The Week That Was: June 18, 2016 Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
Fear of CO2: Those promoting the fear of carbon dioxide (CO2), and other greenhouse gases, primarily use three possible threats: one, dangerous increased temperatures; two, change in ocean chemistry (called ocean acidification); and three, drastic sea level rise. John Christy’s February 2 testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space & Technology empirically demolishes the argument that increasing CO2 is causing significant global warming –major warming is simply not happening in the atmosphere, where the greenhouse effect takes place. The current increase in atmospheric temperatures is influenced by the El Niño warming the tropical Pacific Ocean, a natural occurrence, but the effect is short-lived. The question remains: what will happen to atmospheric temperatures as the influence of the El Niño diminishes and is possibly replaced by a La Niña? Will global temperatures return to a higher level, the same level, or a lower level?
By contrast, surface temperatures used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and its followers, are influenced by many other natural and human actions, particularly land use change. Unfortunately, the IPCC does not highlight the severe limitations of its reports, particularly in its summaries for policymakers, allowing many to incorrectly believe that weather and climate change stems from increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere from 3 parts per 10,000 to 4 parts per 10,000. Ascribing unusual weather events to increasing CO2 is similar to the beliefs in the 1950s of blaming unusual weather events, such as tornadoes in New England, on nuclear testing.
Forecasting dire consequences from a possible slight change in ocean chemistry, a massive chemical soup, from increased atmospheric CO2 requires similar exaggeration. The term of ocean acidification is a misnomer. The issue is a possible gradual decline in the alkalinity of the oceans, to which life in the oceans will gradually adapt.
Another fear is rapid sea level rise. Sea levels have risen about 400 feet, 120 meters, since the maximum extent of the last major Ice Age about 18,000 years ago. They will continue to rise until the onset of the next ice age. During the last interglacial period, about 124 to 119 thousand years ago, sea levels were 4 to 7 meters (13 – 23 feet) above today’s levels. Without drastic global warming, which the finest global temperature data show is not occurring, humanity has a long time to adapt to rising sea levels, which will continue to occur, regardless of what politicians promise to do about carbon dioxide.
Writing in Hong Kong Engineer, Prof Wyss Yim, former president of the Western Pacific Sub-commission on Quaternary Shorelines, International Union for Quaternary Research 1995-1999, discusses some of the issues in measuring sea level rise in the region of Hong Kong, China. Among his many salient points are:
1) “the sea level trend observed over the South China Sea through satellite remote sensing since 1993 is too short to distinguish the trend from the noise. Nevertheless, an analysis of the South China Sea (Cheng and Qi 2007) showed sea level rose at an average rate of 11.3 mm/year during 1993-2000 and fell at an average rate of 11.8 mm/year during 2001-2005.
2) Another ‘noise’ affecting tide gauges within Hong Kong is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
3) Tide gauges used for the study of long-term sea level changes should be located on bedrock instead of reclaimed land in order to eliminate the possibility of ground settlement.
4) Both tide gauge and satellite remote sensing records are too short for drawing reliable conclusions on projected sea level rise. Another 50 years may be needed.
5) To reduce risk it is important to study the stability of existing tide gauges on bedrock and on reclaimed land in Hong Kong using state-of-the-art surveying methods including interferometric synthetic aperture radar (INSAR).”
These above fears of global threats from increasing CO2 give rise to political opportunists, some with scientific, academic degrees. Those who use their scientific backgrounds to create and exploit these fears are not being scientists if they fail to produce the physical evidence to justify their claims. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Changing Seas, and http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v1/n1/full/ngeo.2007.28.html
Quote of the Week: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” – Albert Einstein
Number of the Week: 2.8%
Science on the Verge: From the above, we can see that as the UN IPCC – and its followers – have tried to make carbon dioxide-caused global warming more government policy relevant, they have separated it from empirical science. The hypothesis is that human emissions of CO2, and other greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of recent global warming/climate change. The scanty evidence that supports the hypothesis (the cause) is emphasized, the comprehensive evidence that contradicts the hypothesis (the cause) is ignored. The IPCC largely ignores atmospheric satellite measurements of temperatures, the finest global measurements existing.
Although not a physical science, economics has gone through similar separations of empirical evidence from policy relevant programs. John Maynard Keynes wrote a number of works to address business cycles and, especially, “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” (1936) to address the Great Depression. During the administration of President Kennedy (1961-63), chief economic advisor Walter Heller used the work of Keynes to promote a general reduction in income tax rates. When adopted, the reduced rates resulted in significant economic growth, and growth in government tax revenues. However, subsequently, even Heller backed-down from his assertions that Federal fiscal policy (taxing and spending policies) could “fine-tune” the economy. Recently, some economists have made similar assertions that the economy can be tightly managed by government policies.
