Saturday, September 20, 2008


And it was done without uttering an untruth!

Arguably the most influential graphic from the latest IPCC report is Figure SPM.2 from the IPCC WG 2's Summary for Policy Makers (on the impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change). This figure, titled "Key impacts as a function of increasing global average temperature change", also appears as Figure SPM.7 and Figure 3.6 of the IPCC Synthesis Report (available here). Versions also appear as Table 20.8 of the WG 2 report, and Table TS.3 in the WG 2 Technical Summary. Yet other versions are also available from the IPCC WG2's Graphics Presentations & Speeches, as well as in the WG 2's "official" Power Point presentations, e.g., the presentation at the UNFCCC in Bonn, May 2007 (available here).

Notably the SPMs, Technical Summary, Synthesis Report, and the versions made available as presentations are primarily for consumption by policy makers and other intelligent lay persons. As such, they are meant to be jargon-free, easy to understand, and should be designed to shed light rather than to mislead even as they stay faithful to the science. Let's focus on what Figure SPM.2 tells us about the impacts of climate change on water.

The third statement in the panel devoted to water impacts states, "Hundreds of millions of people exposed to increased water stress." If one traces from whence this statement came, one is led to Arnell (2004). [Figure SPM.2 misidentifies one of the sources as Table 3.3 of the IPCC WG 2 report. It ought to be Table 3.2. ]

What is evident is that while this third statement is correct, Figure SPM.2 neglects to inform us that water stress could be reduced for many hundreds of millions more - see Table 10 from the original reference, Arnell (2004). As a result, the net global population at risk of water stress might actually be reduced. And, that is precisely what Table 9 from Arnell (2004) shows. In fact, by the 2080s the net global population at risk declines by up to 2.1 billion people (depending on which scenario one wants to emphasize)!

And that is how a net positive impact of climate change is portrayed in Figure SPM.2 as a large negative impact. The recipe: provide numbers for the negative impact, but stay silent on the positive impact. That way no untruths are uttered, and only someone who has studied the original studies in depth will know what the true story is. It also reminds us as to why prior to testifying in court one swears to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

More here

NASA reveals 'sun's solar wind is at a 50-year low'

Cooling on the way! So spin, spin, spin!

NASA will hold a media teleconference Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 12:30 p.m. EDT, to discuss data from the joint NASA and European Space Agency Ulysses mission that reveals the sun's solar wind is at a 50-year low. The sun's current state could result in changing conditions in the solar system.

Ulysses was the first mission to survey the space environment above and below the poles of the sun. The reams of data Ulysses returned have changed forever the way scientists view our star and its effects. The venerable spacecraft has lasted more than 17 years - almost four times its expected mission lifetime.


Figures plucked out of the air

Comment by Prof. S.F. Singer

A new paper by Ramanathan and Feng [PNAS 17 Sept 2008], using IPCC estimates of climate sensitivity, concludes that the observed increase in GH gases has already committed the world to a warming of 2.4 degC [1.4-4.3 degC] above pre-industrial values. Any additional release of GHG would further increase the warming during the 21st century. Even the most aggressive CO2 mitigation cannot reduce the already committed warming of 2.4 degC.

Hmm, so all the calamities envisioned by Gore et al. will come true no matter what we do. Well not quite. First, and most important, the increase in GHG likely has nothing to do with the observed 20th century of 0.6 degC [see NIPCC Report].

And secondly, what about the crucial threshold temperature increase of 2 degC. Where did that come from? I think I can shed some light on this. An article I wrote in the Eos Forum [1997] was prompted by the claims of Swedish meteorologists Rodhe and Azar [1997] that the present level of CO2 would lead to a warming of 2 degC. And -- an obscure report by the Stockholm Environment Institute - likely a self-reference - had demonstrated that such a condition would be "dangerous to the climate system" (in the sense of Article 2 of the Global Climate Treaty).

They argued that one must reduce the CO2 concentration by reducing emissions by 60-80 percent. But there is sufficient evidence that historic temperatures exceeded the 2 degC level without having "endangered" the climate system [Singer 1998].

So how did 2 degC become so widely accepted as the `critical' level? I think it's because it is the "Goldilocks" solution: not too small, not too large, just right. If Rodhe and Azar had picked, say 0.5 degC, then we would all be long since dead, with the climate system in ruins, and nothing could help us. Perhaps people who moved to the Antarctic could survive, to paraphrase Sir David King. On the other hand, if they had picked 5.0 degC, then there would have been no need to do anything to mitigate CO2.

Apparently, enough political types thought that a 60-80 percent reduction was "reasonable" and doable. The Stern report propagates this kind of nonsense. That's what makes the Ramanathan-Feng paper so poignant. If R-F are correct and if Al Gore is correct, then the situation is hopeless and we might as well live it up.


