Monday, February 01, 2016

Statistician Briggs savages the latest Michael Mann paper

I have commented about this paper before but the Briggs comments were not out at the time I wrote.  The Mann et al. paper says that the known pattern of global temperature changes is consistent with human influences and that the pattern of temperature changes is unlikely to have happened without human influences.

Briggs takes us on a tour of statistical theory with common-sense examples to help us understand.  He shows that the Mann et al. paper makes a lot of assumptions that are just that: assumptions, and wrong assumptions at that.

I will not try to further explain or simplify what Briggs has written because he himself has probably gone as far as one can in that direction.  Very broadly, however, I will note that what Mann et al have written about is probabilities only -- and the probable does not always happen.

And, if there are sufficient uniformities in events, we can know probabilities and thus make accurate predictions from them without understanding anything about the causes of the events concerned.  Probability is not causation. So Mann et al. could in theory make accurate predictions but still be totally wrong about the causes of the events concerned.  As it happens, however, Mann & Co. have never even been able  to make accurate predictions.  So it is quite clear that they do NOT know what caused the observed temperature fluctuations.

Thinking about all that, I had a closer look at the journal abstract (reproduced again below).  And it seems their reasoning is circular.  They clearly assume some figure for human influence in doing their modelling.  But it is the extent of human influence that they have to prove!  They get the conclusion they do because they assume what they have to prove!  The usual high intellectual standards of Warmists.

The Likelihood of Recent Record Warmth

Michael E. Mann, Stefan Rahmstorf, Byron A. Steinman, Martin Tingley & Sonya K. Miller


2014 was nominally the warmest year on record for both the globe and northern hemisphere based on historical records spanning the past one and a half centuries1,2. It was the latest in a recent run of record temperatures spanning the past decade and a half. Press accounts reported odds as low as one-in-650 million that the observed run of global temperature records would be expected to occur in the absence of human-caused global warming. Press reports notwithstanding, the question of how likely observed temperature records may have have been both with and without human influence is interesting in its own right. Here we attempt to address that question using a semi-empirical approach that combines the latest (CMIP53) climate model simulations with observations of global and hemispheric mean temperature. We find that individual record years and the observed runs of record-setting temperatures were extremely unlikely to have occurred in the absence of human-caused climate change, though not nearly as unlikely as press reports have suggested. These same record temperatures were, by contrast, quite likely to have occurred in the presence of anthropogenic climate forcing.

Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 19831 (2016) doi:10.1038/srep19831

Ozone hole theory wrong

Below is the abstract of a recent paper.  Greenies think that banning these harmless gases was their greatest regulatory triumph

An Empirical Test of the Chemical Theory of Ozone Depletion

Jamal Munshi

The overall structure of changes in total column ozone levels over a 50-year sample period from 1966 to 2015 and across a range of latitudes from -90° to 71° shows that the data from Antarctica prior to 1995 represent a peculiar outlier condition specific to that time and place and not an enduring global pattern. The finding is inconsistent with the Rowland-Molina theory of chemical ozone depletion.


Trumping hydrocarbon fuels and consumers

Too many presidential candidates court corporate cash by promoting ethanol

Paul Driessen

Donald Trump loves to tout his poll numbers. But if he’s doing so well, why does he pander to Iowa’s ethanol interests?

The gambit might garner a few caucus votes among corn growers and ethanol producers. It certainly brings plaudits from renewable energy lobbyists and their political enablers. But it could (and should) cost him votes in many other quarters – beyond the Corn Ethanol Belt and even in Iowa.

The fact is, the 14.5-billion-gallon-per-year ethanol mandate prolongs policies that are bad for consumers and the environment. And yet many presidential candidates and other politicians support it.

The ethanol mandate forces refiners to blend ethanol into gasoline. It’s the epitome of feel-good government programs run amok. Congress enacted the steadily expanding ethanol blending requirement to stave off the “imminent” depletion of crude oil worldwide, decrease US imports of oil whose price was “only going to increase,” reduce gasoline costs for motorists, and prevent manmade climate change.

