The Week That Was: January 25, 2020, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
The Gathering – Davos: Generally, TWTW ignores political speeches because, regardless of political faction, today, they are usually a collection of sound bites having little meaning. They lack the careful logical reasoning of the speeches by Abraham Lincoln. This week, an exception occurred at the meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Perhaps Walter Russell Mead writing in the Wall Street Journal summarized the Davos meeting best:
“There is something inescapably ridiculous about a gathering this self-important; certainly Marie Antoinette and her friends dressing up as shepherdesses to celebrate the simple life has nothing on the more than 100 billionaires descending, often by private jet, on an exclusive Swiss ski resort for four days of ostentatious hand-wringing about the problems of the poor and the dangers of climate change.”
As discussed in the January 11 and 18 TWTWs the data compiled by “Our World in Data” and others indicate that our era is the best experienced by humanity in recorded history. Over the past 30 years extreme poverty in Asia has diminished dramatically. Largely thanks to the reduction of government control and traditional customs over the economies and the use of fossil fuels. Life expectancy, child mortality, hunger, access to clean water, sanitation, and energy use are greatly improving the human condition. Some areas need to be addressed, particularly in sub-Sahara Africa, but overall the dire conditions of subsistence living are being significantly reduced.
Despite the evidence of vast improvement, the UN and other international groups are declaring a climate crisis, or climate emergency. with little or no physical evidence to substantiate their claims. Despite flimsy evidence, the World Economic Forum (WEF) created a report claiming the failure to act on the largely imaginary climate crisis is a greater threat to humanity in likelihood and impact than weapons of mass destruction – nuclear war (about the same impact but low likelihood). The report contained a chapter titled “A Decade Left: Confronting Runaway Climate Threat” which claims many stresses on ecosystems from runaway climate change. With little physical evidence, the chapter relies on describing political meetings and calls for a green social contract.
To bolster claims of runaway climate, WEF invited Greta Thunberg to speak, pleasing those who believe teenage fears and anxieties replace mature, reasoned judgement based on experience. Thus, the stage was set for demands for global governance, the goal of the internationalists, and the failure of global governance was included as a global risk in the WEF report.
Many things can be said of Donald Trump but being shy is not one of them. He spoke about US economic growth, employment growth, low unemployment, increasing wages, benefits of the energy revolution, improvements in clean air, food, water, and other issues. Then, he stated the key issue:
“This is not a time for pessimism; this is a time for optimism. Fear and doubt are not a good thought process because this is a time for tremendous hope and joy and optimism and action.
“But to embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune-tellers — and I have them and you have them, and we all have them, and they want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the ’70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s. These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform, and control every aspect of our lives.
“We will never let radical socialists destroy our economy, wreck our country, or eradicate our liberty. America will always be the proud, strong, and unyielding bastion of freedom.
“In America, we understand what the pessimists refuse to see: that a growing and vibrant market economy focused on the future lifts the human spirit and excites creativity strong enough to overcome any challenge — any challenge by far.” [Boldface added]
According to reports, in a subsequent speech, George Soros stated:
“the United States, China and Russia under President Vladimir Putin — were ‘in the hands of would-be or actual dictators and the ranks of authoritarian rulers continued to grow.’”
The claim about Trump is highly questionable. His administration has reduced or is attempting to reduce Washington’s control of oil and gas drilling, pipelines, use of private lands under so called navigable waters of the United States, the regulatory and legal morass called the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which prevented what the Obama Administration called “shovel-ready jobs.” In general, dictators and authoritarians expand control over the public and / or the economy. But as an internationalist, perhaps Soros has difficulty stating that Trump is a champion of economic liberty.
See Article # 1 and links under Change in US Administrations, Expanding the Orthodoxy, Communicating Better to the Public – Use Children for Propaganda and Funding Issues,
Additions and Corrections: Several readers corrected a significant error in last week’s TWTW stemming from one letter which changed the meaning of a key paragraph under the heading The Greenhouse Effect – Different Results. The corrected paragraph, with the wrong word crossed out and the correct word in boldface reads:
“The measured temperature trend of the atmosphere, as measured by satellite using all data from the launch of the program in December 1978 until the present, is a rise of 1.3 ºC per century. What is
now NOT known is how much of that warming is due to natural causes, and how much is due to increasing atmospheric CO2. The Transient Climate response (TCR) is the predicted (i.e., modeled) temperature rise that would occur by the time the amount of CO2 has doubled, but before the longer time required for the oceans to heat up.”
