Thursday, September 14, 2017

This could be amusing

The skeptics will win hands down

One of Europe’s largest hedge funds is looking to move into the gambling industry in the UK, as it sets up a new venue where players can bet on the effects of climate change. The project is hoping to tempt climate scientists to put their money where their models are.

The new “climate prediction market” is the brainchild of Winton Capital, founded by David Harding, and is aimed at finding a market consensus on the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global temperature rises in the future.

The not-for-profit project, which is being funded out of Winton’s philanthropic budget, is hoping to tempt climate scientists to put their money where their models are, and to provide a clear benchmark of the academic consensus at a time of intense interest in man-made climate change.

News of the project comes as the UN General Assembly meeting in New York focuses on the theme of a sustainable planet. Climate change also continues to dominate the political agenda around the world, after President Donald Trump declared he will withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord and roll back regulations on the production of coal.

“With a prediction market, getting the information is the primary objective,” said Mark Roulston, a scientist at Winton who is overseeing the project. “There’s not necessarily a consensus on all the implications of climate change. The idea is to have a benchmark which could track any emerging consensus.”

Under the plan, scientists and experts from around the world will be able to trade contracts based on the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and how far temperatures increase, going decades into the future. Winton will act as a market maker and subsidise trading, rather than taking a cut or skewing the odds in its favour.

Winton’s market, which will be based in the UK, will be one of only a few prediction markets and is believed to be the first dedicated to climate issues. Such markets are mostly barred in the US because of more restrictive gambling laws; one exception is at the University of Iowa, which has developed a political futures market run for research and teaching.

If the Winton market is successful, Mr Roulston envisions it being a source to show how experts believe world events — such as the US withdrawing from the climate accord — could impact climate change.

Robin Hanson, a professor of economics at George Mason University who helped pioneer the use of prediction markets, said there is little incentive for anyone to try to manipulate the market, because that will only make the potential profits bigger for those who predict CO2 concentration and temperature correctly.

“There are lots of betting markets, and there are lots of ways to predict climate, like through weather futures,” said Prof Hanson. “The difference here is you’re creating a market for the purpose of finding out about something, rather than just to make some money or have fun.”

On Winton’s market, bets will settle every year, using temperature data from the UK’s Hadley Centre, and the annual average of the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide as measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration monitoring station on Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

The hedge fund will initially target professionals in the climate field to participate, though it will be open to anyone in the UK. It is being run internally at Winton, with employees able to place notional bets rather than using real money. Mr Roulston said they are hoping to launch it externally later this year to universities, and will open it to the public sometime next year.


When the lights go out in a hurricane, blame climate change policies, not climate change

With electric power going out in those parts of Florida and Texas where powerful hurricanes have made landfall, now would be a good time to assess the long-term viability of America's energy grid. If you are someone who has grown accustomed to reliable and affordable energy sources, and are now suddenly without power, try to imagine what that might be like on a regular basis.

Although global warming alarmists have predictably made every effort to link Hurricanes Harvey and Irma with higher greenhouse gas levels, the real threat to American energy comes not from global warming, but from misguided global warming policies.

That much is made evident in a highly detailed report the U.S. Department of Energy has just released on "electricity markets and reliability" that should be instructive to federal and state policymakers. One key finding that stands out is the impact government regulations, mandates and subsidies have on current and future energy needs. As variable renewable energy has gained traction within the energy grid, it has become more difficult and challenging to meet growing energy needs, according to the report.

That's because wind and solar energy sources cannot stand on their own two feet without government intervention. Unlike their fossil counterparts, renewable energy sources are intermittent, unreliable, and expensive. But they did gain political favor during the Obama administration as a way to mitigate the potential effects of man-made global warming. Since a growing number of scientists now identify natural influences, as opposed to human emissions, as the primary drivers of climate change, it's time to let solar and wind energy rise and fall on their own merits. The government subsidies and mandates that prop up renewable energy have contributed to the "premature retirement of baseload power plants," the study says. The lesson here is that what is politically fashionable and trendy does not always make sense economically or scientifically.

So, is there room for renewable energy to operate effectively in the absence of government intervention?

The Institute for Energy Research has released its own report titled "The Solar Value Cliff" that addresses this very question and concludes that at "low penetration levels" solar power can alleviate stress on the electricity grid. However, IER also finds that solar energy "contributes no additional capacity to the grid at a penetration level of 6 percent or beyond. Indeed, additional solar above the threshold is actively harmful to the ability of operators to maintain the capacity of the grid because it undermines the economics of those energy sources that must continue to provide the capacity to meet peak demand."

