Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #201

The Week That Was:October 17, 2015 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Benefits of Carbon Dioxide: Indur Goklany has produced a brief report on the tremendous benefits of additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, largely attributable to the human use of fossil fuels. The report was published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation with a foreword by Freeman Dyson, the noted theoretical physicist from Princeton. In a recent interview Mr. Dyson said that he was a supporter of President Obama, but Mr. Obama has come out on the wrong side of the global warming/climate change issue and the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In a recent interview Dyson expressed concern over the recent scientific concentration on global warming/climate change and said it is “not a scientific mystery but a human mystery. How does it happen that a whole generation of scientific experts is blind to the obvious facts [?]”

Goklany is a former US representative to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and author of the well-researched book The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet (2007). Goklany’s new report provides independent confirmation of the findings by the Non-government International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), namely in the more comprehensive Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts [2014].

Among his main conclusions Goklany finds:

· “Empirical data confirms that the biosphere’s productivity has increased by about 14% since 1982, in large part as a result of rising carbon dioxide levels.

· Thousands of scientific experiments indicate that increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the air have contributed to increases in crop yields.

· Satellite evidence confirms that increasing carbon dioxide concentrations have also resulted in greater productivity of wild terrestrial ecosystems in all vegetation types.

· Increasing carbon dioxide concentrations have also increased the productivity of many marine ecosystems.

· In recent decades, trends in climate-sensitive indicators of human and environmental wellbeing have improved and continue to do so despite claims that they would deteriorate because of global warming.

· Compared with the benefits from carbon dioxide on crop and biosphere productivity, the adverse impacts of carbon dioxide – on the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, on sea level, vector-borne disease prevalence and human health have been too small to measure or have been swamped by other factors.

· Models used to influence policy on climate change have overestimated the rate of warming, underestimated direct benefits of carbon dioxide, overestimated the harms from climate change and underestimated human capacity to adapt so as to capture the benefits while reducing the harms.

· It is very likely that the impact of rising carbon dioxide concentrations is currently net beneficial for both humanity and the biosphere generally. These benefits are real, whereas the costs of warming are uncertain. Halting the increase in carbon dioxide concentrations abruptly would deprive people and the planet of the benefits of carbon dioxide much sooner than they would reduce any costs of warming”

As these and other reports show the benefits of carbon dioxide, scientists and economists in government entities, such as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), and other government-funded groups continue to labor over what they call the “Social Cost of Carbon.” It appears they have their marching orders: exaggerate costs; ignore benefits.

It is as if the US government entities are operating under a modified single-entry accounting system – only the costs, but not benefits. If any private organization reported only their expenses but not their revenues in tax filings, the organization would quickly be under government investigation, deservedly so. But apparently now, some government entities now think they are free to report only the costs of carbon dioxide without the benefits to the public.

See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC; Challenging the Orthodoxy; and Social Benefits of Carbon.


Quote of the Week:The idea that “Climate science is settled” runs through today’s popular and policy discussions. Unfortunately, that claim is misguided. It has not only distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment. But it also has inhibited the scientific and policy discussions that we need to have about our climate future.” Steven Koonin, former Professor. Theoretical Physics, and Provost, California Institute of Technology, and Under Secretary for Science, Department of Energy.


Number of the Week: 60%?


Neutrinos: Physicist Thomas Sheahen has a clear essay published in American Thinker, explaining the difficulty involved in uncovering the secrets of neutrinos. The leaders of two research groups were awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics, even though the key papers appeared in 1998, 2001, and 2002 – it takes a long time to work out the details! The work contradicted the long held belief, since the 1930s, that neutrinos had no mass. The 80-year effort to work out the details illustrates why the claims that global warming/climate change is human caused are premature, at best, and possibly wrong. These claims, and those that the science is settled, should be considered political slogans, not scientifically based.

See links under Other Scientific News. [Note that Mr. Sheahen is a director of SEPP.]


On to Paris: It is becoming evident that the push by some government entities to reach a binding agreement at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP-21) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change scheduled between November 30 and December 11 in Paris is having a few difficulties, in spite of slick promotion and fancy footwork. Among other issues, China is circumspect and India is demanding “climate justice” – payments from the west for supposed damage to the climate caused by past emissions of carbon dioxide. No doubt, Indian economists can develop the imaginative “social costs of carbon” as well as the western economists and track them to industrial civilization in the west.

