Thursday, July 19, 2012

Recent findings: Smaller 20th Century Warming: Hotter Medieval Warm Period

Data "adjustments" questioned

Anyone who has seen the raw temperature output from a weather station must have wondered at the marvel of averages. The output is all over the place – large fluctuations in temperature from hour to hour and day and night. Yet from those measurements the result is just one number – the monthly average – that finds its way into climate data.

Picking meaningful information from the variable set that are weather stations often seems more art than science; truncated sequences, gaps, changes of equipment, changes of sites, changes in the local environment, to name but a few factors that have to be taken into consideration, or sometimes not taken into consideration.

A new analysis of some of the statistical methods used in getting something out of temperature readings from weather stations carried out by Steirou and Koutsoyiannis of the National Technical University of Athens has been gaining some publicity as its conclusions are startling. The researchers say that the statistical manipulation of the data to correct errors often introduces even greater errors, as well as exaggerating positive trends.

Such statistical pitfalls are everywhere when one manipulates data like this. Consider the recent case of Dr Joelle Gergis of the University of Melbourne whose paper on 1000 years of climate data in Australia has had to be withdrawn for rewriting when it was pointed out that the “hockey sticks” produced by the calculations were artifacts. Then there is also the original hockey stick, once the unquestioned (by some) emblem of global warming, which was also shown to be in its broad detail an artifact of data processing.

Considering the processes applied to temperature time series Steirou and Koutsoyiannis say: “It turns out that these methods are mainly statistical, not well justified by experiments and are rarely supported by metadata. In many of the cases studied the proposed corrections are not even statistically significant.”

“In total we analyzed 181 stations globally. For these stations we calculated the differences between the adjusted and non-adjusted linear 100-year trends. It was found that in the two thirds of the cases, the homogenization procedure increased the positive or decreased the negative temperature trends.”

“The above results cast some doubts in the use of homogenization procedures and tend to indicate that the global temperature increase during the last century is between 0.4 deg C and 0.7 deg C, where these two values are the estimates derived from raw and adjusted data, respectively.”

If the rise in temperature really is only 0.4 deg C then that changes everything.

Warmer Than Today

Another potentially highly significant paper, this time concerning the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) comes from the Journal Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology and Paleoecology. It is entitled “Marine climatic seasonality during early medieval times (10th to 12th centuries) based on isotopic records in Viking Age shells from Orkney, Scotland.”

In the abstract the authors say; “Seasonal sea-surface temperature (SST) variability during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA), which corresponds to the height of Viking exploration (800–1200 AD), was estimated using oxygen isotope ratios (δ18O) obtained from high-resolution samples micromilled from archaeological shells of the European limpet, Patella vulgata.”

“Our findings illustrate the advantage of targeting SST archives from fast-growing, short-lived molluscs that capture summer and winter seasons simultaneously. Shells from the 10th to 12th centuries (early MCA) were collected from well-stratified horizons, which accumulated in Viking shell and fish middens at Quoygrew on Westray in the archipelago of Orkney, Scotland. Their ages were constrained based on artifacts and radiocarbon dating of bone, charred cereal grain, and the shells used in this study. We used measured δ18OWATER values taken from nearby Rack Wick Bay (average 0.31 ± 0.17‰ VSMOW, n = 11) to estimate SST from δ18OSHELL values. The standard deviation of δ18OWATER values resulted in an error in SST estimates of ± 0.7 °C.”

“The coldest winter months recorded in the shells averaged 6.0 ± 0.6 °C and the warmest summer months averaged 14.1 ± 0.7 °C. Winter and summer SST during the late 20th century (1961–1990) was 7.77 ± 0.40 °C and 12.42 ± 0.41 °C, respectively.”

“Thus, during the 10th to 12th centuries winters were colder and summers were warmer by ~ 2 °C and seasonality was higher relative to the late 20th century. Without the benefit of seasonal resolution, SST averaged from shell time series would be weighted toward the fast-growing summer season, resulting in the conclusion that the early MCA was warmer than the late 20th century by ~ 1 °C.”

“This conclusion is broadly true for the summer season, but not true for the winter season. Higher seasonality and cooler winters during early medieval times may result from a weakened North Atlantic Oscillation index.”

Two papers in well-respected, peer-reviewed scientific journals conclude that perhaps the warming observed in the past century has been overestimated, and that the MWP was substantially warmer than today. This is bound to provide food for thought.


Back, or Forward to the Energy Future?

Over the years, many have wondered what happened to “Say Anything” star Ione Skye. Now we may have our answer. In the movie her character, Diane Court, famously urged her fellow graduates to “go back.” So maybe Ione has followed her own advice and become an environmentalist.

