The Week That Was: August 10, 2019, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
Quote of the Week: ““The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanations of complex facts. We are apt to fall into the error of thinking that the facts are simple because simplicity is the goal of our quest. The guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be, ‘Seek simplicity and distrust it’.”— Alfred North Whitehead [H/t William Readdy]
High Standards: On his website, Tony Heller frequently posts newspaper articles from the past showing that claims of “unprecedented” heat or cold are not so, at least for the US, where the public has had good weather reporting in the past. In a post presenting the extreme weather and drought experienced in the US during 1934, Heller’s post included an excerpt from the January 1907 Monthly Weather Review which has part of a brief essay by C.A. [TWTW was unable to determine who the writer, C.A., was.] Heller included a link to the entire page and essay. The essay bears repeating. (Edited slightly for understanding.)
“IS NOT HONESTY THE WISEST POLICY?”
“A significant article in the Independent of January 31 narrates the trials of an honest independent thinker, who at the end of a long life is only able to say: “I am a slave to my committee, and always have been; .’and again: “I like to recall the intellectual, as well as spiritual, independence of my grandfather, but that was fifty years ago. * * * Men are no longer measured by spirituality, or by intellectual achievements. * * * It is a miserable fact, which we must honestly face, that the average man is hypnotized out of his independence and manhood by the rich man of his environment. * * * The time has come when he who wishes to be successful must be financially independent of his salary.”
“All this may be true of the ministerial, educational, and some other professions, but it ought not to be true of the scientific man, and least of all of the meteorologist; and yet we are told that the frosts and freezes in one State, droughts and rains in another, earthquakes in still another, the tornadoes of some regions and the hurricanes of others, are matters about which ‘‘ mum is the word ” ; that Weather Bureau men must not publish honest reports on these subjects because of the injury to local business enterprises and land booms, and that when they do make honest reports they must suffer attacks from those who wish to suppress the truth.
“This ought not to be. If a few persons are injured by some unexpected natural phenomenon, Be it earthquake, storm, frost, flood, drought, or stroke of lightning, the rest of the world is interested to know that fact; for it enables us all to be on the lookout for similar occurrences. Forewarned is forearmed, and it is the highest duty of the Weather Bureau to care for the best interests of the whole community. We are supported by the whole nation and owe to it our best service. An active businessman may be justified in booming his own business and the financial interests of his clients, but he protects only a small part of the community; and the law does not allow even him, in helping his own friends, to work any injury to others. The weather, the mineral, agricultural and forest conditions, and the health of the community are among those matters of universal interest about which the whole truth should be known as nearly as we can get at it. Every patriotic citizen must rebel at the idea that a government for the people and by the people shall not be permitted to publish an honest report of data gathered by its own official observers for the use of all the people.
“It is wrong to mutilate or suppress the record of an observation of a phenomenon of nature, but it is also wrong to make a bad use of the record. In fact, it is the misuse of meteorological data, not the observing or publishing, that constitutes a crime against the community. Observation and careful research are to be encouraged as useful. Misrepresentations are to be avoided as harmful. The ‘Independent Press’’ as the ‘Voice of the People ‘should be not only ‘Vox Populi‘ but ‘Vox Dei’, repressing all cheats and hoaxes, defending the truth and the best interests of the whole nation as against the self-interest of a few.-C. A.”[Boldface added.]
The Monthly Weather Review was established in 1872 by the Army Signal Corps, then transferred to the Weather Bureau under the Department of Agriculture in 1891. In 1979, the Bureau became part of the newly formed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which subsequently transferred the report to the American Meteorological Society (AMS) in 1974. Unfortunately, the leaders of AMS, NOAA, and other organizations, relied upon for honest reporting, appear to be more prone to the fad of making projections/predictions/forecasts from unvalidated mathematical models and speculating therefrom than actually reporting what is occurring. See links under Change Weather.
