Thursday, July 14, 2011

Climate Models yield results that are wildly inaccurate in accounting for the known past

Most people fall into one of two categories when it comes to predictions of future climate calamities: they either do not realize that the predictions are predicated on computer models or they unquestionably trust the models to reveal the future. A clear and lucid online article in Nature Geoscience addresses the current state and limitations of climate modeling. The article points out that State-of-the-art climate models are largely untested against actual occurrences of abrupt change. “It is a huge leap of faith to assume that simulations of the coming century with these models will provide reliable warning of sudden, catastrophic events,” the author states. To counter claims of predicted “tipping points,” incidents of abrupt climate change from the past are examined—incidents that current models get wrong.

As all honest scientists know, predictions by experts of future climatic events are highly subjective. Human intuition fails when confronted with complex, non-linear systems like Earth's climate system. It is reasonable for climate scientists to turn to computer based climate models to provide some insight into how the Earth system might respond to various future changes. “Climate model simulations are the only other means for gaining advance knowledge of sudden climate change,” states Paul Valdes of the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol. “It is therefore crucial to assess whether the available models are capable of investigating these phenomena.”

Motivation for modeling is simple—knowing what our planet's climate will do in the future would be very useful in developmental planning. In particular, the ability to predict sudden, possibly harmful changes in climate could drive policy, save money and even save lives. There have been a number of predictions of catastrophic future events, supposedly based on model output, but the question remains—are they credible? Such changes have undoubtedly occurred in the past. As Valdes states:

Critical thresholds may be inherent to the climate system. If so, they could lead to abrupt, and perhaps irreversible, changes to the Earth system. This possibility has caught the imagination of the public — often under the emotive term 'tipping points' — and has led to a huge growth in media and scientific publications on the topic in the past few years. If we are about to cross such a critical threshold, the implications for climate adaptation strategies could be significant. Likewise, knowledge of thresholds would have a strong influence on mitigation policy, not least by helping to define the meaning of the term 'dangerous climate change'.

In the face of wild predictions of impending climate mayhem what is the public to think? How should such critical thresholds be defined, do they even exist and, if so, are we close to one? Because the climate system is so complex, and direct experimentation is untenable, the author discusses four examples from the past and examines current modeling technology's ability to predict them based on paleodata.

It is hard to identify sudden, dangerous climate excursions from historical data going backs thousands, even millions of years. Nonetheless, scientists know of several dramatic events in the distant past. In “Built for stability,” the four well-documented examples of past rapid climate change and the associated modeling shortcomings are:

* The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. A rapid warming event about 55.8 Myr ago started with warm climate conditions with a smaller difference between temperatures at the Equator and the high latitudes. Complex climate models do not adequately simulate the warm climate before the abrupt change set in.

* The desertification of northern Africa. Between about 9,000 and 5,500 yr ago, the region that is now the Sahara was much wetter and supported a steppe-type vegetation. The transition to the current desert state occurred in decades to centuries. Complex climate models fail to simulate the vegetated state, and can not therefore capture this event of rapid change.

* Collapse of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. During the glacial period between about 120,000 and 12,000 yr ago, the meriodional overturning circulation in the Atlantic Ocean collapsed during six Heinrich events, most probably in response to fresh water entering the North Atlantic. Complex climate models simulate such a shut-down — but only in response to a freshwater injection as much as ten times the magnitudes estimated for the past.

* Dansgaard–Oeschger rapid warming events. Between Heinrich events, 25 incidences of rapid warming, by up to 8 °C within a few decades in Greenland, are consistently recorded in the ice cores. We don't even fully understand the mechanisms for such changes and simulating the final one of these events required an injection of fresh water into the ocean that was large and many thousand years longer than is thought realistic.

The author examines the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum in some detail. Around 55.8 million years (Myr) ago, a rapid warming event was accompanied by a significant release of carbon into the environment. In the course of a few thousand years, temperature rose by 5°C in the tropics and by up to 20°C at high latitudes. The event has attracted much interest as an analog for current human GHG emissions though, as I have discussed in previous a post, the analogy is more than a little strained.

But the discussion here is centered on modeling, and according to Dr. Valdes current modeling of the period has a fundamental problem. According to reconstructions, temperatures in the continental interiors rarely dropped below 0°C, even in winter. And geological data suggest that the background climate state of the late Paleocene and early Eocene was characterized by an extremely flat temperature gradient between the Equator and the poles. Problem is, climate models have been unable to simulate the extent of this warming in the higher latitudes.

