Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #411

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Re-Blogged From WUWT

Quote of the Week: “It is in the admission of ignorance and the admission of uncertainty that there is a hope for the continuous motion of human beings in some direction that doesn’t get confined, permanently blocked, as it has so many times before in various periods in the history of man.” – Richard Feynman, The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist

Number of the Week: 10% loss

An Inverse? Traditionally in Washington, Fridays are a slow news day and during June reporters, and others, would be leaving early for the beach or for other activities. During the Obama Administration, regulatory agencies often would announce expanded regulations on Fridays giving time over the weekend to assess the response.

On Thursday, June 4, the White House pulled an inverse. It issued an executive order limiting the regulatory steps and the time frame an agency may take in evaluating a major infrastructure development proposal. The given justification is the economic crisis created by the COVID-19 virus and the reaction of governments to it.

The primary vehicle for these reductions in regulations is the emergency authority built into the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). NEPA has long been used to stop or delay infrastructure improvements. For example, after Hurricane Betsy flooded New Orleans in 1965 with a storm surge through Lake Pontchartrain, the Corps of Engineers planned to build a movable gate barrier system along Interstate 10, to prevent such flooding in the future. The system is used to protect the Dutch from flooding from storm surges in the North Sea.

Using NEPA, environmental groups, such as Save Our Wetlands, Inc., successfully stopped the Corps of Engineers. On December 30, 1977, in Save Our Wetlands, Inc. vs. Early J Rush III (Corps of Engineers), Federal Judge Charles Schwartz, Jr. ruled “it is the opinion of the Court that plaintiffs herein have demonstrated that they, and in fact all persons in this area, will be irreparably harmed if the barrier project . . . is allowed to continue.” (Boldface added).

An appeal failed. After Hurricane Katrina killed about 1200 people in New Orleans in 2005 with a storm surge through Lake Pontchartrain, the environmental groups dropped any reference to their prior success in litigation.

When NEPA is used to delay infrastructure projects, the process can take 4 to 5 years, sometimes over a decade. Contrary to what environmental groups may claim, the executive order does not eliminate the need for such projects to comply with the requirements of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other applicable environmental statutes.

The administration has been active in providing regulatory relief since it took office. This is one reason why in December 2019 the US unemployment rate was 3.5%, the lowest since the 1960s. Other recent examples of regulatory relief included the following: on May 19, the White House issued an executive order “Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery” requesting federal agencies to suggest regulations that need to be revised or repealed in order to reinvigorate the economy. On June 1, the EPA issued a final rule limiting the ability of states to use the Clean Water Act to block fossil fuel energy projects.

Examples of abuses of the Clean Water Act are the State of Washington blocking the development of a coal export facility on the Columbia River and the State of New York using it to block the development of a natural gas pipeline to serve New England. The latter appears to be a clear violation of the Interstate Commerce clause in the Constitution.

Ironically, on June 3 House Democrats proposed a $500-billion-dollar green transportation infrastructure bill to stimulate the economy. One is reminded that the $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contained a major infrastructure component promising “shovel ready” jobs. Later, when pressed about the “shovel ready” jobs, President Obama had to admit they were not quite “shovel ready.” They were tied up in the lengthy approval processes needed. Thus, one is prompted to ask how many of those supporting the new transportation infrastructure bill will support the new executive order streamlining approvals of infrastructure development? See links under Change in US Administrations, The Political Games Continue and

https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2019/home.htm

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Apples and Oranges: Articles claiming to compare climate models with Covid-19 models continue to appear. It is like comparing apples to oranges. Both are fruits that grow on trees, but beyond that there is little similarity. Solid models require solid physical data, not speculation or extrapolation. As more data emerge, the models must be tested against the new physical data. At this point the climate modelers fail. Prior to 1990, we had no method of calculating comprehensive atmospheric temperature trends. Now we have thoroughly verified data extending to 1979. The climate modelers ignore these data because the data refute the assumptions in the models. Instead, the modelers resort to political rhetoric.

For example, in an article comparing Covid modeling and climate modeling, investigator Eric Felten quoted George Mason University climatology professor Jagadish Shukla as saying:

“There are fundamental differences between epidemiological models and climate models.”… “The former are empirical models driven by incomplete data; climate models are based on fundamental laws of physics and thermodynamics.”

The last clause is political rhetoric. Climate models do, of course, use some laws of physics and thermodynamics, but to say that they are based on those laws is to ignore the guesswork that underlies their projections. The models fail the most basic testing precisely because they are NOT based on verified and validated data, but rather on baseless empirical models driven by incomplete data and wishful thinking. That is the exact opposite of what is being claimed.

Crucially, the greenhouse effect is not sufficiently understood or developed to make precise predictions of what occurs in the atmosphere. Additionally, convection theory of the two principal fluids involved, the atmosphere, and the oceans, is not sufficiently developed to make precise predictions. The inability to make weather reliable forecasts more than 5-7 days out demonstrates the limits to this knowledge.

One can only collect the best data possible and base short-term estimates of the future on these data. Yet, climate modelers insist on using inferior data to make long-term predictions of 50 to 200 years, which render them akin to just wishful thinking.

Although we cannot precisely predict what the increase in temperatures will be with a doubling of carbon dioxide, we can set an upper bound for the estimate. Based on 40 years of atmospheric temperature trends, the upper bound may be no more than 3 degrees F, and it may be far less – even one-half that. Importantly, these atmospheric temperature trends are constantly monitored.

To have a good political discussion addressing whether adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is harmful or not, such bounding must be clearly presented. However, it is not. See links under Censorship, Measurement Issues – Atmosphere and Model Issues.

