Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Another Climate Prediction Fizzles: DC Climate Rally for Pope shrinks from expected 200,000 people to just ‘hundreds’

The hopes were so high back in August for a massive climate rally to support Pope Francis’ climate push. But reality has now sunk in

Climate Prediction: August 25, 2015: WaPo: "For Pope Francis’s D.C. visit, environmental rally of up to 200K planned’ – Several environmental groups are planning a major climate rally that will draw hundreds of thousands to the National Mall on Sept. 24, the day Pope Francis speaks to Congress and is expected to address the public afterwards. The permit for the gathering — which will make the moral case for reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming — is for 200,000 people. The Moral Action on Climate Network, along with the Earth Day Network, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club and other groups, have timed the rally on the Mall the same day of the pope’s speech".

Reality: September 24, 2015: "Pope’s Visit To D.C. Inspires Hundreds To Rally For Climate’ Rally – ‘On Thursday morning — as Pope Francis prepared to make history by addressing Congress — hundreds of activists gathered on the National Mall. Holding signs, petitioning for signatures, and offering spirited remarks to an expectant crowd, the activists represented a spectrum of causes and religious denominations, from young evangelicals to Black Lives Matter leaders."


Understanding the Climate Science Boom

Like an economy, a scientific discipline can undergo periods of boom and bust. Is climate science experiencing an unsustainable boom? Certainly its growth has been astounding. Over the past 20 years, the number of scientific papers related to “anthropogenic climate change” has risen twelve-fold, according to a search using Google Scholar. But whether or not climate science will ultimately suffer a bust may depend on the causes of its surge. While several factors have contributed, the role of Big Players—namely, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and various government agencies that dole out huge sums as research grants—has been critical. It also raises a red flag.

One reason is that a change in the priorities, funding, or prestige of Big Players can turn a boom into a bust. But another reason may yield greater cause for concern, William N. Butos and Thomas J. McQuade explain in the Fall 2015 issue of The Independent Review. Although large organizations that set the direction for scientific inquiry or business activity can conceivably accelerate progress, their tremendous size and influence—and the way they interact with social phenomena such as opportunism and ideology—distorts the feedback loops that otherwise help make science and markets self-correcting processes.

Climate science may or may not be experiencing a bubble that will burst in the foreseeable future. But this uncertainty is beside the point. The major lesson, Butos and McQuade write, “is that in science, as in the economy, Big Players of any sort distort normal systemic activity, render the emergent outcomes unstable and unreliable, and create an ideal breeding ground for incentives that motivate ideologically biased people to circumvent normal constraints in the name of pursing a ‘greater good.’”


Hollywood Joins the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

I published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer recently challenging the mindsets of student activists lobbying to force college administrators to purge coal and oil stocks from their investment portfolios.

Now, reportedly, but not surprisingly, Leonardo Di Caprio and a few other left-leaning Hollywood personalities are jumping on the divestment bandwagon. He, along with some like-minded individuals and organizations spearheaded by a shadowy special-interest group called “Divest Invest”, apparently believe (with fervent faith in “green” energy shared and perhaps envied by Pope Francis) that their actions will save the planet from destruction by greedy capitalists.

Insofar as today’s environmentalists adhere to a religion claiming humankind to be doomed unless something is done to lighten our collective carbon footprint, I may be on dangerous theological ground. But I am happy that Mr. DiCaprio is a least putting his money in his own proverbial mouth. Owing to the shale “fracking” revolution of the past decade, stocks in fossil fuel producers have fallen sharply. The divesters therefore stand to sustain capital losses on the equity shares they sell now or in the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, while climate-change believers see the environmental benefits of solar and wind farms once they are in place, they studiously ignore the rather substantial carbon footprints of manufacturing wind turbines and solar panel cells as well as of disposing of them at the ends of their useful lives.

Are wind-turbine factories powered by wind, or are solar-panel factories (many of which are located on China’s mainland) sun powered? I don’t think so. Moreover, some of the components of solar panel cells are toxic. One cannot simply bury them in the local landfill once worn out, even if that is 20 years in the future. Wind turbines also kill birds and roughly 1 million bats every year.