Uncertainty Monster: For the past several years, on her website Climate Etc., Judith Curry has discussed what she calls the uncertainty monster, great uncertainty in climate models on what may happen from carbon dioxide (CO2) – caused global warming. The uncertainty monster results in models with long, fat tails, with estimates of warming as high as 10ºC (18 ºF) from a doubling of CO2. In her last post on the subject, Curry discusses the possible scenarios (storylines) for CO2 emissions and their respective probability. The discussion is important but may be unnecessary for several reasons.
One, laboratory experiments and calculations therefrom indicate that the relationship between CO2 and temperatures is a smooth function that can be described as logarithmic, where the increase in temperatures with increasing CO2 above today’s 400 parts per million is approaching zero, but not equal to it.
Two, as much as can be done with observational data, where not all outside influences are controlled, Ross McKitrick and John Christy have presented evidence that the temperature in the “tropical hot-spot” is not increasing. Thus, the amplification of CO2-caused warming by water vapor-caused warming is not occurring where it should, to the point that extent can be measured. Thus, water vapor amplifying CO2-caused warming as described in the Charney Report is not being observed and the global climate models depicting it need to be changed. The Charney Report offered no physical evidence substantiating its claim.
Three, once the influences of volcanoes and El Niños are removed from atmospheric temperature trends, the atmosphere is warming slowly, not alarmingly.
And four, the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, AIRS, onboard NASA’s Aqua satellite, launched 2002 is monitoring infrared radiation from earth into space.
“It comes as a surprise to many, but water vapor is the most dominant greenhouse gas in the Earth’s atmosphere. It accounts for about 60% of the greenhouse effect of the global atmosphere, far exceeding the total combined effects of increased carbon dioxide, methane, ozone and other greenhouse gases.
“AIRS advanced technology makes it the most advanced water vapor sensor ever built. And AIRS water vapor data is already improving climate models. Beyond water vapor, AIRS measures all the other primary greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, the largest source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas, carbon monoxide, methane, and ozone.”
“The AIRS instrument suite was constructed to obtain atmospheric temperature profiles to an accuracy of 1 kelvin for every 1-kilometer layer in the troposphere and an accuracy of 1 kelvin for every 4-kilometer layer in the stratosphere up to an altitude of 40 kilometers. The temperature profile accuracy in the troposphere matches that achieved by radiosondes launched from ground stations. The advantage of the AIRS suite in orbit is the provision of rapid global coverage as radiosonde coverage of Earth’s oceans is practically nonexistent.”
These data are not showing appreciable warming since 2002. Unfortunately, entities such as NASA-GISS are now claiming that the new, precise instruments are demonstrating a high quality in their highly manipulated, earlier data. In effect, NASA-GISS is reducing the importance of the new instrumentation. A write-up from NASA-GISS now claims:
“The study also confirms what researchers have been saying for some time now: that Earth’s global temperature increase since 1880 – about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, or a little more than 1 degree Celsius – cannot be explained by any uncertainty or error in the data. Going forward, this assessment will give scientists the tools to explain their results with greater confidence.”
“‘Uncertainty is important to understand because we know that in the real world, we don’t know everything perfectly,’ said Gavin Schmidt, director of GISS and a co-author on the study. ‘All science is based on knowing the limitations of the numbers that you come up with, and those uncertainties can determine whether what you’re seeing is a shift or a change that is actually important.’”
It is doubtful that such nonsense from NASA/GISS would have been tolerated in the Weather Bureau of 1907.
Discounting comments from NASA-GISS, it appears that Curry’s uncertainty monster is largely a product of models and modelers, not from the physics concerned. Of course, uncertainty exists in physics such as in quantum mechanics, where measurement of both velocity and location of an elementary particle cannot be done with great precision. There is a measurement trade-off.
