Monday, May 16, 2016

We Can't Blame Climate Change For The Canadian Fires

Last week I wrote a piece on my personal blog titled: "On forest fires climate activists aren't just insensitive, they are also wrong", which addressed some of the reporting that incorrectly claimed that climate change was responsible for the Fort McMurray fire.

The truth of the matter was presented by Elizabeth May:

"Some reports have suggested that the wildfires are directly caused by climate change. No credible climate scientist would make this claim, and neither do I make this claim."

The reason Ms. May made that statement is that she recognizes that legitimate forest fire experts know better than to make such claims. So what do knowledgeable researchers in the field say? The go-to person on this topic is Dr. Mike Flannigan from the University of Alberta. He is an expert on fire and weather/climate interactions.

Dr. Flannigan has been very careful with his language and has repeatedly stated: " it's impossible for scientists to say global warming caused this specific fire" and "this is an example of what we expect -- and consistent with what we expect for climate change." His wording is carefully chosen and deliberate. It presents a warning about future conditions while making no claims about current conditions.

Dr. Flannigan warns of a future when, according to his research, we will be able to see the effect of climate change on fire frequency. The problem is, as he has also said, science cannot make that claim yet. So the question to be asked is why are the activists making such broad claims when the experts in the field refuse to make the same claims?

From my reading the articles it is clear that many of the journalists were not really listening to what the forest scientists, like Dr. Flannigan, were saying and were instead just looking for quotes to insert into articles that simply reinforced their pre-existing biases. They did not recognize the difference between correlation and causation and so failed to understand what the forest scientists were trying to tell them.

A number of climate activists, meanwhile, are apparently confused by the weather in Alberta. They do not appear to understand that El Nino, not climate change, is responsible for the warm, dry winter. This fact was well-expected as experts predicted the warm, dry winter months ago.

In a final attempt to link climate change to the fire, many activists have alternatively claimed that the recent El Nino itself is the result of climate change. But when you ask the experts they dismiss that claim as well. Consider Dr. Fredolin Tangang who served from 2008 to 2015 as vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and is one of the foremost international experts on El Nino. As he put it:

"There is no conclusive evidence that the occurrence of El Nino (frequency and intensity) is influenced by climate change...El Nino occurrences did not switch in frequency or intensity due to climate change."

Dr. Tangang does acknowledge that an El Nino can enhance the effects of climate change. To paraphrase Dr. Tangang: El Nino frequencies and intensities are not linked to climate change but since El Nino will heat up an area it could have an additive effect. That is, if an area is already hot, then El Nino will make it hotter.

So what actually caused the fire to be so severe? Well it appears to be a combination of the effects of El Nino and historic forest management decisions. To explain: after the Slave Lake fire in 2011 the Alberta Government sought advice on the fire situation. The result was the Flat Top Complex Wildfire Review Committee Report which made a number of recommendations and concluded:

"Before major wildfire suppression programs, boreal forests historically burned on an average cycle ranging from 50 to 200 years as a result of lightning and human-caused wildfires. Wildfire suppression has significantly reduced the area burned in Alberta's boreal forests. However, due to reduced wildfire activity, forests of Alberta are aging, which ultimately changes ecosystems and is beginning to increase the risk of large and potentially costly catastrophic wildfires."

Essentially the report acknowledged that the trees surrounding Fort McMurray are hard-wired for fire and if they are not managed properly then these types of catastrophic fires will become more common. The warm weather may have accelerated the fire season, but the stage was set for such a fire and not enough work was done to avoid it.

I have been repeatedly asked: "what does it hurt to say that the fire was caused by climate change?" Well, the whole point of the Flat Top Complex Report (which was written in 2011-2012 remember) was to help identify ways to avoid future catastrophic fires like the one that hit Fort McMurray.

As a pragmatist I recognize that we live in a world where our governments have finite budgets and need to allocate resources wisely; to do that they need good information. Bad information makes for bad decisions, and attributing the forest fire to climate change would mean advancing bad information over good.

That can only increase the likelihood that policy-makers will make poor decisions which we can all agree is not something we want to see.

SOURCE.  More on the Canadian fires here

Another finding that increased CO2 is greening the earth

Increased greening over 25% to 50% of the global vegetated area

Greening of the Earth and its drivers  by Zaichun Zhu et al.