So, where do the stock divesters draw the line in the green energy supply chain? At the manufacturing stage, or at an earlier one at which the steel, aluminum or other critical inputs necessary to produce windmills and solar panels are made? At the mine, where iron ore and other mineral ores are extracted using fossil-fuel powered capital equipment? At the stage when factories are built and brought online? At the Middle Ages, when all humans were short-lived locovors? Or at the Garden of Eden?

Hollywood types and college students seem to think that wind turbines and solar panels are created out of thin air. They plainly are not conceived immaculately. Because renewable energy sources are not yet economically viable on commercial scales and would not be so even on more modest scales in the absence of taxpayer-financed subsidies, Mr. DiCaprio and his fellow divesters are posing as saviors of the planet by trying to impose their personal preferences on all other Americans and ignoring the production processes for their pet environmental solutions for global warming or other contributors to so-called climate change.

Although I am pleased that the divestors are paying personally to indulge those discriminatory preferences, as everyone in a free market must do, I question Mr. DiCaprio’s motives, among which is to sell tickets to the soon-to-be-released Revenant, to curry favor with fellow guests at Hollywood cocktail parties and to be invited to testify before starry-eyed members of congressional committees.

Assuming that Divest Invest and the managers of college endowment portfolios hold enough shares in oil and gas companies to matter, dumping them will lower share prices and create opportunities for non-politically correct investors to get back into the market on favorable terms. But remember that my investment advice carries no guarantee of positive future returns!


Big Green’s immorality

Is it moral to cause people to starve in Africa, because you prefer to burn corn for fuel here in America?

Is it moral to have as a goal to create regulations that drive energy and electricity costs up with the poor being disproportionately harmed?

Or, is it moral to invest and produce domestic energy that lowers energy costs for all, which obviates the need for burning food for fuel?

If you answered the latter, welcome to supporting the free enterprise approach to wealth creation that lifts all boats rather than the green agenda designed to exacerbate energy poverty around the world.

Over the course of the past five to seven years, America has been on the precipice of an unprecedented energy revolution that would drive costs for electricity down, creating a virtuous economic cycle fueled by increased manufacturing sector growth and the resulting high paying jobs.

The sticking point has been President Obama’s radical environmental regulatory agenda.  An agenda that is less about climate change, and more about fundamental economic transformation.  Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, stated as much when at a recent conference in Brussels she said, “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”

When viewed through the rubric of this admission that climate regulations are really about displacing capitalism as the dominant economic system, then it is understandable why President Obama persists in pursuing limited value regulations that destroy America’s opportunity to maintain our position as the dominant economic power in the world.

Whether it be an oil pipeline running across the Canadian border, or the oil and natural gas miracle produced by ingenuity, private investment and hard work that has led to an abundance beyond any futurists imagination, to Obama and the radical greens, they are threats that must be stopped.

The immorality of choosing transformation to an economic system that thrives on the theft of both intellectual and personal property in order to give it to someone who is more politically favored over one that breeds good jobs and hope for people of all economic classes is obvious.

Yet, these greenies who worship at the altar of the goddess Gaia and justify spiking trees and jeopardizing lives to stop timbering, have somehow become perceived as the idealistically moral, while those who fight to preserve a system that has made America the greatest nation to ever exist on the earth are vilified.

It is Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, and others like him who have risked, cried and fought to find a way to extract oil and natural gas from shale at an affordable cost, bringing it to market and driving prices of energy down who are the heroes.

They have been the ones whose actions based upon a desire to make a profit, have stimulated the economy through less expensive gasoline and lower costs for natural gas fueled electricity generation.  The prime beneficiaries of these cost savings are millions of families who have not seen their wages go up for years, but now pay less for the gasoline in their car.

Unfortunately, it is these same families who have not benefitted from lower electricity bills, as Obama’s climate cops have forced more than 72 gigawatts of electricity to be taken off line, negating the energy supply advantage by destroying the electricity suppliers.

When a family needs to heat their home and wants to buy a wood burning stove, Obama’s EPA jihadists will have removed all but the most expensive alternatives from the marketplace due to a wood burning regulation.

And Obama’s power plant rule is expected to increase electricity costs by 16 percent in spite of our nation’s energy abundance with the poorest consumers bearing the brunt of the cost burden both in personal home heating and the lack of job opportunities as the manufacturing boom is stymied.