Similarly, Milton Friedman, 1976 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, showed rapid contraction of the money supply can cause economic recessions and depressions. He advocated a gradual expansion of the money supply to enable economic growth. However, this did not logically imply that significant expansion of the money supply would cause economic growth as advocated by Ben Bernanke, the then-chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, as well as by Janet Yellen, the current chair. The business cycle is not over, and the inverse of Friedman’s work has not been empirically demonstrated.
Overgeneralization seems to be a common problem in policy relevant programs and the empirical work supporting them.
Judith Curry, as well as others, has interesting posts on the relationship between science and policy. These include “The Republic of Science” and “Science on the verge.” In reading them, one should realize that: “Post normal science refers to science at the policy interface, it has nothing to say about sciences such as pure physics.” She also states:
“Apart from sloppy methods and bad incentives, we are seeing a crisis in reproducibility, collapsing peer review, dysfunctional interface between science and policy, the hubris of techno-science, etc.” and
“You’ll see how scientists reduce complex, unpredictable problems to much simpler, manageable models by leaving out important factors, which allows the scientists to come up with neat solutions—often to the wrong problems.”
As government funding dominates climate science, the relationship between “policy-relevant” science and empirical science becomes increasingly important. According to government reports, the US government has spent over $40 Billion on what it categorizes as climate science, since 1993. The number does not include spending and subsidies on wind, solar, and other alternative sources of energy. The claims that moneys from fossil fuel companies are distorting climate science are absurd, that money is miniscule.
What TWTW has termed as the Climate Establishment may be performing what Curry calls institutional science. That is, official climate science may be more a government policy-driven discipline than an empirical, physical science. See links under Science, Policy, and Evidence.
Greening of the Earth: NASA released Landsat images (1984 to 2012) of the greening of the Arctic regions of North America. Satellite temperature records indicate that the Arctic has warmed. But, with the lack of warming of the Antarctic regions, there is little logical reason to assume the cause of the warming is carbon dioxide. More comprehensive global Landsat images indicate a general greening of the earth – which is consistent with an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. In the video of the Arctic report and in articles following, there is no mention of the benefits of carbon dioxide fertilization, which may be the principal cause of the warming. See links under: Social Benefits of Carbon
Additions and Corrections: The June 4 TWTW had an analogy of using a diesel engine to illustrate the effects of atmospheric pressure on Venus. This caused a minor stir. Due to travel, not all the comments have been evaluated. They will be addressed in the June 25 TWTW.
Number of the Week: 2.8%. As reported by Euan Mears, the new “Statistical Review of World Energy” by BP states that renewables account for 2.8% of the world’s energy mix compared with 2.4% in 2014.
1. The Climate Police Blink
The AGs prosecuting dissent run up against the First Amendment.
Editorial, WSJ, June 16, 2016
The editorial states: “There are few more rewarding sights than a bully scorned, so let’s hear it for the recent laments of Attorneys General Claude Walker (Virgin Islands) and Eric Schneiderman (New York), two ringleaders of the harassment campaign against Exxon and free-market think tanks over climate change.
Consider Mr. Walker’s recent retreat in District of Columbia superior court. In April he issued a sweeping subpoena to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, demanding a decade of emails, policy work and donor names. The goal is to intimidate anyone who raises doubts about climate science or the policy responses.
CEI fought back. It ran a full-page newspaper ad highlighting the Walker-Schneiderman effort to criminalize speech, and it counter-sued the Virgin Islands, demanding sanctions and attorneys fees.
The District of Columbia has a statute to deter what is known as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). The law exists to curb malicious lawsuits that are designed solely to chill speech, and they put the burden on filers like Mr. Walker to show why their actions are likely to succeed.
Mr. Walker quietly withdrew his subpoena on May 20 (though retaining the right to reinstate it). CEI is pressing ahead with its suit anyway, and in an extraordinary filing on June 2 Mr. Walker essentially said “never mind.” He asked the court to dismiss CEI’s motion for sanctions and fees, writing that the think tank had “wasted enough of [his office’s] and the Court’s limited time and resources with its frivolous Anti-SLAPP motion.”
So having violated CEI’s First Amendment rights, subjected the group to public abuse and legal costs, and threatened its donors, Mr. Walker blames CEI for burdening the courts.
