Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #275

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

The Week That Was: July 1, 2017 Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

Climategate 2017? Last week TWTW discussed a paper by Santer, et al. that seems to support the view that, generally, global climate models greatly overestimate the warming of the atmosphere. The exception is the model by the Institute of Numerical Mathematics in Moscow. TWTW suspected that the paper may be part of a ruse, a trick, to discredit John Christy’s Congressional testimony on December 8, 2015, and February 2, 2016. Christy had stated that global climate models overestimate warming by 2.5 to 3 times. The new Santer paper is similar to one in the Journal of Climate on December 21, 2016.

The 2016 Santer paper claimed that the Christy did not properly account for stratospheric cooling. If that cooling is included, the warming projected by the models is only 1.7 times what is occurring. Yet, Christy specifically limited the data in his testimony to 50,000 feet, below the stratosphere, to avoid the complexity of the issue. The new Santer paper, published in Nature Geoscience on June 19, 2017, has many of the same authors as the previous paper. A noted exception is that Susan Solomon of MIT is not included in the second paper. [Michael Mann is listed as a co-author in the second paper.]

TWTW’s speculation that Santer’s new paper may be part of a ruse to discredit the testimony of John Christy was re-enforced this week with the publication of a paper by Carl Mears and Frank Wentz in the Journal of Climate. Mears and Wentz are co-authors in both prior Santer papers.

Mears and Wentz are principals in Remote Sensing Systems (RSS), competitors with the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), where John Christy is Director. Both groups calculate temperatures from data from microwave sensors on satellites. The latest revised calculations show a disparity between the two sets of calculations.

As stated in last week’s TWTW, Mears claims RSS data better reflects surface data, but TWTW finds surface data highly questionable. Moreover, the latest paper by Mears and Wentz claims their new estimates show an atmospheric warming some 30% larger than previous estimates since the data has been compiled beginning in 1979 (December 1978). The new warming trend is 0.174 C/decade, as compared with 0.134C/decade for 70S-80N from 1979 to 2016. The questions are: are the new adjustments more accurate, and how are they tested?

Christy and Roy Spencer have not had time to respond to the new paper, but TWTW noticed a significant issue with it. As Christy carefully notes in his testimony, the UAH data is independently verified by direct atmosphere temperature measurements using radiosondes on weather balloons. Mears and Wentz dismiss these data along with the satellite data. Thus, their new calculations on atmospheric temperature trends from satellite data have no independent verification. Surface temperature data do not necessarily verify atmospheric temperature data. Both surface data and satellite data can be influenced by natural variations.

Moreover, surface data can be influenced by human activities other than carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions are core to the entire global warming/climate change controversy. For comments from Spencer on the previous Santer paper and other comments see links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Defending the Orthodoxy and last week’s TWTW.


Quote of the Week. “It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid—not only what you think is right about it: “– Richard Feynman [H/t Tony Thomas]


Number of the Week: 27.5 times


Scientific Integrity: Given the controversy that may develop over satellite temperature data, it is important to be reminded of the classic lectures given to students by Richard Feynman, Nobel Laurate in Physics. Fortunately, some audio and visual recordings have been saved and are available on YouTube and other means. By coincidence, Tony Thomas has an article on Feynman and scientific integrity in the Australian publication Quadrant, along with an audio (and some still pictures). The part on scientific integrity is particularly important. (See above quote).

By focusing on the human causes of climate change, and largely ignoring natural causes, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and its followers such as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), have created a bias in climate science. This bias extends to many scientific societies, “peer reviewed” publications, and universities.

This bias results in overemphasis on human influence, particularly human carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and an underestimate of natural influences. This bias can be seen in projections (predictions) of future temperatures, future sea level rise, and results of what is called ocean acidification, better termed as ocean carbonization [H/t Craig Idso]. The benefits of increased CO2 to plants, humanity, and the environment are largely dismissed as with the human benefits of use of fossil fuels.

Tremendous resources have been allocated to address fears of the future, largely stemming from this bias of harmful effects of CO2 and use of fossil fuels. As a result, the entities proclaiming a dire future from increasing atmospheric CO2 are engaged in a disservice to humanity.

