Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #379

The Week That Was: October 5, 2019, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Quote of the Week – “Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck.” —Thomas Jefferson (1822)

Number of the Week: Almost 64%


Contradiction in Studies: The latest report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes, The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, contains many dire warnings of alarming sea level rise from oceans warming much faster than “previously thought” and Polar Ice melting much faster than “previously thought.” Of course, who “previously thought” what is not clear, though the word previously surely refers to a time when the “science was settled.”

In the approved Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC study are numerous graphs showing dire sea level rise of almost 5.5 meters (18 feet) by 2300 – 280 years from now.

Assessments of projected future changes in this report are based largely on CMIP5 climate model projections using Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). RCPs are scenarios that include time series of emissions and concentrations of the full suite of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and aerosols and chemically active gases, as well as land use / land cover. RCPs provide only one set of many possible scenarios that would lead to different levels of global warming.

This report uses mainly RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 in its assessment, reflecting the available literature. RCP2.6 represents a low greenhouse gas emission, high mitigation future, that in CMIP5 simulations gives a two in three chance of limiting global warming to below 2°C by 2100 15. By contrast, RCP8.5 is a high greenhouse gas emission scenario in the absence of policies to combat climate change, leading to continued and sustained growth in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Compared to the total set of RCPs, RCP8.5 corresponds to the pathway with the highest greenhouse gas emissions. The underlying chapters also reference other scenarios, including RCP4.5 and RCP6.0 that have intermediate levels of greenhouse gas emissions and result in intermediate levels of warming. (p. SPM-7)

Table SPM.1 provides estimates of total warming since the pre-industrial period under four different RCPs for key assessment intervals used in SROCC. The warming from the 1850–1900 period until 1986–2005 has been assessed as 0.63°C (0.57 to 0.69°C likely range) using observations of near-surface air temperature over the ocean and over land. Consistent with the approach in AR5, modelled future changes in global mean surface air temperature relative to 1986– 2005 are added to this observed warming. (p. SPM 7-8)

For the lowest scenario, a table shows that the near term (2031 to 2050) likely warning increase in temperatures is 1.1 to 2.0 degrees C (2 to 3.5 ºF) and the end-of-century (2081 to 2100) is 0.9 to 2.4 degrees C (1.6 to 4.3 ºF note the projecting a cooling in the lower extreme from 2050 to 2100).

Correspondingly, for the highest scenario, the table shows that the near term (2031 to 2050) likely warning increase in temperatures is 1.5 to 2.4 degrees C (2.7 to 4.3 ºF) and the end-of-century (2081 to 2100) is 3.2 to 5.4 degrees C (5.8 to 9.7 ºF).

Further, the SPM states assuredly that:

It is virtually certain that the global ocean has warmed unabated since 1970 and has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system (high confidence). Since 1993, the rate of ocean warming has more than doubled (likely). Marine heatwaves have very likely doubled in frequency since 1982 and are increasing in intensity (very high confidence). By absorbing more CO2, the ocean has undergone increasing surface acidification (virtually certain). A loss of oxygen has occurred from the surface to 1000 m (medium confidence). (p. SPM-8) [Boldface italics in original.]

Global mean sea level (GMSL) is rising, with acceleration in recent decades due to increasing rates of ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets (very high confidence), as well as continued glacier mass loss and ocean thermal expansion. Increases in tropical cyclone winds and rainfall, and increases in extreme waves, combined with relative sea level rise, exacerbate extreme sea level events and coastal hazards (high confidence) (p. SPM-10)

There is a problem with the statement that it is virtually certain that global oceans have persistently warmed: a key study used has been retracted for statistical errors. After persistent efforts by independent researcher Nic Lewis, retired from finance with a background in mathematics and statistics, Nature has withdrawn the paper known as Resplandy, et al. The retraction notice states:

“Shortly after publication, arising from comments from Nicholas Lewis, we realized that our reported uncertainties were underestimated owing to our treatment of certain systematic errors as random errors. In addition, we became aware of several smaller issues in our analysis of uncertainty. Although correcting these issues did not substantially change the central estimate of ocean warming, it led to a roughly fourfold increase in uncertainties, significantly weakening implications for an upward revision of ocean warming and climate sensitivity. Because of these weaker implications, the Nature editors asked for a Retraction, which we accept. Despite the revised uncertainties, our method remains valid and provides an estimate of ocean warming that is independent of the ocean data underpinning other approaches. The revised paper, with corrected uncertainties, will be submitted to another journal. The Retraction will contain a link to the new publication, if and when it is published.” [From a post by Lewis in Climate Etc.]

