Brought to You by www.SEPP.org, The Science and Environmental Policy Project
By Ken Haapala, President
Quote of the Week: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”— Herbert Spencer [H/t William Readdy]
Old Science v. New “Evidence Free Science”: SEPP Chairman emeritus Fred Singer is “old school.” He does not make predictions until the facts are gathered, the evidence. Perhaps it was because he began his long professional career by using high altitude rockets to gather evidence about the atmosphere including measuring the energy spectrum of primary cosmic rays; the distribution of stratospheric ozone; the equatorial electrojet current flowing in the ionosphere and publishing the first studies on subatomic particles trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field: radiation belts, later discovered by James Van Allen.
Singer recognizes that evidence must be compiled before a solid hypothesis, a theory, is developed. The hypothesis must be tested frequently against all the appropriate evidence. If it fails any test, the hypothesis must be discarded or modified. Scientific knowledge is not easily gained, but slowly acquired by severe effort and testing. The atmosphere is a highly complex fluid, set into chaotic motion by uneven heating from the sun as the earth revolves daily in its annual elliptical orbit around the sun. We can only begin to understand it with systematic experimentation and testing.
His views are in sharp contrast with the views expressed in the second volume released by US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), a two-part series on human-caused global warming called the “Fourth National Climate Assessment: Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States.” A key statement in its summary neatly sums the attitude about scientific knowledge of the those who prepared the report:
“However, the assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid.” Overview Chapter 1 p.1.
In short, scientific knowledge gained in the past no long applies. As stated in the quote of the week, this is the path to ignorance.
In an essay in the “Washington Times,” Singer makes two predictions, which are bold for him.
“I predict that the global warming pause of the last 40 years (‘hiatus’), the growing ‘gap’ between models and observed temperatures will continue to grow to the year 2100, and likely, beyond.
“I also predict that increases in global Sea Level Rise (SLR) will reach about 6 inches by 2100, and contrary to the U.N-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-2013), I expect there will be no discernible acceleration in this rate of rise.”
Singer bases the first prediction on his knowledge of the atmosphere and the fact that carbon dioxide has a minor influence on atmospheric temperatures, at most. If increasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are not warming the atmosphere, they cannot be warming the surface, or the oceans. He bases the second prediction of sea level rise on observations of over the past centuries.
By contrast, the findings of the USGCRP report, which will be referenced below as the National Climate Assessment (NCA), are based on assumptions made in 1979 Chaney Report, during the Carter Administration, and never tested against hard evidence. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has developed various scenarios, story-lines, on what may happen with increasing greenhouse gases, but never bothered to test these story-lines against hard evidence – the warming of the bulk atmosphere, where the greenhouse gas effect occurs. To make its predictions / projections, the NCA uses the most extreme of the story-lines called RCP8.5. Singer is too old-school to believe in such fairytales. See Article # 1 for the entire essay and the links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
A Hard Test: As stated in last week’s TWTW, in the world market, central Brazil is the fastest growing competitor to the US Midwest in food stables such as maize (corn) and soybeans. Once considered unsuitable for farming, food production in central Brazil centered around 16 degrees South latitude, which passes through Brasilia. The climate is classified as humid tropical with dry winters. The climate in the Midwest is classified as humid warm to humid cold with hot to cool summers – hardly tropical.
Yet, the summary section on agriculture of the NCA states: “Increases in temperatures during the growing season in the Midwest are projected to be the largest contributing factor to declines in the productivity of U.S. agriculture.” As Paul Homewood discusses, the main report states:
“Projections of mid-century yields of commodity crops show declines of 5% to over 25% below extrapolated trends broadly across the region for corn (also known as maize) and more than 25% for soybeans in the southern half of the region, with possible increases in yield in the northern half of the region. Increases in growing-season temperature in the Midwest are projected to be the largest contributing factor to declines in the productivity of U.S. agriculture.
Which was translated by CNN to mean:
“Farmers will face extremely tough times. The quality and quantity of their crops will decline across the country due to higher temperatures, drought and flooding. In parts of the Midwest, farms will be able to produce less than 75% of the corn they produce today, and the southern part of the region could lose more than 25% of its soybean yield.”