It is amazing how large a little error can become. There is a great deal we do not understand about natural variation. Since the UN ignores natural variation, climate modelers who cater to the UN are no help.
Other readers questioned the Number of the Week: +/- 0.003⁰C. The purpose of mentioning this small amount was to illustrate the false precision of a paper on Ocean Heat Content (OHC) derived from calculations using huge numbers, in this case Zettajoules (ZJ) (10 raised to the 21st power, or one power of 10 less than the solar energy hitting the earth’s surface each day.) We neglected to mention in TWTW, that the number was estimated by Paul Homewood who used data from the OHC paper in question. In 2010 the claimed temperature uncertainty was +/- 0.003⁰C, which is impossible to measure from the surface to a depth of 2000 meters. Interestingly, the co-authors of the paper include Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Michael Mann of Penn State and John Fasullo of NOAA. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Defending in last week’s TWTW.
Model Mysteries – EEI: Last week TWTW discussed the Earth Energy Imbalance (EEI) as measured by satellites. Estimating EEI is difficult because it involves estimating the difference between two huge numbers. A small percentage error in either one of the two huge numbers can result in a wildly incorrect EEI.
Recognizing that major errors are possible and that satellite measures of the EEI have been available for less than 20 years, last week TWTW discussed that over the 2000–2018 satellite record the EEI appears to have a downward trend of −0.16 ± 0.11 W/meter squared per decade. As with the pause following the 1998 El Niño warming, a decline in EEI gives great difficulty to climate modelers who follow the lead of the IPCC. Another difficulty the modelers have is the lack of a pronounced warming over the tropics, the so-called distinct human fingerprint which is yet to be found in the satellite and balloon records.
As Frank Bosse wrote in Climate Etc., efforts by climate modelers to do away with the failure of models to describe what is occurring in the atmosphere are summarized in a paper by Femke, Nijsse, Cox, and Williamson that is available in preprint. They claim that the newest set of earth system models (ESMs), CMIP6, constrain the temporary, transient climate response (TCR) to a doubling of CO2. Yet, the modelers calculate greater equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS), which may require a thousand years.
This effort appears to be a clever gimmick by modelers. But with no ability to test the ECS against physical evidence, there is no reason for followers of the scientific method to accept the results of the models any more than the results of models used that the world would run out of oil by the early 21st century. That which cannot be tested against physical evidence is of little value in a practical world.
What is interesting in the Femke, et al. paper is the estimates by the various US modeling groups using their new CMIP6 models. The Department of Energy E3SM Project produces a TCR (transient climate response) of 2.99 K, and an ECS (equilibrium climate sensitivity) of 5.38 K with a doubling of CO2. These are the highest in the US group. Even the transient (temporary) response requires a warming rate far greater than what is occurring in the atmosphere.
The NSA-GISS, GISS-E2-1G model produces a transient response of 1.72 K, and an equilibrium sensitivity of 2.70 K. The GISS-E2-1-H model produces a transient response of 1.89 K, and an equilibrium sensitivity of 3.09 K. Both are surprisingly low given the claims made by NASA-GISS in the past.
The NCAR CESM2 model produces a transient response of 2.08 K, and an equilibrium sensitivity of 5.17 K. The NCAR-WACCM model produces a transient response of 1.92 K, and an equilibrium sensitivity of 4.90 K.
The NOAA GFDL, GFDL-CM4 model produces a transient response of 1.97 K, and an equilibrium sensitivity of 4.09 K.
It is very interesting that the estimates by the models of National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) depart greatly from atmospheric temperature trends by the University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH) using satellite measurements. Apparently, NCAR does not believe we can successfully estimate atmospheric temperature trends using satellites independently verified by weather balloons.
