Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #343

The Week That Was: 2019-01-12, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Quote of the Week: “There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, itds isn’t consensus. Period.” — Michael Crichton. [H/t William Readdy]

Number of the Week: ZERO

Two Types of Energy Flow: Last week’s TWTW produced several responses with questions that need to be explained further. Forty years of comprehensive atmospheric temperature trends, the last twenty years with no statistically significant warming, and 60 years of balloon observations show that the global atmosphere is not the warming envisioned in the 1970s and early 1980s, for example, in the influential Charney Report of 1979. Yet, the assumptions in these speculated findings are embodied in the “theory” of climate science and the reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). These government entities have failed to test their findings against atmospheric data, the data set that most clearly reflects the impact of greenhouse gases.

It is important to understand that the findings in Charney speculated changes in two types of energy flow from the surface through the atmosphere into space: 1) carbon dioxide (CO2) absorbing some of the outbound long-wave radiation from the surface to space and 2) increased water vapor absorbing even more outbound long-wave radiation. The summary and conclusions state:

“We have examined the principal attempts to simulate the effects of increased atmospheric CO2 on climate. In doing so, we have limited our considerations to the direct climatic effects of steadily rising atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and have assumed a rate of CO2 increase that would lead to a doubling of airborne concentrations by some time in the first half of the twenty-first century. As indicated in Chapter 2 of this report, such a rate is consistent with observations of CO2 increases in the recent past and with projections of its future sources and sinks. However, we have not examined anew the many uncertainties in these projections, such as their implicit assumptions with regard to the workings of the world economy and the role of the biosphere in the carbon cycle. These impose an uncertainty beyond that arising from our necessarily imperfect knowledge of the manifold and complex climatic system of the earth.


“When it is assumed that the CO2 content of the atmosphere is doubled and statistical thermal equilibrium is achieved, the more realistic of the modeling efforts predict a global surface warming of between 2°C and 3°C, with greater increases at high latitudes. This range reflects both uncertainties in physical understanding and inaccuracies arising from the need to reduce the mathematical problem to one that can be handled by even the fastest avail-able electronic computers. It is significant, however, that none of the model calculations predicts negligible warming.


The primary effect of an increase of CO2 is to cause more absorption of thermal radiation from the earth’s surface and thus to increase the air temperature in the troposphere. A strong positive feedback mechanism is the accompanying increase of moisture, which is an even more powerful absorber of terrestrial radiation. We have examined with care all known negative feed-back mechanisms, such as increase in low or middle cloud amount, and have concluded that the oversimplifications and inaccuracies in the models are not likely to have vitiated the principal conclusion that there will be appreciable warming. The known negative feedback mechanisms can reduce the warming, but they do not appear to be so strong as the positive moisture feedback. We estimate the most probable global warming for a doubling of CO2 to be near 3°C with a probable error of ± 1.5°C. Our estimate is based primarily on our review of a series of calculations with three-dimensional models of the global atmospheric circulation, which is summarized in Chapter 4. We have also re-viewed simpler models that appear to contain the main physical factors. These give qualitatively similar results.” [Boldface added.]

The section continues with exploring the possibility that the oceans, particularly the deep oceans below 70 meters (230 feet), will absorb some of the surface warming, thus slowing the observed warming of the surface.

From the quote, we realize there are two types of interference with energy flow from the surface through the atmosphere being considered: 1) increased CO2 interfering with outgoing radiation and 2) increased water vapor, a more dominant greenhouse gas, interfering with outgoing radiation. We now have 40 years of knowledge of temperature trends in the bulk atmosphere, excluding small extreme polar regions, that shows that warming, speculated before atmospheric temperature trends were available, is not occurring as envisioned. If the atmosphere is not warming significantly, it cannot be causing significant surface warming. Thus, any greater warming trend of the surface is not from greenhouse gases. Claiming greenhouse gas warming is hiding in the oceans is a red herring – a ploy to deceive or distract others. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Defending the Orthodoxy.


