Friday, July 16, 2010

They're at it again: Unusually warm weather proves global warming but unusually cool weather never proves global cooling

At least this time the media reported some skeptical views as well -- if only at the end of the article. Anybody who would believe the systematically corrupted terrestrial datasets promulgated by CRU, NOAA or NASA-GISS would believe anything

The world is hotter than ever. March, April, May and June set records, making 2010 the warmest year worldwide since record-keeping began in 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.

"It's part of an overall trend," says Jay Lawrimore, climate analysis chief at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. "Global temperatures ... have been rising for the last 100-plus years. Much of the increase is due to increases in greenhouse gases."

There were exceptions: June was cooler than average across Scandinavia, southeastern China, and the northwestern USA, according to NOAA's report.

If nothing changes, Lawrimore predicts:

•Flooding rains like those in Nashville in May will be more common. "The atmosphere is able to hold more water as it warms, and greater water content leads to greater downpours," he says.

• Heavy snow, like the record snows that crippled Baltimore and Washington last winter, is likely to increase because storms are moving north. Also, the Great Lakes aren't freezing as early or as much. "As cold outbreaks occur, cold air goes over the Great Lakes, picks up moisture and dumps on the Northeast," he says.

• Droughts are likely to be more severe and heat waves more frequent.

• More arctic ice will disappear, speeding up warming, as the Arctic Ocean warms "more than would happen if the sea ice were in place," he says. Arctic sea ice was at a record low in June.

Marc Morano, a global-warming skeptic who edits the Climate Depot website, says the government "is playing the climate fear card by hyping predictions and cherry-picking data."

Joe D'Aleo, a meteorologist who co-founded The Weather Channel, disagrees, too. He says oceans are entering a cooling cycle that will lower temperatures.

He says too many of the weather stations NOAA uses are in warmer urban areas. "The only reliable data set right now is satellite," D'Aleo says. He says NASA satellite data shows the average temperature in June was 0.43 degrees higher than normal. NOAA says it was 1.22 degrees higher.


Rare humility: "Something is going on that we do not understand"

And even the inevitable attempt to show that CO2 is the villain falls down: "But the numbers don't quite add up". How sad! Time to say that we don't know enough about influences on the earth's atmosphere to make climate predictions? In a rational world it would be

NASA-funded researchers are monitoring a big event in our planet's atmosphere. High above Earth's surface where the atmosphere meets space, a rarefied layer of gas called "the thermosphere" recently collapsed and now is rebounding again.

"This is the biggest contraction of the thermosphere in at least 43 years," says John Emmert of the Naval Research Lab, lead author of a paper announcing the finding in the June 19th issue of the Geophysical Research Letters (GRL). "It's a Space Age record."

The collapse happened during the deep solar minimum of 2008-2009—a fact which comes as little surprise to researchers. The thermosphere always cools and contracts when solar activity is low. In this case, however, the magnitude of the collapse was two to three times greater than low solar activity could explain.

"Something is going on that we do not understand," says Emmert.

The thermosphere ranges in altitude from 90 km to 600+ km. It is a realm of meteors, auroras and satellites, which skim through the thermosphere as they circle Earth. It is also where solar radiation makes first contact with our planet. The thermosphere intercepts extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photons from the sun before they can reach the ground. When solar activity is high, solar EUV warms the thermosphere, causing it to puff up like a marshmallow held over a camp fire. (This heating can raise temperatures as high as 1400 K—hence the name thermosphere.) When solar activity is low, the opposite happens.

Lately, solar activity has been very low. In 2008 and 2009, the sun plunged into a century-class solar minimum. Sunspots were scarce, solar flares almost non-existent, and solar EUV radiation was at a low ebb. Researchers immediately turned their attention to the thermosphere to see what would happen.....

One possible explanation is carbon dioxide (CO2). When carbon dioxide gets into the thermosphere, it acts as a coolant, shedding heat via infrared radiation. It is widely-known that CO2 levels have been increasing in Earth's atmosphere. Extra CO2 in the thermosphere could have magnified the cooling action of solar minimum.

"But the numbers don't quite add up," says Emmert. "Even when we take CO2 into account using our best understanding of how it operates as a coolant, we cannot fully explain the thermosphere's collapse."


