Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Climate change 'prophets, and projectors, and half-instructed meteorologists': the press found them amusing back in 1871‏

THREE consecutive years of drought, while they have stimulated the inventive resources of practical agriculturalists, have had the natural effect of calling forth a plentiful crop of speculation from weather prophets, and projectors, and half-instructed meteorologists, and all the philosophic tribe of Laputa in general, to whom the periodical press now affords such fatal facilities. We have often noticed that in the tabular statements of those compilers of weather records who write to the Times, useful and welcome as their communications are, every season is sure to be “extraordinary”, almost every month one of the driest or wettest, or windiest, coldest or hottest, ever known. Much observation, which ought to correct a tendency to exaggerate, seems in some minds to have rather a tendency to increase it.

The cutting is from the THE BRISBANE COURIER, TUESDAY, JANUARY 10, 1871.

Hat-tip: Steven Goddard.  Steven Goddard's blog Real Science is an excellent resource to find old press cuttings relevant to climate that would enhance many a school project by helping give the perspective which is so easily missed.

The above example would grace any project quoting any of today's 'half-instructed meteorologists' such as James Hansen (an astro-physicist) or Gavin Schmidt (a computer programmer) or Al Gore (no qualifications to speak of) as they take pains to persuade us that we are seeing "extraordinary" weather thanks to their pet obsession, carbon dioxide.  The press today, and now of course the broadcast media, are sure to give them 'fatal facilities' and have done so for decades, without even the sardonic challenge of the above quote.

Note also the calm assurance about the three consecutive years of drought.  Today, this would be amplified as a crisis, a a catastrophe, as a forerunner of doom to come.  Back in 1871, they merely noted that the drought would have 'stimulated the inventive resources of practical agriculturalists'.  Perhaps they were made of sterner stuff in those days.  Perhaps they were less readily panicked.  Perhaps we could learn from them.


CO2 Contributes Less Than 2.5% Of The Greenhouse Effect

Contrary to all the BS being spewed by top climate scientists, their own models shows that CO2 has almost no impact on climate. The graph below shows the greenhouse effect during mid-latitude summer for three scenarios, calculated using RRTM – the model used by NCAR in their climate and weather models

Current atmosphere
No CO2
Double CO2

(Note the mid-troposphere hot spot)

At the surface during mid-latitude summers, the amount of downwelling longwave radiation due to CO2 is less than 3%. Doubling CO2 would only increase the greenhouse effect by one third of one percent. Yet climate scientists blame mid-latitude summer heatwaves on this.

We constantly hear BS from people like Gavin claiming  that the CO2 contributes 20-30% to the greenhouse effect, but their own models show this is complete nonsense.

Call this scam off – there is no science behind it.

The effect is higher during high latitude winters, where there is very little water vapor.

[UPDATED] I added high latitude winters at Tallbloke’s request. The proportional effect is larger there, because of a shortage of water vapor.

In the tropics, the CO2 proportion of the greenhouse effect is less than 1.5% – and  a doubling of CO2 has almost no effect.


The Climate Sensitivity Controversy

The concept of Climate Sensitivity (CS) is a useful way to describe the effects of carbon dioxide on the climate.  CS can be derived either from climate models or empirically – with the hope that the two results are concordant.   Let’s look at models first.

Some 30 years ago, the National Academy of Sciences set up a group under MIT meteorologist Jules Charney to study this problem.  Their report arrived at a CS value of 1.5 to 4.5 degC of global climate warming for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.  One immediately notices the huge uncertainty, a factor of 3.  Yet the climate forcing of CO2 is known much more precisely.

The explanation for this wide uncertainty range of CS lies in our imperfect knowledge of (1) feedback from clouds and from water vapor (WV is the most important atmospheric greenhouse gas) and (2) the radiative effects of aerosols in changing the albedo of the Earth atmosphere and thereby the amount of sunlight reaching the surface.