Greens today are all about going back. Back to a world with fewer, cars fewer power plants and less energy use. Some may think that sounds appealing. But not those of us near the nation’s capital. We’ve recently had to live through it, if only for a few days.

A recent storm ripped down trees and knocked out power all around Washington, D.C. While the high temperature topped 95 day after day, hundreds of thousands of area residents sweated it out with no air conditioning and no refrigeration.

But this is just a preview of the dystopian future that supposedly awaits Americans unless we repent of our energy-intensive ways, according to some enviros.

“It now seems that the global climate is becoming unstable at a rapid pace,” warns the “peak oil” columnist at the Falls Church News-Press. “This will eventually result in increased hunger, malnutrition and higher death rates. Somewhere along the line the effects of climate change may become so bad that a consensus will develop that the burning of fossil fuels must be sharply curtailed or the economic costs of rising temperatures become too much to bear or as some believe do us all in.” In other words, we’d better use less energy, or our planet will be destroyed.

One thing’s for sure: in the blistering heat that spawned and followed the storm, even some environmentally-minded liberals found themselves melting down.

“It is the millions who live in Washington, D.C. and its perimeter who constitute the total response capability of the nation to an attack and it is those millions who were effectively cut off by the storm and rendered helpless from numerous standpoints,” thundered the owner of the FCNP, a staunchly Democratic newspaper.

His answer: greater centralization of power in Washington. “In this case, the lack of integration of vital elements of our regional infrastructure, from the major utilities to the state and federal government and their agencies, is to blame. By this I do not mean more bureaucracies and cell phones, but I mean the deployment of Homeland Security dollars to the task of undergrounding utility lines, for one.”

But even assuming that would work (it wouldn’t), where would the money come from? The failed Obama “stimulus” plan came and went, spending some $1 trillion the country didn’t have without delivering on its promise to create jobs. Our federal budget deficit tops $15 trillion, with another trillion or so in deficit Obamacare spending on the way. Entitlement spending is on track to almost double by 2050. In just three years, the Obama administration has done more than its part to increase the federal deficit.

So there simply isn’t any cash available to throw at this problem, even if we wanted to do so or thought it might help. But this is an area where we could look to the past for guidance.

In The Washington Post, columnist Robert Samuelson explains that the country is “still paying the price for the greatest blunder in domestic policy since World War II,” when policymakers in the Kennedy administration decided to pursue a policy of growing inflation and deficit spending.

The resulting pile of debt, run up by leaders of both parties across decades, “has limited government’s ability to ‘stimulate’ the economy through higher spending or deeper tax cuts -- or, at least, to have a meaningful debate over these proposals. The careless resort to deficits in the past has made them harder to use in the present, when the justification is stronger,” Samuelson writes.

So a sensible first step would be to “go back,” to a time when political leaders strove for balanced budgets. Doing so would bring down the federal deficit.

The problem isn’t a lack of resources. As Mark Mills at the Manhattan Institute reports, “An affirmative policy to expand extraction and export capabilities for all hydrocarbons over the next two decades could yield as much as $7 trillion of value to the North American economy, with $5 trillion of that accruing to the United States, including generating $1–$2 trillion in tax receipts to federal and local governments. Such a policy would also create millions of jobs rippling throughout the economy.”

There’s no need to go back. Instead, we need to move forward, into a bright energy future. It’s there for us, if we’re willing to work for it.


Does the EPA Have Selective Hearing?

A few months ago we reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had snubbed Native American groups in an apparent effort to ‘Keystone’ the Pebble Mine Project in Alaska. The same group of mining supporters have tried to meet with EPA Director Lisa Jackson again and again she has refused to meet with them.

Both Native groups, community leaders and authorities (including Alaska’s Attorney General) have attempted to meet with and have their voices heard by the EPA. But it appears the EPA has developed selective hearing, only giving an ear to the voices of those who agree with the radical environmentalists who seem to oppose any development of resources within the United States.

A June 21, 2012 Greenwire article quotes an EPA spokesperson who states that the EPA has reached out to Native communities in Southwestern Alaska to offer them an opportunity to have their voices heard regarding the Pebble Mine Project. However, according to Trefon Angasan, board chairman of Alaska Peninsula Corp., a grouping of Alaska Native villages, the communities that have had the ear of the EPA aren’t close to the potential mining site. One of the communities Lisa Jackson has visited is Dillingham, Alaska, an anti-mining stronghold.
“We should have a consultation established with the EPA, and we don’t,” Angasan said, complaining about the lack of high-level consultation required for federally recognized tribes. “We have been excluded from the development of that watershed assessment.”

