Thursday, July 02, 2015

Once more: Climate was highly variable in prehistory too

Findings from Finland yesterday, South America today.  Another finding of big climate swings.  Also found below: Insolation (the sun) was primary driver of tropical S. American climate in the past 120,000 years.  Just the first half of the unusually long abstract below.  The second half deals with models

Nature and causes of Quaternary climate variation of tropical South America

Paul A. Baker et al.


This selective review of the Quaternary paleoclimate of the South American summer monsoon (SASM) domain presents viewpoints regarding a range of key issues in the field, many of which are unresolved and some of which are controversial. (1) El Niño-Southern Oscillation variability, while the most important global-scale mode of interannual climate variation, is insufficient to explain most of the variation of tropical South American climate observed in both the instrumental and the paleoclimate records. (2) Significant climate variation in tropical South America occurs on seasonal to orbital (i.e. multi-millennial) time scales as a result of sea-surface temperature (SST) variation and ocean–atmosphere interactions of the tropical Atlantic. (3) Decadal-scale climate variability, linked with this tropical Atlantic variability, has been a persistent characteristic of climate in tropical South America for at least the past half millennium, and likely, far beyond. (4) Centennial-to-millennial climate events in tropical South America were of longer duration and, perhaps, larger amplitude than any observed in the instrumental period, which is little more than a century long in tropical South America. These were superimposed upon both precession-paced insolation changes that caused significant variation in SASM precipitation and eccentricity-paced global glacial boundary conditions that caused significant changes in the tropical South American moisture balance. As a result, river sediment and water discharge increased and decreased across tropical South America, lake levels rose and fell, paleolakes arose and disappeared on the Altiplano, glaciers waxed and waned in the tropical Andes, and the tropical rainforest underwent significant changes in composition and extent.

Quaternary Science Reviews. Volume 124, 15 September 2015, Pages 31–47

There's nothing unusual about current levels of CO2

Even though there were no coal-burning power stations in the Eocene. The late Eocene interglacial was ~100,000 years ago. Data from China

The pCO2 estimates of the late Eocene in South China based on stomatal density of Nageia Gaertner leaves

X.-Y. Liu et al.


Late Eocene pCO2 concentration is estimated based on the species of Nageia maomingensis Jin et Liu from the late Eocene of Maoming Basin, Guangdong Province. This is the first paleoatmospheric estimates for the late Eocene of South China using stomatal data. Studies of stomatal density (SD) and stomatal index (SI) with N. motleyi (Parl.) De Laub., the nearest living equivalent species of the fossil, indicate that the SD inversely responds to atmospheric CO2 concentration, while SI has almost no relationships with atmospheric CO2 concentration. Therefore, the pCO2 concentration is reconstructed based on the SD of the fossil leaves in comparison with N. motleyi. Results suggest that the mean CO2 concentration was 391.0 ± 41.1 ppmv or 386.5 ± 27.8 ppmv during the late Eocene, which is significantly higher than the CO2 concentrations documented from 1968 to 1955 but similar to the values for current atmosphere indicating that the Carbon Dioxide levels during that the late Eocene at that time may have been similar to today.

Clim. Past Discuss., 11, 2615-2647, 2015

All Isn't Lost, as SCOTUS Rebukes EPA

EPA chief Gina McCarthy isn't pleased.

The Supreme Court proved it still has a little bit of respect left for Rule of Law in its decision yesterday in Michigan v. EPA. In a 5-4 ruling that predictably followed partisan lines with Justice Anthony Kennedy swinging to the right, the High Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency did not properly consider the high costs of regulation of emissions from coal-fired power plants.

That this Court — the one content to rewrite ObamaCare in order to save it, twice — found the EPA went too far in rewriting the law is saying something.

The EPA, which has been pursuing the ecofascist dream of completely wiping the coal industry off the face of the earth, released a series of regulations in 2012 that would force energy producers to comply with limits on mercury and air toxins released in coal energy production. The National Federation of Independent Business said the regulations, known as Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), are among the costliest ever issued.

The EPA estimated the new rules would cost close to $10 billion annually, while bringing direct annual benefits of no more than $6 million. Bureaucrats also made the un-provable assertion that the rules would prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths and 130,000 asthma cases each year. In developing its regulations, the EPA was expected to adhere to the Clean Air Act’s “appropriate and necessary” standard. But the agency arbitrarily determined that cost had no bearing in the development of the regulations, essentially flouting the decades-old law and choosing to make up its own rules. The EPA determined that its work protecting the environment justified whatever actions it saw fit.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion stated, “EPA strayed well beyond the bounds of reasonable interpretation in concluding that cost is not a factor relevant to the appropriateness of regulating power plants.” Scalia also noted, “The costs to power plants were … between 1,600 and 2,400 times as great as the quantifiable benefits from reduced emissions of hazardous air pollutants.” He added, “No regulation is ‘appropriate’ if it does significantly more harm than good.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California weighed in on the decision in a statement, saying, “The Supreme Court’s decision today vindicates the House’s legislative actions to rein in bureaucratic overreach and institute some common sense in rule making.” That said, Congress has more work to do to rein in an out-of-control EPA, especially given that the Court left open a substantial loophole of sorts: Regulations are fine as long as the EPA “counts the cost.”