As laboratory tests show, increased CO2 will have a minor influence on temperatures, but a great amplification by increased water vapor has not been found, at least thus far. Thus, the claim that CO2 emissions will cause dire global warming has no empirical basis. However, billions of humans who do not have reliable energy free of pollutants that have been demonstrated to cause harm, also live without reliable electricity, a hallmark of modern civilization.

Executives in the new administration, namely the Secretary of Energy Perry and Administrator of the EPA Pruitt, are calling for a Red Team/Blue Team approach to climate science. If this comes to pass, let us hope such an initiative will embody the highest standards of scientific integrity, as discussed by Feynman. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Change in US Administrations, and Review of Recent Scientific Articles by CO2 Science.


US Energy: The Trump administration declared the past week to be “Energy Week,” with the president and several executives giving speeches on the importance of the nation developing its energy resources, particularly fossil fuel resources. This approach is a dramatic change from over three decades of predictions of increasing oil and gas scarcity.

[In 1977, this author was engaged under a Federal contract to review the Nation’s Natural Gas model, also reviewing the petroleum model. These models were used to predict a dire future of scarcity. He duly reported that the models were unsuitable for the task, stating the reasons why, and that the Natural Gas model had a severe error in logic, which was revealed in the computer code. Among other reasons for unsuitability, the assumptions in the models had not been adequately tested.]

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Trump administration recognizes the importance of the shale revolution, other US oil and gas resources, and will encourage development of them. As such, the administration is ignoring any claims the US has obligations under the Paris Accord. The Obama administration failed to submit this “executive agreement” to the Senate for approval, as required for a binding treaty. See links under Change in US Administrations.


Mission 2020: Since President Trump announced the US withdrawal from the Paris Accord, the complaints by those who anticipated funding from the “international agreement” continue to grow, revealing more of the funding expected by various groups. We have the Green Climate Fund, to which the Obama administration transferred about $1 billion of an expected $3 billion. An exact accounting is not available. According to reports, the US obligation was expected to grow to $23 billion per year, of a total developed-world obligation of $100 billion per year.

As discussed in last week’s TWTW, we have the Mission Innovation pact, which involved a US commitment of over $6 billion in 2017, increasing to over $12 billion in 2021. This week revealed the Mission 2020 pact, headed by Christiana Figueres, formerly Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and who “led” the negotiations of the Paris Accord. This week, Ms. Figueres signed a letter stating we have three years to stop dangerous (global warming) climate change.

According to reports, Ms. Figueres launched Mission 2020 in April. The Mission 2020 web site states that its goal is obtaining at least $200 billion public resources and $800 billion private resources for climate action each year, and that the goal is achievable. Of course, the web site calls the expenditures of One Trillion Dollars a year an “investment.” But, international investments of this type may have a negative return – cost the world economy more than the amount put in by severely curtailing economic activity. There seems to be no end in demands of funding for global climate action causes.

The sources of the $800 billion per year in private resources is not identified. Occasionally, international economists float the idea of a world-wide tax on financial transactions calling it an untapped resource. The views of Ms. Figueres on the economic system that has pulled humanity out of a “hand-to-mouth” existence are expressed elsewhere. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.


Carbon Capture and Storage: On Wednesday, the operators of the largest “clean coal” power plant under construction in the US, in Kemper County, Mississippi, announced that they no longer plan to utilize coal at the facility. Instead they will utilize natural gas. Having spent seven years and about $7.5 billion, the operators started testing the coal gasification process last fall and found numerous problems. To stop further capital costs, and protect consumers from associated rate increases, the Mississippi Public Services Commission gave the plant operators a choice: either operate its coal process at current costs or run the plant entirely on natural gas. The plant operators chose the latter.

The plant was hailed as a demonstration project, but it was not a universal one. The scheme was to pump the CO2 into oil and gas wells, boosting their production. However, such wells are not generally found.

Separately, the Global Warming Policy Foundation published a report by economics professor Gordon Hughes on the economics of Carbon (Dioxide) Capture and Storage (CCS). He found that such plants are not economically viable in the UK, or elsewhere. The problems with carbon capture have not been solved, and storage is not resolved.

