Saturday, June 06, 2009

Recently up on GRL: Cooling admitted

But "within a long-term warming trend", of course. Actually that is pretty right. Temperatures have been rising in a zigzag way ever since the Little Ice Age. But that rise began long before SUVs!

Is the climate warming or cooling?


Numerous websites, blogs and articles in the media have claimed that the climate is no longer warming, and is now cooling. Here we show that periods of no trend or even cooling of the globally averaged surface air temperature are found in the last 34 years of the observed record, and in climate model simulations of the 20th and 21st century forced with increasing greenhouse gases. We show that the climate over the 21st century can and likely will produce periods of a decade or two where the globally averaged surface air temperature shows no trend or even slight cooling in the presence of longer‐term warming.

Easterling, D. R., and M. F. Wehner (2009), Is the climate warming or cooling?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L08706

Obama’s Green Delusions

The false promises of renewable energy

By Alex Alexiev

Standing in front of an array of photovoltaic solar panels at Nellis Air Force Base last Wednesday, President Obama gave us to understand that his vision for an America powered by clean, renewable energy and awash in green jobs is becoming a reality faster than anyone could have imagined. Nellis, near Las Vegas, is the home of the largest solar-energy plant in the Western Hemisphere and, in the president’s words, a “shining example” of what renewable energy can do to put our economy on a “firmer foundation for economic growth.” It is a success story that needs to be replicated “in cities and states across America,” Obama said, and he announced a “solar energy technology program” to do just that.

The figures do indeed look impressive at first sight. The $100-million plant was built without a penny of government money, we are told, yet it provides the base with electric power costing 2.2 cents per kilowatt/hour, which is less than one-fourth of the 9 cents that Nevada Power charges its other customers. The annual savings will amount to $1 million, guaranteed for 20 years. Proof positive, it seems, that our green future is now. Or is it?

Beyond these numbers, uncritically reported by the mainstream media, is the reality of a make-believe industry touted by environmental zealots, corporate freeloaders parading as entrepreneurs, and a president capable of staggering disingenuousness. If the Nellis solar project is a “shining example,” it is a shining example of everything that’s wrong with Obama’s green delusions. The project makes no economic sense on its own merits and, like all renewable-energy projects, was made possible only by a combination of government coercion and state and federal handouts at the expense of utility customers and the American taxpayer. The coercion in this case came in the form of a state mandate that Nevada utilities must obtain 20 percent of their power from hugely expensive renewable sources by 2015; the handouts came in the form of a 30 percent federal tax credit, accelerated depreciation rates, “solar energy credits,” and similar goodies. It is such government largesse — and the promise of more to come — that convinces the renewable-energy industry’s corporate welfare queens to line up behind dubious projects like Nellis.

In his speech at Nellis, President Obama asserted that he wants “everybody to know what we’re doing here in Vegas,” and he pointed to Germany as an example to follow in the solar business. He should have followed his own advice and looked more closely at the German example. After Germany guaranteed solar producers a rate seven times as high as the market rate, the country’s electric bill jumped by 38 percent in one year.

Obama also should have mentioned what happens to investors who fall for Washington’s green hype. For the two private companies involved in the Nellis project, it has not been a success story. SunPower Corp., the builder of the solar plant, has lost 75 percent of its market value in just the past year and is facing an uncertain future (to put it mildly). MMA Renewable Ventures, a San Francisco–based firm, which financed the project, was recently sold to the Spanish company Fotowatio for the fire-sale price of $19.7 million, after losing more than half of its business between 2007 and 2008.

The Spanish purchase of the dying MMA made no business sense except in one critical area: It allowed Fotowatio to establish a beachhead in the United States, which, with $20 billion of green-energy tax incentives in 2010 alone, increasingly looks like the world’s last refuge for solar freeloaders. Most European countries have seen the damage that green energy can do to their economies and are rapidly (if quietly) scaling back their support. This is especially true in the countries that have been leaders on solar and wind power. Both Germany and Spain have dramatically slashed their subsidies for renewables, and Spain has reduced its commitment to green power from 2400 megawatts in 2008 to 500 megawatts or less in 2009.

There is yet another lesson from Spain that Obama prefers not to discuss. The $100-million Nellis project created 200 jobs at a cost of $500,000 per job. The longer Spanish experience, according to a recent study from Juan Carlos University, shows a cost of $774,000 for each government-subsidized green job created since 2000. More disturbingly, for each of these jobs, 2.2 jobs in other industries were destroyed because of higher energy prices, not counting manufacturers who vote with their feet. This is surely a success story that Americans can do without.


Comment On Joe Romm’s Weblog On El Niño and Global Warming

Climate Progress has a weblog post by Joseph Romm titled “Breaking: NOAA puts out “El Niño Watch,” so record temperatures are coming and this will be the hottest decade on record“. This is an interesting and very bold forecast of record temperatures by Joe Romm, and, if this does occurs, it would substantially support his claims on the dominance of human-caused global warming. Only time will tell, of course, if this warming will occur.