Quantifying Error? Generally, researchers try to quantify errors in measurement – i.e., to calculate uncertainty. A number of researchers have attempted to quantify the types of energy flow discussed above. Perhaps the most fimiliar model was the 1997 effort by Kiehl and Trenberth, Earth’s “Annual Global Mean Energy Budget” published the American Meteorological Society. In their graph, Figure 7, one can see the component allocated to outgoing longwave radiation and the component allocated to increasing water vapor, evapotranspiration and latent heat. Others have generally accepted this breakdown but disagreed with specific numbers.

For example, following the publication of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5, 2013 & 2014) the Royal Meteorological Society published an updated version. The authors state:

“These represent some of the most comprehensive studies to date that include strenuous efforts to trace the uncertainties in all of the main fluxes. They update the earlier work of Trenberth et al. (2009), which used a similar mix of data sources and reanalysis data instead of free‐standing model simulations. Figure 1 thus represents the current state of the art in deriving such an energy budget for an entire planet. Anticipating how this approach will be adapted in the following sections for other planets, we present the flux data in Figure 1 directly in W m−2and with each flux normalized by the incoming solar irradiance (which is given 100 dimensionless irradiance percentage units or IPU). This helps to see how the energy in the system is partitioned into various upward and downward channels and also helps to emphasize features such as the greenhouse warming of the surface.” [From Section 2.1}

In section 2.2 “Global energy budget” the authors state:

“Thus, the picture for the Earth is seen to be quite a complicated one, in which the atmosphere plays a major role in modifying the energy flow in both the visible/UV and thermal infrared. Incoming solar energy is partly transmitted to the surface, with around 54 dimensionless IPU reaching the ground, the rest being either scattered and reflected back out to space (around 22 IPU due to the atmosphere) or absorbed directly (around 23 IPU, at least partly in the stratospheric ozone layer). Around 7 IPU are reflected from the surface itself back out to space, leaving around 47 IPU actually absorbed at the surface. In the infrared, the atmosphere is relatively opaque, due to the combined effects of various greenhouse gases (H2O, CO2, O3, CH4, N2O, etc.) and highly variable clouds and aerosols….”

The point to all this is that, despite tens of billions spent on climate science, the modeling and climate science are stagnant and not advancing. Part of the reason may be the assumption in the Charney Report stating

“A plausible assumption, borne out qualitatively by model studies, is that the relative humidity remains unchanged. The associated increase of absolute humidity increases the infrared absorptivity of the atmosphere over that of CO2 alone and provides a positive feedback. There is also increased absorption of solar radiation by the increased water vapor, which further increases the infrared feedback by about 10 percent.”

If the plausible assumption is incorrect, then the assumption of a strong positive feedback from water vapor is incorrect. The paper by McKitrick and Christy on sixty years of limited atmospheric temperature measurements over the tropics indicates that a strong feedback from water vapor is not occurring. Certainly, the distinct human fingerprint over the tropics, as claimed by Ben Santer and embodied in the Second Assessment Report by the IPCC, is not found by satellites or by weather balloon instruments. The fingerprint “hot spot” would be a strong warming trend over the tropics created by latent heat, where water vapor “freezes out.” The absence of the hot spot was discussed in the first report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC, 2008).

A positive feedback over the tropics could happen regardless of the cause of a warming, CO2, solar energy inflow, etc. The fact that over the past hundreds of thousands of years, the globe’s climate has warmed and cooled, but within fairly narrow bounds, indicates there is no positive feedback, or if it exists it is minor. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC, Challenging the Orthodoxy, and Defending the Orthodoxy.