Climategate and the Big Green Lie

Even a Warmist is dismayed by the crookedness in climate "science":

By way of preamble, let me remind you where I stand on climate change. I think climate science points to a risk that the world needs to take seriously. I think energy policy should be intelligently directed towards mitigating this risk. I am for a carbon tax.

I also believe that the Climategate emails revealed, to an extent that surprised even me (and I am difficult to surprise), an ethos of suffocating groupthink and intellectual corruption. The scandal attracted enormous attention in the US, and support for a new energy policy has fallen. In sum, the scientists concerned brought their own discipline into disrepute, and set back the prospects for a better energy policy.

I had hoped, not very confidently, that the various Climategate inquiries would be severe. This would have been a first step towards restoring confidence in the scientific consensus. But no, the reports make things worse. At best they are mealy-mouthed apologies; at worst they are patently incompetent and even wilfully wrong. The climate-science establishment, of which these inquiries have chosen to make themselves a part, seems entirely incapable of understanding, let alone repairing, the harm it has done to its own cause.

The Penn State inquiry exonerating Michael Mann -- the paleoclimatologist who came up with "the hockey stick" -- would be difficult to parody. Three of four allegations are dismissed out of hand at the outset: the inquiry announces that, for "lack of credible evidence", it will not even investigate them. (At this, MIT's Richard Lindzen tells the committee, "It's thoroughly amazing. I mean these issues are explicitly stated in the emails. I'm wondering what's going on?" The report continues: "The Investigatory Committee did not respond to Dr Lindzen's statement. Instead, [his] attention was directed to the fourth allegation.")

Moving on, the report then says, in effect, that Mann is a distinguished scholar, a successful raiser of research funding, a man admired by his peers -- so any allegation of academic impropriety must be false.

You think I exaggerate?
This level of success in proposing research, and obtaining funding to conduct it, clearly places Dr. Mann among the most respected scientists in his field. Such success would not have been possible had he not met or exceeded the highest standards of his profession for proposing research...

Had Dr. Mann's conduct of his research been outside the range of accepted practices, it would have been impossible for him to receive so many awards and recognitions, which typically involve intense scrutiny from scientists who may or may not agree with his scientific conclusions...

Clearly, Dr. Mann's reporting of his research has been successful and judged to be outstanding by his peers. This would have been impossible had his activities in reporting his work been outside of accepted practices in his field.

In short, the case for the prosecution is never heard. Mann is asked if the allegations (well, one of them) are true, and says no. His record is swooned over. Verdict: case dismissed, with apologies that Mann has been put to such trouble.

Further "vindication" of the Climategate emailers was to follow, of course, in Muir Russell's equally probing investigation. To be fair, Russell manages to issue a criticism or two. He says the scientists were sometimes "misleading" -- but without meaning to be (a plea which, in the case of the "trick to hide the decline", is an insult to one's intelligence). On the apparent conspiracy to subvert peer review, it found that the "allegations cannot be upheld" -- but, as the impressively even-handed Fred Pearce of the Guardian notes, this was partly on the grounds that "the roles of CRU scientists and others could not be distinguished from those of colleagues. There was 'team responsibility'." Edward Acton, vice-chancellor of the university which houses CRU, calls this "exoneration".

I am glad to see The Economist, which I criticized for making light of the initial scandal, taking a balanced view of these unsatisfactory proceedings. My only quarrels with its report are quibbles. For instance, in the second paragraph it says: " The reports conclude that the science of climate is sound..."

Actually, they don't, as the article's last paragraph makes clear:
An earlier report on climategate from the House of Commons assumed that a subsequent probe by a panel under Lord Oxburgh, a former academic and chairman of Shell, would deal with the science. The Oxburgh report, though, sought to show only that the science was not fraudulent or systematically flawed, not that it was actually reliable. And nor did Sir Muir, with this third report, think judging the science was his job.

Like Pearce, The Economist rightly draws attention to the failure of the Russell inquiry to ask Phil Jones of the CRU whether he actually deleted any emails to defeat FoI requests. It calls this omission "rather remarkable". Pearce calls it "extraordinary".

Myself, I would prefer to call it "astonishing and indefensible". I don't see how, having spotted this, the magazine can conclude that the report, overall, was "thorough, but it will not satisfy all the critics." (Well, the critics make such unreasonable demands! Look into the charges, they say. Hear from the other side. Ask the obvious questions. It never stops: you just can't satisfy these people.)

