Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #322

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

Infinite Rise? For the past several weeks TWTW has discussed recent studies and reports claiming accelerating sea level rise. A questionable example included a report from NOAA and was cited by the state of Rhode Island in its litigation against oil companies – “The State of Narraganset Bay and Its Watershed 2017.” In the Technical Summary, Figures 1 & 2 (pp. 76 & 77) show the decades-long sea level trends in Newport and Providence, RI, of 2.78 +/- 0.16 mm per year (1.1 inches per decade) and 2.25 +/- 0.25 mm per year (0.9 inches per decade), respectively. These come from the established NOAA publication “Tides and Currents.” (Newport is at the mouth and Providence at the top of Narraganset Bay) Then, Figure 3 (p. 78) shows NOAA projections of a rise of up to 11 feet in Newport by the end of the century (extreme case)! How did a rise of 10 inches per century, with an error of about 10%, turn in to rise of 11 feet by the end of the century (280 mm per century to 3352 mm per century)? This increase in rate of rise is more than 10 times that being measured.

By way of comparison, a historic plaque in Providence shows that the 1815 hurricane caused a storm surge of 11 feet 9 inches (3.6 meters), and the 1938 hurricane caused a storm surge of 13 feet 8 inches (14.2m) (about 15 feet (4.6m) in Narraganset Bay). What logic prompted NOAA to predict/forecast a sea level rise in 2100 approximating that of historic hurricane storm surges? Further, NOAA’s graphs show sea level rise is directly related to atmospheric carbon dioxide, for which it offers no physical evidence. (Please note that on July 19, 2018 the NOAA calculator for Providence (1992 to 2100) gave a revised maximum sea level rise of 5 feet by 2100 with an intermediate estimate of 1.73 feet, still far too high.)

What is additionally disturbing is that the NOAA graphs depict ever increasing slopes; that is, the curves are exponential. If extended, the curves indicate an increase in sea level rise approaching infinity, which is absurd. This is a “sales trick” for a promoter, but hardly appropriate for objective science. Regardless of phase; solid ice, liquid water, or gas water vapor; the amount of H20 on the globe is limited, not infinite.

After some exploration of cited references, it appears that “sales trick” was presented in a paper by James Hansen, et al. published by the European Geosciences Union. Hansen was the Director of the NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA-GISS) and now with Columbia University. Co-authors of the paper include current members of NASA-GISS, Columbia University, and others.

The paper is based on a mix of global climate model results and questionable estimates (guesses) of polar ice melt. The abstract states:

“We use numerical climate simulations, paleoclimate data, and modern observations to study the effect of growing ice melt from Antarctica and Greenland. Meltwater tends to stabilize the ocean column, inducing amplifying feedbacks that increase subsurface ocean warming and ice shelf melting.” … “These feedbacks make ice sheets in contact with the ocean vulnerable to accelerating disintegration. We hypothesize that ice mass loss from the most vulnerable ice, sufficient to raise sea level several meters, is better approximated as exponential than by a more linear response. Doubling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield multi-meter sea level rise in about 50, 100 or 200 years.” [Boldface added.]

Basically, the Hansen paper is sophisticated speculation, unsubstantiated by physical evidence. It suffers from the logical Fallacy of Composition. To assess how solid the assumptions in the Hansen paper are, one needs a review of the geography of Greenland and Antarctica.

It assumes what may be happening to a small of the Greenland ice sheet is occurring everywhere on the island, and what is happening to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is occurring on the entire continent. This ignores the varying conditions pertaining across Greenland and Antarctica.

To a large part, Greenland is a bowl filled with ice, with ice free areas along the coasts. High mountains thousands of feet above sea level defined the bowl. What is happening on the fringes is not necessarily occurring in the ice mass which covers about 80% of the island and is about 3 kilometers (1.9 mi) thick. The studied ice melt at the three major glacial outlets appear to be increasing, but the data is too short-term (around 5 years) to make any conclusions of the future.

Over 98% of Antarctica is ice with a thickness averaging at least 1.6 km (1 mile). It is the highest and coldest continent in the world with average temperatures of about −57 °C (−70 °F) in the interior and about -10°C (14 °F) on the coast. The continent is divide by the high Transantarctic Mountains, with East Antarctica, two-thirds of the continent, covered with ice, except for small isolated areas along the coasts.

With about one third of the total area of the continent, West Antarctica contains the Antarctica Peninsula, which extends beyond the Antarctic Circle. The peninsula has the mildest climate of the continent, with summer temperatures slightly above freezing. This is where most of the international research stations are located. Unfortunately, far too often, reports from these research stations on what is occurring on the Peninsula are assumed to apply to the entire continent. Also, the Larsen Ice Shelf, the source of highly publicized icebergs, is off the northern Antarctic Peninsula, part of it beyond the Antarctic Circle. Since the ice is floating, its melting does not increase sea levels. Any fear of sea level rise comes from speculation about how land-based ice may shift, centuries hence.

