|The Week That Was
February 10 , 2007
Quote of the Week:
"If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed.
The State-of-the-Union message gets a B-minus for Energy/Environment; A-minus for Environment; C for Energy (mainly because of the push for ethanol). See ITEM #1.
State climatologists are threatened because of their skeptical opinions about Anthro GW (ITEM #2). But we don’t find any complaints about “muzzling” in the NY Times. How come?
News from Canada: PM Stephen Harper wobbles (ITEM #3) while the Fraser Institute (Vancouver) produces a reasoned response to the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers (ITEM #4).
Climate disasters, acc to the British press (ITEM #5). Kyoto wars in Germany (ITEM #6).
Further evidence that solar variability affects climate (ITEM #7).
“Global Warming is Man-made Alright - by a Dozen Scientists Whose Livelihoods Depend on It”
Contrasting comments on IPCC by leading scientists:
A real climate skeptic -- who pulls no punches
Is Al Gore a scaredy cat?
What the Waxman hearing missed: Federal scientists complain about White House pressure
First, during the winter, they cranked up the air conditioning in our offices, then they limited our vacations to the North Pole, and finally they traded our health insurance for membership in the Polar Bear Club.
The Gore Effect
Avery-Singer interview on the Hannity/Colmes show: http://newsbusters.org/node/10525
"Skeptic's Guide to An Inconvenient Truth," and some related items: http://www.cei.org/pages/ait_response.cfm
BBC trashes Stern report. Simon Cox, Jan 25
1. Bush’ State-of-the-Union Proposals on Energy and Environment
By S. Fred Singer
President George Bush deserves a grade of A-minus on Environment and C (passing) on his Energy proposals, unveiled in his crisp 40-minute speech on Jan 23.
Bush did not buckle on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), in spite of much pressure – recently even from certain industrial leaders who see short-term gains for their companies from mandatory emission targets on carbon dioxide.
His energy proposals are uniformly bad, claiming non-existent environmental benefits -- red meat for Democrats and Greens -- while promising illusionary oil security to his conservative base.
Having trashed Bush’ energy initiatives, why would I give them a C rather than a D or even an F (failing)? There is a good chance that they may not come to fruition. Democrats in Congress may kill anything Bush proposes -- even if they like the idea. Could this be part of a diabolical plan hatched by Karl Rove?
Switching to snake oil: Bush wants America to reduce its oil consumption - but subsidizing ethanol production isn't the answer.
By Jerry Taylor
The plan President Bush unveiled in his State of the Union Address to cut gasoline consumption by 20% over the next 10 years is so shot through with loopholes, exceptions, and escape clauses that it's impossible to say what would happen to gasoline consumption were Congress to vote his plan into law. That's probably a good thing, because without the politically convenient fine print, the president's plan would almost certainly send fuel prices shooting through the roof.
Cutting oil consumption in any significant manner means increased reliance on ethanol and other biofuels because they are easily the most cost-competitive alternative to gasoline on the market. Accordingly, it's worth noting that the president's own Department of Agriculture reports that ethanol costs about $2.53 per gallon to produce - even with the subsidies. Without them, economist Doug Koplow calculates that production costs would be at least $1 per gallon higher. Accordingly, the president's plan would increase fuel prices because gasoline costs only about half what ethanol costs on a Btu basis in wholesale markets.
Government support is unlikely to bring corn ethanol costs down because it is the very definition of a mature technology. Alas, the manufacturing costs associated with producing 200 proof grain alcohol have proven fairly fixed over time.
Cellulosic ethanol, however, is an emerging technology, so costs might well come down in the future. But they have a long ways to go. The US Energy Information Administration estimates that the capital costs associated with building cellulosic ethanol processing plants are five times greater than they are for corn ethanol facilities, which have capital costs that average $1.50 per gallon according to the US Department of Agriculture. Accordingly, cellulosic ethanol would cost $7.50 per gallon using state of the art technology - and that's before we even get to the price of the feedstock itself.
The above analysis probably explains the fine print. Most notably, the president proposes to give three separate cabinet secretaries the authority to kill the entire plan - in whole or in part - should the costs associated with living under his "20-by-10" initiative ever get too politically troublesome. This is like making a New Year resolution to lose weight, but giving yourself an escape clause that explicitly gives you the right to waive the resolution should you ever grow tired of the diet.