Put simply, solar could have a constructive, but limited role as part of a mixed approach to energy unfettered from government directives.

Ideally, it would be best not to politicize the human tragedies that flow out of natural disasters like Harvey and Irma. Contrary to what has been reported by some media outlets, the extreme weather conditions that have occurred recently are not out of proportion what has happened historically. In fact, in the past 140 years, major landfall hurricanes have actually declined even as CO2 has risen.

The population centers that are most vulnerable to severe weather are the ones that stand to lose the most if unworkable, inefficient energy displaces fossil fuels that have raised living standards across the globe. In fact, there's an argument to be made that the oil and gas industry has saved lives that would have otherwise perished in the recent hurricanes.

There will always be challenges to humanity in the form of extreme weather, but we'll be better positioned to handle natural disasters in the future if policymakers embrace technological innovation and responsible industrial development rather than unfounded global warming hysteria.


Neither God nor Gaia is punishing America

As America gets punished by one hurricane after another, that proud nation refuses to repent. That may be because natural disasters are not punishments from angry gods, and those who exploit them to further their agenda are callous opportunists.
Since time immemorial, prophets of doom and religious zealots have declared natural disasters to be punishment for humanity’s sins, or expressions of their anger. One would think modern humans would have grown out of such childish superstitions, but alas, it is not so. Worse, supposedly rational academics have taken over the fire-and-brimstone mantle from religious zealots.

When hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders all invented reasons why their god was punishing the city, ranging from orgies, pornography, homosexuality and indoctrinating children with perversion, to removing religious statuary from government property, to foreign policy issues involving Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. With delicious irony, one pastor, who said hurricanes were signs of God’s displeasure over gay marriage and abortions, himself fell victim to flooding last year.

This time around, one two-bit actor, Kirk Cameron, claimed that God uses hurricanes to kill innocent people to teach us humility, awe and repentance, but religious leaders have been far more restrained. One fire-breathing zealot who once blamed the Sandy Hook massacre on gay marriage and abortion, now says: “Finally, my prayer is that we as a nation would not politicise this crisis in any way.”

But while religious leaders have cooled down their heartless, opportunistic rhetoric, natural disasters remain useful as propaganda to indoctrinate people into accepting beliefs they otherwise would reject. Witness professor Kenneth Storey, a sociology professor at the University of Tampa, Florida, who thinks Hurricane Harvey should be blamed on Republicans who voted for Trump. He has been fired for his efforts to politicise the crisis.

Not all political opportunists have met the same fate, however. One of the most prominent is Michael E. Mann, a lead character in the ClimateGate scandal of 2009. (For a refresher on the case, which revealed that climate scientists operate with a political agenda, suppress the work of outsiders, hide and even destroy data, downplay their own uncertainties in public statements, and whitewash the resulting scandal, read this, this, this and this.)

Mann took to the Guardian to declare that “it’s a fact” that climate change made Hurricane Harvey more deadly. Besides the trivial observation that there has been a small amount of sea surface warming in the Mexican Gulf “over the past few decades”, and that sea levels have been rising slowly but steadily for as long as we’ve bothered to measure them, Mann bases his view on the weather patterns that caused Harvey to stall, making its rainfall as severe as it has been.

To underscore his objective – using natural disasters to scare people into accepting beliefs that they otherwise would reject – Mann and two colleagues penned an editorial entitled, “Irma and Harvey should kill any doubt that climate change is real.”

Mann is a climatologist, and gets mighty offended when mere meteorologists step onto his turf, so perhaps he should tread a little more lightly when he starts discussing short-term weather patterns. Meteorologist Joe Bastardi shredded Mann’s explanation of the weather systems at play, saying he not only gets it wrong, but that he describes exactly the opposite of what really happened.

Cliff Mass, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington – who unlike Bastardi is by no means a climate sceptic – gave a more measured take. He concludes that “human-induced global warming played an inconsequential role in this disaster”.

He notes that sea temperatures were, as Mann wrote, slightly above normal in the period leading up to Hurricane Harvey, but atmospheric temperatures were not above normal. This means that the air moisture content could not have been significantly higher than usual, contrary to Mann’s claim. Even if Mann were right, however, and there was 3.5% more moisture in the air than usual, Mass says this would have accounted for only 1” (25mm) in 30” (726mm) worth of the rain, which is “immaterial regarding impacts or anything else”.