However, this uncertainty does not mean we cannot acquire the data to estimate the greenhouse effect with reasonable accuracy. In an upcoming TWTW, the greenhouse effect as theoretically captured by global climate models compared to what is actually captured by the models will be discussed. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and https://airs.jpl.nasa.gov/mission_and_instrument/overview, https://airs.jpl.nasa.gov/data/products, and https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2876/new-studies-increase-confidence-in-nasas-measure-of-earths-temperature/
Unexpected UN Report: Compared with recent reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the latest special report is surprising mild and many of the conclusions are defensible. For many years, the US Department of Agriculture emphasized that farmers need to conserve the soil through methods such as better tillage, crop rotation and cover crops. Protecting the land from erosion was a common theme.
Protecting the land seems to be the major theme in the latest IPCC report: “Climate Change and Land: An IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.” Of course, vegetarians and other anti-meat-eaters claimed the report reinforced their dietary wishes.
In an essay in the Wall Street Journal, vegetarian Bjorn Lomborg disagreed. He wrote:
“…The report correctly points to the need to improve global food systems, but pundits are fixating on the supposed need for people in rich countries to change their dining habits radically. This is an ineffective and unachievable policy response.
“Along with the report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes published 20 ‘headline statements’ for policy makers. Only one estimates the effect of dietary responses. It relies on a 2016 paper that finds if the entire world switched to a vegan diet, giving up dairy and eggs as well as meat—what the U.N. calls the ‘most extreme scenario’—food-related greenhouse-gas emissions could be cut by up to 70%.
“This sounds more impressive than it is: Only a seventh of all emissions are food-related. Besides, the estimate also assumes that ‘people consume just enough calories to maintain a healthy body weight.’”
Vegetarian Lomborg also notes:
“Going vegetarian is actually quite difficult. One large U.S. survey from 2014 found 84% of would-be vegetarians abandon the diet in less than a year. A 2015 literature review found switching successfully to vegetarianism reduces individual carbon emissions by the equivalent of 1,190 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. That’s only 4.3% of emissions for the average person in a developed country.”
Most of the articles discussing the report are a good indication of the ideology driving the publisher. See Article # 2 and links under Defending the Orthodoxy and Agriculture Issues & Fear of Famine.
Not All Reanalysis Data: Last week’s TWTW discussed a post by Roy Spencer supporting the use of US Reanalysis Data for surface temperatures. This week, Spencer noted that not all reanalysis data are of the same quality. He found a statistical bias indicating a spurious warming in the dataset used by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), ERA5. To TWTW, this spurious warming is not particularly surprising given that the WMO projects warming in areas of Antarctica where there are no thermometers and UAH satellite data shows no warming trends over 40 years. See links under Measurement Issues – Surface.
Battery Power Costly? Energy expert Donn Dears did a simple calculation of the cost of operating a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) as compared with a comparable vehicle with an internal combustion engine (ICE). He used an expected life of 11 years with the BEV requiring a replacement of the battery pack after 8 years or 80,000 miles. He made three sets of estimates for electricity costs and three sets for gasoline costs.
Dears concluded that the cost of ownership for a BEV is never competitive with an ICE vehicle when the cost for electricity is high, even if the cost of gasoline is high, such as in California. A side note, Jo Nova has an amusing photo of an electric car charging point, with a diesel-powered generator. See links under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Vehicles.
Green Power – Concrete and Steel and Mining Too: Mark Mills has been skeptical of claims by green advocates about yet to be demonstrated improvements, such as greatly increased efficiency of wind turbines. In the Wall Street Journal, he discusses the need of concrete and steel and for mining to meet the envisioned “needs” for “green energy”, so-called “renewables.” Some of the specifics include:
“Building one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of nonrecyclable plastic. [Size not specified.] Solar power requires even more cement, steel and glass—not to mention other metals. Global silver and indium mining will jump 250% and 1,200% respectively over the next couple of decades to provide the materials necessary to build the number of solar panels, the International Energy Agency forecasts. World demand for rare-earth elements—which aren’t rare but are rarely mined in America—will rise 300% to 1,000% by 2050 to meet the Paris green goals. If electric vehicles replace conventional cars, demand for cobalt and lithium, will rise more than 20-fold. That doesn’t count batteries to back up wind and solar grids.
