The Week That Was: December 7, 2019, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)
Quote of the Week: “The real problem in speech is not precise language. The problem is clear language. The desire is to have the idea clearly communicated to the other person. It is only necessary to be precise when there is some doubt as to the meaning of a phrase, and then the precision should be put in the place where the doubt exists. It is really quite impossible to say anything with absolute precision, unless that thing is so abstracted from the real world as to not represent any real thing.” – Richard Feynman (New Textbooks for the “New” Mathematics)
Embarrassment of Riches: This week there were several publications which need careful discussion, too much for an individual TWTW because it becomes too long and confusing. This TWTW will discuss the history of Climategate by statistician Steve McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick. McIntyre and McKitrick broke the infamous “hockey-stick” by Mr. Mann, which was used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to erroneously claim that the globe experienced little temperature change for 900 years prior to the Industrial Revolution, starting in the late 1800s.
In “Climategate: Untangling Myth and Reality Ten Years Later,” McIntyre and McKitrick (M&M) discuss how members of the Climate Establishment have attempted to “gloss over” the deliberate efforts to mislead the public about their significant errors, therefore abusing the public trust. This is significant, because the UN is demanding a $100 billion per year in “protection payments” to stop “dangerous climate change” – all based on erroneous work that does not stand up to scrutiny. The findings of dangerous global warming from increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) are more science fiction than science.
The other important papers were a discussion of the greenhouse effect by W. A. van Wijngaarden and W. Happer (W&H) of the CO2 Coalition in “Methane and Climate” and a paper by Richard Lindzen “On Climate Sensitivity” with assistance from Roy Spencer. These papers are based more on what is actually happening in the atmosphere than on what is speculated to be happening by the Climate Establishment and their modelers. These papers will be discussed more fully in the next TWTW.
But it is important to note at this time, that the W&H paper has already been subject to yellow journalism turned green. As discussed in last week’s TWTW, environmental (green) organizations have aligned themselves with the IPCC and are heavily supporting their goals. In short, the characteristics of yellow journalism are found in much green journalism, of which the IPCC special reports and summaries are a part. In an editorial in the once respected Science Magazine, a reporter for the green news service, E&E News, attacked the W&H paper. It is evident that the reporter and, perhaps, the editors of Science do not understand the greenhouse effect, which is the basis of the claim that CO2 is causing dangerous global warming.
It is also important to note that many types of measurements cannot be made with sufficient precision to understand or fully know many types of human and natural influences. As Roy Spencer states in his post on the atmospheric temperature record from satellites expressing that 2019 may be the third least-chilly year in the record. As Spencer wrote:
“This is fully consistent with the science, since the global energy imbalance necessary to explain recent warming (about 1 part in 250 of the natural energy flows in and out of the climate system) is much smaller than [the uncertainty of] our knowledge of those flows, either from either theoretical first principles or from observations.”
It is the presumption of knowledge by the IPCC and its modelers that may be worst abuse of the principles of the scientific method.
See links under Climategate Continued, Challenging the Orthodoxy, Measurement Issues – Atmosphere, and Communicating Better to the Public – Use Yellow (Green) Journalism?
Climategate – A Sad Revelation: Climategate, a set of emails released beginning in late November of 2009, revealed to independent observers that Climate Science, was not necessarily science rigorously using the scientific method to objectively understand the influence of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, on the earth’s climate. The history given by M & M is important and will be quoted extensively. Climategate revealed:
“The evidence of scientists cutting corners, playing down uncertainties in their calculations and then covering their tracks by being secretive with data and suppressing dissent suggests a systemic problem of scientific sloppiness, collusion and endemic conflicts of interest, but not of outright fraud.” p 3
At the time commentators asserted it cannot happen again.
“However, rather than confronting the corruption and misconduct apparent throughout the Climategate emails, the climate academic community shut their eyes to the affair, eventually even persuading itself that the offending scientists were victims, rather than offenders.”
“This re-framing was made possible by numerous myths propagated about the affair, of which the following were especially important:
“Myth #1: The Climategate scandal arose because ‘cherrypicked’ emails were taken ‘out of
“Myth #2: The Climategate correspondents were ‘exonerated’ following ‘thorough’ and impartial investigations.
“Myth #3: Scientific studies subsequent to Climategate have ‘confirmed’ and ‘verified’ the original Mann hockey stick.
“These are only the major myths from a veritable tsunami of disinformation from the academic community. The myths are untrue, and, in this article, we will explain why”.(pp 3 & 4)
The original tree-ring data from the Polar Ural Mountains showed a strong Medieval Warm Period, overturning published conclusions. McIntyre’s requests for the data for the new findings were “stonewalled.”