This range of 1.5 – 4.5 degC has become canonical by now.  In fact, the most recent report of the IPCC [2013] gives the same range for CS—even after 25 years and spending billions of dollars on the development of climate models.  As my colleague Kenneth Haapala points out, it’s been a poor return on investment.

Of course, the models have become much more sophisticated and complex. And the number of models has increased exponentially.  Every self-respecting nation nowadays wants to have its own climate model; the United States already has five major ones and is considering financing yet another.  But fundamentally, not much has changed.  The extent of the positive feedback from water vapor, which implicitly amplifies the forcing of CO2 in all of the models, is still uncertain and so are the detailed influences of cloudiness and of various kinds of aerosols.

It is well to point out that we refer here to the so-called “equilibrium climate sensitivity,” which is reached after the climate system has had time to adjust to the higher CO2 levels.  One should also point out that CS refers to a doubling of pre-industrial CO2 -- assuming a value of 280ppm.  Also, CO2 forcing increases only as the logarithm of CO2 concentration, although this fact is seldom explicitly recognized.

Of course, the proper way to determine Climate Sensitivity (CS) is empirically -- by using the climate data.  But at this point many problems arise. First, selection of the proper time interval.  It is generally recognized that there has been little if any warming in the last 18 years; so presumably, the climate sensitivity of the 21st century is effectively zero.  Analysts of CS have therefore concentrated their efforts on the “reported” warming of the Earth’s surface between 1975 and 2000 (which may not even be real).  These analysts have published a dozen or more “best numbers” -- generally near 1.5 degC, the lower end of the CS range of the models.

A dispute among skeptics

All these analyses are based on the warming of the last part of the 20th century -- from about 1978 to 2000 -- the so called “satellite era.”  But there is no reason at all to define climate sensitivity in terms of surface temperature.  Since the best global data we have come from weather satellites, it makes sense to use their atmospheric temperatures as the base for determining CS.

But the satellite data do not seem to show a warming trend -- although there is a dispute on this point even among so-called “climate skeptics.”  One can illustrate this dispute by looking at the graph below.  If one draws a best straight line through all of the satellite data from 1978 to 2013, one can discern a small positive (warming) trend.  But is this really the best way to describe the situation?  Another way is to draw a line of zero slope up to 1997, note a one-year spike in 1998 (caused by a Super El Nino), and then document a sudden increase (“jump”) around 2001 and zero trend thereafter.  Clearly, if the trend is zero between 1978 and 1997, then the climate sensitivity will be close to zero also.

Graph by Don Rapp, based on UAH-MSU data

I happen to disagree with both methods described in the graph.  I note that after the 1998 spike, temperature returns to its pre-1998 lower value -- between 1999 and 2000.  I would therefore put the “jump”, the step-like increase, at around 2001-2002.  We now have zero slopes both before 2000 and after 2002 -- and therefore corresponding values of CS which are close to zero.

The moral of the story is that the best empirical data we have show very little influence on global temperatures from rising CO2 levels.

Now there are still two puzzles:

First, why is there so little post-2002 warming from carbon dioxide -- which after all is a greenhouse gas and is increasing in the atmosphere?  The best answer I can think of is a negative feedback from water vapor -- not a positive feedback -- which counteracts the forcing produced by CO2.  Similarly, one could argue for a negative feedback from increased cloudiness.  However, it is necessary to demonstrate both of these feedback possibilities empirically by examining the appropriate data.

An additional possibility may exist, namely that the forcing increase of CO2 is close to zero at just about the value that exists in the atmosphere today.  Again this needs to be demonstrated by examining the appropriate data.

Finally, another puzzle: If indeed the climate sensitivity is close to zero from 1978-to 2000, and again from 2002 to present, why do surface thermometers indicate a warming trend only in the first interval, but not in the second interval?  What accounts for the reported warming during the period 1978-2000?

All of this requires a good deal of work to investigate various plausible hypotheses, which we’ll leave for another time.  Meanwhile, to quote Nobel laureate MIT professor Robert Solow: “Maybe that’s why God created graduate students.”

