Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #354

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org, The Science and Environmental Policy Project

By Ken Haapala, President

Quote of the Week: “I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth, if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.” – Leo Tolstoy [William Readdy]

Number of the Week: Up to 100 times more

Why I Don’t “believe” In …: Judith Curry brought up a thoughtful essay by Robert Tracinski illustrating how politicians and the like try to persuade others to accept their views by manipulating meaningful terms to the point of rendering the terms meaningless. Currently it is fashionable to invoke the term “science” to justify one’s political policies and beliefs.

Science can be described as a process for thinking, learning, and acquiring knowledge that involves constant testing against observations. The process requires rejection or modification of concepts that fail any part of that testing against relevant observations. Unfortunately, that is seldom the case for those who invoke belief in science. As Tracinski states:

“Some people may use “I believe in science” as vague shorthand for confidence in the ability of the scientific method to achieve valid results, or maybe for the view that the universe is governed by natural laws which are discoverable through observation and reasoning.

“But the way most people use it today—especially in a political context—is pretty much the opposite. They use it as a way of declaring belief in a proposition which is outside their knowledge and which they do not understand.” [Boldface added]

Those who claim belief in science are ever imaginative in developing excuses why the policies they advance have failed. For example, Marx claimed his system was “scientific socialism.” When communism failed in eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and Cambodia, supporters claimed it was not sufficiently pure, “true communism,” or used other excuses. As it is failing in Cuba and, now, dramatically in Venezuela, it is the fault of the US.

In the 1920s and 30s in the US, belief in Eugenics as a scientific system resulted in forced sterilization to “improve the human race.” The morality of these actions was “beyond question.”

The scientific method supports no particular economic system, moral belief system, or ideology. It is the constant striving of humanity to improve understanding of nature and economic conditions that advances humanity. Unfortunately, too frequently those who invoke belief in science do so to retard improvements.

As one who was part of the Climate Establishment, then departed giving strong empirical reasons why, Judith Curry has received the fury of the Climate Establishment, which has branded her as an advocate of pseudoscience. In her essay she gives a few examples from these “arbiters of science.” See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Energy Issues – Non-US.


The Greenhouse Effect – Cirrus Clouds: After last week’s discussion of the greenhouse effect of atmospheric gases, Richard Lindzen, MIT Professor of Meteorology, emeritus, reminded TWTW that upper level cirrus clouds have a greenhouse effect comparable to water vapor and are mostly ice, not liquid. The upper level cirrus are called Spissatus clouds and are the highest clouds in the atmosphere, forming in the higher tropopause, where most of the water vapor freezes out, or even in the lower stratosphere. Unlike most cirrus clouds, which are generally thin and wispy, Spissatus clouds are dense and opaque, blocking sunlight. They are often found at the top of thunderheads and, due to the shape formed by high altitude winds where they are blocked from rising further, are called anvil clouds.

They are formed at the tropopause because it is there that a thermal inversion occurs – rather than atmosphere being colder with increasing altitude, the air starts being warmer with increasing altitude.

The tropopause with its temperature inversion separates the troposphere from the stratosphere. The warming of the stratosphere with increasing altitude is from ozone created from oxygen by ultraviolet sunlight. Ozone is not an important greenhouse gas below the stratosphere.

Lindzen has written and produced evidence of what is called the “iris hypothesis.” The testable hypothesis states that increasing temperatures in the tropics, particularly increasing sea surface temperatures (seas cover about 75% of the tropics), will reduce cirrus clouds, reducing the greenhouse effect of these clouds. Independently, Roy Spencer, et al. have used satellite data to support the iris hypothesis. The Climate Establishment strongly disagrees, but there have been additional papers and evidence supporting the hypothesis using satellite observations.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ignores the influence of cirrus clouds. Figure TS.7 of the Technical Summary of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5, 2013) gives the “Components of Radiative Forcing.” Aerosol – Cloud is given as having a cooling effect. The warming effect of cirrus clouds is given only in conjunction to aircraft contrails. There is no mention of the greenhouse influence from clouds, yet, as stated in the March 16, TWTW, corrected on March 23, “Those camping in the desert at night find that it’s much colder than a more non-desert place of comparable altitude and latitude, because water vapor (clouds, humidity) absorbs infrared photons and gives off some photons in a downward direction, resulting in a slower cooling of the surface.” See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.


