The Week That Was: July 4, 2015 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
The Loyal Opposition: One of the most humanely compelling criticisms of the thinking exhibited by the pontifical academies that went into the Pope’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’ (Praised Be), was “The Pontifical Academies’ Broken Moral Compass,” written by Indur Goklany and published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Goklany’s 2007 book, The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet is a classic on the improving human condition – largely attributable to the use of fossil fuels. Goklany’s book and his analysis of the pope’s encyclical is data driven – not model driven, unlike the thinking of the pontifical academies that relies on forecasts from inadequately tested, non-valid climate models.
Goklany divided his book into four parts. The first part addresses the trends in human well-being and the factors responsible for those trends, emphasizing that, although not without environmental problems, economic development has improved the human condition. The improvement can be measured by access to food, safe water, sanitation, mortality, life expectancy, etc. These are related to economic development and technological change. In general, new problems are solved more quickly than old ones. The second part addresses the effects of economic development and technological change on environmental quality. As seen in Western economies, particularly the US, the long term trends are very favorable. The third part examines how the improvements in human well-being and environmental quality can coexist in a more populated and richer world of the future. This section includes a chapter on climate change and shows how adaptive management, in the short and medium term, will advance human and environmental well-being more quickly and efficiently than efforts to mitigate against climate change. The concluding fourth part includes a synthesis of the prior sections and the benefits of technological change, economic growth, and free trade to humanity and the environment.
The Pontifical Academies offer no compelling data to refute the optimistic view of the world presented by Goklany.
In his criticism of the work of the pontifical academies, Goklany focuses on the four opening sentences of their joint declaration: Climate Change and the Common Good: A Statement of The Problem and the Demand for Transformative Solutions, “echoes of which resonate in the recent papal encyclical.” The sentences are:
1) “Unsustainable consumption coupled with a record human population and the uses of inappropriate technologies are causally linked with the destruction of the world’s sustainability and resilience.” Goklany contradicts the statement by offering observational evidence that population has increased, life expectancy has increased, overall health has improved, living standards have increase, and percentage of population living in absolute poverty has declined. Further, Goklany shows that global death rates from extreme weather events are down, crop yields are up, access to safe water has improved, and so on. Unlike the academies, he backs his assertions with data.
2) “Widening inequalities of wealth and income, the world-wide disruption of the physical climate system and the loss of millions of species that sustain life are the grossest manifestations of unsustainability.” Goklany argues that with general improvements in overall health, the importance monetary inequality is secondary. There is no empirical evidence of human physical disruption of the physical climate system and the claimed loss of millions of species is fanciful.
3) “The continued extraction of coal, oil and gas following the ‘business-as-usual mode’ will soon create grave existential risks for the poorest three billion, and for generations yet unborn.” Such claims are based on unsubstantiated projections from global climate models that have not been validated with empirical data. As Goklany states: “Given the credibility of the models involved, it would be foolhardy, if not immoral to spend scarce resources on problems derived from models that so far have failed to track reality, particularly since those resources can be put to better use solving problems we know exist here and now, and are amenable to solution.”
4) “Climate change resulting largely from unsustainable consumption by about 15% of the world’s population has become a dominant moral and ethical issue for society.” Goklany contradicts this statement by noting the general improvements in human well-being with the general increase in in use of fossil fuels over the past 25 years. He then presents a WHO analysis the finds that poverty, or conditions associated with it, intensify at least health ten risk factors.
Goklany concludes his essay with:
“Despite its many sins of omission and commission, the academies did get one thing right: climate change is a moral and ethical issue. But it is a strange moral calculus that endorses policies that would reduce existing gains in human wellbeing, increase the cost of humanity’s basic necessities, increase poverty, and reduce the terrestrial biosphere’s future productivity and ability to support biomass, all in order to solve future problems that may not even exist or, if they do, are probably more easily solved by future generations who should be richer both economically and technologically. Moreover, because food, fibre, fuel and energy – basic necessities – consume a disproportionately large share of the income of the poorest, they would also pay the highest price for these policies. So much for the academies’ concern for inequality.
“Today’s world may not be perfect, but without access to cheaper energy alternatives – fossil fuels, like it or not, are usually the cheapest available option – it would be more imperfect. Someday it may be possible to meet humanity’s basic necessities without fossil fuels. But we are not there yet. As the academies note, three billion people still have unmet energy needs. Insisting on doing ‘the right thing’, but at the wrong time, could make matters worse. Even if one is confident that a child nearing adulthood could leap across a ten-foot chasm, it would be lethal to insist that a three-year old do the same thing. Similarly, there may be a fossil-fuel-free world in the future, but now is not the future. Insisting on a fossil-fuel-free world now would only prolong poverty and limit the terrestrial biosphere’s productivity.”
