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This Week Update on Energy and the Environment January 18, 2014

Written by Science and Environmental Policy Project

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Report from the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), January 18, 2014

If you wish to converse with me, define your terms. - Voltaire, H/t Gordon Cheyne, in Master Resource

Polar VortexNo Consensus? Nature magazine published an article by Jeff Tollefson on the failure of the earth's surface to warm for the past 16 years that contained an interesting sentence: That has led sceptics - and some scientists - to the controversial conclusion that the models might be overestimating the effect of greenhouse gases, and that future warming might not be as strong as is feared.

Could this be a first indication that Nature recognizes that there are qualified scientists who are skeptical of the work of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the claim that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases are causing unprecedented and dangerous global warming? If so, is this an admission that there is no consensus as frequently claimed? One must be careful not to read too much into this sentence least that person be grouped with those military analysts who spent their cold war military careers looking for changes in Soviet policy by carefully dissecting sentences in the communist newspaper, Pravda.

To a limited extent, the article discusses some possible causes for the failure of the earth's surface to warm including changes in the trade winds over the tropical Pacific, which change cloudiness. When there are more clouds, the sun's energy is reflected back into space. When there are less clouds, more energy reaches the oceans, resulting in warming. Roy Spencer has long discussed that slight changes in cloudiness will have dramatic effects.

Other suggestions include changes in the sun, volcanoes emitting aerosols (fine particles and liquid droplets) that have a cooling effect (no major volcanoes noted), and China emitting aerosols (pollution).

Although the article offers no rigorous explanation of the possible causes, at least it brings up the issue that nature has failed to obey human-created climate models. Though not discussed, the article creates a question about the IPCC Summary for Policymakers with its claim in 2007 (Fourth Assessment Report - AR4) of 90% certainty and in 2013 (Fifth Assessment Report - AR5) of 95% certainty that humans are the cause of global warming/climate change. The question is: What is meant by this certainty? There are many issues of natural variation that are not discussed in the reports.

The article contained comments by members of the climate establishment who gave excuses why the models fail to perform, not rigorous explanations of what must be done to the models to give them predictive value. "If you are interested in global climate change, your main focus ought to be on timescales of 50 to 100 years," says Susan Solomon, a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Solomon was a drafting author of AR4 which expressed 90% certainty in its work.

The key period of the 2007 assertion certainty was late 20th century surface warming of a little more than 20 years - about 1976 to 1998. Now Solomon says periods of 50 to 100 years are needed. Does this mean that the certainty expressed in the IPCC AR4 and AR5 Summary for Policymakers are hasty conclusions? See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Problems in the Orthodoxy.


Warming Trend or Jolt?

Writing in Master Resource, Robert Bradley Jr. discusses an article by Richard Kerr, a long-time writer for Science, "What Happened to Global Warming? Scientists Say Just Wait a Bit," which was published in the October 1, 2009 edition of the magazine. The article contained the statement: In the HadCRUT3 temperature record, the world warmed by 0.07°C±0.07°C from 1999 through 2008, not the 0.20°C expected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Corrected for the natural temperature effects of El Niño and its sister climate event La Niña, the decade's trend is a perfectly flat 0.00°C.

The EPA finding that greenhouse gas emissions, principally CO2, are causing unprecedented and dangerous global warming endangering human health and welfare was made two months later, on December 7, 2009. Too late for the courts, the recognition that prior to the endangerment finding the temperature record had no trend for a decade is an increasing piece of history and illustrates the lack of thoroughness of EPA science. See link under Questioning the Orthodoxy.


Hearings: The Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the President's Climate Action Plan. Most of the time was spent on typical posturing by politicians and bureaucrats. The testimony by Judith Curry and global warming advocate Andrew Dessler may be of particular interest. See link under Seeking a Common Ground in the full report here.


The Anti-Science Challenge: One incident coming from the Senate testimony is an anti-science challenge. Writing in the New York Times, Michael "Hockey-Stick" Mann labeled Judith Curry's testimony as anti-science. Curry has taken the challenge: JC challenge to MM: Since you have publicly accused my Congressional testimony of being 'anti-science,' I expect you to (publicly) document and rebut any statement in my testimony that is factually inaccurate or where my conclusions are not supported by the evidence that I provide.

During the Hearing, Senator Whitehouse asked me a question about why people refer to me as a 'contrarian.' I said something like the following: Skepticism is one of the norms of science. We build confidence in our theories as they are able to withstand skeptical challenges. If instead scientists defend their theories by calling their opponents names, well that is a sign that their theories are in trouble.

Anti-science is a murky word, with a number of connotations. An excerpt from the wikipedia article on Antiscience:

The question often lies in how much scientists conform to the standard ideal of "communalism, universalism, disinterestedness, originality, and... skepticism". Unfortunately, "scientists don't always conform... scientists do get passionate about pet theories; they do rely on reputation in judging a scientist's work; they do pursue fame and gain via research". Thus, they may show inherent biases in their work.