EPA’s comment period on the draft assessment runs through July 23. Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty (R) is calling for a delay until November.

“In short, this is a voluminous amount of complex information that requires thorough public review and comment,” Geraghty told the agency in a recent letter. “As EPA is well aware, normally such information for a specific proposed project takes several years to gather and be scientifically vetted and scrutinized by multiple state and federal agencies, which has not occurred here.”

Angasan said, “Right now, our people are gathering, they are fishing, they’re getting ready to fill their freezers for the summer so they can survive the winter. And they don’t have time to put everything aside.”

The EPA has not ruled out a preemptive veto of the Pebble Mine Project’s permitting process using the Clean Water Act. All this while the economic viability of the Native Alaskan communities in the area are tenuous at best. The Pebble Mine Project would inject jobs and businesses into the area that would not only allow the communities to survive, but would help them thrive. Lisa Reimers, CEO of Iliamna Development Corp. says that preemptively vetoing the development of Pebble Mine could amount to ‘cultural genocide’ for the Native peoples living in the area.

There is a lot at stake here. How this situation plays out in Alaska has implications far beyond Bristol Bay. The EPA’s unprecedented power grab and expansion impacts not only Alaskans and the Pebble Mine Project. If the EPA succeeds in preemptively shutting down the Pebble Mine Project, they will have the power to do the same with any project any where without input from local people and authorities.

This is not just about shutting down the jobs and economic boost available through the Pebble Mine Project. It is about the expansion of EPA’s power to use the Clean Water Act to shut down private citizens who just want to build a home or any other industrial project that attracts the ire of the radical environmentalists.


Smart Growth Questioned in Britain

Much of the inspiration for what is today called Smart Growth—concentrating development in urban centers, urban growth boundaries, higher densities and expanded transit—originated in the U.K. long before it was embraced by many urban and transportation planners in this country. Consequently, it’s newsworthy when respected U.K. figures question some of these long-embraced policies.

The Spring 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association carries an analysis by four U.K. academic urban planners (Marcial Eschenique, Anthony Hargreaves, Gordon Mitchell, and Anil Namdea) titled “Growing Cities Sustainably: Does Urban Form Really Matter?” One of its principal conclusions is that “The current planning policy strategies for land use and transport have virtually no impact on the major long-term increases in resource and energy consumption. They generally tend to increase costs and reduce economic competitiveness.”

The authors created a model of land use and travel behavior, using data from three areas in England: the London metro area, the Newcastle area, and the Cambridge sub-region. For each one, they modeled the impact of three alternative land use policies: compact development, planned development, and dispersal (similar to the suburbanization common in the United States and Australia for most of the post-World War II period). Although land uses differed somewhat among the three models, outcome variables such as transportation energy use, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and houses, and air pollution showed very minor differences. Projected economic costs by 2031 were lowest for the dispersed model and highest for the compact one.

An article on the NewGeography site (June 28) provides useful extracts from the paper, two of which I found especially interesting:

“One of the main arguments for the dispersed city is that there is no longer a single center where most jobs and services occur. Urban areas, rather, exhibit a dispersed and often polycentric structure, bringing jobs and services closer to residents with a more complex movement pattern not readily served by public transport.”

“Smart growth principles should not unquestioningly promote increasing levels of compaction on the basis of reducing energy consumption without also considering its potential negative consequences. In many cases, the potential socioeconomic consequences of less housing choice, crowding, and congestion may outweigh its very modest CO2 reduction benefits.”

Shortly after reading this, I read the 16-page “Special Report: London,” included in the June 30th issue of The Economist. In the section on housing, after noting the very high cost of housing in the London metro area, the author identified the Green Belt—a donut-shaped area up to 50 miles wide intended as the world’s first urban growth boundary—as the biggest constraint on development and hence as a major contributor to high housing prices. “This has not stopped growth, but it has pushed it into the greater south-east, thus spoiling the countryside across a bigger area. It has also raised the cost of housing and forced workers to travel farther. Commuting costs in London are now higher than in any other rich-world capital.” As a remedy, the report suggests that “Taking a mile of the Green Belt all around London would release around 25,000 hectares [62,000 acres], the equivalent of a sixth of London’s area—far more than would be needed to make a huge difference to housing affordability.”


Green Energy Panic: German Government Fears Voter Anger About Electricity Price Explosion

Is the green energy transition crumbling? Within the German government doubts are emerging about its timetable. Electricity must remain affordable, warn key ministers. The government fears the price explosion - and punishment by voters.