To make issues more uncertain, President Obama may try to claim that a binding agreement will not require the consent of the Senate, which is not impressed by his efforts. Many of Mr. Obama’s former claims are being rejected by the federal courts, and it is doubtful if he can evade the clear Constitutional language that Senate consent is required for an international agreement to be binding on the United States.

Add to this, the new head of the IPCC, Hoesung Lee, is a South Korean economist who said: “If you ask me to choose the most important work in climate change issues, then I’ll choose carbon price. That’s because it is the driver to put us into the right track.” Having governments determine a tax on carbon dioxide emissions creates a market distortion favored by economists, who falsely it called a “market-based solution.” No doubt, some may consider night-time satellite photographs of the Korean Peninsula, with South Korea and parts of China lighted and North Korea dark, an example of the social cost of carbon. Others may consider North Korea energy-bankrupt. See links under On To Paris, Problems in the Orthodoxy, and http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140226-north-korea-satellite-photos-darkness-energy/


Shifting Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)? One of the fascinating topics brought up by climate change pioneer H.H. Lamb is the effects of climate change on past civilizations and cultures. For example, in Climate, History and the Modern World (1982 & 1997) Lamb brought up the drying of the Sahara and the Indus valley area during the cooling period from the Holocene Climate Optimum, about 8000 years ago, to about 4000 years ago. It was during this time that civilizations developed. Lamb’s research showed this period was followed by episodes of warming and cooling. Subsequent research supports Lamb’s views that the Sahara had cultures that were water dependent, and raised cattle, and that the Harappa civilization flourished, based on agriculture, in now arid regions of the Indus valley. [Note: Contrary to some claims, Lamb did not advocate atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) was a major cause of climate change.]

Lamb’s explanation of the drying of the Sahara and the Indus valley region, was that during the cooling period the annual rains did not come as far north. This change could be described as a shift in the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, which roughly follows the zenith of the sun in moving back and forth across the equator. The information Lamb had on Asia, particularly China, was very limited.

A paper from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), adds to understanding historic climate change in China. Using changes in vegetation, namely the ratio of C3/C4 plants, the research tracks the movement of the East Asian monsoon rain belt across the Chinese Loess Plateau, a large area of highly erodible soils in the middle and upper part of the Yellow River. According to the paper’s abstract:

“We find that the spatial distribution of C4 plant biomass is a robust analog for the monsoon rain belt, which migrated at least 300 km to the northwest from the cold Last Glacial Maximum (∼19 ka) to the warm Holocene (∼4 ka). These results strongly support the idea that the Earth’s thermal equator will move northward in a warmer world, and that the observed southward migration of the monsoon rain belt over the last few decades is transient and northern China will eventually become wet as global warming advances.”

These findings are consistent with what Lamb observed with his limited data. Assuming the pattern holds, if the world warms, for whatever reason, the summer monsoon belt (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) will move north. It is refreshing to see such research being done to understand the effects of climate change. See links under Changing Climate


Lowering Standards: One example of poorly conducted survey research is becoming a political slogan – 97% of scientists … The first paper proclaiming this result appeared in EOS, and was based on a survey of over 10,300 geo-scientists of whom over 3,000 responded. The 97% came from the researchers weeding through the responses and using 79, of which 77, according to the researchers, believe that global warming/climate change is human cause. It is more than a stretch to assert that less than 1% of those surveyed constitute 97% of scientists.

The latest such survey was conducted by psychologist Stefan Lewandowsky. According to Andrew Montford, Mr. Lewandowsky is the editor of an entire issue of Philosophical Transactions A, published by the Royal Society. See links under Lowering Standards.


Courts: Writing in Climate Etc., climate scientist Judith Curry expresses her views that the attempts by global warming promoters to use courts to silence skeptics is wrongheaded. She writes: “This whole notion of a climate ‘consensus’, 97% and all that, has been very cleverly, and arguably dishonestly, marketed. These people are still thinking that ‘speaking scientific consensus to power’ is actually going to work in terms of radically reducing global carbon emissions. At this point the science is almost irrelevant; the big issues in play are that India, Africa, etc. want electricity for its population and for economic development, and coal is the most economical way to accomplish that.

“Trying to destroy science in the process of denying that radical near term emissions reductions aren’t going to work is just plain stupid, not to mention dangerous and a few other adjectives that one can think of.”

See links under Seeking a Common Ground.


RICO: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island brought up the idea of investigating climate skeptics under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), designed to fight organized crime. The Senator now clams to been misunderstood. He did not call for criminal sentences to jail those skeptical of the claims humans are causing global warming. Instead, Mr. Whitehouse now claims is merely calling for civil charges under RICO. Whatever civil charges may be. Of course, RICO entails possible jail time.