However, The Economist is calling for the IPCC's Rajendra Pachauri to go. That's good.

So where does this leave us? Walter Russell Mead is always worth reading on this subject, and I usually agree with him -- but I think his summing up in this case is not quite right.
Greens who feared and climate skeptics who hoped that the rash of investigations following Climategate and Glaciergate and all the other problems would reveal some gaping obvious flaws in the science of climate change were watching the wrong thing. The Big Green Lie (or Delusion, to be charitable) isn't so much that climate change is happening and that it is very likely caused or at least exacerbated by human activity. The Big Lie is that the green movement is a source of coherent or responsible counsel about what to do.

He's right, of course, that the green movement is not trusted as an adviser on what to do. So what? Its counsel on policy is not required. Nor, for that matter, is a complex international treaty of the sort that Copenhagen failed to produce. Congress and the administration can get to the right policy -- an explicit or implicit carbon tax; subsidies for low-carbon energy -- without the greens' input, so long as public opinion is convinced that the problem is real and needs to be addressed.

It's not the extreme or otherwise ill-advised policy recommendations of the greens that have turned opinion against action of any kind, though I grant you they're no help. It's the diminished credibility of the claim that we have a problem in the first place. That is why Climategate mattered. And that is why these absurd "vindications" of the climate scientists involved also matter.

The economic burdens of mitigating climate change will not be shouldered until a sufficient number of voters believe the problem is real, serious, and pressing. Restoring confidence in climate science has to come first. That, in turn, means trusting voters with all of the doubts and unanswered questions -- with inconvenient data as well as data that confirm the story -- instead of misleading them (unintentionally, of course) into believing that everything is cut and dried. The inquiries could have started that process. They have further delayed it.


Forcing consumers to buy renewable energy

Congress pretends to solve an energy crisis

Carbon rationing is dead on Capitol Hill. The Democratic leadership in the Senate has concluded that they cannot round up enough votes to pass a cap-and-trade carbon rationing bill that aims to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases. But in the face of the catastrophic Gulf oil spill, congressional leaders feel that they must be seen as doing something about energy. And if that something provides members of Congress an opportunity to hand out federal pork to their friends, that’s a bonus.

So Democrats and some Republicans are pushing legislation that will reward favored industries, chiefly wind and solar power, by forcing consumers to buy the electricity that they produce. How? By requiring that retail electricity distributors purchase 15 to 20 percent of their electricity from wind and solar power producers by 2020. This so-called national renewable energy standard, or clean energy standard, is being carved out of energy legislation such as the American Clean Energy Leadership Act [PDF] proposed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

Supporters argue that renewable energy standards cut greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs, revitalize rural communities, boost energy independence, and even lower energy prices. Many politicians find them irresistible as a way to signal to voters that they are serious about energy policy. As a consequence, two-thirds of Americans already live in the 28 states that since 1995 have begun to pursue various schemes to force consumers to buy wind and solar power. But are the claims of supporters economically credible?

When it comes to cheaply cutting greenhouse gases, renewable energy standards actually mandate perverse incentives, according to a 2008 analysis [PDF] by California State University, Fullerton, economist Robert Michaels. When it comes to cutting greenhouse gases, it may be cheaper to figure out how to get customers to cut back their demand for energy rather than build new expensive renewable capacity. Simply mandating extra capacity forecloses the opportunity to find which way is more efficient. For example, when a utility incentivizes customers to permanently cut their demand for a megawatt of capacity, this has the same effect on emissions as investing in a megawatt of renewable energy capacity. But under most current state schemes, cutting load by a megawatt under a 20 percent renewable energy standard reduces a utility’s obligation by only 0.2 megawatts, while building an additional megawatt of renewable capacity counts fully for compliance.

Put another way, increasing the price of electricity causes renewable energy standards to function like a really inefficient energy tax. A salient analogy comes from the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. Consider the case of a farmer who can produce 10,000 bushels of wheat using irrigation. Now suppose that the government prohibits irrigation which cuts his production to 9,000 bushels. From the point of view of the farmer that is the same as a 10 percent tax. But had the government imposed an actual 10 percent tax, it would have at least had 1,000 bushels of wheat to redistribute. Instead, those bushels (megawatt hours) just disappear.

