Is Global Warming Causing A Record Breaking LACK Of Tornado activity?
Although perfectly factual, the article below is a bit of a tease. It would be much more reasonable to argue that the temperature stasis of the last 15 years has minimized the need for adjustments that tornadoes reflect. Either way, however, the facts are the opposite of what Warmists proclaim
The year 2012 is breaking all-time records for lack of tornado activity, inviting the question whether global warming is causing a long-term decline in destructive extreme weather events.
According the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, only 12 tornadoes touched down in the United States during July 2012, shattering the previous July record low of 42 tornadoes recorded in 1960. Because radar technology in 1960 could not detect many of the smaller tornadoes that are detectable today, scientists believe the actual number of tornadoes that occurred in the previous record-low July 1960 was actually about 73. Accordingly, six times more tornadoes occurred in July 1960, the previous record-low year, than occurred in July 2012.
Similarly, less than 300 tornadoes were recorded in this year’s peak tornado season, which runs from mid-April through late-July. Approximately 850 tornadoes touch down during the peak season in an average year. Accordingly, three times more tornadoes occur during an average peak-tornado season than occurred in 2012.
Harold Brooks, a research meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory, says the lack of tornado activity is due to warm, dry weather in the American Midwest and a northerly tracking jet stream this year. These two factors have also reduced the number of strong thunderstorms that global warming alarmists claim are made more frequent and severe by global warming.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data show a long-term decline, at least since the mid-1970s, in strong tornadoes. This decline in strong tornadoes began precisely when global temperatures rebounded from a 30-year cooling spell.
Although strong tornado activity is declining in sync with the recent modest rise in global temperatures, global warming alarmists frequently assert that whenever one of the ever-less-frequent tornadoes occurs, global warming must be to blame. This is typical of the tactics of global warming alarmists, who rarely miss an opportunity to misrepresent scientific facts to further their political agenda.
After some tornadoes touched down in March of this year, for example, Brad Johnson of the leftist activist group Center for American Progress wrote an article tying the tornadoes to global warming. “In the face of this warning, we must ask if our current path of increased pollution and decreased investment in public safety is the wisest course,” wrote Johnson.
Similarly, CNN meteorologist Alexandra Steele told viewers in April of this year that global warming was responsible for tornadoes that touched down in the Dallas area that month.
Tornadoes are becoming less frequent and less severe as our planet modestly warms. Yet global warming alarmists focus attention on the few tornadoes that still do occur and say that global warming is causing these increasingly rare tornadoes. The true question, however, is not whether global warming is causing more tornadoes, but whether the declining frequency and severity of tornadoes is being caused by global warming.
Growing Himalyayan glaciers causing sea-level FALL
Another group of researchers has weighed in on the continuing scientific scuffle over whether the Himalayan glaciers are melting. A letter to Nature Geoscience reports that the Karakoram glaciers, a part of the greater Himalaya north of the actual Himalaya Range, are actually gaining mass. Outside the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the Karakoram is the most heavily glaciated part of the world, containing nearly 3% of the planet's total ice area. But because they are so large, difficult to get to and dangerous to travel on, they have not been measured by conventional survey methods. Scientists have instead, been relying on satellite measurements, whose accuracy is now called into question. This impressive new study says that the Karakoram glaciers are not only not shrinking, they are accumulating enough ice each year to cause a slight decrease in ocean sea-level.
