Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #296

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

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

Quote of the Week.“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain [H/t WUWT]

Number of the Week: $56.60

Warming and Cooling? S. Fred Singer, our founder and newly elected Chairman Emeritus, is busily working on an interesting question: can carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, cause a cooling as well as a warming? The answer is YES, depending on subsidiary conditions.

The notion has been checked by several atmospheric physicists. One issue is putting the concept into a format that is easily understandable, without many highly technical equations.

The concept has the potential of partially explaining the hiatus in measured atmospheric warming despite increasing carbon dioxide (CO2). If correct, adding more CO2 will produce a cooling, not a warming of the atmosphere. Does it sound counter-intuitive? YES!

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Christy and McNider: Patrick Michaels gives some historical background in discussing recent analysis by Christy and McNider (December 2 TWTW) of atmospheric temperatures (from surface to 15 km (50,000 ft.)). The statistical analysis does not eliminate changes in total solar energy received by the globe. If those who claim total solar energy was increasing in the latter the record are correct, then the calculated result overestimates the influence of CO2. Even with the solar influence included, the calculations show that a doubling of CO2 will produce a warming of about 1.1 degrees C, less than one-half that estimated from the global climate models used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the IPCC have proclaimed that the planet must hold a temperature increase from CO2 to less than 2 degrees C. If a doubling of CO2 will increase temperatures by about 1 degrees C, then the goal has been achieved, making all the highly publicized efforts of the UNFCCC, its many conferences, and the celebrated Paris accord, meaningless. The stated goal of the UNFCCC and the Paris accord was to prevent a warming of the globe of more than 2 degrees C by sharply reducing CO2 emissions in developed countries first, and reducing them in other countries by 2030. Based on atmospheric temperature data, as analyzed by Christy and McNider, a 2 degrees C warming will not occur from CO2. Thus, the entire exercise is a meaningless waste of resources. If the planet continues to warm, we should look at other causes, not fossil fuels.

In his essay, Michaels mentions the Japan Meteorological Office’s (originally) 55-year “reanalysis” data (JRA-55), which may be the most rigorous surface temperature record existing. mentioned in last week’s TWTW, from January 1979 to 2015-2016 El Niño, these surface data are consistent with the findings of Christy and McNider for atmospheric data. Michaels promises a comparison of the two types of data in an upcoming post. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

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IPCC AR-5 Synthesis: The research by Christy and McNider, using temperature observations of the atmosphere where the greenhouse gas effect occurs, stands in marked contrast of the work of the IPCC, which relies on surface temperature records that may report the greenhouse effect of increasing CO2 along with many other effects of human activities on the surface of the earth. The Summary for Policymakers, of Synthesis Report of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR-5, 2014) opens with:

“This Synthesis Report is based on the reports of the three Working Groups of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including relevant Special Reports. It provides an integrated view of climate change as the final part of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).

“This summary follows the structure of the longer report which addresses the following topics: Observed changes and their causes; Future climate change, risks and impacts; Future pathways for adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development; Adaptation and mitigation.”

It goes on to say:

“SPM 1. Observed Changes and their Causes Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.

And:

“SPM 1.1 Observed changes in the climate system Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.”

The major issue is with the evidence that anthropogenic (human) emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly CO2, are causing unprecedented changes to the climate system, mainly temperatures. An examination of historic records in proxy data suggest that current surface temperatures are not unprecedented. The analysis by Christy and McNider suggest that human emissions of greenhouse gases will not cause an atmospheric warming that will indirectly result in unprecedented surface temperatures.

Of particular interest is Figure SPM.3 on page 6 of the report which is titled “Contributions to observed surface temperature change over the period 1951–2010. The caption underneath reads:

“Figure SPM.3 Assessed likely ranges (whiskers) and their mid-points (bars) for warming trends over the 1951–2010 period from well-mixed greenhouse gases, other anthropogenic forcings (including the cooling effect of aerosols and the effect of land use change), combined anthropogenic forcings, natural forcings and natural internal climate variability (which is the element of climate variability that arises spontaneously within the climate system even in the absence of forcings). The observed surface temperature change is shown in black, with the 5 to 95% uncertainty range due to observational uncertainty. The attributed warming ranges (colours) are based on observations combined with climate model simulations, in order to estimate the contribution of an individual external forcing to the observed warming. The contribution from the combined anthropogenic forcings can be estimated with less uncertainty than the contributions from greenhouse gases and from other anthropogenic forcings separately. This is because these two contributions partially compensate, resulting in a combined signal that is better constrained by observations. {Figure 1.9}”

