Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #197

The Week That Was: September 19, 2015 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

THIS WEEK: By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

RICO: For years, some advocates of the position that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing unprecedented and dangerous global warming have also falsely claimed that the science is settled. Included in these claims are highly questionable claims that 97% of the scientists concur with this view. Now, twenty climate scientists have written to the President and the US Attorney General requesting legal prosecution of those who publically disagree with their views. The legal actions they are proposing fall under Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO. The act was designed to combat organized crime and makes a person who instructs criminal action taken by others guilty of the crime. In short, the individuals who wrote the letter are stating that anyone who does not agree with their views is guilty of a crime – racketeering.

This action is a clear display of the illogical thinking by some of those in the largely, publically-financed Climate Establishment whose vanity exceeds the rigor of their work. Rather than producing compelling physical evidence that human emissions of CO2 are causing dangerous global warming, they will compel others to publically think as they do by legal action. In effect, they are undermining their own position and their action illustrates that simply because some people trained as scientists believe X that does not make belief in X scientific.

The evidence these individuals cite demonstrates their lack of critical thinking. For example, they cite the Merchants of Doubt, a book with extensive accusations against four distinguished scientists, but little documented evidence. The authors present no documented evidence that those accused took money from tobacco companies in exchange for suppressing evidence that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer.

This lack of evidence by the authors, Oreskes and Conway, who claim to be historians of science, can be easily seen in other imaginative claims, such as everyone was aware of the economic weakness of the Soviet Union long before it fell. The authors fail to note a major controversy in US economics profession during the 60s, 70s, and 80s was the economic strength of the Soviet Union.

Nobel Laurate Paul Samuelson, author of the highly influential textbook, Economics, later joined by William Nordhaus, argued that the military and space accomplishments of the Soviet Union were compelling evidence that the Soviet economy was comparable to that of the United States, and an example of the success of a centrally planned economy. Others disagreed, claiming that the Soviet military was strong, but the economy was weak. To maintain a strong military, the Soviet Union required far greater government spending in relation to the gross national product than the US. President Reagan accepted the second position, and sought to build up the US military to confront the economic weakness of the Soviet Union, which would try to match it. The issue was not the military strength, but the economic strength to maintain a strong military.

In Merchants of Doubt, Oreskes and Conway distort the issue, falsely claiming that three of the four scientists accused in the book exaggerated the military strength of the Soviet Union, which was not the issue at all. A simple check of the economics textbooks of the period show Oreskes and Conway misrepresent the issue.

The absurdity of the RICO accusations by the 20 individuals with scientific training (the 20) is increased by their citing political support by Sheldon Whitehouse, a senator from Rhode Island. Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations was founded by Roger Williams, who left England for the Massachusetts Bay Colony to seek religious freedom. Massachusetts, the “American Experiment” was considered to be founded on the idea of religious freedom. However, Williams was tried for his independent thinking in Salem, Massachusetts, and was banished. Apparently, Senator Whitehouse wishes to continue the concept of “freedom of thought for me, but not for thee.” http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/colonial/jb_colonial_williams_1.html

Last week, TWTW quoted Freeman Dyson stating global climate models used by the Climate Establishment are full of “fudge factors” that adjust to whatever data is feed into them. As the data changes the fudge factors change, but that does not give the models predictive power, skill. Dyson has other significant criticisms of the models and of the Climate Establishment. Are “the 20” proposing prosecuting this eminent, 91 year-old theoretical physicist for racketeering because he dares to think differently than they do? See links under Suppressing Scientific Inquiry – The Witch Hunt and Suppressing Scientific Inquiry – The Witch Hunt – Push-Back.


Quote of the Week:The worthwhile problems are the ones you can really solve or help solve, the ones you can really contribute something to.” Richard Feynman


Number of the Week: 23


The Sun: Increasingly we are seeing more papers asserting that the sun is a major factor in climate change. Yet, in its Summaries for Policy Makers, the government-funded, UN, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) largely dismisses it as an important influence on recent climate global warming/climate change. The total energy emitted by the sun drives the climate systems in the solar system, including the earth. Yet, according to the IPCC, and the group of 20 (above) minor changes in total energy emitted, including solar wind and magnetism are far less important in determining changing climate that human additions of CO2 into the atmosphere. See links under Science: Is the Sun Rising? and 100+ Papers – Sun Drives Climate


EPA Endangerment Finding: With many new publications, the supposed scientific basis of the EPA’s finding that human greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2, endanger human health and welfare continues to implode. Yet, some US climate “experts” are trying to suppress those who rely on empirical research and solid data.

