Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #415

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Re-Blogged From WUWT

Quote of the Week: The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.” ― Thomas Sowell [H/t Jim Buell]

Number of the Week: 0.086ºC/decade (0.155ºF/decade)

Oversimplified-Part II: Last week, TWTW focused on part of a new paper by 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.” It presented the generally accepted physical characteristics of the climate system, which is extraordinarily complex and ever changing. As Lindzen asserts, even if the solar forcing were constant, which it is not, the climate would vary. With the massive size of the oceans, and their ability to absorb heat, such variations can involve timescales of a thousand years or more.

This week, TWTW will focus on the balance of Lindzen’s paper, emphasizing some of the points he makes. But first it is useful to repeat what Lindzen states as the ‘consensus’ view:

“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.”

Lindzen goes on to give a brief overview of the history of climate science. Until the 1980s the greenhouse effect was well established but increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) was not considered important in changing climate. The main focus was the cyclical nature of glaciation.

However, things changed in 1988 when James Hansen gave his famous testimony to the Senate declaring dangerous global warming from human emissions of CO2.

Lindzen continues:

“Between 1988 and 1994, things changed radically. In the USA, funding for climate increased by about a factor of 15. This led to a great increase in the number of people interested in working as ‘climate scientists’, and the new climate scientists understood that the reason for the funding was the ‘global warming’ alarm.”

“In France, in the 60s, there was essentially one theoretical meteorologist, Queney. Today, there are hundreds involved with models if not theory, and it is largely due to ‘global warming.’ Is it unreasonable to wonder whether or not a political movement has succeeded in capturing a scientific field?

“What was the previous situation? For most of the twentieth century, climate was a small subset of the small fields of meteorology and oceanography with important contributions from a handful of geologists. Almost no major scientists working on aspects of climate referred to themselves as ‘climate scientists.’ Within meteorology, the dominant approach to climate was dynamic meteorology (though the greenhouse effect was well known).”

Lindzen then describes the status of the science prior to 1988, with a principal concern being Ice Ages, glaciation. He discusses advances in paleoclimatology by early 1980s:

“The data suggested that for both glacial periods and the warm periods, equatorial temperatures did not differ much from present values, but the temperature difference between the tropics and high latitudes varied greatly.”

Lindzen gives a table illustrating these differences. During the warm period called the Eocene, about 50 million years ago, the surface temperature difference between the tropics and the high latitudes (polar regions) was about 20ºC (about 35ºF). During the last glacial maximum surface temperature difference between the tropics and the high latitudes was about 60ºC (about 110ºF). Today, the surface temperature difference between the tropics and the high latitudes is about 40ºC (about 70ºF). Lindzen accepts the Milankovitch cycle as the explanation for the cycles in glaciation. Today, some researchers trying to amplify the role of CO2 in changing climate are claiming other explanations, which are beyond this TWTW.

Lindzen attributes the remarkable temperature stability of the tropical regions to the actions of high-level cirrus clouds, which are more prevalent in the tropics than elsewhere on earth. When they form, they have a warming effect by reducing outgoing longwave radiation. When they dissipate there is a cooling effect by more longwave radiation going to space.

The equator to pole surface temperature differences during different periods has been a puzzle for years. Lindzen presents a possible explanation by suggesting thermal inversions may explain such differences. During a thermal inversion temperature increases as altitude increase, quite the opposite of the lapse rate, which is an idealized concept. Based on research by others, Lindzen suggests that the temperature difference between the tropics to the pole be considered as depending on altitude:

“An isentrope [an idealized parcel of air at an idealized pressure, moisture and temperature] originating at the surface in the tropics will rise as one approaches the pole and will essentially determine the temperature at the tropopause over the pole. According to Jansen and Ferarri, this, in turn, determines the tropics-to-pole temperature difference at the height of the polar tropopause (ca 6 km), and that value is about 20C. When one looks at today’s climate, we see that the equator-pole temperature difference at the altitude of the polar tropopause is, in fact, approximately 20C. The existence of the arctic inversion causes the surface temperature differences between the tropics and the pole to be larger than they are at the tropopause.” [The references are not reproduced here.]