West Antarctica also includes the two major ice shelfs extending over the oceans, the Ross Ice Shelf over the Ross Sea and the Ronne Ice Shelf over the Weddell Sea, which is a border of the Antarctic Peninsula. Reports of ice sheet melting usually refer to the Ross Ice Shelf, which is grounded on undersea mounds and its melting will increase sea levels. Recent research published by the Geological Society of London has uncovered 91 new geological hot spots under the West Antarctica Ice Sheet, on both sides of the Ross Sea, bringing the total identified to 138. This is part of the West Antarctic Rift System about which we have only limited and sporadic knowledge of volcanic activity and its extent. Bringing the WAIS into the climate change discussion would require distinguishing between melting caused by a warming climate and melting caused by geothermic activity.

The melting of the Ross Ice Shelf may have been the primary source of water for the sea level experienced rise during the last interglacial period, which would take thousands of years. Any conclusions about increasing ice melting in Antarctica in the near future come under the category of hasty generalizations.

With close to 40 years of temperature data covering all but the immediate south pole, there is no appreciable warming of the atmosphere above Antarctica. It is incorrect to attribute any limited ice melting to atmospheric carbon dioxide. The above analysis outlines why there is no logical basis to accept Hansen’s claim that recent melting of ice in Greenland and Antarctica justifies an exponential increase in sea level rise predictions.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), NOAA, NASA, and other organizations have offered no physical evidence that sea level rise is increasing, is related to CO2, and is a threat to human or national security. The governmental organizations have shifted from presenting hard evidence to presenting speculation as evidence. This shift prompts questions as to the scientific integrity and competence of these organizations – or the lack thereof.

Except for calculating an increase rather than a reduction, the logic and procedures used by these organizations are similar to that used by Mark Twain in calculating the future length of the Mississippi River. See Quote of the Week, links under Defending the Orthodoxy, Changing Cryosphere – Land / Sea Ice, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1815_New_England_hurricane#/media/File:Hurricane_water_levels_at_Old_Market_House_Providence.jpg


Quote of the Week: “In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over a mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-pole. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo [Illinois] and New Orleans will have joined their streets together and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” – Mark Twain, “Life On the Mississippi” [H/t Ed Murdock]

Number of the Week: 7 Thousand Years, maybe?


Climate Influence on Humans: H.H. Lamb pioneered modern climate science with the belief that climate change severely impacted human cultures and civilization. His research included the Little Ice Age and its devastating impact, the drying of the Sahara, and other shifts in climate that may have occurred on the Indus plateau and in China. His work was disregarded by his followers at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), which he founded, in favor of dangerous global warming caused by increasing CO2.

The International Commission on Stratigraphy, which is responsible for standardizing the Geologic Time Scale, approved dividing the Holocene Epoch, which represents the time since the end of the last Ice Age, 11,700 years ago, into three Ages defined by beginnings of climatic events: the Greenlandian Age, from about 11,700 years ago to 8,300 years ago, the Northgrippian Age from about 8,300 years ago to 4,200 years ago, and the Meghalayan Age, which began at the time when agricultural societies around the world experienced an abrupt and critical mega-drought and cooling 4,200 years ago. The recommendation is under consideration. It is encouraging to see this form of recognition of the pioneering work of Lamb. See links under Changing Climate – Cultures & Civilizations.


The Climate Lobby: Robert Bruille, a sociologist at Drexel University (Philadelphia), estimated how much various industries have spent in lobbying Congress on issues related to climate change between 2000 and 2016 using his definitions. Electrical Utilities spent about $554 million (26%), Fossil Fuels, spent $370 million (18%) Transportation, $262 million (12%). Other industrial sectors spent less than 5% of the total, except “Other” with $628 million (30%). Renewable Energy spent only $78 million (4%) and Environmental Organizations spent only $48 million (2 %).

Big spending began in 2007-2008 session ($443 million up from $92 million) when the Democrats controlled the House and Senate and bills such as the Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act were introduced, which failed in the Senate. It continued under the Obama Administration, and control of both branches of Congress by Democrats in 2009-2010 and bills such as The American Clean Energy and Security Act, and the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act were introduced and failed. The former was also called the cap-and-tax bill. The calculated spending was $715 million during that two-year session. In the following session, 2011-2012, spending fell to $315 million with the Republicans in control of the House and Democrats in control of the Senate. The calculated spending for climate lobbying has fallen to $154 million during the 2015-2016 session.

A major omission in the report is The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This cost over $800 billion and contained about $110 billion in “clean energy investments,” tax credits to the renewable power industry and biofuels, which continue today. The subsequent recovery was the worst the US economy experienced since the Great Depression. In her critique of the report, Australian Jo Nova seems to have a better grasp of US lobbying than the author. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.


Another Legal Tactic: Federal judges have dismissed the litigation against oil companies by the cities of New York, Oakland, and San Francisco for creating a public nuisance. The claimed public nuisance that damages or inconveniences the rights of the community has been global warming caused by CO2 from burning oil will raise sea levels dramatically. As stated above, this is all speculation by the IPCC and US organizations, not hard evidence.