I should note that I am somewhat out of step here with my fellow skeptics.  Few of them would agree with me that the climate sensitivity (CS) is indeed close to zero.  I will have to publish the analyses to prove my point and try to convince them.  Of course, nothing, no set of facts, will ever convince the confirmed climate alarmists.


Oil price fall won't break shale industry's back

Competition from shale has forced traditional oil producers to accept lower prices.  But could prices go too low for shale to be viable?

The downward spiralling oil price has led to growing tensions between the powerful Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil cartel and the US shale industry, but analysts reckon prices need to fall even further to  hurt American producers.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil has slumped close to 20 per cent since June this year to $US83.18 per barrel, while Brent crude oil has spiralled more than 23 per cent lower to $US86.46 per barrel.

Many OPEC members, led by Saudi Arabia, refuse to curtail production for fear of losing market share to the growing US shale liquids industry.

"In the face of falling global and US crude oil prices, a key question becomes: how low would WTI prices have to go to meaningfully slow down US shale production growth?" Citi analyst Eric Lee said.

WTI oil prices at $US70 per barrel could begin to reduce new well production in the US, by up to 30 per cent if costs are at the high end of estimates, but by close to zero if costs are at the low end of estimates, Mr Lee said.

"To bring US shale production growth to zero – that is, to reduce new-well production to only just cover legacy well declines – might need prices ranging from $US40-60 per barrel," Mr Lee said.

There is a diverse range of breakeven prices across the US shale industry, even if fringe production output is cut, productivity gains could offset any price support.

"A 40 per cent reduction in rigs or more might be needed to completely flatten production growth but this is based on modelled reductions of average wells, not the least productive wells. Productivity gains can also offset this further. In any case, at $US70 WTI, this is a slowdown, not a halt, in production growth," Mr Lee said.

International Energy Agency executive director Maria van der Hoeven estimated 98 per cent of oil and condensates produced in the US had a breakeven price of less than $US80 a barrel, and 82 per cent has a breakeven price of $US60 or lower.

CLSA head of Asian oil and gas Simon Powell said that the recent correction in oil prices wasn't only related to North American liquid production.

Rather it was driven by a culmination of factors which also included extra production in the Middle East, Libya returning to the market and Iraq producing despite the insurgence threat there, as well as easing Asian demand creating a supply glut.

"The world is in oversupply right now. But, [northern hemisphere] winter is just around the corner. "

The Saudis and the rest of OPEC are likely to signal production cuts prior to their next meeting in late November, Mr Powell said.

"The Saudis saying that they wouldn't cut was just sending a message to the rest of OPEC saying 'why should we be the only ones who have to cut?'."

The market is also wrongly assuming that US shale production can "continue into the stratosphere" Mr Powell said.

"Production costs for shale liquids in America will rise because the nice and easy stuff has been got at. It'll still be good, but I think the rate of liquid production growth in the US will slow."


Britain needs political climate change to cut soaring energy bills

Targets for renewables are unattainable, futile – and will cost Britons trillions of pounds

Owen Paterson, the former environment secretary, has described the renewable energy targets as “the single most regressive policy we have seen in this country since the Sheriff of Nottingham”

It is surprisingly common for our main political parties and policy-makers to agree about something. When they do, they are usually wrong; the longer they agree, the wronger they get. Few important people dare challenge them.

Forty years ago, all three parties thought that you could control inflation only by having prices and incomes policies. The government, businesses and trade unions negotiated the levels of both. The guru economist JK Galbraith announced that such policies would “last forever”. Then Mrs Thatcher questioned them. By the turn of the century, no free country in the world had prices and incomes policies.

Some time in this century, we reached a similar state of clever-silly unanimity over green policies, especially carbon emission controls and renewables targets. All parties (except five brave Tories voting against) voted for the second reading of the Climate Change Act in 2008.