Since 1993, US has spent over $40 billion on what government bureaucracies classify as “climate science”, and over $165 Billion on other climate activities including subsidies for solar and wind — more than on the Apollo program. [SEPP has been unable to find a solid accounting produced by government agencies on expenditures in fiscal year 2014 and fiscal year 2015, which ends September 30.] The one thing being endangered is this flow of funds. In FY 2013, it was 78% greater than National Institutes of Health reported as expenditures on all categories of clinical research on known threats to human health. No wonder, “the 20” are trying to suppress those who think independently. See “Climate Fears and Finance” http://www.sepp.org/key_issues/ClimateFearsandFinance6-6.pdf


Pope’s Visit: Starting Tuesday, the Pope is visiting Washington, New York City, and Philadelphia. Except for linking to articles discussing the Pope’s views on western economic systems, TWTW has not discussed them. These systems can be termed as based on capitalism, private enterprise, or free enterprise. In the last, the meaning of free is from undue government control.

Many of those who strongly oppose western economic systems focus on the writings of Adam Smith, particularly The Wealth of Nations (1776). They correctly state that this book is largely devoid of human traits, especially of compassion. Unfortunately, these critics and too many exuberant followers of Smith ignore his prior work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), which provides the ethical and philosophical foundations to Smith’s later work. In it, Smith discusses some important human characteristics such as sympathy, propriety, virtues, unsocial passions, etc. Understanding Smith’s economic work requires understanding The Theory of Moral Sentiments. See links under Expanding the Orthodoxy – The Pope – Loyal Opposition and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Theory_of_Moral_Sentiments


Delay in Regulations: During a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on a different subject, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy was unable to explain why the EPA has failed to publish in the Federal Register its rules under the so-called Clean Power Plan (CCP). Delay in publishing rules has become part of the operating procedures of the Administration and the EPA.

Announcing forthcoming rules prevents utilities from beginning the planning and construction of facilities that may run afoul of the rules (a process that may take six to eight years). Not publishing the announced rules prevents the utilities and states affected from suing the EPA and the Administration, because the courts will dismiss such litigation as “not ripe”, premature until the final rules are published.

During the delay, the EPA and the Administration can boost what it is doing to “fight” climate change without incurring the need to defend their actions. See Article # 1 and links under The Administration’s Plan – Push-Back


Clinging to Fat Tails: Mr. Mann of hockey-stick repute has an op-ed in the Huff Post emphasizing the “fat tail” of IPCC climate change risk, a risk that is largely imaginary. According to Mr. Mann the “fat tails” indicate a “greater likelihood of warming that is well in excess of the average amount of warming predicted by climate models.” Mr. Mann ignores that fact that the climate models, in general, greatly over-estimate current warming of the atmosphere, where the greenhouse effect takes place. Without “fat tails” the flow of funds to the alarmists in the Climate Establishment would be jeopardized.

Further, in discussing “existential threats” Mr. Mann ignores the threat of global cooling. Given the history of the earth over the past 2.5 million years, and its CO2 concentrations, cooling is a greater threat to humanity than warming. See link under Oh Mann.


California Snowpack: The bountiful farms of the southern Central Valley of California depend upon moisture from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Whether the moisture falls as snow or rain is not as important as the extensive reservoir system that is designed to capture it. The current drought in California is disturbing; but, historically, not unprecedented. The headlines based on a letter published in Nature claimed the Sierra Nevada snowpack is at a 500 year low. The headline writers did not bother reading the graphs accompanying the letter or the text.

The graph was based on instrument data dating to 1930, with measurements taken April 1. Prior data is based on proxy data from tree rings. The error range for the instrument data shows that the current low point was approximated in 1977. In the proxy data, there are about 11 years when the value was equaled or below the current value. See links under Changing Cryosphere.


Wildfire Risk: Much is being made of wildfires occurring in the West, particularly in California. (Note the change in language from forest fires.). California Governor Brown blames these on global warming caused by CO2 emissions. He ignores the change in Federal and state government policies of suppressing fires by removing underbrush and creating fire breaks. This change in policy became intense after a controlled burn went out of control in Yellowstone in 1988. See Article # 3.


A Tribute: On his web site, Roy Spencer gives a tribute to S Fred Singer, founder of the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) and the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). The first director of the National Weather Satellite Service, Singer was a pioneer on remote sensing by satellites.

Spencer and his colleagues at the National Space Science & Technology Center at University of Alabama in Huntsville also deserve a tribute for demonstrating how government-financed research should be conducted in-spite-of political whims and politicalized views of editors of once distinguished journals in science. See link under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Number of the Week: 23. Writing on his web site, No Tricks Zone, Pierre Gosselin states that thus far this year he has counted 23 different papers that challenge the IPCC’s claim that the solar influence on the earth’s climate is minor. Of course, such papers undermine the credibility of the IPCC’s claim that human emissions of CO2 dominate the earth’s climate. Also, they further weaken the EPA’s claim that CO2 emissions endanger public health and welfare. See links under Commentary: Is the Sun Rising?