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Ignorance: Australian scientist Jennifer Marohasy had an essay on her explorations of the Great Barrier Reef, the efforts of John Cook University (JCU) to suppress Peter Ridd who questioned overblown claims that the reef was dead or about to die, and the waste of public funds to continue the litigation after the University decisively lost in Federal Court. Marohasy opened her essay with an unusual paragraph on the importance of recognizing one’s ignorance.

“To be truly curious we must confess our ignorance. The person who knows everything would have no reason to question, no need to experiment. If they went in search of evidence, it could only be to confirm what they already knew to be true. Knowledge then would be something that conferred prestige, rather than something to be built upon.”

See link under Suppressing Scientific Inquiry

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Alkalinity: By definition, a water-based solution with a pH of 7 is neutral. Above 7 is alkaline, below 7 is acidic. Unfortunately, some scientists have stated that lowering the pH of a solution is acidifying it, even if the pH remains above 7, which is effect reducing the alkalinity, not increasing the acidity. To TWTW, the use of the “scientist’s” definition would mean that lowering the pH of drain cleaner (14) to that of bleach (13) is acidification. Yet both are highly alkaline and corrosive, and clearly unfit for consumption.

Writing for the CO2 Coalition, Jim Steele et al. have produced a paper addressing the misleading term ocean acidification, which is an example of political rhetoric. As Steele writes:

“Ocean ‘acidification’ from carbon dioxide emissions would require a virtually impossible ten-fold decrease in the alkalinity of surface waters, so using that term is misleading. Even if atmospheric CO2 concentrations triple from today’s four percent of one percent, which would take about 600 years, today’s surface pH of 8.2 would plateau at 7.8, still well above neutral 7.

“In fact, ocean health is improved rather than damaged by additional CO2, because it is a phytoplankton food that stimulates food webs. Converted CO2 allows phytoplankton such as algae, bacteria, and seaweed to feed the rest of the open ocean food web. As carbon moves through this food web, much of it sinks or is transported away from the surface. This ‘biological pump’ maintains a high surface pH and allows the ocean to store 50 times more CO2 than the atmosphere. Digestion of carbon at lower depths maintains the lower pH in the deeper ocean. Carbon is then stored for up to millennia.

“Upwelling recycles carbon and nutrients from deep ocean waters to sunlit surface waters. Upwelling injects far more ancient CO2 into the surface than diffuses there from atmospheric CO2. Upwelling at first lowers surface pH, but then stimulates photosynthesis, which raises surface pH. It is a necessary process to generate bursts of life that sustain ocean food webs.

“When CO2 enters ocean water, it creates a bicarbonate ion plus a hydrogen ion, resulting in a slight decrease in pH. But photosynthesis requires CO2. So marine organisms convert bicarbonate and hydrogen ions into usable CO, and pH rises again. Contrary to popular claims that rising CO2 leads to shell disintegration, slightly lower pH does not stop marine organisms from using carbonate ions in building their shells.”

As with the greenhouse effect, political rhetoric has changed an important physical process, needed for diverse life on the planet, to something that is to be feared. Ignored in the political rhetoric is that photosynthesis, critical for life, consumes CO2, thereby raises pH. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

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Extreme Weather: The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is a severe critic of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its followers. But on one subject there is agreement. Contrary to the claims of many, global warming is not causing more extreme weather. Physicist Ralph Alexander writes:

“This report discusses the lack of scientific evidence for the popular but mistaken belief that global warming causes weather extremes – a notion hyped by the mainstream media and believers in the narrative of human-caused climate change. If there is any trend at all in extreme weather, it’s downward rather than upward. Our most extreme weather, be it heat wave, drought, flood, hurricane, or tornado, occurred many years ago, long before the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere began to climb at its present rate.

“The recent atmospheric heat waves in western Europe pale in comparison with the soaring temperatures of the 1930s, a period when three of the seven continents and 32 of the 50 US states set all-time high temperature records, which still stand today. The assertion that marine heat waves have become more severe is dubious because of the unreliability and sparseness of ocean temperature data from the pre-satellite era, for which reason earlier marine heat waves were likely missed.

“No long-term trend exists in drought patterns, either in the US or elsewhere in the world. Nor is there any evidence that floods are becoming worse or more common, despite average rainfall getting heavier as the planet warms. Excessive precipitation isn’t the only cause of flooding: other influences include alterations to catchment areas such as land use changes, deforestation and the building of dams.”

For the full report please see the link in a place unusual for a report by GWPF, under Defending the Orthodoxy.

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The Third Generation: An old saying about family wealth is: The first generation makes it; the second generation uses it; and the third generation squanders it. If applied to scientific integrity, NASA-GISS must be in the third generation. See link under Below The Bottom Line.

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Number of the Week: 10% Loss: An experienced UK electrical engineer writes in the Global Warming Policy Forum on the Inter-Connector Merry-Go-Round.

“On Saturday 23 May at about 8.30 pm the electricity interconnectors that link us to grids across the Channel were humming. France was supplying us with 152 MW and the Netherlands were supplying 466 MW. Meanwhile, however, the UK was supplying Belgium with 688 MW.

“The cables across the English Channel can only use direct current (DC), and the grids on both sides of the water use alternating current (AC). So, the 600-odd megawatts of electricity coming from France and the Netherlands had to be converted from AC to DC and then back again. A somewhat larger supply of power was, at the same time, sent to the Belgian interconnector, where it was converted to DC for its journey back across the water. At the other side it was converted back to AC for injection into the Belgian grid.

“But each step along the way involves energy losses. For electricity that does the full trip, from the Netherlands to the UK to Belgium, the conversion process is only 90% efficient. So, 60 MW of electricity is simply being converted to heat and lost; at the windspeeds prevailing that weekend, this is the equivalent of the output of 150 onshore wind turbines.

“And who pays for those losses? Why of course we, the electricity consumers, do.”

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