We now know all these concerns were misplaced. In fact, the ethanol mandate fails every economic and environmental test.

The “fracking revolution” (horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing) has unleashed a gusher of US oil and gas production. Domestic oil production in 2014 reached its highest level in 114 years, and the United States is now the world’s biggest hydrocarbon producer. Global crude and American gasoline prices have plummeted. Fracking technology can be applied to shale deposits anywhere in the world, and even to conventional oil fields, ensuring that the world has at least another century of oil and natural gas supplies – and ample time to develop new energy technologies that we cannot even conceive of today.

Since ethanol gets a third less mileage than pure gasoline, adding ethanol to fuel actually increases fuel costs per tank, especially when crude oil fetches less than $30 per barrel and regular gasoline is under $2 per gallon in most states. For motorists driving 15,000 miles a year, $1.85-per-gallon gas means $1,200 in savings, compared to April 2012 prices. Ending the ethanol mandate would save them even more.

As to climate change, numerous studies demonstrate that there is no credible evidence that manmade carbon dioxide is causing dangerous global warming. Moreover, rising CO2 emissions from China, India and other rapidly developing nations overwhelm any imaginable US reductions.

The ethanol mandate has devolved into a black hole that sucks hard-earned cash from consumers’ wallets, while padding the pockets of special interests and their political patrons. Poor, minority, middle class and blue-collar families are especially hard hit.

Devoting 40% of America’s corn crop to ethanol production has significantly increased corn prices and thus the price of all foods that utilize the grain: beef, milk, pork, chicken, eggs, farm-raised fish, and countless products that include corn syrup. The corn converted into biofuel each year could feed more than 400,000,000 malnourished people in impoverished and war-torn countries.

Ethanol is corrosive and mixes easily with water, resulting in serious damage to gaskets and engines. Consumers have spent billions “degunking” and repairing cars, trucks, boats, snowmobiles, chain saws and other small engine equipment, to prevent (or in the aftermath of) fuel leaks, engine failures and even fires. Vehicle, outdoor equipment and marine engine manufacturers warn against using gasoline blends containing more than 10% ethanol.

The mandate raised fuel costs nationwide by an estimated $83 billion between 2007 and 2014. In New England it is expected to cost the economy $20 billion, reduce labor income by $7.3 billion, and eliminate more than 7,000 jobs annually between 2005 and 2024. It has cost Californians $13.1 billion in higher fuel costs since 2005, and could inflict $28.8 billion in additional costs there by 2025.

Corn ethanol’s ecological impacts have convinced the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Environmental Working Group (EWG) and other organizations to oppose further extensions of the mandate. More than 35,000,000 acres (an area larger than Iowa) are now devoted to growing corn for ethanol, and the EWG says the mandate encourages farmers to convert extensive wetlands and grasslands into cornfields.

Growing corn, turning it into ethanol and trucking it to refineries (since it attracts water, it cannot be carried by pipeline) also requires vast amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticides, diesel fuel and natural gas. Only a tiny fraction of that acreage, water and fuel is required to produce far more energy via fracking.

Contrary to Environmental Protection Agency claims that ethanol helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions, those lands released an additional 27,000,000 tons of CO2 in 2014, the EWG calculates. In fact, the group says, corn ethanol results in more carbon dioxide emissions than estimated for the Keystone XL pipeline.

The United States also imports sugarcane ethanol from Brazil. The American Energy Alliance says the EPA does not account for the associated greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, EPA calls sugarcane ethanol an “advanced” fuel, even though it has been around since the 1920s.

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) set expectations for biofuel development based on aspirations, not reality. It assumed switch-grass and wood waste could be converted into advanced cellulosic fuels, but the process has proven very costly and difficult. In an effort to hide this inconvenient truth, EPA now defines even some kinds of liquefied natural gas, compressed natural gas and electricity as derived from cellulosic fuels, in an effort to meet the mandate – even though none of these fuels can be blended into gasoline.

