Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #414

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Re-Blogged From WUWT

Quote of the Week: “Philosophers say a great deal about what is absolutely necessary for science, and it is always, so far as one can see, rather naive, and probably wrong.” – Richard Feynman

Number of the Week: 2%

Oversimplified: Last week, TWTW presented a new paper from MIT Professor emeritus in Atmospheric Physics Richard Lindzen titled: “An oversimplified picture of the climate behavior based on a single process can lead to distorted conclusions.” The discussion was limited to what was presented in the No Tricks Zone blog. Further, TWTW did not draw a clear distinction between what the blog presented and what Lindzen actually wrote.

Starting with the UN and continuing through virtually all industrialized countries in the West, there is enormous political pressure to replace reliable fossil fuels with unreliable wind and solar power, particularly for electricity generation. Yet, no successful demonstration project exists showing this can be done at reasonable costs. Even the largest “battery” in the world, the Bath County Pumped [Hydro] Storage Station in Virginia, must be recharged, refilled, nightly by electricity from reliable nuclear and coal-fired power plants.

The Lindzen paper strongly contests the findings of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and its followers, who claim that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels are causing dangerous global warming. If there is no imminent danger of significant greenhouse gas warming, there is no need to go through the enormous costs of replacing fossil fuels with a system that has not been proved to work for modern civilization.

The over 40 years of atmospheric temperature trends compiled by the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) clearly show that the atmosphere is not warming dangerously, and that the models relied upon by the IPCC and its followers are wrong. The Lindzen paper goes into why the models are wrong. As presented last week, Lindzen wrote:

“The ‘consensus’ assessment of this system is today the following:

“In this complex multifactor system, the climate (which, itself, consists in many variables – especially the temperature difference between the equator and the poles) is described by just one variable, the global averaged temperature change, and is controlled by the 1—2% perturbation in the energy budget due to a single variable (any single variable) among many variables of comparable importance. We go further and designate CO2 as the sole control. Although we are not sure of the budget for this variable, we know precisely what policies to implement in order to control it.

“How did such a naïve seeming picture come to be accepted, not just by the proponents of the issue, but also by most skeptics?” To which the paper adds: “After all, we spend much of our effort arguing about global temperature records, climate sensitivity, etc. In brief, we are guided by this line of thought.”

It is clear that Lindzen thinks that the line of thinking is off and needs to be corrected. He reviews what is generally accepted about the climate system stating: [edited from the original with direct quotations in italics]

  1. The core of the system consists in two turbulent fluids (the atmosphere and oceans) interacting with each other.
  • The two fluids are on a rotating planet that is differentially heated by the sun. Solar rays directly hit the equator and skim the earth at the poles resulting in uneven heating, which drives the circulation of the atmosphere. The result is heat transport from the equator towards the poles (meridional).
  • The earth’s climate system is never in equilibrium.
  • In addition to the oceans, the atmosphere is interacting with a hugely irregular land surface distorting the airflow, causing planetary scale waves, which are generally not accurately described in climate models.
  •  A vital component of the atmosphere is water in its liquid, solid, and vapor phases, and the changes in phases have vast energetic ramifications. Each phase affects incoming and outgoing radiation differently. Substantial heat is released when water vapor condenses, driving thunder clouds. Further, clouds consist of water in the form of fine droplets and ice crystals. Normally, these are suspended by rising air currents, but when these grow large enough, they fall as rain and snow. The energies involved in phase changes are important, as well as the fact that both water vapor and clouds strongly affect radiation.

“The two most important greenhouse substances by far are water vapor and clouds. Clouds are also important reflectors of sunlight. These matters are discussed in detail in the IPCC WG1 reports, each of which openly acknowledge clouds as major sources of uncertainty in climate modeling.”

  • “The energy budget of this system involves the absorption and reemission of about 240 W/m2. Doubling CO2 involves a perturbation a bit less than 2% to this budget (4 W/m2) So do changes in clouds and other features, and such changes are common. The earth receives about 340 W/m2 from the sun, but about 100 W/m2 is simply reflected back to space by both the earth’s surface and, more importantly, by clouds. This would leave about 240 W/m2 that the earth would have to emit in order to establish balance. The sun radiates in the visible portion of the radiation spectrum because its temperature is about 6000 K. If the Earth had no atmosphere at all (but for purposes of argument still was reflecting 100 W/m2), it would have to radiate at a temperature of about 255 K, and, at this temperature, the radiation is mostly in the infrared.”

