Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #304

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

Sea Level Hockey Stick? Judith Curry continues her excellent analysis of sea level rise and the need to assure against false conclusions. Unfortunately, too many “experts” have drawn conclusions from preliminary data even before errors in measurement and calculations were fully resolved. As with early calculations of temperatures from satellite data, early errors in the measurement and calculations lead to skepticism for the entire method of measurements. For science to advance, one must recognize that errors, though not desirable, must be expected, then corrected. For satellite temperature data, minor changes in orbits were not originally recognized, but when recognized, calculations were changed accordingly.

Unfortunately, many of the same organizations that ignore comprehensive temperature calculations from satellite data, independently verified by balloon data, made long-term calculations of sea level rise from early satellite data. These calculations were used to proclaim human influence on sea levels, without consideration of the errors involved. These organizations include the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is a political organization, not a scientific one, and its followers such as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

Sadly, following these erroneous procedures, entities of once distinguished scientific organizations such as NASA and NOAA have promoted alarm, rather than focusing on the uncertainty of the measurements and recognizing the continued efforts to improve measurements. As Curry states:

“Significant work has been done to devise methods to accurately calibrate altimeter measurements against a global network of tide gauges. As a result, a number of drifts and bias changes have been discovered and corrected, including an early software error that caused the estimate to be nearly 7 mm yr-1 too high, drifts in the water vapor correction from the microwave radiometer,
and changes in the sea state bias model. Calibration efforts are ongoing, which is essential for obtaining an accurate climate record from satellite altimetry.

“Summary. Satellite measurements of global sea level have been available since 1992, and the technology is under continuing development. Complex analysis methods are required to transform raw satellite measurements into sea level variations, including the correction and piecing together of records collected over many years by ageing and changing satellites. Estimates of sea level change made using satellite-collected data are associated with many uncertainties in the data processing; with time, the uncertainty in current analysis methods and datasets may be revised as addition [al sic] errors are uncovered. There is some inconsistency between the results derived by different research groups for the interannual variability, owing to differences in making the complex adjustments. These uncertainties underscore the need for continual scrutiny of the satellite and in situ tide gauge data, plus the need for independent observing systems such as multiple satellite altimeters with differing instrument designs, the tide gauge network, in situ ocean temperature observing system, and gravimetric satellites.”

As discussed in TWTW on January 21, 2017, IPCC and USGCRP, and NOAA reports needlessly speculate an unrealistic sea level rise (SLR), thereby harming any realistic planning by local, concerned authorities. The TWTW stated:

“For example, Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel (CSAP) reported that ‘Based upon a thorough assessment of scientific data and literature on SLR, the CSAP concludes that the Tampa Bay region may experience SLR somewhere between 6 inches to 2.5 feet in 2050 and between 1 to 7 feet in 2100.’ The 1-foot rise is from extrapolation of readings from local tidal gages. The 7-foot rise is from NOAA high estimates from IPCC and USGCRP reports.”

The government entities that wildly speculate on sea level rise do not benefit the public, but harm it. The leadership of these organizations should be so informed.

[Amusing side comment: the latest satellite data shows a modest, uneven rise since 2016. Could one argue that the nomination of Donald Trump frightened the sea gods from uprising? Maybe Donald Trump is more powerful than King Canute!] See links under Seeking a Common Ground, Changing Seas, Communicating Better to the Public – Make things up and https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/sod/lsa/SeaLevelRise/


Quote of the Week. “We are in the uncomfortable position of extrapolating into the next century without understanding the last.” – Walter Heinrich Munk, American physical oceanographer. professor of geophysics emeritus [H/t Climate Etc.]

Number of the Week: 3400% growth in eight years.


Trump Budget: The Trump administration announced its first new budget, not an extension of the mid-year budget announced in 2017. Analysts on all sides immediately followed with their comments. Of course, one can only guess at what may come out of Congress. Among issues of note for TWTW readers are the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI) was a policy of the Obama Administration, which provided monies to the UN Green Climate Fund, without approval of Congress. The funding for these programs came largely through the State Department and USAID. According to reports the Trump budget reduces the funding to State and USAID by 30% to $39.3 billion. If the administration is pulling out of the Paris Accord, there is no reason to fund its programs. These programs were never established by Congress as a priority, they were only priorities in the past administration.

Also, the Trump administration proposes to make changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to streamline the process for obtaining environmental approvals. Of course, the environmental groups object to any streamlining by claiming it will “weaken” environmental protections. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), called the Stimulus Bill, was passed with supporters in Congress and President Obama claiming it would provide “shovel-ready” jobs. Later, President Obama “joked?” that the jobs were not quite shovel-ready. Long, involved approvals were required. Of the estimate total cost of some $830 billion, less than 10% of the cost went to public works, the bulk went to various forms of income maintenance.

