Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Quo vadis, Marc Morano?

Marc, that great apostle to the gentiles, seems to have fallen rather silent.  His frequent mailouts were a joy to all us skeptics.  Alas, however, we hear from him much less frequently these days.  Does he have health problems?  Has he fallen in love?  I would gladly commiserate with him in both cases if he should care to reveal the source of his absences.

The sorry science of a U.S. Senator

{Some] Residents in Connecticut continue to call for action today — after meeting with legislators yesterday on the issue of climate change.

The recent heat wave and air quality warnings have residents and officials concerned.

The state has been at the center of several significant weather events in the past two years — culminating with multiple tornadoes touching down so far this summer.

From superstorm Sandy to massive snow fall — the state’s two senators addressed activists to show that they have a plan.

“This is not in doubt…this…these weather trends and these,” said Senator Chris Murphy. “Storms are caused by increased levels of carbon pollutants.”


There is no doubt that carbon pollutants -- i.e. soot -- do play a significant role in climate but who knew that they cause storms and tornadoes?

Waiting For The Warming

Looking back at what was reported in the late 90s and the early years of this century everyone was expecting the rise in global temperature seen in the 90s to continue at an IPCC sanctioned rate of 0.3 deg C per decade. Only years later in the face of no temperature rise was it mentioned that what might have been meant was an average rate of 0.3 deg C per decade, sometimes it could be less, sometimes more. Hold onto your hats it was implied, today’s slower rate would soon be replaced by a much larger one, as part of regression to the mean.

In other words we had been extraordinary lucky that the global surface temperature has not risen in about 17 years. A few years ago the Met Office said that a ten-year hiatus occurred about every eight decades in climate simulations, and a fifteen-year one never. Since then others have suggested a 15-year one could be every ten decades or so. It would be a fair observation that as the global temperature standstill continues, the estimates of its importance seems to diminish in some quarters. If you try hard enough some model can always be found to suggest it’s just a fluctuation.

But think how lucky we have been. Since global surface temperatures started rising in about 1980 we have had a 15-year period of ‘average’ warming followed by an unusual 15-year period of no warming. The second 15-year period has, say, a chance of occurring of about, being generous, one in fifteen. So any sample of 30-year climate simulations shows us that reality has been a low probability outcome. What if the standstill continues for 20 years? Two, one in eight probability decades back-to-back!

The science journal Nature said only last week that the global temperature standstill “is one of the biggest mysteries in climate science.”

So many climate modelers have been waiting, with apparently increasing frustration, for the upward trend to recur. It’s in their models you see. The very ones they find very hard to tweek to reproduce a 15-year hiatus. The exercise is an important one, for it demonstrates, or undermines, faith in climate models. Can they reproduce the standstill, and predict its end?

Well no, not yet. Since 2007, the Met Office Hadley Centre has produced a decadal forecast every year, out for the next 5 to 10 years, as part of its advice to the UK Government. In 2007 (at which time the current global temperature standstill had already been noticed) Smith et al predicted that 2014 would be 0.3 deg C warmer than 2004, and that half the years after 2009 would be hotter than the Super El Nino year 1998.

It obviously wasn’t, there has been no change in global temperature. The best way to regard such near-term predictions of global temperature is that they are a work in progress, experimental, and not to rely on the results they have produced so far. I hope the UK government took the advice in that manner.

Nobody Expects…

Since then decadal forecasting has not come of age. They generally set out predicting little change over the next few years (because the global temperature moves slowly) and then an increase. They initially appear good, but then fail spectacularly.

Meanwhile the expectation that things will change continues. Each year for 13 years the Met Office forecast a warmer next year than actually happened 12 out of 13 times.

The most recent Met Office decadal forecast was issued in December 2012. According to them it showed, “that the Earth is expected to maintain the record warmth that has been observed over the last decade, and furthermore a substantial proportion of the forecasts show that new record global temperatures may be reached in the next 5 years.” It’s the same scenario. It starts the same, and after a few years gets warmer.

Note that a record ‘may’ be reached in the next few years. When journalists said this meant probably 5 more years of no global temperature change – a perfectly reasonable interpretation – the Met Office objected saying that the media had got it wrong!

Here’s my forecast. This year, 2013, will not be a record breaker. There might be a new record after 2014 but it will be due to an El Nino and not underlying global warming. If it does start to warm, taking into account El Nino effects, It will take about five years at least to establish that it is significant, even with record breakers.

What if the standstill continues? Phil Jones famously said that models were in trouble after 15 years hiatus. Some scientists have said that if the global temperature doesn’t rise in the next five years they will admit everything they know about climate science was wrong! Some have said that there could be another 30 years of no warming and it will make no difference. In five years time the UK will be starting the run-up to a new General Election. If the temperature still hasn’t gone up by then the politicians’ situation will be an interesting one to watch.