The oceans and the atmosphere introduce a host of complications including evaporation creating water vapor which strongly absorbs and emits radiation in the infrared.

“The water vapor essentially blocks infrared radiation from leaving the surface, causing the surface and (via conduction) the air adjacent to the surface to heat, and convection sets in. The combination of the radiative and the convective processes results in decreasing temperature with height [lapse rate]. To make matters more complicated, the amount of water vapor that the air can hold decreases rapidly as the temperature decreases. Above some height there is so little water vapor remaining that radiation from this level can now escape to space. It is at this elevated level (around 5 km) that the temperature must be about 255 K in order to balance incoming radiation. However, because the temperature decreases with height, the surface of the Earth now has to actually be warmer than 255 K. It turns out that it has to be about 288 K (which is indeed the average temperature of the earth’s surface). The addition of other greenhouse gases (like CO2) increases further the emission level and causes an additional increase of the ground temperature. Doubling CO2 is estimated to be equivalent to a forcing of about 4W/m2 which is a little less than 2% of the net incoming 240 W/m2.

“The situation can actually be more complicated if upper-level cirrus clouds are present. They are very strong absorbers and emitters of infrared radiation and effectively block infrared radiation from below. Thus, when such clouds are present above about 5 km, their tops, rather than 5 km determine the emission level. This makes the ground temperature (i.e., the greenhouse effect) dependent on the cloud coverage.

“Many factors, including fluctuations of average cloud area and height, snow cover, ocean circulations, etc. commonly cause changes to the radiative budget comparable to that of doubling of CO2. For example, the net global mean cloud radiative effect is of the order of − 20 W/m2 (cooling effect). A 4 W/m2 forcing, from a doubling of CO2, therefore corresponds to only a 20% change in the net cloud effect.

  • It is important to note that such a system will fluctuate with timescales ranging from seconds to millennia even in the absence of explicit forcing other than a steady sun. Much of the popular literature (on both sides of the climate debate) assumes that all changes must be driven by some external factor.

Even if the solar forcing were constant, the climate would vary. With the massive size of the oceans, such variations can involve timescales of millennia. Lindzen mentions the El Niño Southern Oscillation, which has a relatively short cycle, but for which we do not have a sufficiently long instrumental record to understand. The earth has other natural changes or oscillations that are too long to fully describe. The solar sunspot cycle lasts about 11 years, imperfectly.

“Restricting ourselves to matters that are totally uncontroversial does mean that the above description is not entirely complete, but it does show the heterogeneity, the numerous degrees of freedom, and the numerous sources of variability of the climate system.”

After this review of the complexity of the climate system, Lindzen follows with the simplistic “consensus” assessment stated above. The presentation of other key parts of Lindzen’s paper will be continued in the next TWTW. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Exploding Models: As the UAH graphs and papers clearly show, the global climate models upon which the IPCC depends overestimate the warming trend of the atmosphere by 2.5 to 3 times. Since the greenhouse effect occurs in the atmosphere, it follows that the models overestimate the greenhouse effect by more than 2.5 to 3 times. The modelers use surface temperatures arguing that is where people live. But surface temperatures are far from comprehensive, even in the 21st century, and were certainly far less comprehensive in the 19th century, which the IPCC uses as a start time. Further, surface temperature trends are influenced by many more variables than atmospheric temperature trends.

Writing in his blog, Roy Spencer notes that the 13 models (CMIP6), that are currently publicly available, and will be used by the IPCC in its upcoming report overestimate observed surface temperature trends since 1979 by over 50%. This appears to be part of an effort by the IPCC and its followers to frighten the public about CO2 even further.

See the links under Challenging the Orthodoxy for a description of Spencer’s procedure and the tricks, techniques, used by modelers that annoy Spencer the most.


Warming Clouds? As Richard Lindzen discusses in his paper, above, even the IPCC acknowledges that clouds are the major sources of uncertainty in climate modeling. This shows that the certainty expressed in the IPCC’s work is way overstated. According to a paper in AAAS, Science Advances, 39 of the new models (CMIP6) to be used in the upcoming IPCC reports show that the globe is even more sensitive to CO2 than the IPCC claimed in previous reports. According to an article discussing the paper in Phys.org:

“‘Many research groups have already published papers analyzing possible reasons why the climate sensitivity of their models changed when they were updated,’ said Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and lead author of the new study. ‘Our goal was to look for any themes that were emerging, especially with the high-sensitivity models. The thing that came up again and again is that cloud feedbacks in general, and the interaction between clouds and tiny particles called aerosols in particular, seem to be contributing to higher sensitivity.’”