Although President Obama complained about the slow pace of stimulus bill, he expanded the scope of NEPA by issuing guidance through the Council of Environmental Quality that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be the proxy for climate change impacts of a proposed action reviewed under NEPA. As discussed in the August 6, 2016 TWTW, the Guidance stated:

“This approach, together with providing a qualitative summary discussion of the impacts of GHG emissions based on authoritative reports such as the USGCRP’s National Climate Assessments and the Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States, a Scientific Assessment of the USGCRP, allows an agency to present the environmental and public health impacts of a proposed action in clear terms and with sufficient information to make a reasoned choice between no action and other alternatives and appropriate mitigation measures, and to ensure the professional and scientific integrity of the NEPA review.”

As it is implemented, NEPA creates lengthy delays in virtually all major construction projects that have an impact on the environment, regardless of how important. For example, since 1900, New Orleans has been flooded by major hurricanes six times: in 1915, 1940, 1947, 1965 (Betsy), 1969 (Camille) and 2005 (Katrina).

After hurricane Betsy caused a storm surge in Lake Pontchartrain that overcame the levees and flooded a part of New Orleans, the Corps of Engineers announced it would build a barrier system like the Dutch use to stop storm surges from the North Sea. Environmental groups successfully sued to stop the project claiming that the Final Environmental Impact Statement was not sufficient.

On December 30, 1977, in Save Our Wetlands, Inc. vs. Early J Rush III (Corps of Engineers), Federal Judge Charles Schwartz, Jr. ruled “it is the opinion of the Court that plaintiffs herein have demonstrated that they, and in fact all persons in this area, will be irreparably harmed if the barrier project . . . is allowed to continue.” (Boldface added). An appeal failed. The decision was proudly posted on the web site of “Save Our Wetlands, Inc.”. until hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005, in the same manner as Betsy. Then it quietly disappeared.

Legal actions made in the name of environmental protection can destroy human lives and property. Ironically, after Katrina, President Bush received most of the blame, both nationally and locally, for the damage done by this natural event. Subsequently, Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans was convicted for diverting funds that were earmarked for improving the levees (that were claimed to be sufficient but were poorly built) to stop flooding of New Orleans via Lake Pontchartrain. He was the latest in a long list of local politicians who diverted such funding. See Article # 1, links under Change in US Administrations, Funding Issues, and http://library.water-resources.us/docs/hpdc/docs/19771230_SOWLvRush_injunction_order.pdf


Arctic Disturbances: Once again, fears built on claims that the warming of the Arctic is a threat to humanity are appearing. As with past claims that warming will cause massive releases of methane, thus greatly compounding the initial warming, the current claims fall apart with analysis. The current fear is a release of mercury threatening the globe. Writing in The Reference Frame, physicist Luboš Motl demolishes the claim; see link under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Lowering Standards: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced the recipient of its 2018 award for Public Engagement – Michael, “Hockey-stick” Mann. On Climate Etc. Judith Curry cites the award and a few comments by Roger Pielke, Jr. including:

“My issue here is not with Mann. It is with the decision by AAAS to single out Mann as someone who embodies our highest values of the scientific community: a role model to emulate who engages in behaviors to celebrate.

“With this award, what message is AAAS sending to the scientific community and to the public?

“The AAAS is telling us that engaging in hyper-partisan, gutter politics, targeted against Republicans and colleagues you disagree with, using unethical tactics, will be rewarded by leaders in the scientific community.

“AAAS could work to help to defuse the pathological politicization of science. Instead, it has thrown some gasoline on the fire.”

Perhaps the purpose of AAAS is to intensify “pathological politicization of science” in hopes of gaining more financial support by promoting fear of humanity. In commenting on the speculative increase in sea level rise, discussed above, the staff writers of the AAAS publication EurekAlert stated: “Twenty-five years of satellite data prove climate models are correct in predicting that sea levels will rise at an increasing rate.” [Boldface added]

These data prove nothing, but the exaggerations by AAAS demonstrate disturbing trends. Note: Mr. Mann has claimed that Fred Singer and SEPP have received funding from Phillip Morris (tobacco), Texaco (oil) and Monsanto (chemical), without offering any evidence. Fred Singer and SEPP have received no such funding. See links under Lowering Standards and Seeking a Common Ground


100% Renewable: We have another study on how the nation can obtain 100% of its energy requirements from “renewables,” mainly solar and wind. As usual, the problems of storage and its costs are idealized and minimized – just ask South Australia.

