-term policy. The EPA anti-coal campaign is long-term policy. See links under The Political Games Continue and EPA and other Regulators on the March

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Computers v. Climate: The quote of the week comes from a presentation by mathematician Christopher Essex who asserts that computer models cannot reproduce the physics of the climate and the mathematics for

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