Stagnant Science? The paper published by the Royal Meteorological Society, discussed above, appeared to be more of a paper trying to justify the findings of the IPCC rather than questioning them. As reader Bob Armstrong reminded TWTW, shortly after IPCC AR-5 came out, Nir Shiviv published his “most boring graph ever” in 2013 showing how climate science has stagnated after the 1979 Charney Report with virtually no change in the estimated range of temperature change with a doubling of CO2. Shaviv states:

“One reason for the lack of improved understanding could be incompetence of the people in the field. That is, all the billions of dollars invested in climate research were not or could not be used to answer the most important question in climate, one which will allow predicting the 21st century climate change. I doubt however that this is the real reason. Among the thousands working in climate research, surely there are at least a few who are competent, if not more.


“I think the real reason why there is no improvement in the understanding of climate sensitivity is the following. If you have a theory which is correct, then as progressively more data comes in, the agreement becomes better. Sure, occasionally some tweaks have to be made, but overall there is an improved agreement. However, if the basic premises of a theory are wrong, then there is no improved agreement as more data is collected. In fact, it is usually the opposite that takes place, the disagreement increases. In other words, the above behavior reflects the fact that the IPCC and alike are captives of a wrong conception.”

To the statement “the IPCC and alike are captives of a wrong conception,” TWTW adds “to include using the wrong measurements.”

Advancing knowledge of climate change is important to civilizations. As discussed in last week’s TWTW, new evidence shows that the Sahara varied between a wet place and the current desert over the past 240,000 years with periods of about 20,000 years. This variation indicates that the Intertropical Convergence Zone, bringing monsoon rains, varies with regularity. Understanding the varying climate is critical for humanity. Falsely blaming CO2 and the use of hydrocarbons as the primary cause is irresponsible. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Averaging Out Errors? Pan Michaels points out that a new paper published in Nature illustrates some of the problems of the models used to estimate sea surface temperatures. The problems demonstrate that using the average from a group of models will not average out errors. The errors may not be randomly distributed. Assuming errors are randomly distributed is a common assumption used in averaging different model results. The problem goes to the entire approach used by the IPCC and other government entities reporting on global warming, etc. See links under Model Issues.


Pacific Cooling: The oceans contain a great deal of heat, far more than the atmosphere. The slow transfer of this heat is one reason why the complexity of the climate system is difficult to understand. According to a paper in Science Magazine, “the most recent top-to-bottom global assessment of ocean temperatures comes from the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) campaign of the 1990s.” The authors of the paper made a statistical comparison of those findings with the findings of the HMS Challenger, a British sailing ship that made temperature measurements of the deep oceans between 1872 to 1876.

The authors found that: “at depths below 2000 m, [6500 feet] the Atlantic warms at an average rate of 0.1°C over the past century, whereas the deep Pacific cools by 0.02°C over the past century.”

It his very doubtful that anyone can calculate meaningful oceans to such a precision. And it is more doubtful that a British vessel in the 1870s could measure deep ocean temperatures to the precision suggested in the paper. Thus, one can interpret these findings a number of ways, but they support the view of the complexity of the climate system, especially the oceans, and that it may take centuries to discover what is occurring in the oceans. See links under Changing Climates


Water Management – Teheran: According to a German report translated by P Gosselin, researchers at the Remote Sensing Section of the German Research Center for Geoscience (GFZ) found that the earth’s surface around Teheran, Iran, is sinking by about 25 centimeters per year (10 inches). This significant sinking of an area with 8 million people appears to be from ground water extraction. Tehran, elevation 3900 feet (1200 meters), is about 75 miles (120 km) from the inland Caspian Sea and 300 hundred miles (500 km) from the Persian Gulf.

Unlike what is happening to US cities on the Coastal Plain, the sinking cannot be blamed on sea level rise. Ground water extraction is a serious problem that needs to be addressed directly, not by false claims. See links under Other News that May Be of Interest.