It’s encouraging that EPA’s Inspector General wants the agency’s pro-ethanol rhetoric investigated.

Many consumers are rejecting ethanol-blended fuels, and sales of straight gasoline have climbed from just over 3% of total US gasoline demand in 2012 to nearly 7% in 2014.

Simply put, the ethanol mandate is a disaster. When the government writes fuel recipes and meddles in the free market system, everyone loses except ethanol special interests. Texas Senator Ted Cruz is right: ethanol mandates and energy subsidies should all be terminated. Let biofuel, wind and solar power compete on their own merits, instead of being force-fed to consumers and taxpayers.

However, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has made support for ethanol a litmus test for the February 1 presidential caucuses. He wants Senator Cruz defeated for opposing the ethanol mandate. The governor’s stance also reflects the fact his son heads up the pro-ethanol America’s Energy Future lobbying group, and ethanol interests have contributed sizable amounts to the six-term Republican governor’s reelection campaigns.

There’s even a pro-ethanol van following Mr. Cruz around Iowa, to change recent polling results that found half of Iowa voters do not care much or at all about preserving the federal corn ethanol mandate.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump still thinks the mandate should be increased from this year’s 14.5 billion gallons to the full 15 billion gallons allowed under the antiquated RFS law. Jeb Bush and Chris Christy also support ethanol coercion. While this position might be politically expedient in Iowa, its affect on voters beyond the Hawkeye State is likely negative.

Mr. Trump and other candidates often say they will surround themselves with experts who know their stuff on important issues. Their pro-ethanol stance makes you wonder which wunderkinds are advising them right now. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, by contrast, share Senator Cruz’s disdain for energy mandates and subsidies.

The issue is a small but important indication of what’s at stake in the 2016 presidential election.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Via email

300 Scientists Want NOAA To Stop Hiding Its Global Warming Data

Hundreds of scientists sent a letter to lawmakers Thursday warning National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists may have violated federal laws when they published a 2015 study purporting to eliminate the 15-year “hiatus” in global warming from the temperature record.

“We, the undersigned, scientists, engineers, economists and others, who have looked carefully into the effects of carbon dioxide released by human activities, wish to record our support for the efforts of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology to ensure that federal agencies complied with federal guidelines that implemented the Data Quality Act,” some 300 scientists, engineers and other experts wrote to Chairman of the House Science Committee, Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith.

“In our opinion… NOAA has failed to observe the OMB [Office of Management and Budget] (and its own) guidelines, established in relation to the Data Quality Act.”

The Data Quality Act requires federal agencies like NOAA to “ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information, including statistical information.”

Smith launched an investigation into NOAA’s study last summer over concerns it was pushed out to bolster President Barack Obama’s political agenda. Democrats and the media have largely opposed the probe into NOAA scientists and political appointees, but Smith is determined to continue investigating. NOAA officials surrendered emails to congressional investigators in December.

“It is this Committee’s oversight role to ensure that federal science agencies are transparent and accountable to the taxpayers who fund their research,” Smith told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Americans are tired of research conducted behind closed doors where they only see cherry-picked conclusions, not the facts. This letter shows that hundreds of respected scientists and experts agree that NOAA’s efforts to alter historical temperature data deserve serious scrutiny.”

Of the 300 letter signers, 150 had doctorates in a related field. Signers also included: 25 climate or atmospheric scientists, 23 geologists, 18 meteorologists, 51 engineers, 74 physicists, 20 chemists and 12 economists. Additionally, one signer was a Nobel Prize winning physicist and two were astronauts.

NOAA scientists upwardly adjusted temperature readings taken from the engine intakes of ships to eliminate the “hiatus” in global warming from the temperature record.

