Hey! What happened to global warming? Warming's bad. Cooling's bad. Everything is bad to a Greenie
Last summer's rain and recent cold evenings may have worsened the plight of moths, which are in decline. Unseasonable weather this year could have further reduced the species, including the garden tiger moth, right, whose numbers declined by 89 per cent in 35 years to 2002. The decline could affect the survival of other wildlife, including birds, toads, bats and hedgehogs, which feed on moths or caterpillars. Butterfly Conservation, based at East Lulworth, Dorset, is asking the public nationally to join its Garden Moths Count from today to July 6.
Al Gore personally proves the futility of his own policy recommendations
The morality play on offer from greenies and their media buddies holds that "we can't drill our way" to cheaper oil prices, but "conservation" and "new technologies" for "alternative energy" are the answer.
Thus, I am thankful to Al Gore for proving that even in a high profile demonstration project these "solutions" won't work. The Tennessee Center for Policy Research reports that Gore's home in Nashville has increased its energy usage by 10% in the past year. This is in the face of proudly-announced (and expensive) energy-saving steps. Stop the ACLU cites the Soros-Funded Think Progress site for information:
Gore's family has taken numerous steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their private residence, including signing up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch, installing solar panels, and using compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy saving technology.
Now that Gore has proven his measures are ineffective, it is time to drill offshore, ANWR, mine coal and oil-bearing rock, and build nuclear power plants on an expedited basis.
An extremely confused report
They try to make a Greenie silk purse out of factual pigs ears. Maybe their jobs depended on doing that, though
By Roger Pielke Jr.
Yesterday the U.S. Climate Change Science Program released an assessment report titled "Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate" (PDF) with a focus on the United States. This post discusses some interesting aspects of this report, with an emphasis on what it does not show and does not say. It does not show a clear picture of ever increasing extreme events in the United States. And it does not clearly say why damage has been steadily increasing.
First, let me emphasize that the focus of the report is on changes in extremes in the United States, and not on climate changes more generally. Second, my comments below refer to the report's discussion of observed trends. I do not discuss predictions of the future, which the report also covers. Third, the report relies a great deal on research that I have been involved in and obviously know quite well. Finally, let me emphasize that anthropogenic climate change is real, and deserving of significant attention to both adaptation and mitigation. [Note that he gives no evidence or reasoning for that last sentence -- not even a link. He just has to say that to retain respectability. He is a man aged 39 with children who is a professor of the environment. Unlike old guys such as myself and his father he has a lot of career ahead of him and cannot afford opinions that set him too far apart from academe generally]
The report contains several remarkable conclusions, that somehow did not seem to make it into the official press release.
1. Over the long-term U.S. hurricane landfalls have been declining.
Yes, you read that correctly. From the appendix (p. 132, emphases added):
The final example is a time series of U.S. landfalling hurricanes for 1851-2006 . . . A linear trend was fitted to the full series and also for the following subseries: 1861-2006, 1871-2006, and so on up to 1921-2006. As in preceding examples, the model fitted was ARMA (p,q) with linear trend, with p and q identified by AIC. For 1871-2006, the optimal model was AR(4), for which the slope was -.00229, standard error .00089, significant at p=.01. For 1881-2006, the optimal model was AR(4), for which the slope was -.00212, standard error .00100, significant at p=.03. For all other cases, the estimated trend was negative, but not statistically significant.
2. Nationwide there have been no long-term increases in drought.
Yes, you read that correctly. From p. 5:
Averaged over the continental U.S. and southern Canada the most severe droughts occurred in the 1930s and there is no indication of an overall trend in the observational record . . .
3. Despite increases in some measures of precipitation (pp. 46-50, pp. 130-131), there have not been corresponding increases in peak streamflows (high flows above 90th percentile).
From p. 53
Lins and Slack (1999, 2005) reported no significant changes in high flow above the 90th percentile. On the other hand, Groisman et al. (2001) showed that for the same gauges, period, and territory, there were statistically significant regional average increases in the uppermost fractions of total streamflow. However, these trends became statistically insignificant after Groisman et al. (2004) updated the analysis to include the years 2000 through 2003, all of which happened to be dry years over most of the eastern United States.
