Thursday, March 23, 2017
The oceans are COOLING
We have seen lots of claims about the temperature records for 2016 and 2015 proving dangerous man made warming. At least one senator stated that in a confirmation hearing. Now that HadSST3 data is complete through February 2017, let’s see how obvious is the ocean’s governing of global average temperatures.
The best context for understanding these last two years comes from the world’s sea surface temperatures (SST), for several reasons:
* The ocean covers 71% of the globe and drives average temperatures;
* SSTs have a constant water content, (unlike air temperatures), so give a better reading of heat content variations;
* A major El Nino was the dominant climate feature the last two years.
HadSST is generally regarded as the best of the global SST data sets, and so the temperature story here comes from that source, the latest version being HadSST3.
The chart below shows the last two years of SST monthly anomalies as reported in HadSST3, along with the first two months of 2017.
Note that higher temps in 2015 and 2016 are first of all due to a sharp rise in Tropical SST, beginning in March 2015, peaking in February 2016, and steadily declining back to its beginning level. Secondly, the Northern Hemisphere added two bumps on the shoulders of Tropical warming, with peaks in August of each year. Also, note that the global release of heat was not dramatic, due to the Southern Hemisphere offsetting the Northern one.
Finally, the oceans are starting 2017 only slightly lower than a year ago, but this year with much cooler Tropics. Notice that both the Tropics and also the Northern Hemisphere continue to cool. The Global average warmed slightly, pulled upward by the Southern Hemisphere which reaches its summer peak at this time.
March may repeat 2016 when NH bottomed and SH peaked, or maybe both will rise or both will drop. In the latter case, perhaps we will see the long-awaited La Nina.
The silver-tongued liars’ playbook
Coal ash scare stories are the latest tactic in their long war on coal-fueled electricity generation
Coal-fired power plant scrubbers now remove 80-90 % of airborne particulate, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other pollutants. But that means “fly ash” and noncombustible residues (what we used to call clinkers) must be sent to landfills. That’s opened a new front for anti-energy activists, who use accidents, “detectable” pollutants in water, and scary stories about health threats to advance their agenda.
In 2008, a Tennessee Valley Authority earthen retainer dam near Knoxville ruptured, sending 5.4 million cubic yards of rain-soaked fly ash into a nearby river, lake and neighborhood. Twelve homes were damaged by the muck, which contained low levels of arsenic, cadmium and other metals. The TVA’s cleanup efforts were less than exemplary, as were its measures to prevent the accident in the first place.
Companies and regulators clearly must do more to prevent accidents and pollution – and more to educate people about the actual risks involved. With a new fly ash playbook being tested in North Carolina, Virginia and other states, as part of the war on coal and the keep-fossil-fuels-in-the-ground campaign, those informational efforts are vital.
Duke Energy operates 14 coal-fired electricity generating plants in North Carolina – and several large fly ash facilities. Like coal itself, the ash contains trace amounts of hexavalent chromium (chromium-6 or Cr-6) and other metals that can be toxic to humans in high doses. Blazing temperatures bond the vast majority tightly in glassy vitrified ash, and well maintained impoundments ensure that few seep out.
However, tiny amounts can still escape into nearby surface waters and groundwater. Highly sensitive scientific instruments can now detect parts per trillion – the equivalent of a few seconds in 3,300 years. In 2016, an NC state toxicologist ruled that metallic levels detected in surface and ground water around the state were dangerously high. He blamed ash from coal-fired power plants and persuaded Tar Heel health officials to send “do not drink” letters to several hundred families living near coal ash disposal sites.
In his view, there is “no safe level” for exposure to Cr-6, and the state should slash its allowable level from 100 parts per billion down to 0.07 ppb (1,428 times lower). Other health officials reviewed the scientific literature, determined that amounts detected pose no health risk, noted that Cr-6 often seeps from natural rock formations into surface and ground water, and rescinded the warning letters. But the resulting controversy continues, and the company, regulators and politicians are trying to resolve it.
Duke Energy and many health experts maintain that Cr-6 levels found near the ash facilities (and miles away, from natural sources) are far below what cause health risks. But it wants to assuage concerns among families closest to the ash facilities. So the company offered to provide alternatives to their well water, by giving them access to public water sources or installing state-of-the-art home filtration systems.
In January 2017, the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) granted preliminary approval to these company plans for homes within one-half-mile of a coal ash impoundment. Final approval is contingent on state health and environmental departments certifying that water provided via these systems meets “applicable” or “appropriate” standards for each location.