I have just re-read the environmental sections of the three main party manifestoes at the last general election. Although they lay in to one another (“Labour have said the right things about climate change, but these have proved little more than warm words”), they are comically interchangeable. They all want the same policy – answering 15 per cent of energy demand from renewables by 2020, and making the British economy “carbon-neutral” by 2050. The latter target is agreed by all EU states, but only Britain, in that Act, actually made it law.

In any subject involving “science”, we voters still respond more deferentially than we do to ordinary political discourse. So, for some years, we humoured the climate-change lobby, and nodded our heads gravely when experts told us we must help save the planet. But most of us behaved like churchgoers listening to boring sermons. We accepted what we were told, on the unspoken assumption that it wouldn’t make much difference to anything and because the vicar (originally the Rev T Blair) seemed quite a nice chap.

This began to change for at least two direct reasons – rising electricity bills and sprouting wind-farms. We started to wonder whether it was true, as environmentalists argue, that conventional energy costs must inevitably rise and so a green levy would miraculously cut our bills in the end. We began to notice that in the United States, thanks to the shale revolution, prices have fallen dramatically and so have carbon emissions. Today, we observe that coal, gas and oil prices are falling too.

As for wind farms, it seemed a bit strange that an innovation designed to save our beautiful world wreaked unique havoc on the best landscape. When we learnt that wind power needed vast amounts of conventional power back-up because of intermittency, we started to see it as the greatest physical folly in our island story.

Yet no mainstream political party engaged with this. You could tell that they were worried about the symptoms of their own policies – hence Ed Miliband’s call for an energy price freeze. But none wanted to discuss the causes. Owen Paterson, then the environment secretary, was the only minister who dared raise doubts. He annoyed what he calls the “green blob”. David Cameron duly sacked him this summer.

In the Global Warming Policy Foundation lecture on Wednesday, Mr Paterson said of wind farms that “this paltry supply of onshore wind, nowhere near enough to hit the 2050 targets, has devastated landscapes, blighted views, divided communities, killed eagles…” When this was quoted on the BBC News, he was saying no more than millions of ordinary people have been saying for years. Yet it was very striking to hear it in public, because no other elected person charged with these responsibilities had said anything like this before.

It would have been better still if the BBC had completed the Paterson sentence. He went on to say that wind turbines had devastated “the very wilderness that the 'green blob’ claims to love, with new access tracks cut deep into peat, boosted production of carbon-intensive cement, and driven up fuel poverty, while richly rewarding landowners”. This, Mr Paterson also said, is “the single most regressive policy we have seen in this country since the Sheriff of Nottingham”. He is right, and because his party, and the Liberal Democrats, and Labour, have all agreed to the sheriff’s extortions, they are letting Nigel Farage play Robin Hood. As the theme song of the TV version used to say, “He cleared up all the trouble on the English country scene, and still found plenty of time to sing”.

Mr Paterson’s argument is that there are much better ways to get cleaner energy. He talks about shale, Combined Heat And Power, “small modular nuclear” and the interesting things that NHS hospitals and others who have their own generators can do to “shave the peaks off demand”. Being no expert, I cannot tell whether he is right here, though these ideas seem to accord with his desire to bring common sense to the subject. He also raises a bigger point, which is that what we have set ourselves is unattainable.

The wind power needed for the EU to hit the 2050 targets would have to rise from the current 42,000 turbines to 500,000. For this you would need, Mr Paterson calculates, an area which would “wall-to-wall carpet Northern Ireland, Wales, Belgium, Holland and Portugal combined”. According to International Energy Agency figures broken down into national components, target fulfilment would cost Britain £1.3 trillion. That is roughly the size of our national debt.

So obviously Mr Paterson is right to say that we should invoke the clause in the Climate Change Act which allows for its suspension. But, despite his notable trenchancy, I would say he is being quite cautious about what is really happening. Even if Britain and the whole of the EU were to stick to our emissions targets (which we surely won’t), and to hit them (which, actually, we can’t), we would still not come anywhere close to what we are told is needed to save the planet. This is for a very simple reason: the rest of the world won’t do it.