The bars showing “Natural forcings” and “Natural internal variability” are 0.0 degrees C with ranges of plus or minus 0.1 degrees C. The “Observed Warming” bar shows a warming about 0.6 degrees C plus or minus 0.05 degrees C. “Greenhouse gasses” bar shows a warming of about 0.9 degrees C with an error of plus or minus about 0.4 degrees C. The “Other anthropogenic forcings” show a cooling of -0.2 degrees C with an error of plus or minus 0.3 degrees C. The “Combined anthropogenic forcings” bar shows a warming of 0.07 degrees C with an error range of 0.1 degrees C.

From this summary, several questions arise, two of them are: 1) how can a combining of two types of measurements, each with a different error range, produce a result with an error range smaller that the error ranges of both the components; and two, what are the anthropogenic forcings that cause a net surface cooling?

As shown by Christy and McNider, volcanoes cause a cooling of the atmosphere through aerosols, but volcanoes are natural. If the supposed cooling is from human-emitted aerosols, they would be so powerful that they would overcome the well-established urban heat island effect. The December 2 TWTW links to the study by Menne, et al. in an AMS journal showing the density of the coverage from 1950 to 2010 is sparse and it is largely in westernized countries. In general, these countries have undergone rapid urbanization. Where is the direct evidence of such aerosols world-wide? See links in the mentioned TWTWs and under Defending the Orthodoxy.

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Endangerment Finding: Ross McKitrick has an essay on the EPA finding that greenhouse gas emissions, namely CO2, endanger human health and welfare. McKitrick cites several of the omissions the EPA made, and the finding by the EPA Inspector General that the EPA failed to meet the required standard for such a finding. McKitrick concludes:

“Regardless of Pruitt’s views on climate science, he should agree that the regulatory process needs to be honest and procedurally sound. This alone gives him sufficient grounds to initiate the review that was supposed to have been done years ago.”

No doubt a new review will create an uproar, to which McKitrick states:

“While climate activists may object, they have also spent years insisting that the science is settled, so if they are right, they have no reason to worry about the outcome.”

In preparing their petition to the EPA requesting reconsideration of the Endangerment Finding, co-petitioners CEI and SEPP considered several alternative approaches, recognizing that the petition must be brief. They settled on the strongest physical evidence for and against the finding – atmospheric temperature data where the greenhouse effect takes place. Any future decision by the EPA on the Endangerment Finding will be litigated. But most judges understand the concept of physical evidence, or the lack thereof.

The Supreme Court does not change readily. It took 58 years for the Court to begin to tear down the repugnant laws based on the “separate but equal” doctrine of racism established in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. The Endangerment Finding is not as repugnant, but it can have long lasting impacts, detrimental to the citizenry. Already, we are seeing the Endangerment Finding being used in litigation against energy companies and extending to the Trump administration. Some of the intricacies of the issues will be discussed in a future TWTW. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Litigation Issues.

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Arctic Report: NOAA’s Arctic Program has produced another “report card” of conditions in the far north. As can be expected, the executive summary emphasizes dangers in what is happening to the Arctic environment: warming, ice melt, loss of Greenland ice, greening of the tundra, etc.

“…there are many strong signals that continue to indicate that the Arctic environmental system has reached a ‘new normal’. While modulated by natural variability in regional and seasonal fluctuations, this ‘new normal’ is characterized by Arctic air temperatures that are warming at double the rate of the global temperature increase.”

“Temperatures are increasing in the surface of the Arctic Ocean, contributing to later formation of the sea ice cover in the autumn. Temperatures are also increasing in the permafrost on the adjacent continents. Arctic paleo-reconstructions, which extend back millions of years, indicate that the magnitude and pace of the 21st century sea-ice decline and surface ocean warming is unprecedented in at least the last 1,500 years and likely much longer.”