Independently, Roger Andrews of Energy Matters may have hit on the solution for this problem – use the Great Lakes for pumped hydro storage. Surely the Canadians would not mind. Imagine the number of “green jobs” that will be created in just preparing, filing, and attacking & defending the required NEPA permits! See links under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind and Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Storage.


Number of the Week: 3400% growth in eight years. According to data from the US EIA, prior to January 2010, monthly oil production from shale was miniscule, less than 300,000 barrels per day (b/d). It increased slowly then rapidly, with a downturn. By January 2018, it grew to 5.2 million b/d – over 34 times, or 3400% in eight years. This exceeds the 4.9 million b/d of US conventional oil production. Over 50% of total US oil production now comes from shale. Oil and gas production from shale is not a temporary “flash in the pan” as many “experts” claimed earlier. See article # 2 and last week’s TWTW.



1. Trump’s Big Public Works Dig

Permitting and other reforms are a major policy breakthrough.

By The Editorial Board, WSJ, Feb 12, 2018


SUMMARY: The editorial states:

“The White House on Monday unveiled its plan to raise $1.5 trillion in capital for public works. This will cause sticker shock among Republicans, but the President’s innovative regulatory reforms deserve debate and may even garner some Democratic support.

“President Trump is proposing to spend $200 billion in federal funds to leverage $1.3 trillion in state, local and private investment in public works. This bid is probably dead on arrival since Republicans have little appetite for more spending after blowing the budget sequestration caps last week.

“Many bridges and airports need a face-lift, though claims of crumbling roads are overwrought and often politically motivated. One problem is that public works like other discretionary programs are being squeezed by entitlements, which constitute nearly two-thirds of federal spending. But even while politicians in Washington gripe that we—always the royal “we”—don’t spend enough on public works, they consistently prioritize other discretionary programs.

“Consider: Of the $787 billion stimulus in 2009, only about $60 billion financed public works. Most was spent on safety-net programs and other progressive causes. More Hurricane Sandy recovery money went to “community development” than repairing train tunnels.

“Many projects that do receive federal funding aren’t national priorities, such as California’s bullet train. That’s because the government typically awards “competitive” grants to politically favored projects rather than those that would produce the biggest economic benefits. The Obama Administration rigged cost-benefit analysis to reward projects that would promote public housing and reduce carbon emissions.”

The EDITORIAL continues with expected political opposition to the plan.


2. Shale Output Hasn’t Grown This Fast Since Oil Was at $100

In closely watched report, IEA warns U.S. crude output is set to outpace demand in 2018

By Christopher Alessi, WSJ, Feb 13, 2018


SUMMARY: The journalist reports:

“U.S. shale companies are churning out crude oil at a record pace that could overwhelm global demand and reverse the oil market’s fragile recovery, a top energy-market observer said Tuesday.

“U.S. shale production is growing faster in 2018 than it did even during the boom years of $100 a barrel oil prices from 2011 to 2014, said the International Energy Agency in its closely watched monthly report. The difference this time: Oil prices are about 40% lower.

“The situation is ‘reminiscent of the first wave of U.S. shale growth, ‘ when a flood of American oil built up a global glut and sent prices crashing over four years ago, said the Paris-based IEA, which advises governments and corporations on energy trends.

“Shale producers ‘cut costs dramatically ‘ during the oil-industry downturn, the IEA said. They then took advantage of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel’s decision last year to cut its own output, which helped prices rise from the low $40s to over $70 a barrel in January.

“Unlike countries like Russia, shale-oil companies—using techniques like hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—are able to pounce when prices rise and pull back when the market falls. They can drill wells, and then wait to complete the process until it is profitable.

“Shale-oil producers had promised investors that they would focus on profits this year as prices rose and abandon the pump-at-any-cost mentality that crashed the market. But shale companies have a backlog of nearly 7,000 wells that have been drilled but not completed. That allows operators to increase production by extracting oil from the backlog rather than spending significant amounts on drilling, meaning U.S. output could rise even higher than expected.

“U.S. oil output could rise as high as 11 million barrels a day by 2019, some oil-industry analysts say, rivaling that of Russia, the world’s biggest crude producer. The U.S. currently pumps over 10 million barrels a day, the most since 1970.

“ ‘All the indicators that suggest continued fast growth in the U.S. are in perfect alignment, ‘ the IEA said.

“Led by U.S. shale companies, crude output from non-OPEC nations is expected to outpace the growth in oil demand in 2018, the IEA said. That is an important data point for oil traders who have been watching to see if shale production could catch up to robust demand that has been fueled by a strong global economy.”


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