Last year, carbon emissions per head in China exceeded those of Britain for the first time, and China has more than 20 times as many heads as we do. The EU is responsible for less than 10 per cent of global emissions, so when we set our targets we knew – and said – that we were in no position to stop global warming. The point was to set a lead which others would follow.

They haven’t. Since the debacle of the Copenhagen Summit of 2009 when the developed world failed to persuade the developing one to join our saintly masochism, this has been obvious. There is a “second commitment period” of the process started by the Kyoto Protocol. New Zealand has withdrawn from it. Canada has repudiated Kyoto altogether. The only two non-European countries still in the second period are Kazakhstan and Australia, and Australia is now reviewing its commitment. Europe’s gesture has proved futile, and is getting ever more expensive, in taxes, bills and jobs. Even the European Commission has spotted this, and is beginning to tiptoe away from the policy.

But not the British parties and policy elites. In August 1914, Sir Edward Grey famously said, “The lamps are going out all over Europe”. He was speaking of the war we had inflicted on ourselves. A century later, we are threatening to put them out again, with different motives, but equal folly. Everywhere else, the lamps are staying on.

Isn’t it rather extraordinary that no mainstream party has dared to point any of this out? Don’t they know there’s an election on? Is it surprising that voters think “They’re all the same”?



Three current articles below

‘Degrees in activism’ put brake on growth

AUSTRALIA’S largest resources companies have warned green activists campaigning for an end to fossil fuels are ­destroying jobs and fast becoming one of the greatest challenges to growth.

Andrew Smith, the chairman of the Australian arm of Anglo-Dutch company Shell, yesterday led the debate against what he ­labelled university students with “degrees in activism”, arguing that they were spreading misinformation and manipulating communities to slow the pace of development.

“Challenging decisions will face more effective campaigns of public outrage, some of it based on confected outrage whipped up by university graduates armed with degrees in activism,” Mr Smith said. “But we cannot allow these dynamics to halt Australian progress.”

Activism courses are being taught in legal, politics and ­humanities departments at several universities and are often ­focused on political theory and understanding the role of activism in democracy.

Aidan Ricketts, a law lecturer at Southern Cross University in Lismore, runs a course named Public Interest Advocacy. Its blurb says it provides “skills for successfully advocating for public interest concerns”.

Mr Ricketts described it as an “advanced form of citizenship education”. The lecturer, himself an activist against the use of coal-seam gas, said it was “nonsense” to suggest that universities were preparing students to confect outrage and manipulate information.

“That is a cheap swipe at other people’s opinion’s that Shell don’t agree with,” Mr Ricketts said.

Rio Tinto’s energy chief executive, Harry Kenyon-Slaney, knows the impact activists can have on projects, after his company’s expansion of its Warkworth coalmine in NSW was halted by opposition groups, putting 1300 jobs at risk.

“This is a mine that has been part of the Hunter Valley community for 30 years and provides work for 1300 people, but we’ve spent five years so far trying to ­secure its future in the face of ­opposition from activist groups such as The Australia Institute,” Mr Kenyon-Slaney said.

“People at the extreme end of the debate who would like to see all coal exports cease are willing not only to destroy jobs here in Australia, but also the social and economic development that cheap and abundant energy brings around the world.”

Whitehaven Coal has been a constant target of green activists determined to frustrate the development of its Maules Creek coalmine in NSW. Its chairman, Mark Vaile, former head of the Nationals party, said activists had zero accountability for their actions.

“The information the green ­activists put out is never tested,” Mr Vaile said.

The Australian National University has come under attack after its recent decision to divest its holdings in seven companies — including Santos, Newcrest Mining and Iluka Resources — because it said the companies had a poor record on environmental responsibility. “What is the next thing that the so-called ethical investors and university funds withdraw from?” Mr Vaile said. “Are they now, if they stick to their principles, going to withdraw from all investment in the agricultural industries in Australia, as they are also significant emitters of greenhouse gases?”

Mr Vaile, who recently returned from South Korea, said Australia was now viewed with concern as an investment destination because of the uncertainty in terms of the timing of projects.