Just like Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition nobody expected the current standstill in global surface temperature.


The Greens Can’t Defy Gravity - They Are Finished

Tim Montgomerie

Seven years ago, pulled along by huskies, David Cameron visited a Norwegian glacier. Vote blue, he implored, and go green. One year later Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister of Australia after identifying climate change as the “greatest moral challenge of our time”. Climate change campaigners interpreted his victory as one of seismic importance and governments across Europe rushed to pour money into the renewable energy sector. Then in 2008 along came Barack Obama. The wicked George W. Bush was replaced with a president who promised to stop global warming. Hurrah!

And, for a period, Mr Obama seemed determined to deliver. Here, after all, was the president, some would have us believe, who could walk on water. One year into his blessed reign he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize without having secured peace in any part of the world. He was top of the pops in global opinion surveys. Just about every world leader wanted to be photographed alongside him.

Super-Obama’s great opportunity to save the planet came in 2009 at the Copenhagen climate change summit. He was at the height of his political powers. His Democratic party controlled all of Washington: the presidency, the House of Representatives and the Senate. And yet Copenhagen ended in the same way as almost every other climate change summit of recent times: in failure. Having failed to persuade members of his own party to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Obama also failed to persuade the governments of New Delhi, Beijing and Brasília.

The writing may have been on the wall in 2009, but the green movement has soldiered on. Theirs, they believed, was a moral mission of such importance that nothing would or should get in their way. Whatever the economic, social or political price they were determined to succeed. The doubts of sceptics like me could always be ignored, but when the politicians who once championed green politics are in retreat it is perhaps time for even ecological diehards to get real.

And in the past ten days one of the greenest of green politicians has to all intents, constructions and purposes given up. Last week Australia’s green movement suffered a defeat at least as big as those of the country’s cricket and rugby teams. Mr Rudd announced that he would ditch the carbon tax that had threatened to consign his Labor Party to one of the worst defeats in its history.

All over the world green politicians are presiding over similar climbdowns. From Washington to London, shale gas rather than any renewable technology is seen as the future. Even nations such as Germany and Spain, which led the march to green energy, are slashing unaffordable subsidies to the renewables industry. Lord Lawson of Blaby has claimed that the average share price of companies in the renewable sector has fallen by 80 per cent over five years. “One renewable company after another is going bankrupt,” he declared.

The heavy cost of green energy policies might have been justifiable if they had delivered results, but they haven’t. Since the Kyoto treaty on climate change, global emissions have continued to rise. Since 1990 they have increased by about 50 per cent. China’s increase in emissions has been 25 times greater than the reduction by the EU’s core nations. In so far as Europe has actually met its environmental obligations it has only done so by exporting industrial capacity (and jobs). Once the environmental impact of imported goods has been added to its carbon footprint Europe has clearly failed to keep its environmental promises.

One commentator, Bjørn Lomborg, spelt out the futility of Europe’s unilateral environmentalism. Germany’s efforts to combat climate change might, he calculated, just possibly delay a rise in global temperatures by 37 hours, but that delay will have cost German taxpayers and consumers more than $100 billion in the form of renewable subsidies and higher electricity costs. That’s about $3 billion an hour.

Green enthusiasts are kidding themselves if they blame the global economic slump for the failure of climate change policies. Their policies were always an attempt to defy economic gravity. No half-decent politician in any part of the developing world was ever going to delay economic progress by embracing expensive energy sources. Any policies that prevent a clinic in India from being able to refrigerate medicines or a student in China from being able to read at night were always destined to fail.

I am not one of those people who deny that the climate might be changing. I don’t feel qualified to question the majority of scientists who insist that warming is both real and man-made. My objection to global warming policies is more practical. They aren’t succeeding in cutting emissions and they aren’t going to succeed until so-called clean energy is similar in cost to conventional energy. Until then — and we should be investing in green technologies in the meantime — the demands of millions of wealthy green campaigners will continue to be overwhelmed by the demand from billions of poor people for economic growth and the social justice that it affords them.

Two decades of green policies haven’t just failed to stop global warming. Old age pensioners in Britain and in other developed countries have been forced to bear electricity bills inflated by renewable subsidies. Blue-collar workers have lost their jobs as energy-intensive manufacturing companies have relocated overseas. Beautiful landscapes have been ruined by bird-chopping wind turbines.

