Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #274

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

Upheaval in Washington: One can describe the election of Donald Trump and the beginning of his administration as an upheaval against establishment Washington, including both political parties. Certainly, those expressing dissatisfaction at the early steps taken by the Trump administration are from multiple political alliances. Some political groups are outraged by the administration’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement (Accord), other groups are concerned that the Administration is moving too slowly. Each set has arguments that are, at least, partially right.

Some of those objecting to the US leaving the Paris agreement may have counted on lavish US spending on their pet schemes. As mentioned in June 10 TWTW, the Paris agreement involved side agreements that could be costly to the US taxpayer. For example, according to its defenders the Mission Innovation pact of 2015, involved a US commitment of over $6 billion in 2017 and increasing to over $12 billion in 2021. The purpose was to double expenditures on clean energy research and development, apparently without approval by Congress.

The question remains: how much of such funds can be used effectively? Financing posh international meetings on the scale of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is not effective use. The technological limits of solar and wind, as discussed by Mark Mills and others, indicate that no great breakthroughs can be expected using technologies now available.

One should not be confused by the breakthrough in extracting oil and gas from shale. Even in the 1970s, when the Carter administration was convinced that the world would run out of oil and the US out of natural gas by the end of the 20th century, the shale (source rock) holding vast oil and gas resources were known to exist. The difficulty was extracting oil and gas. It turned out that known technologies of hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling were combined and modified with great success, and a learning curve in that technology is still advancing.

Others argue that the Trump administration is moving far too slowly in filling critical political appointments in many agencies. As a result, senior bureaucrats are filling key positions and continuing the policies of the previous administration. For example, Patrick Michaels has a post on Judith Curry’s blog, Climate Etc. discussing that “National Climate Assessment” version 4 is proceeding. Previous assessments included some outrageous exaggerations of what can be empirically determined. Currently, under the direction of the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), there is no logical reason to assume the new National Assessment will be based on observations rather than speculation.

Such activities will continue until Mr Trump appoints a new director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and fills second and third level positions in key government agencies. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

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Quote of the Week. “By denying scientific principles, one may maintain any paradox.” – Galileo Galilei [H/t Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research]

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Number of the Week: One per 148,500,000,000,000 molecules

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Lowering Standards: The American Meteorological Society (AMS) took a major step in demonstrating it has become a political organization without regard to objective scientific standards. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry was interviewed on CNBC and he asked whether he believed that carbon dioxide was “the primary control knob for the temperature of the Earth and for climate”, Perry said that “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

Gavin Schmidt, the head of NASA-Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA-GISS), on Broadway, NYC, has written a paper that CO2 is the control knob of the earth’s temperatures. From such language, one can assume that CO2 is the primary cause, all other possible causes are secondary – a view consistent with the last report of the IPCC, the Fifth Assessment Report.

The role of CO2 on temperatures is the subject of intense controversy. Laboratory experiments show that CO2 has a minor impact on temperatures. The theory, as expressed in the 1979 Charney Report, states that this influence will be amplified by an increase in water vapor which would cause significant warming. However, any amplification has not been empirically demonstrated. The warming trend of the atmosphere is centered about 10 km (33,000 feet) above the tropics is not found. This warming trend was called the “hot-spot” and incorrectly called “the distinct human fingerprint” by Benjamin Santer, and the UN IPCC.

Thus, Perry’s comments are at odds with the IPCC assertions and NASA-GISS, but are consistent with many other scientists who do not, or no longer, participate in the IPCC process. Many consider that since the expressed goal of the IPCC is to identify the human influence on climate, it deliberately subordinates or ignores the natural influences on climate.

As things stood, Perry’s comments would not be unusual. But Keith Seitter, the Executive Director of AMS wrote Perry a letter criticizing his views, stating that:

“While you acknowledged that the climate is changing and that humans are having an impact on it, it is critically important that you understand that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the primary cause.”

It is the claim that CO2 as the primary cause that is the core of the issue, not if human emissions or other human activities such as building around airports are causing surface temperatures to rise. In the links below, Roy Spencer, Anthony Watts, and Joseph D’Aleo rebut the views of Mr. Seitter. D’Aleo quotes his colleague Joe Bastardi about natural variation:

There is nothing irrational or radical about simple observational data of the past, which by the way has support from Greenland Ice cores and tree ring study. I have the sun, the oceans, stochastic events and the VERY DESIGN OF THE ENTIRE SYSTEM (land and ocean configuration, wobbles on its axis in an elliptical orbit around a somewhat inconsistent star dwarfs the effect of CO2 given the entire planetary history of CO2/temp.