The claim that renewable energy mandates boost overall job creation is persistent and powerful, but the experience of other countries clearly shows that such mandates destroy more jobs than they create. A study last October by an independent German economics think tank found that each solar power job cost $240,000 and overall the result of renewable energy subsidies was higher energy prices, lost jobs in other sectors of the economy, and reduced consumer purchasing power. The German study mirrored the findings of an earlier Spanish university study which reported that every green job created by subsidizing renewable energy destroyed 2.2 jobs in other sectors of the economy.

Vast agricultural subsidies have failed to “revitalize” rural areas, so why should one expect that renewable energy mandates causing wind farms to sprout across the vacant countryside will do the trick? As Michaels notes, supporters of renewable energy standards “do not make clear why outmigration that has persisted for a century should be reversed, or why power consumers should bear the costs.” Why should coastal urbanites pay more for electricity just to keep 'em down on the farm in North Dakota and Kansas?

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” quipped the 18th century wit, Samuel Johnson. Two centuries later, few things in political life are more scoundrelly than calls for energy independence. When it comes to electricity, we are already largely energy independent since the vast majority of our power [PDF] is now generated using domestic coal, natural gas, and hydropower.

Mandating renewable energy standards will not make us more energy independent with respect to electricity, just poorer. But just how much poorer is hotly disputed. Environmental activist groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists say renewable energy standards will boost electricity costs by mere pennies per day. As evidence, backers of renewable energy standards cite studies such as the recent one from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) that finds that the standards would boost electricity prices by a measly 3 percent by 2020. Hardly noticeable.

But can that be? Michaels notes that EIA and most other studies on renewable energy standards rely on the National Energy Modeling System to make their cost projections. This is the same energy modeling system that the EIA used in 2000 to project that the price of oil in 2010 would be $29 per barrel [PDF] (adjusted for 2009 dollars). It was about $75 per barrel yesterday. Perhaps more interestingly, the EIA also projected in 2000 that renewables would make up a “smaller share of U.S. electricity generation, declining from 11.3 percent in 1998 to 9.5 percent in 2020.” The upshot is that energy model projections may be useful for outlining scenarios for energy planners, but they are not predictions.

Setting aside quibbles about energy cost and capacity modeling, if renewables like wind power were already cost competitive, then Congress would not need to mandate them. So will renewables soon be cost competitive? There are reasons to doubt they will be. Taking EIA projections with the requisite grain of salt, the agency’s Annual Energy Outlook for 2010 estimated the levelized costs [PDF] of various generation plants in 2016. Levelized costs include the cost of constructing a plant, the time required to construct a plant, the non-fuel costs of operating a plant, the fuel costs, the cost of financing, and the utilization of a plant. The levelized costs per megawatt hour are $100 for conventional coal power, rising to $129 for advanced coal with carbon capture and sequestration. On-shore wind costs are $149 per megawatt hour, and off-shore costs are $191. The cost of solar photovoltaic power is $396 per megawatt hour and solar thermal is $257. For what it’s worth, advanced nuclear comes in at $119 per megawatt hour.

Crudely, these levelized costs suggest that substituting wind for conventional coal under a 20 percent mandate would boost electricity prices by 10 percent. Similarly substituting solar photovoltaic power would increase electricity prices by about 20 percent. A recent analysis by the Heritage Foundation takes into account the costs of building a vast new national high voltage electricity grid to transmit wind and solar power from the plains and the deserts to coastal cities, the costs of building and maintaining additional natural gas electricity generation capacity to back up intermittent renewable energy sources, and consumer cuts in their electricity use due to higher prices. Once these and other factors are added in, the Heritage Foundation study finds that in 2020 a 15 percent renewable energy standard would reduce the disposal incomes of American families by $1,700 per year and increase unemployment over what it would otherwise have been by more than one million jobs.

Ultimately, the top-down imposition of a renewable energy standard now being considered by Congress is a stupid and costly way to cut greenhouse gas emissions; will destroy more jobs than it creates; is just another wasteful subsidy showered on depopulating rural communities; will do nothing for the chimerical pursuit of energy independence; and will, in fact, increase energy prices to consumers. A national renewable energy standard, concludes California State University economist Michaels, “is an inefficient and inequitable response to the emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases, a reassuring and ultimately dysfunctional distraction from real problems.” What could be more perfect for bipartisan action in Congress?


