Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #307

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

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

Bureaucratic Science Continued: Last week, TWTW discussed the concept Bureaucratic Science which occurs when a government entity, or a similar organization, charged with applying the best science possible, drifts from its purpose and institutes policies and procedures (methodology) that are inconsistent with its mission. The brightest, most competent, and conscientious people may be involved. Education level does not matter. Bureaucratic science can be considered a subset of Group Think, ably discussed by Christopher Booker (TWTW Feb 24).

Ignoring evidence contradicting the policies and methodology of the organization is a frequent characteristic of Bureaucratic Science. This characteristic is particularly egregious, outrageous, when Bureaucratic Science ignores strong physical evidence contradicting its policies. Last week, TWTW discussed how NASA ignored repeated physical evidence that the joints in the solid rocket boosters on the space shuttle were eroding, contrary to required standards, until the Challenger exploded. As Richard Feynman wrote, this erosion was a clue that something was wrong.

Apollo engineer Hal Doiron, who was part of the team that designed the lunar lander, kindly provided clarification to part of the discussion presented in TWTW. Doiron’s view is extremely important, because his team required “thinking outside the box,” because there was no box. NASA could not duplicate the far reduced lunar gravity on earth. Further, there were no text books describing what would be experienced in a lunar landing.

Doiron commented that, in TWTW, the statement “However, the O-ring failure covered the design flaw” was vague and possibly misleading. Further Doiron clarified the statement: “As missions continued with partial damage to critical components, but without drastic failure, the management of Marshall Space Flight Center became more self-assured as to the safety of the Shuttle” by adding that: “not only MSFC [Marshall Space Flight Center] management, but also NASA Shuttle Program management at higher levels of responsibility at Level II in Houston and Level I in Washington became ‘more self-assured…. even with the knowledge that the joint sealing performance did not satisfy original Shuttle Program joint sealing design requirements established at Level II.’”

Further, Doiron wrote:

“Regarding joint rotation, I want to make sure you understand this was a localized rotation of the cylindrical wall of the rocket that allowed the metal sealing surfaces against both redundant O-rings to separate slightly and relieve the squeeze on the O-rings. This in turn allowed the sealing performance of the O-rings to become sensitive to temperature and other factors affecting dynamic movement of the O-rings within their grooves that is not normally allowed in static O-ring seal design practice.”

TWTW deeply appreciates such corrections because many concepts are difficult to express clearly and simply in written languages.

Unfortunately, after a pause to repair the joint rotation problem, NASA continued with its bureaucratic science by flying the space shuttle even though foam insulation had been observed breaking from the shuttle in prior flights. It did so until the Columbia disintegrated upon reentering the Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003.

What NASA should have done is what Boeing did with its 787 Dreamliner battery problem – ground all flights until the problem was fully checked and resolved. This included adding a heavy enclosure to restrict any possible fire from a lightweight lithium battery.

NASA’s bureaucratic science resulted in dramatic failures. Other government entities are engaged in similar group think, resulting in policies that cannot succeed in their intended purpose, but often come at great cost. As Christopher Booker demonstrates in his writings, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a classic example. Many other government organizations the IPCC lead. See links in past two TWTWs, and link under Defending the Orthodoxy.


Quote of the Week. The situation in the sciences is this: A concept or an idea which cannot be measured or cannot be referred directly to experiment may or may not be useful. It need not exist in a theory. – Richard Feynman

Number of the Week: Approaching Zero – 0

Standards of Evidence: Various municipalities in California are suing oil companies under common law public nuisance claims for damages they say occur from carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The case has gone to the US District Court for the Northern District of California. (In the US Federal Court system, a District Court is below the Court of Appeals and it is where most cases start if they are on the federal level.) The presiding judge, William Alsup, made an unusual and unexpected demand. He ruled that both sides prepare a tutorial for him:

“The Court invites counsel to conduct a two-part tutorial on the subject of global warming and climate change:

“(1) The first part will trace the history of scientific study of climate change, beginning with scientific inquiry into the formation and melting of the ice ages, periods of historical cooling and warming, smog, ozone, nuclear winter, volcanoes, and global warming. Each side will have sixty minutes. A horizontal timeline of major advances (and setbacks) would be welcomed.

