Sunday, November 08, 2009

No Consensus about Anthropogenic Global Warming

By S. Fred Singer

There is a general impression, based on flawed analyses [Oreskes in Science 2004] that scientists support nearly unanimously the so-called scientific consensus on AGW. But more than 31,000 scientists and engineers disagree and have signed a petition that affirms their disbelief in AGW [for a listing of names see pp. 745-855, in Climate Change Reconsidered, available at]

There is even widespread belief that major scientific societies, like the American Geophysical Union (AGU), have polled their membership before issuing formal Statements which essentially endorse the IPCC conclusion that the temperature rise of the past 50 years has been caused by human activity – and more specifically by the emission of greenhouse (GH) gases. Not so: This false impression seems to be due to a misleading survey result published in an AGU journal [P. Doran and M. Kendall-Zimmerman, Eos 90, 20 Jan 2009, pp 22-23].

We will discuss this survey here and the question of bias and confounding factors. The Eos authors report the response of 3146 earth scientists to two questions:

1. Has the climate warmed, cooled, or remained constant -- compared to pre-1800?

Regardless of what one may believe about the causes of climate change, the answer must be: 'Warming.' Pre-1800 refers to the Little Ice Age, which ended around 1800. [If the question were changed to 'compared to 1998,' then the answer would be 'Cooling.']

2. Do you think human activity is a significant factor in changing global mean temperature?

Here the answer will depend on what is meant by 'significant' -- and whether 'human activity' should include urbanization, land changes, agriculture, irrigation, deforestation, etc. Many might answer 'Yes' – even if they don't think that GH gases are a significant factor in climate change.

The authors report that their selection involved faculty in relevant academic departments and employees of government establishments. Presumably, they did not include retirees or those in the private sector. The authors claim that known dissenters were included. But my casual inquiries did not find anyone who participated.

Most of the responders described themselves as geochemists; only 5% claimed to be 'climate scientists.' (But where are the 'atmospheric scientists'?)

The widely quoted result of the survey is a 97.4% 'Yes' to question #2; it is based on a sample of only 77 responses from 'actively publishing climate scientists.' Disregarding the claimed accuracy, what can we deduce from this response? That these are likely individuals who derive large research grants and contracts from a federal budget that almost exclusively supports research designed to affirm AGW. [Of this same group, only 96.2% (rather than 100%) thought that the climate had warmed since 1800. It would be interesting to learn who these individuals are.]

By contrast, on question #2, less than half of 'economic geologists' (103 responses) said 'Yes' and slightly more than one-third of 'meteorologists' (36 responses) said 'No.'

The American Physical Society (APS) in 2007 published a position statement enthusiastically endorsing AGW, without reference to the views of its members. Recently, some 200 APS members and Fellows have petitioned the APS Council to change or withdraw the Statement, in view of scientific evidence that is counter to AGW. Perhaps there will develop a similar initiative within the AGU.

SEPP Science Editorial #35-2009 (11/7/09)

Warmists creating Green jobs -- in China

Evergreen Solar Inc. reported a 21 percent sequential rise in revenue in the third quarter on brisk sales of its solar panels, but the company confirmed speculation that they will be moving the production of panels out of its Devens plant. The Marlborough-based solar panel maker said that it would refocus the Devens plant, built in 2007, to production of the solar wafers but it would construct panels in China through a contract manufacturing agreement with Jaiwei Solarchina Co. Ltd.

A Boston Business Journal article in June indicated that company officials were considering such a move if solar panel prices fell sharply and the company was unable to cut labor costs fast enough.

On Wednesday, Evergreen CEO Richard Feldt said in a statement those factors ultimately came into play in the decision. “Panel prices have fallen 30 percent since mid-2008, making it very difficult for manufacturers located in high-cost regions to remain price competitive. Therefore, we are accelerating our strategic initiative of increasing the focus on our unique wafer manufacturing technology, and we will begin to transition our Devens-based panel assembly to China in mid-2010,” he said.

The announcement comes as Evergreen Solar appears to have regained some financial footing after the steep dropoff in solar demand earlier this year. It posted third quarter revenue of $77.7 million compared with revenue of $63.8 million last quarter and $17.8 million for the same quarter a year ago. Yet despite narrowing operating losses year over year by 73 percent to $6 million, a heavy tax hit resulted in Evergreen posting a net loss of $82.4 million.