The Greenhouse Effect – Water Vapor – Missing in Action: The influence of water vapor as a greenhouse gas is not fully determined. Estimates vary from 65% to 90% of the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect. What is disturbing is that the IPCC and the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) ignore this influence when calculating the greenhouse effect of other gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). Last week’s TWTW discussed that idealized dry air does not exist outside a laboratory. Yet,

“The World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases (WDCGG; a World Data Centre (WDC) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)) has been operated since 1990 by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). As the only WDC specializing [in] greenhouse gases, it serves to collect, archive and distribute data on such gases (e.g., CO2, CH4, CFCs and N2O) and other related gases (such as CO) in the atmosphere.”

Note that the dominant greenhouse gas, water vapor (H2O) is ignored. The gas concentrations given of the GOSAT Data Archive Service are for CO2 and CH4. Although the Charney Report and the IPCC and USGCRP following it assume increasing water vapor will be an important contributor to greenhouse gas warming started by CO2, there is no effort to measure the change in water vapor from GOSAT.

If GOSAT cannot measure water vapor, then the relevant web site and the WMO should clearly state that the dominant greenhouse gas is not measured.

Again, the IPCC can give the political excuse that natural variation is not in its mission statement. But the USGCRP has no such excuse. Further, the World Meteorological Organization is showing clearly that it has been politically compromised. See links under Measurement Issues – Atmosphere.


Worst Case? The IPCC AR5 provides a number of story lines (scenarios) for what may happen with increasing carbon dioxide, and what may happen if emissions are reduced. The worst-case scenario is labeled RCP8.5. Since evidence reviewed in TWTW strongly suggests that the IPCC cannot objectively describe the greenhouse effect, TWTW has not bothered to analyze these scenarios.

However, Judith Curry is undertaking such an analysis and has posted the first two analyses: “What’s the worst case? A possibilistic approach;” and “What’s the worst case? Emissions/concentration scenarios.” Readers may find her observations very interesting such as:

“Based on this evidence, Ritchie and Dowlatabadi (2017) conclude that RCP8.5 should not be used as a benchmark for future scientific research or policy studies. Nevertheless, the RCP8.5 family of scenarios continues to be widely used and features prominently in climate change assessments (e.g. CSSR, 2017)” [Boldface added]. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


The “New Energy Economy”: An Exercise in Magical Thinking: As discussed above, politicians often associate the term science with their policies. In logic, it is called argumentum ad verecundiam or transfer. This seems to be ongoing with the concept of ‘new energy” – none of the old principles apply.

Mark Mills of the Manhattan Institute discusses the “New Energy Economy.” He begins:

“A movement has been growing for decades to replace hydrocarbons, which collectively supply 84% of the world’s energy. It began with the fear that we were running out of oil. That fear has since migrated to the belief that, because of climate change and other environmental concerns, society can no longer tolerate burning oil, natural gas, and coal—all of which have turned out to be abundant.

“So far, wind, solar, and batteries—the favored alternatives to hydrocarbons—provide about 2% of the world’s energy and 3% of America’s. Nonetheless, a bold new claim has gained popularity: that we’re on the cusp of a tech-driven energy revolution that not only can, but inevitably will, rapidly replace all hydrocarbons.

“This ‘new energy economy’ rests on the belief—a centerpiece of the Green New Deal and other similar proposals both here and in Europe—that the technologies of wind and solar power and battery storage are undergoing the kind of disruption experienced in computing and communications, dramatically lowering costs and increasing efficiency. But this core analogy glosses over profound differences, grounded in physics, between systems that produce energy and those that produce information.

“In the world of people, cars, planes, and factories, increases in consumption, speed, or carrying capacity cause hardware to expand, not shrink. The energy needed to move a ton of people, heat a ton of steel or silicon, or grow a ton of food is determined by properties of nature whose boundaries are set by laws of gravity, inertia, friction, mass, and thermodynamics—not clever software.

“This paper highlights the physics of energy to illustrate why there is no possibility that the world is undergoing—or can undergo—a near-term transition to a ‘new energy economy.’”

The report details hard reasons why the “new energy economy” is belief in magic.

