Sunday, January 15, 2017

Trump meets with Princeton scientist who called ‘global warming’ fears ‘pure belief disguised as science’

President-Elect Donald Trump met with prominent Princeton University physics professor Dr. Will Happer, an outspoken climate skeptic, on Friday in New York.

Happer, who has authored 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers, has testified to the U.S. Senate that the Earth is currently in a ‘CO2 ‘famine.’ Happer explained to Congress in 2009:  ”Warming and increased CO2 will be good for mankind…’CO2 is not a pollutant and it is not a poison and we should not corrupt the English language by depriving ‘pollutant’ and ‘poison’ of their original meaning,” Happer added.

In 2014, Happer ridiculed “global warming” fears. “The incredible list of supposed horrors that increasing CO2 will bring the world is pure belief disguised as science,” he noted.

Princeton University also has another prominent climate skeptic. Renowned Princeton Physicist Freeman Dyson: ‘I’m 100% Democrat and I like Obama. But he took the wrong side on climate issue, and the Republicans took the right side’

Happer’s meeting with Trump gave rise to speculation about a role in the administration.

The Washington Post reported: “Happer did not answer questions on his way into the elevator to meet with Trump, according to pool reports. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Post.

E&E News, which was apparently first to report on the meeting, noted that it was ‘unclear’ whether Happer might be under consideration for energy or science positions in the administration. There certainly remain many of those to fill.”

Climate skeptics would rejoice at the prospect of Happer joining a Trump administration. Happer served as the former director of DOE’s Office of Energy Research — now the Office of Science — from 1991 until 1993.

Happer has also directed his scientific ire at the United Nations, declaring that policies to combat “global warming” are “based on nonsense.” “Policies to slow CO2 emissions are really based on nonsense. We are being led down a false path. To call carbon dioxide a pollutant is really Orwellian. You are calling something a pollutant that we all produce. Where does that lead us eventually?,” he asked.

“Many people don’t realize that over geological time, we’re really in a CO2 famine now. Almost never has CO2 levels been as low as it has been in the Holocene (geologic epoch) – 280 (parts per million – ppm) – that’s unheard of. Most of the time [CO2 levels] have been at least 1000 (ppm) and it’s been quite higher than that,” Happer told the Senate Committee. “Earth was just fine in those times,” Happer added. “The oceans were fine, plants grew, animals grew fine. So it’s baffling to me that we’re so frightened of getting nowhere close to where we started,” Happer explained.


Adapting to Warming in Japan: What Has Been Discovered to Date
Paper Reviewed:Ng, C.F.S., Boeckmann, M., Ueda, K., Zeeb, H., Nitta, H., Watanabe, C. and Honda, Y. 2016. Heat-related mortality: Effect modification and adaptation in Japan from 1972 to 2010. Global Environmental Change 39: 234-243.

Writing as background for their work, Ng et al. (2016) state that "excessive heat is a health risk," but they also say that "previous studies have observed a general decline in sensitivity to heat despite increasing temperatures." Noting, therefore, that "conclusive evidence is lacking on whether long-term changes of this sensitivity can be attributed to specific adaptation measures, such as air conditioning [AC], or should be linked to societal adaptation such as improved healthcare systems or socioeconomic well-being," they proceed to analyze "daily total [from natural causes], cardiovascular and respiratory disease mortality and temperature data from 1972 to 2010 for 47 prefectures," using a Poisson generalized linear model to estimate the effect of heat on mortality," along with "a random effects model to obtain the mean national effect estimates, and meta-regression to explore the impact of prefecture-level characteristics." And what did they find in so doing?

Ng et al. report that their data "show a general decrease in excess heat-related mortality over the past 39 years despite increasing temperatures [of approximately 1°C]," demonstrating, in their words, "that some form of adaptation to extreme temperatures has occurred in Japan." More specifically, as illustrated in the figure below, their data revealed a national reduction of 20, 21 and 46 cases of deaths per 1,000 due to natural, cardiovascular, and respiratory causes, respectively, which reductions correspond to astounding respective percentage drops of 69, 66 and 81 percent! Similar percentage declines were also noted when analyzing the number of deaths by age group, with the most elderly population age group experiencing the greatest death rate percentage declines (Figure 1b).

In commenting on these notable health improvements, Ng et al. write that an "increase of AC prevalence was not associated with a reduction of excess mortality over time," yet they note that "prefectures and populations with improved economic status documented a larger decline of excess mortality," adding that "healthcare resources were associated with fewer heat-related deaths in the 1970s, but the associations did not persist in the more recent period (i.e., 2006-2010)." Whatever the cause or causes, one thing is certain; whereas the temperature rose, human death rates declined ... and we would call that a good thing!


Activist Criticism Again Misses Mark on EPA Nominee Pruitt

In a previous post, which has since been discussed by Bre Payton of the Federalist, I wrote about a mendacious television attack ad produced by the Environmental Defense Action Fund. In a nutshell, the ad wrongly accuses Environmental Protection Agency Administrator-designate Scott Pruitt of denying mercury’s hazardous effects on human health.