Despite the assertion in the retraction, whether the central estimate of ocean warming is accurate remains open. However, the virtual certainty claimed by the IPCC is unsupported. The IPCC has the excuse that it does not do research and relies on peer-reviewed journals. As demonstrated by the correspondence revealed in Climategate, the quality of the peer-review is questionable. Also, the selection of research used by the IPCC is questionable. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Defending the Orthodoxy.


Further Issues With the IPCC: Writing in Quadrant Online, Australian geologist Michael Kile discusses a number of other issues concerning the latest IPCC report and the claims of some of its authors. As Kile states:

“The assessment reports are described as ‘neutral, policy relevant but not policy prescriptive’. Translation: we are not telling you what to do but encourage you to do what we are telling you. They are drafted and reviewed in several stages. This byzantine process with its own jargon – ‘a calibrated language for the communication of confidence’ – apparently ensures ‘objectivity and transparency’. The IPCC does not conduct its own research.”

Kile illustrates how byzantine the process is by discussing a September 26 interview of Professor Matthew England, Deputy Director of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) in Sydney, and a contributing author on two earlier IPCC Assessment Reports, broadcast by the government controlled Australian Broadcasting Company. The subject was “tipping points.”

[Interviewer] Eleanor Hall: So, you’re saying that even scientists are often not aware of when we’re approaching a tipping point?

Professor England: Yes. Tipping points come about due to the non-linearity of the [climate] system. What I mean by that is you get a small change triggering a larger impact. You can get breaking up of an ice sheet and a rate of sea-level rise that we are [initially] comfortable to adapt to. At the moment, we have had only 15 cm of sea-level rise over the last 30 to 40 years. That has already caused a lot of damage to the coast. But 15cm is a very tiny fraction of the five metres being forecast by 2300. (3.55min.)

I should say 2300 does sound like a long, long time away but it’s only six or seven generations. That’s why we’re seeing all these protests from students today. They’re recognising the fact that we’re leaving them with a huge debt. [Underline in original]

So, without physical evidence that a global warming “tipping point” even exists, Professor England is claiming we are approaching one by 2300. Further, TWTW strongly disagrees with the “15 cm of sea-level rise over the last 30 to 40 years.” On average, sea levels are rising by no more than 8 inches (20 cm) per century. For Kile’s further comments on the latest IPCC report see links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


What Is Science? Reviewing IPCC reports, and reports from its followers such as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), prompts the questions whether the authors even know what modern science is. What are its processes, and what are its limits? There are numerous textbook answers to this question, but not completely satisfactory.

Possibly the most comprehensive and understandable answer came in a lecture by Nobel Laureate in Physics Richard Feynman, a brilliant lecturer who insisted on teaching students. Feynman addressed this critical question at the fifteenth annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association in 1966 in a humorous, self-depreciating manner. The salient conclusion is:

“So there came a time, perhaps, when for some species [humans?] the rate at which learning was increased, reached such a pitch that suddenly a completely new thing happened: things could be learned by one individual animal, passed on to another, and another fast enough that it was not lost to the race. Thus, became possible an accumulation of knowledge of the race.

“This has been called time-binding. I don’t know who first called it this. At any rate, we have here [in this hall] some samples of those animals, sitting here trying to bind one experience to another, each one trying to learn from the other.

“This phenomenon of having a memory for the race, of having an accumulated knowledge passable from one generation to another, was new in the world–but it had a disease in it: it was possible to pass on ideas which were not profitable for the race. The race has ideas, but they are not necessarily profitable.

“So, there came a time in which the ideas, although accumulated very slowly, were all accumulations not only of practical and useful things, but great accumulations of all types of prejudices, and strange and odd beliefs.

“Then a way of avoiding the disease was discovered. This is to doubt that what is being passed from the past is in fact true, and to try to find out ab initio [from the beginning] again from experience what the situation is, rather than trusting the experience of the past in the form in which it is passed down. And that is what science is: the result of the discovery that it is worthwhile rechecking by new direct experience, and not necessarily trusting the [human] race[‘s] experience from the past. I see it that way. That is my best definition.