However, unfortunately, he still does not understand that i) the appropriate metric to monitor global warming involves heat in Joules, most which occurs in the oceans (e.g. see), and ii) that the accumulation Joules in the upper ocean has not occurred since 2003 (e.g. see and see). Even Jim Hansen agrees that the ocean is the dominant reservoir for heat accumulation (e. g. see).

In Joe Romm’s weblog, there is the text: “As a side note: Roger Pielke, Sr.’s “analysis” of how there supposedly hasn’t been measurable ocean warming from 2004 to 2008 is uber-lame. In the middle of a strong 50-year warming trend, any clever (but cynical) analyst can connect an El Niño-driven warm year to a La Niña-driven cool year a few years later to make it look like warming has stopped. In fact, the latest analysis shows “that ocean heat content has indeed been increasing in recent decades, just like the models said it should.”

This text shows a failure to understand the physics of global warming and cooling. There are peer reviewed analyses that document that upper ocean warming has halted since 2003 (e.g. see and see). Even the last few years of the Levitus et al 2009 paper shows this lack of warming (see).

Joe Romm, since he disagrees with this, should present other observational analyses of the continued accumulation of heat content in Joules since 2003. He should also focus on this time period since the Argo network was established, as it is this data network which is providing us more accurate assessments of the heat content in the upper ocean than is found in the earlier data.

If he continues to use the global average surface temperature trends as the metric for global warming, he will convince us that he does not recognize i) that surface temperature, by itself, is not a measure of heat (e.g. see), and ii) that there are major remaining uncertainties and biases with the surface temperature data set (e.g. see, see and see).

He writes: “In the middle of a strong 50-year warming trend, any clever (but cynical) analyst can connect an El Niño-driven warm year to a La Niña-driven cool year a few years later to make it look like warming has stopped.”

He ignores that since 2003, global warming (the accumulation of Joules) has stopped. An objective scientist [as opposed to a "clever (but cynical) analyst"] would report this scientific observation. He would find more appreciation and respect for his viewpoints if he properly presented the actual observational finding, and discussed its implications as to where we are with respect to the accumulation of Joules over time.

I have proposed such an approach in my weblogs. See here and here.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

The Hidden Costs of Capping Emissions

"Suddenly it has become rather less appealing that we should divert trillions of dollars, pounds and euros into the fantasy that we could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 80 per cent. All those grandiose projects for `emissions trading', `carbon capture', building tens of thousands more useless wind turbines, switching vast areas of farmland from producing food to `biofuels' are being exposed as no more than enormously damaging and futile gestures, costing astronomic sums we no longer possess."

-By Christopher Booker, "2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved," December 29th, 2008.

If 2008 was the year global warming was disproved, 2009 may be the year that the agenda of radical environmentalism is laid to waste. As ALG News has reported, the scientific "consensus" around man-made global warming has unraveled like an old ribbon. And now, the economic "consensus" around it may be starting to unwind as well. With the economy in a clear downturn, the people are questioning the costs of going green. Suddenly it is not so fashionable to save the planet. It may become more important to restore economic growth than to strangle energy output.

It's simple, really. If financial capital was the lifeblood of the economy, energy is its food. And without it, or if it costs too much, nations the world over would be unable to sustain their peoples. The American people were given a powerful lesson on what energy price shocks can feel like this past summer, and they will not be eager to pay that price again.

By constraining the use not for conservation but out of ideological imperative, the economic consequences are negative: an additional price is attached to the use of energy. That additional cost is not the product of a supply shortage, but of regulation that constrains the use of that supply. And it is a cost that the economy simply cannot afford right now.

Carbon cap-and-trade, or other like restrictions on emissions, could cost the global economy trillions in excessive taxes, increased prices and restrictions. These costs are deliberate, the product of a policy that is designed to change people's behavior to use less carbon-based energy. That is the basic argument in favor of reducing carbon emissions: By increasing costs, the consumer will only be able to consume less.

But it's more like a dirty secret that advocates of reducing carbon emissions do not wish to be emphasized. And it is one that opponents of capping carbon emissions who wish to save the energy industries must point out: The costs of wasting precious capital in the midst of a global economic meltdown are unbearable.

In the end, there is a cap on how much the greens will be able to accomplish, and that will be directly proportional to how well the opponents of radical environmentalism capitalize upon the fissures in the scientific "consensus" on "man-made" climate change, and how well they promote the true costs of capping carbon emissions to the American people.


Australian States claim they will lose from Warmist scheme

STATE governments have released modelling showing they will be $2.2 billion a year worse off by 2012 under the federal Government's emissions trading scheme, with NSW and Queensland's coffers to be hardest hit. The modelling, by Access Economics, was delivered to last week's meeting of state leaders in Brisbane and publicly released yesterday as the House of Representatives passed legislation setting up the new emissions trading scheme.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said it would be a "matter for the states" if they wanted to pursue extra financial compensation from the commonwealth to make up for the impact of the scheme. She cited former prime minister Paul Keating's quote that it was unwise to come between a state premier and a bucket of money.