Yesterday, the Sierra Club opened a new line of attack. After being queried by E&E News’s Benjamin Storrow about Pruitt’s association with a political action committee that received almost $210,000 from energy interests, the Sierra Club responded, “The fact that Scott Pruitt intends to take big cash from the very same big polluters he is supposed to be monitoring as EPA administrator is unprecedented and a clear danger to the health of our families.”

I was struck by the Sierra Club’s averment that Pruitt’s association with a PAC that took more than $200,000 from oil and gas interests is an “unprecedented” threat to “the health of our families.” Of course, President Obama has ultimate authority over the EPA, and he took more than $900,000 from oil and gas companies and their employees in 2008, according to U.S. News & World Report. It stands to reason that he reaped a similar haul when he ran for re-election. The upshot is that Pruitt is associated with a PAC that took in from the oil and gas sector only a fraction of the donations that Obama accepted. So it’s implausible to argue that Pruitt’s actions are “unprecedented.”


UK: The Folly of Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon

If ever there was a textbook example of how to go about Government lobbying and project development, then it is the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project. The developer, Tidal Lagoon Power, has done a frankly incredible job of promoting the project to policymakers and financiers. The project has gone from an interesting idea on paper a few years ago, to being backed financially by investment bank Macquarie amongst others, to garnering significant political support by the likes of the Rt. Hon. Sir Ed Davey (as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change), other Coalition Government Cabinet members, and the Welsh Government.

Tomorrow represents a make or break point for the project. The Government will publish a long-awaited review on the potential for tidal power in the UK, led by former Energy Minister Charles Hendry. Both Hendry and the Government have been tight-lipped about the contents of the review, but the terms of reference are to “assess the strategic case for tidal lagoons and whether they could play a cost effective role as part of the UK energy mix.”

Based on my own knowledge of the project and technology, I suggest that it would be folly for the Government to agree to progress the Swansea Bay project further.

The main reason for this is simply the cost of the technology. The developer’s latest estimates are that the Swansea Bay project would cost £1.3 billion to construct. Interestingly, this headline cost has already increased by more than 40% compared to earlier estimates – a 2014 report to the developers assumed a lower capital cost of £913 million.

In order to get a better handle on the relative cost of the technology, it is informative to consider the cost per unit of electrical output (£/MWh) – often referred to as the ‘Levelised Cost of Energy’. The same report from 2014 put the cost of Swansea Bay at £168/MWh, roughly four times the current wholesale price of electricity. By comparison, the Government’s own estimates show that other low carbon technologies are considerably cheaper:

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon makes wind, solar, Carbon Capture and Storage, and nuclear look cheap. Moreover, if the question is whether tidal lagoons could play a ”cost effective role”, then it is worth considering even cheaper ways to cut carbon emissions, such as improving energy efficiency. It would be far better to spend the £1.3 billion insulating our homes properly (see our recent report on cost effective routes to decarbonise heating). Backing an expensive technology such as tidal lagoons would leave less space within the Levy Control Framework funding envelope to spend on other, cheaper technologies. The Levy Control Framework budget has already been overspent to 2020 – a point exposed in a Policy Exchange report in July 2015.

The project developer has suggested that the headline “strike price” (or subsidy support level) required by the project is far lower than £168/MWh – potentially similar to the £92.50/MWh agreed strike price for Hinkley Point. However this is only possible by tweaking parameters of the Contract for Difference (CfD) subsidy contract such as the term and indexing rate, and assuming some form of Government grant to the project. These tweaks simply obfuscate the true cost of the project. All technologies could achieve a lower strike price if they were given the same treatment.

The project developers (and other proponents of tidal range) claim that subsequent tidal lagoons in Cardiff and Newport will be considerably cheaper than Swansea Bay – potentially cheaper than offshore wind or nuclear. This is due to the larger size of the subsequent projects and resulting economies of scale. In reality this claim is totally untested and purely based on desk-based analysis by the project developer.

The difficulty with tidal range is that it is caught somewhere between being a mature and immature technology. There is already one significant example of the technology – the 240MW tidal barrage at La Rance in France, commissioned in 1959 – but as yet the technology has not been deployed widely. If tidal range is considered ‘mature’, and the Cardiff/Newport projects are so much cheaper than the Swansea Bay project, then surely we progress with them instead? Or conversely, if tidal range is still considered ‘immature’ and a further ‘experiment’ is required, then is it appropriate for this to be a £1.3 billion experiment paid for by bill-payers or taxpayers? Even if the Government wishes to pursue tidal range as a technology, then it is not unreasonable to question whether Swansea Bay is the ‘right’ project to demonstrate the technology, or whether a smaller scale experiment should be undertaken first.

Proponents also make the case for the Swansea Bay project on the basis that it will create jobs, and could help to develop an export industry (for example see another report commissioned by the developer). A group of manufacturers recently wrote an open letter to this effect, which was published in the Financial Times. It is undoubtedly true that building tidal lagoons will create UK jobs – both in civil engineering and in manufacturing components. No doubt this will also be a politically attractive proposition, since many of these jobs will be situated in South Wales – helping to rebalance the economy away from London.