What is important for TWTW is that there are significant issues regarding the earth’s changing climate that have not been resolved and are largely ignored by advocates of the simplified approach that CO2 [with or without water vapor amplification] is the primary cause of climate change. This ignorance is highly disturbing and may result in destructive government policies. Lindzen concludes with:

“As noted in Sect. 2 [The climate system], it is implausible that a system as complex as the climate system with numerous degrees of freedom should be meaningfully summarized by a single variable (global mean temperature anomaly) and determined by a single factor (CO2 level in the atmosphere). As an example, we have shown in Sect. 4 [Earlier approach to climate versus current approach], that the different physics associated with tropical temperatures (i.e. radiative forcing including radiative feedbacks) and with the equator-to pole temperature difference (i.e. hydrodynamic transport via baroclinic instabilities) both lead to changes in global mean temperature. However, this does not imply that changes in global mean temperature cause changes in the equator-to-pole temperature difference. This brief paper focuses on a single example of where the assumption of single variable control can lead to a mistaken result. However, the issue of sensitivity even when restricted to radiation is still subject to numerous possibilities, and there is ample reason to suppose that the radiative component of the sensitivity is, itself, exaggerated in most current models. A separate discussion of this matter can be found in Lindzen, R.S. (2019)” [http://co2coalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Lindzen_On-Climate-Sensitivity.pdf]

“Interestingly, even those of us rejecting climate alarm (including me) have focused on the greenhouse picture despite the fact that this may not be the major factor in historic climate change (except, in the case of low sensitivity, to explain the stability of equatorial temperatures). That is to say, we have accepted the basic premise of the conventional picture: namely that all changes in global mean temperature are due to radiative forcing. Although capturing the narrative is a crucial element in a political battle, it should not be permitted to replace scientific reasoning.”

See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Science Fiction? As discussed in last week’s TWTW, Roy Spencer notes that the 13 new climate models (CMIP6), that are currently publicly available, and will be used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (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. The IPCC’s chosen modelers no longer seem to be constrained by atmospheric observations or even by surface-air temperature observations that yield higher temperature trends; data do not seem to matter to them.

This week, Spencer compares the results of the new CMIP6 climate models run from 1970 to 2019 with NOAA summertime (June-August) observations over that period for the U.S. Midwest Corn Belt. According to the IPCC, during the past 50 years we should have seen significant surface warming. As Spencer shows there has been little warming, barely statistically significant. The old CMIP5 models project a warming trend 4 times as large, and the new, improved (?) CMIP6 models project a trend 6 times as large. Unfortunately, exaggeration has long been accepted in the environmental industry and by some scientists.

Often, science fiction writers exaggerate human abilities, such as strength, hearing, vision, to supernatural abilities. At what point will the public realize the climate modelers have exaggerated the ability of carbon dioxide to influence climate and life on this planet to supernatural proportions and that climate modelers are dealing with science fiction? See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


A Contrarian: As stated in TWTW last week, although he was once an advocate of the orthodoxy, Michael Shellenberger has written a book challenging many of the accepted ideas of environmentalists by presenting informed, contrarian views: “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.” The environmental industry is not amused.

Shellenberger has been a columnist, contributor, carried by Forbes online. Amusingly, Forbes published, then censored an article by Shellenberger apologizing for the climate scare. [The article appears in Environmental Progress.] As of this writing, Forbes continues to post a more recent article by Shellenberger criticizing the Democrats “Climate Crisis Action Plan” as killing endangered species (threatening whooping cranes in the Sand Hills, Nebraska, ecosystem) and anti-environmentalism. See links under Censorship, Challenging the Orthodoxy, and Questioning Green Elsewhere.


