Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #262

By Ken Haapala, President,The Science and Environmental Policy Project

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

The Climate Establishment Strikes Back: MIT Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Sciences Richard Lindzen had circulated a petition signed by some 300 scientists calling for the US to withdraw from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He sent the petition with a letter to President Trump.

In response, twenty-two MIT professors sent a letter to President Trump a stating that they have worked on climate science and disagree with him. This letter cites the claimed future risks from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) including “sea level rise, ocean acidification, and increases in extreme flooding and droughts.”

Newspaper reports on the second letter state the twenty-two defenders of the orthodoxy are accusing Lindzen of “intellectual dishonesty” and accepting “thousands of dollars from the fossil fuel industry. [The fact that government reports show that the US government has spent over $40 Billion on “climate science”, and has failed to provide compelling evidence that CO2 is the dominant cause of late 20th century global warming, is not considered important to the twenty-two professors, some of whom benefited from these expenditures.] Further, the cited risks are based on speculative computer models and not on empirical evidence.

The personal nature of some of the attacks prompted MIT physics Ph.D. Thomas Sheahen to comment: “Once, arguments at MIT were focused on scientific content, never on people.”

On March 9, Lindzen sent a second letter stating:

“For far too long, one body of men, establishment climate scientists, has been permitted to be judges and parties on what the “risks to the Earth system associated with increasing levels of carbon dioxide” really are.

“Let me explain in somewhat greater detail why we call for withdrawal from the UNFCCC.

“The UNFCCC was established twenty-five years ago, to find scientific support for dangers from increasing carbon dioxide. While this has led to generous and rapidly increased support for the field, the purported dangers remain hypothetical, model-based projections. By contrast, the benefits of increasing CO2 and modest warming are clearer than ever, and they are supported by dramatic satellite images of a greening Earth.

· The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) no longer claims a greater likelihood of significant as opposed to negligible future warming,

· It has long been acknowledged by the IPCC that climate change prior to the 1960’s could not have been due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Yet, pre-1960 instrumentally observed temperatures show many warming episodes, similar to the one since 1960, for example, from 1915 to 1950, and from 1850 to 1890. None of these could have been caused by an increase in atmospheric CO2,

· Model projections of warming during recent decades have greatly exceeded what has been observed,

· The modelling community has openly acknowledged that the ability of existing models to simulate past climates is due to numerous arbitrary tuning adjustments,

· Observations show no statistically valid trends in flooding or drought, and no meaningful acceleration whatsoever of pre-existing long term sea level rise (about 6 inches per century) worldwide,

· Current carbon dioxide levels, around 400 parts per million are still very small compared to the averages over geological history, when thousands of parts per million prevailed, and when life flourished on land and in the oceans.

“Calls to limit carbon dioxide emissions are even less persuasive today than 25 years ago. Future research should focus on dispassionate, high-quality climate science, not on efforts to prop up an increasingly frayed narrative of “carbon pollution.” Until scientific research is unfettered from the constraints of the policy-driven UNFCCC, the research community will fail in its obligation to the public that pays the bills.”

The first bullet point may be a bit subtle. Unlike prior reports, the Summary for Policymakers of the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR-5, 2013) does not give projections of likely outcomes but a range of outcomes under different CO2 scenarios (storylines). The relationships between CO2 concentrations and sea level rise, temperature rise, extreme weather events, etc. are yet to be empirically established.

Dealing with temperatures, the lowest values in the range is not a great concern. Yet, based on recent research, even the lowest values may be far too high. The recent research renders the upper values in the ranges, on which alarmists depend, highly doubtful. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Defending the Orthodoxy and, http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf

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Quote of the Week. “No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time.” James Madison, Federalist, 10 [H/t Richard Lindzen]

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Number of the Week: 66

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Major Climate Model Issues – Curry: The past two TWTWs have discussed the limitations of global climate models (GCMs) as presented by Judith Curry in “Climate Models for the Layman.” There appears to be no inconsistency between the position advanced by Lindzen and the discussion by Curry Her concluding points include:

“The IPCC’s projections of 21st century climate change explicitly assume that carbon dioxide is the control knob for global climate. Climate model projections of the 21st century climate are not convincing because of:

• failure to predict the warming slowdown in the early 21st century

• inability to simulate the patterns and timing of multidecadal ocean oscillations

• lack of account for future solar variations and solar indirect effects on climate

• neglect of the possibility of volcanic eruptions that are more active than the relatively quiet 20th century

• apparent oversensitivity to increases in greenhouse gases.

