Saturday, March 07, 2009

Strengths and weaknesses in new report on the lack of Recent Global Warming

There is an interesting article on at MSNBC from the Discovery Channel titled: "Warming might be on hold, study finds Authors sense hibernation, but warn of `explosive' rise later" by Michael Reilly.

This article finally (although implicitly) acknowledges in the media that there a substantive issue with the predictions of the IPCC and CCSP models. It includes the revealing comments that
"according to a new study, global warming may have hit a speed bump and could go into hiding for decades."

"It is possible that a fraction of the most recent rapid warming since the 1970's was due to a free variation in climate," Isaac Held of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Princeton, New Jersey wrote in an email to Discovery News. "Suggesting that the warming might possibly slow down or even stagnate for a few years before rapid warming commences again."

Swanson thinks the trend could continue for up to 30 years. But he warned that it's just a hiccup, and that humans' penchant for spewing greenhouse gases will certainly come back to haunt us.

"When the climate kicks back out of this state, we'll have explosive warming," Swanson said. "Thirty years of greenhouse gas radiative forcing will still be there and then bang, the warming will return and be very aggressive."

First, these statements clearly indicate that the IPCC and CCSP global model predictions (which are being used as the basis for making expensive and difficult to implement government policies) are seriously flawed.

Second, the authors are inaccurately reporting on climate physics, as they claim that "Thirty years of greenhouse gas radiative forcing will still be there and then bang, the warming will return and be very aggressive". This statement, unfortunately, incorrectly assumes that the heat for these 30 years would accumulate in a hidden location (i.e. "unrealized heat) and then suddenly reappear after this time period.

As was discussed yesterday on Climate Science in the weblog Is There Climate Heating In "The Pipeline"? , however, this is an inaccurate statement on how the climate system actually works. If the heating were to suspend for 30 years, and then recommenced, the rate of heating would be determined by the radiative imbalance at that time.

Finally, if the global heating continues to remain suspended (for whatever reason) in the coming years, it will seriously damage the credibility of the climate science community as represented by IPCC and CCSP assessments.


Snails now a greenhouse threat!

Nitrous oxide is also used in anesthesia prior to surgery so I guess we will have to ban surgery too

A recent proposal from the Danish Tax Commission unsuccessfully proposed imposing a flatulence tax on ruminants because of their greenhouse gas emissions. That proposal was not part of the final tax reform agreement announced on Sunday. Now, new Danish scientific research shows that small animals such as snails, worms, larvae and crustaceans emit large and worrying amounts of nitrous oxide - also known as laughing gas - into the atmosphere.

Nitrous oxide is a strongly destructive greenhouse gas some 300 times stronger than CO2. A Team of researchers from rhus University under the leadership of Assistant Professor Peter Stief has now shown that the worst producers of nitrous oxide are smaller animals in polluted water.

"The problem is greatest where water is polluted with nitrogen. So efforts to develop a cleaner aquatic environment would not just affect de-oxygenation but also have an effect on the climate balance," says Associate Professor Andreas Schramm of the Biological Institute.

Unfortunately, however, global developments are going in the opposite direction towards more intensive agriculture and an increased use of fertilisers which will increase the amount of nitrogen seepage.

"That means more polluted aquatic environments in which small animals emit large amounts of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. This is not just a minor issue but a development that is increasingly important and is getting worse," he tells Ritzau.


Climate change forecasts are useless for policymaking

Why rush to ruin the economy over some dodgy forecasts?

By Kesten C. Green, J. Scott Armstrong, and Willie Soon

Even as we struggle with serious global financial and economic difficulties, some people believe manmade global warming is a real problem of urgent concern. Perhaps this is because, almost every day, media outlets quote "experts" who predict that soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, increasing storms, prolonged droughts and other disasters will result from human activity.