South Pole Warming: The headlines claimed record warming of the South Pole, but the conclusions of the paper stated:

“These results, along with prior studies underscore the important role of natural circulation variability, particularly from the tropics, in driving extreme climate anomalies in interior Antarctica. While radiative forcing from greenhouse gas increases probably intensified the recent South Pole warming, the observed trend remains within the upper bounds of natural variability inferred from unforced, pre-industrial simulations and can be explained via a strong cyclonic anomaly in the Weddell Sea resulting from coupling of negative IPO and positive SAM during the twenty-first century…”

In short, we can make no firm conclusions about surface warming at the South Pole. Although it does not cover the South Pole itself, the bulk atmospheric data show no pronounced warming of the Antarctic for the past 40 years. See links under Communicating Better to the Public – Exaggerate or be Vague? and Measurement Issues: Atmosphere.


Hydrogen – The Miracle Fuel? Much is being written about hydrogen replacing fossil fuels. On this planet, there are no natural reserves of hydrogen, so it must be obtained by breaking apart power chemical bonds such as separating hydrogen from oxygen in water or hydrogen from carbon in methane (natural gas, a fossil fuel). As Paul Homewood writes in his blog, first quoting from an essay by Roger Harrabin in BBC.

“’The process is wasteful because it involves turning electricity into a gas, then back into electricity – a two-step shuffle dismissed by Tesla car chief Elon Musk as ‘staggeringly dumb’. ‘Fool cells’, he calls them.

“But hydrogen-lovers believe the future electricity grid will produce so much cheap off-peak power that we’ll need to find other uses for it. And they hope to see the cost of fuel cells plummet following the example of offshore wind.’”

Homewood then writes:

“And, of course, that is the very real problem. Nobody has ever doubted that you can burn hydrogen or use it in fuel cells. It is the hugely inefficient and costly production methods, along with the problem of distribution and storage, which explains why it has never taken off.

“Harrabin hopes that we can take advantage of cheap off-peak power. But this shows up his lack of economic knowledge. He is plainly talking about wind and solar power here, as the electricity obviously needs to be zero carbon. But if power is given away at low prices when demand is slack or output high, it simply makes the unit cost higher the rest of the time.

“The economics of wind and solar power depend on all of the output being sold. Giving large amounts of it away would alter the business case, and electricity users would end up paying the bill. This would put paid to claims, propagated by Harrabin, that renewable power is now cheaper than conventional.

“And the economic downside does not end there. The unpredictable intermittency of wind and solar power would necessitate a huge overcapacity of electrolyser units, able to take all of the surplus power available at any particular time. These electrolysers would then not only run at well below capacity but would also have to ramp their outputs up and down on an hour by hour and day by day basis.

“I know of no production processes that can work efficiently on that basis.”

See link under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Energy – Other.


Quote of the Week: The author of the Quote of the Week is economist Thomas Sowell, who turned 90 this week. Sowell has written many essays and books, countering popular beliefs with evidence. He strongly believes in market economics because, though not perfect, the free market is the most efficient way to allocate scarce resources. Twenty years ago, his book: “Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy” came out. It took him ten years to write and may have been the most difficult task in writing because it does not contain a single graph or equation and avoids jargon common to economics. All these interfere with an intelligent person understanding the subject, without specializing in it. One may add that all too often graphs, equations, and jargon often become a cover for the author’s failure to understand the concepts entailed.


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 your votes in now.


Number of the Week: 0.086ºC/decade (0.155ºF/decade) According to calculations by Roy Spencer this is the observed increase in summer temperatures in the US Midwest Corn Belt over the past 50 years (1970-2019). Although 2019 was a down year due to frozen ground, which caused flooding and made planting difficult, the US Corn Grain Yield grew from about 80 bushels per acre in 1970 to 170 bushels per acre in 2019, an increase of over 110%. In making predictions about US agriculture, the US Global Change Research Program demonstrated total ignorance about this subject. https://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/timeless/YieldTrends.html


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