More “work” for the president

The Obama administration takes aim at climate scientists

In the blame game, the Obama administration isn't about to stop with Fox News. Instead, it's moving on to lowly scientists. Last month, President Obama gave a somewhat chilling, if somewhat ignored, speech on climate change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He stated that any scientific debate about the magnitude of global warming is unscrupulous, decrying "those who . . . make cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change, whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary." Then, the president talked tough, saying, "We'll just have to deal with those people," language familiar to anyone who knows the vagaries of Chicago politics.

This surely isn't the first time in world history that some president, premier, or pope has attempted to define science and threaten those who disagree. But the truth of the matter is that disagreement, one way or another, is a given. One can selectively cite recent climate data in support of pretty much any point of view, from the rejection of any influence by humankind at all to the wild notion that the world is about to come to an end.

The ease with which anyone can construct just about any climate argument he wants has to do with the inconstant nature of climate itself. The sun warms the earth, but the amount of energy it radiates changes (right now it's pretty cold). The earth's surface is dominated by two very different substances — uneven rocks and large, smooth oceans — so internal climate oscillations and accidents happen as well.

Temperatures seesaw up and down depending upon ever-changing currents of air in the tropical atmosphere and oceans, including El Niño in the Pacific and other weather features elsewhere. They can be either cold or warm. When the warm ones are absent or weak for a decade or so — a common occurrence — temperatures may stay the same or even fall. When there's a huge warm phase in El Niño, global temperatures rise, as they did in 1998, setting records that have yet to be broken.

Finally, there's carbon dioxide itself. We put it in the air whenever we burn pretty much anything, be it in a power plant or in an automobile. Everything else being equal, that will warm temperatures at the surface and in the lower atmosphere. Just how much is the subject of a great scientific debate that has yet to be resolved.

And everything else is never equal. Cold portions of El Niño and a cold sun can completely halt carbon-dioxide–induced warming (and clearly have for more than ten years now). And this behavior creates a fertile environment for criticism of the projections of computer models for this century.

What you can say is happening to the climate depends on the period you choose to study. Using the surface-temperature record that scientists cite the most, you will find a significant cooling trend after 2000. You'll find no significant trend whatsoever if you start in any year between 1996 and 2000. Beginning your trend before 1996 will yield you significant warming. And so forth. It's therefore not surprising that anyone can see anything on the climate Ouija board.

In fact, though, there's only one thing that is clear: For the last decade and a half, our climate has not behaved in accordance with the predictions of most climate models. They just don't predict such a long hiatus in warming even as carbon-dioxide emissions from human activity continue to climb.

Note to the president: I do not say that to "defeat or delay" your policies on climate change. The fact is that the U.S. Senate is likely to do that anyway, with or without this information. Early on Election Day, the GOP boycotted a session of the Environment and Public Works Committee in protest of a climate-change bill's costs, and Democrats were split on the legislation as well. Tuesday's election results are likely to give Blue Dog Democrats further pause.

If the Senate does not pass a climate bill that is acceptable to the president, Obama is almost certain to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to issue regulations on carbon-dioxide emissions that he can take to the Copenhagen climate conference next month as evidence of America's efforts. These will then be used to extract some vague concessions on the part of the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China, and the Copenhagen Protocol will be hailed as a major victory over global warming.

Of course, it will be no such thing. If the EPA does issue global-warming regulations, it will have to defend the science that it uses to raise the price of virtually everything. And it is true, Mr. President, that people will use the inconvenient facts of recent climate behavior to defeat or delay the "change" the EPA commands. The administration may respond by "working on" the global-warming people it doesn't like, but it can't "work on" the obvious and growing disconnect between what was forecast and what is happening.

The administration did a great job of increasing the ratings of Fox News. Maybe it can do the same for dissident scientists.


Renewable Banality: The Latest British Export

I loved the true story of the Nigerian energy worker who, having received a pay check for $900, amended the figure to read $9,000. As the reporter wittily put it, “The check fraud proved entirely successful ... right up to the point where he attempted to cash it.” That’s kind of how I feel about the renewable energy revolution. It will prove entirely successful in the eyes of the public and media -- right up to the point where the lights start going out. And those lights will soon start going out, according to a new report.