NASA scientist James Hansen claims "death trains" carrying coal are putting our planet "in peril." If we continue using hydrocarbon energy, he predicts, ".one ecological collapse will lead to another, in amplifying feedbacks." He further forecasts that only by eliminating coal-fired power plants and other sources of carbon dioxide can we prevent the collapse.

The situation recalls a 1974 CIA report that concluded there was "growing consensus among leading climatologists that the world is undergoing a cooling trend". one likely to cause a food production crisis. Dr. Hansen would probably appreciate the frustration those CIA experts must have felt when Congress ignored their forecasts and recommendations.

If it makes sense to enact measures to reduce CO2 emissions when experts forecast warming, then surely it also makes sense to emit extra CO2 when experts forecast cooling. Or perhaps not. Perhaps any link between climate change and carbon dioxide is not so strong or important. Consider the historical record.

The tiny fraction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased through the twentieth century. And yet, during that time, global average temperatures rose till about 1940, fell till about 1975, rose again till 1998, and then dropped away again. It is not surprising, then, that despite claims "the science is settled," thousands of scientists disagree with forecasts of dangerous manmade global warming.

History again provides useful guidance. Back in 1860, scientists used observations and mathematical modeling to predict the existence of planet Vulcan in an orbit 13 million miles from the Sun. More observations of the planet and extensive debate followed. Finally, the science was settled. The model was wrong. Planet Vulcan does not exist.

Climate change is a complex problem that has generated a similarly heated debate Reliable data exist only for the last three decades, whereas climate changes occur over decades and centuries. Not surprisingly, there are rival theories.

What is the status of experts' forecasts in such a situation? Scientific forecasting research has shown that experts aren't able to provide accurate predictions in this kind of complex and uncertain situation. It doesn't matter whether experts present their forecasts as certain outcomes, detailed scenarios, expectations, likelihoods or probabilities. Or that the forecasts are the product of hard thinking by many highly qualified experts, or even of mathematics or computer simulations. The expert forecasts are nonetheless worthless.

This lack of credible climate forecasts matters, because proposed policies - including taxing carbon emissions and cap-and-trade regimes - will increase energy prices, cause major wealth transfers, and cost jobs. It would be immoral to impose such punishing policies on the basis of dodgy forecasts. Fortunately, proper forecasters know how to do better.

Global average temperatures vary up and down over short and long periods, without apparent pattern -- and our current knowledge about what causes temperature and other climate changes is speculative and incomplete. Thus, the first question a bona fide forecaster would ask is: Can we do better than assume future temperatures will be the same as current temperatures?

The forecasting model based on this assumption is called the "no-change" model, and studies have shown it is often difficult to beat. The model predicts that global average temperatures in each of the next 100 years will be the same as the previous year's temperature. When this model is applied, starting in the year 1850, the differences between the forecasts and global temperature measurements turn out to be quite small. For example, for temperature forecasts for 20 years in the future, the average difference turns out to be 0.18øC (0.32øF). For forecasts for 50 years into the future, the average error was 0.24øC (0.43øF).

These are temperature differences that a normal human being would have trouble detecting and are well within the range of natural variation. The evidence clearly suggests that the no-change model is the obvious one for public policy makers to use.

Policymakers, however, have tended to defer to the projections of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Perhaps it isn't surprising that they should prefer projections that governments have paid billions for, over forecasts from a free and simple model. But how do the IPCC projections perform?

The IPCC first projected a global warming rate of 0.03øC per year in 1992. The errors of the IPCC projection over the years 1992 to 2008 were little different from the errors from the no-change model, when compared to actual measured temperature changes. When the IPCC's warming rate is applied to a historical period of exponential CO2 growth, from 1851 to 1975, the errors are more than seven times greater than errors from the no-change model.

The models employed by James Hansen and the IPCC are not based on scientific forecasting principles. There is no empirical evidence that they provide long-term forecasts that are as accurate as forecasting that global average temperatures won't change. Hansen's, and the IPCC's, forecasts, and the recommendations based on them, should be ignored.

