The Week That Was: January 4, 2020, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
Quote of the Week: “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.” – Richard Feynman (1966)
Science Is Dynamic, Not Static: As articulated by Richard Feynman, the scientific method is an on-going process of trial and error correction. It is not imposed by any organization or political power. It is a process of evaluating various concepts, ideas, guesses. If the guesses agree with physical evidence, obtained by experiments and / or observations, then they are tentatively accepted. If the guesses do not agree with the physical evidence, then they are changed or discarded. Failure to do so leads to poor science.
Elaborate models always include many assumptions, and computational models produce sets of numerical calculations. For elaborate models, it can be impossible for third parties to evaluate the internal logic, including the validity of the assumptions. Thus, the ability to describe and predict is usually the key for evaluating complex models, such as climate models. For several decades, the US climate models have not been able to correctly describe the atmospheric temperature trends. Thus, there is no logical reason to assume these models can predict changes in trends far into the future. In the formation of government policies, they should be dismissed as having no importance.
tmospheric greenhouse gases warm the surface of the earth by slowing the transfer of energy from the surface to space. These atmospheric gases absorb some of the infrared radiation emitted by the surface, thereby directly warming the atmosphere and indirectly warming the surface by a lesser amount by reducing the transfer of energy to space. Government entities that are funding modeling research and the EPA have confused warming of the surface – which may be from many other means, such as the Urban Heat Island effects – with greenhouse gas warming. The models (and the publications by the modelers) fail to account for the difference between surface warming and atmospheric warming – a critical failure.
The same failure to apply the scientific method of constant testing against changing physical evidence applies to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its followers. Many of the problems of the IPCC’s pronouncements result from their failure to follow the scientific method including ignoring contradicting evidence and / or substituting questionable indirect evidence for direct evidence. The failure to understand proper implementation of the scientific method is so widespread that members of The Union Of Concerned Scientists, have taken to calling comparison of model results against direct physical evidence as “cherry-picking.” (Cherry-picking is the process of selecting only the physical evidence that supports the hypothesis and ignoring other evidence that does not support the hypothesis, even though other evidence may be more direct or rigorously obtained.)
Today, TWTW will discuss two examples of the failure to properly apply the scientific method: one, ignoring significant warming of the Arctic in the past; and, two, the use of the linear no-threshold model (LNT) to claim beneficial activities and products are harmful. Both failures apply to US government entities as well as to many other organizations and people world-wide. For the 1966 description of science by Richard Feynman see Seeking a Common Ground.
Arctic Warming: There is little question that the Arctic has been warming over the past, say, 50 years. The question is cause. Is it due to carbon dioxide, or is this part of a natural cycle that the IPCC ignores? On his blog, Landscapes and Cycles, environmentalist and conservationist Jim Steele states he has become a climate skeptic who contrasts the success of conservation science with the deceptive claims of global warming advocates. In a new post, Steele discusses the current Arctic warming stating:
“Over the past 100 thousand years Greenland’s ice cores recorded 24 extreme warming episodes when air temperatures suddenly rose 14°F – 28°F (8°C – 16°C) in a few decades or less. More recently over 4000 years in the Canadian Arctic, decades of rapid ice loss accompanied air temperatures 3°F -10°F warmer than today, quickly followed by centuries of more sea ice and colder temperatures. Although the physics of those dramatic warming events are still in play today, the good news is[that] warming climates [actually] minimize such dramatic warm events.”
“The most extreme Arctic warming episodes were named “Dansgaard-Oeschger events” in honor of two scientists who discovered them. Although Greenland experienced the greatest warming, Dansgaard-Oeschger events affected climates globally. Ventilating warmth [energy transfer from the surface to the atmosphere] changed global atmospheric circulation, shifting European forests and altering California’s ocean currents. Counter-intuitively, each Dansgaard-Oeschger extreme warming event happened during the last Ice Age when the northern hemisphere was covered with great ice sheets and global temperatures were 5°F-14°F (3°C – 8°C) colder than pre-industrial times.”
After discussing how important the Atlantic Ocean is in transporting tropical heat to the Arctic, Steele goes on to say:
“The same dynamics triggering past Dansgaard-Oeschger events provide insight into today’s Arctic warming. During the 1970s and 80s, measurements over an ice covered Arctic recorded cooling air temperatures prompting researchers to publish, “Absence of Evidence For Greenhouse Warming Over the Arctic Ocean In the Past 40 Years.” Those cooling air temperatures did not reduce modern Arctic sea ice. But other factors did.
