Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #280

By Ken Haapala – The Week That Was: August 5, 2017

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org,  The Science and Environmental Policy Project


Quote of the Week. “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day.”– Albert Einstein


Number of the Week: 4300 Days


UAH Atmospheric Temperature Data: Since the peak of the El Niño in early 2016, the chart of the December 1978 to July 2017 Lower Troposphere Anomaly produced by the Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) shows that temperatures have dropped, but not as sharply as after the previous peak in 1998. The 1998 El Niño was followed by a La Niña cooling. Currently, there is no indication of a La Niña occurring.

It will be interesting to follow what will happen for the remainder of the year and the first part of 2018. Will the temperatures generally rise, fall, or remain about the same? If they remain about the same, then we will have a general trend of temperatures slightly higher than the trend between 1998 and 2016 and about 0.2 °C above the average temperatures for the entire record. During the early part of the record, there were two volcanoes emitting aerosols, which have a cooling effect.


Data Quality – Sea Surface Temperatures: Last week, TWTW discussed the presentation of land based surface temperatures by Roger Andrews. He showed that the NASA-GISS (Goddard Institution for Space Studies) introduced a strong warming bias in their data when GISS made homogeneity adjustments to their data. This change may have added a spurious warming of as much as 0.4°C to the record over the past 100 years or so. The false warming also occurs in the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) dataset, particularly in the data for the Southern Hemisphere.

Andrews starts his latest analysis with:

“Matching sea surface temperatures (SSTs) to climate models requires a large stair-step cooling adjustment. In this post, we review whether this adjustment is valid and find that it isn’t. The specific implications are that combined land-ocean “surface temperature” series underestimate global warming between 1910 and 1950 by approximately 0.3°C and that most of the sea surface warming in the 20th century occurred before 1950, not after. And because discarding the spurious adjustments applied to the raw SST data results in a large mismatch between models and observations the general implication is that we still have no good understanding of what drives temperature changes at the ocean surface.” [Boldface added.]

In other words, the warming that occurred took place prior to 1950. Late 20th century warming reported in most datasets is not present in the raw data.

In arriving at his conclusion, Andrews plots the International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS) raw global sea surface temperatures (SST) and compares them with Hadley sea surface datasets (HadSST3). By subtracting the two, he shows that in years prior to 1940, the annual raw data has been warmed, increased substantially. Also, Andrews concludes that the major problem is with the WW II data, which are bad data (around 1942). Removing the data eliminates any strong upward shift during WW II.

However, for 30 years other researchers have applied various adjustments to the data, as much as 0.3°C to over 0.4°C. As Andrews expressed when discussing the land data:

“You don’t adjust your raw data unless you have ironclad reasons for doing so. You either verify them or throw them out.”

Andrews goes on to discuss other adjustments applied to the raw data, all of which are questionable. He finds ICOADS data series may be reliable and possibly free of serious instrumental bias. However, the limited number of observations prior to 1950 reduces the reliability of the data in earlier years. Andrews presents a figure showing the annual number of SST observations from 1860 to the present day (figure 12). In 1950 there were about 500,000 observations; in 1960, 1,000,000; and by 1995, 2,000,000. One can assert that even the limited number of observations prior to 1995 raises questions as to reliability.

As with land surface data, adjustments to these datasets create major problems in their credibility. As discussed in the February 11 TWTW, the adjustments made by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) in Ashville, make their datasets even less credible than before.

Blending surface temperature data with atmospheric temperature data, as the principals of Remote Sensing Systems have suggested, is like blending waste water with spring water. The result may be less distasteful than waste water alone, but it is not drinkable. See links under Measurement Issues — Surface


Credibility – Climate Projections: For those who enjoy the writings of Jonathan Swift, Australian author and journalist Clive James provides a refreshing alternative to the dull writing found on these pages. In a chapter of the book, “Climate Change: The Facts” James discusses the difficulty of addressing the false predictions of climate alarmists: “Mass Death Dies Hard.”