In reviewing the conflict between the Academies and the loyal opposition, one cannot but be drawn into making similarities between the Church’s Aristotelian scholars of the 17th century and Galileo. The former argued from an outdated model of an earth centered universe (from the days of the Ptolemy observers in Egypt) and refused to accept the observations from Galileo demonstrating, imperfectly, that the sun was the center of the solar system, and the sun was not immutable (had sunspots). As the basis of their arguments, the scholars were using imperfect models about nature while ignoring observations of nature. Similarly, the climate and economic models used by Academies are outdated with assumptions that need to be revised based on observations. See links under Expanding the Orthodoxy – The Pope – Loyal Opposition
Quote of the Week: If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants. [Galileo and Kepler?] Isaac Newton
Number of the Week: 50 to 140 times
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Defending the Orthodoxy: An article in Science, written by some leaders in the US scientific establishments, asserts that the scientific establishment is self-correction. This may be accurate is in certain circumstances, such as with the Wakefield example given in the text, even though the effects of which are still on going. But, in other circumstances, such as with massive government funding, the assertion is questionable.
The authors of the article ignore the elephant in the room. The article ignores the continued failure of the IPCC and US scientific entities to publically withdraw prior IPCC reports that are not valid, such as Mr. Mann’s hockey stick, to adequately test climate models, and to fully recognize natural influences on climate. This failure is supported by the Nation Academy of Sciences and other US scientific entities. Even Science, where the editorial appeared, has systematically refused to publish well-supported scientific papers that challenge some of the findings of the IPCC, even when these papers were written by well-established researchers in the field.
Science cannot be considered self-correcting as long as these policies remain. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.
How Broad Is It? By a 5 to 4 vote, the US Supreme Court overturned a decision by a lower court enforcing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) rules on Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) released from power plants. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that it was not appropriate for the EPA “to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits.” The EPA argued that it factored in cost later in the process of crafting the rules, even though the EPA has failed to calculate costs of some of its earlier regulations. In fact, the EPA has long publically asserted that it is not required to include the costs of regulations under the Clean Air Act.
According to reports: “Approximately 62 GW of coal-fired electric generating capacity in the U.S. has already been retired or converted to other fuel sources in an effort to comply with the MATS regulation. It is unlikely that the Supreme Court decision will have any effect on the majority of the closed facilities.” However, the ruling may give utilities the option to consider coal-fired power plants as back-up to natural gas plants and other forms of electricity generation.
More importantly, it gives opponents to EPA regulations grounds for asserting that the EPA must include the costs of said regulations, rather than ignore such costs. Already, EPA supporters are assessing methods of minimizing reported costs or the impact of the court ruling on other EPA regulations such as those found in the Administration’s Clean Power Plan. How these efforts will play out, and out broad the ruling will become remains to be seen.
However, it is the concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas that may have the most significant impact. Justice Thomas notes that the EPA requested special treatment, deferring to agency interpretations of federal statutes, under a Supreme Court decision in Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. 467 U. S. 837 (1984). Thomas states that the EPA “request for deference raises serious questions about the constitutionality of our broader practice of deferring to agency interpretations of federal statutes.” Thomas argues that “the judicial power, as originally understood requires a court to exercise its independent judgement in interpreting and expounding upon the laws”, and that the “Chevron deference precludes judges from exercising that judgment, forcing them to abandon what they believe is “the best reading of an ambiguous statute” in favor of an agency’s construction.”.. “It thus wrests from the Courts the ultimate interpretative authority to ‘say what the law is,’ Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 (1803), and hands it over to the Executive.”
Thomas further explains his views and concludes with: “we seem to be straying further and further from the Constitution without so much as pausing to ask why. We should stop to consider that document before blithely giving the force of law to any other agency ‘interpretations’ of federal statutes.”
No wonder so many political “liberals” rail against Justice Thomas. His views can have severe limiting effects on regulatory agencies that interpret the law as they see fit. See links under Litigation Issues.
Secret Science: The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reported out bill S: 544, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015, which deserves special mention and citation. The report states:
“The Committee on Environment and Public Works, to which was referred a bill (S. 544) to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon with an amendment and recommends that the bill, as amended, do pass.”
It further states: “EPA also has a record of relying on science conducted outside the Agency that is not available to the public—or to the EPA—and therefore cannot be replicated or verified by independent researchers. For example, virtually all Clean Air Act regulations under the Obama Administration have been justified by data sets collected by two non-governmental institutions over 30 years ago, which have been withheld from the public and cannot be replicated.. In 2014, Congress learned this data either no longer exists, is of such poor quality that modeling results cannot be replicated, or has not been coded to facilitate independent analysis. However, EPA continues to rely on this data to support major regulations.” (p. 2)
Three decades of the EPA keeping secret the justifications for regulations made in the name of public health may be a bit too long. See links under The Political Games Continue, and EPA and other Regulators on the March.