Azar, C., and H. Rodhe, Targets for stabilization of atmospheric CO2, Science, 276, 1818-1819, 1997.

Singer, S. F., Unknowns about climate variability render treaty targets premature Eos, Trans. AGU, 78. 584, 1997.

Singer, S.F., Reply. EOS, Trans. AGU, 79, page 188, April 14,1998

Source. (Post of 20th.)


Writing about anything other than the financial crisis today seems akin to the house journalist on the Titanic penning an article on flower arranging - two hours after the ship hit the iceberg. The tale is told, though, of passengers on the deck some hours after the impact enjoying snowball fights, heedless of the danger they were in.

One is also conscious of the Jo Moore dictum that days like today are an extremely good time to bury bad news. While the media attention is focused on the gathering storm of the financial meltdown (or not), many other things are happening. One of those things is the latest bizarre (a word I am beginning to over-use . does anyone know a better one?) development in the long-running saga of the European emissions trading scheme (ETS) - that arcane subject which no one really wants to talk about but which, in the fullness of time is going to cost us all (collectively) many billions.

Anyhow, pushing the story on is The Guardian which tells us that "leaked papers" show that Britain is "trying to weaken plan for EU carbon cuts." See here. This is a move, storms this distinctly greenie paper which would "reduce efforts to cut domestic pollution" - by which, of course it means carbon dioxide, which isn't pollution at all, but never mind.

What this is all about is a British inspired idea (although other have had the same thought) of using carbon credits awarded to con artists entrepreneurs in the developing world who have learnt how to milk the system installed energy-saving technology and thus done their bit to make money save the planet.

Behind all this is that monument to insanity the ETS which, as readers will be aware, creates carbon allowances (called EU allowances or EUAs in the trade) to auction to industry, thus giving them permission to produce carbon dioxide and thus stay in business. Tied in with this is a plan, year on year, to reduce the number of allowances available, the theory being that this increases the cost of the allowances and thus creates a financial incentive to invest in carbon reduction measures which, collectively will reduce emissions and enable the EU to meet its self-imposed emission reduction targets.

That, at least, is the theory, with the major target being the electricity generation industry. And when the scheme was dreamed up, the EU was convinced that this would be achieve by moving away from burning fossil fuel - and especially coal - and creating zillions of giant subsidy wind farms, all with "zero" emissions.

However, no one with more than two brain cells (which of course excludes most greenies) is now labouring under the impression that wind energy is going to deliver the goods. And, far from coal disappearing, if anything usage is set to increase as pressure on gas supplies is set to make this energy source far more expensive.

This set the scene for the next fantasy option - carbon capture. Again, though no one with any brains is under any illusions that this will work, which means that we have a slight problem. As the years progress and the carbon allowances are cut, UK plc faces the situation of having electricity generators standing idle - fully tanked up and ready to go - but unable to operate because their owners have run out of allocations. This, as you can imagine, would not go down too well with the great unwashed.

Hence, someone in government with a residual capacity for thinking has come up with this bright idea of buying carbon credits off the developing world, an idea which now has The Guardian whipping up its frenzy. This would allow Europe to make less effort to cut its pollution, it says, enabling it to emit "an extra billion tonnes of CO2 from 2013-2020." The paper could have said it will also enable it to keep the lights on, but that is not the game here.

And, of course, the move has been "condemned" by the climate change industry environment campaigners, who are accusing the UK of "trying to undermine efforts to get European industry to reduce emissions." Says that great self-publicist and self-centred little madam Caroline Lucas, MEP extraordinaire and leader of the Green party: "The British government is trying to buy its way out of climate change targets using unreliable credits from abroad. It shows how much of the political talk on climate is empty rhetoric, when you have the UK talking up the need for action on one hand, and carrying out this kind of irresponsible climate vandalism on the other." Don't you just love the rhetoric: "climate vandalism". Never mind daubing power station chimneys - trying to keep the lights on is now "climate vandalism".

In the very near future, however, la Lucas had better turn her attention to her beloved EU - which pays her a salary ten time more than she would get if she had to market her skills. The commission and her MEP "colleagues" are working on proposals to combine the ETS with what is called the "clean development mechanism" (CDM) run by the UN to create a global money-making empire emissions market along the same lines that the British are mooting.

Still, when "climate vandalism" gravitates to "climate crime", la Lucas can lock us up in windowless cells with no lights and we can all reduce our carbon footprints that way. Before that, however, if would be nice if someone could actually demonstrate to this stupid woman the true meaning of vandalism, before she does any more damage.