Even so, shouldn't we be willing to pay more for automotive fuel if it means less greenhouse gas emissions as a consequence? Perhaps, but increasing ethanol production will increase - not decrease - greenhouse gas emissions. That's the conclusion of a new paper out of MIT's Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. The study offers a complete examination of the fossil energy associated with producing corn ethanol and finds that ethanol yields about the same amount of total greenhouse gas emissions over its entire life cycle as does conventional gasoline.
Expanding ethanol production, however, would on balance increase greenhouse gas emissions vis-à-vis gasoline because expanding corn production would require greater energy inputs at the margin. That seems obvious once you think about it. The new cropland that would have to be harnessed to produce corn would almost certainly be less productive than the cropland being harnessed at present. Less productive soils necessitate more fertilizers and/or irrigation, thus more energy inputs, thus more greenhouse gas emissions on average. The more we expand ethanol production, the worse it gets.
Why do so many politicians, then, embrace ethanol? Because ethanol is the closest thing to a state religion we have in this country. The farm lobby and ethanol processors like Archer Daniels Midland have vigorously and relentlessly sold this economic snake oil for over three decades as a cost-free solution to just about every economic, environmental, and foreign policy problem on the national horizon. Voters like helping farmers - and they like cost-free solutions to things that scare them. Politicians, for their part, like affirming voter sentiment.
But if ethanol has economic merit, no amount of subsidy is necessary. Businessmen and venture capitalists will in time deliver it to market, because that's how you make a profit in a free-market economy. But if ethanol lacks economic merit, then no amount of government subsidy will magically bestow it. And that's all you need to know to weigh the merits of the president's speech last night.
CAFE and ethanol: two Democratic dogs chasing each other's tail; has the President bought in?
The Ethanol Debate
By Gretchen Randall, Jan 24, 2007
Issue: President Bush, in the State of the Union speech last night, called for Americans to reduce their gasoline usage by 20% in the next ten years. One proposal to achieve this was a mandated increase in the use of ethanol to 35 billion gallons per year by 2017 -- five times the amount called for in the 2005 energy bill. The White House claims this amount would "displace 15% of projected annual gasoline use."
Global Warming's Friendly Fire
Environmental fundamentalism is making the lives of the poor even worse in Mexico after triggering a huge rise in the price of corn -- the chief component of the tortilla -- thanks to a government-induced increase in the demand for ethanol in the United States. This constitutes poignant evidence that the drive for carbon reduction can be costly. And not just for the poor, says Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a senior fellow with the Center on Global Prosperity.
Now the guilty minds of the West are telling everyone that if we sacrifice 1 percent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP) every year, about $500 billion, we will save the planet in the next few decades. The same body that sponsored the recent IPCC report on the environment, the United Nations, told us a few years ago that if the rich gave out $75 billion to underdeveloped countries annually, poverty would be extinct before long.
2. Political Correctness For State Climatologists To Force Them To Embrace Global Warming: A Chilling Development
There are currently two efforts underway to remove State Climatologists from their positions because they do not parrot the summary conclusions of the new IPCC Report. These attempts are in Delaware (David Legates) and Oregon (George Taylor). This follows the recommendation by Heidi Cullen of the Weather Channel to retract the certification of broadcast weather forecasters who do not accept what she considers is the accepted scientific view of global warming.
Global warming realist's job threatened
Issue: George Taylor, Oregon's State Climatologist, may lose his title because he doesn't buy into the manmade global warming theory. Taylor said, “Most of the climate changes we have seen up until now have been a result of natural variations," according to KGW Channel 8 News. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) reportedly now wants to change state law so an appointee who agrees with him can be the state's climatologist and assist in his efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.
Comment 1: "There are a lot of people saying the bulk of the warming of the last 50 years is due to human activities and I don't believe that's true," Taylor said in an interview with KGW Feb. 7.
Comment 2: Despite the fact that the earth has only warmed about 1.5 degrees in the last century, many now urge that reckless actions be taken that would harm America's economy while having no effect on global temperatures.
Comment 3: "Was life better when a sheet of ice a mile thick covered Chicago? Was it worse when Greenland was so warm that Vikings farmed there," asked George Will in the Feb. 12 issue of Newsweek. Note: Will points out in his article that warming is not necessarily a bad thing. With global cooling it would be more difficult to grow enough crops to feed the world's population.
"Got snow? No!" (Register-Guard, Jan. 13) says that, "Like any good scientist, Taylor has a natural dislike of bad data ... garbage in, garbage out." That statement is incredulous [sic] coming from someone who is the laughing stock of the scientific community for his views on global warming.