Natural Climate Change: On her blog, Jo Nova brings up a new study on the historical changes in mega-Lake Chad, in West Africa, immediately south of the Sahara. The editors of PNAS state the significance of the paper:
North Africa was wetter 15,000–5,000 years ago than today, with wetlands and lakes formed in the Sahara due to an enhanced monsoon. We reconstruct the lake-level history of Lake Mega-Chad, when it was the largest African lake, and demonstrate that this humid period ended abruptly 5,000 years ago, indicating that the African monsoon exhibits a nonlinear response to insolation forcing. The northern basin of Lake Mega-Chad, currently the world’s greatest dust source, became dry around 1,000 years ago.
These findings are consistent with the findings of HH Lamb over 3 decades ago. The drying of the Sahara and was probably associated with global cooling following the Holocene Climate Warm Period. They are also consistent with other studies on the changing climate of the great desert belt in the Northern Hemisphere, including the disappearance of the Harappan civilization on the Indus valley and plateau. Such studies demonstrate that climate change is real and can be dangerous to civilizations. But, governments pretending they can stop climate change by controlling human emissions of carbon dioxide is the pure folly. See links under Changing Climate.
Limitations of Electricity Storage: Writing in Climate Etc, engineer Rud Istvan asserts that: “Most renewables advocates don’t appreciate the scope and scale of electricity grids, the difficulties intermittency creates, and the technical/ commercial inadequacies of electricity storage technologies other than PHS.” [pumped hydro storage.]
He goes through various types of storage, giving specific examples of each – potential (pumped hydro), kinetic (flywheels), electrostatic (capacitors), electrochemical (batteries), and chemical energy (water hydrolysis). Istvan concludes: “The foregoing examples illustrate the immensity of the utility bulk storage challenge. No foreseeable battery solution overcomes this enormous challenge.” Any politician or official advocating renewable electrical generation should be required to state the type and cost of the storage needed.
Number of the Week: 50 to 140 times. Last week’s TWTW gave a rough calculation of the relative weights of of natural forcing as compared to anthropogenic (human forcing) of the climate system from atmospheric carbon dioxide as presented in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, AR-4), published in 2007. These were calculated from the table in Change. The influence of carbon dioxide ranged from 5 to 6 times larger to 25 to 30 times larger than the only natural forcing considered – changes in solar intensity (visible light). These were based on Figure SPM.2, which stated “the understanding of anthropogenic warming and cooling influences on climate has improved since the TAR, leading to very high confidence that the global average net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming, with a radiative forcing of +1.6 [+0.6 to +2.4] W m–2.”
Identical calculations for IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR-5) cannot be made because the critical table is not presented. Instead, a different table is presented: “Contributions to observed surface temperature change over the period 1951–2010” from the Summary for Policymakers of the Synthesis report. The range of natural variability is about minus 0.5 º C to plus 0.5 º C with a mean of about 0.01 º C. The range for the influence of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide is not specifically given in about 0.5 º C to 1.4 º C. According to these IPCC numbers, the influence of greenhouse gases is about 50 to 140 times greater than natural influences. When one considers these estimates in light of past climate change, there is little doubt why the climate models are failing. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.
Please note that articles not linked easily or summarized here are reproduced in the Articles Section of the full TWTW that can be found on the web site under the date of the TWTW.
1. Protecting Humanity from Ice Ages
By S. Fred Singer, American Thinker, Jul 1, 2015
SUMMARY: SEPP Chairman Fred Singer expresses his concern for coming ice ages and the dangers they pose to humans on our planet — and indeed to most of terrestrial ecology. He discusses two types of ice ages and each requires a different type of mitigation. Major glaciations are most severe, and it would be useful to understand what triggers them. Minor glaciations, such as the Little Ice Age are less severe, and Singer suggests possible engineering solutions.
2. Commenters excoriate a Science paper that denies global warming ‘pause’
By S. Fred Singer, American Thinker Blog, Jul 1, 2015
SUMMARY: “Perhaps the most inconvenient truth for global warming theorists has been the absence of any statistically significant warming trend in the past 18 years – in spite of rapidly rising atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Many are simply ignoring this unanticipated result – for example, the encyclical letter issued by Pope Francis on June 18. Conventional climate science, as employed in IPCC models, has been unable to explain these observations.
“Coming to the rescue, Dr. Tom Karl, head of NOAA’s National Climate Data center (NCDC), asserts that the temperature plateau (aka “pause” or “hiatus”) is simply an artifact of the data. After he and colleagues adjust some recent SST (sea-surface temp) readings, they claim an uninterrupted warming trend in the 21st century. Their paper appeared in Science-Express on June 4 and in Science mag on June 26.
“The Karl claims gave rise to many published comments, mostly negative. There was not a single comment in support of the Karl paper. Some simply addressed technical details – the fact that atmospheric temperature data, from satellites as well as from balloon-borne radiosondes, have shown no warming trend. But many other comments questioned the good faith of the authors and implied political motives.