It appears if the goal of the NCA was to create alarm, it succeeded. What the authors of the NCA and the CNN reports fail to realize is that farmers who grow food crops adjust the varieties of the plant to local conditions. Like humans for the past several hundred thousand years, they can adapt to climate change. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – NCA
No Climate Caused Economic Crash: The alarmist nature of the NCA excited many in the general media but the economic forecasts were taken apart in two separate efforts published in the “Wall Street Journal.” Holman Jenkins calculated that, assuming a 1.6% annual increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the next 72 years, the US would be three times as rich than it is today. Thus, a 10% reduction of GDP sometime in the future, as projected by the NCA, is insignificant. If the economy grows to $61 trillion by 2090, from an estimated $19.4 trillion in 2017, and the economy is reduced by the NCA estimate of $510 million, in 2090, the estimate is meaningless.
In a separate essay, Steven Koonin, who was undersecretary of energy for science during President Obama’s first term, makes similar calculations as Holman Jenkins and concludes that the “global warming” fear promoted by the NCA will not cause significant economic damage. It is far in the future when the economy should be far more prosperous and, if true, the country will have plenty of time to prepare.
These gentlemen have not fallen for economic tricks, such as those used by Nicholas Stern in promoting the disastrous UK Climate Change Act of 2008. See Article # 3 and links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Importance of Engineering the Grid: The electric grid can be called the lifeblood of modern civilization. It is truly a modern miracle that we can have heat, light, communications, etc., when needed or desired. Yet, it seems to be the goal of politicians and green zealots to tinker with what works well until it breaks, such as Black State of South Australia.
It is extremely difficult to explain to many people what a carefully engineered marvel the modern grid is and the importance of reliability in maintaining it. A report by the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland (IESIS) titled “Engineering for Energy: A proposal for governance of the energy system” goes into the great complexity of the electrical system. In the UK, the grid is called the National Grid and was formed in 1926 by the Electricity (Supply) Act. Though formed differently, the US grid has similar issues.
A 2017 report by IESIS Past President Iain MacLeod entitled “To Engineer – Strategies for solving complex problems” summarizes what professional engineers try to avoid (and how they achieve successful outcomes) in situations of complex uncertainty. As an example, professional engineers designed a grid that:
“…brought down prices and improved reliability for all electricity customers. It also meant that it was no longer practical to build generators without assessing their effect on the system.” [Boldface in original.
The reports provide a good analogy that may be useful in discussing the complexity of the grid with politicians and others intending to make it green – engineering a modern, complex passenger airplane to make it safe.
“…the electricity system is dependent on computational technology for the achievement of its goals. In operational time-scales The National Grid Company carries out continuous on-line security assessments to ensure the system is compliant with the Operational Security Standards at all times and may constrain generation on or off to maintain network security and stability.
“Like the wings of an aircraft, the parts of an electricity system are interdependent. Making a change to one part can have important effects throughout the system. If these interactions are not considered when making system modifications, an electricity system can become unstable and fail.”
To a politician proposing adding unreliable wind and solar power to the grid, one could ask: “Would you propose adding unreliable engines to airplanes we fly? If not, why do you propose adding unreliable wind and solar to the grid – thereby jeopardizing our safety?” See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Sea Level and Climate Change: Judith Curry has completed a report for her clients on sea levels and climate change. Though far more detailed and thorough in discussing the claims by the IPCC and NOAA, her conclusions are about the same as Fred Singer’s – no acceleration in recent decades. It appears that sections of NOAA are more influenced by political ideology than by evidence. See links under Changing Seas.
Number of the Week: 42 Billion barrels. The EIA has announced its estimates of proven reserves for 2017 of the crude oil and lease condensate, a light liquid hydrocarbon, which normally goes into the crude oil stream after production – 42 Billion barrels.
“Stronger oil and natural gas prices combined with continuing development of shales and low permeability formations drove producers of crude oil and natural gas in the United States to report new all-time record levels of proved reserves for both fuels in 2017. Total U.S. oil reserves in 2017 exceeded a brief, one-year, 47-year-old record, highlighting the importance of crude oil development in shales and low permeability plays, mainly in the Southwest. The new record for natural gas extends a longer-term trend of development, mainly in shale plays in the Northeast. Both U.S. proved [sic] reserves of crude oil and natural gas are approximately double their levels from a decade ago. These new proved reserves records were established in 2017 despite production of crude oil at levels not seen since 1972 and record natural gas production.”