I fully understand the romantic attraction of the clean energy revolution and the rush to replace ‘dirty’ fossil fuels. In the light of the war on carbon it’s a no brainer, right? Which is precisely why, just as diminishing EU and UK subsidies are prompting an industry exodus westward, the British renewables industry may be about to be given an unexpected investment shot in the arm from some of the world’s biggest multinational companies in one of the biggest analogs to the adage “I gave at the church,” in this case the environmentalism church. Companies, it seems, in their rush to appear politically correct are oblivious to how that renewable revolution is ushering in a new dark age in Britain.

Why the multinationals?

Speaking at a UK Confederation of British Industries (CBI) conference in October, the Bank of America’s head of power and utilities, John Lynch, named companies like Google, Microsoft, Wal-Mart and IKEA (the Swedish home goods company) as being potential new investors for Britain’s offshore wind industry. “This is the technology that the UK is leading in, and these companies are looking at ways to get involved,” Lynch told his CBI audience, “because it meets their own corporate social responsibility objectives.” Enthusing over the prospect of a massive new injection of funds for British industry, Lynch noted how the Crown Estate (which owns the UK seabed) had launched the offshore program specifically to enable Britain to meet its target of 80 percent cuts in carbon emissions by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. Clearly nobody had told Lynch that in recent weeks the leaders of Britain’s biggest energy companies privately warned the government that its climate targets, contingent upon renewable sources replacing hydrocarbon fuels, are “illusory” and “delusional.”

Not that the sudden growing corporate sense of responsibility should be seen in entirely philanthropic terms. The greater motivating factor is the spectre of national climate bills, post-Copenhagen in December, when their low carbon commitments will need to be demonstrated. And what could be more credible than investing in the world’s premier energy experiment?

But I wonder if the promoters of renewables might not think twice given so many UK energy insiders are predicting an impending national energy crisis? A crisis brought on by a UK energy policy based on achieving the economically non-viable, the geographically unacceptable, and, ultimately and most crucially, the mathematically impossible.

As regards to the economically-non-viable, we might begin by noting there would be no renewable energy revolution at all if it were not for government subsidies fuelling it. Quite simply, no business or private equity investor in his right mind would invest in a loss-making business with such an appallingly poor rate of return.

That is why, just a few weeks ago the UK saw its only turbine manufacturer close the door of a major plant, citing low demand, public opposition and diminishing government revenue. Note how public opposition – the geographical unacceptability – has seen UK land-based wind farm applications mired in planning battles, leaving only the even more expensive offshore option. What does this presage for those nations with less available seabed, I wonder? More generally, the non-viability of renewables, and wind power specifically, as a serious commercial proposition has been demonstrated time and again. Wind’s unreliability, its need for (mostly gas turbine) back-up facilities, the problem of storage in times of over-capacity and the fact that it will not save at all on natural gas use, combine to present a formidable technological obstacle.

But while the, oft-hidden, costs associated with all renewable energies on closer inspection should prove prohibitive and potentially economy-busting, the intellectual axe for the renewables revolution finally falls when basic math proves that it makes no economic sense at all. In his brilliant essay Understanding E=mc2, William Tucker helpfully applies the understanding of energy = mass to the issue of renewables. Above all he demonstrates why renewables, and wind and water specifically, are mathematically unable to produce the industrial scale energy power essential to keeping the lights on in any industrialized society.

Tucker explains, “Wind and water are matter in motion that we harness to produce energy.” In a nutshell, what Tucker shows is that the density of mass in both wind and water, being critically far less than oil, coal and gas, is simply unable to produce anything approaching a reasonable energy output. Tucker calculates, for instance, that a land mass of about 375 square miles with around 660 widely spaced windmills would be necessary to get a power return of just 1,000MW, the production capacity of one large hydrocarbon-powered facility. (With offshore wind turbines associated problems of distance, leakage and maintenance costs must all be significantly scaled up.) Put bluntly, Tucker shows that industrial scale renewable energy is, realistically and mathematically, an economic non-starter.

Ironically, just as UK and European subsidy opportunities are dwindling and the revolution faltering, the retail multinationals may be about to reinvigorate the flagging UK program. And as the economic cost of renewables is being counted across Europe, Britain’s energy-climate policy is likely to be touted increasingly as the blueprint for others to follow. A rash of UK studies continue to sound alarm bells over the government’s current energy direction and, one of these, just published, should do the same well beyond UK shores.

Does it really take an Einstein?