The abstract of the Science Advances paper with Meehl as the lead author states:

“ECS, [Equilibrium Climate Senstivity] a hypothetical value of global warming at equilibrium for a doubling of CO2) is 1.8°C to 5.6°C, the largest of any generation of models dating to the 1990s.”

“TCR, [Transient Climate Sensitivity is], the surface temperature warming around the time of CO2 doubling in a 1% per year CO2 increase simulation) for the CMIP6 models of 1.7°C (1.3°C to 3.0°C) is only slightly larger than for the CMIP3 and CMIP5 models.”

As Lindzen discusses, above, the earth’s climate system is never in equilibrium and we know that it has been changing in cycles lasting thousands of years. Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity has no clear meaning.

According to the article in Phys.org:

“The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation, which is NCAR’s sponsor. Other supporters include the U.S. Department of Energy, the Helmholtz Society, and Deutsches Klima Rechen Zentrum (Germany’s climate computing center).”

As stated in the August 31, 2019 TWTW, NCAR’s new model was running hot, with an equilibrium climate sensitivity of 5.3⁰K (⁰C) for a doubling of CO2. Apparently, modelers at NCAR have decided to blame the increase on their previous failure to understand clouds. [When in doubt, increase the doubt?] Of course, this action is directly contrary to the 40-year estimated atmospheric temperature trends verified by direct measurements by instruments on weather balloons. Ignore the physical evidence. Keep with the pack: groupthink!

TWTW has been unable to access the current budget of NCAR. Its FY 2019 budget request was $94,700,000 with $30,030,000 for its computer operations including the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center. Given the amount of money involved, it is rather remarkable that the National Center for Atmospheric Research cannot focus on atmospheric temperature trends. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy, Model Issues, and https://www.nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2019/pdf/40q_fy2019.pdf


A Contrarian: Michael Shellenberger has written a book challenging many of the accepted ideas of environmentalists presenting informed, contrarian views: “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.” In this, he follows Bjorn Lomborg who wrote “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and Indur Goklany who wrote “The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner World.” Both Lomborg and Goklany were severely criticized by the environmental establishment which could not refute the general evidence, but only nit-pick a few details and resort to personal attacks.

The participation of a number of organizations with Science in their names in these attacks was revealing. Apparently, these organizations do not care for physical evidence, but rather to maintain the status quo, from which they greatly benefit. It remains to be seen what the reaction to Schellenberger’s book will be.

What is remarkable about Shellenberger’s book is that for a very long time he was a most devout advocate of the environmentalist position – a leader in the field. This reversal by Shellenberger will surely be termed “heresy” by the climate establishment.

Bjorn Lomborg has just written a new book entitled “False Alarm” which TWTW has been asked to review. It expands on Lomborg’s previous position and says that all those horrible outcomes are not going to take place. Will he again be criticized by the environmental establishment for nonsensical reasons?

One review contained a number of praises that may be considered surprising, such as climate scientist Tom Wigley, former senior scientist National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT specializing in tropical cyclones. See Article # 1 and links under Questioning the Orthodoxy.


Wind Magic? According to the IEA in 2017, Denmark had a total of 5.521 MW (nameplate) of wind power installed.

“32% of Denmark’s energy consumption came from renewable sources: 40% from oil, 15% from natural gas, 9% from coal, 2% from nonrenewable waste, and 2% from imported electricity. Wind-generated electricity met 43.4% of the domestic electricity supply.”

These numbers are somewhat misleading because Denmark relies on pumped hydro storage in Norway and to a lesser extent in Sweden. Also, it maintains its traditional power plants. TWTW was unable to find solid references comparing capacity with actual production (generation).

According to Strom-Report by German data journalists, Denmark competes with Germany for the highest residential electricity prices in the EU: “The highest residential electricity prices are paid in Germany [30.88 cents (euro)] and Denmark [29.84] for many years in a row now.” The EU average is 20.54 cents /kWh.

According to reports, Denmark’s political parties have struck a deal to increase carbon taxes to create higher electricity prices. Further, “The Danish Council on Climate Change, which consults on and evaluates the country’s climate policies, has suggested that the current carbon tax of 177 Danish kroner ($26.6 dollars or 23.7 euros) per tonne should be increased to 1,500 kroner.” According to the Strom-Report, taxes and levies make up 68% of Denmark’s residential electricity costs.