Moore’s law on the miniaturization of electronic circuitry resulting in great improvements in computers and other electronic devices is famous. To assume this historical trend is a physical or natural law is foolish. Many others have assumed that if they can reproduce Henry Ford’s assembly-line they can drive their competitors out of business, not realizing the competitors are doing the same.

Expecting that consumers will adjust their electricity demand to match capricious production, or that super-storage will suddenly appear, is irrational exuberance; it is belief in science fiction. See links under Questioning Green Elsewhere.


Four Fronts for Climate Policy: Judith Curry reviews an alarmist report published in Nature from the standpoint that it has four suggestions useful for all scientists and policymakers for rethinking their roles and objectives. The four are:

· Assess science in the near term.

· Rethink policy goals.

· Design strategies for adaptation.

· Understand options for rapid response.

Curry’s take on these goals is different than those of the authors, and useful. CO2 caused-global warming / climate change is not happening quickly, and it is not dangerous. Extreme weather events will occur (as always), and prudent preparations are highly desirable. Sea levels are rising slowly, but rapidly in some areas, undergoing land subsidence. Prudent measures should be taken in these areas. International measures are not needed. See links under Seeking a Common Ground.




SEPP is conducting its annual vote for the recipient of the coveted trophy, The Jackson, a lump of coal. Readers are asked to nominate and vote for who they think is most deserving, following these criteria:

· The nominee has advanced, or proposes to advance, significant expansion of governmental power, regulation, or control over the public or significant sections of the general economy.

· The nominee does so by declaring such measures are necessary to protect public health, welfare, or the environment.

· The nominee declares that physical science supports such measures.

· The physical science supporting the measures is flimsy at best, and possibly non-existent.

The seven past recipients, Lisa Jackson, Barrack Obama, John Kerry, Ernest Moniz, John Holdren, Gena McCarthy and Jerry Brown are not eligible. Generally, the committee that makes the selection prefers a candidate with a national or international presence. The voting will close on June 30. Please send your nominee and a brief reason why the person is qualified for the honor to Ken@SEPP.org. Thank you.


Number of the Week: Up to 100 times as high. As discussed in last week’s TWTW, by volume the concentration of water vapor in the atmosphere near the surface in the tropics is about 100 times as high as the concentration of carbon dioxide – about 40,000 ppmv (parts per million by volume) for water vapor as compared to about 400 ppmv for CO2. TWTW will not make the mistake common to many advocates of dangerous warming when discussing methane, etc. – water vapor is the predominant greenhouse gas



1. The Court vs. the Regulatory State

The Justices can restore their power to check bureaucratic excess.

Editorial, WSJ, Mar 26, 2019


[SEPP Comment: The decision in this case may be important in future challenges to the EPA’s finding that emissions of greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare.]

SUMMARY: The editorial states

“A big moment arrives at the Supreme Court Wednesday when the Justices have a chance to rethink their long deference to the administrative state. This could be the first major benefit of the return to an originalist Court majority.

“At issue in Kisor v. Wilkie is the Department of Veterans Affairs’ interpretation of its regulation prescribing eligibility for disability benefits. Vietnam War veteran James Kisor in 1982 applied for benefits based on psychological trauma from combat duty. A VA psychiatrist suggested he had ‘a personality disorder as opposed to PTSD,’ so the department denied his claim.

“In 2006 Mr. Kisor asked the VA to review the denial based on unearthed service records. The VA then determined that he did suffer from PTSD. But it declined to award him benefits retroactive to 1982 despite a regulation that says it ‘will reconsider’ a claim if it receives ‘relevant official service department records that existed and had not been associated with the claims file when VA first decided the claim.’

“The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the government’s interpretation of what is ‘relevant’ based on the Supreme Court’s 1945 Seminole Rock and 1997 Auer precedents. These rulings require courts to defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own regulation ‘as long as the regulation is ambiguous and the agency’s interpretation is neither plainly erroneous nor inconsistent with the regulation.’ In short, government always gets the benefit of doubt.

“Seminole Rock was premised on the notion that regulators can best interpret their own rules because they have the expertise. But it lacked a Constitutional underpinning and was issued one year before Congress enacted the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) that established a process for rule-making.