The demand for minerals likely won’t be met by mines in Europe or the U.S. Instead, much of the mining will take place in nations with oppressive labor practices. The Democratic Republic of the Congo produces 70% of the world’s raw cobalt, and China controls 90% of cobalt refining. The Sydney-based Institute for a Sustainable Future cautions that a global ‘gold’ rush for minerals could take miners into ‘some remote wilderness areas [that] have maintained high biodiversity because they haven’t yet been disturbed.’
The enormous environmental damage done in China and the Congo from mining for lithium and cobalt needed for batteries is largely ignored by the western press and the green industry. Instead the green industry is trying to shut down what little mining is occurring in the US. See Article #1 and links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
SEPP’S APRIL FOOLS AWARD
The voting is closed and the winner who most closely meets the qualification is being selected. No missing shards here, one hopes.
Number of the Week: $20/kWh vs. $1,250/kWh. Using very rough numbers, a research team headed by members of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, MIT, estimated that “energy storage capacity below $20/kWh could enable cost-competitive baseload power” with wind and solar as the primary generation sources. The study is based on 4 locations over 20 years with hourly resolution. However, as Tom Quirk of Australia has repeatedly shown, hourly resolution can be very misleading, hiding generation failures that are brief but when totaled, significant.
In 2018, the US EIA published rough estimates of costs of different battery storage technologies based on technical characteristics. Short term batteries have durations less than 30 minutes, long term have more than 2-hour nameplate duration. The median capacity-weighted average for all technologies is about $1,250/kWh.
For western civilization to achieve the “green dream” of no fossil fuel use, a great deal of earth moving is needed, also great technological breakthroughs are need. Mobilizing the needed earth movement is possible at great expense and hardship, but the needed technological improvements cannot be commanded or expected. See links under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Energy — Storage
1. If You Want ‘Renewable Energy,’ Get Ready to Dig
Building one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of plastic.
By Mark P. Mills, WSJ, Aug 5, 2019
Edited by TWTW, Mills begins:
Democrats dream of powering society entirely with wind and solar farms combined with massive batteries. Realizing this dream would require the biggest expansion in mining the world has seen and would produce huge quantities of waste.
‘Renewable energy’ is a misnomer. Wind and solar machines and batteries are built from nonrenewable materials. And they wear out. Old equipment must be decommissioned, generating millions of tons of waste. The International Renewable Energy Agency calculates that solar goals for 2050 consistent with the Paris Accords will result in old-panel disposal constituting more than double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste. Consider some other sobering numbers:
A single electric-car battery weighs about 1,000 pounds. Fabricating one requires digging up, moving and processing more than 500,000 pounds of raw materials somewhere on the planet. The alternative? Use gasoline and extract one-tenth as much total tonnage to deliver the same number of vehicle-miles over the battery’s seven-year life.
When electricity comes from wind or solar machines, every unit of energy produced, or mile traveled, requires far more materials and land than fossil fuels. That physical reality is literally visible: A wind or solar farm stretching to the horizon can be replaced by a handful of gas-fired turbines, each no bigger than a tractor-trailer.”
After discussing specifics found in the text above, Mills continues:
“What’s more, mining and fabrication require the consumption of hydrocarbons. Building enough wind turbines to supply half the world’s electricity would require nearly two billion tons of coal to produce the concrete and steel, along with two billion barrels of oil to make the composite blades. More than 90% of the world’s solar panels are built in Asia on coal-heavy electric grids.
“Engineers joke about discovering ‘unobtanium,’ a magical energy-producing element that appears out of nowhere, requires no land, weighs nothing, and emits nothing. Absent the realization of that impossible dream, hydrocarbons remain a far better alternative than today’s green dreams.”