In October, the UK energy regulator, Ofgem (The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets), warned that Britain was facing 1970s style power blackouts within just four years – a much shorter timescale than previously thought. Project Discovery cited the British government’s failure to renovate its “crumbling power infrastructure” due to compliance with new EU rules that will force the closure of a quarter of the country’s power stations by 2015. In a typically British understatement, Alistair Buchanan, Ofgem’s chief executive warned, “There could be a potential shortfall in the period 2013-18 ... Life might be pretty cold.” Buchanan’s assessment is that only an “involuntary curtailment of demand” – power cuts – can conserve household supplies, unless the government acts urgently to upgrade its nuclear plants. Jeremy Nicholson, of the Energy Intensive Users Group, representing some of Britain’s biggest manufacturers, said that power cuts that hit UK business first would present a “material threat to heavy industry.” Nicholson also warned that once the crisis hit the 60 percent hike in British energy bills currently being acknowledged by the government will, more realistically, hit the 120 percent mark.

Bottom line? If Einstein’s E=mc2 as it applies to renewable energy doesn’t cut the intellectual ice for prospective investors and foreign governments alike, perhaps another will. Try this: UK energy-climate policy, circa 2009 = a blueprint for black-outs. See what I mean about a fraudulent check being entirely successful right up to the point of cashing it?


Freaking Out over Global Warming

One of the ugliest battles in the blogosphere climate wars has involved the newly released Superfreakonomics, sequel to the best-selling Freakonomics. In their new book's final chapter,Download PDF economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner set out to challenge the view that massively restricting carbon emissions is the only hope for averting planetwide catastrophe. Some of the most outspoken advocates for immediate "carbon legislation," such as Joe Romm and Paul Krugman, were appalled by the chapter.

I can't do Levitt and Dubner's presentation justice here; I encourage the interested reader to read the chapter. To summarize very briefly, they argue that if global warming really is a threat, then it does not follow that governments need to enforce draconian cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, which would cost many trillions of dollars over the next few decades.

Instead, a "geoengineering" solution could be adopted to keep the earth cool despite increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Perhaps the most fanciful idea is to suspend a hose using helium balloons, in order to pump sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. This would reflect some of the incoming sunlight and arrest (or even reverse) global warming, just as occurred after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. Best of all, this particular approach would only cost about $250 million total — less than what Al Gore's foundation is spending just to "raise awareness" about climate change.

Naturally, the proponents of massive government interventions into the economy were furious at Levitt and Dubner's claims. Physicist and Clinton administration Department of Energy official Joe Romm got the ball rolling with this fiery post in which he accused the Superfreakonomics writers not merely of being incredibly sloppy in their summary of the climate science but also of consciously distorting the views of the scientists they quoted.

Romm's frequent ally in such matters, Paul Krugman, soon followed suit and claimed that the authors horribly mischaracterized the views of leading climate economists in the chapter. Dubner defended himself and co-author Levitt against Romm's accusations of intentional distortion in this post, and physicist (and all-around guru) Nathan Myhrvold, one of the primary sources for the chapter, defended himself from Romm's accusations of ignorance here....

In a series of posts (one, two, and three), DeLong heaps extreme criticism on our authors. Under normal circumstances, DeLong's criticisms would be described as "scathing," yet compared to Romm's treatment, it's kid-glove stuff. For our purposes here, I want to focus on just two of DeLong's (many) complaints. First, DeLong quotes Levitt who said (during an NPR interview): "If you look at the history of modern mankind, I think you will be hard pressed to find any particular problem that was serious that was solved by a behavioral change, as opposed to by a technological solution…."

DeLong is astounded by this claim, and responds, "That's just not economics: economics is that incentives change, and as incentives change people's behavior changes."

DeLong is right: what Levitt said is "not economics." Rather, it's a historical claim. Maybe it's right and maybe it's wrong, but DeLong can't trump it by citing a tautology from microeconomics. I am sure that Levitt would concede the narrow point that if governments around the world instituted a massive carbon tax, and enforced it with draconian penalties for evasion, then global emissions would indeed fall quickly.

But one of Levitt's main points is that governments around the world are not going to do this — that it is naive to expect them to sacrifice their own economies when (in Levitt's opinion) the climate science is not nearly certain enough to justify this painful step.

Levitt is making a prediction — based on his interpretation of history — that if man-made global warming really does require drastic measures in the next few decades, the response will involve various forms of geoengineering, which (Levitt predicts) will cost a tiny fraction of what the carbon mitigation proposals would require. To repeat, I'm not saying I necessarily endorse Levitt's glib proclamations on these points, but DeLong is wrong to dismiss them as somehow "not economics."