Now activists say Duke and other companies should move millions of tons of ash from multiple depositories. Not only would that involve hundreds of thousands of dump truck loads, millions of gallons of fuel, and huge trucks lumbering through towns and along back roads and highways. A far more basic question is: Take it where, exactly? Who would want it? Activists certainly offer no viable alternatives.
Companies previously proposed turning fly ash into cement blocks or gravel, for construction projects. Activists quickly nixed that option, even though it would involve virtually no contamination risks. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the real reason for all the vocal consternation is that these agitators simply want to drive coal out of business. Indeed, the same unaccountable, silver-tongued agitators also detest natural gas-generated electricity … and drilling and fracking to produce the gas. They oppose nuclear energy, and even want hydroelectric dams and power plants removed. They claim to support wind and solar, by conveniently ignoring the huge downsides pointed out here, here, here, here and elsewhere.
Forcing utility companies to spend billions relocating huge ash deposits to “lined, watertight landfills” (in someone else’s backyard) will bring no health or environmental benefits. But it will bankrupt companies, send electricity prices soaring, and hurt poor, minority and working class families the most.
If rates double from current costs in coal-reliant states like North Carolina and Virginia (9 cents per kilowatt-hour or less) to those in anti-coal New York or Connecticut (17 cents), families will have to pay $500-1,000 more annually for electricity. Hospitals, school districts, factories and businesses will have to spend additional thousands, tens of thousands or millions. Where will that money come from?
Virginia’s 665,000-square-foot Inova Fairfax Women’s and Children’s Hospital pays about $1,850,000 per year for electricity at 9 cents/kWh, but would pay $3,500,000 at 17 cents: a $1.6-million difference.
Will businesses have to lay off dozens or hundreds of employees, or close their doors? If they pass costs on to patients or customers, where will families find the extra cash? What will the poorest families do?
The war on coal, petroleum, nuclear and hydroelectric power is a callous, eco-imperialist war on reliable, affordable electricity, on jobs, and on poor and minority families. Policies that drive energy prices up drive people out of jobs, drive companies out of business, drive families into green-energy poverty.
Preventing ruptures and spills means selecting, building and maintaining the best possible ash landfill facilities. Safeguarding public water and health means properly addressing actual, proven toxicity risks.
The US Environmental Protection Agency and North Carolina set allowable Cr-6 limits at 100 ppb for drinking water (equivalent to 100 seconds in 33 years or 4 cups in 660,000 gallons of water). The state also applies a 10 ppb standard for well water. No one applies a 0.07 ppb standard (70 parts per trillion).
In 2015, the NCDEQ tested 24 wells two to five miles from the nearest coal plant or coal ash deposit; 20 had Cr-6 levels above 0.07 ppb but far below 100 ppb, underscoring its diverse origins. May 2016 tests could not even detect the chemical in Greensboro water, the News & Record reported.
A 2016 Duke University study found that hexavalent chromium is prevalent in many North Carolina surface and ground waters. Some comes from coal ash deposits, but much is leached from igneous and other rocks found throughout the Piedmont region of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. Other health experts note that Cr-6 is found in 70% to 90% of all water supplies in the United States. Applying a 0.07 ppb would mean telling hundreds of millions of Americans not to drink their water!
Moreover, studies have found that Cr-6 in water is safe even at 100 ppb or higher. A 2012 paper in the Journal of Applied Toxicology concluded that regularly drinking water with 210 ppb of Cr-6 poses no health risks. (The real health problems involve airborne Cr-6.) Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, US EPA and other studies buttress those findings.
Equally important, an ability to detect a substance does not mean it poses a risk. Cancer is certainly scary, but the risk of getting cancer is not the same as dying from it. And people routinely accept risks of dying from activities they happily engage in daily. For example, the National Safety Council puts the lifetime risk of dying in a motor vehicle crash at 1 in 113; that’s 8,850 times greater than the alleged lifetime risk of contracting cancer from 0.07 ppb Cr-6 in water. Drinking and smoking fall into the same category.
However, all too many people seem easily terrified by “detectable” levels of strange-sounding chemicals. 100% clean is not necessary, not possible, not found in nature and not a sound basis for public policy.
Coal and chemical controversies like these offer our nation, states and communities excellent opportunities to find novel solutions that recognize sound science, hidden agendas, often limited options, and undesirable repercussions of poorly informed policy decisions. Let’s hope they are up to the task.