Who knows if the public will accept an increase in carbon taxes of 8.5 times current taxes? If the public does, it is certainly under a magic spell. See links under Cap-and-Trade and Carbon Taxes, https://community.ieawind.org/about/member-activities/denmark and https://strom-report.de/electricity-prices-europe/#:~:text=In%202019%2C%20the%20average%20residential,cents%20%7C%20kWh%2010%20years%20ago.


Vote for Aprils Fools Award: The voting for the SEPP’s April Fools Award will be continued until July 31. Due to changes in schedules, there are no conferences held before then to announce the results. So, get you votes in now.


Number of the Week: 2%. As Lindzen states above, a doubling of CO2 will cause of change in the earth’s estimated energy budget of less than 2%. This is hardly cause for extreme concern, particularly since the unknowns, such as clouds, are up to 10 times larger.



1. ‘Apocalypse Never’ Review: False Gods for Lost Souls

Environmentalism offers emotional relief and spiritual satisfaction, giving its adherents a sense of purpose and transcendence.

By John Tierney, WSJ, June 21, 2020


TWTW Summary: The reviewer begins:

“There is a recurring puzzle in the history of the environmental movement: Why do green activists keep promoting policies that are harmful not only to humans but also to the environment? Michael Shellenberger is determined to solve this problem, and he is singularly well-qualified.

“He understands activists because he has been one himself since high school, when he raised money for the Rainforest Action Network. Early in his adult career, he campaigned to protect redwood trees, promote renewable energy, stop global warming, and improve the lives of farmers and factory workers in the Third World. But the more he traveled, the more he questioned what Westerners’ activism was accomplishing for people or for nature.

“He became a different kind of activist by helping start a movement called ecomodernism, the subject of ‘Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.’ He still wants to help the poor and preserve ecosystems, but through industrialization instead of ‘sustainable development.’ He’s still worried about climate change, but he doesn’t consider it the most important problem today, much less a threat to humanity’s survival—and he sees that greens’ favorite solutions are making the problem worse.

“He chronicles environmental progress around the world and crisply debunks myth after gloomy myth. No, we are not in the midst of the ‘sixth mass extinction,’ because only 0.001% of the planet’s species go extinct annually. No, whales were not saved by Greenpeace but rather by the capitalist entrepreneurs who discovered cheaper substitutes for whale oil (first petroleum, then vegetable oils) that decimated the whaling industry long before activists got involved. No, plastics don’t linger for thousands of years in the ocean; they’re broken down by sunlight and other forces. No, climate change has not caused an increase in the frequency or intensity of floods, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes.

“In 2002, Mr. Shellenberger proposed the New Apollo Project, a precursor to the Green New Deal. Many of its ideas for promoting renewable energy were adopted by the Obama administration and received more than $150 billion in federal funds, but Mr. Shellenberger was disillusioned with the results. A disproportionate share of the money, as he documents, went to companies that enriched donors to the Obama campaign but failed to yield practical technologies.

“He now considers most forms of renewable energy to be impractical for large-scale use. Windmills and solar power are too expensive and unreliable as a primary source of power for people in poor countries, and they cause too much environmental damage because they require vast areas of land and harm flora and fauna. He faults Western activists and governments for trying to force these technologies on Third World countries and prevent them from building hydroelectric and fossil-fuel power plants.

“‘Rich nations,’ he writes, ‘should do everything they can to help poor nations industrialize.’ Instead ‘many of them are doing something closer to the opposite: seeking to make poverty sustainable rather than to make poverty history.’”

After discussing some of the benefits and disadvantages of industrialization the reviewer concludes:

“‘The trouble with the new environmental religion is that it has become increasingly apocalyptic, destructive, and self-defeating,’ he writes. ‘It leads its adherents to demonize their opponents, often hypocritically. It drives them to seek to restrict power and prosperity at home and abroad. And it spreads anxiety and depression without meeting the deeper psychological, existential, and spiritual needs its ostensibly secular devotees seek.’

“Mr. Shellenberger wants to woo them to an alternative faith that he calls environmental humanism, which is committed to the ‘transcendent moral purpose of universal human flourishing and environmental progress.’ I’m not sure that’s enough to attract converts, but it makes for a much truer picture of the world—and a much cheerier read.”


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