Clearly, the state-of-the-art models used by the Club of Rome and by the US federal government in the 1970s to predict the US would run out of these fuels by the end of the 20th century were wrong. The error illustrates that the assumptions and calculations used in mathematical models for long-term prediction need to be adjusted to changing findings and technology, something the IPCC and its followers have not done. See links under Questioning the Orthodoxy and Oil and Natural Gas – the Future or the Past?
1. Making climate predictions
By S. Fred Singer, The Washington Times, Nov 28, 2018
The Chairman Emeritus of SEPP writes: “I have always been reluctant to make any predictions, ‘especially about the future;’ however, I want to make two exceptions.
“I also predict that increases in global Sea Level Rise (SLR) will reach about 6 inches by 2100, and contrary to the U.N-Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-2013), I expect there will be no discernible acceleration in this rate of rise.
“During the only sure climate warming, 1910-40, the Sea Level Rise increased steadily at 1-2mm/year, as measured by most tidal gauges, with respect to their local shorelines, which did not have enough time to rise or fall.
“But we know that water expands when heated. However, the Sea Level Rise did not accelerate during 1910-40.
“Something must be offsetting that expansion, which increases rapidly. I believe the offset comes from evaporation, into the atmosphere, with subsequent precipitation turning into ice over the Antarctic. (The area-ratio oceans/Antarctic is 58.)
“Following 1910-40, the climate cooled during 1945-75, according to our best data. Again, SLR does not react, but continues to rise at the same steady rate.
“This lack of Sea Level Rise acceleration proves that ocean temperature change does not affect SLR — and neither does the steady increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) — contrary to what former Vice President Al Gore and James Hansen, a retired NASA scientist, say. It means that human activity, such as burning fossil fuels, has negligible influence on Sea Level Rise.
“But if expansion is more or less canceled by evaporation, what then causes the rise in SLR? The slow average melting of glaciers and polar ice sheets, on a time-scale of millennia, because it is warmer now than during the recent ice age glaciation, more than 12,000 years ago.
“There is negligible human influence on Sea Level Rise. By 2100, we expect the sea level to rise, about half-a-foot — a long way from the Gore-Hansen estimate of a 20-foot-rise, inundating coastal cities.
“By most measures, a ‘warming pause’ has been ongoing for at least 40 years, despite rising CO2. What is the future of this ‘hiatus?’ There are at least three possibilities:
“1. The ‘gap’ between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) models, based on increasing carbon dioxide, and the observations could suddenly disappear — it could be just a statistical fluke (Tom Karl, 2005). This seemed a possibility more than a decade ago but becomes less likely as time goes on.
Atmospheric scientist Kevin Trenberth assumed the extra incoming energy is ‘hiding’ in the deep ocean and will eventually be released.
“2. The ‘gap’ is permanent and will increase over time. My belief is that this ‘gap’ has been ongoing, at least since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, about 200 years ago, and likely much before.
“The climate effect of carbon dioxide increases logarithmically, i.e. very slowly.
“Thus, over the course of 200 years, carbon dioxide had near-zero climate impact — a conclusion hard to swallow for the IPCC.
“3. The much larger climate effects of solar activity changes dominate climate change by carbon dioxide. It could be modulated also by climate oscillations, such as ‘PDO’ (Pacific Decadal Oscillation). But we don’t know how to predict such future changes or oscillations — except for the general observation they should average to zero over a century, or more.
“I will put my money on #3 — but I am not a betting man.
“Professor John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, has plotted the gap, over the past 40 years, using independent, but congruent, satellite and radiosonde data for observed atmospheric temperatures. He showed an increasing gap since 1978 with models.
“His graph illustrates the ‘gap’ between IPCC climate models, based only on increasing carbon dioxide, and observed atmospheric temperatures; presented by Mr. Christy at a 2015 congressional hearing, showing the relative unimportance of carbon dioxide as a climate driver.
“Carbon dioxide may be popular, but clearly, the ineffective 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision, labeling carbon dioxide a pollutant, must be revisited.
“So why this emphasis on a small carbon dioxide effect? The answer may be both political and scientific.
“The political aspect is obvious: Politicians can control emissions of carbon dioxide from ‘evil’ electric power-plants by taxes or other regulation; politicians love control.
“The scientific reasons are more subtle: Scientific model-builders are attracted to carbon dioxide, because its climate effects, though tiny, can be calculated and allow construction of mathematical models, while the much larger effects of solar activity changes and climate oscillations are essentially unpredictable by existing theory.
2. How American Fracking Changes the World
Low energy prices enhance U.S. power at the expense of Moscow and Tehran.
By Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, Via GWPF, Nov 26, 2018
SUMMARY: The James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College writes:
“The most important news in world politics this month isn’t about diplomacy. Bigger than Brexit, more consequential than presidential tweetstorms, the American shale revolution is rapidly reshaping the global balance of power as energy prices plummet.
“Until recently, observers expected American energy production to reach a plateau. A lack of pipeline capacity was expected to constrain output in the Permian Basin through 2020. Instead, shippers found ways to use existing pipelines more efficiently, and new pipelines were constructed faster than expected. U.S. crude-oil production is expected to average 12.1 million barrels a day in 2019, 28% higher than in 2017. Surging production has roiled world energy markets.
“The biggest loser is Iran. Shale has been pummeling Tehran for some time. The economic benefits Iran hoped to gain from President Obama’s nuclear deal were largely offset by the sharp 2016 fall in the price of oil. Now the pesky Permian is blighting Iranian hopes again. Rising American output made it easier for the U.S. to slap tough sanctions on Iran without risking a sharp rise in world energy prices. Low prices also reduce Iran’s income from the oil it still manages to sell.
“The next biggest loser is Russia. Oil is a key revenue source for the Kremlin. But the shale boom doesn’t only pick Vladimir Putin’s pocket; it also attacks his foreign-policy strategy.
“Russia wants to control the world oil price and use that power to boost its diplomatic weight. Mr. Putin has two ways to influence the price of oil. The first is to increase geopolitical tensions. If threatening Ukraine or bombing Syria spooks traders and jacks up energy prices, Russia has a better hand in negotiations with Europe and the U.S.
“Mr. Putin’s second option is to cooperate with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on price fixing. Building a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia over their common interest in inflated oil prices might loosen the kingdom’s U.S. ties and generate lucrative commercial and arms deals for the Kremlin.
“Shale disrupts both approaches. With supplies relatively abundant, energy markets can shrug off geopolitical shocks. The surge of American oil and gas also reduces the benefits of OPEC-Russia cooperation for both sides. Russia and OPEC can raise prices by reducing output, but that makes new drilling projects more profitable for American frackers. Cutting prices to starve the competition also doesn’t work. Thanks to past pressure from OPEC and the innovation it forced on the industry, many wells in West Texas now break even at an oil price of $30 a barrel. That’s not a price Russia can accept.”
Mead then discusses the impacts of falling government incomes on the Gulf sheikhdoms and Venezuela and some possible relief for the French President and his carbon taxes. He then states:
“Shale power is not, however, an unalloyed good for the U.S. China’s energy-intensive manufacturing economy benefits substantially when energy prices fall. In a world with low prices, Beijing is in a better position to ride out a trade war. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey also benefits both from low prices and the weakness of its Middle Eastern neighbors.
“Ever since the shale boom began, diplomats and politicians have underestimated its importance. The U.S. has regained the position it lost in 1973 as the world’s largest oil producer, which it will likely hold through at least the 2040s. The consequences for energy markets and world politics will be far-reaching. Roughnecks in the American Southwest are doing more than most foreign ministries to change the world.
“But the shale revolution isn’t only an energy revolution; it’s a technology revolution, enabled by advanced methods for oil prospecting and extraction. From the transistor to satellites, to the personal computer to the internet and now shale, it is America’s innovation—as much as its hard power and diplomacy—that shapes world politics.”
3. The Climate Won’t Crash the Economy
A worst-case scenario projects annual GDP growth will be slower by 0.05 percentage point.
By Steven Koonin, WSJ, Nov 26, 2018
SUMMARY: As discussed above. Koonin questions the economic claims of the NCA then states:
“Experts know that worst-case climate projections show minimal impact on the overall economy.
Buried in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2014 report is a chart showing that a global temperature rise of 5 degrees Fahrenheit would have a global economic impact of about 3% in 2100—negligibly diminishing projected global growth over that period to 385% from 400%.
“If we take the new report’s estimates at face value, human-induced climate change isn’t an existential threat to the overall U.S. economy through the end of this century—or even a significant one. Changes in tax policy, regulation, trade and technology will have far greater consequences for Americans’ economic well-being.
“There are many reasons to be concerned about a changing climate, including disparate impact across industries and regions. But national economic catastrophe isn’t one of them. It should concern anyone who supports well-informed public and policy discussions that the report’s authors, reviewers and media coverage obscured such an important point.”