Global environmental change is rapidly altering the dynamicsof terrestrial vegetation, with consequences for the functioningof the Earth system and provision of ecosystem services1,2. Yet how global vegetation is responding to the changing environment is not well established. Here we use three long-term satellite leaf area index (LAI) records and ten global ecosystem models to investigate four key drivers of LAI trends during 1982–2009. We show a persistent and widespread increase of growing season integrated LAI (greening) over 25% to 50% of the global vegetated area, whereas less than 4% of the globe shows decreasing LAI (browning). Factorial simulations with multiple global ecosystem models suggest that CO2 fertilization effects explain 70% of the observed greening trend, followed by nitrogen deposition(9%), climate change (8%) and land cover change (LCC) (4%). CO2 fertilization effects explain most of the greening trends in the tropics, whereas climate change resulted in greening of the high latitudes and the Tibetan Plateau. LCC contributed most to the regional greening observed in southeast China and the eastern United States. The regional effects of unexplained factors suggest that the next generation of ecosystem models will need to explore the impacts of forest demography,differences in regional management intensities for croplandand pastures, and other emerging productivity constraints such as phosphorus availability.


Obama White House showed ‘bad faith’ in global-warming case, judge rules

Third rebuke of administration’s transparency this year

The White House showed “bad faith” in how it handled an open records request for global warming data, a federal court ruled Monday, issuing yet another stinging rebuke to the administration for showing a lack of transparency.

For President Obama, who vowed to run the most transparent government in U.S. history, Judge Amit P. Mehta’s ruling granting legal discovery in an open records case — the third time this year a judge has ordered discovery — is an embarrassing black eye.

In this most recent case, the Competitive Enterprise Institute was trying to force the White House office of science and technology policy to release documents backing up Director John C. Holdren’s finding that global warming was making winters colder — a claim disputed by climate scientists.

Mr. Holdren’s staffers first said they couldn’t find many documents. They then tried to hide their release by saying the documents were all internal or were similar to what was already public.

Each of those claims turned out not to be true.

“At some point, the government’s inconsistent representations about the scope and completeness of its searches must give way to the truth-seeking function of the adversarial process, including the tools available through discovery. This case has crossed that threshold,” the judge wrote.


EPA’s New Methane Rule Won’t Slow Global Warming, Actually Increases CO2 Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled new rules Thursday attempting to reduce methane emissions from hydraulically fractured, or fracked, oil and natural gas — these rules, however, may actually lead to more global warming.

The agency does not list the amount of temperature increases adverted in the rule’s press release, even though the rule exists just to limit global warming. Industry groups estimate the rule would only cause a temperature drop of 0.0047 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, an amount so small it couldn’t even be detected.

The regulation even has the potential to make global warming worse, as it will make producing natural gas harder, leading to more release of CO2 emissions — the alleged primary driver of global warming — according to a 2014 EPA report.

The report concluded that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 fell to their lowest levels in 17 years, largely due to hydraulically fractured natural gas out-competing coal as a power source.

“The Regulatory Impact Analysis for the final rule shows that the rule is expected to have extremely minor impacts on production – less than 1/10th of 1 percent,” a spokesperson for the EPA told The Daily Caller News Foundation about inhibiting the production of fracked natural gas via regulation.

The EPA has noted that rising natural gas use from fracking is responsible for falling greenhouse gas emissions, saying in an April report, “a decrease in the carbon intensity of fuels consumed to generate electricity has occurred due to … increased natural gas consumption and other generation sources.”

Methane only accounted for 10.6 percent of total U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions in 2014, according to the EPA report. Most of these methane emissions were from agriculture, not the natural gas industry, which only accounted for about 2.6 percent of emissions.

Critics say that the EPA’s methane rules could significantly increase the costs of fracking.

“The methane rules are designed to make drilling new wells much more expensive. It is one step toward achieving the goal of ‘leave it in the ground,'” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, told TheDCNF. “Other steps include the BLM’s methane rule for production on federal lands, the EPA’s forthcoming methane rule for existing production, and the Interior Department’s coal leasing moratorium on federal lands.”

A report by the firm ICF International, which cited 75 scientific studies and EPA reports, concluded that methane emissions are declining in both absolute terms and per unit of natural gas produced, despite an enormous increase in the amount of gas produced.  Absolute methane emissions from natural gas fell by 15 percent between 1990 and 2014, and emissions per unit of natural gas produced dropped by 43 percent over the same period.

The report found that net greenhouse gas emissions are decreasing, which does not bode well for anti-fracking campaigns or the EPA’s new methane regulations. The new gas production has caused America to transition to clean burning natural gas-fired power plants, which emit far less CO2 than conventional coal power, leading to a 12 percent decline in greenhouse gas emissions since 2005.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups assert the environmental advantages of fracking are negated by increased methane emissions, but this claim isn’t supported by science.

“These regulations aren’t about climate. They are about increasing the cost of reliable, affordable energy to make Mr. Obama’s pet energy sources, such as wind and solar, appear more cost effective than they actually are,” Thomas Pyle, president of the conservative, said about the methane rule in a press release. “And while these regulations won’t impact the climate, they will increase the cost of natural gas for American families that just want to keep their houses warm, have hot water, and use their dryers.”