Scientific evidence is the issue. Skeptical scientists are demanding evidence, which Mr. Whitehead fails to provide. What tobacco company executives did is not evidence against global warming skeptics. Will it be jail first, evidence later? See link under Suppressing Scientific Inquiry – The Witch Hunt.


Number of the Week: 60%. In a June 2010 report, analysts of the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa.

Although many of the articles on the web site of Project Syndicate have a strong ideological slant of government centralized control of economic activity, usually the articles are factually correct. For that reason an error in an article on potential growth in Africa stood out. The article left out the critical modifier of “uncultivated” and said 60% of the arable land is in Africa.

However, significant natural resources exist in Africa to feed its population. What is needed is Western technology – a need that many western governments ignore. See links under Agriculture Issues & Fear of Famine and http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/africa/lions_on_the_move



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. Shut Up—Or We’ll Shut You Down

Elizabeth Warren isn’t the only one trying to silence her opponents.

Editorial, WSJ, Oct 9, 2015


SUMMARY: A discussion of the efforts by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and 20 others who called for the use of the RICO act to suppress the views of “climate dissenters.” “’The demand by Senator Whitehouse and the 20 climate scientists for legal persecution of people whose research on science and policy they disagree with represents a new low in the politicization of science,’ says Georgia Tech’s Judith Curry on the Fox News website. She should know, as one of seven academics investigated last winter by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D., Ariz.) for their climate research.

By the way, Mr. Shukla [leader of the RICO 20 discussed in last week’s TWTW] appears to have no problem taking money from the government to support his climate theories. Though it has since been taken down, the letter from the Shukla gang demanding a RICO assault was published on the website of the Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES), a tax-exempt entity run by Mr. Shukla that the website says has also employed his wife and daughter. The House Science Committee says the outfit has received more than $25 million in federal grants since 2008. House Science Chairman Lamar Smith says the family’s earnings from IGES are “in addition to an annual salary of approximately $314,000 paid to Dr. Shukla by George Mason University.”

When we contacted George Mason to sort out these financial arrangements, the school suggested we contact Mr. Shukla directly. He hasn’t responded to our inquiries.

As expressed in the This Week Section (above) Senator Whitehouse is not delighted with this press coverage.


2. The Father of Millions

The Unicef breakthrough on vaccinations and oral rehydration salts is still cited today as one of the few successes in foreign aid.

By William Easterly, WSJ, Oct 15, 2015


SUMMARY: The review of the book A Mighty Purpose by Adam Fifield highlights the work of James Grant, the director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) from 1980 to his death in 1995. Grant may have been a bit grandiose and paternalistic, but he was successful. “The Unicef breakthrough on vaccinations and oral rehydration salts is still cited today as one of the rather few successes in foreign aid.”

“While top-down planning is usually misguided in aid (and most everywhere else), it turned out to be suitable for the particular challenge of vaccinations. Unfortunately, the aid establishment learned the wrong lessons from Grant’s career. Instead of seeing him as an entrepreneur who saw a very specific unrealized opportunity to spread vaccination and oral rehydration salts, they viewed his success as vindicating top-down planning in general.”


3. Notable & Quotable: Energy and the Catastrophists

‘Alleged problems always trump real benefits.’

By Pierre Desrochers, WSJ, Oct 11, 2015


“University of Toronto associate professor of geography Pierre Desrochers writing about modern-day Malthusians at spiked-online.com, Sept. 29:

“Population catastrophists, however, constantly remind us of Hegel’s alleged observation that “If theory and facts disagree, so much the worse for the facts.” This is especially true in current discussions of humanity’s increased consumption of coal, petroleum and natural gas over the past two centuries, where alleged problems always trump real benefits. After all, nobody would argue that this consumption made possible the development of large-scale, reliable and affordable long-distance transportation, which in turn paved the way to better and more affordable nutrition by concentrating food production in the most suitable locations. Or that kerosene, heavy oil and natural gas displaced poor quality biomass fuels such as firewood and dung, which filled houses with soot, particles, carbon monoxide and toxic chemicals. Or that cars, trucks and tractors removed the need for work animals (and their attending food consumption), while helping address the diseases associated with their excrement and carcasses. Or that refined petroleum products further reduced harvesting pressures on wild resources such as whales (whale oil, perfume base), trees (lumber and firewood), birds (feathers) and other wildlife (ivory, furs, skin), thus helping preserve biodiversity.”


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