4. There have been no observed changes in the occurrence of tornadoes or thunderstorms
From p. 77:
There is no evidence for a change in the severity of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, and the large changes in the overall number of reports make it impossible to detect if meteorological changes have occurred.
5. There have been no long-term increases in strong East Coast winter storms (ECWS), called Nor'easters.
From p. 68:
They found a general tendency toward weaker systems over the past few decades, based on a marginally significant (at the p=0.1 level) increase in average storm minimum pressure (not shown). However, their analysis found no statistically significant trends in ECWS frequency for all nor'easters identified in their analysis, specifically for those storms that occurred over the northern portion of the domain (>35øN), or those that traversed full coast (Figure 2.22b, c) during the 46-year period of record used in this study.
6. There are no long-term trends in either heat waves or cold spells, though there are trends within shorter time periods in the overall record.
From p. 39:
Analysis of multi-day very extreme heat and cold episodes in the United States were updated from Kunkel et al. (1999a) for the period 1895-2005. The most notable feature of the pattern of the annual number of extreme heat waves (Figure 2.3a) through time is the high frequency in the 1930s compared to the rest of the years in the 1895-2005 period. This was followed by a decrease to a minimum in the 1960s and 1970s and then an increasing trend since then. There is no trend over the entire period, but a highly statistically significant upward trend since 1960. . . Cold waves show a decline in the first half of the 20th century, then a large spike of events during the mid-1980s, then a decline. The last 10 years have seen a lower number of severe cold waves in the United States than in any other 10-year period since record-keeping began in 1895 . . .
From the excerpts above it should be obvious that there is not a pattern of unprecedented weather extremes in recent years or a long-term secular trend in extreme storms or streamflow. Yet the report shows data in at least three places showing that the damage associated with weather extremes has increased dramatically over the long-term. Here is what the report says on p. 12:
. . . the costs of weather-related disasters in the U.S. have been increasing since 1960, as shown in Figure 1.2. For the world as a whole, "weather-related [insured] losses in recent years have been trending upward much faster than population, inflation, or insurance penetration, and faster than non-weather-related events" (Mills, 2005a). Numerous studies indicate that both the climate and the socioeconomic vulnerability to weather and climate extremes are changing (Brooks and Doswell, 2001; Pielke et al., 2008; Downton et al., 2005), although these factors' relative contributions to observed increases in disaster costs are subject to debate.
What debate? The report offers not a single reference to justify that there is a debate on this subject. In fact, a major international conference that I helped organize along with Peter Hoeppe of Munich Re came to a consensus position among experts as varied as Indur Goklany and Paul Epstein. Further, I have seen no studies that counter the research I have been involved in on trends in hurricane and flood damage in relation to climate and societal change. Not one. That probably explains the lack of citations.
They reference Mills 2005a, but fail to acknowledge my comment published in Science on Mills 2005a (found here in PDF) and yet are able to fit in a reference to Mills 2005b, titled "Response to Pielke" (responding to my comment). How selective. I critiqued Mills 2005a on this blog when it came out, writing some strong things: "shoddy science, bad peer review and a failure of the science community to demand high standards is not the best recipe for helping science to contribute effectively to policy."
The CCSP report continues:
For example, it is not easy to quantify the extent to which increases in coastal building damage is due to increasing wealth and population growth in vulnerable locations versus an increase in storm intensity. Some authors (e.g., Pielke et al., 2008) divide damage costs by a wealth factor in order to "normalize" the damage costs. However, other factors such as changes in building codes, emergency response, warning systems, etc. also need to be taken into account.
This is an odd editorial evaluation and dismissal of our work (Based on what? Again not a single citation to literature.) In fact, the study that I was lead author on that is referenced (PDF) shows quantitatively that our normalized damage record matches up with the trend in landfall behavior of storms, providing clear evidence that we have indeed appropriately adjusted for the effects of societal change in the historical record of damages.
The CCSP report then offers this interesting claim, again with the apparent intention of dismissing our work:
At this time, there is no universally accepted approach to normalizing damage costs (Guha-Sapir et al., 2004).