From the Rational Wiki article on Antiscience:

Anti-science proponents often attack science through: Attempts to discredit the scientists themselves. Attempts to use flawed arguments, such as argumentum ad populum to prove the position correct even if it has no scientific basis. Attempts to label scientific ideas as conspiracy theories.

JC message to MM: If you want to avoid yourself being labeled as 'anti-science', I suggest that you are obligated to respond to my challenge.

A conspiracy buff may wonder if the New York Times, and other outlets, provide a forum for Mr. Mann in order to discredit science in general, and climate science in particular. If so, he is doing a good job. See link under Oh Mann!


Climate Vortex The claim that global warming is causing more extreme cold events continues to reverberate. President Obama is scheduled to give his State of the Union address at 9 pm on Tuesday. Weather forecasts have Washington receiving another blast of cold air that day, with nighttime temperatures falling to about 11ºF (-12 ºC). [This is about 17ºF (10ºC, allow for rounding) below the mid-January normal low is about 28ºF (-2 ºC).] Will the President follow his chief science advisor and blame the cold on global warming? See links under Climate Vortex - Whirlpool, Cyclone, or Quagmire?


Base Load: Much has been written about natural gas replacing coal as the fuel of choice for producing electricity in the US. Economics professor Mark Perry brings up an excellent point regarding this shift. During severe cold weather, the price of natural gas spikes, causing the costs of generating electricity to spike. Perry gives some illustrations. He argues for using nuclear power plants for base load, because they are not subject to price spikes. [Base load is the electricity generation 24 hours a day 7 days a week, except for scheduled maintenance.] The same could be said for using modern coal-fired power plants, which the EPA will oppose. See link under Nuclear Energy and Fears


Wind Power: The web site, Master Resource has a 4 part series based on a letter Glen Schleede sent to the Senate Finance Committee exposing the economically destructive and foolish tax subsidies being considered by the Committee on behalf of so-called "clean energy" - producing electricity without generating carbon dioxide. The summary and part two on the high cost and low value of wind power were posted with the other two parts coming next week.

The main points brought up thus far are:

Electricity from wind is high in true cost and low in true value.
Massive wealth transfers harming ordinary taxpayers and electric customers.

Misdirecting billions in capital investments dollars.
High electricity prices that are particularly hard on low income people.

*Adverse environmental, ecological, scenic, and property values impacts.

See link under Alternative, Green ("Clean") Solar and Wind


Energy Policy: Former oil man and wind energy advocate, T. Boone Pickens points out that it has been over 40 years since President Nixon called for a national energy policy. Washington has had energy policies but not one singularly identified. Among the many policies are denial, advocacy, and benign neglect. These policies can be rated according to two standards: that which promotes Washington control and that which promotes general prosperity of the nation. The two standards suggested here are not absolute, but they give a starting point for evaluation.

The oil industry along the northern slope of Alaska is an example of denial. After the great success of the initial development of oil and the Alaska pipeline, Washington started to deny further exploration and development. The deliberate reduction in oil development is reaching the point at which it is questionable if the pipeline can be kept open in the future. It is having a negative effect on the budget of the state, which receives royalties. Each time proposals are made in Congress to open the North Slope to further development, the proponents are shouted down that it would take ten years. Washington's game have been going on for over a decade. It is an excellent illustration of Washington power and indifference to general prosperity.

The heavy subsidies to wind and solar power are examples of advocacy. The central problem of storage of electricity on an inexpensive, commercial scale has not been solved. After two decades of subsidies, wind and solar cannot stand on their own. Green jobs did not materialize in quantities promised, and they are not sustainable without subsidies or mandates. Wind and solar are examples of Washington's power and indifference to general prosperity. Perhaps what is needed is the requirement that all Federal buildings and official Washington rely only on wind and solar, with no back-up. Eventually, all but the most obtuse politicians and bureaucrats would grasp the problem.

The development of techniques for extracting oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids from dense shale is an example benign neglect. Some in Washington claim credit, but the success is on private and state-owned lands, outside of control from Washington. There is no need for subsidies or mandates. The contribution to general prosperity is becoming more evident monthly, unemployment rates in areas with the greatest activity are far below the national or regional rates. In his article, Pickens bring up the natural gas revolution that switched him from being a wind power promoter. See links under Energy Issues - US.


Number of the Week: 679 - 23. According to Senator Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), the Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the US government has 679 renewable energy programs from 23 different agencies costing $15 billion a year. Who says the Federal government does not have an energy policy? It has at least 679. See link under Green Jobs.

CONTINUE TO FULL REPORT WITH LIST OF THIS WEEKS ARTICLES FROM VARIOUS RESOURCES. 

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