“Assessments of the state of health of Hindu-Kush–Karakoram–Himalaya glaciers and their contribution to regional hydrology and global sea-level rise suffer from a severe lack of observations,” state Julie Gardelle, Etienne Berthier and Yves Arnaud at the beginning of their new paper appearing in the May 2012, issue of Nature Geoscience. Climate change orthodoxy says that these glaciers should be melting, but there have been many conflicting reports regarding the state of the glaciers in this remote area of Asia—the so called “Karakoram anomaly.” Direct observations are scant and numerous glacier surges in the region change glacier length and velocity complicating the interpretation of available data. This new painstaking study is a significant accomplishment and greatly advances science's understanding of conditions in the region. Here is the authors' summary of their work:
Here, we calculate the regional mass balance of glaciers in the central Karakoram between 1999 and 2008, based on the difference between two digital elevation models. We find a highly heterogeneous spatial pattern of changes in glacier elevation, which shows that ice thinning and ablation at high rates can occur on debris-covered glacier tongues. The regional mass balance is just positive at +0.11±0.22 m yr-1 water equivalent and in agreement with the observed reduction of river runoff that originates in this area. Our measurements confirm an anomalous mass balance in the Karakoram region and indicate that the contribution of Karakoram glaciers to sea-level rise was −0.01 mm yr-1 for the period from 1999 to 2008, 0.05 mm yr-1 lower than suggested before.
Gardelle et al., observed the geodetic mass balance for a 5,615 km2 ice-covered area in the Karakoram region. They studied the area's spatial variability and estimated the contribution such change would make to sea-level rise. “We measured regional changes in ice elevation by differencing two digital elevation models (DEMs) generated from the February 2000 Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission (SRTM) and from Satellite Pour l’Observation de la Terre (SPOT5) optical stereo imagery acquired in December 2008. Mean elevation changes are then converted into mass balance by assuming a density of 900 kg m-3 both in the accumulation and ablation areas,” the paper explains. The area under study is shown below.
Not that performing the required measurements was a simple matter. Many of the subject glaciers are known or suspected to have surged in the past and the distribution of elevation changes is far from homogeneous. Many of the glaciers show strong thinning and thickening rates of up to 16 m yr−1 in either direction, requiring each glacier to be analyzed individually. They also found that studies using the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) project data to infer the change in glacier mass in central Asia led to conflicting results.
In a News & Views article in the same journal issue, Graham Cogley, a geologist at Trent University, hails the work by Gardelle et al. as having “removed the question mark.” Recapping the new results in greater detail, Cogley goes on:
Building on the hard-won but limited field observations, Gardelle and colleagues used remote sensing to measure glacier mass changes in the Karakoram. Specifically, they subtracted an earlier digital elevation model, derived from radar scanning in February 2000, from a later model obtained with a stereoscopic sensor in December 2008. They derive a mass balance near zero over an area of 5,600 km2, about one quarter of the ice-covered area in the entire Karakoram. If the mass balance measured by Gardelle and colleagues is representative for all the Karakoram glaciers, ice loss in this region contributed −0.006 mm yr-1 to sea-level change in the past decade — rather than +0.040 mm yr-1, as implied by a previous estimate obtained by extrapolation. Evidently, extrapolation and analogy have failed in this significant region.
With typical scientific understatement, Cogley has revealed a fact about all previous estimates of glacial melting and projections of corresponding sea-level rise—they are based on guesswork. Oh, it's educated guesswork, but guesswork nonetheless. Undoubtedly there is more melting going on than growth world wide, this is a warm period after all. But those who take limited observations of glacial melting and prophesy an imminent watery grave for the world's coastal cities need to take note. Indeed, to fulfill the worst of the doomsayer's projections would require the collapse of the Greenland and Western Antarctic Ice Sheets—something that has probably not happened since MIS 11 over 400,000 years ago (see “Collapse of polar ice sheets during the stage 11 interglacial”).
Contrary to “consensus” climate change wisdom, this remote mountain region where China, India and Pakistan intersect is not losing its glaciers, it is gaining ice mass. Not only is the Karakorum not contributing to sea-level rise, it is responsible for a slight drop in the world's oceans—for now. Did someone say “settled science?”
This is the most unsettling thing about climate change, and nature itself: the “facts” keep changing. Sometimes this is due to science improving and sometimes it is due to nature itself changing. Those who talk about nature, science and climate change in absolutes, those who pretend to know what the future holds, are trying to fool the rest of us, or they are fools themselves.
Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.
China Says U.S. Clean-Energy Projects Violate WTO Rules
China's Commerce Ministry said six renewable-energy projects in five U.S. states have violated global trade rules, though it stopped short of announcing any penalties.
The ministry's announcement Monday continues the tit-for-tat moves in the clean-energy sector pitting China against its two-largest trade partners, the U.S. and European Union. It comes as clean energy policy is becoming an issue in the U.S. presidential elections and demand for wind and solar-power equipment from Europe is falling.
China's commerce ministry said in its final ruling that the projects, including a solar-power venture in Massachusetts and a wind-power venture in Ohio, received subsidies that violated World Trade Organization rules and served as trade barriers to Chinese exports to the U.S. The ministry also cited renewable-energy projects in Washington state, New Jersey and California, without elaborating. The ministry investigation, which began in November, was undertaken on behalf of industry associations representing Chinese exporters and renewable energy companies.
China calls on the U.S. to cancel practices not in line with WTO rules and to "give Chinese renewable energy products fair treatment," it said on its website.
The U.S. has made moves of its own against Chinese-made clean-energy equipment, with the U.S. Commerce Department announcing a number of provisional and final duties against imports over the past six months.
U.S. renewable-energy policies have come under internal scrutiny during the presidential race there, with Republican candidate Mitt Romney criticizing the Obama administration for what he call excessive subsidies for the industry. Mr. Romney has also said that if president, he would stand up to China on trade and demand it play by global trade rules.
China's clean-energy ties with the EU, too, are strained. Four Chinese solar companies last week urged the commerce ministry to investigate claimed support given to polysilicon imported from Europe. A month ago the ministry launched similar investigations into polysilicon imports from South Korea and the U.S.
Polysilicon is the raw material used in most solar panels.
In July, Germany-based SolarWorld AG, SWV.XE +0.80% one of Europe's largest solar-panel makers, joined other European companies in filing a complaint with the European Commission seeking tariffs on Chinese-made panels, alleging that Chinese manufacturers received illegal subsidies and were dumping at below-cost prices.
Global Warming Is about Social Science Too
Who's in denial?
Both sides in the debate over global warming are known for calling their opposition all kinds of derisive names. Perhaps the worst is “denier” to describe those who allegedly deny that global warming is “real.” The echoes of Holocaust denial are indeed offensive, particularly because the debate over global warming often conflates science with social science. This matters because one could accept that science has established global warming but still reject for social scientific reasons the claim that the policies normally associated with environmentalism are the proper way to address its effects. Does that make one a “denier?” It is that question I hope to answer indirectly below.
To help clarify what’s at stake, I offer a list of questions that are (or should be) at the center of the debate over anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. I will provide some quick commentary on some to note their importance and then conclude with what I see as the importance of this list.
1. Is the planet getting warmer?
2. If it’s getting warmer, is that warming caused by humans? Obviously this is a big question because if warming is not human-caused, then it’s not clear how much we can do to reduce it. What we might do about the consequences, however, remains an open question.
3. If it’s getting warmer, by what magnitude? If the magnitude is large, then there’s one set of implications. But if it’s small, then, as we’ll see, it might not be worth responding to. This is a good example of a scientific question with large implications for policy.
Matters of Science
All these questions are presumably matters of science. In principle we ought to be able to answer them using the tools of science, even if they are complex issues that involve competing interpretations and methods. Let’s assume the planet is in fact warming and that humans are the reason.
4. What are the costs of global warming? This question is frequently asked and answered.
5. What are the benefits of global warming? This question needs to be asked as well, as global warming might bring currently arctic areas into a more temperate climate that would enable them to become sources of food. Plus, a warmer planet might decrease the demand for fossil fuels for heating homes and businesses in those formerly colder places.