James suggestions that a starting point of “the theme of the permanently imminent climatic apocalypse might be taken as 3 August 1971, when the Sydney Morning Herald announced that the Great Barrier Reef would be dead in six months.” For over 45 years, we have had constant announcements of its imminent death.

James discusses the failure of major news organizations to recognize the reputable scientists who use hard evidence to strongly question such claims. He brings up the concept of rubber numbers:

“Just as all branches of the modern media love a picture of something that might be part of the Overwhelming Evidence for climate change even if it is really a picture of something else, they all love a clock ticking down to zero, and if the clock never quite gets there then the motif can be exploited forever. But the editors and producers must face the drawback of such perpetual excitement: it gets perpetually less exciting. Numbness sets in, and there is time to think after all. Some of the customers might even start asking where this language of rubber numbers has been heard before.

“It was heard from Swift. In Gulliver’s Travels, he populated his flying island of Laputa with scientists busily using rubber numbers to predict dire events. He called these scientists ‘projectors’. At the basis of all the predictions of the projectors was the prediction that the Earth was in danger from a Great Comet whose tail was ‘ten hundred thousand and fourteen’ miles long. I should concede at this point that a sardonic parody is not necessarily pertinent just because it is funny; and that although it might be unlikely that the Earth will soon be threatened by man-made climate change, it might be less unlikely that the Earth will be threatened eventually by an asteroid, or let it be a Great Comet; after all, the Earth has been hit before.

“That being said, however, we can note that Swift has got the language of artificial crisis exactly right, to the point that we might have trouble deciding whether he invented it, or merely copied it from scientific voices surrounding him in his day. James Hansen is a Swiftian figure. Blithely equating trains full of coal to trains full of people on their way to Auschwitz, Hansen is utterly unaware that he has not only turned the stomachs of the informed audience he was out to impress, he has lost their attention.”

One wonders whether Vincent Gray had Swift’s concept of “projectors” in mind when he severely criticized the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for using the term predictions. Gray convinced the IPCC that mathematical models that have not been verified and validated cannot make predictions. Then, the IPCC changed the term to projections.

Unfortunately, many once distinguished scientific organizations have embraced these “rubber numbers” and the “semi-science” built around them. The leaders of these organizations are undermining the credibility of their own organizations and the enormous efforts that went into building that credibility. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Adapting to Climate Change: The earth’s climate has been changing for hundreds of millions of years. Our species evolved over periods of rapid climate change – ice ages interrupted by brief warm periods. The late Robert Carter, a co-editor of the reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), argued that the climate is changing and civilization needs adapt to change.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, researchers David Henderson and John Cochran argue that even if temperatures are rising, we do not know of an appropriate policy to address it. Readers realize that TWTW frequently cites the lack of hard evidence showing carbon dioxide (CO2) is the cause of late 20th century warming. The core arguments of Henderson and Cochran are cited in Article # 1, below.

Also interesting were a number of the published letter responses, parts of which are given below. For example:

“To assert that carbon dioxide ‘hurts nobody’s health’ is ignorant. Humans exhale carbon dioxide as a waste product. C02 is linked to myriad deleterious health ailments including respiratory conditions.”

It may surprise the author to recognize that what is a waste product to animals is necessary for life as we generally know it. See Article # 1, Article # 2, and links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC.


Model Based Alternative Electricity: All too frequently, model builders become divorced from reality. Those using models to study the future integration of 100 Gigawatts (GW) of solar power and 60 GW of wind power into the electric grid of India by 2022 for the US National Renewable Energy Laboratories are no exception. The power grid relies on electrical generation that can be controlled, so that grid operators can balance the power being used with the power being generated. There is some inertia, but as the September blackout in South Australia demonstrated, a system without immediate backup for variation in wind or solar can result in very costly and long repair.