Also, it will be interesting to explore the rationale used by these modeling groups to increase the equilibrium sensitivity greatly above transient response, in many cases more than doubling it. Could this be some form of pixie dust? See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Benefits of Carbon Dioxide: Several models have been used to estimate the so-called social costs of carbon (SCC). Generally, these studies have ignored the benefits of adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, particularly the benefits to agriculture. Carbon dioxide is necessary for green plants to exist.
Writing in Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Kevin D. Dayaratna, Ross McKitrick & Patrick J. Michaels use the Framework for Uncertainty, Negotiation, and Distribution (FUND) model to estimate these benefits. They base the calculations on the probability distributions of three different estimates equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS): The calculations of Christy and McNider (2017), Lewis and Curry (2018) and Roe-Baker (2007). They conclude that recognizing the fertilization benefits of increasing CO2 changes the social cost of carbon calculations, depending on which ECS is used. What is calculated to be a cost may actually be a benefit.
Also interesting in the report is Fig. 2 “Probability density functions of equilibrium climate sensitivity distributions used to estimate the social cost of carbon.” This graphic compares the probability of error distributions of the three estimates. The Roe-Baker has a long distribution tail indicating the “science is settled” argument cannot be correct.
The Christy – McNider distribution is very tight, a positive sign. While discussing the paper last week, TWTW failed to mention that the data in the Christy – McNider paper start after the sudden shift in temperature trends from a cooling, about 1940 to 1975, to a warming after 1975. At the time, no one was able to identify why, but advocates of an oncoming ice age, such as Stephen Schneider, changed to dangerous global warming. Using simultaneous equations, some researchers have demonstrated that the shift may be from a change in phases in the Pacific Ocean from a trend of cooling La Niñas to a trend of warming El Niños. Such a shift may come from changing solar influences. See links under Social Benefits of Carbon Dioxide and Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Relaxing Washington’s Controls: As suggested above, the Trump Administration is reducing Washington’s control of the economy, particularly in the permitting process for major development projects and federal prohibitions against private landowners from building on their property. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has been a major stumbling block for needed development. Before Katrina, it was used by environmental organizations to prevent the Corps of Engineers from building a movable barrier system along Interstate 10 to protect New Orleans from flooding from Lake Pontchartrain.
In many parts along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico land is subsiding due to groundwater extraction. Thanks to technology developed in Israel, desalination is a practical option for coastal cities such as the Norfolk region of Virginia, with the largest Naval Base in the world.
The Carlsbad Desalination Plant, proposed in 1993, took nearly 14 years to permit, design, and build – only three years to build. Construction began in December 2012 and was completed late 2015. Five lawsuits were brought against the plant, including by Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Coastkeeper, and the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, but none was successful. The costs of delays in permitting are not clear. Needed projects should not be stopped for a decade or more under dubious claims of environmental protection.
Similarly, under the vague term “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) development of private property has been stopped or delayed even though there is no water nearby. Often the regulators played games, with the Corps of Engineers using one set of rules and the EPA using another set. Local regulators use such claims to extract money from property owners, as former EPA administrator Carol Browner is well aware. See links under EPA and other Regulators on the March.
Number of the Week: 50 Million Gallons of drinking water per day at a cost of 0.5 cents per gallon. Using 100 million gallons of saltwater, the “Claude ‘Bud’ Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant is the largest, most technologically advanced and energy-efficient seawater desalination plant in the nation. Each day, the plant delivers nearly 50 million gallons (56,000 acre-feet per year (AFY)) of fresh, desalinated water to San Diego County – enough to serve approximately 400,000 people and accounting for about one-third of all water generated in the County.” https://www.carlsbaddesal.com/
1. All Aboard the Crazy Train
Or at least that’s how populism’s rise feels to those at the World Economic Forum.
By Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, Jan 20, 2020
TWTW Summary: After discussing the burdens and profits to this small village in the Alps from hosting the World Economic Forum, the author states:
“There is something inescapably ridiculous about a gathering this self-important; certainly Marie Antoinette and her friends dressing up as shepherdesses to celebrate the simple life has nothing on the more than 100 billionaires descending, often by private jet, on an exclusive Swiss ski resort for four days of ostentatious hand-wringing about the problems of the poor and the dangers of climate change. This year an earnest young aide at registration told me that, to reduce the event’s carbon footprint, no paper maps of the town were being distributed; one could almost feel the waves of relief from the nearby Alpine glaciers at this sign of green progress.