6. Do the benefits outweigh the costs or do the costs outweigh the benefits? This is also not frequently asked. Obviously, if the benefits outweigh the costs, then we shouldn’t be worrying about global warming. Two other points are worth considering. First, the benefits and costs are not questions of scientific fact because how we do the accounting depends on all kinds of value-laden questions. But that doesn’t mean the cost-benefit comparison isn’t important. Second, this question might depend greatly on the answers to the scientific questions above. In other words: All questions of public policy are ones that require both facts and values to answer. One cannot go directly from science to policy without asking the kinds of questions I’ve raised here.
7. If the costs outweigh the benefits, what sorts of policies are appropriate? There are many too many questions here to deal with in detail, but it should be noted that disagreements over what sorts of policies would best deal with the net costs of global warming are, again, matters of both fact and value, or science and social science.
8. What are the costs of the policies designed to reduce the costs of global warming? This question is not asked nearly enough. Even if we design policies on the blackboard that seem to mitigate the effects of global warming, we have to consider, first, whether those policies are even likely to be passed by politicians as we know them, and second, whether the policies might have associated costs that outweigh their benefits with respect to global warming. So if in our attempt to reduce the effects of global warming we slow economic growth so far as to impoverish more people, or we give powers to governments that are likely to be used in ways having little to do with global warming, we have to consider those results in the total costs and benefits of using policy to combat global warming. This is a question of social science that is no less important than the scientific questions I began with.
I could add more, but this is sufficient to make my key points. First, it is perfectly possible to accept the science of global warming but reject the policies most often put forward to combat it. One can think humans are causing the planet to warm but logically and humanely conclude that we should do nothing about it.
Second, people who take that position and back it up with good arguments should not be called “deniers.” They are not denying the science; they are questioning its implications. In fact, those who think they can go directly from science to policy are, as it turns out, engaged in denial – denial of the relevance of social science.
Carbon tax proposal would hobble our already challenged economy, stall growth
Even if a carbon tax could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, should it be implemented if it would undermine the economic recovery and stall short-term growth?
Under one possible approach, all countries would agree to penalize carbon emissions at an internationally harmonized carbon tax. But let’s be realistic: Because of the huge economic and political imbalances between the industrialized and developing world, the carbon-tax approach to emissions reduction is a pipe dream.
As much as 85 percent of the projected increase in man-made global emissions of carbon dioxide will come from developing countries, as a result of growing electric power use and automobile ownership that accompany economic growth.
The United States and other advanced countries won’t sacrifice their living standards, and the developing ones aren’t going to worry about climate change while their incomes are a fraction of those in advanced nations.
The hardest hit by the tax
The hardest hit sectors of the U.S. economy from a carbon tax would be energy-intensive industries, particularly chemicals, automobile manufacturing, iron and steel, aluminum, cement, and mining and oil refining.
These large industries would be at a serious disadvantage in the world marketplace, and many companies would move production to countries without such a tax. The cost in dollars, as well as in lost jobs, from a carbon-tax would be staggering. And the cost would ultimately fall on American consumers — without necessarily generating any environmental benefits if China, India and other countries with fast-growing economies continue to pollute.
In theory, the cost of a U.S. carbon tax could be rebated to consumers. But it’s more likely that most of the money would be used to subsidize renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.
For years now, solar and wind companies have received taxpayer-subsidized grants and federally guaranteed loans for plant construction along with requirements forcing utilities to buy back the electricity they generate at costs far above conventionally-generated electricity.
What’s more, the argument for a carbon tax unfairly discounts the hard-won gains that U.S. industries already have made in reducing carbon emissions and threatens to hinder further progress.
The fact is, the United States has cut its carbon emissions more than any other country in the world in recent years — by 9 percent since 2007.
Rather than waste our time on what is politically unattainable, why not focus on some initiatives that already are making a difference?