However, the fact that it will create jobs is it itself not a sufficiently strong argument – spending £1.3 billion on any infrastructure project would create jobs. The Government could instead choose to spend the same money on alternative sources of energy, or other forms of infrastructure such as roads, hospitals or schools. All of these projects would create jobs. The relevant question here is: what is the return on investment (for UK plc) in supporting the Swansea Bay project versus alternatives? Which forms of investment would best tackle the UK’s longstanding economic challenges such as sluggish productivity growth (as highlighted in a recent Policy Exchange report, The New Industrial Strategy)?

It should not be forgotten that a tidal lagoon would need to be paid for via subsidies on energy bills, passed on to energy users (households and businesses). Levy-funded policies push up energy bills, which means that households and businesses have less money to spend or invest in other areas. You cannot simply look at the jobs created by building a tidal lagoon – you also need to look at the wider effects across the economy.

It is also not clear that supporting the Swansea Bay project will establish a significant export industry as claimed. One of the reasons that there has been ongoing interest in tidal is that the UK has amongst the best tidal resource in the world. Tidal range resources tend to be highly concentrated in very specific areas. There is interest in developing tidal lagoons and barrages in a number of countries such as Canada and India, but they cannot be developed everywhere. Total global installed capacity of tidal energy devices (tidal range and tidal stream) stands at around 0.5GWs. If the UK wishes to become a market leader in low carbon technologies, then it might be better to focus on technologies with truly massive global potential – such as solar, wind, nuclear, Carbon Capture and Storage, or electric vehicles.

Finally, the proponents of tidal power claim that it is different from other forms of renewable energy such as wind and solar, due to the fact that it is predictable. Whilst that may be true (the timing of tides can be predicted decades in advance), tidal lagoons still do not produce power 100% of the time, and in that sense are not wholly reliable. In any case, the intermittency of renewables can be managed using a range of technologies including thermal power generation, storage, demand response, and interconnection – as discussed in our recent report, Power 2.0.

To summarise, in our view the Government should resist the urge to back tidal range, or the Swansea Bay project, any more than other low carbon technologies. Whilst the project would deliver many jobs and benefits, the same could be said of other energy or infrastructure projects. If tidal range projects can compete on cost terms, then of course they should be supported, but that is not the proposition which is currently on offer. However the developers try and dress it up, the Swansea Bay project is considerably more expensive than other low carbon technologies. If the Government chooses to back this project, then it will have a job to explain why this represents good value for money. Indeed, since the Competition and Market Authority’s report on the energy market, the Government has an obligation to carry out an Impact Assessment and defend any decision to award CfDs on a non-competitive basis.


Australia: The latest Bureau of Meteorology shenanigans

This summer has been very frustrating for the BOM.  As tireless global warming missionaries, they wanted the Sydney summer to be the "hottest yet".  And the headlines they generated have on several occasions claimed just that.

But the thermometers have in fact been unobliging.  If you read the small print, coastal Sydney has failed to get into the 40s. It was only localities that are normally hot which did that.

And hanging over their heads is the awful truth that the temperature in coastal Sydney reached 42 degrees (108F) in 1790, long before there were any power stations, SUVs and all the other Greenie bugaboos in Sydney.

So what  to do?  They have had a brainwave (below).  Instead of reporting maximum temperatures they are now reporting MINIMUM temperatures.  They say that various minimum (night-time) temperatures have been unusually hot.  But global warming is supposed to cause high maximum temperatures so it is a pretty desperate bit of fake news

SYDNEY residents sweltered through the harbour city’s hottest January night in recorded history last night.

But the good news for the sleepless masses is relief is in sight, with a cool change on its way.

Temperature records tumbled across Sydney as the extreme heatwave peaked overnight.

Among the new records set were in Observatory Hill, where the temperature dropped only to 26.4C, Bankstown (26.2C), Camden (27.1C), Penrith (28.6C), Richmond (28.2C), Horsley Park (26.2C), and Terrey Hills (26.9C).

But relief is on its way.

Conditions across the southern half of NSW are expected to ease over the weekend but the mercury will likely remain in the low to mid 40s in the state’s north.

After copping temperatures up to 45C on Friday, Sydney’s west is forecast for a milder maximum of 35C on Saturday while in the coastal parts of the city it is due to reach 31C.

But for those in the far north it is expected to remain hot with a predicted high of 41C at Grafton.

Queenslanders who have been in the grip of the same heatwave are set to endure another day of blistering conditions before conditions cool on Sunday.

A top of 34C is forecast for Brisbane on Saturday, which is five degrees above the average maximum for this time of year.

(Rubbish!  The temperature in my anteroom regularly tracks the official observations for Brisbane and at 34.5C yesterday  afternoon it did go higher on my thermometer than the forecast. But it had been right on 34C for a week or so)



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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