Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #188

The Week That Was: July 18, 2015 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

The Sun? Last week’s TWTW discussed a new paper published by the Royal Astronomical Society announcing a “new model of the Sun’s solar cycle is producing unprecedentedly accurate predictions of irregularities within the Sun’s” 10 to 12 year solar cycle. “The model draws on dynamo effects in two layers of the Sun, one close to the surface and one deep within its convection zone. Predictions from the model suggest that solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the ‘mini ice age’ that began in 1645.”

The conditions last seen during the “mini ice age”, also known as the Little Ice Age relate to low sunspot activity, particularly as applied to the Maunder Minimum roughly from about 1645 to 1715, depending on interpretations of data. This period roughly included the Little Ice Age, roughly from about 1500 to 1850. The article did not predict a return of a Little Ice Age, which was added by others. Unfortunately, adherence to the hypothesis that carbon dioxide (CO2) is the control knob of the Earth’s temperatures clouded this distinction by using a logical “red herring” and claiming that the Little Ice Age was European event, thus the model was false.

As noted in the 2013 report of the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), the Physical Science, the Little Ice Age was not uniform, but extremely cold and dangerous winters occurred in the Northern Hemisphere, including Eurasia and North America, and in the Southern Hemisphere; including South America and South Africa. As with a confused dog following a false scent, this red herring will lead to nowhere meaningful.

Writing in Jo Nova’s blog, David Evans references an article in Astronomy Now on the presentation by the researchers that more clearly discusses the new research than the press release by the Royal Astronomical Society.

As importantly, Evans discusses that the heat energy (largely in the form of visible light) produced by the sun will not change significantly, but other forms of energy may. “Note that the influence of sunspots on terrestrial temperatures is not because the heat of the Sun varies (that variation is pretty insignificant in terms of global warming or cooling). It is because something about the Sun, perhaps its UV output or a magnetic influence on the Earth’s upper atmosphere, affects the cloud cover on Earth, and thus how much sunlight the Earth reflects back out to space. More clouds mean more sunlight is reflected without warming the Earth, so the Earth is cooler. If the Sun is affecting the cloud cover on Earth, it is affecting the Earth’s temperature even though the heat from the Sun stays about constant.”

Evans also brings up an earlier work by Nicola Scafetta, who argued that solar dynamics (sunspot activity) since 1749 can be well-modeled by planetary orbits, particularly those of Jupiter and Saturn. Using proxy climate records, Scafetta traced the influence of these orbits on the earth’s climate back 12,000 years, through the Holocene. Scafetta’s work is basically statistical (pattern recognition), and does not produce a theoretical explanation.

Both papers bring into question the reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), particularly the Fifth Assessment Report (AR-5) in 2013, which contained estimates that the warming influence of carbon dioxide is some 50 to 140 times natural influences on climate. As David Evans notes: “The IPCC does not include any solar influence in the climate models except the direct heating by the Sun. But the total radiation from the Sun is almost constant — it is even known as the Solar Constant, because it wasn’t found to vary until observed by satellites starting in 1979.”

Adding to the doubt about the high certainty in their science expressed by the IPCC, a new paper appeared in the Geophysical Research Letters suggesting solar activity caused the ocean circulations to slow, particularly the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Published by the American Geophysical Union the paper states that solar “activity could be affecting a key ocean circulation mechanism that plays an important role in regulating Greenland’s climate, according to a new study. The phenomenon could be partially responsible for cool temperatures the island experienced in the late 20th century and potentially lead to increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet in the coming decades, the new research suggests.”

“The new study suggests high solar activity starting in the 1950s and continuing through the 1980s played a role in slowing down ocean circulation between the South Atlantic and the North Atlantic oceans. Combined with an influx of fresh water from melting glaciers, this slow-down halted warm water and air from reaching Greenland and cooled the island while temperatures rose across the rest of the Northern Hemisphere,…”

“The new research also suggests weak solar activity, like the sun is currently experiencing, could slowly fire up the ocean circulation mechanism, increasing the amount of warm water and air flowing to Greenland.”