It would be irresponsible and immoral of policymakers to impose the heavy burden of costly anti carbon-based-energy policies, in the absence of any credible evidence that those burdens will result in net benefits to man, beast or tree.


China Will Follow the U.S.: A Climate Change Fable

President Obama's emphasis on climate change has notable implications for U.S.-China relations. On her inaugural trip to Asia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to expand the Sino-American Strategic Economic Dialog to include climate change among America's chief China policy priorities.[1]

Making climate change a high priority is a mistake. It may inject unnecessary hostility into the already-strained bilateral relationship over what should be a secondary issue. And it rests on a faulty premise: Many argue that the PRC will make sharp cuts in carbon emissions but only if the U.S. does so first.[2] This claim borders on nonsense.

America Must Go First: A Flawed Premise

The importance of American leadership is often neglected in discussion of trans-Pacific matters. In climate change debates, it is not neglected but twisted. The American climate change leadership the Obama Administration wants Beijing to follow will certainly not be successful due to moral concerns. The world is littered with instances where American moral leadership has been ignored or actively defied by the PRC--the Sudan genocide, Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, Burmese human rights repression, and so forth.[3]

Instead, the usually unexamined and always inaccurate assumption behind the notion that China will follow the U.S. on climate change is that it is question of economic competition--i.e., Beijing does not want to harm the competitiveness of its firms with carbon restrictions. This is certainly true, but it has nothing to do with whether the U.S. is willing to harm the competitiveness of its firms first. That is because U.S. firms are well down the list of China's competitiveness concerns.

China's economic story is multifaceted. The bulk of it, though, is captured in the creation and maintenance of conditions to encourage relocation of East Asian output to the Chinese mainland, primarily for the purpose of export. This extends from the initial zones to draw capital from the Chinese diaspora for export back to home markets starting in 1979[4] to the mass movement of factories to serve the entire world as WTO membership was finally secured in 2001.[5] Chinese firms may be competing first and foremost for the U.S. market, but they are competing against other export platforms to the U.S. in East Asia and around the globe.

Consider what would happen if China were to impose carbon-driven restrictions on firms operating in China without the U.S. "going first."[6] This would not be to the principal benefit of American companies. Rather, the relocation process would reverse: East Asian firms would disinvest in China, moving production to the second-most competitive regional location for textiles, computer assembly, furniture, and other products. Depending on the goods, this could be Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, or others. These countries would then be the source of the bulk of U.S. imports.

Perhaps more important, most American companies operating in China would probably move not back home but to low-cost third-party platforms elsewhere. Dramatic and effective American steps to restrict carbon emissions would make all goods imported into the U.S. more competitive but do nothing to alter China's incentives to take the same steps. What would actually encourage the PRC to impose carbon-driven restrictions would be willingness by Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Central America, and other exporters to impair their own competitiveness in the name of curbing emissions.

Jobs: China's Insuperable Barrier

Behind Chinese policies on competitiveness --indeed behind almost everything involving the PRC--is the Communist Party's top priority for 20 years and counting: jobs. The well-documented demographic surge that precipitated the one-child policy has put a generation's worth of pressure on the party to create jobs and avoid socio-political instability.[7] This is the main reason the Chinese development pattern differs from its East Asian predecessors: Beijing has been much more open to foreign investment because the PRC's primary concern has been employment generation--even more than economic nationalism.

This is why China has allowed the environmental devastation already seen[8] and why, despite its general view that climate change is dangerous, Beijing will accept nothing that even threatens to seriously inhibit employment. In his address to Congress, President Obama cited China's new energy program as the largest in the world.[9] On some counts, this may be accurate. It absolutely does not, however, indicate a willingness to genuinely move away from high-emissions energy production.