Peter Altmaier wants to clarify something. Not that anyone thinks he intends to question the big picture about the green energy transition, the central project of this government, which has now become his own personal project. Asked about the green energy transition at the Bonn climate change dialogue on Tuesday, the Federal Environment Minister talks about "challenging targets" which he still wants to achieve - "with challenging measures." But there should be an honest assessment, Altmaier says. Nothing more.

But also nothing less.

Fully committed to a very honest appraisal, Altmaier had denounced past mistakes in an interview over the weekend and doubted specific goals of the green energy transition – for example to bring one million electric cars onto the roads by 2020, or to reduce power consumption by ten percent during the same period. "If we still want to achieve this somehow, then we need huge efforts," the Christian Democrat politician warned.

Whether he agreed or not, Economics Minister and Deputy Chancellor Philipp Roesler joined the debate on Tuesday. "Is the whole time table crumbling?" asked the BILD tabloid newspaper. "The timeline and the goals for the green energy transition still stand," replied the leader of the Free Democrats (FDP). "But we need re-adjustments if jobs and competitiveness are threatened."

"Still want to achieve this somehow ..." - "... re-adjustments if ..." – We are not there yet. None of the targets are officially under threat to be dropped or postponed. But the government keeps a backdoor open, and, with their conditions, ministers Altmaier and Roesler are preparing the way for possible corrections to the green energy transition.

Better to fight now than during the election campaign

[...] The government does not primarily worry about the question whether the self-imposed targets are technically achievable. They are worried about the costs. "For me, the highest priority is that electricity remains affordable," says Altmaier. Roesler repeated this almost verbatim.

Concern about rising electricity prices is politically understandable. Or rather, the concern about the voters’ reaction to the rising electricity prices. Because with all due sympathy for nuclear phase-out and green energy - if their own money is involved, many citizens do not care much about their green principles anymore. And since the green energy transformation is one of the key projects of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the voters’ anger about price increases could also be expressed by withdrawing of support for those responsible in the general election in 2013. This is at least what many in the coalition government fear.

The message of the Minister Altmaier and Roesler is clear: Dear voters, do not worry, the problem is identified, we will take care of it. And this message must be sent out by the government long enough before the general election, so that it cannot be blamed. Rather have a few inevitable battles now because, of course, the publicly expressed doubts are a gift for the opposition.


Thailand – A Country Where Eco-Facism Has Gone Mad

Thai farmers are being fined huge sums of money for causing global warming by farming their ancestral land.

The reality of what the warming alarmists and environmentalists refer to as the “polluter pays principal” and the new post Rio+20 scam of “loss and damage” has been played out in Thailand since 2006.

The Thai government has computed a formula where already financially poor farmers are being fined crippling amounts of money for causing global warming, the fines are not only for the current generation of farmers, but also for the environmental impact their ancestors caused by cutting down trees and farming the land hundreds of years ago.
Small farmers in the Baan Pra village of Thailand’s southern Trang province have been living in anxiety ever since they were slapped with stiff fines by the government in 2006 and ordered to vacate their ancestral lands for ‘contributing to global warming’.

Last month, the villagers, after suffering bankruptcy and loss of land, appealed in an administrative court, pleading against a controversial formula used by the department of national park, wildlife and plant conservation under the environment ministry to compute the fines and evict them.

Baan Pra’s ordeal is not an isolated. Thousands of smallholders with farmlands abutting national forests have been in distress ever since the environment ministry began enforcing the 1992 National Environmental Quality Act five years ago.

So far 2000 farmers have been fined for causing “destruction, loss or damage to natural resources owned by the state”, the law allows the Government to penalise farmers who farm in areas around national forests.
“Being charged for causing global warming and fined sums of money they never dreamt of owning were a big shock to the villagers,” said Boon Saejung, LRN coordinator in Baantad mountain area which covers four southern provinces including Trang.

According to Boon, farmers in the area have survived for generations on produce from their ancestral lands, long before government proclaimed them as national parks. Most of them own plots no bigger than 15 rais (24,000 sq m). With the new laws being enforced many have been dispossessed of their lands.

Exactly what the Thai governments motives really are have yet to be seen, though history shows us clearly that methods like these are used when vested interests want the land cleared of the people who get in the way of the get rich schemes, in much the same way that the “Highland Clearances” were used during the 18th and 19th centuries in Britain.
Critics of the formula question why small-scale farmers are being singled out for punishment on environmental damage charges, using the global warming formula.

“Neither small farmers nor their communities are the main contributors to global warming. They are now facing unjust measures and there is a need to find a solution to this,” Boon said.

The Thai Government has enacted a law that demonstrates exactly what to expect from the environmentalists and their polluters pays principal, a Green zealot with an erroneous formula for calculating retrospectively the environmental damage caused by your grandparents.



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