The NREL study modeled 15-minute interval data and smoothed data variation. (See section 2.2.5 Load) This long interval data may be suitable for running water pumps, but for any high-tech use, it is far from satisfactory. Short-term, sudden changes can be disastrous for high-tech manufacturing, communications, etc. It is folly to use such a study to claim that solar and wind can be easily integrated into a high-tech grid, which India wishes to achieve. See links under Energy Issues – Non-US


Why Li? With an atomic weight of 7, Lithium (Li) is the third lightest element on the Periodic Table, the lighter ones being the gases Helium and Hydrogen. Its light weight and high energy density make Lithium very desirable for batteries in portable electronic devises and electric cars. Using a study by P. Kauranen of the Academy of Finland as a springboard, Euan Mears provides an overview of Lithium reserves as well as the other key component in Li-ion batteries, Cobalt.

Lithium is found in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, China, Australia, US and elsewhere in brines (water) and rock. So, there is little concern over production being limited by political upheaval. However, cobalt is found mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – not noted for political stability. See links under Energy Issues – Non-US


Renewable Fuel Standards: Those staffing the EPA panels on hearings, also called listening tours, exhibit significant restraint, usually restricting verbal comments to polite thank-you and calling of the next person. Depending on the subject, the panelists may listen to many types of special pleading, including those testifying pulling photos of grandchildren out of wallets, endless data on what may happen if a regulation is changed, etc. For these reasons, those testifying for SEPP have tried to make their comments brief, pointed, and sometimes amusing.

This week, the EPA held hearings on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for blending ethanol and biomass fuels with gasoline, though some of the required fuels do not exist commercially. In SEPP’s testimony, I greeted the panelists as carbon-based life forms, then suggested that the best thing for the EPA to do is to request Congress and the Administration to repeal the laws creating the RFS. They are unneeded and obsolete. The 1987 repeal of the “Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act of 1978” was an example of the repeal of a law that unneeded and obsolete.

Breaking custom, after the comments the head of the panel remarked that being called a carbon-based life form is the politest thing he has been called for several years. See links in last week’s TWTW.


Number of the Week: 4300 Days: According to Roy Spencer, it has been 4300 days, almost 12 years, since a major hurricane made landfall in the United States, category 3 or higher. After the 2004 and 2005 hurricane season, “projectors” such as former Vice President Al Gore claimed 2005 was the new normal. Perhaps, Clive James would ask: the new normal for whom? See links under Changing Weather.



1. Climate Change Isn’t the End of the World

Even if world temperatures rise, the appropriate policy response is still an open question.

By David R. Henderson and John H. Cochrane, WSJ, July 30, 2017


SUMMARY: Arguing for adaption, the researchers write:

“Climate change is often misunderstood as a package deal: If global warming is “real,” both sides of the debate seem to assume, the climate lobby’s policy agenda follows inexorably.

“It does not. Climate policy advocates need to do a much better job of quantitatively analyzing economic costs and the actual, rather than symbolic, benefits of their policies. Skeptics would also do well to focus more attention on economic and policy analysis.

“To arrive at a wise policy response, we first need to consider how much economic damage climate change will do. Current models struggle to come up with economic costs commensurate with apocalyptic political rhetoric. Typical costs are well below 10% of gross domestic product in the year 2100 and beyond.

“That’s a lot of money—but it’s a lot of years, too. Even 10% less GDP in 100 years corresponds to 0.1 percentage point less annual GDP growth. Climate change therefore does not justify policies that cost more than 0.1 percentage point of growth. If the goal is 10% more GDP in 100 years, pro-growth tax, regulatory and entitlement reforms would be far more effective.

“Yes, the costs are not evenly spread. Some places will do better and some will do worse. The American South might be a worse place to grow wheat; Southern Canada might be a better one. In a century, Miami might find itself in approximately the same situation as the Dutch city of Rotterdam today.