Finally let's deal with another point on which DeLong completely misses Levitt's valid argument. He first quotes Levitt: "Now, in the long run, perhaps you'll want to deal with the [high] carbon [dioxide] issue [even with geoengineering] because we're going to have acidification of the oceans and the coral reefs will die if we don't do something about the carbon. But if you just buy the time to keep the Earth cool for a while longer, I am certain that if we invest we will come up with technology that will allow us much more effectively in the future to pull carbon out of the air than we currently have…."

DeLong points out that whatever mechanism our descendants use to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, it will require power generation. He then argues: "So now we have (a) our normal power plants to power our civilization, plus (b) our atmosphere carbon-scrubbing industry, which is (c) powered by even more carbon power plants to generate the power to break the carbon-oxygen bonds that our first set of power plants made. But plants (c) put more carbon into the atmosphere than plants (a) did. I know, says Steve Levitt, we can power our carbon-scrubbing industry (b) by power plants (c) that use nuclear or solar or… But then why not power our original civilization-sustaining power plants (a) by nuclear or solar or whatever?"

Now this is frankly silly. Let's be clear, I think Levitt and Dubner made some major goofs in their chapter, and DeLong (as well as Romm and Krugman) nailed them. But here DeLong is making an obvious mistake. He is neglecting the fact that it will be much, much cheaper to engage in carbon-free energy production the longer we wait. Does DeLong really not see this elementary point and how it makes Levitt's argument perfectly sensible?

For an analogy, consider people who contract a terminal illness and then elect to have their bodies cryonically frozen so that they can be resuscitated and cured in the future. Now maybe that's a good idea or maybe it's not, but it wouldn't really make sense for someone to say, "That's just bad economics! Why go to the trouble of having your cancer cured in the future? Just do it now." Yet that is exactly the argument DeLong has deployed against Levitt.


There is a reason that the energy infrastructure in today's market economies is so heavily based upon fossil fuels: they are by far the cheapest, most reliable forms of energy, given the needs of modern society. Regardless of their (alleged) sloppy scholarship, Levitt and Dubner raise an interesting possibility that deserves careful scrutiny, not ridicule: even if it turns out that unfettered use of fossil fuels will spell unacceptable climate damages to future generations, it does not follow that the only solution is immediate and drastic reductions in carbon emissions.

Another possibility is to buy a few decades' worth of "breathing room" (Myhrvold's phrase in the book) through pumping SO2 into the stratosphere, for example, and then make the transition to carbon-free energy production when it will not be so terribly costly.

It's surprising that some of the people who warn that the fate of the planet itself is it stake are so dismissive of what could be a crucial component of humanity's response to the very dangers of which they're warning.

More HERE (See the original for links)

Britain's already bled-dry taxpayers owe lots more again, according to Warmists

Should a country that cannot even staff its hospitals adequately be sending billions to African dictators? Reality-challenged Warmists say YES!

Britain owes developing countries "climate compensation" of more than £17 billion a year for its contribution to climate change, according to a report by anti-poverty groups. The UN estimates more than £250 billion a year will be needed in coming decades to help poorer countries adapt to climate change. Based on the UK's emissions, Britain is responsible for providing six per cent of the total.

The report also attacked the government's climate finance proposals as "grossly inadequate" to tackle the scale of the problem. The proposals, which look as though they will dominate this weekend's G20 talks, are more likely to increase third world debt.

The World Development Movement and Jubilee Debt Campaign warned the issue of climate debt will be a "Copenhagen deal-breaker" for developing countries. Report author Tim Jones said: "It's incredibly alarming that cash the government claims will help developing countries cope with climate change will actually increase their unfair debts. "This is a huge injustice because we owe a much bigger debt to compensate developing countries for climate change.

"The UK government needs to realise that the issue of climate debt will be a Copenhagen-deal breaker," he continued. "If rich countries refuse to recognise it, deeply rooted inequality and injustice will be locked in for decades to come."

The report criticises the UK's policy of channelling climate aid through the World Bank, which comes under fire for distributing finance through loans instead of aid, and for not insisting the money funds low carbon energy investment. The campaigners recommend grants be used in place of loans, and for climate finance to be dispersed through the UN.



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