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. Obama’s House of Cards

By S. Fred Singer, American Thinker, Sep 15, 2015


SUMMARY: President Obama seems anxious to shore up his legacy in several disparate areas: concluding a nuclear deal with Iran; reaching an international climate accord in Paris in December 2015; phasing out fossil fuels for electric generation in favor of wind and solar. But his legacy-building involves risks; biting off too much can activate adversaries. Over-riding just one White House (WH) veto may be enough to cause his whole house of cards to collapse.


2. How to Transport Oil More Safely

Each method—pipeline, rail, boat or truck—has its pros and cons. But they all could use some improvement.

By Dan Molinski, WSJ, Sep 13, 2015


SUMMARY: With the tremendous growth of crude oil production in North America, the issue is the best way to transport it. The article discusses the pros and cons of each method. The statistics are based on point of delivery of crude in the US, and may include transport using multi-methods. Pipelines, which delivered 58% of the crude in in the US, are the cheapest way to move crude and spill less often than other methods. However, they can corrode over time, leading to spills, which can be large. Some pipelines have been operating since the 1940s, The American Petroleum Institute announced it was developing a comprehensive new set of standards for pipeline safety.

In 2014, boats, including tankers and barges, delivered 37% of the crude transported in the US. “Volume is the big advantage boats offer. A barge has a cargo capacity of around 1.3 million gallons—and there can be several barges per tow—while the largest transoceanic tankers can carry around 84 million gallons. A truck can move only about 9,000 gallons, and a train of 100 cars 3 million. What’s more, even with their great capacity, barges don’t face the same kind of traffic and other logistical issues as ground transport.”

Of concern are locations that experience frequent, but minor spills such as Galveston Bay, an important oil-shipping channel near Houston, which sees about 275 spills of oil and related liquids a year. According to the Congressional Research Service “Barges are the workhorses in moving Bakken [region of North Dakota] and Texas oil by water.” “However, the Coast Guard has just begun establishing a safety inspection regime for barges.”

Rail delivered about 2.7% of the crude. It is more flexible, and the spills are generally small. However as demonstrated by the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec rail disaster in 2013, which killed 47 people, spills can be deadly. Among other measures, railroads have ordered trains to slow down and forced shippers to use reinforced tank cars.

Trucks delivered about 2.6% of the crude. They are the most flexible, and often are the first leg of delivery of crude. The trucking industry is working methods of improving safety, including driver training.

[SEPP Comment: Contrary to the article, non-lethal accidents have not necessarily gotten worse, but reporting has expanded.]


3. Carbon, Wind and Fire

California’s wildfires undo Jerry Brown’s anticarbon planning.

Editorial, WSJ, Sep 16, 2015


SUMMARY: “Thousands of buildings and some 300,000 acres—10 times as much land as the city of San Francisco—have gone up in flames this week as three massive wildfires blazed across northern California. Tens of thousands of people have abandoned their homes, and Jerry Brown thinks he’s found the villain: fossil fuels.


“At a press conference on Monday, the Governor warned that the wildfires are a result and portent of cataclysmic climate change. “This is the future, from now on. It’s going to get worse, just by the nature of how the climate’s changing,” Mr. Brown inveighed. “What we see in Europe now with mass migrations, that will happen in California . . . Central America and Mexico, as they warm, people are going to get on the move.”


“Europe’s refugee crisis has been driven by turmoil in the Arab world and Western disengagement. In any case, Mr. Brown should be more worried about mass emigration driven by California’s anti-business climate.

“One irony is that wildfires diminish the impact of California’s anti-carbon policies. In 2007 environmental scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University of Colorado at Boulder found that “a severe fire season lasting only one or two months can release as much carbon as the annual emissions from the entire transportation or energy sector of an individual state.”


“According to a study this year led by the National Park Service and University of California, Berkeley, annual carbon releases from burning California wildland and forests—among the densest in the world—accounted for as much as 5% to 7% of statewide carbon emissions between 2001 and 2010.

“This year’s fast-burning fires are fueled by the historic drought and fanned by strong winds. But as with so many other crises in California, government policies bear much of the blame. To wit, federal policy of suppressing fires in national parks and on other protected lands for forest preservation.

“’A century of fire suppression has contributed to a potentially unsustainable buildup of vegetation,’ explains UC Berkeley forest ecologist John Battles. ‘This buildup provides abundant fuel for fires that contribute to carbon emissions.” University of Colorado researcher Jason Neff likewise notes that fire suppression policies have ‘had the unintended benefit of sequestering more carbon in our forests and reducing the impact of human combustion of fossil fuels.’


“One lesson here is that politically motivated policies intended to protect the environment often backfire—on the environment.”


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