“But spread over a century, the costs of moving and adapting are not as imposing as they seem. Rotterdam’s dikes are expensive, but not prohibitively so. Most buildings are rebuilt about every 50 years. If we simply stopped building in flood-prone areas and started building on higher ground, even the costs of moving cities would be bearable. Migration is costly. But much of the world’s population moved from farms to cities in the 20th century. Allowing people to move to better climates in the 21st will be equally possible. Such investments in climate adaptation are small compared with the investments we will regularly make in houses, businesses, infrastructure and education.

“And economics is the central question—unlike with other environmental problems such as chemical pollution. Carbon dioxide hurts nobody’s health. It’s good for plants. Climate change need not endanger anyone. If it did—and you do hear such claims—then living in hot Arizona rather than cool Maine, or living with Louisiana’s frequent floods, would be considered a health catastrophe today.

“Global warming is not the only risk our society faces. Even if science tells us that climate change is real and man-made, it does not tell us, as President Obama asserted, that climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. Really? Greater than nuclear explosions, a world war, global pandemics, crop failures and civil chaos?

“No. Healthy societies do not fall apart over slow, widely predicted, relatively small economic adjustments of the sort painted by climate analysis. Societies do fall apart from war, disease or chaos. Climate policy must compete with other long-term threats for always-scarce resources.

“Facing this reality, some advocate that we buy some “insurance.” Sure, they argue, the projected economic cost seems small, but it could turn out to be a lot worse. But the same argument applies to any possible risk. If you buy overpriced insurance against every potential danger, you soon run out of money. You can sensibly insure only when the premium is in line with the risk—which brings us back where we started, to the need for quantifying probabilities, costs, benefits and alternatives. And uncertainty goes both ways. Nobody forecast fracking, or that it would make the U.S. the world’s carbon-reduction leader. Strategic waiting is a rational response to a slow-moving uncertain peril with fast-changing technology.”

After discussing top environmental threats such as dirty water, air, and insect-borne diseases, the authors state many of the IPCC’s “solutions” that deal with social issues fail to address the global warming caused by CO2. They conclude:

“Climate policy advocates’ apocalyptic vision demands serious analysis, and mushy thinking undermines their case. If carbon emissions pose the greatest threat to humanity, it follows that the costs of nuclear power—waste disposal and the occasional meltdown—might be bearable. It follows that the costs of genetically modified foods and modern pesticides, which can feed us with less land and lower carbon emissions, might be bearable. It follows that if the future of civilization is really at stake, adaptation or geo-engineering should not be unmentionable. And it follows that symbolic, ineffective, political grab-bag policies should be intolerable.”

Mr. Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution and an economics professor at the Naval Postgraduate School. Mr. Cochrane is a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute.


2. Unchecked Climate Change Will Lead to War

Climate change causes environmental degradation which will drive food shortages, disease, migrations and wars.

Letters, WSJ, Aug 3, 2017


Selected statements from the five published letters addressing the Henderson and Cochrane op-ed presented above:

“…David Henderson and John Cochrane argue that climate-change policy should follow careful economic analysis Yet, their suggested form of analysis[is] outside their narrow model. Already counted in the hundreds of thousands a year are deaths associated with crop failures and food scarcity, heat waves and forced relocation.”

“War, disease and chaos are exactly the stresses to which unchecked climate change will lead. Environmental degradation caused by climate change will drive food shortages, disease, migrations and wars.”

“To assert that carbon dioxide ‘hurts nobody’s health’ is ignorant. Humans exhale carbon dioxide as a waste product. C02 is linked to myriad deleterious health ailments including respiratory conditions.”

“Billions of years of evolution have created a perfectly balanced ecosystem that sustains life as we know it. Extracting and burning fossil fuel, along with deforestation, disrupts that critical balance.”

“Climate change is the greatest world-wide threat humanity has ever faced. If we do not implement effective solutions soon, we are likely to encounter devastating social, environmental and economic consequences.”


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