The last assertion is absurd. NOAA claims millions of years of records, yet claims the recent warming is unprecedented over the past 1500 years. What about 2000 years ago? Certainly any warming was not cause by CO2 emissions.

Further, the recent record is based primarily on satellite observations. Past alarms, such warming in the 1920s are ignored.

That said, the findings in the section “Arctic Ocean Primary Productivity” are encouraging:

“Estimates of ocean primary productivity via satellite observations showed widespread positive (increasing) anomalies for 2017 (relative to the 2003-2016 mean) for all regions, with the most pronounced overall trends over the years 2003-2017 occurring in the Barents Sea and Eurasian Arctic regions.

“The regional distribution of positive (negative) anomalies in chlorophyll-a concentrations can often be associated with a relatively early (late) breakup of the sea ice cover.

During May 2017, strong positive anomalies in chlorophyll-a concentrations occurred in the northwestern Bering Sea and in the southeastern Chukchi Sea off the coast of Point Hope, while widespread negative anomalies occurred in the Barents Sea. Negative anomalies for 2017 were also prevalent across broad areas of the Kara and Laptev seas, particularly during June, July, and August.

“Some of the most significant increases in chlorophyll-a concentrations over the years 2003-2017 have occurred during May in localized areas of the Labrador Sea and the Barents Sea.”

The northern oceans are becoming more productive for plant and animal life. See links under Changing Cryosphere.

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Changing Human Condition: Anthony Watts posted some interesting graphs on his web site showing remarkable improvements in the human condition, particularly in the developing world. One graph showed world hunger, poverty, illiteracy and child mortality down by at least 40 percentage points since 1990. The sources of the graphs were not clear. One of the sources could be the UN’s The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2015.

Part of the change in the human condition has been the use of fossil fuels in developing countries, replacing traditional sources of energy. As seen in China, large increases in fossil fuel use can cause air pollution (the real pollutants, not CO2). But, as seen in the West, power plants can be fitted with pollution control devices that work. For coal-fired power plants, proper disposition of fly-ash is needed as well.

Unless hard evidence can be presented that CO2 emissions endanger humanity, which the EPA failed to present, there is no reason to stop use of fossil fuel until reliable, affordable alternatives can be found.

When Bjorn Lomborg produced “The Skeptical Environmentalist” in 2001, he suffered the wrath of many environmentalists and many in the science community in Washington. The retiring president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) spent his farewell speech deriding Lomborg. Such is the status of many scientific organizations in the city. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy

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Market Failures: Many of those who demand government should intercede in the private economy often insist that the private market is failing. Writing in Master Resource, Robert Bradley Jr. discusses three “market failures,” two are largely imaginary to the US in today’s economy. The two largely imaginary ones are: 1) national security risks associated with energy imports, because North American can be energy independent; and 2) the infant industry argument, i.e., past subsidies do not justify subsidies to new industries, unless they are clearly new and very promising.

The partially imaginary market failure is the environmental costs of fossil fuels. In the US, real pollution from fossil fuels has been largely eliminated. The costs of CO2 must be balanced with the benefits from CO2. The US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and other government entities have failed to assess the benefits of increasing CO2 and the benefits of fossil fuels.

One real market failure involves marginal cost pricing of electricity from wind and solar by electricity market operators. (Also called variable cost pricing.) Generally, such pricing creates the lowest costs to the consumer. However, in the electric grid, stability is paramount. The pricing mechanism needs to ensure reliability on demand. Thus far, with the introduction of unreliable wind and solar, such a pricing mechanism is yet to be achieved. Political popularity with subsidies, etc. of wind and solar only intensify the problem. See link under Subsidies and Mandates Forever.

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Number of the Week: $56.60: According to Platts (subscription required), the energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie estimates the “weighted average break-even” for a barrel of crude produced from North Dakota shale is $56.60. Generally, the estimates include a modest profit.

Areas with higher estimated costs include: Niobrara (Rockies), $75.5; Canada Oil Sands, $70; Deepwater US, $63; Deepwater Angola, $73; Offshore Nigeria, $64; and Shallow Water Europe, $60. The estimates reviewed did not include Texas. No doubt, the petro-states of OPEC are concerned with hydraulic fracturing in the US. See Article # 1.