The green agenda is nothing more or less than an attack on America’s poorest citizens by those who envy our nation’s wealth and want to transfer it overseas, no matter who gets hurt.

This is the green immorality, and it is time that people recognize it as just that.


Time to Prosecute the EPA Like Any Other Company

Last month, the EPA caused a spill of toxic waste into the Animas River in Colorado. That event demonstrates that even the federal agency responsible for regulating the disposal of hazardous waste can make mistakes that lead to environmental contamination. It also proves that the federal government plays favorites in criminal environmental enforcement.

If private parties had been responsible for the spill, the odds are good that the federal government would have opened a criminal investigation. The government has prosecuted private companies and private parties for other negligent spills. Just ask Edward Hanousek.

A railroad roadmaster, Mr. Hanousek was responsible for a rock quarrying project at a site near the Skagway River in Alaska. One evening in 1994, while Mr. Hanousek was at home, a backhoe operator trying to remove rocks from a nearby railroad track hit a pipeline. The accident caused 1,000-5,000 gallons of heating oil to spill into the nearby river.

Mr. Hanousek was charged with criminal negligence under the Clean Water Act. He was convicted for the negligent discharge of oil and sentenced to six months in prison, another six months in a halfway house, and six more months of supervised release.

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If a 1,000- to 5,000-gallon spill into the Skagway River merited criminal prosecution, the EPA’s 3-million-gallon spill of toxic mine water into the Animas River spill justifies criminal prosecution, too.

But there is more. In past cases, the government has successfully argued that corporate officers and managers should be held liable for the misdeeds of subordinates even if the officers and managers had no hand in any illegal conduct.

The Justice Department persuaded courts to adopt the tort doctrine of “respondeat superior”—“let the master answer”—for the acts of his employees. Under that theory, the EPA administrator and regional director should be personally charged with the negligent discharge of hazardous waste.

Yet the Justice Department does not apply the same rules to private parties and government officials. The public should ask, “Why not?”

If private parties should be held criminally liable for negligent violations of the federal environmental laws, why not EPA employees? If a company president should be held liable for the misdeeds of the firm’s low-level personnel, why not the EPA administrator? The same rules should apply whether the responsible party works in the private sector or the public sector.

It should be no defense that senior EPA federal officials could not perform their supervisory duties if they must manage the day-to-day work of every subordinate. The same is true of a company’s president, and the federal government has not excused senior business officials on the theory that they cannot hold upper-level positions while doing a company’s lower-level work.

Even if the EPA administrator were too remote from this spill to be held responsible, that conclusion would not apply to the director of the region. Each director has only one region to manage, not the entire nation. After all, a plant manager does not receive immunity from prosecution for the misdeeds of his employees even though he cannot monitor everything going on in his plant. If so, why should senior federal officials in a parallel position get off scot-free?

Even the EPA recognizes that its officials should be held to the same standards that the government applies to private parties.

“We’re going to continue to work until this is cleaned up,” Regional Director Shaun McGrath told a local gathering of Colorado residents, “and hold ourselves to the same standards that we would anyone that would have created this situation.”

There is no reason to let government officials slide when the government prosecutes private parties for the same conduct.

It’s time for the government to choose: Either stop prosecuting private parties for negligence or make the senior EPA officials stand in the dock. Sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.


Australia: Ideology distorts climate measurements

Jennifer Marohasy replies to some ignorant propaganda

For the true believer, it is too awful to even consider that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology could be exaggerating global warming by adjusting figures. This doesn’t mean, though, that it’s not true.

In fact, under prime minister Tony Abbott, a panel of eminent statisticians was formed to investigate these claims detailed in The Australian newspaper in August and September last year.

The panel did acknowledge in its first report that the bureau homogenised the temperature data: that it adjusted figures. The same report also concluded it was unclear whether these adjustments resulted in an overall increase or decrease in the warming trend.

No conclusions could be drawn because the panel did not work through a single example of homogenisation, not even for Rutherglen. Rutherglen, in north­eastern Victoria, is an agricultural research station with a continuous minimum temperature record unaffected by equipment changes or documented site moves but where the bureau nevertheless adjusted the temperatures.

This had the effect of turning a temperature time series without a statistically significant trend into global warming of almost 2C a century.