Wacky Vicki Walker (try saying that fast), an Oregon State senator no less, believes that science is just like politics: You can just decide theories by vote; the majority must always be right. Well, dear lady, that’s not how science works. If the data disagree with the theory, then the theory, however politically attractive, goes down the drain. Right now, the best data say that the current warming is likely part of a natural cycle that’s been going on for thousands of years, and perhaps much longer. Of course, there must be some human contribution to climate change; but it’s insignificant compared to natural climate variability. Sorry to disappoint you but that’s what the data show.
3. Harper's letter dismisses Kyoto as 'socialist scheme'
Prime Minister Stephen Harper once called the Kyoto accord a "socialist scheme" designed to suck money out of rich countries, according to a letter leaked Tuesday by the Liberals. The letter, posted on the federal Liberal party website, was apparently written by Harper in 2002, when he was leader of the now-defunct Canadian Alliance party.
He was writing to party supporters, asking for money as he prepared to fight then-prime minister Jean Chrétien on the proposed Kyoto accord.
"We're gearing up now for the biggest struggle our party has faced since you entrusted me with the leadership," Harper's letter says. "I'm talking about the 'battle of Kyoto' — our campaign to block the job-killing, economy-destroying Kyoto accord."
4. Fraser Institute’s Critique of IPCC Fourth Assessment Report
Analyses of the Stern Review (SR) by fourteen distinguished scientists and economists concluded that SR is “flawed to a degree that makes it unsuitable for use in setting policy” (see www.ipe.net.au). Set out below is the executive summary from the February 2007 publication by Canada’s Fraser Institute of an Independent Summary for Policymakers (ISPM) based on the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It appears that, although less explicit, this publication’s conclusions justify a not dissimilar conclusion to that of the SR Critique. Note, in particular, the points that “there is insufficient data to draw conclusions about increases in extreme temperature and precipitation” and “it is not possible to say which, if any, of today’s climate models are reliable for climate prediction and forecasting”.
This publication by an independent Canadian research and educational organization (firstname.lastname@example.org) is also authored by ten well-qualified economists and scientists, listed below. Some of these individuals also signed the 10 January letter by 61 prominent international scientists calling on the Canadian Prime Minister to hold public-consultation sessions to “examine the scientific foundation of the federal government’s climate–change plans” and noting that “observational evidence does not support today’s computer climate models, so there is little reason to trust model predictions of the future”.
The myth of scientific consensus is thus, once again, further exposed. Indeed, although (presumably partly reflecting the slant of the assigned reporters) the media seemingly failed to “penetrate” the internal discussions at the Paris meeting that finalized the IPCC report, one or two reports suggest considerable differences of view existed about what should have been said in it. It appears the government representatives may have persuaded some of the more extreme environmentalists to accept the “best estimate” of a 1.4 to 4 degrees temperature increase in the period to 2100.
• Data collected by weather satellites since 1979 continue to exhibit little evidence of atmospheric warming, with estimated trends ranging from nearly zero to the low end of past IPCC forecasts. There is no significant warming in the tropical troposphere (the lowest portion of the Earth’s atmosphere), which accounts for half the world’s atmosphere, despite model predictions that warming should be amplified there.
• Temperature data collected at the surface exhibits an upward trend from 1900 to 1940, and again from 1979 to the present. Trends in the Southern Hemisphere are small compared to those in the Northern Hemisphere.
• There is no compelling evidence that dangerous or unprecedented changes are underway. Perceptions of increased extreme weather events are potentially due to increased reporting. There is too little data to reliably confirm these perceptions.
• There is no globally consistent pattern in long-term precipitation trends, snow-covered area, or snow depth. Arctic sea ice thickness showed an abrupt loss prior to the 1990s, and the loss stopped shortly thereafter. There is insufficient data to conclude that there are any trends in Antarctic sea ice thickness.
• Current data suggest a global mean sea level rise of between two and three millimeters per year. Models project an increase of roughly 20 centimeters over the next 100 years, if accompanied by a warming of 2.0 to 4.5 degrees Celsius.
• Natural climatic variability is now believed to be substantially larger than previously estimated, as is the uncertainty associated with historical temperature reconstructions.
• Attributing an observed climate change to a specific cause like greenhouse gas emissions is not formally possible, and therefore relies on computer model simulations. These attribution studies do not take into account the basic uncertainty about climate models, or all potentially important influences like aerosols, solar activity, and land use changes.
• Computer models project a range of future forecasts, which are inherently uncertain for the coming century, especially at the regional level. It is not possible to say which, if any, of today’s climate models are reliable for climate prediction and forecasting.