“(2) The second part will set forth the best science now available on global warming, glacier melt, sea rise, and coastal flooding. Each side will again have another sixty minutes.”

Specifically, the court ruled:

“For the tutorial on MARCH 21, please include the following subjects:

“1. What caused the various ice ages (including the “little ice age” and prolonged cool periods) and what caused the ice to melt? When they melted, by how much did sea level rise?

“2. What is the molecular difference by which CO2 absorbs infrared radiation but oxygen and nitrogen do not?

“3. What is the mechanism by which infrared radiation trapped by CO2 in the atmosphere is turned into heat and finds its way back to sea level?

“4. Does CO2 in the atmosphere reflect any sunlight back into space such that the reflected sunlight never penetrates the atmosphere in the first place?

“5. Apart from CO2, what happens to the collective heat from tail pipe exhausts, engine radiators, and all other heat from combustion of fossil fuels? How, if at all, does this collective heat contribute to warming of the atmosphere?

“6. In grade school, many of us were taught that humans exhale CO2 but plants absorb CO2 and return oxygen to the air (keeping the carbon for fiber). Is this still valid? If so, why hasn’t plant life turned the higher levels of CO2 back into oxygen? Given the increase in human population on Earth (four billion), is human respiration a contributing factor to the buildup of CO2?

“7. What are the main sources of CO2 that account for the incremental buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere?

“8. What are the main sources of heat that account for the incremental rise in temperature on Earth?”

“9. Please bring to the tutorial a copy of the full GCC presentation referred to in Paragraph 67 of the Oakland complaint as well as the full GCSCT memo referred to in Paragraph 68.”

Paragraph 67 & 68 of the Oakland complaint refer to internal Global Climate Science Communications including Exxon, Chevron and the American Petroleum Institute.:

Paragraphs 69 and 70 of the Oakland complaint state:

69. Over at least the last nineteen years, Exxon in particular has paid researchers and front groups to create uncertainties about basic climate change science and used denialist groups to attack well-respected scientists. These were calculated business decisions by Exxon to undermine climate change science and bolster production of fossil fuels.

70. Between 1998 and 2014, Exxon paid millions of dollars to organizations to promote disinformation on global warming. During the early- to mid-1990s, Exxon directed some of this funding to Dr. Fred Seitz, Dr. Fred Singer, and/or Seitz and Singer’s Science and Environmental Policy Project (“SEPP”) in order to launch repeated attacks on mainstream climate science and IPCC conclusions, even as Exxon scientists participated in the IPCC. Seitz, Singer and SEPP had previously been paid by the tobacco industry to create doubt in the public mind about the hazards of smoking. Seitz and Singer were not climate scientists. [Boldface added.]

Unfortunately, the late Roger Cohen, who studied the issue for Exxon and was skeptical as the harmful influence of CO2, can no longer help Exxon counter the expected barrage of bureaucratic science similar to what accompanied the EPA’s Endangerment Finding.

SEPP is exploring if, as a party possibly slandered in the City of Oakland complaint, can it file an amicus (friend in court) brief in the case. If so, such a brief would probably focus on the standards of evidence: Direct or Indirect; Physical or Bureaucratic.

The greenhouse effect occurs in the atmosphere and based on comprehensive atmospheric data, the atmosphere is warming very modestly. Once natural influences such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation and volcanoes are removed, any warming trend in the entire atmospheric record is extremely modest, if existing at all. This is direct evidence. The IPCC and its followers such as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) use surface temperatures which are incomplete and include many other human and natural influences. They use indirect evidence –is the admittedly flawed surface temperature record “hearsay”?

Physical evidence is hard data showing CO2 is the primary cause of global warming. Increasing emissions, changing climate, etc. are not physical evidence of cause. Bureaucratic evidence includes global climate models that fail basic testing, and group think such as organizations that fail to address the key issue in their reports, etc. The key issue is: do carbon dioxide emissions cause dire warming of the atmosphere? SEPP’s answer is no, and CO2 emissions are beneficial to humanity and the environment.

See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC, Science, Policy, and Evidence, and Litigation Issues.