“Prospective investors are looking at the fact that approved projects are being challenged in court by some organisation who are unaccountable,” he said.

“We have the government promoting Australia as an investment destination, negotiating FTAs, yet at a state level you have regulations that can be used and abused by green activists.”

Ahri Tallon, a former student of Mr Ricketts, said that in ­addition to legal skills the course had taught him how to organise meetings and demonstrations and engage with the media.

“Real Australian progress is an active and participatory democracy where decisions are transparent, accountable and debated,” he said.


ANU decision to sell fossil fuel company holdings not enough: students

An Australian National University (ANU) decision to sell off about $16 million worth of its investments in seven fossil fuel companies does not go far enough, a students' group says.

ANU said it would divesting itself of shares in Newcrest Mining, Iluka Resources, Oil Search and Santos, among other companies.

Vice-chancellor Professor Ian Young said it was important that the university did not invest in companies that are doing some form of social harm.

"Essentially the criteria which we look at looks at their environmental emissions and any social issues associated with them," he said.

"For instance it many look at their position on Indigenous affairs and also the governance."

It is wrong for ANU to continue to profit from these industries that are responsible for the wreckage of the planet.

But Louis Klee from the group ANU Fossil Free said while it was a big achievement for the university, the decision did not go far enough.

He said the ANU still had major holdings in BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Woodside Petroleum.

"It is wrong for ANU to continue to profit from these industries that are responsible for the wreckage of the planet," he said.

However, Professor Young, who us an environmental researcher, said there was nothing wrong with investing these companies.

"These are major Australian companies, they're resources companies," he said.

"Resources are a major part of the Australian economy that underpins our whole society.

"This is not a case of simply saying the university will not invest in resources companies. We do.

"In fact, it would be very difficult to structure a meaningful portfolio in Australia that didn't."

Professor Young said there should be an orderly transition from fossil fuels to alternative energies.

"The reality is that this is a process that is going to take decades to occur," he said.

The University introduced a socially responsible investment policy earlier this year.


Let them divest, but not with taxpayers cake

The response to the Australian National University's decision to divest itself of holdings in certain  [fossil fuel] companies has been way out of proportion to the importance of the decision - and both sides of the debate are long on rhetoric and short on facts.

The argument has focused on whether the industries represented by the companies being divested are important for Australia's economy, especially the contributions from Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs and the Treasurer.

This argument is overdone. The ANU holds about $16 million in shares in the seven companies (disclosure: the managing director of one of the seven, Iluka Resources, is on the board of the CIS). That $16 million is about 1% of the university's total investment holdings, and the revenue from the entire portfolio was barely 5% of the university's total revenue.

The ANU's holdings represent less than 0.05% of the combined market capitalisation of those companies which approaches $40 billion.

These investments are not financially significant for the university or the companies, so the impact on the economy as a whole will almost certainly be negligible. Which makes the overreaction from politicians, up to and including the Prime Minister, puzzling. At a time when the government is trying to encourage greater financial independence among universities, it seems very odd to try and micromanage their investment decisions.

Unless the ANU's new strategy mentions an exciting new investment in magic beans, if it's not imposing greater costs on the taxpayers then it really shouldn't be the business of government.

The government's interest here is limited to protecting taxpayers by ensuring the ANU exercises due diligence and care with taxpayers' funds. In the absence of evidence that this investment policy will materially impact ANU's revenue the government should be cautious about interfering.

Divestment can be an expression of free speech. In fact it is one of the more valuable aspects of speech because people are a lot more honest with their money than they are with their slogans (as the failure of 'buy Australian' industry policy continually demonstrates).

The problem is when supposed social responsibility transfers costs to taxpayers. Too many non-government organisations and other rent-seekers want to have their public funded cake and eat their private progressive values too.

By all means, use your free speech to criticise industries you don't like and divest any shares you hold, but don't think this entitles you to extra taxpayer money if it leaves you out of pocket.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  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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