The trial lawyers involved have taken another approach. The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore have sued the oil companies in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. According to its web site:


“The Circuit Court for Baltimore City is a State trial court of general jurisdiction. … Cases in the Civil Division cover a broad spectrum, such as motor torts, medical malpractice cases, lead paint cases, asbestos litigation, and cases involving business and commercial matters, as well as appeals from District Court, Orphans’ Court and administrative agencies. …”

The addresses of defendants include Great Britain, Maryland, California, Texas, The Netherlands, New Orleans, Ohio, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, with the largest number in Maryland, small, local oil companies. Given that the federal courts dismissed the cases because the matter is properly handled by the legislative and executive branches of government, it will be interesting to see whether the state court considers itself a “court of competent jurisdiction.” More to follow in a subsequent TWTW. See links under Litigation Issues.


Toxins at EPA? Upon entering a grocery, hardware, outdoor goods, beauty salon, or many other retail stores in California one may be greeted by a sign by officials justified by California Proposition 65: “This product (or store) contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” These warnings extend to Electrical Cords, Motor Vehicles and related Fuel and Oils, Fresh Fruits, Nuts, and Vegetables, Alcoholic Beverages, Including, Without Limitation, Beer, Malt, Beverages, Wine, and Distilled Spirits, Coffee and Some Roasted Nuts, Baked Goods and Snack Foods. Though often based on speculation, the “knowledge” exhibited by California regulators on cancer causing substances has no bounds.

Thus, it is disturbing to read “Pruitt staffers worried about toxic chemical in his desk.” The desk had a California warning label about formaldehyde. Can the public expect EPA staffers to write practical regulations regarding health issues when they are alarmed by California warning labels? See links under Below the Bottom Line.


Additions and Corrections: The June 30 TWTW contained an estimate of pipeline to pipeline transportation costs for Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) from the US Gulf Coast to China / Japan that needs to be revised. The $3.00 per million BTUs was based on current reports by an energy consulting firm. These may have been unusually low temporary, spot price estimates.

Energy expert Donn Dears graciously sent TWTW a January report by the established Charles River Associates on estimated cost of liquification, shipping, and regassification from the US Henry Hub, Louisiana, to The Netherlands at $4.7/mm Btu’s (not including the cost of gas at the Henry Hub). According to the report, the costs of liquification are based on long-term contracts, which cover 80% of the export terminal’s capacity. US exports of LNG are in such a state of flux, that TWTW should have not made the estimate it did. We thank Donn Dears for his information. See links under Energy Issues – Non-US.


Number of the Week: 7 Thousand Years, maybe. Given the outrageous speculation by government entities on sea level rise, it is useful to recall the estimates by Fred Singer for the melting of the Ross Ice Sheet, from below – about 7,000 years – if a new glaciation does not occur. (WSJ, May 15, TWTW May 19)



1. Kavanaugh May Restore Separation of Powers

He’s questioned judicial deference to regulatory agencies. So have four of his soon-to-be colleagues.

By Peter J. Wallison, WSJ, July 16, 2018


SUMMARY: That author asserts:

“Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court involves something more important than social issues. His confirmation is likely to strengthen the court’s support for the Constitution’s separation of powers.


“To protect the liberties of the American people, the framers designed a constitution that separated the three branches of government. Congress was to make the laws, and the president to enforce them—preventing a concentration of power that could turn tyrannical. The judiciary’s unique responsibility was to keep the elected branches within their assigned roles. But since the 1930s the courts have largely failed that test. In some cases, with the courts’ acquiescence, Congress has delegated legislative authority to executive-branch agencies. In others, agencies asserted powers Congress had not conferred.


“In Chevron v. NRDC (1984), the Supreme Court directed federal judges to defer to agencies’ interpretations of their own statutory authority if they were “reasonable.” That, in effect, allowed administrative agencies to displace Congress as America’s primary lawgiver.


During his 12 years on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for District of Columbia, Judge Kavanaugh has been an advocate for restoring the power of Congress. In U.S. Telecom v. Federal Communications Commission, he dissented from a 2017 ruling that upheld the “net neutrality” rule (which the FCC later repealed). He argued that for decisions as important as this, agencies could not simply find new authority in an existing law. “If an agency wants to exercise expansive regulatory authority,” he wrote, “an ambiguous grant of statutory authority is not enough. Congress must clearly authorize an agency to take a major regulatory action.”


“On the high court, he will join four other members—Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch —who have written or joined judicial opinions arguing that the court has not sufficiently controlled administrative agencies.”


The author gives examples supporting the prior assertion, then concludes:

“The rules the administrative state imposes are costly, complicated and often onerous, but that isn’t the worst of it. In a democracy, laws are supposed to be made by an elected legislature, not unelected officials. Brexit, which was a revolt against rules made by an unelected European Union bureaucracy, shows what happens when people question the legitimacy of the rulemaker they must obey. By restoring the separation of powers, the court will prevent a similar loss of legitimacy in the American government.”


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