According to media reports last week, a thorough investigation of the bureau’s methodology was prevented because of intervention by Environment Minister Greg Hunt. He apparently argued in cabinet that the credibility of the institution was paramount — that it was important the public had trust in the bureau’s data and forecasts, so the public knew to heed warnings of bushfires and ­cyclones.

Hunt defends the bureau because it has a critical role to play in providing the community with reliable weather forecasts.

This is indeed one of its core responsibilities. It would be better able to perform this function, however, if it used proper techniques for quality control of temperature data and the best available techniques for forecasting rainfall.

There has been no improvement in its seasonal rainfall forecasts for two decades because it uses general circulation models. These are primarily tools for demonstrating global warming, with dubious, if any, skill at actually forecasting weather or climate.

Consider, for example, the millennium drought and the flooding rains that followed in 2010.

Back in 2007 and 2008, David Jones, then and still the manager of climate monitoring and prediction at the Bureau of Meteorology, wrote that climate change was so rampant in Australia, “We don’t need meteorological data to see it”, and that the drought, caused by climate change, was a sign of the “hot and dry future” that we all collectively faced.

Then the drought broke, as usual in Australia, with flooding rains.

But the bureau was incapable of forecasting an exceptionally wet summer because such an event was contrary to how senior management at the bureau perceived our climate future.

So, despite warning signs evident in sea surface temperature patterns across the Pacific through 2010, Brisbane’s Wivenhoe dam, originally built for flood mitigation, was allowed to fill through the spring of 2010, and kept full in advance of the torrential rains in January 2011.

The resulting catastrophic flooding of Brisbane is now recognised as a “dam release flood”, and the subject of a class-action lawsuit by Brisbane residents against the Queensland government.

Indeed, despite an increasing investment in supercomputers, there is ample evidence ideology is trumping rational decision-making at the bureau on key issues that really matter, such as the prediction of drought and flood cycles. Because most journalists and politicians desperately want to believe the bureau knows best, they turn away from the truth and ignore the facts.

News Corp Australia journalist Anthony Sharwood got it completely wrong in his weekend article defending the bureau’s homogenisation of the temperature record. I tried to explain to him on the phone last Thursday how the bureau didn’t actually do what it said when it homogenised temperature time series for places such as Rutherglen.

Sharwood kept coming back to the issue of “motivations”. He kept asking me why on earth the bureau would want to mislead the Australian public.

I should have kept with the methodology, but I suggested he read what Jones had to say in the Climategate emails. Instead of considering the content of the emails that I mentioned, however, Sharwood wrote in his article that, “Climategate was blown out of proportion” and “independent investigations cleared the researchers of any form of wrongdoing”.

Nevertheless, the content of the Climategate emails includes quite a lot about homogenisation, and the scientists’ motivations. For example, there is an email thread in which Phil Jones (University of East Anglia) and Tom Wigley (University of Adelaide) discuss the need to get rid of a blip in global temperatures around 1940-44. Specifically, Wigley suggested they reduce ocean temperatures by an arbitrary 0.15C. These are exactly the types of arbitrary adjustments made throughout the historical temperature record for Australia: adjustments made independently of any of the purported acceptable reasons for making adjustments, including site moves and equipment changes.

Sharwood incorrectly wrote in his article: “Most weather stations have moved to cooler areas (ie, areas away from the urban heat island effect). So if scientists are trying to make the data reflect warmer temperatures, they’re even dumber than the sceptics think.”

In fact, many (not most) weather stations have moved from post offices to airports, which have hotter, not cooler, daytime temperatures. Furthermore, the urban heat island creeps into the official temperature record for Australia not because of site moves but because the record at places such as Cape Otway lighthouse is adjusted to make it similar to the record in built-up areas such as Melbourne, which clearly are affected by the urban heat island.

I know this sounds absurd. It is absurd, and it is also true. Indeed, a core problem with the methodology the bureau uses is its reliance on “comparative sites” to make adjustments to data at other places. I detail the Cape Otway lighthouse example in a recent paper published in the journal Atmospheric Research, volume 166.

It is so obvious that there is an urgent need for a proper, thorough and independent review of operations at the bureau. But it would appear our politicians and many mainstream media are set against the idea.

Evidently they are too conventional in their thinking to consider such an important Australian ­institution could now be ruled by ideology.



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.  

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