“Arctic winds can trap ice in the Arctic causing ice to thicken. However, when the winds shift, thick sea ice will be blown out and melt in warmer Atlantic waters. The resulting open water and thinner ice allows more Arctic subsurface heat to ventilate [transfer energy away]. In addition to wind-driven ice loss, satellites reveal the greatest area of open Arctic waters corresponds to the pathway where warm dense tropical waters, via a branch from the Gulf Stream, enter the Arctic and melt sea ice from below. It is now widely believed high inflows of warm Atlantic water helped to melt sea ice and trigger the Dansgaard-Oeschger warm events, just as oscillating warm inflows now melt Arctic sea ice today.” Steele gives the journal references supporting his claims.
The major Dansgaard-Oeschger events provided the basis for: “Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years” By S. Fred Singer and Dennis Avery, published in 2007. [Fred Singer is the chairman emeritus of SEPP.] With some new references, Steele’s essay can be considered a brief introduction to this book on climate change which is ignored by the climate establishment because it shows that nature is more important in determining global climate change than human activities, particularly more important than human carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which is anathema to climate alarmists.
The book provides graphs showing the relationship between Arctic warming and solar activity since 1880, 6,000 years of changing temperatures in China based on peat cellulose, the relationship between changing solar activity monsoon activity in Oman based on stalagmites, and similar physical evidence. Such studies are conveniently ignored by those who claim human CO2 emissions are the dominant determinant for changing climate. Such actions by the climate establishment are opposite to following the Scientific Method. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Assessing Cancer Risk: Traditionally, the method for assessing the risk of a substance is the dose-response model. Small amounts of a substance may have no effect, or may even be beneficial, while large amounts of the same substance may become toxic. For example, humans need low doses of potassium, one of the most abundant ions in seawater, and low doses are not toxic to humans, but high doses can be.
Unfortunately, in assessing cancer risks, many regulatory agencies (including the EPA) often ignore the traditional dose-response model and use the linear no-threshold (LNT) hypothesis — even for a single hit of the substance. The thinking is along the lines that if some amount of a substance is harmful, then any amount, no matter how small, can be harmful. There is no lower threshold of toxicity. Or as implied by practice: if a massive amount of the substance kills half a group of laboratory rats, then if a large population of humans were exposed, a tiny amount would kill one person. This poor reasoning has given rise to fears that have little basis in evidence. Such fears have been spread by former administrators of EPA in railing against modern coal-fired power plants.
There is no question that frequent, prolonged exposure to smoky air can be harmful to the respiratory system – be it from smoking tobacco or open fires of coal, dung, or wood used for heating and/or cooking. Modern coal-fired power plants have removed the harmful pollutants, but the EPA and many news organizations in the US did not acknowledge this fact, claiming health risks including cancer risks based on the LNT model.
Toxicologist Edward Calabrese has been a persistent critic of this simplistic approach. He now has a clear video explaining his position presented at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society for Radiation Oncology. Calabrese’s paper was published in the journal, “Chemico-Biological Interactions.” He addresses possible errors in the basic research by Herman Muller on artificial gene mutations which were the foundation of LNT. The gene mutations could not be replicated. Of course, replication is absolutely critical to the scientific method. Further, Muller assumed that the dose response model in gene mutations was linear (the proportionality response rule). Calabrese considers the real issue to be the total dose versus dose rate. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
The Worst of Times or The Best of Times: As discussed in the last TWTW, the propaganda surrounding the UN’s claims of a climate crisis has become so extreme that many news organizations publish little else except stories that the world is doomed. The “Our World in Data” is an independent organization which addresses issues such as poverty, disease, and hunger with data as solid as possible. Contrary what the UN and its supporters claim, there is little or no evidence that the world is in a climate crisis, or that humanity is about to become extinct.
Using current population statistics, revised in May 2019, by Our World in Data, discusses the growth in human population:
“…the world population growth rate has halved from above 2% per year 50 years ago to 1.05% per year.”
“World population growth – This article is focusing on the history of population growth up to the present. We show how the world population grew over the last several thousand years and we explain what has been driving this change.