Number of the Week: Zero. Although due to the government shutdown the official NOAA web site on tornadoes cannot be accessed, it appears that 2018 was the first year since modern record keeping began in 1950 that the US has not been hit by a violent tornado, category EF4 or EF5. Previously, the fewest was in 2005, which had one violent tornado, in November. Thus, TWTW feels confident to make the bold prediction that in 2019, the US will see as many or even more violent tornadoes as 2018! See link: https://www.concordmonitor.com/2018-will-be-the-first-year-with-no-violent-tornadoes-in-the-United-States-22408722



1. Have We Got a Carbon Tax ‘Dividend’ for You

Rent seekers, virtue signalers and green lobbyists will love it. Taxpayers not so much.

By Mark Mills, WSJ, Jan 8, 2019


SUMMARY: The senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute writes:

“This could be the year Congress tries to enact the mother of all taxes, a carbon tax—a levy on the use of oil, natural gas and coal. Everything that is fabricated, grown, operated or moved is made possible by hydrocarbons. That makes the carbon tax different from a mere consumption or excise tax. The latter is attached to purchasing—spend more, pay more. A carbon tax is a tax on existence, because all aspects of living require energy, and hydrocarbons provide 80% of America’s energy, more for the rest of the world. And hydrocarbons are used to create or build everything else that produces energy.


“Who would support such a tax? Four intersecting constituencies: those who embrace the idea as an essential step to “fixing” the climate; those agnostic about climate claims but eager to check the box for political expediency; those in search of some “grand bargain” on tax or regulatory reform; and those eager to find more ways to extract money from the economy. This mélange of motives covers a lot of political territory.


“Advocates say a carbon tax would reduce the use of hydrocarbons by creating a disincentive. The money collected could be used to subsidize alternative energy sources. Grand-bargainers want to split the carbon tax bounty to offset or eliminate other taxes or regulation they deem more onerous. Some conservatives claim a carbon tax is in theory a more efficient way than regulation to reduce carbon emissions.


“But the idea that a carbon tax is a painless, efficient way to reduce hydrocarbons fails for three reasons.


“First, cost aside, it would take decades—probably a century—to restructure America’s energy ecosystem. That means a carbon tax would be effectively permanent. The financial and physical scale of the energy infrastructure is so enormous that changing it isn’t, to use the popular analogy, like changing the course of a supertanker, but of a ship 1,000 times as large as a supertanker. The U.S. has already spent hundreds of billions of dollars on green subsidies with piddly results. Wind and solar combined, the favored alternatives to hydrocarbons, provide a mere 3% of the country’s energy.


“Second, citizens eventually react when governments raise the cost of living. The raison d’être for a carbon tax is to use price to shift consumer behavior. Ask France’s President Emmuanel Macron how that’s going—and he was shooting for a mere 5% fuel-tax hike. Even a 50% levy wouldn’t be enough to drive hydrocarbon consumption downward; it would only slow the rate of growth.


“We know this because the market has done the experiment. In the decade before the 2008 recession, when global economies were booming, world-wide demand for oil increased even as prices rose 200%. Oil use dropped only when the economy collapsed. History shows technology yielding a long-run average price for oil around $50 a barrel. Thus it would take something like a 300% tax to reduce consumption. A carbon tax of, say, 10%, even if it proved politically tolerable, would only slow growth immeasurably in hydrocarbon demand, thus failing in its central goal.


“Third, the U.S. uses such enormous quantities of hydrocarbons that even a small carbon tax would add hundreds of billions of dollars to government coffers, stimulating a rent-seeking land rush. We can already see how the battle over this cash gusher would shape up.


One compromise, offered by former Secretaries of State James Baker and George Shultz and their Climate Leadership Council, claims to ‘unlock the political viability,’ in the words of two council members, by surreptitiously renaming the tax a ‘fee.’ They would then redistribute the proceeds to the citizenry as a ‘carbon dividend’ to offset the pain of higher daily costs. But the fee wouldn’t reduce hydrocarbon use unless it were exorbitant.


The Baker-Shultz plan would ratchet up the fee should consumers fail to behave. So far so good for the green camp, but the ‘dividend’ hits a roadblock in not subsidizing nonhydrocarbons and, worse, proposing simultaneously to eliminate carbon regulations that ‘are no longer necessary’ or are ‘too intrusive.’ For Washington’s green lobbyists, those are fighting words.