According to the modelling, which did not take into account the changes to the scheme announced by the Rudd Government early last month, higher costs and lower mining royalties will mean NSW loses 0.18 per cent of the gross state product it could otherwise anticipate, or $861 million a year, by 2013-14. Queensland would be $457million a year worse off, or 0.15 per cent of GSP. It shows that, proportionately, the Northern Territory will be the worst affected, losing 0.37 per cent of projected GSP, or $82million.

The release of the modelling came as uncertainty continued over whether failure by the Senate to pass the legislation before the lengthy winter break would constitute the first of two "rejections" necessary for it to become the trigger for a double-dissolution election. The Government insists the legislation has been exhaustively debated and scrutinised by Senate committees and two weeks should be ample time for Senate consideration.

"We have said for a number of months we want this legislation debated and voted on in June," Senator Wong said. "We think there has been plenty of debate, plenty of discussion. "The only calls for delay in this parliament are from (Opposition Leader) Mr (Malcolm) Turnbull, who wants to delay because he is unable to stand up to the sceptics in his own partyroom and to have a position on this legislation that is constructive."

But the clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans, said constitutional uncertainty would result if the Government tried to insist that a "failure to pass" the laws in the next two weeks of sittings constituted a rejection. "I don't think that would be reasonable but in the end it would come down to whether the Government could persuade the Governor-General it was reasonable," he said.

The issue is important because if the first vote on the bill is not taken until the Senate resumes in August, the second and final vote could be delayed until after the UN climate change meeting in Copenhagen in December, as the Opposition has demanded.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, Greg Combet, had a third meeting with the coal industry yesterday without making any significant progress in resolving a dispute about compensation offered under the scheme.

Senator Wong is holding talks with the Greens to see whether she can secure passage of the scheme without the Senate support of the Opposition.


Stifling innovation

Despite the plethora of bad economic news this year, good news abounds for pro-regulatory, litigation-happy "consumer activists" on the left -- and their attorney camp-followers.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson recently announced her plan to subject chemicals in our environment to even more stringent risk assessments, chasing minuscule risks to human health for no real purpose. Her plan involves the IRIS program -- Integrated Risk Information System -- which will now be used to characterize health risks of chemicals, however tiny the exposure. The chemophobes running the EPA are once more taking the lead in promulgating junk science, likely in an effort to justify their request for a budget increase of 37%, amounting to over $10 billion.

It appears Jackson's unstated goal is to import here, by stealth, the European system, which employs the Precautionary Principle. This dogma asserts that substances in our environment are hazardous until proven otherwise, necessitating bans and product withdrawals until long-term studies prove them safe. This "better safe than sorry" tenet would lead to stagnation of new product development. What company with any sense would invest millions of dollars in formulating any truly new product, knowing that litigation and regulation will force them to delay marketing until some far-off approval from the EPA? Worse still, the "toxicity" of synthetic chemicals is inferred from high-dose rodent tests, bearing little or no relevance to human health.

While Jackson states that this overhaul is needed to improve "transparency" of risk assessment for public health entities, the real beneficiaries will be plaintiffs' attorneys, who will use these "risks" as a basis of litigation, alleging various adverse health effects. Even the threat of such lawsuits will likely cause many companies to cave in to activists' demands for product withdrawals or scary labeling -- with big settlements as part of the deal. None of this has anything to do with enhancing human health.

The new administration is pushing an anti-business agenda, cutting through resistance from industry and true consumer advocates. Recently, President Obama ruled that federal agencies must review regulations dating back to the Clinton years to eliminate some that relied on federal preemption (that is, even products deemed safe at the federal level will now be more easily subject to state-by-state lawsuits). With uniform federal-level regulations comes a stable business climate for development of innovative new products. Conversely, the imminent loss of such stability -- as federal dominance yields to a patchwork of unwieldy local laws -- will lead to risk-aversion and stagnation. Unmoored local standards will ultimately be deformed by persuasive trial lawyers and lay juries.

New product development will slow to a trickle -- consumer choice on a range of products will become the victim of stultifying intimidation from "consumer activists" and their coterie of lawyers, as has already been demonstrated in the area of innovative pharmaceuticals.

The Association of Trial Lawyers of America has lately refashioned itself as the "American Association for Justice," and its membership would have you believe they are now merely simple seekers of Truth and Justice -- but this tiger has not changed its stripes. The trial lawyers' concern with "the rule of law," which they claim motivates their new campaign against preemption, goes exactly as far as strategically necessary to produce big damage awards or settlements -- wrung from jury-fearing, meek corporate bottom-liners.

Add to this that Justice Souter, a relative moderate on many regulatory issues, will soon be replaced by the more "empathic" and lawsuit friendly Sonia Sotomayor, and we have a formula for even more trouble ahead.

In this climate, every time EPA -- with its new, stricter, more precautionary approach -- hints even in a non-committal fashion at the possible "toxicity" of some chemical or product, it will be inviting a wave of state-by-state lawsuits, with the plaintiffs stifling industry and likely getting a sympathetic hearing from the High Court at the end of the day. Let us hope Congress and the public are very cautious about embracing EPA's precautionary new mission.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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