Mass shows that while warmer weather is expected to produce more precipitation, the rainfall record for the coast around Houston shows no trend, or even a slightly downward trend, over 50 years. He concludes: “There is no evidence that global warming is influencing Texas coastal precipitation in the long term and little evidence that warmer than normal temperatures had any real impact on the precipitation intensity from this storm.”

He adds that there is also no evidence of any trend in zonal winds over the Gulf of Mexico for the past 50 years which could have accounted for Harvey stalling over Houston, nor is there any trend in the strength of hurricane winds in the region. Model predictions, which he analysed in a published paper, show no significant changes in winds over the Gulf coast even by the end of the 21st century, let alone now.

A similar argument holds for Hurricane Irma. It actually developed over relatively cool waters in the Atlantic, according to climatologist Judith Curry, but was favoured by other weather conditions, such as weak wind shear. She accuses Mann and his colleagues of “hysterical hand waving … using undergraduate basic thermodynamics reasoning”. She adds: “There is nothing basic or simple about hurricanes.”

True, some records were set. At 51.88” (1,318mm) Harvey caused the most rainfall of any storm in US history. But not by much. Tropical storm Claudette dumped 42” (1,029mm) in just 24 hours in 1979, while Harvey took several days to set its record. Tropical storm Amelia dumped 48” (1,220mm) in 1978. Hurricane Easy caused 45” (1,143mm) in 1950. Statistically speaking there’s no trend here.

On the contrary, Harvey and Irma broke a 12-year hurricane drought in the continental US. They were only 15 days apart, which is unusual, but the shortest time on record between two major hurricanes is 23 hours, set in 1933. Harvey and Irma were both powerful hurricanes, but they’re not record-breaking in terms of either wind speeds or barometric pressure.

Dr Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane expert in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, ranked the 24 worst US hurricanes on record. By pressure at landfall, Irma ranks joint 7th, behind hurricanes in 1935, 1969, 2005, 1992, 1886, 1919, and level with one in 1928. Harvey ranks joint 18th. By wind speed at landfall, Irma and Harvey both rank joint 14th, level with hurricanes in 1898, 1915, 1916, 1948 and 1954 and behind hurricanes in 1935, 1969, 1992, 1856, 1886, 1919, 1932, 1926, 1928, 1960, 1961, 1900 and 1989.

If all those dates don’t look like they’re clustered in the age of alarming global warming – the last few decades – that’s because they aren’t:

While slightly warmer temperatures may have made a marginal difference to Harvey and Irma, there is nothing in the data to suggest that climate change made either hurricane particularly bad, or that climate change is causing more frequent, or stronger, hurricanes.

A chart by meteorologist Ryan Maue which documents accumulated tropical cyclone energy since 1972 both in the northern hemisphere and globally shows that cyclones (which are called hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and typhoons in the Pacific) are not increasing in intensity:

If anything, global cyclone intensity peaked in the 1990s, and has been on the wane ever since. That is not the trend one would expect if the climate change theory were true. (Useful interactive charts with various indicators for each oceanic basin, including accumulated cyclone energy, can be found on the website of the Tropical Meteorological Project of Colorado State University.)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has this to say about global warming and hurricanes: “It is premature to conclude that human activities – and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming – have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity. That said, human activities may have already caused changes that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of the changes or observational limitations, or are not yet confidently modelled.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also addresses claims that tropical storm or hurricane numbers have been rising in the Atlantic Basin. It is worth quoting that section in full, since the caveats to its opening sentence entirely negate it:

“Existing records of past Atlantic tropical storm or hurricane numbers (1878 to present) in fact do show a pronounced upward trend, which is also correlated with rising SSTs (Vecchi and Knutson 2008). However, the density of reporting ship traffic over the Atlantic was relatively sparse during the early decades of this record, such that if storms from the modern era (post 1965) had hypothetically occurred during those earlier decades, a substantial number would likely not have been directly observed by the ship-based ‘observing network of opportunity’. We find that, after adjusting for such an estimated number of missing storms, there is a small nominally positive upward trend in tropical storm occurrence from 1878-2006. But statistical tests reveal that this trend is so small, relative to the variability in the series, that it is not significantly distinguishable from zero [their emphasis]. In addition, Landsea et al (2010) note that the rising trend in Atlantic tropical storm counts is almost entirely due to increases in short-duration (<2 day) storms alone. Such short-lived storms were particularly likely to have been overlooked in the earlier parts of the record, as they would have had less opportunity for chance encounters with ship traffic.