It is the language used by Seitter that is interesting to TWTW. “In climate science unresolved questions remain—issues that currently lack conclusive evidence. However, there are also very solid conclusions that are based on decades of research and multiple lines of evidence.”

The multiple lines of evidence argument is used in the EPA finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. But, there is no hard evidence offered. After the US government spending over $40 billion on what it calls climate science since 1993, one would expect it would have hard evidence, not just a line of evidence, which could be a line to nowhere.

The EPA offers knowledge of greenhouse gas theory, a dubious study by Tom Karl et al., and climate models as lines of evidence. The amplification of laboratory tested effect of CO2, and other greenhouse gases (such as methane) by water vapor has not been found. The climate models greatly overestimate the warming of the atmosphere, where the theory states the greenhouse gas effect occurs. The “hot-spot” discussed above is not found. Even proponents of the concept that CO2 causes dangerous global warming have dropped discussion of Mr. Karl’s paper.

Mr. Seitter stated: “Skepticism that fails to account for evidence is no virtue.” The same can be said about speculative assertions from “scientific” organizations without hard evidence.

No wonder Joseph D’Aleo wrote:

“For a lifelong member of the AMS, a Fellow of the AMS, a CCM, former Chair of the Committee on Weather Analysis and Forecasting and the only private meteorologist to be elected by my peer[s] to be a councilor, it is a sad day to see a former Texas Governor to know more about the scientific method and the science of climate than the AMS Director. I dearly miss Ken Spengler more every day.”

See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.

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Statistical Games? Benjamin Santer, discussed above, is lead author of a new paper, which at first review, seems to support the view that global climate models greatly overestimate the warming of the atmosphere, where the greenhouse effect occurs. However, there seems to be an underlying issue that may become the dominant one. Which set of satellite data does one accept?

The two sources of satellite data, University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS), show that climate models greatly overestimate the warming of the atmosphere. John Christy’s testimony to Congress has been particularly devastating in this regard. It relies on UAH data, which Christy carefully limited his data to 50,000 feet or below to avoid any confusion with stratospheric cooling.

Since 1999 there has been an increasing separation between UAH data and RSS data. An article by Zeke Hausfather neatly illustrates the difference. There is the rub. According to Hausfather’s report, Carl Mears, a co-founder of RSS and a co-author of the Santer paper, stated that:

“In general, I think that the surface datasets are likely to be more accurate than the satellite datasets. The between-research spreads are much larger than for the surface data, suggesting larger structural uncertainty.”

 

What is meant by “The between-research spreads” is not clear. Satellite data is far more comprehensive than surface data. Due to changes in locations, types of instrument, lack of coverage, and outright manipulation, SEPP has great difficulty accepting that surface datasets are more accurate than satellite datasets. The entire effort may be a ruse to discredit Christy’s testimony, similar to Santer’s statistical tricks to try to re-establish the hotspot or those exposed during Climategate.

It will be interesting to see any responses to the Santer paper from Christy or Roy Spencer. SEPP will review the paper as well, which is paywalled. See links under Questioning the Orthodoxy.

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Endangerment Finding: Upon change in administrations, without fanfare, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) filed a petition to the EPA requesting reconsideration of the EPA endangerment finding, discussed above. The petition primarily cites new evidence, data, that calls into question that finding. The petition is identified as CEI/SEPP. Another group of seven individuals including Joseph D’Aleo and James Wallace filed a separate petition identified as CHECC. We have not received a response from the EPA or expect to receive one for some time.

Writing for the Climate Institute, Michael MacCracken outlined his objections to the petitions finding them “…seriously deficient and in no sense sufficient to justify a reconsideration of any of the findings in EPA’s Endangerment Finding.”

Mr. MacCracken is an established figure in Washington’s scientific circles. According to his review of the petitions:

On April 2, 2007, just over ten years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the Environmental Protection Agency had the authority under the Clean Air Act to limit emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). The majority opinion in Massachusetts versus EPA (549 U.S. 497, 2007) was written by Justice Stevens. As described in an early commentary by Climate Institute president John Topping, Justice Stevens granted standing to Massachusetts based in part on a declaration prepared by Dr. Michael MacCracken, the Climate Institute’s Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs. Among other impacts, MacCracken’s brief described how sea level rise being caused by the warming of ocean waters and the melting of land-based glaciers and ice sheets was going to be taking the land of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the state had turned over responsibility for defending its boundaries when it joined the Union.