Simulated and reconstructed early Eocene temperatures

At high latitudes, the differences between the model and proxy data can exceed 20°C, as shown int the figure above. “Not being able to start from a realistic global temperature distribution for the late Palaeocene makes it unrealistic to simulate the further abrupt warming associated with the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum,” states Valdes. “More worryingly, similarly flat latitudinal temperature gradients are a common feature of extreme warm climates of the past, suggesting that IPCC-type, complex climate models may not be well suited to simulating climate dynamics during these past, extremely warm periods.”


The end of the world is nigh? Schellnhubris admits that's "cloudy"

Professor Schellnhuber, the director of the Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and chairman of the German Scientific Advisory Council, conjures up the future with a selection of graphs and tables composed from observations and modelling.

Around each of the lines on the graphs - plotting the dramatic rises in atmospheric CO2 since the pre-industrial era, the upward trend of surface temperatures, the downward spiral of Arctic sea ice - are the shadows of scientific uncertainty, drawn into the graphs to calculate the outside extremes of the various models.

Such uncertainties are often seized on by people urging against action, or to cast doubt on the authority of the science, but Professor Schellnhuber argued to the "Four Degrees and More?" conference that scientists ought to be very proud of such publications.

"This is the body of evidence. It's clumsy, it's cloudy, but millions of hours of work have gone into producing this hazy picture, and we're very proud of presenting that in all its uncertainty," he told the mostly scientific audience.


Warming causes floods -- Al Gore says so

FORMER US vice-president turned climate crusader Al Gore has used footage of the Queensland floods from earlier this year as proof of climate change, contradicting the findings of the Gillard government's Climate Commission.

A new video posted on YouTube, narrated by Mr Gore to promote his Climate Reality Program, opens with footage of the wall of water that swept through Toowoomba in January. In the video, Mr Gore says "big oil and big coal are spending big money" to distort debate on climate change.

Yet he has ignored the findings of the Climate Commission, which says the Queensland floods were probably not a product of climate change but instead a natural part of climate variability.

Commissioner Will Steffen wrote in the May report The Critical Decade: "The floods across eastern Australia in 2010 and early 2011 were the consequence of a very strong La Nina event and not the result of climate change."


Warming causes droughts -- "Salon" says so

That good ol' warming sure is versatile!

Much of the southern U.S. is currently suffering through one of the most severe dry spells of the past century. It's impossible to say with certainty that this particular drought -- caused by a lingering La NiƱa event in the Pacific -- is a direct result of global warming. But, as we noted yesterday, scientific consensus is overwhelming that shifting weather patterns drastically increase the probability of devastating droughts from Texas on west. Yet, in spite of this, many GOP politicians from some of the worst afflicted Southwestern states maintain that man-made global warming is an elaborate hoax. We've compiled a list of 10 such prominent climate change deniers and compare their statements against their constituents' current climate woes.


Two comments on the matter from correspondents:

"Kind of mysterious; there are at present heat advisories in parts of East TX, OK; flood advisories in NM, AZ river basin areas"

"Here in Colorado we are having one of the wettest springs and summers on record. The Poudre River broke its all time flow record for this late in the summer today"

British Families face £1,000 bill for green energy: Huge annual levy to appease the climate lobby

Families face punishing increases in energy bills of up to £1,000 a year to fund a switch to green energy and build new nuclear power stations.

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne yesterday outlined a new regime that will encourage firms to build thousands of wind turbines, tidal power stations and nuclear plants. The scheme is part of a government plan to shift away from fossil fuels, particularly coal, and so dramatically cut carbon emissions to meet UK and EU targets.

There is a fierce dispute between the Government, green campaigners, academics and industry analysts over the true cost of the programme.

Ministers claim the impact on bills will be £160 a year by 2030, based on the need to spend £110billion on the complete transformation of Britain’s power network. However, this relies on an assumption that families will cut their annual energy use in the home by 30 per cent over the same period.

Industry regulator Ofgem calculates that the work will cost more than £200billion by 2020. It has also talked of a rise of 52 per cent in bills – which equates to around £600 a year.

But analysts at the UniCredit bank believe the true cost will be even higher, with energy bills set to rise by around £1,000 a year – to £2,000.

Billions will be spent on wind farms and wave power, while there will also be massive investment to replace existing nuclear power stations, which are coming to the end of their useful life.

Mr Huhne has outlined plans to guarantee a minimum price for the electricity produced in this way. This inflated figure would ensure the companies involved get a good profit.