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ARTICLES:

1. Fracking Our Way to Mideast Peace

Low oil prices have so eroded Arab states’ power, they now see Israel as a protector.

By Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, Dec 11, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/fracking-our-way-to-mideast-peace-1513035925

SUMMARY: The fellow at the Hudson Institute and professor of foreign affairs at Bard College uses President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the beginning of his discussion on what he considers:

“…most important strategic reality in the Middle East: Arab power has collapsed in the face of low oil prices and competition from American frackers.

“The devastating oil-price shocks of the 1970s, orchestrated by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, nearly wrecked the world economy. Ever since, the U.S. has looked for ways to break OPEC’s parasitic and rent-seeking grip on the oil market—and thereby to reduce America’s geopolitical vulnerability to events in the Middle East.

“Victory did not come easily. Intense conservation efforts made the U.S. much more energy-efficient. New oil discoveries in Africa and elsewhere significantly broadened the available supply. Renewable energy sources added to the diversification. But the most decisive development was that decades of public and private research and investment unleashed an American oil-and-gas boom, leading to a revolution in energy markets that has sent geopolitical shocks through world affairs.

“The consequences reverberate in the Middle East and beyond. Future oil revenues to countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Russia and Iraq will fall trillions of dollars short of what once might have been expected. The shift in energy markets will benefit consumer economies like Japan, China, India and the nations of the European Union. The U.S. and similarly situated nations, like Australia and Canada, can look forward to faster growth and greater foreign investment, since they will capture much of the oil revenue that Russia and OPEC lose.

“Low energy prices already have given the EU’s struggling southern countries a chance to return to growth. They have limited Russia’s prospects and forced Vladimir Putin onto a tight budget. They have largely offset the gains Iran had hoped to make from signing the nuclear deal and escaping Western sanctions.

“But the greatest consequences are being felt in the Arab world, where the long-term decline in oil revenues threatens the stability of many states. It is not only the oil producers that will suffer; the prosperous Gulf economies have been a major source of opportunity for Egyptians, Pakistanis, Palestinians and many other Middle Easterners.

“The shining cities that rise where the desert meets the Gulf may be in for harder times. The sheikhdoms’ glassy skyscrapers, gleaming malls and opulent apartment complexes were conceived for a world in which runaway energy demand and limited sources (remember “peak oil”?) led to inexorably rising prices. These fragile and artificial economies require hothouse conditions that a weakened OPEC can no longer provide. Now the great Gulf Bubble seems set to slowly deflate.

“There’s more. The staggering affluence of the Gulf countries during the OPEC era concealed the Arab world’s failure to develop states and economies capable of competing effectively in the 21st century. As their dream of revival through oil riches fades, they are waking to a new era of weakness and dependency.

“The Gulf states increasingly see Israel not as an insect to be crushed by resurgent Arab power, but as a lion that can defend them from Iran. Syria, once a citadel of Arab nationalism, now haplessly hosts Russian, American, Iranian and Turkish forces that the Assad dynasty can neither control nor evict.

“Arab diplomats, lobbyists and financiers must brace for more bad news: As the declining long-term prospects of the OPEC states become apparent, their diplomatic and economic influence across the West can be expected to wane even further.

“Many analysts look at the frustrations of America’s policy in the Middle East and conclude that the U.S. is in retreat and hegemonic decline. That misses the deeper truth. American diplomacy has had its share of failures, but the region is now being fundamentally reshaped by drillers in Texas, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and elsewhere.

“Even with OPEC’s hold broken, the Middle East will remain a problem for American policy. Moreover, not all the consequences of OPEC’s decline are good. In the short term, Russia and Iran are likely to double down on adventurous foreign policies as a way of distracting their populations from the tough challenges ahead. Instability in America’s key Gulf allies and in Egypt could create major headaches for the U.S.

“Nevertheless, reducing OPEC’s ability to capture rents, while forcing more corrupt petrostate oligarchies to contemplate reform, is likely over time to reduce both the costs and the risks of American foreign policy. This is what winning looks like.”

CONTINUE READING –>

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