Reassessing Obama's CAFE Mandates
Last week, President Donald Trump announced his administration will reassess the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) mandates the Obama administration’s EPA tried to lock in before the Jan. 20 transition of power. “We’re going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again,” Trump told a cheering crowd of auto workers in Ypsilanti, Michigan. “We’re going to help companies so they are going to help you. We’re going to be the car capital of the world again.”
New EPA chief Scott Pruitt promised his agency will coordinate with the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to decide whether the Obama administration mandates will remain in place. The deadline for making the decision is April 2018.
Why the reassessment? “In 2012 the EPA set ambitious mileage standards that required auto makers to achieve an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, nearly twice the 2011 mandate,” the Wall Street Journal explains. “The increases were backloaded such that manufacturers had to hit 36.6 miles a gallon by 2017 and 46.8 miles a gallon by 2022. In the last three years, car makers would need to squeeze an additional eight miles out of each gallon.”
In a letter sent to Pruitt in February, the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers (AAM) insisted no government agency “had ever set emissions standards so far into the future,” and that the final determination engendered by Obama’s EPA was “riddled with indefensible assumptions, inadequate analysis, and failure to engage with contrary evidence.”
The AAM further explained meeting those standards would cost far more than the $200 billion originally estimated by Obama’s EPA because the “electrified technologies” needed to meet them would raise the price of vehicles and depress auto sales. As the Journal notes, the onerous standards might have been feasible when gas cost $3.60 per gallon and passenger cars comprised more than half of all vehicle sales. But when the price of gas dropped, sales of trucks and SUVs skyrocketed, with trucks gaining a 61% market share in 2016. Moreover, the decline in gas prices mitigated the benefits of customer fuel savings the EPA used to justify the increased CAFE standards.
Those standards also increased vehicle production costs, driving vehicle manufacturers to Mexico in search of cheaper labor.
The Obama administration knew all of this and originally promised the incoming administration would get a “midterm review” of the CAFE standards to be completed by April 2018.
Make that an incoming Clinton administration. When Trump was elected, Obama’s EPA set the 2012 standards in stone, even though their own projections revealed fewer than 1% of gas-burning cars would comply with the 2022 mandate, and none would meet the standards set for 2025.
Trump’s having none of it. “We are going to restore the originally scheduled midterm review and we are going to ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs, your factories. We’re going to be fair,” Trump said. “That is why I’m proud to say I followed through on my promise.”
Predictably, Democrats and their eco-zealot allies are furious. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) characterized the review as “all-out assault” to “dismantle important environmental protections.” Kristin Igusky, Climate Program Associate at the World Resources, declared “the administration is creating more uncertainty and blocking progress toward cleaner, more efficient vehicles for America.”
Christian Science Monitor columnist Zack Coleman joins the chorus. “Transportation is now the leading sector for greenhouse gas emissions in the United States,” he writes. “The lower the so-called Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard, the smaller will be the reductions carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles.”
Not quite. The expansion of the aforementioned “electrified technologies” necessary to meet the Obama EPA standards have environmental problems of their own as onerous, if not more so, than vehicles themselves. “So we’re chasing the car that is fueled solely by the electricity that comes out of our walls,” writes columnist Rich Cromwell. “That electricity is apparently generated by magic, never coal, so battery-powered options would reduce cars' carbon footprint and create a more sustainable future.”
Cromwell also eviscerates the catalytic converter, an ostensible pollutant-eliminating device that’s been around since the 70s and became government required for vehicles in 2010. “Catalytic converters, you see, are made in variety of ways, but all those ways include precious metals,” he reveals. “You know how you get precious metals? By mining them from deep under the surface of the earth.” Cromwell cites an article from MIT that “examines all the ways this kind of mining is abjectly horrible, including its carbon footprint.”
In other words, while environmentalists and their Democrat allies in Congress are quick to tout the transparent benefits of electric cars or CAFE standards, they are rather myopic regarding the unforeseen — or is that conspicuously ignored — deleterious tradeoffs that accompany them.
And not just environmental tradeoffs. As Robert Tracinski explains, one would have to drive a $90,000 electric-powered Tesla for 30 years to equalize the costs between it and a $45,000 gas-powered Lexus, based on the average number of miles most Americans drive, coupled with slightly higher gas costs than they’re currently paying. Thus, many “green energy products” are a long way from being economically viable. On the other hand, Tracinski adds, they remain “very much a plaything or status symbol for the wealthy and upper middle class, the sort of people who uniformly believe in man-made global warming and who can afford to spend tens of thousands of extra dollars just to feel good about themselves.”