The inquiries that supposedly exonerated the researchers didn’t look at the key data. It was a “whitewash.” For example:
“…The Muir Russell panel dismissed all these concerns [regarding excluded data] on the basis that they were not published in academic journals. This was ridiculous reasoning since, first, much of the battle involved getting the journals to enforce their own data disclosure policies but this typically does not lead to an article in the journal, and second, by refusing to disclose the data Briffa was making it impossible for papers critical of his analysis from being published.”. p 5
TWTW comment: Very simply, the investigations were useless and encouraged similar behavior in the future. We are seeing such a future now, in what is termed the PAGES2K study which is claimed to support the hockey-stick version of history over the past two thousand years. As stated by M&M:
“• PAGES2K and similar studies remain primarily dependent on problematic and inconsistent tree ring data, many of which go down in the last half of the 20th century. In order to extract a Hockey Stick shape from inconsistent tree ring data, climate academics, including PAGES2K, have resorted to ad hoc methods (ex post screening, ex post orientation) which are condemned by mainstream statisticians and in statistical literature, but which enhance the hockey stickness of the resulting reconstruction. The ex post screening and manipulation even extends to data used in seemingly technical reports
“• Use of tree ring widths as a temperature proxy is made even more problematic by the impact of the extraordinary worldwide ‘greening’ during past 30 years, primarily attributed by specialists to carbon dioxide fertilization, on ring widths – an effect which is not disentangled in PAGES2K.
“• The controversial stripbark bristlecone series, relied upon by Mann et al 1998, continue to be used in PAGES2K reports, even though the 2006 NAS panel recommended that such data be ‘avoided’ in temperature reconstructions.
“• In their zeal to obtain a hockey stick, PAGES2K authors, like Mann et al 2008, have introduced sediment series without taking care to ensure a physical link, leading to a series of embarrassing gaffes arising from series contaminated by construction run-off and even used upside down [graphs].
“Ex Post Screening/Orientation of Inconsistent Tree Ring Data
Even before Climategate emails, there had been considerable controversy over Mann-style reconstructions using tree ring data.
“As early as 2006, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, an eminent scientist and now the chair of IPCC
Working Group 1, told us privately that she found persuasive our critique of multiproxy temperature reconstructions, primarily relying on tree ring data, and that, in her opinion, the only way forward for the field was the development of new and better proxies – a process that, in her opinion, could easily take 20 years. Although 14 of the 20 years have now passed, the PAGES2K multiproxy reconstructions continue to predominantly rely on tree ring data. Tree ring
chronologies made up 83% of the PAGES2K (2013 network used in IPCC AR5 (PAGES2K 2017 – 60%).
“If there were a consistent ‘signal’ in tree ring site ‘chronologies’ (ring width time series), the ‘signal’ could be easily recovered by simple averaging. But that’s not what was done in PAGES2K, which has thrashed about frenetically in the impossible task of extracting temperature estimates from inconsistent tree ring data.” pp 25 & 26
M&M discuss problems with North American Tree Ring Proxy Network,
“In other words, 85% of the ‘carefully chosen’ North American tree ring chronologies used in PAGES2K (2013) did not correlate positively with temperature, even with four chances (entire year or growing season, local or regional). Some of these series came from the sites used in the original Briffa reconstruction – with its disquieting decline in the last half of the 20th century.”
In conclusion M&M state:
“Climategate did not arise from a few emails being taken ‘out of context’. It was exactly the opposite. The emails provided behind-the-scenes and very disquieting context for troubling statistical and scientific practices which had, for the most part, already been identified by us and others in published articles in scientific journals and blogs.
“The contemporary whitewashing and ultimate sanitization by climate academics are itself an interesting and mostly untold story. Climategate exposed bad practices; the fake inquiries whitewashed them, and now the story is being retold so the villains are not only innocent but are to be embraced as heroes. It is an almost classic example of what Alexander Pope famously observed in his Essay on Man (1733) nearly three centuries ago:
“’Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
Not discussed, is the great uncertainty of proxy data, it is noisy, giving many differing signals. Separating the different signals is difficult, and often misleading. Unfortunately, the public has been given impression that tree rings are precise measurements, which is not correct. We can use tree rings to discover that something happened in (say) 1200 AD. They do not tell us what happened, increasing warmth, greater moisture, or, recently, CO2 fertilization. Thus, we can have annual dates on what happened but not why.