Since SEPP has not had time to discuss the MacCracken paper with CEI, the strengths and weakness will not be discussed in this TWTW. But, it is valuable to assess the influence of the “Climate Institute: Catalyzing Climate Solutions.” According to its web site under mission:

“Founded in 1986, the Climate Institute was the world’s first organization focused solely on climate change. Since its founding, the Institute has been instrumental in moving climate change onto the international agenda, fostering collaboration between developing countries and richer nations, and in launching and implementing pioneering studies and initiatives on subjects such as environmental refugees, transforming the energy infrastructure of small island states, and catalyzing policymaker focus on the necessity of limiting emissions of black carbon and other short-lived climate forcers.

“Our mission is two-fold. We seek (1) to catalyze the implementation of innovative and practical solutions to climate change by supporting and collaborating with private, non-profit, and governmental organizations and (2) to provide non-partisan analysis of climate-related events, initiatives, and policies.”

Its achievements include:

  • “Moving Climate Protection Onto the International Agenda (1986-1992)
  • Helping Lay the Groundwork for the Framework Convention on Climate Change (1986-1992)
  • Catalyzing Climate Protection Efforts in Asia (1989-1995)
  • Helping Spark a Cities for Climate Protection Effort (1991-2001)
  • Empowering Island Nations and Vulnerable Peoples to Lead in Climate Protection (1991-Present)
  • Promoting Win-Win Strategies and Focus on Short-Lived Climate Forcers to Avert Highly Disruptive Climate Change (2005-Present)
  • Catalyzing Rapid Movement on Climate Protection in Mexico and Launching the Crispin Tickell Interactive Climate Network (1991- Present)”

The listed donors to the Climate Institute include: The Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (now AUSAID); BP, CH2M Hill; CS Mott Fund; Environment Canada; Ford Motor Company Fund; GE Foundation; Goldman Sachs; Government of Egypt, Government of Italy; Japan Environment Agencies; NASA, NOAA, National Science Foundation; PG&E Corporation; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Shell Foundation; The Rockefeller Foundation; Toyota Motor Company; USAID; USDOE; USEPA; UK Department for International Development; UN Development Programme; UN Environment Programme; UN Foundation; UN Population Fund; US Army Corps of Engineers; US Department of State; World Bank; and World Resources Institute.

This partial list gives a good indication how intertwined many seemingly independent organizations are, and the possible extent of the opposition to any attempt to change the endangerment finding within government and outside of government. Also, the achievements help explain why certain small countries are most insistent in demanding action. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.

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Manichean Paradox: Roger Pielke Jr largely quit writing about climate issues when members of Congress called for his investigation after he showed that the data does not support the Obama administration’s claim that global warming/climate change is causing increasing extreme weather events. Pielke will be giving a talk to the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London with the neat title: Climate Politics as Manichean Paranoia

Roughly described, Manichean Paranoia occurs when each side of a controversy is claiming: “Ours is the side of light, yours is the one of darkness.” See links under Seeking a Common Ground.

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Additions and Corrections: Last week, TWTW discussed the finding by Management Information Services Inc. that: “Over the past six years, 2011 through 2016, renewable energy received more than three times as much help in federal incentives as oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear combined…” Management Information Services defined renewables as primarily wind, solar, and biomass. A more careful examination of US energy consumption in 2016 by the EIA shows that biomass (including wood industries burning waste) accounts for 4.6% of US energy consumption; wind, 2.1% and solar 0.6%. [Primary production numbers were not broken out for wind and solar.] These data further indicate of how little importance wind and solar are to the US economy despite generous subsidies. https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=us_energy_home

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Number of the Week: One per 148,500,000,000,000 molecules. Writing in The Spectator Australia, geologist Ian Plimer amusingly calculates that assuming Australia emits 1.5% of global annual CO2 emissions, and if 3% are anthropogenic, then one in 6.6 million molecules of CO2 in the atmosphere are emitted by Australians. Using his rough numbers that the USA emits 14 times more CO2 then the USA human emissions amount to one in 471,000 molecules (dividing 6.6 million by 14)

Assuming a USA population 315 million, then each American is responsible for one in 148,500,000,000,000 molecules (multiplying by 315 million). How much would each American pay to get those molecules back? See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

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ARTICLES:

1. Big Oil Steps Up Support for Carbon Tax

Exxon Mobil, BP and General Motors, among others, join group that advocates taxing carbon; see a way to reduce environmental regulations in the process

By Timothy Puko, WSJ, June 20, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/big-oil-steps-up-support-for-carbon-tax-1497931202

SUMMARY: The articles states:

“General Motors Co., Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP PLC are among almost a dozen companies joining the Climate Leadership Council, a new organization that advocates replacing many environmental regulations with a simplified tax on businesses that release carbon into the atmosphere. The plan proposes directly paying out this money to all citizens to defray the likely costs from rising energy prices.