Source of Heat – Atmospheric Methane? In her blog, Climate Etc. Judith Curry takes up the issue of Question 8, in the District Judge’s proposed tutorial: “What are the main sources of heat that account for the incremental rise in temperature on Earth?” Curry’s post was prompted by response made to the questions by Andrew Dessler, of Texas A & M. In his response, Dessler posted a graph that was blurry, thus the source could not be clearly identified. However, it is similar to Figure SPM.5 found on page 14 of the Summary for Policymakers chapter, of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5, 3013) of the IPCC. The figure is titled “Radiative forcing by emissions and drivers.”

Atmospheric greenhouse gases are not sources of heat. They absorb some of the infrared energy emitted by the earth to space, thereby slowing the nighttime cooling of regions of the globe. However, one can understand the confusion of the judge.

In its graph, the IPCC ranks the main drivers of radiative forcing as CO2, CH4 (methane), Halocarbons and N2O (nitrous oxide), all identified as anthropogenic, human caused. It rates the level of confidence: Very High for CO2 and N2O, and High for CH4 and Halocarbons. The positive driver influence of each of these compounds is greater than the calculated negative driver from changes in land use, and far greater than the calculated positive changes in solar irradiance.

According to the graph, all the main drivers are well mixed in the atmosphere. This “well mixed” assumption is a major issue.

Further, the graph breaks down the influence CH4 into four resulting atmospheric drivers, CO2, H2O, O3, and CH4. After broken down into the four components, the graph shows the remaining CH4 has a strong positive influence. The text states:

“Emissions of CH4 alone have caused an RF of 0.97 [0.74 to 1.20] W m−2 (see Figure SPM.5). This is much larger than the concentration-based estimate of 0.48 [0.38 to 0.58] W m−2 (unchanged from AR4). This difference in estimates is caused by concentration changes in ozone and stratospheric water vapour due to CH4 emissions and other emissions indirectly affecting CH4. {8.3, 8.5}”

Herein is a major issue. At ground level what starts as CH4 changes, in part, to CO2 and H2O and O3 as it goes higher in the atmosphere. An important point, often overlooked, is that the amount of CH4 at any height in the atmosphere never gets above the amount of H2O.

Early in his professional career, SEPP Chairman Tom Sheahen was with a team measuring the absorbing ability of various greenhouse gases at the US Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)). They confirmed what had been known for almost a century and in handbooks since the 1920s:

· Greenhouse gases absorb infrared energy given off by the earth in specific wavelengths.

· The most abundant greenhouse gas, water vapor, absorbs virtually all the energy that methane is capable of absorbing.

· And, because of the shape of the spectrum of thermal radiation that the earth emits, it is further known that adding methane to the atmosphere does not increase energy absorption of the atmosphere, because there is hardly any energy of the appropriate wave length which methane can absorb.

· Finally, it is also known that these results were repeated in multiple laboratories in multiple countries.

As Sheahen writes: “Water gradually “freezes out” towards the top of the troposphere, but above that altitude in the stratosphere, the oxidation of CH4 assures that there will be more H2O than CH4 at every altitude. CH4 starts off around 1.8 ppm and never increases. H2O starts out at ground level about 20,000 ppm and declines to about 4 ppm in the stratosphere. Meanwhile, CO2 is about 400 ppm at every altitude, unchanged by anything water is doing (such as forming clouds).”

Of the greenhouse gases, water vapor has the broadest capability of absorbing energy across the infrared spectrum. For some wavelengths, it absorbs all the energy. However, CH4, remains below a level where it is a significant participant in the greenhouse effect.

Further, the 1979 Charney Report published by the National Academy of Science speculated that the modest increase in greenhouse effect from CO2 would be amplified by an increase in atmospheric water vapor, strongly increasing the greenhouse effect. The report had no hard evidence supporting this speculation. The estimates in the Charney Report have been retained by the IPCC, but there is no discussion of an increase in greenhouse effect from water vapor in AR-5. The discussion in AR-5 of methane produces no “source of heat.” See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Defending the Orthodoxy.


Energy Disaster in UK: The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has released a disturbing, short report by Peter Lilley. Formerly, Lilley was the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, also was Secretary of State for Social Security. He was one of only three Members of Parliament to vote against the passage of the Climate Change Act of 2008, which followed the IPCC AR-4, that raised the lower limit of the IPCC’s claimed global warming to 2 degrees C (since dropped back to 1.5 C).