“I would like to remind you all of things that you know very well in order to give you a little enthusiasm. In religion, the moral lessons are taught, but they are not just taught once, you are inspired again and again, and I think it is necessary to inspire again and again, and to remember the value of science for children, for grown-ups, and everybody else, in several ways; not only [so] that we will become better citizens, more able to control nature and so on.”

After discussing beauty in science, Feynman further states:

“Another of the qualities of science is that it teaches the value of rational thought as well as the importance of freedom of thought; the positive results that come from doubting that the lessons are all true. You must here distinguish–especially in teaching–the science from the forms or procedures that are sometimes used in developing science. It is easy to say, “We write, experiment, and observe, and do this or that.” You can copy that form exactly. But great religions are dissipated by following form without remembering the direct content of the teaching of the great leaders. In the same way, it is possible to follow form and call it science, but that is pseudo-science. In this way, we all suffer from the kind of tyranny we have today in the many institutions that have come under the influence of pseudoscientific advisers.

“We have many studies in teaching, for example, in which people make observations, make lists, do statistics, and so on, but these do not thereby become established science, established knowledge. They are merely an imitative form of science analogous to the South Sea Islanders’ airfields–radio towers, etc., made out of wood. The islanders expect a great airplane to arrive. They even build wooden airplanes of the same shape as they see in the foreigners’ airfields around them, but strangely enough, their wood planes do not fly. The result of this pseudoscientific imitation is to produce experts, which many of you are. [But] you teachers, who are really teaching children at the bottom of the heap, can maybe doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

“When someone says, “Science teaches such and such,” he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach anything; experience teaches it. If they say to you, “Science has shown such and such,” you might ask, “How does science show it? How did the scientists find out? How? What? Where?”

“It should not be “science has shown” but “this experiment, this effect, has shown.” And you have as much right as anyone else, upon hearing about the experiments–but be patient and listen to all the evidence–to judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at.

“In a field which is so complicated [as education] that true science is not yet able to get anywhere, we have to rely on a kind of old-fashioned wisdom, a kind of definite straightforwardness. I am trying to inspire the teacher at the bottom to have some hope and some self-confidence in common sense and natural intelligence. The experts who are leading you may be wrong.

“I have probably ruined the system, and the students that are coming into Caltech no longer will be any good. I think we live in an unscientific age in which almost all the buffeting of communications and television–words, books, and so on–are unscientific. As a result, there is a considerable amount of intellectual tyranny in the name of science.”

The freedom to question is missing in climate science, and it has become an intellectual tyranny. This description applies to US government entities as well as the IPCC. See links under Censorship and Seeking a Common Ground.


Number of the Week: Almost 64% — According to the EIA:

“Heat rate is one measure of the efficiency of electrical generators/power plants that convert a fuel into heat and into electricity. The heat rate is the amount of energy used by an electrical generator/power plant to generate one kilowatthour (kWh) of electricity.” The heat rate is (but for the units) the reciprocal of efficiency. The EIA measures heat in units of British Thermal Units (BTU). One kWh, dissipated as heat, is equivalent to 3,412 BTU. So, a typical heat rate for electrical generation is given as 9,000 BTU/kWh, equivalent to an efficiency of 39%.

According to press releases, the latest in the current line of GE combined cycle gas turbines have a net efficiency approaching 64%, a level being approached by competitors Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems and Siemens Gas and Power. See link under Oil and Natural Gas – the Future or the Past? and https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=107&t=3



1. California’s Foreign-Oil Problem

Why the Golden State is dependent on the Saudis, unlike most of America.

Editorial, WSJ, Sep 30, 2019


TWTW Summary: The Editorial states:

“Following the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities last month, many forecasters warned that gas prices would spike. Yet prices have hardly budged—except in California, where they are surging due to policies that have made the state more reliant on foreign oil.

“Gas prices in the Golden State have shot up 30 cents a gallon in the last week amid problems at in-state refineries to a statewide average of $4.03 a gallon and may be headed higher. Prices rose a mere 10 cents nationwide in the week after the attacks on Saudi facilities and have since ticked down a few cents.

“A big reason gas prices didn’t spike after the Saudi attack is growing U.S. shale oil production, which has doubled since 2012 to about 12.5 million barrels a day and added about six million barrels to global supply. This has more than offset the 5.7 million barrels that were temporarily knocked out of Saudi production.