2. Vegetarianism as Climate Virtue Signaling
First World solipsism misses the point of a new U.N. report.
By Borg Lomborg, WSJ, Aug 8, 2019
Edited by TWTW: In addition to what is presented above, Mr. Lomborg, the president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” writes:
“Rather than false hopes about dietary change, the focus should be on improving agricultural practices. First, organic food is bad for sustainability. A 2017 paper found organic farming takes 70% more land on average to produce the same amount of produce as conventional methods. Making U.S. agricultural production entirely organic would require converting an area larger than California and Texas combined into farmland.
“Second, agricultural yields must increase. The Green Revolution of the 1970s spread fertilizers and modern practices, making a lasting difference in Asia and South America. A second Green Revolution is needed to make agriculture even more efficient.
“This means more spending on agricultural research and development, from conventional breeding to genetic modification and even artificial meat, which makes vegetarianism a more plausible choice. Copenhagen Consensus research estimates that increasing research spending by $8 billion a year would increase crop yields annually by an additional 0.4%. This might sound modest, but it would improve food security, reduce prices, and achieve social good worth more than $30 for every dollar invested.
“Focusing only on vegetarianism is more about virtue signaling than improving the food system. Instead of shaming people for eating hamburgers, let’s ramp up agricultural R&D.
3. Another Day in Bureaucratic Hell
A legal fight with the EPA shows the worst of the administrative state.
Editorial, WSJ, Aug 8, 2019
Edited by TWTW; the editorial states:
“Modern bureaucratic government can sometimes be difficult to navigate. But this summer a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., issued a ruling on the administrative state that would make Kafka smile.
“The story begins in 2007 when Congress expanded the renewable fuel standard. The law set targets for how much ethanol and biodiesel must be blended into America’s fuel supply. In typical dereliction of legislative duty, Congress delegated much of the implementation to the Environmental Protection Agency. As one stipulation, the EPA was told to perform “periodic reviews” of the law’s results, including “the impacts of the requirements described in subsection (a)(2).”
“First problem: There is no subsection (a)(2). This provision does not exist.
“Second problem: For years the EPA never performed any formal periodic review, at least not identified as such.
“In 2017 Valero Energy filed a lawsuit. As an owner of refineries, Valero is required to either blend renewables into its products or buy compliance credits called RINs. Each year refiners spend hundreds of millions of dollars on these credits. Valero would naturally be upset at the EPA’s failure to review how the renewable plan was working, as the law seemed to require. So the company asked the judiciary to step in.
“A district court in Texas sided with the EPA. Since the law specified only ‘periodic’ review, without dictating a timetable, the court ruled that the EPA could do it, essentially, whenever. The agency ‘has a duty to conduct these reviews,’ the judge wrote, ‘but discretion to determine when and how often.’ To steal an old Conan O’Brien gag, maybe the EPA would get around to it in the year 3000.”
Then came the appeals, the editorial continues:
“The company sought help from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. No dice. On June 25 the court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. The EPA’s interpretive document could not be reviewed, wrote Judge Sri Srinivasan, because it ‘does not constitute final agency action.’ He cited a two-part test. First, a ‘final’ action can’t be ‘merely tentative or interlocutory.’ Second, it must result in legal consequences or determine some party’s rights or obligations.
“The EPA’s document ‘imposes no obligations, prohibitions, or restrictions,’ he wrote. ‘Nor does it affect EPA’s legal obligation to conduct periodic reviews. Rather, it leaves the world just as it found it.’ As a technical matter of law, this may be correct and simply another lovely day in the administrative state.
“But for Valero, this is a saga of bureaucratic hell. Congress writes a law, giving power to the EPA. Sloppy drafting creates a citation to nowhere. The EPA fails to conduct a formal review and then, after being sued, claims it did so all along. When the regulated company cries foul, it’s told that ‘periodic’ merely means ‘not never.’ Then the EPA’s avowal of its own compliance is deemed unreviewable.
“This is what democracy looks like?”