The reference used to support this claim can be found here in PDF. Perhaps surprisingly, given how it is used, Guha-Sapir et al. contains absolutely no discussion of normalization methodologies, but instead, a general discussion of damage estimation. It is therefore improperly cited in support of this claim. However, Guha-Sapir et al. 2004 does say the following on p. 53:
Are natural hazards increasing? Probably not significantly. But the number of people vulnerable and affected by disasters is definitely on the increase.
In closing, the CCSP report is notable because of what it does not show and what it does not say. It does not show a clear picture of ever increasing extreme events in the United States. And it does not clearly say why damage has been steadily increasing. Overall, this is not a good showing by the CCSP.
By Roger Pielke Jr.
The famous physicist Niels Bohr is attributed with saying that "Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future." Anyone who pays attention to weather forecasts or economic predictions knows how true this is. But given that the future can't be predicted with perfect accuracy, seeing predictions fail is actually an important part of their usefulness. Whether one is faced with evacuating from a possible hurricane landfall or investing in a mutual fund, decision-making is improved when uncertainties are readily understood.
On the highly politicized issue of climate change, however, understanding uncertainties is made difficult when scientists advocating for action oversell the predictive capabilities of climate models, such as those of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But action on climate change makes sense even if many climate scientists oversell predictive capabilities.
Scientists oversell the predictive capacity of climate models when they claim that the most recent weather events occurring around the world are consistent with predictions from climate models. For example, last fall a scientist who had contributed to the most recent IPCC reports said that the intense southern California wildfires occurring at the time "are consistent with what the latest modeling shows." Similarly, in 2006 a Berkeley professor and climate change expert asserted that "the current heat waves throughout much of North America and Europe are consistent with the predictions of our global climate models." A quick Internet search will reveal countless scientists who have made such claims about the predictive prowess of climate models.
But what does it mean to say that some weather events are "consistent with" climate model predictions? The implication of such statements of course is that models are reliable and offer accurate predictions that have been borne out by experience. But unfortunately, the real answer is that saying that any recent weather events are "consistent with" model predictions is an empty statement.
All of these claims of consistency between recent weather and model-based predictions might lead one to ask, in principle, what observations of weather events would be inconsistent with predictions from climate models. Guess what? It turns out that nothing that could be observed over a time period less than a decade or more - short of abrupt and unprecedented climate change, like an ice sheet advancing on New York - would be inconsistent with climate model predictions.
There are good reasons for why predictions of climate models are not useful on short time periods of less than a few decades. Urs Neu, a climate scientist from Switzerland, says that climate models are not designed to tell us anything about the evolution of the climate system in the short term; rather, they "are designed to simulate the long-term behaviour as accurately as possible. Long-term behaviour means the trend over at least 20-30 years." Similarly, two climate modelers, Claudia Tebaldi and Reto Knutti, observed in a research paper that "it is important to note that climate projections, decades or longer in the future by definition, cannot be validated directly through observed changes. Our confidence in climate models must therefore come from other sources." ...
The reality is that the future state of the climate is uncertain, and as such it represents a type of risk management problem. In 2002 Steve Schneider, a climate scientist at Stanford University and long-time advocate for action on climate change, explained "uncertainties so infuse the issue of climate change that it is still impossible to rule out either mild or catastrophic outcomes." Combatants in the climate debate congregate around the extremes, emphasize either mild or catastrophic outcomes as is convenient and overstate the certainty of such outcomes.
When scientists advocating action overstate the certainty of predictions, and policy-makers commit political and other resources based on those claims, they find themselves in a difficult situation because, according to Frame and colleagues, "they are likely to face strong criticism if they revise up their estimates of uncertainty in the relatively near future." Scientists who oversell the predictive capacity of climate models provide a basis for legitimate criticism by their political opponents, and in the process, actually create obstacles to action on climate change.
I have been asked by some of my colleagues why I raise these points, since action on climate change is a good thing and those questioning climate models typically are opposed to action. So what, I am told, if action on climate change is based on some exaggerations and false claims to certainty, isn't the end goal important enough to justify bending the truth just a bit? After all, those opposed to action often show no hesitation toward exaggeration and hyperbole.