There have also been huge opportunity costs. What could world leaders have achieved if they hadn’t spent the past 25 years investing so much money and summitry on global warming? In a brilliant book — How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place— Mr Lomborg has documented how politicians could have been tackling more pressing problems facing the world’s poorest people. Action on HIV/Aids, for example, the provision of micro nutrients to hungry children, the control of malaria, guarantees of clean water and the liberalisation of trade would all have been better uses of politicians’ time and taxpayers’ money.

Many of Britain’s politicians — notably the Chancellor, George Osborne — know all of this. But outside of last week’s welcome but overdue encouragement of fracking, Britain’s statute book is still creaking under the weight of yesteryear’s laws and their commitments to invest in expensive green energies. Until those laws are repealed British businesses and consumers will be paying a very high price for no earthly benefit.


How Climate Change Is Fueling A Rise In Deadly Diseases

But if the climate is not changing, how can it be doing so?  Average global temperatures have been static for 17 years and the changes noted below are recent.  The galoot below just assumes what he has to prove.  He is writing for parishoners of his Warmist church only

In the summer of 2012, the mosquito-borne West Nile virus made a surprising comeback in America. In Dallas, the most affected region, 400 people contracted the disease and 19 of them died. That came as a shock to public health officials, since West Nile virus was thought to be in such precipitous decline that it was practically eradicated.

Now, a little detective work has led epidemiologists to the reason for its resurgence: warmer winters and wetter springs. In other words, the consequences of global climate change are fueling West Nile. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Health officials expect the number of people contracting other infectious diseases to rise right alongside global temperatures.

The diseases that are propagated by climate change tend to come in fungal, algal, tick-borne, and mosquito-borne forms. For instance, dengue fever — which causes a high fever, painful head and body aches, and rashes — will likely continue infecting Americans in hot and humid climates, as well as regions that are close to warming oceans:

That’s because warmer waters allow mosquitoes, which are the primary vessels for dengue fever transmission, to breed and live more freely. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Mosquito species such as the Anopheles gambiae complex, A. funestus, A. darlingi, Culex quinquefasciatus and Aedes aegypti are responsible for transmission of most vector-borne diseases, and are sensitive to temperature changes as immature stages in the aquatic environment and as adults.”

Mother Jones notes that warming oceans also affect aquatic wildlife like reef fish. Dangerous algal blooms, which are caused by warmer waters and dying coral reefs, can infect fish that eventually makes its way into the human food chain. In 2007, nine North Carolina residents contracted ciguatera, or fish poisoning, from infected fish that had been caught off the coast of Florida.

But it’s not just coastal and humid regions that are feeling the effects of diseases that are propped up by climate change. In the western United States, states like New Mexico, Arizona, and California are experiencing an inexplicable rise in Valley fever, which causes head and neck aches, serious respiratory problems, has no cure or vaccine, and can be lethal. The condition is caused by fungus that resides in spores in the soil that are lifted off of the ground due to dry weather that is a consequence of global warming-related drought.

Furthermore, illnesses that currently impact other countries could flourish in the United States if they were to find their way here. Rift Valley fever — which causes fever, vertigo, and neck stiffness — is also spread through mosquitoes.

Public health officials in Europe and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have publicly warned that populations should prepare for a rise in these diseases as a consequence of global climate change. But currently, only eight states have taken measures to prepare to combat the public health consequences of climate change.


Anti-Agriculture Environmental Activists

An estimated one hundred people braved scorching outdoor temperatures to attend a memorial service earlier this month. The honorees, however, were not heroes, community figures, or even human. They were bees apparently killed by accident in Wilsonville, Ore. Deemed a "bee kill," the insects were found dead in a Target parking lot after a pesticide was sprayed on trees infested with aphids.

Media attention to the incident has been heightened by anti-agricultural pesticide activists trying to score political points off the dead bugs. According to experts, however, the problem wasn't the pesticide, it was the application.

"The mistake was that the trees were sprayed while they were in full bloom," said Dr. Dewey Caron, an affiliate professor of horticulture at Oregon State University. The pesticide was sprayed during a window of time in which bees were most attracted to the trees. "It was a bad oversight," he said. "They should well have been aware that there could have been some collateral damage on some unintended targets."

It turns out that failing to read and follow the labels is a big threat to bees. According to Tim Wessels, president of a beekeeper association in Portland, improper use of legal retail pesticides contribute to the death of four out of every 10 urban pollinating bees. Bees play an important role in pollinating many agricultural crops, from fruits and nuts such as oranges, blueberries, apples and almonds, to row crops such cotton, canola, and soy.

Instead of blaming the apparently inept users, the Oregon Department of Agriculture is blaming an entire class of pesticides. The agency has instituted a six-month ban on spraying any plants with any product containing dinotefuran, the active ingredient in the pesticide, Safari, thought responsible for the dead bees. In its statement of justification, the department illogically claims that the temporary ban will protect pollinating insects till their investigation is complete.