The author discusses the politics and modest fees on hydrocarbons cannot make wind and solar provide reliable energy, then concludes with:


“For rent-seekers, this would all be good. For virtue-signalers, it would be sufficient. For green lobbyists, it would be progress. For cynics—well, what do they care? Everyone would benefit—except taxpayers. And since energy is essential to everything physical and economic flowing through society, a carbon tax would finally enable Congress to achieve nirvana, succinctly lampooned by President Reagan: If it moves, tax it.”


America’s Electric Grid Has a Vulnerable Back Door—and Russia Walked Through It

A Wall Street Journal reconstruction of the worst known hack into the nation’s power system reveals attacks on hundreds of small contractors

By Rebecca Smith and Rob Barry, WSJ, Jan 10, 2019


SUMMARY: The reporters begin with:

“One morning in March 2017, Mike Vitello’s work phone lighted up. Customers wanted to know about an odd email they had just received. What was the agreement he wanted signed? Where was the attachment?


“Mr. Vitello had no idea what they were talking about. The Oregon construction company where he works, All-Ways Excavating USA, checked it out. The email was bogus, they told Mr. Vitello’s contacts. Ignore it.


“Then, a few months later, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security dispatched a team to examine the company’s computers. You’ve been attacked, a government agent told Mr. Vitello’s colleague, Dawn Cox. Maybe by Russians. They were trying to hack into the power grid.


“‘They were intercepting my every email,’ Mr. Vitello says. ‘What the hell? I’m nobody.’


“‘It’s not you. It’s who you know,’ says Ms. Cox.


“The cyberattack on the 15-person company near Salem, Ore., which works with utilities and government agencies, was an early thrust in the worst known hack by a foreign government into the nation’s electric grid. It set off so many alarms that U.S. officials took the unusual step in early 2018 of publicly blaming the Russian government.


“A reconstruction of the hack reveals a glaring vulnerability at the heart of the country’s electric system. Rather than strike the utilities head on, the hackers went after the system’s unprotected underbelly—hundreds of contractors and subcontractors like All-Ways who had no reason to be on high alert against foreign agents. From these tiny footholds, the hackers worked their way up the supply chain. Some experts believe two dozen or more utilities ultimately were breached.


“The scheme’s success came less from its technical prowess—though the attackers did use some clever tactics—than in how it exploited trusted business relationships using impersonation and trickery.


“The hackers planted malware on sites of online publications frequently read by utility engineers. They sent out fake résumés with tainted attachments, pretending to be job seekers. Once they had computer-network credentials, they slipped through hidden portals used by utility technicians, in some cases getting into computer systems that monitor and control electricity flows.


The Wall Street Journal pieced together this account of how the attack unfolded through documents, computer records and interviews with people at the affected companies, current and former government officials and security-industry investigators.


“The U.S. government hasn’t named the utilities or other companies that were targeted. The Journal identified small businesses such as Commercial Contractors Inc., in Ridgefield, Wash., and Carlson Testing Inc., in Tigard, Ore., along with big utilities such as the federally owned Bonneville Power Administration and Berkshire Hathaway ’s PacifiCorp. Two of the energy companies targeted build systems that supply emergency power to Army bases.


“The Russian campaign triggered an effort by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security to retrace the steps of the attackers and notify possible victims. Some companies were unaware they had been compromised until government investigators came calling, and others didn’t know they had been targeted until contacted by the Journal.


“‘What Russia has done is prepare the battlefield without pulling the trigger,’ says Robert P. Silvers, former assistant secretary for cyber policy at Homeland Security and now a law partner at Paul Hastings LLP.


“The press office at the Russian Embassy in Washington didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. Russia has previously denied targeting critical infrastructure.”

The journalists discuss at length other examples of this hacking which is continuing, if not expanding.



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