“Regulators have been bypassing the APA more and more by promulgating ‘interpretative’ regulations through guidance, enforcement actions, amicus briefs and press releases. Interpretative rules enjoy the force of law under Seminole Rock but don’t have to comply with the APA’s due-process requirements. In Auer, the Labor Department used an amicus brief to explicate an ambiguity in its overtime rule.

The editorial discusses the Education Department’s redefinition of sex as gender identity as a classic in regulatory abuse. Then continues:

“While Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the Court’s unanimous Auer opinion, he and other conservatives have since had misgivings. As Justice Scalia observed in his Decker (2013) dissent, Auer deference ‘contravenes one of the great rules of separation of powers: He who writes a law must not adjudge its violation.’ It also encourages regulators to write vague rules.

“The Trump Solicitor General agrees that Seminole Rock and Auer are constitutionally flawed and undermine due process, yet argues that reversing them in whole would open a Pandora’s box. ‘Private parties have no doubt made investment (property) and pricing (contract) decisions in reasonable reliance on that understanding of the regulatory scheme,’ the government writes.

“Did the SG bother to read the many amicus briefs from regulated parties explaining that Auer and Seminole Rock have increased regulatory uncertainty and legal instability? The ‘reliance interests’ that the Court weighs when deciding whether to overturn precedents favor scrapping both.

“The SG urges Justices to limit deference to cases in which regulatory interpretations do not conflict with their prior views and are based on their expertise. This half-way house to reform would mean that an agency’s first interpretation would receive binding deference, regardless of legal merit. To adapt St. Augustine, make us chaste, Justices, just not yet.

“The Justices might instead revert to the Court’s Skidmore precedent (1944) that accords an agency’s interpretation due consideration based on ‘the validity of its reasoning, its consistency with earlier and later pronouncements, and all those factors which give it power to persuade, if lacking power to control.’ This would let agencies explicate regulations, but judges would no longer be obligated to rubber-stamp their judgments.

“Liberal groups for the most part have sat out Kisor. Perhaps they feel torn between opposing the Trump Administration and preserving an unconstrained administrative state. The Justices could demonstrate their independence by restoring the judiciary’s rightful powers under the Constitution.”


2. Gavin Newsom’s Fire Alarm

California’s Governor takes heat from the left for wildfire prevention.

Editorial, WSJ, Mar 24, 2019


SUMMARY: The editorial states:

“Over the years sundry government reports have detailed how California’s environmental regulation has limited tree trimming and increased wildfire risk, only to have the reports discarded on the political ash heap amid opposition from the left. So credit Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for finally whacking through the regulatory overgrowth.

“The Governor on Friday declared a statewide emergency to expedite 35 wildfire-prevention projects including prescribed burns and tree-thinning around 200 cities over the next year. The emergency finding will let the state waive certain bureaucratic obstacles to tree-clearing. This could prevent a reprise of the last two horrific wildfire seasons in which 1.7 million acres burned. The Camp Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills last fall razed 14,000 homes and killed 85 people.

“About 25 million acres of wildland are at high-risk of burning, and as many as 15 million require forest restoration, according to the state agency Cal Fire. But some communities are more vulnerable based on geography and demographics. Cal Fire last month issued a report prioritizing three dozen or so projects including an 11-mile fuel break—e.g., a gap between vegetation—east of the Bay Area; 6,843 acres of fuel reduction around Big Sur and 10,428 acres by Monterey; and a prescribed burn outside of Malibu.

“Yet Mr. Newsom is drawing fire from his friends on the left for waiving regulations such as the California Environmental Quality Act that produce mounds of paperwork and allow locales to veto sensible fuel-reduction projects for reasons unrelated to environmental protection. ‘The governor should reject this doomed, destructive approach’ of thinning forests, the Center for Biological Diversity declared.

“‘Unfortunately, it’s a very Trumpian approach,’ said Douglas Bevington, forest director of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (yes, that Leo DiCaprio). ‘It’s the false notion that more logging paired with rolling back environmental protections is going to protect communities.’ The foundation says its mission is to protect ‘long-term health and wellbeing of all Earth’s inhabitants’—humans apparently excluded.

“Wildfire prevention shouldn’t be partisan, and letting nature take its course will result in more destruction and death. Good for Mr. Newsom for taking on his party’s progressive fringe who, while screaming about climate change, would let California burn.”


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