Executive Summary of ISPM:
The climate is subject to potential influence by both natural and human forces, including greenhouse gas concentrations, aerosols, solar activity, land surface processes, ocean circulations and water vapor. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and its atmospheric concentration is increasing due mainly to human emissions.
The IPCC gives limited consideration to aerosols, solar activity and land-use change for explaining 20th century climate changes. Aerosols have a large potential impact on climate but their influence is poorly understood. Some evidence suggests that solar activity has increased over the 20th century to historically high levels. Land use changes are assumed by the IPCC to have only a minor role in explaining observed climate change.
Observed Changes in Weather and Climate
Globally-averaged measurements of atmospheric temperatures from satellite data since 1979 show an increase of 0.04°C to 0.20°C per decade over this period, at the low end of the IPCC estimate of future warming. Globally averaged temperature data collected at the surface show an increase from 1900 to 1940 and again from 1979 to the present.
There is no globally consistent pattern in long-term precipitation trends, snow-covered area, or snow depth. Many places have observed a slight increase in rain and/or snow cover. There is insufficient data to draw conclusions about increases in extreme temperature and precipitation. Current data suggest a global mean sea-level rise of 2 mm to 3 mm per year over the past several decades. In the tropics, there is evidence of increased cyclone intensity but a decrease in total tropical storms, and no clear global pattern since 1970.
Arctic sea ice showed an abrupt loss in thickness prior to the 1990s, and the loss stopped shortly thereafter. There is insufficient data to conclude that there are any trends in Antarctic sea ice thickness. Glaciers have retreated in most places and the loss accelerated in the 1990s.
Climatic Changes in a Paleoclimate Perspective
Paleoclimate refers to the Earth’s climate prior to the start of modern instrumental data sets. There are historical examples of large, natural global warming and cooling in the distant past. The Earth is currently within a warm interglacial period, and temperatures during the last interglacial period were warmer than present.
Natural climate variability and the uncertainty associated with paleoclimate studies are now believed to be larger than previously estimated. In general, data are sparse and uncertain, and many records have been questioned for their ability to show historical temperature variability. These uncertainties matter for assessing the ability of climate models to simulate realistic climate changes over historical intervals.
Climate Models and Their Evaluation
Some broad modeling predictions made 30 years ago are consistent with recent data, but there remain fundamental limitations of climate models that have not improved since the Third Assessment Report. Many models are incapable of simulating important aspects of the current climate, and models differ substantially in their projections. It is not possible to say which, if any, of today’s climate models are reliable for climate prediction and forecasting.
Global and Regional Climate Projections
Models project a range of forecasts, and uncertainty enters at many steps in the process. Forecasts for the 21st century are inherently uncertain, especially at the regional level. Current models predict: an increase in average surface temperature; an increased risk of drought, heat waves, intense precipitation and flooding; longer growing seasons; and an average sea levels rise of about 20 cm over the next 100 years.
Glacier mass is projected to decrease. An abrupt change in ocean circulation is very unlikely. Tropical cyclone intensity may increase or decrease.
Attributing the Causes of Climate Change
Attributing an observed climate change to a specific cause like greenhouse gas emissions is not formally possible, and therefore relies on computer model simulations. As of yet, attribution studies do not take into account the basic uncertainty about climate models, or all potentially important influences.
Increased confidence that a human influence on the global climate can be identified is based the proliferation of attribution studies since the Third Assessment Report. Models used for attributing recent climate change estimate that natural causes alone would not result in the climate that is currently observable.
ISPM Overall Conclusions
The following concluding statement is not in the Fourth Assessment Report, but was agreed upon by the ISPM writing team based on their review of the current evidence.
The Earth’s climate is an extremely complex system and we must not understate the difficulties involved in analyzing it. Despite the many data limitations and uncertainties, knowledge of the climate system continues to advance based on improved and expanding data sets and improved understanding of meteorological and oceanographic mechanisms.
The climate in most places has undergone minor changes over the past 200 years, and the land-based surface temperature record of the past 100 years exhibits warming trends in many places. Measurement problems, including uneven sampling, missing data and local land-use changes, make interpretation of these trends difficult. Other, more stable data sets, such as satellite, radiosonde and ocean temperatures yield smaller warming trends. The actual climate change in many locations has been relatively small and within the range of known natural variability. There is no compelling evidence that dangerous or unprecedented changes are underway.
The available data over the past century can be interpreted within the framework of a variety of hypotheses as to cause and mechanisms for the measured changes. The hypothesis that greenhouse gas emissions have produced or are capable of producing a significant warming of the Earth’s climate since the start of the industrial era is credible, and merits continued attention. However, the hypothesis cannot be proven by formal theoretical arguments, and the available data allow the hypothesis to be credibly disputed.