In her Summary, after stating the possibility that most GCMs may at least double the sensitivity of the climate to CO2, Curry concludes:

“The climate modelling community has been focused on the response of the climate of increased human caused emissions, and the policy community accepts (either explicitly or implicitly) the results of the 21st century GCM simulations as actual predictions. Hence, we don’t have a good understanding of the relative climate impacts of the above or their potential impacts on the evolution of the 21st century climate.” See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

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The Kiehl – Trenberth Model: In private correspondence, Australian Meteorologist William Kininmonth expressed his concerns with the widely used Kiehl – Trenberth Model of the Earth’s Annual Global Model Energy Budget, which provides the core for most current global climate models (GCMs). [Previously, the models were called Global Circulation Models.] The topic goes beyond scope of TWTW. But, it is useful to present a few points so that readers will realize that there is serious effort, outside of the entrenched Climate Establishment, to understand why most GCMs significantly overestimate the warming of the atmosphere.

The Kiehl – Trenberth Model was presented in a 1997 Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and was an effort to update previous assessments of the annual global mean (average) energy budget. According to the concept, if the energy flow to the earth (solar radiation, sunlight) equals the energy flow from the earth (and its atmosphere) to space, the earth’s temperatures will be stable. If the flow to the earth exceeds the flow from the earth to space, the globe will warm. Conversely, if the flow to the earth is less than the flow from the earth to space, the globe will cool.

The left side of the diagram, linked below, gives the energy flow to the earth – solar radiation. The right side of the diagram gives the energy flow from the earth to space, some of it reflected to the earth by greenhouse gases, “back radiation.” [Since this is an annual global energy budget, energy flows may be change daily for a specific location. What is called “back radiation” may be just a slowing in the flow of the outgoing radiation.]

What is of interest for a future TWTWs is the center of the diagram, the Latent Heat (or latent energy) from Evapo-transportation and, to a lesser degree, Thermals. The latent energy is from phase change of water at the surface evaporating into water vapor, then the energy is released as heat when the water vapor condenses in the atmosphere. This gives rise to the so-called “hot-spot”, which was incorrectly called by B. Santer, et al. the “distinct human fingerprint.”

Any error in the calculations may produce significant errors in climate models over time. Possible errors in calculations will be discussed in the upcoming TWTW. See link under Defending the Orthodoxy and Measurement Issues – Atmosphere.

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Energy U-Turn – Oil: After years of price turmoil, it appears that the price of oil may be stabilizing at a world price of about $50 per barrel. A popular misconception about price competition is that producers of a commodity will sell at different prices. However, the theory of price competition articulates there will be a market clearing price. Those producing at far lower costs will sell at the market price, earning sizable profits. There is no reason for them to sell at lower prices. Those producers who cannot sell at the market price will drop out of the market. Entry and exit of firms in the market illustrates price competition, not multiple prices. In general, the consumer benefits by the lowest market clearing prices possible.

The oil ministers of OPEC, such as Saudi Arabia, learned that competitive US shale producers are more resilient than they thought. The efforts to bankrupt the shale producers by selling oil at low prices failed, but resulted in budget difficulties for many OPEC producers. Their national budgets are highly dependent on oil revenues. The fall-out remains to be seen, as well as what will happen to producers in high-cost areas, such as oil-sands of Canada. There is a great deal of speculation on which companies can sell at prices around $50 per barrel. See links under Energy Issues – US and Oil and Natural Gas – the Future or the Past?

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Energy U-Turn – Natural Gas: In December, a remarkable event occurred for world-wide consumption of natural gas. Natural gas is a low-density fuel, that can be transported only with significant fixed costs. On land, pipelines are preferred. On water, liquefied natural gas (LNG) can be transported on expensive specialty ships. These require specialized facilities to liquefy the fuel when loading and specialized facilities to re-gasify the fuel when delivering. From the Henry Hub distribution center in Louisiana, the total transportation costs, alone, are estimated to be $4.00 or more per million BTU’s, or roughly twice the cost of the fuel. In general, the specialized facilities call for pricing under fixed, long-term contracts rather than short-term pricing in a “spot market”, or cash market, where the closure of the transaction is immediate, or within a few days or weeks.