Separately, there will be a carbon tax regime to raise the minimum price for power generated from gas and coal to ensure it is not cheaper than wind and nuclear power. Money raised from this regime, estimated at £1.4billion a year by 2014, would go straight into Treasury coffers.

Billions of pounds will also have to be spent on a vast new network of cables, pylons and sub-stations to connect the wind farms and other power stations to the National Grid.

There are also plans to spend more than £11billion on installing so-called ‘smart meters’ in every home. It is claimed people will ration energy use when they can see exactly how much they are using – as they are using it.

The official customer body Consumer Focus described the Government’s claims of an increase in annual bills of £160 a year as ‘optimistic’.

Mike O’Connor, its chief executive, said: ‘We recognise the need for reform. However, consumers can’t be expected to write a blank cheque to decarbonise electricity generation.’ The Climate Change Act requires the UK to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, compared with 1990 levels.

The Government also has to meet EU targets, under which 15 per cent of the UK’s energy demand must be supplied from renewable sources by 2020.

The rise in bills will result in a dramatic increase in ‘fuel poverty’, which is when a household spends more than 10 per cent of its income on energy bills to stay comfortably warm. It used to affect mainly pensioners and single parents, but official figures show 4.5million households are now in fuel poverty in the UK – compared with just 2million in 2004.

Consumer Focus says the true current figure is a shocking 6.3million households – equal to almost one in four – and could soon rise to 12million.

Critics say the expensive shift to green energy is based on a false premise of man-made global warming. Dr Benny Peiser, of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, rejected the Coalition’s figure of a £160 rise in bills, saying: ‘This is fanciful, it has just been plucked out of the air.’

Dr Peiser said there is no global shortage of gas and that Britain itself could be sitting on a gas gold mine, which would power homes for decades.

Justifying the proposals, Mr Huhne said they are all that stands between the country and power cuts. He insisted bills would rise substantially even if ministers did nothing. ‘This is the best possible solution for the British consumer,’ he said. ‘We have had 25 years of dithering on energy investment. Decision day is coming. ‘You can have blackouts or you can have investment. Which do you want?’

Dr Robert Gross, director of the Centre for Energy Policy and Technology at Imperial College, rejected the warnings of a £1,000 rise in energy bills, saying: ‘I have not seen any credible analysis that suggests bills will double unless a complete mess is made of the financing.’



Four articles below. Any other country considering a carbon tax might do well to consider the reaction in Australia. The public opinion polls indicate that the Warmist government is facing a complete rout at the next election

Carbon trading hoax will mean $57bn will disappear overseas by 2050, says Tony Abbott

FOREIGN carbon traders would take $57 billion out of the Australian economy by 2050 under the Government carbon tax, Opposition leader Tony Abbott said today.

Visiting the Nolans Transport depot a Gatton, Mr Abbott said the scheme would end up being a "get rich quick scheme" for foreign carbon traders. "The more that the costs of this scheme tehat become apparent the less Australians like it," he said.

Mr Abbott fended off claims that former leader Malcolm Turnbull did not support the Liberals direct action policy to tackle climate change. "Every single member of the shadow cabinet supports our policy," he said before shutting down further questions on the issue.

Mr Nolan, who believes the carbon tax will cost his trucking business $300,000 a year, said the flood had dealt a big financial blow to the Lockyer Valley. "Farmers could not afford the tax, I can't afford it and I think Tony is right. It should go a vote."


Carbon tax could 'bugger' Australia, says top businessman

A LEADING businessman has warned that the government's carbon policy could "bugger the country", joining a chorus against the tax, as consumer sentiment sinks.

University of Queensland chancellor and former Suncorp chairman John Story said yesterday the government's carbon package relied on a "huge leap of faith", because the technology to manage a cost-effective transition to a low-carbon economy did not yet exist, reports The Australian.

His warning followed this week's criticism of the carbon tax by media and mining mogul Kerry Stokes and fellow West Australians, resource heavyweights Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart.

Mr Stokes warned this week that Australia was at risk of imposing too many extra costs on industry and pricing foreign investors out of the market.

Mr Story said the carbon tax also presented a huge challenge for research institutions to develop clean energy technology. "If the research institutions fail to work with government and industry on a creative and productive basis, and fail to produce realistic and cost-effective solutions within a limited time frame, then there is every chance that . . . the country will be buggered," Mr Story told a university business function.

The chancellor's warning came as the Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer confidence slumped in May to a two-year low, its biggest one-month fall since October 2008 - around the time of the Lehman Brothers collapse.