The NOAA study in dispute claims the scientists found a solution to the 15-year “pause” in global warming. They “adjusted” the hiatus in warming the temperature record from 1998 to 2012, the “new analysis exhibits more than twice as much warming as the old analysis at the global scale.”

“As has been acknowledged by numerous scientists, the engine intake data are clearly contaminated by heat conduction from the structure, and as such, never intended for scientific use,” wrote climate scientists Dr. Patrick J. Michaels and Dr. Richard S. Lindzen of the libertarian Cato Institute on the in the science blog Watts Up With That. “Adjusting good data upward to match bad data seems questionable.”

“If we subtract the [old] data from the [new] data… we can see that that is exactly what NOAA did,” climate expert Bob Tisdale and meteorologist Anthony Watts wrote on the same science blog. “It’s the same story all over again; the adjustments go towards cooling the past and thus increasing the slope of temperature rise. Their intent and methods are so obvious they’re laughable.”


Global Warming believer is disappointed

Scotland's only vineyard could be all washed up after its owner announced that the business was in crisis as the area is too rainy.

The vineyard, in Upper Largo, near Fife, did not make a single bottle of wine last year, having made only 10 the year before, only for critics to brand it undrinkable.

Owner Christopher Trotter, from Aberdeen, planted vines in 2011 and opened the vineyard three years later in the hope that global warming would make wine-harvesting viable in Scotland.

Mr Trotter told The Times: 'Growing grapes to work with two years ago proved my point that they can be ripened this far north, but unfortunately we just weren't good a making wine.

'I will continue to prune and weed the vines, and generally take care of them. The vines will live for 50 years but I really need someone to come and make the wine with me.'

There was international interest when Mr Trotter revealed his bid to make wine in one of Europe's wettest countries, and the first bottles of 'Chateau Largo' had been keenly awaited.

But he admitted his first vintage from the Upper Largo vineyard has fallen short of expectations.

'It's not great,' he said. 'We have produced a vintage of, shall we say, a certain quality, but I'm confident the next will be much better. We have proved we can grow grapes in the Scottish climate.'

He believes his mistake was not chilling the grapes quickly enough after they were picked, which allowed oxidisation to occur.

Richard Meadows, owner of Great Grog Company, an Edinburgh-based wine merchants, was among the first to sample Chateau Largo in 2015.  He said: 'It has potential. It doesn't smell fresh but it's crisp and light and structurally it's fine. 'It's not yet drinkable but, that said, I enjoyed it in a bizarre, masochistic way.'

The sherry-like concoction was also said to have 'nutty notes' that might complement a 'very strong cheese'.

Mr Trotter, who trained at London's Savoy Hotel as a chef and hotelier, was inspired to plant vines after a friend suggested global warming would give Fife the ideal climate for grapes in two decades.

Studies have suggested that up to three-quarters of today's major wine-growing regions will no longer enjoy optimal weather conditions by 2050 due to climate changes.


Hi-tech responses to global warming fears

Some MIT professors are researching nuclear power plants that can float in the ocean. Others are testing atom-sized solar cells that can coat skyscraper windows or smartphone screens. And still others are looking at how to mix algae with sunlight to make a reliable, clean fuel.

Policy makers, scientists, and many others are banking on technological breakthroughs in the wake of an agreement last month by 195 nations to cut carbon emissions — a landmark effort to slow the rise of global temperatures.

But the Paris climate agreement has no enforcement method.

So researchers at colleges and universities across the country — including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — are looking at a range of ways to combat climate change and to reduce the costs of current energy sources.

“History says we can invent our way out of this, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Robert Armstrong, a professor of chemical engineering who is the director of the MIT Energy Initiative.

For example, Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering who serves as director of the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems at MIT, envisions a future for nuclear power — at sea.

The regulatory challenges may be too great in the United States, where the number of nuclear plants has declined in recent years, but he has been working on building a plant that could be moved around the world, depending on where market conditions were favorable.

His design for a nuclear plant that could be moored at sea, like an oil rig, would cost about one-third less than a conventional plant and take about half the time to build, he said.