One suspects ordinary Americans who can’t afford a Tesla or a Lexus and struggle to make ends meet are less “high-minded.”
And what if CAFE standards are solely about holier-than-thou self-aggrandizement? “Under the Obama Administration, CAFE standards have become a tool for combatting global warming, at which they are utterly ineffective,” Heritage Foundation writers Salim Furth and David Kreutzer declare. “Americans are paying excessively for regulations that fail any reasonable cost-benefit test.”
The benefit touted by the Obama administration — a “decrease global temperatures by 0.007 degrees to 0.018 degrees Celsius in 2100” — would be more than offset by “massive losses” imposed on consumers who would increase the number of miles they drive with more fuel-efficient cars offsetting carbon reductions. Many would also eschew higher-priced new car purchases and “delay upgrades, leaving older vehicles on the road longer.”
Pruitt has assured the nation his review of CAFE standards will engender a program that is “good for consumers and good for the environment.” Such balance is a refreshing change from the Obama administration’s “kill the economy to save the planet” mindset.
Nonetheless, he will face resistance. As columnist Ned Barnett reveals, the EPA is still infested with careerists who “believe their own views on global warming and a host of other environmental issues are the only ‘true’ positions. The president, for his part, is clearly preparing to take the challenge directly to the EPA’s permanent staff.”
Hopefully under a swamp-draining Trump administration, there’s no such thing as administrative permanence.
Spying Out EPA Waste, Fraud and Abuse
President Trump wants to cut the budget of the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, from $8.2 billion to about $5.7 billion, a reduction of $2.6 billion and more than 3,000 positions. The proposed cuts have drawn attacks from politicians, the old-line establishment media, and regulatory zealots. For their part, taxpayers might keep a few realities in mind.
As an inspector general testified in 2013, the powerful EPA displays “an absence of even basic internal controls,” as confirmed by the case of EPA “policy advisor” John Beale. Beale claimed he also worked for the CIA, but nobody at the EPA bothered to check. That enabled Beale to take more than two years off, with full pay, claiming to be in London, India and Pakistan when he was actually kicking back at his vacation home. Beale pulled off his CIA ruse for nearly 20 years and also falsely claimed to have worked for Sen. John Tunney of California and served in Vietnam. Investigators found little evidence that the fraudster’s management produced anything of value, but the EPA eagerly ponied up retention bonuses. The EPA also continued to pay Beale for 19 months after his retirement dinner cruise. All told, the faker bilked taxpayers of nearly $1 million.
As we previously noted, the EPA has not exactly been forthcoming about what it does with the $6.3 billion it has collected from lawsuits and settlements since 1990. Taxpayers may also recall that in 2015 EPA contractors released three million gallons of contaminated wastewater into the Animas River. This unleashed 880,000 pounds of lead, arsenic and other toxic materials for dozens of miles through southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico. The EPA’s alleged vigilance also did nothing to prevent the Flint water crisis, but despite both disasters EPA boss Gina McCarthy kept her job.
Meanwhile, John Beale served 32 months in federal custody and last year gained release. He still collects his generous federal retirement, so in one sense the fake secret agent man got away it. Patrick Sullivan of the EPA inspector general’s office told reporters, “I’m quite confident that it would be almost impossible for someone like Beale to replicate his fraud.” Taxpayers have good reason to doubt it. On the other hand, taxpayers have plenty of evidence that the EPA deserves a cut of more than 31 percent.
There is a consensus but it is not a scientific one
A few days ago I had a conversation with a very smart university professor of history and somehow the climate change subject came up. Almost instantly he responded to my thoughts by saying: “You must be one of those deniers who rejects the science consensus.”
This is the new form of intellectual bullying and it’s intentionally designed is to stop the conversation not advance it. In the academies it is a technique to close off scientific inquiry.
When the liberals talk of consensus, what consensus are they talking about? Of whom? About what? Here is John Kay of the Financial Times on the so-called consensus:
"Science is a matter of evidence, not what a majority of scientists think…. The notion of a monolithic “science,” meaning what scientists say, is pernicious and the notion of “scientific consensus” actively so. The route to knowledge is transparency in disagreement and openness in debate. The route to truth is the pluralist expression of conflicting views in which, often not as quickly as we might like, good ideas drive out bad. There is no room in this process for any notion of “scientific consensus.”
Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, has noted that too many environmentalists “ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse.”
Then he adds: “… there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition.… The consensus was reached before the research was even begun…”
Kay and Lindzen are not alone. In an open letter to the Canadian Prime Minister, 60 scientists urged caution when it comes to any policy with regard to climate:
While the confident pronouncements of scientifically unqualified environmental groups may provide for sensational headlines, they are no basis for mature policy formation.… There is no “consensus” among climate scientists about the relative importance of the various causes of global climate change.… “Climate change is real” is a meaningless phrase used repeatedly by activists to convince the public that a climate catastrophe is looming and humanity is the cause. Neither of these fears is justified. Global climate changes all the time due to natural causes and the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish from this natural noise.
Patrick Moore, a Ph.D. in ecology, is a fallen-away founder of Greenpeace. The following is from his 2015 lecture, “Should We Celebrate Carbon Dioxide?”
"There is no definite scientific proof, through real-world observation that carbon dioxide is responsible for any of the slight warming in the global climate that has occurred during the past 300 years, since the peak of the Little Ice Age.… The contention that human emissions are now the dominant influence on climate is simply a hypothesis, rather than a universally accepted scientific theory. It is therefore correct, indeed verging on compulsory in a scientific tradition, to be skeptical of those who express certainty that “the science is settled” and “the debate is over.”
The world’s top climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is hopelessly conflicted by its makeup and its mandate from the United Nations. It is required only to focus on “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the atmosphere, and which is in addition to natural climate variability.” So if the IPCC found that climate change was not being affected by human alteration of the atmosphere or that it is not “dangerous,” there would be no need for it to exist. It is virtually mandated to find on the side of apocalypse.
The IPCC states that it is “extremely likely” that human emissions have been the dominant cause of global warming “since the mid-20th century,” that is since 1950. It claims that “extremely” means 95% certain, even though the number 95 was simply plucked from the air like an act of magic. And “likely” is not a scientific word but rather indicative of a judgment, another word for opinion.
“Perpetual repetition.” “Unqualified environmental groups.” “Sensational headlines.” This is what mass movements are all about. From his book, The True Believer, here is Eric Hoffer on mass movements:
"Hatred is the most assessable and comprehensive of all the unifying agents.… Mass movements can rise and spread without the belief in God but never without the belief in evil."
By the way, isn’t this what the left accuses the Trump movement to be all about?
Hoffer then goes on to cite the historian F.A. Voigt’s account of a Japanese mission to Berlin in 1932 to study the National Socialist Movement. Voigt asked a member of the mission what he thought. He replied, “It is magnificent. I wish we could have something like it in Japan, only we can’t, because we haven’t got any Jews.” This brought a bit of clarity as to why the mass movement, rather brilliantly, wants to label those of us who have questions as “deniers.”
There are two things necessary for a mass movement to succeed: true believers and a well-defined enemy. The enemy of the climate change mass movement is fossil fuels and the Industrial Age, with the “deniers” being the enablers of planetary destruction.
In the past, the term “denier” has been associated with that extreme group who denies the existence of the horrible, tragic historical fact, the Holocaust. Many climate change true believers want the public to put anyone who questions or disagrees with climate change projections in the same category as the Holocaust deniers. But one is a fact, the other a contested projection. Nevertheless, they have been quite successful.
Here is one of the definitions of “denier” found on the Internet: “a person who denies something, especially someone who refuses to admit the truth of a concept or proposition that is supported by the majority of the scientific or historical evidence: a prominent denier of global warming.”
Here is Hoffer’s warning on the role of the true believer: “where mass movements can either persuade or coerce, it usually chooses the latter.”
Something we are seeing in spades.
The last paragraph of Friedrich Hayek’s 1974 Nobel Prize address, The Pretense of Knowledge, puts the climate change mass movement and its true believers into frightening perspective:
"There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, “dizzy with success,” to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will."
It has always been worrisome to me that every so-called solution to global warming subverts rather than enhances human freedom and advances the power of the state to regulate energy, industrial activity, and individual behavior That seems to me, a denier, or whatever term you want to use, a potentially greater threat to the future of human welfare than even climate change. Václav Klaus, the former president of the Czech Republic, made this same point when he declared: “What is at risk is not the climate but freedom.”
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Posted by JR at 1:33 AM