The survey was conducted shortly before the government's announcement of its carbon pricing plan last Sunday.

Also yesterday, Visy executive chairman Anthony Pratt flagged a deep 10 per cent cut to the packaging group's energy use to offset an initial $12 million annual impost from the planned tax. Mr Pratt said in a notice to all staff that the annual cost of a $23-a-tonne carbon tax would more than treble to $37 million if exemptions granted to emissions from Visy's recycling and Tumut paper-making activities were removed in future years.


Bizarre impost will damage economy

IF ever there were a single country in the entire world spectacularly unsuited to be the sole imposer of a vast, unprecedented carbon tax, which no other country in the world is remotely duplicating, it is Australia.

Isolated from our strategic friends, far distant from our biggest markets, a member of no natural trading bloc or customs union, we have just one serious, competitive advantage in the global economy.

That is the abundance of our fossil fuel endowments. If ever there were a nation well advised to move slowly and carefully on policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions, we are it.

As Productivity Commission head Gary Banks commented: "It will not be efficient from a global perspective [let alone a domestic one] for a carbon-intensive economy, such as ours, to abate as much as countries that are less reliant on cheap, high emission, energy sources . . . Modelling aside, it's common sense that achieving any given level of abatement is likely to be costlier in a country with a comparative advantage in fossil fuels."

Banks here did something extremely dangerous. He pitted common sense against economic modelling. Part of the economics profession has gone weak at the knees because the government has labelled its bizarre new amalgam of vast new taxes, huge new bureaucracies, massive expenditure churn, endless new regulation, huge government subsidies for preferred companies and wildly unrealistic targets, a "market-based mechanism".

The government's carbon tax does not pass the commonsense test at any point. To call $8 billion in new taxes in the first year, and new government expenditure so great that it exceeds even the new tax intake, a "market-based mechanism" and economic reform just illustrates George Orwell's insight that if you control the language, you can convince people that black is white and up is down.

The whole enterprise is built on a falsehood, the supposition that nations around the world are taking comparable economy-distorting actions to that proposed by the Gillard government.

There is no really polite way of putting this but it is simply, utterly and comprehensively untrue. This is critically important. Even if you accept that all the science about climate change is true, that does not indicate what the best response for Australia is. If the science is true, then the problem can only be tackled by global action. If global action is impossible, then nations should do their best to cut greenhouse gas emissions in ways that don't hurt their economy too much, prepare for adaptation when it's needed and work to produce technological breakthroughs that allow lower emissions technologies to work and become affordable. This is broadly what other nations are doing. None is doing anything remotely like our carbon tax.

In the US, cap and trade, their name for an emissions trading scheme, is dead and buried. Far from approaching the official US target of reducing 2005 level emissions by 17 per cent by 2020, US emissions grew by 4 per cent last year. I lived in Washington in August and September and read three newspapers and watched a lot of news bulletins each day. I cannot remember a single mention, ever, of the US greenhouse reduction target. It has no traction in US politics.

According to the third Garnaut report, which engaged in every propaganda trick possible to pretend the world was as seized of this religion as Garnaut himself is, China's greenhouse gas emissions will increase from 2005 levels of five billion tonnes a year to 12 billion tonnes by 2020. That's an increase of seven billion tonnes a year. Australia, notionally, in that time might cut emissions by 70 million tonnes. So China's increase will be 100 times greater than Australia's decrease. Our contribution, for which we are turning our economy and politics upside down, will be too small to measure.

Japan has not only rejected an ETS approach but is likely, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, to make renewed investments in coal. Canada has elected a government committed to no carbon tax or ETS. The remaining ETS schemes in a couple of states in the US are falling apart. South Korea has put off action until 2015 at the earliest. The European ETS raises $1 a person and has very little effect on economic activity. India has no interest in a carbon tax approach. It levies a tax on coal of $1 a tonne and its carbon emissions will grow almost as quickly as China's.

So Australia is going to impose a huge cost on itself for no benefit to the environment. That's not an argument to do nothing. It is an argument to move very carefully with minimum disruption to our economy. There is a further central paradox. Given that the biggest emitters -- China, the US, India and most other nations -- do not have anything like the Australian carbon tax, it is clear that what abatement has occurred in the world has taken place mainly through "direct action". Press gallery commentators' dismissal of Tony Abbott and opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt's arguments on this demonstrate not policy sophistication but intellectual laziness, and an inability to move beyond the government's endless, admittedly very confusing, propaganda publications.