The horrific health damage done by air pollution has been clear in the PRC for more than a decade.[10] Coal production was declining at the end of the 1990s, while its effects were being documented. Since then, however, coal output has nearly tripled, and the reliance on coal in electricity and broad energy supply has increased despite strong oil demand and touting of alternative energy.[11]

The party has been unwilling to protect the environment and safeguard the health of its citizens in the face of possible job losses even in recent, sustained periods of double-digit growth. It certainly will not do so in the context of record job losses now.[12]

Until the U.S. is willing and able to offer concrete assurance of "green" jobs for China in numbers sufficient to offset those lost in steel, cement, and other industries, bilateral negotiations on this subject will for the next several years produce only hot air. When America has so many other matters to discuss with the Chinese--including those that will be sharply disputed--introducing yet more grounds for confrontation is a dubious risk.

Where Real Environmental Progress Is Possible

The wiser--and only effective--option for the U.S. is to shift the emphasis from the here and now to the middle of next decade. That is the time when substantial evidence may appear that the demographic wave is receding.[13] From around 2013, the party will find it increasingly easy to maintain high employment. Eventually, spot labor shortages will even appear, making eliminating overcapacity in heavy industry an appealing goal rather than something to pay lip service to while investing wildly. When that happens, the PRC will be far more willing to sacrifice jobs for the environment.

That is not to say there is nothing important to do in the meantime. At the moment, China's greatest ecological challenge is not air but water--which includes poor sanitation (despite rising affluence) and poses a severe long-term threat to the food supply.[14]

Unlike restricting carbon emissions, cleaner water does not have competitiveness implications that translate to fewer jobs. Given the intense need for water in manufacturing, better water supply--both directly in terms of water treatment and indirectly in terms of feasible industrial output--actually translates to continued competitiveness and more jobs.[15] American assistance on carbon emissions is seen by the party almost entirely through the lens of capturing the job growth prospects of environmental technology. While this perspective will be a factor for water issues, immediate benefits of water-saving and water-cleaning technology for employment in China will make bargaining much more fruitful.

The environment can certainly be part of broader Sino-American cooperation, but such discussions must be focused on the longer term and not on carbon emissions.


John Kerry: CO2 regulation won't work

Senate Foreign Relations committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry - a.k.a Mr. Teresa Heinz - said in a March 5 speech yesterday that, even with "the best" climate regulation proposed so far, including the cap-and-trade scheme outlined in President Obama's budget proposal, atmospheric CO2 concentrations will nevertheless increase and cause "catastrophic and irreversible climate change," according to Carbon Control News.

Kerry's statement is based on a forthcoming analysis from the Heinz Center (Teresa Heinz, vice chair of the board of trustees), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Fidelity Investments.

"If you factor in the best of everything that is currently proposed - the best - and if you can presume that we do what is best," CO2 emissions will still exceed 500 parts per million (ppm) by 2050," Kerry said, while noting that 350 ppm was the CO2 concentration that policymakers should aim for. "All the current plans take you to about 550 [ppm], but science has now said 550, 450 is not enough," Kerry said. "We have to go back to 350."



Over the past three years, the journal World Economics has carried a whole series of articles on climate change issues, including contributions by scientists as well as economists. One of the main contributors has been David Henderson. The next issue of the journal (Volume 10, Number 1) is due to carry an article of his entitled 'Economists and Climate Science: A Critique'. The abstract reads as follows:

This article presents a critique of the characteristic treatment by economists of issues relating to climate science, which appears as uncritical and over-presumptive. I draw on a range of illustrative cases, with the main focus on six recent and important contributions. I argue that the authors and sources concerned, along with other economists, have (1) accepted too readily the idea that received opinion on global warming is firmly grounded on scientific findings which can no longer be seriously questioned, (2) placed unwarranted trust in the official advisory process that governments have created and rely on in this area, and (3) disregarded evidence which puts that process in question. Hence there is a missing dimension in their treatment of policy aspects: they have not caught on to the need to strengthen the basis of policy, by making the advisory process more objective and professionally watertight.

The full paper is available here


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