Other advantages include that it wouldn’t be in anyone’s backyard, minimizing siting issues, and its reactor would be submerged, reducing the risks of a meltdown.

“We need nuclear — big time,” Buongiorno said. “Renewables are not as easily scalable as nuclear, and they’re intermittent. With nuclear, you get the energy when you need it. This is very doable.”

Professor Yet-Ming Chiang, a professor of materials science and engineering who cofounded the companies A123 Systems and 24M, has spent years studying how to make batteries cheaper and last longer. He’s now seeking to cut in half the costs of the kind of lithium-ion batteries that power cutting-edge electric cars made by Tesla. He’s also looking at building batteries for electrical grids that can store energy from wind turbines or solar farms, so it can be distributed when needed.

“The right storage can solve many of the problems we have now with creating a low-carbon future,” he said.

Jeffrey Grossman, another professor of materials science and engineering, is working on making solar panels as much as 100 times thinner than those today, allowing them to be used in glass or paint, so they can charge electronic devices, buildings, and much more.

He’s also researching how to store energy in the form of heat.

“We’ve demonstrated these technologies are possible, but we don’t know yet how to manufacture them at a large scale,” he said. “We need to be trying a lot of things, in parallel with one another. We have many more ideas than we have the funds.”

Meanwhile, MIT is embarking on an unprecedented program to accelerate progress on low-carbon energy technologies. In the coming months, MIT plans to launch eight “energy centers” on campus that will seek more than $300 million in research funding over the next five years from companies, foundations, and other sources.

The centers, announced last fall as part of a “plan for action” to curb carbon emissions, aim to further research and ultimately commercialize new technologies in the areas of solar energy, nuclear energy, energy storage, energy bioscience, electrical grids, nuclear fusion, materials science, and the capture and use of carbon.

Spurred by criticism from student groups about its investments and relationships with fossil fuel companies, MIT’s plan cites the “overwhelming” scientific evidence of climate change and the “risk of catastrophic outcomes” if emissions aren’t reduced.

“Given the scale of the risks, the world needs an aggressive but pragmatic transition plan to achieve a zero-carbon global energy system,” the authors of the report wrote.

In addition to the centers, MIT promised to devote $5 million to its Environmental Solutions Initiative, hold a competition among alumni for new ideas, and deepen research on new technologies for utilities, cities, and ground and air transportation.

University officials also pledged to eliminate the use of oil as a fuel by 2019, reduce its emissions by 32 percent by 2030, and expand its educational offerings on climate issues, including the creation of an environment and sustainability degree.

But some students argue that the university should be doing more, including divesting from some 200 fossil fuel companies.

MIT continues to invest its $13.5 billion endowment in companies such as ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and Shell.

“The plan is insufficient — incommensurate with limiting warming,” said Geoffrey Supran, a PhD candidate and leader of Fossil Free MIT, which has held a sit-in outside the president’s office since October. “But it’s a start, and we’re doing everything we can to work with our administration to make it stronger. Nothing less than science and our futures are at stake.”

MIT’s plans are part of a broader international effort to increase research and development on energy.

As part of the Paris climate accord, the United States and 19 other countries vowed to double their budgets on clean energy.

The United States pledged to increase its investments to $10 billion over the next five years.

In a statement accompanying the agreement, Obama administration officials said investments and other policies over the past seven years have helped reduce the price of wind projects by more than 40 percent, solar photovoltaic modules by 80 percent, and LED lighting by nearly 90 percent.

The United States now generates three times as much wind energy and 20 times more solar power than it did in 2008, they said.

Another global effort called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition involves recent pledges by 20 billionaires, including American tech magnates Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg, to invest in new clean energy projects and help commercialize them.

“Our primary goal with the coalition is as much to accelerate progress on clean energy as it is to make a profit,” Gates wrote on his website, noting that global energy use is expected to increase some 50 percent by the middle of the century.



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