“Life expectancy – Improving health leads to falling mortality and is therefore the factor that increases the size of the population. Life expectancy, which measures the age of death, has doubled in every region in the world as we show here.
“Child & infant mortality – Mortality at a young age has a particularly big impact on demographic change.
“Fertility rates – Rapid population growth has been a temporary phenomenon in many countries. It comes to an end when the average number of births per woman – the fertility rate – declines. In the article we show the data and explain why fertility rates declined.”
“Around 108 billion people have ever lived on our planet. This means that today’s population size makes up 6.5% of the total number of people ever born
“For the long period from the appearance of modern Homo sapiens up to the starting point of this chart in 10,000 BCE it is estimated that the total world population was often well under one million.
“In this period our species was often seriously threatened by extinction.” [Boldface added.]
The report also demonstrates that the population growth rate is declining, and the UN expects that the annual increase to decline by 1 million every year. This decline is not a response to extreme poverty, or as shown in last week’s TWTW, a response to increasing extreme weather. Rather, it is a matter of personal choice of not having infants.
“Whilst Western Europe’s growth rates are currently close to zero, sub-Saharan Africa’s rates remain higher than 3% — that is, still higher than the peak growth rates recorded for the world at the beginning of the 1960s. Moreover, in many cases there has been divergence in growth rates. For instance, while India and Nigeria had similar growth rates in 1960 (around 1.7%), they took very different paths in the following years and thus currently have populations that grow at very different rates (about 1.26% for India compared to 2.67% for Nigeria).”
Based on these statistics one can argue that prosperity is the world-wide characteristic reason for declining population growth.
“One of the big lessons from the demographic history of countries is that population explosions are temporary. For many countries the demographic transition has already ended, and as the global fertility rate has now halved, we know that the world as a whole is approaching the end of rapid population growth.”
“We are on the way to a new balance. The big global demographic transition that the world entered more than two centuries ago is then coming to an end: This new equilibrium is different from the one in the past when it was the very high mortality that kept population growth in check. In the new balance it will be low fertility keeps population changes small.”
“There are two important relationships that help explain how the level of development of a country affects its population growth rates:
1. Fertility rate is the parameter which matters most for population changes – it is the strongest determinant;
2. As a country gets richer (or ‘more developed’), fertility rates tend to fall.
“Combining these two relationships, we would expect that as a country develops, population growth rates decline.
“Generally, this is true. In the visualization we see how the population growth rate has changed for ‘more developed’, ‘less developed’ and ‘least developed’ countries (based on UN categorization), and how they are projected to change through 2100.
“Here we see that population growth rates are lowest in the most developed regions – starting at just over 1% in the 1950s and falling to just 0.25% today. ‘Less developed’ regions peaked later, at a higher growth rate (2.55%) and have declined more slowly. ‘Least developed’ regions did not peak in growth rate until the early 1990s.
“Over the last two decades we have seen declining population growth rates in countries at all stages of development.
The article goes into details about population momentum, migration, age structure, etc. In brief, there is no population crisis, no indication of too many people or too few people, the “Population Bomb” is a failed concept. And there is no indication of famine, mass starvation, or increased human misery.
The “climate crisis” and “population crisis” fall into H.L Mencken’s famous observation “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary” and it is also the business model of the news media. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
More Fingerprint Studies: A paper appeared in “Nature, Climate Change” claiming that using climate models researchers can detect climate change daily from using weather data. An article in the Washington Post stated:
“For the first time, scientists have detected the “fingerprint” of human-induced climate change on daily weather patterns at the global scale. If verified by subsequent work, the findings, published Thursday in Nature Climate Change, would upend the long-established narrative that daily weather is distinct from long-term climate change.
“The study’s results also imply that research aimed at assessing the human role in contributing to extreme weather events such as heat waves and floods may be underestimating the contribution.
The paper states:
“Overall, the conclusion that a forced climate change is detected with >97.5% confidence in any individual day or month since early 2012 is robust across any of the five reanalysis and observational datasets.”
Reanalysis data is available only for small parts of the world since the 1950s. They are not comprehensive. Further one can develop statistical correlations about many variables. Claiming they have meaning is totally different. The operative phrase in the article is “If verified by subsequent work…” Given the ability of the climate establishment to ignore the most direct evidence on human-induced climate change, particular atmospheric temperature trends, no doubt the IPCC and its followers will engage in another search for non-existing fingerprints, such as the non-existent pronounced warming in atmosphere above the tropics.