My short answer to such questions is that false claims to certainty were exactly what got us into the Iraq war. A somewhat longer reply involves explaining how both science and democracy flourish when we are open and honest about what science can actually deliver. Effective action on climate change is more likely when we fully appreciate what science can, and cannot, do. We should expect more from our scientific community.
AS THE EARTH COOLS - WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE ENERGY INDUSTRY?
The earth warmed strongly between 1915 and 1940, cooled between 1940 and 1975 and then warmed strongly again between 1975 and 1998. The earth has been cooling in the opening years of this century even as carbon dioxide levels have risen appreciably since 1998. Many influential people in the industrialized world believe that global warming is a transcendent issue and human activity, especially the activity of the energy complex, is to blame and carbon management, at any cost, is imperative.
A growing number of influential people in the developing world (this includes China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, as well as Russia) are openly rejecting the idea that human activity has any measurable influence on the planetary climate or even that there is anything unusual or abnormal about the climate at present. Some of these people, joined by hundreds of scientists in the U.S. and Western Europe advance the idea that sunspot activity (which is cyclical) and the recently discovered (as recent as 1996) PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation: 20 to 30 year warming and cooling of the north-central Pacific Ocean) explain the cyclicality of global temperatures. According to those who hold this view, the planet has entered into a 30 year or so cooling period and carbon dioxide emissions even if they keep growing, cannot prevent this cooling.
In support they cite NASA's recent study that the global oceans are cooling and expected to cool for several years. NASA is the leading proponent of man-made global warming. They also quote data from the new Jason oceanographic satellite that the PDO is entering a multi-year cooling period. Jason is run jointly by NASA and a French team. Other support for this idea that global cooling not warming, is the planetary future within anyone's strategic planning horizon comes from experiments conducted by the Danish Space Research Institute, which links global climate behavior to variations in the magnetic wind of the sun, which is changeable, driven by sunspot cycles. Contrary to expectations, the current cycle (Cycle 24) is turning out to be very weak with negligible sunspot activity.
Two scientists at the National Solar Laboratory in Arizona project that sunspots will vanish by 2015, leading to a multi-decade down cycle in solar activity. The last time this happened was in 1645-1715 leading to bitterly cold winters and repeated crop failures (and to Napoleon's defeat in Russia during the summer never came). Between January 2007 and May 2008 the earth cooled by as much as it had warmed in the past 100 years, according to a meteorologist at the University of Alabama. On May 19, 2008, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine released a petition signed by over 30,000 U.S. scientists rejecting claims that global warming is caused by human activity and condemning the Kyoto Protocol for its damage to humanity. This was well received the proponents of the cooling view and condemned by adherents of the warming view.
Thus, there are now two belief systems about the climate. A largely Western belief system about steady and maybe catastrophic warming and a rest of the world belief system about impending cooling. The former belief system holds human activity responsible. The latter belief system scoffs at the ability of human beings to influence climate cycles. Belief systems, of course, drive policy and strategy which drive investment flows.
Energy industry executives increasingly find themselves caught between these irreconcilable belief systems. In the West, public policy, hence corporate strategy, is shaped by the first belief system. In the leading non-Western nations (NWNs), including Russia, the second belief system is implicitly ascendant despite official adherence (but not commitment) to the first belief system.
As food and energy riots grow in Asia, Africa and later in Latin America, the second belief system will go from implicit to explicit; it will no longer be whispered but proclaimed.
Cooling will create greater stress on energy, food and health care than warming. This stress can only be relieved by very large increases in energy output. For example, exposure to cold is more dangerous to the fragile old, the infirm, the injured and the ailing. More energy for space heating will be needed. Increasingly, the huge waste in the food supply chain from field to table in much of the world will require tremendous investments in spoilage reduction at every step of the local, regional, national and global food supply chain. Spoilage reduction is energy intensive. So is productivity enhancement via fertilizer, bio-engineered seeds, and water management. For those who hold the second belief system, cooling is a more frightening prospect than warming. The determination of NWNs to accelerate energy and food supply growth will only be strengthened as the second belief system attracts more adherents.