There are questions if the AMOC is really slowing. See links under Science: Is the Sun Rising?, Commentary: Is the Sun Rising?, and Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science http://www.nipccreport.org/reports/ccr2a/ccr2physicalscience.html


Quote of the Week: “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the greatest liars: the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.” — H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)


Number of the Week: 0 to 132%



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Melting in Antarctica: For some time, there have been reports of the melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), and how sea levels will rise drastically. Generally, these reports ignore other reports relating to the warmth below the ice sheet and neglect to mention the accumulation of ice on the continent and on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which are far more extensive. On July 10, Science Magazine, hardly alarmist, published an article on direct measurements of the flow of heat from geothermal sources to the base of WAIS, near the Ross Ice Shelf (an area of concern). The study found heat flow (flux) to be “significantly higher than the continental and regional averages estimated for this site using regional geophysical and glaciological models.”

During the 2014, Ninth International Congress on Climate Change (ICCC – 9) SEPP Chairman Fred Singer stated that the melting of the WAIS is unrelated to the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and there is little that governments or humans can do to stop it. The new research seems to confirm this view. Interestingly, the article fails to discuss the fears of drastic sea level rise caused by melting of the WAIS from CO2. See links under Changing Cryosphere.


Green Energy Subsidies: The government of the United Kingdom is announcing dramatic changes to its subsidies for electricity from on-shore wind and solar. Apparently, it is doing so because the programs have become too expensive, consumers are complaining about rapidly increasing electricity costs, and unsightly wind turbines. As with Germany, getting rid of fossil fuels with the promise of energy from “free” wind and solar is becoming very expensive. Politicians and government bureaucrats who have offered these countries as models to be followed are being warned as to their consequences.

As with Greece, Italy, Spain and some other countries, investors in such activities are seeing their “safe” investments being downgraded, without compensation. In the US, there is a legal concept called reasonable, investment-backed expectations to protect against arbitrary government actions and seizure of control of property. This concept may or may-not apply in Europe. Certainly, the importance of the concept has been greatly reduced in the US with the imposition of environmental regulations. See links under Subsidies and Mandates Forever, and Questioning European Green.


Wind – Behind the Headlines: Amusingly, the UK newspaper, The Guardian, chose this time of budgetary subsidy cut-back to run an article supporting wind power and its lobby by claiming that wind power generates 140% of Denmark’s electricity demand. The article used figures from the Danish transmission systems operator, Energinet.dk, which is owned by the Danish government. Other reports state that Denmark has the highest consumer electricity prices in Europe and that it depends on exporting and importing electricity to and from Norway and Sweden for hydraulic pumped storage, which has at least a 20% loss. TWTW reviewed the 2014 annual report for Energinet.dk, which owns the Danish electricity and gas transmission system, including two gas storage facilities. It was established by the Danish Act on “Energinet Danmark of December 2004” and was the result of merger of several companies on August 24, 2005, effective January 1, 2005. The annual report states that Energinet.dk provides the framework to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

The report states that electricity prices are determine by electricity prices in other countries, with northern Germany; Norway; Sweden specifically mentioned. The report also states that increased wind power in Germany is putting downward pressure of Denmark’s electricity prices. Monthly wind share in 2014 was 61.8% in January (highest) and 23% in July (lowest). This is a significant difference from the 140% reported in the Guardian, which emphasized a one-day output.

There is significant excess electricity capacity in the system with consumption at 6,039 MW; yet, central and local power stations have a capacity at 6730 MW; wind & solar capacity is 5140 MW; import capacity is 5140 MW; and export is 5880 MW. TWTW was unable to determine the prices Energinet receives when exporting electricity and what it must pay when importing electricity. Usually, times of high winds lower prices. The ratios of exports to imports was 29% to 37.5%, respectively.