Number of the Week: 14°F – 28°F (8°C – 16°C) Change. It bears repeating that ice core studies taken in Greenland show sharp increases in temperatures unrelated to carbon dioxide. Based on the graphs in the 2019 article, sometimes sharp temperature increases were considerably more 10°C (18°F), even without including the Younger-Dryas transition about 12,800 to 11,500 years ago. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
1. Greens Against Solar Power
Look who’s trying to block a new renewable energy source in the desert.
Editorial, WSJ, Jan 3, 2020
TWTW Summary: After a comment about the Trump administration, the editorial states:
“The Bureau of Land Management this week released an environmental impact statement indicating its intent to approve the 7,100-acre Gemini solar farm east of Las Vegas. The project could power 130,000 homes and would include four-hour lithium ion batteries to store solar energy for use at night. Gemini is the type of renewable energy project that environmental groups claim will be needed to move from fossil fuels that, unlike solar and wind, can provide power on demand. Nevada also needs large-scale solar to meet its 50% renewable energy goal by 2030. It currently generates 20%.
“Yet greens grouse that solar arrays would disturb habitat for Mojave Desert species such as the desert tortoise, kit fox and the Threecorner milkvetch, a rare plant. They also complain that solar projects in California’s desert have been linked to thousands of bird deaths. BLM’s review details myriad measures to mitigate harm to species, including a biological monitor.
“Still, greens kvetch that the project will do permanent damage to the desert. “There is no justification for this project that outweighs the importance of the desert tortoise, its habitat and BLM’s obligations to use its full authority to take actions that will contribute to the recovery of this threatened species,” the Defenders of Wildlife declared.
“It’s nice to see environmental groups finally realizing that renewable energy isn’t a free lunch. Even wind and solar energy can have baleful impacts on the land. Lithium and other rare earth minerals in batteries must also be extracted from the earth, which in countries with lax environmental regulation like China can result in water pollution.
“Progressives denounce anyone who points out there are costs to a fossil-fuel free future. Perhaps we’re all climate-change deniers now.”
2. Idaho Needs More Power but Parts of Oregon Object
Utilities are trying to build lines to transport clean energy across states but face local resistance
By Jim Carlton, WSJ, Dec 30 2019
TWTW Summary: The reporter starts:
“LA GRANDE, Ore.—In this small town in eastern Oregon, renewable energy is widely popular. But the power lines needed to transmit it aren’t.
“La Grande is one of many communities nationwide fighting against transmission lines being built to keep up with a surge in clean-power generation.
“‘We need to develop more renewable energy, of course, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of damage to our last remaining wild places,’ Brian Kelly, who helps lead a green group in the area, said of a proposed transmission line that would run through the nearby forest.
“Utilities are under pressure to put up more power lines because many clean-energy plants are being built far from major cities. Renewable energy is generated from sources like the sun or wind that don’t get depleted, unlike finite amounts of oil and coal.
“There were about 2,500 planned or newly completed transmission projects in the U.S. last year, according to the Energy Information Administration. While the federal agency didn’t have historical data on such projects, it estimates industry costs for transmission-related operations increased to $11.4 billion last year from $6.7 billion in 2009.
“About 900 new plants, most of which produce renewable energy, were proposed last year, compared with 300 in 2004, said Glenn McGrath, an analyst with the federal agency.
“‘Regardless of where you go, there’s always some issues—whether it’s bats, whether it’s birds, whether it’s wealthy landowners who don’t want their view interrupted,’ said Dan Shreve, wind-energy research director at consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. ‘As a consequence, you see these initiatives drag on forever.’”
The article discusses opposition to transmission lines in Wisconsin, New Mexico, then goes on to state some of the opposition.
“Mr. Kelly, restoration director of the Greater Hells Canyon Council, is one of many local residents fighting the 300-mile line. They say it would disrupt elk and deer herds, add to the wildfire threat and spoil views of the Oregon Trail, where remnants of pioneers’ wagon tracks are still visible.”
[TWTW Comment: Doubt power lines disrupt elk and deer herds, unless hunters are using the cleared area under them, and strongly doubt the Oregon Trail is a significant visual amenity, except for signs posted that it exists at a particular location.]