The “Cost of energy: independent review” was undertaken by Dieter Helm, Professor of economics at Oxford in 2017. Lilly’s essay is a powerful exposure of the group think that is embedded in the energy industries and the UK government. He states:

“In short, Helm takes on all the vested interests – not just commercial, but bureaucratic, political and academic – who are implicated in the existing system of subsidies and intervention. His proposals would erode their rents, undermine their roles and destroy their credibility. No wonder they damned his review with faint praise before consigning it to oblivion.

Lilly warns of the climate-industrial complex, citing President Eisenhower’s farewell address:

“’As Eisenhower spelt out: ‘…a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity…The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded’. We are seeing the emergence in the UK of a powerful ‘climate-industrial complex”

Lilly states:

“Dieter Helm exposed the fact that billions of pounds of public money have been wasted on renewables schemes, yet the climate-industrial complex has shrugged him off with barely a glance. It is hard not to suspect that their flagrant disregard for sound economics may be mirrored in their approach to the science.”

See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cost-of-energy-independent-review


Additions and Corrections: Several readers commented that there was no explanation of Cube Development of a oil field. The name comes from Encana Corp, which developed the concept. It is based on looking at a cross section of the multiple layers as a rectangular solid with multiple horizontal wells: https://www.encana.com/investors/stories/the-cube.html

Last week’s TWTW incorrectly stated the Titan III was an ICBM. The Titan I & II were ICBMs, and the Titan II was modified for placing payloads into space. The subsequent Titan III was a heavy-lift satellite launcher.


Number of the Week: Approaching Zero – 0. As discussed above, laboratory tests demonstrate that adding methane (CH4) to today’s atmosphere will have a warming effect approaching zero. According to Feynman’s comment about the value of a concept, quoted above, is the concept of methane-caused global warming useful?



1. Big Oil CEOs ‘Not Losing Any Sleep’ Over Peak Oil Demand

Some executives say oil to remain dominant for decades despite renewable energy, electric vehicles

By Sarah Kent and Miguel Bustillo, WSJ, Mar 6, 2018


SUMMARY: The article starts:

“The heads of some of the world’s largest oil companies pushed back on Tuesday against predictions that demand for petroleum could erode in coming decades due to the rise of renewable energy and electric vehicles.

“Amin Nasser, chief executive of Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco, told the CERAWeek conference in Houston that such forecasts overstate the economic costs of shifting to greener sources of energy and underestimate the continued dominance of fossil fuels.

“‘I’m not losing any sleep over peak oil demand or stranded resources, ‘ Mr. Nasser said. He warned instead that more investment is needed in the oil sector to ensure there is enough supply to meet future demand.

“Bob Dudley, chief executive of BP PLC said that while the company could foresee a potential peak in oil demand, and a transition to a diverse mix of fuels, a recent study showed that demand would remain robust even under a scenario in which the sale of new internal-combustion vehicles was banned by 2040.

“‘The pace of decline is likely to be very slow,‘ Mr. Dudley said. ‘Think plateau. ‘

Mr. Dudley also said carbon emissions would continue to rise in such a scenario, underscoring the need to focus on ways to reduce emissions across all sources.

“‘A race to renewables will not solve the challenge that we all have, ‘ he said. We need to be agnostic about new fuels. ‘

“The comments on the future of oil demand are the latest in a spirited debate over what the next few decades may hold for the oil sector, with some major companies predicting that efforts to curb global warming could mean oil consumption stops growing before the end of the next decade.

“Investors are increasingly calling on oil-and-gas companies to show they have a plan to manage a transition away from fossil fuels, even staging a rare revolt at Exxon Mobil Corp.’s annual meeting last year over the issues.

“Companies will likely have to disclose more about the potential impact of climate change and regulations tied to limiting emissions on their businesses in the next five to 10 years, ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Ryan Lance said Tuesday.

“‘The disclosure is getting more difficult, ‘ he said, noting that he, along with other executives, received a letter from BlackRock Chief Executive Larry Fink this year, which pushed companies to articulate a ‘social purpose. ‘”

The article closed with vague comments about the ability to abandon oil.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s