“Yet oil production in California has declined about 18% since 2012 as older wells are exhausted and regulatory costs make it less profitable to drill new ones. California has made up for its declining domestic production by importing more foreign oil by tanker, especially from, you guessed it, Saudi Arabia—which emits more CO2.”

After a discussion of refinery closures caused by new regulations the editorial continues

“Thus when California refineries experience problems, retailers must import foreign gasoline at steep prices, a challenge partly exacerbated by the outages in Saudi Arabia. Add California’s 61-cent-a-gallon gas tax—the highest in the country—and this is why its gas prices are now nearly $1.40 higher than the U.S. average and $1.70 more than in Texas.

“Gov. Gavin Newsom recently remarked that ‘Saudi Arabia is showing us how dependent we are on foreign oil.’ By ‘we,’ he means the royal California.”


2. Greta Thunberg Has the Climate Alarmists’ Number

If they believed what they claim to believe, they’d do a lot more about it. She’s right—how dare they?

By Barton Swain, WSJ, Oct 4, 2019


The WSJ editorial page writer states:

“How to think about Greta Thunberg ? She is the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist known for her articulate fulminations on climate change. At last month’s United Nations General Assembly, she scolded delegates. ‘I shouldn’t be up here,’ she said, her expression contorted with rage. ‘I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!’

“It’s true that political causes discredit themselves by allowing children to make arguments they don’t understand. But ridiculing a child, however cynical her promoters, is dishonorable. I vividly recall the vicious mockery from supposedly responsible adults when Caitlin Upton mangled an answer about geography in the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant. The spectacle of grown men ridiculing a well-meaning 18-year-old girl wasn’t an appealing one.

“Commentators who sympathize with Ms. Thunberg’s views are perceptibly conflicted about whether they should champion her activism or wish she’d go away. You sense the uncertainty in center-left punditry about her. She gets praise for her bold preaching on climate change, which the right can’t criticize without appearing boorish—great. But a political movement spoken for by a teenager can’t be taken altogether seriously.

“Yet Ms. Thunberg has a lesser-noted claim on our attention—not her expertise or her degree of alarm, but her insight into the global climate-change movement itself. She is aware—and has the bad manners to say so—that the vast majority of wealthy transnationals who intone rote demands that governments ‘take action’ on climate change don’t actually believe what they’re saying.

“At the U.N., Ms. Thunberg wasn’t speaking to rubes and oilmen and climate ‘deniers.’ She was speaking to the swarms of diplomatic elite who had earlier disembarked from jumbo jets and descended on Midtown Manhattan’s bars, restaurants and five-star hotels and clogged its streets with phalanxes of giant sport-utility vehicles. Ms. Thunberg appears to suspect—rightly—that these people don’t think we’re headed for doomsday. They enjoy the moral uplift afforded by their fashionable views; otherwise they’re along for the ride.

“Young children don’t see hypocrisy for what it is. They have faith in adults. When Ms. Thunberg was younger and she heard European politicians and leaders of nongovernmental organizations insisting that the world would experience cataclysmic environmental degradation unless governments imposed dramatic changes, she believed them. She couldn’t have understood that when the leaders she admired spoke of taking ‘dramatic’ and ‘immediate’ action to combat climate change, all they had in mind was the incremental transfer of political power to unaccountable regulatory agencies and transnational organizations in faraway capitals.”

After a brief discussion of Ms. Thunberg’s homelife the writer continues:

“They could argue with impeccable logic that there’s no point in making major changes to your lifestyle, since real progress requires that developed and developing nations all agree to huge decreases in carbon emissions. That, as everybody at the U.N. must know even if they pretend not to, will never happen: No national government can be expected to cripple its economy on the dubious promise that other nations will cripple theirs. So our climate leaders are happily reduced to making piecemeal demands for more regulatory powers—most of which will have no appreciable effect on global climate. [Boldface added]

“Ms. Thunberg grasps that if today’s climate leaders believed what they claim to believe, they would use their power to impose drastic reductions to greenhouse emissions, whatever other nations might do. They would also, if their convictions were genuine, engage in terrible and revolutionary deeds for the salvation of humanity: intimidation, brutality, sabotage. Instead they are content to trumpet the right opinions and otherwise persist in their ordinary habits of consumption as though none of it really mattered. Greta Thunberg has a point. How dare they?”


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