According to Bloomberg, in December an LNG tanker on-loaded in Louisiana, passed through the Panama Canal, and headed to Asia. Then, it suddenly made a U-Turn and off-loaded in Manzanillo, Mexico. Apparently, it received a “spot” price for the cargo higher than it expected in Asia. A spot market is a new development, which will have energy analysts re-calculating their models.

Additional developments in the natural gas markets will also have energy analysts busily re-calculating, and consumers benefiting. Natural gas pricing at the key “Henry Hub” is diverging from the traditional oil equivalent pricing, resulting in lower prices. Also, shippers are discovering a ship can be equipped with re-gasification equipment at one-third the costs of building re-gasification facilities on land. Future shipments may not be restricted to LNG re-gasification terminals, but anywhere an appropriate pipeline can be reached. See links under Oil and Natural Gas – the Future or the Past?

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Number of the Week: 66. According to the US Energy information Agency (EIA): “In 2016, EIA began collecting and publishing hourly electricity operating data, including actual and forecast demand, net generation, and electricity interchange between electric systems. The survey includes data from all 66-electric system balancing authorities that make up the Lower 48 U.S. electric grid.”

Even though the web site is a Beta Test Site, those who enjoy watching such data may enjoy watching the “balancing acts” during stormy weather for systems with significant weather-dependent generation facilities. See links under Energy Issues – US.

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ARTICLES:

1. Getting to the Bottom of a Climate Crusade

Are investigations by the ‘Green 20’ an effort to intimidate scientific dissenters?

By Lamar Smith, WSJ, Mar 8, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/getting-to-the-bottom-of-a-climate-crusade-1489016283

SUMMARY: The Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology writes:

“Transparency for thee, but not for me—that seems to be the motto of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Last year they led a group of their colleagues—dubbed the “Green 20”—in a sweeping initiative to target dissenting views on climate change. Exxon Mobil, for instance, was asked to turn over decades of documents.

“The Green 20 investigations have been criticized as blatantly political. Last year a federal judge overseeing Ms. Healey’s suit against Exxon expressed concern that she may be conducting it in “bad faith.”

“For nearly a year, the congressional committee I lead has been trying to understand the effects of these investigations on scientific research. Unfortunately, the attorneys general have obstructed our inquiry at every turn. Last July, after two months of unanswered requests for information, the committee issued subpoenas to Mr. Schneiderman and Ms. Healey.

“The subpoenas asked for communications between Green 20 offices and environmental activists. This would show the level of coordination in this campaign to harass and silence scientists who challenge prevailing climate-change orthodoxies. The attorneys general have refused to comply, hiding behind vague excuses.

“The committee has not sought information about the investigations of Exxon. Instead, our interest is in discovering how this attempt at intimidation affects federally funded scientific research. Then we may consider changing the law to allow this research to continue.

“The hypocrisy of the attorneys general here is evident—though perhaps understandable. Mr. Schneiderman has accepted nearly $300,000 in campaign donations from environmentalist donors, including members of the Soros family. He has also used the investigation as a way to curry favor with anti-Exxon billionaire Tom Steyer for a potential gubernatorial run, according to the New York Post.

“Perhaps Mr. Schneiderman is afraid of what the House committee might confirm in the course of its investigation. Is he using his public office to advance the priorities of interest groups that support his personal political ambitions?

“The American people deserve to know how Mr. Schneiderman’s and Ms. Healey’s actions affect the nation’s scientific community. By refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas, they have shown they have something to hide.

“To borrow their premise, this obstruction is a coverup—and they must be held accountable for their hypocrisy.”

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2. We Shouldn’t Always Have Paris

The case for pulling out of Obama’s global climate accord.

Editorial, WSJ, Mar 10, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/we-shouldnt-always-have-paris-1489187654

SUMMARY: The Editorial states:

“President Trump is expected as soon as next week to order the Environmental Protection Agency to rescind its Clean Power rule that is blocked by the courts. But the President faces another test of political fortitude on whether to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

“That’s suddenly uncertain. Mr. Trump promised to withdraw during the presidential campaign, correctly arguing that the accord gave “foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use.” His transition team even explored strategies for short-cutting the cumbersome, four-year process of getting out of the deal.