Indeed, the EPA seemed nonplussed by the decision, with spokeswoman Melissa Harrison saying, “EPA is disappointed … but this rule was issued more than three years ago … and most plants are already well on their way to compliance.” In other words, she gloated that the damage was already done and blew a raspberry at opponents.

The EPA and the White House will certainly try to play down this loss, but the Court’s decision lays groundwork for a number of other cases in which multiple states are seeking to challenge the imperial overreach of the EPA. As noted by National Mining Association President Hal Quinn, “The decision effectively puts EPA on notice: reckless rulemaking that ignores the cost to consumers is unreasonable and won’t be tolerated.”

But Justice Clarence Thomas warned in his concurring majority opinion, “[W]e seem to be straying further and further from the Constitution without so much as pausing to ask why. We should stop to consider that document before blithely giving the force of law to any other agency ‘interpretations’ of federal statutes.” We can think of a few other cases in which that logic applies, and we hope this victory isn’t merely symbolic.


EPA Predicts: Workers Will Lose $170B in Wages By 2100 Without Global Action on Climate Change

Lucky that Greenie prophecies are always wrong

 The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has projected that by 2100, without global greenhouse gas mitigation, labor hours in the U.S. are projected to decrease, costing an estimated $170 billion in lost wages, according to a new EPA report.

The EPA report, released on June 22, 2015, is titled “Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action,” and was created to estimate the physical and monetary benefits of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, otherwise referred to in the report as GHG mitigation.

“Without global GHG mitigation, labor hours in the U.S. are projected to decrease due to increases in extreme temperatures,” states the report. “Over 1.8 billion labor hours are projected to be lost in 2100, costing an estimated $170 billion in lost wages.”

The EPA claims that labor hours are lost when the “extreme summer heat” causes workers to take more breaks, get ill, or stop working altogether.

“Extreme summer heat is increasing in the U.S. and will be more frequent and intense in the future,” states the EPA. “Heat exposure can affect workers’ health, safety and productivity. When exposed to high temperatures, workers are at risk for heat-related illnesses and therefore may take more frequent breaks, or have to stop work entirely, resulting in lower overall labor capacity.

“This is especially true for high-risk industries where workers are doing physical labor and have a direct exposure to outdoor temperatures (e.g., agriculture, construction, utilities, and manufacturing),” according to the EPA.

“The majority of the country is projected to experience decreases in labor hours due to extreme temperature effects,” states EPA. “In 2100, parts of the Southwest and Florida are estimated to experience a decrease in hours worked for high-risk industries ranging from -5% to -7%. Although the impacts vary by region, only a limited number of counties are projected to experience increases in labor hours.”

The EPA claims that if we act on global climate change, and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, labor hours can be saved.

“Global GHG mitigation is estimated to save 1.2 billion labor hours and $110 billion in wages in 2100 in the contiguous U.S. that would otherwise be lost due to unmitigated climate change,” states the report.

“Climate change poses significant risks to humans and the environment” the EPA stated. “The report shows that global action on climate change will significantly benefit Americans by saving lives and avoiding costly damages across the U.S. economy.”


Australia's crooked BOM again

Vanishing hot days of December 1931 — and BOM monthly averages hotter than every single day that month

Lance Pidgeon has drawn my attention to the mysteriously detailed weather maps of the Australian BOM, with their mass of contradictions. The intricate squiggles of air temperature profiles suggests an awesome array of data — especially remarkable in places like “Cook”, which is a railway station with a population of four. Eucla, the megopolis in the map, has a population of 368. The shared border in the map (right) is 674km long top to bottom.

Thankfully, after 80 years of modern technology, the weather at Eucla and in the Great Victorian Desert is much more bearable than anyone would have expected. The BOM ACORN data set works better than airconditioning. In places near Eucla, where old newspapers record 43C, the BOM tells us the highest maximum that month was “under 27C”. Far to the north of there, the highest maximum stayed under 36C, but the average for that same whole month was above 36C. Go figure. It’s a new kind of maths… [or maybe the miracle of reverse cycle a/c?]