As discussed below, it appears that the IPCC and the climate modelers will use the vice exhibited by Climategate to create even greater fears of carbon dioxide-caused warming. See links under Climategate Continued.
The Next Generation of Fears: Writing in Carbon Brief, Zeke Hausfather, an environmental economist formerly of the Berkeley Earth project, discusses the next generation of global climate models which have an even greater estimate (guess) of the sensitivity of the globe to increasing CO2 than the current models, which greatly overestimate the warming of the atmosphere to increasing CO2. Hausfather begins impressively:
“Climate models are one of the primary means for scientists to understand how the climate has changed in the past and may change in the future. These models simulate the physics, chemistry and biology of the atmosphere, land and oceans in great detail, and require some of the largest supercomputers in the world to generate their climate projections.
“Climate models are constantly being updated, as different modelling groups around the world incorporate higher spatial resolution, new physical processes and biogeochemical cycles. These modelling groups coordinate their updates around the schedule of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports, releasing a set of model results – known as ‘runs’ – in the lead-up to each one.”
Later Hausfather states:
“While the results from only around 31 CMIP6 models have been published so far, it is already evident that a number of them have a notably higher climate sensitivity than models in CMIP5. This higher sensitivity contributes to projections of greater warming this century – around 0.4C to 0.9C warmer than similar scenarios run in CMIP5 – though these warming projections may change as more models become available. Researchers are still working to assess why sensitivity values appear higher in the latest generation of models.”
But Hausfather fails to mention one critical issue needed before any of these models, or model runs, be considered as meeting the requirements of the scientific method – repeated testing against all relevant physical evidence, especially atmospheric temperature observations. Without this testing, the modelers will remain in their own special world, apart from the physical world.
Other reports indicate that the justifications for higher climate sensitivity to CO2 are coming based on PAGES2K, the new hockey-stick. If this becomes the case, then the discussion by M&M, above, is much needed and timely. The modelers will be doing little more than expanding on a myth. See links under Climategate Continued and Model Issues.
Modelers Have It Right! The same Hausfather, as above, two researchers at MIT, and Gavin Schmidt of NASA/GISS published a paper claiming that climate models correctly describe the warming of the earth.
Greenhouse gases, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, are responsible for a rise of nearly 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit in global mean temperatures since 1880, two-thirds of that since 1975.
This may be numerically correct, assuming that greenhouse gas warming occurs on asphalt or immediately above it. They ignore the far more comprehensive atmospheric temperature observations, where the greenhouse effect occurs. With surface temperatures, they cannot separate greenhouse gas warming from increased asphalt or similar human influences. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.
COP Festivities: The 25th annual Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is scheduled to end on Friday, December 13. No doubt there will be grand announcements of what was accomplished and why it will be critical for the world to continue these events, which accomplish little of benefit to humanity. TWTW will comment after the current noise has dimmed. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy, After Paris, and Below the Bottom Line.
Green – The New Yellow Journalism: An article in World News Daily brings four distinct periods over the past 125 years when scientists and other climate experts were predicting dangerous climate change. First was a new ice age starting in the 1890s, replaced by a warming in the 1920s, replaced by a cooling in the 1970s, and a warming in the 1980s. Now, we see articles that those predicting a dire warming are emotionally upset because others won’t believe them? They fail to give solid evidence why they should be believed. Models can be used to create predictions. It’s the testing that counts.
In a presentation to the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, Willie Soon describes strategies used to frighten people being used by Greenpeace and other environmental groups. He gives clear examples of erroneous assertions and the considerable funds raised by false claims. Greenpeace receives over $350 million per year following a simple plan: 1) invent a problem, 2) invent a simple solution, 3) pick an enemy, and 4) dismiss alternative solutions. Of course, heavy advertising is needed to promote the program.
Number of the Week: Minus 89,000 Down from plus 13,442,000 b/d. According to the November 29 release by the US Energy Information Administration, in August 2006 the US Net Imports of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products were 13,442,000 barrels per day (b/d). In September 2019, they were minus 89,000 b/d – meaning net exports. The change has been a net 13,531,000 b/d from imports to exports. Yet, green pressure groups and politicians ignore this remarkable change and talk about the growth of wind and solar. See links under Energy Issues – US and https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=pet&s=mttntus2&f=m
1. Requiem for a Climate Dream
By Holman Jenkins, WSJ, Dec 3, 2019
TWTW SUMMARY: The journalist writes:
“Rigor could be restored to mainstream climate journalism with a single clause. That clause consists of the words ‘if climate models are accurate.’