Let Congress sweat it out

Many of the so-called solutions the green movement proposes consist of turning back the clock and relying on technology we left behind decades, even centuries ago: They want us to use windmills and railroads, use more land for crops (and thereby less for forests), and burn plants to make energy. Now, there has come along a fellow who thinks air conditioning is a bane rather than a boon and hankers for the offices of the 1940s.
In a world without air conditioning, a warmer, more flexible, more relaxed workplace helps make summer a time to slow down again. Three-digit temperatures prompt siestas. Code-orange days mean offices are closed. Shorter summer business hours and month-long closings — common in pre-air-conditioned America — return.

Business suits are out, for both sexes. And with the right to open a window, office employees no longer have to carry sweaters or space heaters to work in the summer. After a long absence, ceiling fans, window fans and desk fans (and, for that matter, paperweights) take back the American office.

But why stop there? In British India they used to have natives called punkah wallahs, who would pull on ropes that swung a large ceiling fan. Adopting the punkah would massively increase employment!

However, he might have a case when he makes this argument:
Best of all, Washington's biggest business — government — is transformed. In 1978, 50 years after air conditioning was installed in Congress, New York Times columnist Russell Baker noted that, pre-A.C., Congress was forced to adjourn to avoid Washington's torturous summers, and "the nation enjoyed a respite from the promulgation of more laws, the depredations of lobbyists, the hatching of new schemes for Federal expansion and, of course, the cost of maintaining a government running at full blast."

Post-A.C., Congress again adjourns for the summer, giving "tea partiers" the smaller government they seek. During unseasonably warm spring and fall days, hearings are held under canopies on the Capitol lawn. What better way to foster open government and prompt politicians to focus on climate change?

I suggest Congress and government agencies lead by example and adopt this rule of no air conditioning immediately. In fact, I'm sure it must be somewhere in Speaker Pelosi's Greening the Capitol initiative. Questions should be asked on the floor as to why they're running the AC this week.


Green/Left Australian government likely to turn down people's electricity consumption by 3 percent a year

That's about 10% during their term of government if they win the upcoming election. At the very least, power is going to cost Australians a lot more. The crazy talk is already pushing prices up

In what is likely to be a vigorous debate, this afternoon cabinet will also consider a proposal to cut energy consumption by up to 3 per cent a year.

The target is strongly supported by some ministers searching for ways to rebuild Labor's green credentials - battered by the deferral of the emissions trading scheme - before the election expected to be called for late next month.

But others argue that such a target could cause politically dangerous rises in electricity prices and another scare campaign by the Coalition.

Ms Gillard is under pressure from some ministers to promise that Labor will legislate an emissions trading scheme in a second term, to placate voters angry that Labor deferred the program.

Sources say Ms Gillard is intent on building industry and community consensus for a workable scheme before a final decision, in part to ensure the new policy does not founder in the Senate as the original scheme did.

Asked yesterday if she sought to differentiate herself from the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, on the starting point issue of accepting climate science, Ms Gillard said: "I believe climate change is caused by human activity.

"I also understand that doing the things that we will need to do to change our economy, to change the way we live to deal with climate change, are complicated. They will require dialogue with the community. They will require the community's deep and lasting consensus about these changes."

Sources said other energy-efficiency measures proposed in a recent expert report are more likely to win cabinet support.

These include setting nationwide efficiency standards and possibly a scheme to allow farmers to claim credit for saving emissions through forestry and land management in ways that comply with the international rules under the Kyoto protocol.

Policies to meet the new national energy initiative would include requirements that electricity retailers reduce energy usage by their customers by a fixed percentage each year.

Cabinet will also consider pollution standards for new electricity generators and requirements for existing generators to calculate how they can reduce their greenhouse emissions.

Energy industry and other businesses are seeking definition from the government, complaining that not knowing whether or when they will face a carbon price is creating an untenable level of investment uncertainty.

The energy industry says that within a few years the uncertainty will lead to short-term investment decisions that will push up the cost of power anyway - the same hip-pocket concern that has driven political opposition to an emissions trading scheme.



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 are mirrors of this site here and here


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