“But the President’s is now getting resistance from his daughter, Ivanka, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who are fretting about the diplomatic ramifications. No doubt many countries would object, and loudly, but this risk pales compared to the potential damage from staying in the accord.

“President Obama committed as part of Paris to cutting U.S. emissions by 26% compared with 2005 levels by 2025. Even Mr. Obama’s climate regulatory programs—all imposed without Congressional votes—would only achieve about half that commitment. Mr. Trump is killing those Obama programs, which means the U.S. may not reach that Paris promise. Why stay in an agreement that the Trump Administration has no interest or plan for honoring?

“Another risk is that the U.S. might at some point be coerced into compliance. Mr. Obama joined the accord without congressional assent and endorsed the lengthy withdrawal process precisely to bind future Administrations to his climate priorities. Since Mr. Trump’s election, the international climate lobbies have debated ways to muscle the new Administration to comply.

“These include imposing punitive tariffs on U.S. goods or requiring the U.S. to hit targets in return for other international cooperation. Mr. Tillerson might consider that Paris will be used as leverage against him in future international negotiations.

“Lawyers and domestic environmental groups are also exploring how to use lawsuits to enforce the deal. Greens are adept at finding judges to require environmental regulations that Congress never intended. Such sympathetic judges today pack the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and include Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who in 2007 joined four liberals to redefine the Clean Air Act to cover carbon as a pollutant.

“Remaining in the Paris pact will invite litigation to impose the Paris standards and direct the EPA to impose drastic carbon cuts that would hurt the economy. Energy companies are aware of this threat, and despite Exxon’s recent pledge to pour $20 billion into Gulf Coast facilities, other companies remain wary of U.S. regulation. They will be warier if Mr. Trump looks like he’s waffling on his climate positions.

“Mr. Trump’s best bet is to exit the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which could be done in a year and would result in a simultaneous withdrawal from Paris. That would quickly end the litigation risk.”

The editorial brings up some objections including Mr. Tillerson’s statement that the U.S. should have a seat at the table. Then it states:

“America has already done more to reduce CO 2 emissions with its natural-gas fracking revolution than has most of the world. Many of the Paris signers want to use the pact to diminish any U.S. fossil-fuel production. Mr. Tillerson will also be on the back foot in Paris discussions as he tries to overcome his past as an oil company executive.

“The best U.S. insurance against the risks of climate change is to revive economic growth that will drive energy innovation and create the wealth to cope with any future damage—if that day arrives.

“Policy details aside, the worst part of Mr. Obama’s climate agenda was its lack of democratic consent. He failed to persuade either a Republican or Democratic Congress to pass his regulation and taxes. So he attempted to impose that agenda at home through the EPA and abroad via Paris to use international pressure against domestic political resistance. One certainty: The diplomats at Turtle Bay and in Brussels didn’t vote for Donald Trump.[Boldface added.]

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3. We Thought We Would Hit Your Sweet Spot

George Shultz and James Baker, each a former secretary of the Treasury and of the State Department, take issue with the Journal’s Feb. 25 editorial “The Carbon Tax Chimera.”

By George Shultz and James Baker, former Secretaries of State and Treasury, WSJ, Mar 9, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/we-thought-we-would-hit-your-sweet-spot-1489089073

[SEPP Comment: Ronald Reagan promised a simplification of the tax code and lower tax rates in exchange for lowering spending. The President delivered, Congress did not. Subsequent administrations and Congresses significantly complicated the tax code with “special tax incentives”, etc. Apparently, Messrs. Shultz and Baker did not read Mr Reagan’s published, personal correspondence.]

SUMMARY: The former Secretaries write:

“It’s hard to believe that the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal would oppose a conservative, free-market, revenue-neutral, limited-government, internationally competitive approach to the potential threat of climate change that would eliminate the heavy hand of government regulation by the EPA—and is supported by many of America’s major oil- and gas-producing companies. But that’s exactly what the board did in its Feb. 25 editorial “The Carbon Tax Chimera.”

The authors assert executives of oil companies support of energy revenue-neutral taxes as examples of energy company support. The authors ignore coal companies and utilities dependent on coal. They conclude:

“We would have thought that a conservative, free-market, revenue-neutral, limited-government, internationally competitive, carbon-control proposal would be right in The Wall Street Journal’s sweet spot, unless of course the Journal does not agree that there is a potential threat of climate change.”

CONTINUE READING –>

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