“A United Nations study issued in advance of this week’s climate summit in Madrid would appear in a different light, though still worrisome, and still a challenge to policy makers, if it were reported as saying: To avoid any chance of a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, annual emissions cuts of 7.6% must begin next year if computerized climate simulations are correct.
“Such simulations, we should admit, are science. Their findings represent a legitimate pursuit of knowledge. The common failing in the media involves leaving out the necessary caveats. Such carelessness has ultimately enabled a new kind of science denial on the left, where advocates like Greta Thunberg and the U.K. group Extinction Rebellion increasingly talk about climate change leading to a human demise that is nowhere supported in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or other scientific bodies.
“In my view, Al Gore bears heavy responsibility here. Name any important policy commitment in history—whether Social Security or Medicare or even fighting World War II—that required that all debate be silenced and all skeptics vilified before it could proceed. The Gore formula is good for stoking tribalism. It’s not good for making policy progress in a democracy. And so it has proved. Nobody remotely believes the supposedly necessary emissions cuts will take place. The only response left to the climate crowd is to ratchet up even more dire predictions.
“Let’s start over. If stated properly, the ‘scientific consensus’ would run as follows: climate models teach us to expect some warming from human-caused atmospheric CO2 increases, but disagree about how much. It’s hard to make cost-benefit judgments on such a basis, but happily the Green New Deal makes it easy—it would cost a lot of money and accomplish nothing since U.S. emissions are just 14% of the total and shrinking. India and China, not the U.S., will determine the fate of climate change.
“Cost-benefit analysis also tells us a bunch of things that might be worth doing even in light of the uncertainties. A tax reform based on a revenue-neutral carbon tax could make our tax system more efficient and pro-growth. Government investment in basic research tends to have a high payoff, and battery research is a particularly attractive opportunity. Rethinking nuclear power and regulation is another area of huge potential. Safer and cheaper nuclear technologies continue to advance on the drawing board even in today’s inhospitable political environment.
“And guess what? All the above would be easier to sell to other countries than Green New Deal masochism. Voters would readily gobble up new energy technologies and tax models that would make their societies richer and stronger.
“In honor of this week’s global climate gathering in Madrid, the New York Times aptly refers to the ‘gap between reality and diplomacy.’ International agreements, by their nature, are designed to put an imprimatur on what domestic politicians would do anyway, and that doesn’t include prematurely ending their careers by imposing on consumers the kind of crushing burdens the green left seeks.
“Look elsewhere for the turning points that actually matter. If climate change proves as severe as some scientists believe, the most damning moment will be one that passed largely unremarked except in this column: the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown after Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Under Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany, the world’s sixth biggest emitter, chaotically and thoughtlessly announced within weeks that it would close all 17 of its nuclear plants. China and India, then pursuing ambitious nuclear expansions that should have become more ambitious, instead recommitted themselves to burning vast amounts of coal.
Jenkins concludes that countries cannot turn to nuclear due to the fears instilled by yellow (green) journalism following the Fukushima disaster. In the view of TWTW, he misses the importance of hydraulic fracturing, particularly in the US, and the fears instilled by yellow (green) journalism for the development of other sources of oil and gas.
2. PG&E Had Systemic Problems With Power Line Maintenance, California Probe Finds
An investigation by state’s utilities commission concludes company failed to properly inspect and maintain transmission lines for years
By Russell Gold and Katherine Blunt, WSJ, Dec 2, 2019
TWTW SUMMARY: The reporters begin by stating:
PG&E Corp. failed to adequately inspect and maintain its transmission lines for years before a faulty line started the deadliest fire in California history, a state investigation has found.
“In a 700-page report detailing the problems that led the Caribou-Palermo transmission line to malfunction on Nov. 8, 2018, sparking the Camp Fire, investigators with the California Public Utilities Commission said they found systemic problems with how the company oversaw the safety of its oldest lines.
“State fire investigators had previously determined that PG&E equipment started the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people, and the company hasn’t disputed the findings. But the new report goes well beyond earlier findings, alleging numerous serious violations of state rules for maintaining electric lines and specific problems with upkeep of the transmission line that started the fire.
“The investigation’s conclusions corroborate many of the findings of previous Wall Street Journal articles, which found that PG&E deferred maintenance work on the Caribou-Palermo transmission line, along with numerous other older transmission lines.”
The article goes through detail in passing blame but does not identify who is ultimately responsible. As discussed in the November 16 TWTW, the Constitution of the State of California clearly assigns accountability and responsibility to the state government, namely the State Legislature. Section 3 of Article 12, the Public Utilities Section of the Constitution.