Arguments for the hypothesis rely on computer simulations, which can never be decisive as supporting evidence. The computer models in use are not, by necessity, direct calculations of all basic physics but rely upon empirical approximations for many of the smaller scale processes of the oceans and atmosphere. They are tuned to produce a credible simulation of current global climate statistics, but this does not guarantee reliability in future climate regimes. And there are enough degrees of freedom in tunable models that simulations cannot serve as supporting evidence for any one tuning scheme, such as that associated with a strong effect from greenhouse gases.
There is no evidence provided by the IPCC in its Fourth Assessment Report that the uncertainty can be formally resolved from first principles, statistical hypothesis testing or modeling exercises. Consequently, there will remain an unavoidable element of uncertainty as to the extent that humans are contributing to future climate change, and indeed whether or not such change is a good or bad thing.
5. IPCC Coverage in the British Press: Disasters and Calamities
6. Kyoto Wars in Germany
7. Comments on “Source of Climate Change Becomes Focus of Senate Hearing”
EOS, 9 May 2006, Vol.87,No.9, p. 186
By Madhav Khandekar
The recent US Senate subcommittee hearing on climate change impact developed into a discussion about the extent to which the climate warming can be explained by natural or anthropogenic causes (EOS, May 9, 2006). At the hearing, Thomas Armstrong of the Earth Surface Dynamics Program (US Geological Survey) identified an important aspect of climate change by stating that climate change is also a natural continuous inevitable Earth process that has occurred throughout Earth’s history. For far too long, the global warming/climate change debate has been dominated by ONE single issue, namely human impact on climate change. There appears to have been a benign ( or inadvertent?) neglect of other aspects of climate change, especially the natural variability of the climate in historical as well as in geological times. It is time to discuss and debate some of these issues and related papers:
Several recent peer-reviewed studies (e.g. Kodera 2003;Polyakov 2003;Soon 2005) have identified solar variability as providing a much more significant impact on earth’s climate than previously thought. Kodera provides a physical mechanism between solar activity and the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) variability, Polyakov documents a Low Frequency Oscillation (50-80 yr) for Arctic basin surface temperature and sea-level pressure, while Soon demonstrates a strong correlation between TSI (total solar irradiance) and Arctic wide surface temperatures, 1875-2000. Another recent paper by Briner et al (2006) analyzes radiocarbon-dated lake sediments in northeast Baffin Island ( eastern Canadian Arctic) and using a multi-proxy technique obtains Arctic temperature to be 5C warmer than present during the Holocene ( 8-10 cal yr BP).
Two other papers discuss the impact of solar variability and its possible impact on earth’s climate. A paper by Bertrand and Ypersele (1999) analyzes a climate model response to TSI and concludes that on a century-scale climate variations, the Gleissberg Cycle ( ~88 yr) solar forcing on the earth’s climate could be important. Another paper by Solanki et al (2004) documents unusual solar activity during recent decades and discusses possibility of the present high solar activity to be declining in the next ten to twenty-five years.
The presently held view of climate change as espoused by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and its supporters emphasizes human influence as the primary cause while discarding natural variability as providing ‘too small’ a forcing on the earth’s climate. There is a need to consider a more balanced view of present climate change as evidenced by several recent studies. In a comprehensive review paper (Khandekar et al 2005), my co-authors and I have concluded that there is a definite need to re-assess the present state of the science of global warming and climate change.
Brinner J P et al 2006: A multi-proxy lacustrine record of Holocene climate change on northeastern Baffin Island, Arctic Canada. Quaternary Research, V.65,No.3,431-442.
Khandekar M L , T S Murty and P Chittibabu 2005: The global warming debate: a review of the state of science. Pure & Applied Geophysics, 162, 1557-1586
Kodera K 2003: Solar influence on the spatial structure of the NAO during the winter 1900-1999. Geophy Res Letters, 30(4),1175
Polyakov I V et al 2003: Variability and trends of air temperature and pressure in the Maritime Arctic, 1875-2000. J of Climate, 16,2067-2077
Solanki S K et al 2004: Unusual activity of the sun during recent decades compared to the previous 11000 years. Nature, 431,1084-1087
Soon Willie W-H 2005: Variable solar irradiance as a plausible agent for multidecadal variation in the Arctic-wide surface air temperature record of the past 130 years. Geoph Res Letters,32, L16712
8. Sun's Fickle Heart May Leave Us Cold