Mr. Schneiderman is also on defense for his subpoena barrage and claim that Exxon is guilty of fraud on grounds that it supposedly hid the truth about global warming from the public. The AG felt compelled to devote an entire speech at a legal conference to justify his actions. He accused Exxon and outside groups of engaging in “First Amendment opportunism,” which he said was a “dangerous new threat” to the state’s ability to protect its citizens. So exercising free speech to question government officials who threaten free speech is a threat to free speech. [Boldface added.]
He also cited a 1978 opinion in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti by then Justice William Rehnquist that the AG said supported his action against Exxon. Mr. Schneiderman failed to note he was quoting a Rehnquist dissent, meaning the law is the opposite of what the AG suggests.
The left keeps losing the climate political debate, so it resorts to imposing its policies by regulatory diktat as President Obama has, and now it is trying to use government power to intimidate and silence opponents. Congrats to CEI and Exxon for insisting that these political prosecutors obey the law.”
2. Exxon Seeking Injunction Against Climate-Change Investigation
Oil company want to block a Massachusetts subpoena seeking documents dating back 40 years
By Bradley Olson, WSJ, June 15, 2016
SUMMARY: According to the author: “Exxon Mobil Corp. is seeking an injunction against the Massachusetts attorney general, alleging that a wide-ranging investigation into the oil company is politically motivated and violates its constitutional rights.
“Exxon, based in Irving, Texas, wants to block a Massachusetts subpoena that sought documents relating to climate change science research and investor communications on the topic dating back 40 years. The company filed its motion on Wednesday in a federal court in the Northern District of Texas in Fort Worth.
“New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker are all investigating whether Exxon misrepresented its understanding of climate change to investors and the public. The company already has turned over hundreds of thousands of pages of documents to Mr. Schneiderman.
“Exxon, in its court filing, called Ms. Healey’s allegations ‘nothing more than a weak pretext for an unlawful exercise of government power to further political objectives.’
“Exxon also said that the subpoena violates its right to free speech, Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.”
The office of the Massachusetts Attorney General claimed that: “Our investigation is based, not on speculation, but on inconsistencies about climate change in Exxon documents which have been made public.”
3. Denmark’s Wind-Subsidy Lesson
Danes are the latest to question the price of green-energy virtue.
Editorial, WSJ, June 16, 2016
According to the editorial: “The economic costs of Europe’s green-energy religion keep mounting, and now its more devout disciples are starting to doubt the faith. Witness Denmark’s reconsideration of its plans to build new coastal wind farms that would add 350 megawatts of generating capacity.
“The Danes are the world champions of wind farms, getting some 42% of their energy from wind last year. But that power hasn’t come cheap, since Danish households pay the highest electricity charges in Europe, mostly thanks to Copenhagen’s green levy on electricity bills, the Public Service Obligation (PSO).
“Nor is the power particularly reliable. On some gusty days, Denmark’s wind farms produce more power than the western part of the country needs. On other days, the turbines are still. A consequence of the hefty subsidies for wind construction is that if Denmark were to export its surplus power on windy days, taxpayers would effectively be subsidizing someone else’s energy consumption.
“So some politicians have jumped at a chance for a rethink, courtesy of the European Commission, which in 2014 ruled the PSO violates European Union subsidy rules. In addition to illegally subsidizing local green-power firms, the PSO also dragged on Denmark’s economy. Because the levy moved inversely to market-based energy prices, the tax ate the windfall that Danes otherwise would have enjoyed from falling oil and gas prices. With the economy struggling to hit even 1% growth, voters started asking why they’re paying more taxes on electric bills than other Europeans in order to subsidize wind farmers.
“As a result, Parliament is preparing to end the PSO instead of mending it. The plan is to pay some green subsidies from general government revenues, to be raised by increases to income or other taxes once the PSO tax on electricity bills disappears. But with taxes already high, Copenhagen will struggle to raise them enough to replace the revenue lost when the PSO ends. This has triggered a long-overdue debate about cutting some of the subsidies.
“The proposal to delay construction of some coastal wind farms will save an estimated seven billion Danish krone ($1.06 billion) over 12 years. If approved by Parliament, this would mark a welcome step toward economic and fiscal sanity.
“Wind advocates will note that Copenhagen still plans to add to offshore wind capacity. But the episode demonstrates that there are limits to even the European willingness to sacrifice prosperity for carbon virtue. Britain has also scaled back its wind subsidies, while Germany is trying desperately to mend its wind-power ‘market.’ Economic and political reality is catching up with Europe’s green ambitions.”