The load factor for unreliable, intermittent electricity generation from wind is an additional problem in the UK and elsewhere. To hope to recapture the capital costs, the CCS coal-fired power plants must be run at near maximum capacity, operating 85 to 90% of the time. But pricing structures give low cost wind power a preference, when it is available. Thus, a coal-fired CCS plant would not be paid to operate the number of hours needed to re-capture capital costs and the costs of operations. Will someone now propose subsidies for coal-fired power plants? See links under Carbon Schemes.


Number of the Week: 27.5 times. For the last two weeks, TWTW cited the finding by Management Information Services Inc. (MISI) that, from 2011 through 2016, renewable energy received more than three times as much in federal incentives as oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear combined. An article by Roger Bezdek, President of MISI, in “World Oil” breaks down the numbers even further. Over these six years, solar, wind, and biomass received $78 billion, more than three times as much in federal incentives as oil and natural gas combined.

According to EIA calculations of U.S. energy consumption by energy source, 2016, petroleum accounted for 37% of energy consumption, natural gas 29%, for a total of 66% of energy consumption. Correspondingly, biomass accounted for 4.6%, wind 2.1%, and solar 0.6%, for a total of 7.3%.

All too often, some politicians and economists make calculations of what is called Keynesian multipliers, even when such calculations do not empirically apply. Using such procedures, one can state that each dollar in Federal incentives for oil and natural gas has 27.5 times the impact of incentives for wind, solar, and biomass. Of course, the calculation is frivolous, but so are many calculations on the cost of wind or solar without accounting for the cost of necessary back-up. See link under Subsidies and Mandates Forever and




1. The Shale Revolution’s Staggering Impact in Just One Word: Plastics

Petrochemicals, once simply a cheap byproduct, are powering a U.S. manufacturing boom and export bonanza

By Christopher M. Matthews, WSJ, June 25, 2017


SUMMARY: After a brief introduction of the changes brought about by hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas, the reporter writes:

”That boom in drilling has expanded the output of oil and gas in the U.S. more than 57% in the past decade, lowering prices for the primary ingredients Dow Chemical Co. DOW -0.56% uses to make tiny plastic pellets. Some of the pellets are exported to Brazil, where they are reshaped into the plastic pouches filled with puréed fruits and vegetables.

“Tons more will be shipping soon as Dow completes $8 billion in new and expanded U.S. petrochemical facilities mostly along the Gulf of Mexico over the next year, part of the industry’s largest transformation in a generation.

“The scale of the sector’s investment is staggering: $185 billion in new U.S. petrochemical projects are in construction or planning, according to the American Chemistry Council. Last year, expenditures on chemical plants alone accounted for half of all capital investment in U.S. manufacturing, up from less than 20% in 2009, according to the Census Bureau.

“Integrated oil firms including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC are racing to take advantage of the cheap byproducts of the oil and gas being unlocked by shale drilling. The companies are expanding petrochemical units that produce the materials eventually used to fashion car fenders, smartphones, shampoo bottles and other plastic stuff being bought more and more by the world’s burgeoning middle classes.”

After further discussion of the booming industry the report continues:

“Human beings have been using pliable materials found in nature, such as rubber, for centuries. But when Leo Baekeland, a Belgian-born American chemist, invented the first fully synthetic plastic derived from coal in 1907, it set off the modern consumer era, flooding the market with cheap durable goods almost entirely derived from fossil fuels.

Chemists can take the carbon atoms found in fossil fuels and rearrange them to create chains of atoms longer than those found in nature, which in turn can be used to make everything from nylon stockings to PVC piping.

Oil and gas byproducts, including ethane, butane and propane, are sent to huge furnaces called ‘steam crackers,’ which use superheated steam fed at high pressure to break apart molecules. Ethane is cracked into a smaller molecule, ethylene. The majority of ethylene in turn is used to make a plastic called polyethylene, and formed into pellets.

Millions of these U.S.-made pellets will be loaded into 25 kilogram sacks and sent via cargo ships to factories around the world, where they will be melted and shaped into plastic products.

By the end of the decade, energy consultancy PCI Wood Mackenzie estimates the U.S. chemical industry will have increased its capacity to make ethylene by 50%.

The world consumed more than 147 million metric tons in 2016 of ethylene and will need more than 186 million tons by 2023 to meet global demand, according to the consultancy. It said U.S. exports of polyethylene, the plastic pellets, are expected to reach $10.5 billion by 2020.


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