Yesterday's New York Times had an article on the upcoming carbon dioxide auction of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) of 10 northeastern U.S. states participating in this new cap and trade program (h/t Adam Zemel at the BT blog). The evolving performance of RGGI should add weight to the argument that cap and trade is simply not up to the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Here is an excerpt from the NYT article:
The program is due to get off the ground in nine days, but already there are worries that it may fail to reduce pollution substantially in the Northeast, undermining a concept that is being watched carefully by the rest of the country, by Congress and by European regulators. . . The concept has been praised by environmentalists and state officials. But the emissions cap was based on overestimates of carbon dioxide output, which has dropped sharply from 2005 to 2006 and is on a lower trajectory than anticipated.

This means that there are more emissions permits available than emissions (can you say ETS Phase 1?). From the NYT again:
The trading scheme would hold carbon emissions to 188 million tons annually through 2014, and scale them back by 2.5 percent each year through 2018. The cap was set in 2004, based on analysis by energy experts and some pressure from the regulated utilities to keep the ceiling at or above the anticipated emissions. . . . Phil Giudice, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, said, "The 188 million tons estimate was put together a number of years ago from both an analytical aspect and, not surprisingly, a political one."

But in the end, emissions from the 10 states went down instead of up. After growing from 176.9 million tons in 2002 to 184.5 million tons in 2005, they dropped in 2006, the most recent year for which there is complete data, to 164.5 million tons. Estimated emissions for 2007 are 172.4 million tons, according to Environment Northeast, a research and policy organization.

A figure from a report from Environment Northeast (PDF), shown below, illustrates the problem.

Using the Environment Northeast data, I have calculated annual emissions for the 10 states since 2000 to their estimated 2008 value, and they have declined by just under 1% per year. If we take a look at the cumulative emissions allowed under RGGI for 2009-2018 we see that the total is about 1.83 GtC. Because emissions allowances that are unsold in one auction roll over to the next, it is the cumulative number of permits over the performance period that matters, not the annual amount.

The following figure shows that emissions will have to grow by more than 1% per year for the RGGI to even have any effect on business as usual. And even a growth rate of 2% would result in a reduction in emissions from 2008 of less than 4%. So for RGGI to actually make a difference on emissions trajectory for these 10 states will require a stark departure from emissions trends over the past 9 years. Energy prices, fuel switching, and the push for alternative energy all work against this for this region. Champions of cap and trade will find themselves in the awkward position of cheering for rapid emissions growth for RGGI to show any teeth. Otherwise, it is just business as usual.

Over at the BT blog a commenter observes:
It would seem that the problems are with the "political and economic realities", rather than with cap and auction. That is, the problem is that the RGGI cannot go back and lower its cap, or that it wasn't designed with a more flexible/current cap. That is a political problem. If there were great public outcry, it could get fixed; that there isn't says something about where we are.

And this is indeed the problem with cap and trade. Any policy, no matter how theoretically sound, that cannot meet the test of political and economic realities is indeed fatally flawed. RGGI may do many things, but reducing emissions does not seem to be among them. It is high time we started calling cap and trade what it really is - tax and charade.



The White House slammed an energy bill that the House of Representatives passed Tuesday night, calling it a waste of time. The administration accused House Democrats of lacing the bill with "poison pills" that demonstrate a "lack of seriousness about expanding access to the vast domestic energy resources" off U.S. coasts.

President Bush and Democrats have been tangling for months over drilling offshore in an area known as the outer continental shelf, which had been placed off-limits both by Congress and executive order for decades. Bush lifted the executive order this summer as oil prices shot up and gas prices reached record levels at the pump. He called on Congress to lift its ban but expressed "strong opposition" to the bill passed Tuesday.

The House bill passed by a vote of 236-189. After months of resisting pressure to allow oil and gas exploration off America's coasts, the Democrats yielded and included provisions to allow more offshore drilling. But the legislation includes a number of provisions Republicans do not like, including a repeal of tax cuts for the oil industry and a lack of incentive for states to allow drilling off their shores. "Many of the other provisions contained in this bill are taken from other House bills that failed to pass through the Congress, or have been subject to veto threats," the Executive Office of the President said in a statement Tuesday night as the House voted on the bill, officially known as House Resolution 6899. "If H.R. 6899 were presented to the president, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill," the White House said.

Bush may never have the chance. The Senate is unlikely to take up an energy bill before next week, and it is unclear whether there is enough time left in this Congress for the two houses to hammer out a mutually acceptable compromise to send to the president. Fifteen Republicans crossed the aisle to support the bill Tuesday. Thirteen Democrats voted against it.

The bill would allow drilling between 50 and 100 miles offshore, as opposed to the 3-mile line favored by Republicans. It would require states to give their permission for drilling off their shores. It also would include incentives for renewables, require the government to release oil from its emergency reserve and force oil companies to drill on federal areas they already lease from the government.



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