It is also the case that the Gillard government's own big tax will not actually reduce Australia's emissions. Instead, the government will spend many billions of dollars on its own direct action efforts. More than that, even if everything the government promises comes to pass, which is substantially less likely than my winning the US Ladies Professional Golf Championship, Australia's actual emissions will still rise and we will have to spend many billions of dollars buying carbon credits from overseas.

But the history of these credits so far is one of rorting and malpractice. Moreover, to believe the purchase of such credits will help the physical environment, you have to make the fantastic leap of faith to the conclusion that these credits represent real physical actions which, if we had not purchased them, would otherwise not have occurred. That is, it is not only that we pay a higher price for these credits than any other bidder but that if we didn't bid for them they wouldn't exist. Otherwise we are just trading in fairytales.

Yesterday the government also announced that it will be illegal for businesses to claim the carbon tax is causing them to put up prices. This is a bizarre, profoundly anti-democratic, environmentally useless and economically damaging period we are passing through. It's not market based and it's not economic reform.


Carbon tax the last straw for battlers as cost of living spirals out of control

THE micro effects of the macro-economic decisions are being felt disproportionately in the most sensitive parts. In short, we are hurting out here - again. No matter how well we have done what we were told to do, how proud we are to have pulled together, the punches keep coming. The carbon tax is the last straw. Enough is enough.

We endured a horror summer of disasters, have picked ourselves up or are helping our neighbours to their feet, and then were told last month that because we had sweated through the summer instead of whacking on the airconditioner, our power bills were being put on steroids to make up for the shortfall in projected power company profits. What? Hey? How does that make sense in a fair and equitable world?

But wait, there was more. Fresh fruit and veg prices have been high all year and were up a bit extra this month, partly as an after-effect of that horror summer. Eating well is far more expensive than eating poorly.

Public transport price rises early in the year mean it is often cheaper to drive to a destination (although it is debateable because petrol prices are also high), and the population boom and poor timetabling mean people often have to stand through the public transport journey after shelling out more than people in other states.

Water prices went up, even though it rained like it would never stop (see horror summer, above). So contributing to getting the region through the tough times was rewarded with more hip-pocket pain.

Well, enough with the big stick. Enough of the increased financial pain, even when we do all we are told to do.

Enough of telling us short-term pain will bring long-term gain. Queenslanders, more than others, have experience that shows short-term pain has meant a long-term price gain in the past. We know better than to fall for it again. By the start of the new financial year, there was a palpable cynicism and resentment over all of this. We were tired and stressed from the endlessness of rising bills.

The cynicism and resentment have made us behave in ways that are unlike our pull-together, believe-the-best selves.

We are far from school children, seeking the gold star, but we have shown we respond very well when a crisis or required action is explained rather than have threats and charges imposed. We feel empowered in helping to rectify the problem.

Consumer researcher Deborah J. MacInnis, in her study Why and How Consumers Hope: Motivated Reasoning and the Marketplace, found the most powerful motivator for behaviour was pride, not punishment or shame.

We are a proud people. Very few people were fined for using too much water in the bad old days of drought. Very few did the wrong things during the horror summer.

The carbon tax will not solve the carbon emissions problem, but uses money as punishment to - hopefully - change behaviour that causes environmental damage.

When the answer the governments reach for is to create a price, the drip-drip effectively becomes water torture for those who ultimately have to pay. There are many in our community who are trying hard to help out the ol' planet. It doesn't matter if they were the ones who were regarded as hippy twerps in the 1970s and 1980s. When they heard the warnings and believed them enough, they modified their behaviour in an effort to help.

Nope - no matter how much or little we have done in our lives to help the Earth stay cool or heal its ozone hole, more pain is on the way. We have been given fair warning to brace ourselves.

But just how much more pain are we prepared to cop? And how much can we afford before the house of cards falls down? We have been continually told we are the lucky country and our nation escaped the worst of the global financial crisis. But retail sales are abominable and have been for a year or more. I have not heard of a tradie who currently feels like they are sailing along financially, let alone living in luxury's lap. Charity donations are down.

Financial observers have noted rising petrol prices, higher school fees and healthcare bills, among other things, have effectively sent consumers to the safety of their homes. They have stopped spending.

How times have changed. Seven years ago, financial people tell us, people were spending every cent they had and then some. Now we are trying to save for the rainy day, which already appears to be here.

The problem we have is the Government, economists, retailers and companies see us as consumers. We are simply people who use things, buy things and dispose of things when we are finished. But we are so much more than that. Enough!



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, 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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