The breakdown of consumer electricity bills was very interesting: 15% for actual electricity; 18% for the grid; 10% for PSO; and 57% for Taxes and VAT. PSO is defined as subsidies for environmental friendly energy production. Between 2011 and 2014, the electricity prices went down from 49.5 units to 35.0 units, but prices for Danish households went up from 123.1 to 128.4 units [units not clearly stated]. Apparently, it is not the actual cost of generation that results in high electricity costs in Denmark, but the costs of the add-on. See links under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind


Logic: Some readers may recall basic lessons in logic in secondary school, such as base all generalizations on adequate support or qualify them. Apparently, some climate researchers and associate journalists do not. An example of what is called a hasty generalization occurred in a paper published by Nature Climate Change. Using the historic duration of round-trip flights between the airport serving Honolulu, Hawaii, and the airports serving three west coast cities; Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, the researchers and journalists drew generalizations about travel time and airline fuel consumption in the future. There is no issue that wind and weather patterns may have changed during the study period, 1995 to 2013. But, there is an issue with attributing such changes to changes in atmospheric CO2 (anthropologic climate change) and assuming such changes will remain in the future. See links under Communicating Better to the Public – Make things up.


Corn – Genetically Modified? New DNA research indicates that by domestication, using selective plantings, early farmers significantly changed the characteristics of corn (maize) with single genetic mutation. This occurred over a relatively short period some 9,000 years ago. Though not discussed, over the past 200 years farmers have further modified corn, making corn a food that can be eaten by humans without major processing. What will the restaurants which advertise non-genetically modified foods do with this research? See link under Agriculture Issues & Fear of Famine.


Number of the Week: 0 to 132%. The Energinet.dk 2014 annual report states that the production of electricity from wind power relative to consumption in 2014 varied between 0 to 132%. There is good reason why Denmark has such excess capacity in electricity generation and pays subsidies to maintain power plants that are not being used. See links under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind



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. States Take Aim at Power-Plant Rules

Last-minute requests will be made Tuesday in Washington; new rules will guide direction of utility investments

By Rebecca Smith and Amy Harder, WSJ, Jul 13, 2015


SUMMARY: The article describes the lobbying effort being made by state utility regulators in Washington. There is no one message. “California and several East Coast states want the Environmental Protection Agency to respect the steps they have already taken to cut carbon pollution in their regions and hold other states to higher standards by not easing proposed emission targets.”

“Other states, including Tennessee, Ohio and Nevada, say the pollution targets put forth by the EPA are so onerous they threaten to close power plants and cost consumers substantially more to keep the lights on.”

In addition, the journalists term carbon dioxide emissions “carbon pollution”


2. States Are Unplugging Their Renewable-Energy Mandates

North Carolina and Kansas are the latest to suffer sticker shock from the price of politicians’ green dreams.

By Donald Bryson and Jeff Glendening, WSJ, Jul 10, 2015


SUMMARY: Written by North Carolina state director and Kansas state director for Americans for Prosperity, the article opens with: “When it comes to state energy policies, the wind is finally blowing in the right direction. Take our home states of Kansas and North Carolina, both of which have begun to look at their renewable-energy mandates with new skepticism.”

Kansas effectively repealed its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and North Carolina froze it. “In 2014 Ohio froze its RPS law at 2.5% for two years, pushing the final target of 12.5% back to 2026. West Virginia eliminated its mandate outright in February. The other 25 states with renewable portfolio standards would be wise to follow suit. These laws were in vogue from the late 1990s to the late 2000s as lawmakers sought to demonstrate their green credentials.”

“Electricity prices in most states with RPS laws are ‘starkly higher,’ according to a 2012 Manhattan Institute report. The difference was especially striking in coal-dependent states: ‘Seven such states with RPS mandates saw their rates soar by an average of 54.2 percent between 2001 and 2010, more than twice the average increase experienced by seven other coal-dependent states without mandates.’”

“We’re fortunate that elected officials in our states are taking steps to undo this damage. But half of America’s states still suffer under the burden of Renewable Portfolio Standards. State lawmakers who want to help their constituents and boost their economies would be wise to let these green energy mandates flutter away into the wind.”


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