There are a half million square kilometers in this map here and almost no thermometers, but plenty of lizards. It is so empty that every railway station and even a single house will earn a “dot” and a label. The point where WA meets SA and the NT is so remote that more people have been to the South Pole. Despite that, the BOM can draw maps of daily air temperature variation separating sand dunes and salt lakes where no man probably walked in a whole year.  Marvelous what computers and assumptions can do.

Jokes aside. The state of the BOM database is not so funny.


A lesson? Under an unsympathetic conservative government, Australian Greenies have become more moderate and balanced in their demands

The set of policy principles released by the Australian Climate Roundtable yesterday are extraordinary for two reasons.

First, the principles themselves offer some calm common sense in an arena that has been dominated by ferocious partisan politics and dramatic policy reversals. They could therefore offer a way to break the current policy deadlock and re-establish a bipartisan approach to climate change.

Second, the principles are the product of a highly unusual alliance of ten organisations, representing business, unions, environmentalists, and the community. It is unusual that such disparate groups can sit down together to talk, and downright extraordinary that they can agree on a common set of principles. So what is going on here?

A principled approach to policy?

On the first point, the principles state that: Our overarching aim is for Australia to play its fair part in international efforts to achieve this while maintaining and increasing its prosperity.

The Roundtable’s ideal policy would lead to “deep reductions in Australia’s net emissions”, using policy instruments that are well targeted, well designed, based on sound risk assessments, internationally linked, operate at least cost, and are efficient.

On the environmental side, there is a demand for net zero emissions in the long run, an acceptance that there are market failures that need to be fixed, and a call for long-term planning based on climate change scenarios.

On the economic side, there are statements about achieving reductions at the lowest cost, avoiding regulatory burdens, ensuring no loss of competitiveness for trade-exposed industries, and the need for a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy, without undue shocks for investors.

Finally, on the social side are concerns about providing decent work opportunities, protecting the most vulnerable people, and helping communities to make the necessary transition.

While there is apparently something here for everyone, the contentious issues are avoided.

There is no mention of the Government’s Direct Action Emissions Reduction Fund, the former Government’s price on carbon, or the recently reduced Renewable Energy Target. This is clever politics, as it allows for the establishment of a broad consensus without the need to quibble over policy detail.

An unlikely alliance

The roundtable’s membership is remarkably diverse: the Australian Aluminium Council; the Business Council of Australia; the Australian Industry Group; the Energy Supply Association of Australia; the Investor Group on Climate Change; the Climate Institute; WWF Australia; the Australian Conservation Foundation; the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU); and the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS). How and why did these disparate groups form such an alliance?

It is clear from the principles themselves that all the member groups want some policy consistency that will survive regardless of who is in Government. The last thing they want is for the recent cycle of major policy changes to continue.

Such reversals impose waves of new compliance costs on industry and create uncertainty for investors, which is why business is so heavily represented in the Roundtable. Policy changes also make it difficult to consolidate significant emissions reductions, which is where the environmentalists come in. Finally, policy uncertainty has implications for employment options and the cost of living, which is why the ACTU and ACOSS are also on board.

There are also some specific strategic advantages to being involved in the Roundtable for each of the participants.

Business groups that have been getting bad publicity about their contributions to climate change might use the Roundtable to improve their image and frame the future policy debate in a way that suits them (for instance, by calling for a strong focus on costs and competitiveness).

Environmentalists, who have effectively been sidelined by the Abbott government on climate change, might see this is a way to deal themselves back into the policy game and make some progress in reducing emissions.

Unions concerned about their members' future employment might see this as a way to manage the transition by creating new “green-collar” jobs that will offset the loss of employment opportunities in the older polluting industries.

Finally, ACOSS is clearly worried about the impact of climate policies on low-income households, and being part of the Roundtable ensures that their concerns are heard.

A precedent for influencing policy?

While unusual, alliances such as the Australian Climate Roundtable are not unknown in Australian environmental policy. Sometimes they have led to the creation of effective long-term policies; other times they have fizzled out, leaving little more than rhetoric.

One positive example is that of Landcare. In 1989 the Australian Conservation Foundation and the National Farmers' Federation proposed a grant scheme that would empower communities to rehabilitate their local environment. More than a quarter of century later, Landcare is still going strong with the support of all four leading political parties.

On the negative side, an extensive consultation process involving all levels of government, business, unions and environmentalists led to the creation of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development in 1992. It is still on the books and referred to by current legislation, yet we don’t appear to be much closer to sustainability.

So will this be a Landcare moment or not? Only time will tell.



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1 comment:

Joseph said...

I think you confused Eocene with Eemian.