As long as people fail to heed product labels, misuse will have consequences. This is true whether the label warns, "do not ingest" or "not for use on blooming crops or weeds." By banning products containing dinotefuran, the Oregon agriculture department is blaming a product for simple (and blatant) human error. That's like banning electricity because improper use can cause electrocution. While it is truly unfortunate that bees were killed by misuse of a safe product, subsequent regulatory over-reach over the deaths is a different matter.

Why the hysteria? Activists, already engaged in litigation, lobbying, media campaigns and fundraising are seeking a broad ban on the class of pesticides that were misused in Oregon. With bee memorial services, Facebook pages in honor of the dead bees, and Twitter hash tags, they've created an environment where their advocacy-driven claims are taken at face value.

Consider the wildly differing claims about the number of bees actually killed. Estimates have ranged from 25,000 to more than 50,000. A spokesman for the Oregon Department of Agriculture admitted that the agency never even attempted to count the bees. Instead, they relied entirely on a claim by an advocacy group, the Xerces Society, which reached the 50,000 number by extrapolating based on a count of bees in one confined area. Now, that unchallenged estimate has turned into unquestioned fact which became the basis for drastic regulatory action.

Adding to the absurdity is the fact that in the name of protecting pollinators, activists are in fact going to harm them. If activists who prefer fear to facts had their way, the class of pesticides to which dinetefuran belongs - " neonicotinoids - would be banned.

Nevermind the fact that "neonics" are a safer alternative to other pesticides, which ironically, activists also sought to ban. As environmental economist Richard Tren explains, "If neonicotinoids are banned, farmers will have to use older insecticides such as organophosphates, which are potentially more harmful to the environment. These older insecticides have been banned in some countries. Without alternative or better means of pest control, crop yields would likely decrease. More land would be needed for agriculture, leaving less habitat for wildlife - including wild bees."

By banning a safe product, the Oregon agriculture department is playing into activists' hands who want to demonize an entire class of pesticides that are safe when used properly.

The problem in this bee kill wasn't the product, it was the misuse. Instead of demanding that a useful product that has been tested extensively be banned, activists would do more for bees by mounting a public information campaign about the importance of heeding label instructions. But they haven't, and they won't. Perhaps it is time to question not the pesticides, but the activists.


The Arrogance of a Well-Fed Society

By Alex B. Berezow, a Greenie with a conscience

Every time I write an article about population growth or poverty, I receive at least one e-mail insisting that there are too many humans on the planet. That erroneous statement is usually followed up with a not-so-subtle suggestion that letting a few people starve to death wouldn’t be a terrible thing, but instead would actually make the planet a safer, richer and more sustainable place.

Not many things shock me anymore. But the arrogance and callousness of a well-fed society toward those who are less fortunate always leaves me stunned.

What is particularly frustrating is that both sides of the political spectrum claim to be the true champions of the poor – while simultaneously endorsing policies that disproportionately harm them.

The Left repeatedly insists that climate change is the world’s #1 problem, and this has distracted us from the world’s actual #1 problem: Poverty. About 1.3 billion people don’t have electricity, meaning they also don’t have adequate access to food, healthcare or the Internet. Essentially, such communities are condemned to a life of indefinite poverty. Providing them with cheap electricity is a compassionate, progressive thing to do.

Or at least it was at one time. In an article posted on New Geography, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus explain how the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) “established the progressive principle that cheap energy for all was a public good, not a private enterprise.”

Why is it necessary to make cheap electricity a public good? Because it helps end the vicious cycle of poverty. The authors describe the stark reality of life in the American South in the 1930s:

Eighty years ago, the Tennessee Valley region was like many poor rural communities in tropical regions today. The best forests had been cut down to use as fuel for wood stoves. Soils were being rapidly depleted of nutrients, resulting in falling yields and a desperate search for new croplands. Poor farmers were plagued by malaria and had inadequate medical care. Few had indoor plumbing and even fewer had electricity.

The TVA helped change this. Cheap hydroelectric power lifted residents out of poverty and even helped restore the environment.

Therefore, providing cheap electricity to the 1.3 billion people without it should be a top global priority. Solar and wind power should be implemented if possible, but not all locations will be amenable to that technology. And that means it will be necessary to burn more fossil fuels in some locations, even though more people will die as a result of air pollution. But given a choice between a life of poverty (and all the hazards that come with it) versus a chance at a more prosperous life (albeit one with an increased risk of lung cancer), most people in the developing world would probably choose the latter, even if that upsets climate-obsessed progressives in the rich world.




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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