Food riots terrify the elites much more than energy riots. Marie Antoinette was beheaded because bread, not wood or coal, was so scarce for the poor. The Roman Emperors provided free bread to a third of the population of Rome, not free wood, because they were very fearful of the hungry and jobless mob.
For an increasing number of third world nations civil unrest, including violence, as a result of food and energy deprivation is now the most significant threat to regime continuity. Where the governments are freely or quasi-freely elected the issue can lead to power changing hands at the ballot. Where the regimes are tyrannical, violent regime change becomes increasingly likely. For such regimes generating more electricity and providing affordable cooking and transportation fuel become survival priorities. Carbon based power generation and fuel is about the only significant near to mid term option available to those nations: diesel and coal and to a much lesser extent LNG and piped gas.
The Global Warming Bubble
Rarely has so much hectoring produced so little. After all the magazine covers, celebrity sermonizing and U.N.-certified-expert hand-wringing, the fight against global warming got a real-world test in the U.S. Senate a few weeks ago in the debate over a proposal to limit carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade system. After a small dose of the argument, supporters of the proposal couldn't wait to drop it. It was leading opponent Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, who declared he'd be happy to talk about cap-and-trade for a month.
As an indirect tax on carbon, cap-and-trade would increase energy prices when people are already straining under $4-a-gallon gas. Even a political naif -- which McConnell assuredly is not -- would realize the benefit of hanging the proposal around its supporters' necks. Lately, we've seen the tech and housing bubbles burst, and now -- at least as an urgent political issue -- the global-warming bubble is getting pricked.
Let's count the ways: First, those gas prices. They are just one way that the soaring price of oil has put a crimp in the standard of living of Americans. They have little taste for seeing it crimped more, and why should they? The cost-benefit analysis of battling global warming is never going to make sense for Americans.
The places that would be hurt by global warming tend to be warm, wet, and low-lying. Think Bangladesh. For the U.S., warming isn't much of a threat. So, stringent measures against global warming are really a massive foreign-aid program, but an intangible and speculative one. If the predicted warming materializes, and if it has the drastic effects warned about (e.g., big rises in sea levels), people living in faraway countries a century or more from now may be adversely affected -- in short, a theoretical benefit to people as yet unborn.
We should feel a moral obligation to aid Bangladesh and similar places with mitigation measures, when (and, again, if) the time comes. Until then, our consciences should rest easy, given the $20 billion annually we spend on development assistance, including billions of dollars fighting AIDS, malaria, and other diseases affecting people whose suffering isn't theoretical.
Second, there's China. It has passed the U.S. as the world's leading emitter of carbon dioxide, and it accounted for two-thirds of the increase in the world's emissions in 2007. Global action against global warming makes little sense without China taking part, and it won't. If we can't get China to quit jailing dissidents and arming a genocidal Sudan, what hope is there of getting it to stop something -- rapid economic development -- that's otherwise unobjectionable? With hundreds of millions of Chinese people living in abject poverty, the country's economic growth is one of the world's most important initiatives against human misery.
Finally, there's the global-cooling spell. The world hasn't been warming since 1998, and an article in the journal Nature says warming won't pick up again until 2015. Since global warming is a long-term trend, a decade-long or more stall in temperatures doesn't mean much -- except that environmentalists have banked so much politically on whipping up hysteria based on imminent catastrophe. The stall in temperatures shows how little we know about global warming. It means that the .3 degrees Celsius increase in global temperatures predicted during the next decade by the U.N.'s much-vaunted Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may not happen.
No matter what the price of gas is, the most sensible policy in the U.S. is to avoid costly schemes to fight global warming. If our economy keeps growing, we will be better positioned -- richer, and more technologically proficient -- to help others mitigate its effects decades from now. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid huffs that global warming is "the most critical issue of our time." Really? More critical than energy prices? Than health care? Than wages? Than terrorism? Than nuclear proliferation? Keep huffing, Mr. Reid -- that deflating bubble needs all the air it can get.
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