“A group of influential Republicans, including former secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker, have spearheaded the group’s efforts, which are at odds with many in their own party.

“Since winning control of the White House and Congress last year, Republican lawmakers have worked to roll back Democratic policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, culminating with President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

“Several business leaders criticized that decision, and some of the companies joining the group, which officially launched in February, have advocated more aggressive policies to address rising temperatures and air pollution. Exxon, GM and the other corporations are joining alongside astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, hedge-fund magnate Ray Dalio, Harvard economist and former Obama economic adviser Larry Summers and others.

“Exxon Chief Executive Darren Woods used his first blog post in that role this February to say a ‘revenue-neutral carbon tax’ would be a ‘sensible approach’ to cutting carbon emissions.

It can promote energy efficiency and incentivize low-carbon energy sources without ‘further burdening the economy,’ he wrote.

“We have been encouraged by the proposal put forth by the Climate Leadership Council as it aligns closely with our longstanding principles,” Mr. Woods said in a statement Monday.

After further discussion of claimed benefits of the tax the article concluded with:

’My guess is that the big appeal is getting rid of all the regulatory morass,’ said Benjamin Salisbury, policy analyst at FBR & Co. But “with Republican domination in Washington, you are talking about the very early stages of a massive uphill climb.”

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2. The Charade of the Paris Treaty

The real problem with the global accord on climate change is that it would make no real difference

By Bjorn Lomborg, WSJ, June 16, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-charade-of-the-paris-treaty-1497623798

SUMMARY: The op-ed begins:

“Environmentalists were aghast when President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty, with some declaring that the very survival of our civilization was at stake. But is the Paris accord really all that stands between the planet and the worst of climate change? Certainly not.

“This is not to deny that President Trump’s announcement was problematic. He failed to acknowledge that global warming is real and wrongly claimed that China and India are the “world’s leading polluters.” (China and the U.S. are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide, and the U.S. is the biggest per capita.) It was far-fetched for him to suggest that the treaty will be “renegotiated.” Worse, the White House now has no response to climate change.

“But the global consensus about the Paris treaty is wrongheaded too. It risks wasting huge resources to do almost nothing to fix the climate problem while shortchanging approaches that promise the most transformative results.

“Consider the Paris agreement’s preamble, which states that signatories will work to keep the rise in average global temperature “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and even suggests that the increase could be kept to 1.5 degrees. This is empty political rhetoric. Based on current carbon dioxide emissions, achieving the target of 1.5 degrees would require the entire planet to abandon fossil fuels in four years.

“But the treaty has deeper problems. The United Nations organization in charge of the accord counted up the national carbon-cut pledges for 2016 to 2030 and estimated that, if every country met them, carbon dioxide emissions would be cut by 56 gigatons. It is widely accepted that restricting temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius would require a cut of some 6,000 gigatons, that is, about a hundredfold more.

“The Paris treaty is not, then, just slightly imperfect. Even in an implausibly optimistic, best-case scenario, the Paris accord leaves the problem virtually unchanged. Those who claim otherwise are forced to look beyond the period covered by the treaty and to hope for a huge effort thereafter.”

The op-ed continues with political game playing and concludes:

“Acknowledging the Paris treaty’s flaws does not mean endorsing the Trump administration’s apparent intention to ignore climate change. Real progress in reducing carbon emissions and global temperatures will require far-reaching advances in green energy, and that will mean massive investment in research and development—an annual global commitment of some $100 billion, according to analysis by the Copenhagen Consensus. When green energy is economically competitive, the whole world will rush to use it.

“The real misfortune for the planet isn’t that Mr. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris treaty. Rather, it is that his administration has shown no interest in helping to launch the green-energy revolution that the world so urgently needs.”

Mr. Lomborg is the president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and the author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and “Cool It.”

CONTINUE READING –>

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