Checkmating The Left On Global Warming

Liberal politicians like Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and John Kerry tell us global warming is the greatest threat to our national security and future generations, requiring the transformation of our economy to expensive and unreliable wind and solar power. If the left is sincere about this assertion, then they should support all energy sources that reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This presents conservatives an excellent opportunity to call the left’s bluff or make them put their money where their collective mouth is.

Wind and solar, after all, are not the only power sources that produce little or no carbon dioxide emissions. Natural gas power emits only half as much carbon dioxide as coal power, and hydro power and nuclear power emit no carbon dioxide emissions at all. Natural gas and nuclear power are available on-demand, unlike wind and solar power that are extremely limited on cloudy days, low-wind days and at night. Hydro power is not quite an on-demand power source, but it is much more reliable and predictable than wind and solar. Because wind and solar require conventional power backup, hydro and nuclear power actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions even more effectively than wind and solar, and natural gas emissions become comparatively smaller relative to wind and solar.

Conservatives have long championed natural gas, hydro and nuclear power because of their relative affordability. Natural gas power and hydroelectric power are cost-comparative with coal power. Nuclear power is about 50% more expensive, but new technologies and more common-sense government regulation offer the promise of significant reductions in future costs. Even without any such future cost reductions, nuclear power remains substantially more affordable than wind and solar.

So why does the left demand wind, solar or nothing? This is a very good question that conservative policymakers can target. Global warming is a greater threat to the American people than global terrorism, you say? Fine, then stop obstructing the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process that is responsible for approximately half of our natural gas production. Global warming is a greater threat to the American military than Russian fighters that simulate attacks on our Navy vessels in international waters? Then stop demanding we dismantle hydroelectric dams that produce affordable, emissions-free electricity. Global warming is a greater threat to our military than a rapidly militarizing China? Then allow America to generate more of our electricity from nuclear power, as do nations such as France.

The American people understand that wind and solar power are intermittent, unreliable and prohibitively expensive. The left, however, distracts public attention away from these costs and shortcomings by claiming no price is too expensive to solve the greatest crisis facing America and the world today. Conservatives need to remind American voters that even if the dubious global warming crisis is real, we can address it – right now and in a bipartisan manner – by removing the political obstacles that stifle low-carbon natural gas production and emissions-free hydro and nuclear power.

Pressuring the left via natural gas, hydro power and nuclear power will produce one of two possible outcomes. Under one outcome, the left agrees to stop opposing these low- and zero- emission power sources. The left achieves its desired carbon dioxide reductions while conservatives successfully safeguard our economy from expensive and unreliable wind and solar. Under the other outcome, the left refuses to budge in its opposition to everything except wind and solar. In the process, the left will lose substantial political credibility; after all, the left can hardly make the argument that global warming is our nation’s greatest threat while it rejects a multitude of reasonable, affordable and effective means to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions.



Global sea-level expert John Church made redundant by Australian research organization

Warmist John Church is most unchurchly.  His claims have little to do with reality. See  here and here.  He deserves the boot

For John Church, a leading authority on sea-level rise caused by global warming, there was much that was fitting – and yet callous – about being sacked at sea.

The veteran scientist was well into one of dozens of research voyages he had taken since joining CSIRO as a post doctoral student in 1979.

His vessel, the RV Investigator, was midway between Antarctica and New Zealand and steaming north on the 170 degree longitude when he received Thursday's call to tell him he was "potentially redundant".

Sitting with a supporter in the ship's conference room, Dr Church was told his services were no longer needed. "I was OK during the call but it is certainly not a nice feeling to have what you have worked for - for so many years - thrown on the scrapheap," the 64 year-old told Fairfax Media after finishing a 12-hour stint on watch.

Dr Church's achievements include developing sophisticated models linking sparse tidal gauge information around the world with satellite data to reveal how much sea levels are rising.

The current mission is retracing previous journeys along the 170 W longitude line to measure precisely how key parameters such as temperature, salinity and acidity are changing.

As Dr Church notes, including in a Nature paper published last month, sea-level increases are accelerating as a warming planet melts glaciers and swells oceans.

From increases of a few tenths of a millimetre annually in the 1000 years before about 1850, the rate jumped 1.7 mm on average in the 20th century. Since 1993, the rise has quickened to about 3 mm a year, he says.

Despite this trend, CSIRO will slash about half the climate staff – about 70 scientists - in its Oceans & Atmosphere division. New hires will be made in climate adaptation and mitigation, the agency promises but numbers cited so far are much smaller.

As with other CSIRO staff, Dr Church will get a chance to save his job. The sole scientist on board to be told of a pending redundancy, he was granted until June 16 – or three weeks after the voyage ends in Wellington, New Zealand – to argue his case.



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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