“Yet smirk as one may, and sometimes as one must, this year’s WEF arrived at a difficult time for the Davoisie—those who are at home in the thin air of this global gathering. Leaders the world over are now having to come to grips with a new age of populism, nationalism and protectionism.
“For the Davoisie the rise of populism is a huge problem. A world increasingly separating into rival blocs as supply chains begin to decouple isn’t a hospitable environment for global governance, Third Way capitalist reform and their many other hopes and projects.
“This is particularly true of the cause that dominates the agenda here: climate change. The conventional Davoisie wisdom says that climate change can be handled only by international agreements and global institutions like those envisioned in the Paris Agreement. The goal is to get the nations of the Earth to limit their use of fossil fuels and make the enormous changes required to reach ‘net zero’ emissions in time to avoid the most devastating consequences. The solution requires a massive shift of power from national governments to global institutions.
“Yet the rise of geopolitical competition among the U.S., China and Russia has bled power from transnational institutions as national governments prioritize their own interests. China has no intention of allowing a superstitious reverence for the Law of the Sea Treaty to limit its territorial claims in the South China Sea; President Trump has deliberately blocked new judges at the World Trade Organization to paralyze its appeals process; Russia isn’t going to give Crimea back to Ukraine because some international lawyers have written a compelling legal brief. And if some of the most powerful countries in the world flout international rules, why should others follow them?
“Populism makes global governance even harder. Politicians from Mr. Trump to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi won over their electorate in part by promising to protect the unique cultural heritage of the nations they rule from dilution by the outside world. A jealous regard for national sovereignty and a suspicious and skeptical attitude toward global institutions and their laws come very naturally to these leaders—and garners applause from their supporters.
“None of this augurs well for the Davoisie. If the WEF has a single guiding vision, it is the belief that technocratic competence plus a modicum of goodwill can find win-win solutions to the increasingly complex problems of our time. This has been true for many disputes between nations; it has been true for disputes between business and civil society. Over the decades, the WEF has sought with some success to be a place where these conversations take place.
“But does that logic still hold? All the panels in the world can’t stitch up the rift between the U.S. and China, integrate Mr. Putin’s Russia into the West, or even deter Turkey from acting on its neo-Ottoman aspirations.
As the millionaires, billionaires and Greta Thunberg assemble in Davos this week to debate the future of the world, they face a crisis of relevance. What if, with all of their competence, experience, cosmopolitan vision and, yes, goodwill, the Davoisie are merely passengers, comfortably ensconced in first-class seats, on a train whose route they do not know and cannot control?”
2. Climate Change—and Ideas for Tackling It—Dominated Davos
While few delegates challenged assumptions about the impact of carbon emissions on the environment, there wasn’t agreement on how best to bring down global output
By Stephen Fidler and Elena Cherney, WSJ, Jan 24, 2020
TWTW Summary: With out discussing Meade’s assertion of the crisis of relevance attendees at Davos face, the reporters state:
“The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos showed climate change has become a top issue for many businesses and governments, but also demonstrated a yawning gap between how they view the scale of the challenge and what can be achieved without significant new policies.
“It was a year in which the issue, which many people here believe has contributed to extreme weather-related events such as the Australian bush fires, appeared to shift from a fashionable talking point to a matter that is beginning to have real-world consequences for many banks and businesses.
“‘Davos turned into a climate-change conference this year,’ Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, said Thursday. But he said ‘the massive gap between ambition and concrete action to change the emissions trajectory remains glaring.’
“A large majority of climate scientists attribute the rise in global temperatures to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and blame human activity for much of it. They recommend temperature rises should be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) from preindustrial times to minimize the probability of major economic damage and to do that carbon emissions must be cut.
“But while few delegates—representatives of the Trump administration aside—challenge those assumptions, there wasn’t agreement on how best to bring down carbon output.”
The reporters then continue with bland comments from attendees.