The revolution in natural gas production has made a reduction in emissions possible — not only in the United States but globally. Natural gas is much cleaner than coal, generating at least 50 percent less carbon per kilowatt hour. And because electricity generation produces 41 percent of the carbon that the United States emits — the largest single source — the switch from coal to gas is significant.
Thanks to advanced drilling technologies and an abundance of gas from shale deposits, natural gas has accounted for more than 80 percent of new electrical generating capacity in the United States.
The share of U.S. electricity that comes from coal is forecast to fall below 40 percent this year, its lowest level since World War II, and down from 50 percent four years ago.
By the end of this decade it is likely to be near 30 percent. Now, we need to export U.S. technology for seismic imaging, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to other countries with large shale-gas deposits. Spreading advanced energy technologies globally would lower the cost of controlling emissions substantially.
By using advances in technology, we can expand the use of natural gas, nuclear power and renewable energies and achieve a substantial reduction in carbon emissions, without resorting to a carbon tax that would hobble our economy.
U.S. court strikes down EPA rule on coal pollution
A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday overturned a key Obama administration rule to reduce harmful emissions from coal-burning power plants, sparking a rally in coal company shares and relief among utility firms.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said in a 2-1 decision that the Environmental Protection Agency had exceeded its mandate with the rule, which was to limit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants in 28 mostly Eastern states and Texas.
In the latest setback for the EPA, the court sent the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule back for revision, telling the agency to administer its existing Clean Air Interstate Rule - the Bush-era regulation that it was updating - in the interim. The EPA said it was reviewing the ruling.
The decision was cheered by some Republicans, who have made the EPA and President Barack Obama's environmental policies a major campaign theme ahead of November elections.
The agency is endangering a fragile economic recovery by saddling U.S. industries with costly new rules, Republicans say.
"The Obama-EPA continues to demonstrate that it will stop at nothing in its determination to kill coal," said Republican Senator James Inhofe, one of the Senate's most vocal EPA opponents. "With so much economic pain in store, it is fortunate that EPA was sent back to the drawing board."
Power groups, which had argued that they could not meet the timeframe or bear the financial burden of installing costly new equipment, welcomed the court's decision. The EPA had estimated it would cost $800 million annually from 2014.
"The court was clear in finding that EPA had overstepped its legal authority in developing the rule," said Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council.
Coal company stocks, which have suffered this year as cheap natural gas undercut demand for coal from power companies, soared. Peabody Energy was 3.7 percent higher and Arch Coal rose 1.1 percent.
U.S. natural gas futures briefly fell more than 3 percent after the ruling's announcement as traders bet it would mean less demand for the cleaner fuel over the coming months. By midday, prices had recovered those losses.
But some analysts saw little material impact from the ruling, with dozens of coal-fired plants already slated for closure due to other EPA regulations.
"It gives the EPA a little bit more of a black eye," said Andrew Weissman, senior energy adviser at law firm Haynes and Boone, which advises power and gas sector clients.
"But in the bigger picture, it many not be important in terms of the practical consequences."
The EPA's rule was designed to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent and nitrogen oxide by 54 percent at coal-fired power plants from 2005 levels, improving health for over 240 million people, according to the agency. The reasoning is that unhealthy emissions from those plants, pollutants that cause acid rain and smog, cross state lines.
Two of the three judges ruling on the case said the EPA had exceeded its "jurisdictional limits" in interpreting the Clean Air Act and imposed "massive emission reduction requirements" on upwind states.
"By doing so, EPA departed from its consistent prior approach to implementing the good neighbor provision and violated the (Clean Air Act)," Judge Brett Kavanaugh said in the court's opinion.
The rule, known as CSAPR, also established a cap-and-trade system that enabled power producers to comply with the emission limits by buying, trading and selling pollution permits.
Environmental market traders said they were "surprised and disappointed" by the ruling.
Power generators, such as Southern Co, had argued that the Jan. 1 implementation date was too soon to design and install the needed pollution control equipment.
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