“If we instead consider Atlantic basin hurricanes, rather than all Atlantic tropical storms, the result is similar: the reported numbers of hurricanes were sufficiently high during the 1860s-1880s that again there is no significant positive trend in numbers beginning from that era. This is without any adjustment for ‘missing hurricanes’.

“The evidence for an upward trend is even weaker if we look at U.S. landfalling hurricanes, which even show a slight negative trend beginning from 1900 or from the late 1800s.”

In short, Michael Mann and other activists who attribute anything about the recent hurricanes to climate change are talking politics, not science. They’re trying to put the fear of Gaia in you, to get you to fall in line behind their doctrine of humanity’s sin and their prescription for your redemption.

They’re behaving just as zealots have done throughout the ages. To take major disasters which killed people and ruined lives to score dishonest propaganda points says all you need to know about Mann and company’s true feelings towards both humanity and science. They hold both in contempt.

SOURCE (See the original for links and graphics)

The Time is Right for the EPA to Cut Back the Renewable Fuel Mandate

The deadline closed last week for interested parties to file comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest proposed Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which would require 19.24 billion total gallons of biofuel to be blended into transportation fuels in 2018 and 2019. EPA’s proposed standards fall short of statutorily required levels by 6.76 billion gallons, and if finalized would represent a 40 million gallon decrease from the standards that were finalized in December for 2017.

This biofuel mandate is bad news for the environment and for American consumers: in the past decade evidence has shown that mandated ethanol production could be creating more carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline and polluting waterbodies via nitrogen fertilizer runoff, all while benefitting a narrow group of special interests at the expense of consumers.

What is the Renewable Fuel Standard?

The RFS program requires refiners to blend specific amounts of renewable fuels into transportation fuel, such as gasoline and diesel. The RFS program was created in 2005 to reduce both American dependence on foreign oil and domestic gasoline consumption. While the stated goals of the RFS are to reduce crude oil imports and increase the use of domestic renewable fuels, an implicit purpose of the RFS is to benefit the environment by moving away from gasoline and diesel, fossil fuels that result in substantial carbon emissions.

Environmental Damage

Since Congress first authorized the RFS program in 2005, academic research has indicated that the production of ethanol and biodiesel may significantly increase emissions, specifically of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) and criteria pollutants such as particulate matter. This prospect was recently recognized by EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, which last year released a report recommending that EPA satisfy its statutory obligations by analyzing and addressing the program’s negative environmental impacts.

While estimates vary, recent research indicates that the environmental benefit of the RFS is extremely modest at best and, at worst, could result in a significant increase in CO2 emissions over gasoline. Overall, the post-2007 literature largely reinforces that ethanol production increases emissions and damages wetlands.

The two main sources of this environmental harm are changes in land use and increased fertilizer use, which lead to the release of a significant amount of soil organic carbon and cause water pollution, damage ecosystems, harm biodiversity, and contribute to the Gulf of Mexico’s “Dead Zone.”

Regulatory Capture

Unfortunately the environmental impacts are not the end of the story for consumers, who ultimately bear the burden of the RFS program – via higher prices not only for fuel, but also for food and other goods that rely on inputs like corn and soy. While these rules are a bad deal for American consumers, they are highly profitable for the domestic soybean and corn growers and refiners, which enjoy a government mandate that consumers use their products.

Given the availability of new information on the impacts of the program, Congress and EPA should reevaluate whether the latest proposed Renewable Fuel Standard is accomplishing what Congress intended: a greener fuel future that benefits consumers and the environment alike.


Australia: ‘Marketing con’ fears as Elon Musk’s SA battery costs remain secret

A contract between US tech billionaire Elon Musk and the South Australian government for the world’s largest lithium-ion battery hides the cost and key details, fuelling claims the deal is a “marketing con”.

The contract says the grid-­connected battery facility is to be commissioned and operational by December 1.

“The facility will provide ser­vices to maintain power system security, integrity and stability for the South Australian electricity network, prevent certain load shedding events, provide supply during critical peak periods and participate in ancillary services and wholesale electricity markets,” the contract says.

The contract value is “not disclosed” and the contract is “not disclosed in full as it contains confidential business information”.

Mr Musk’s company Tesla won a public tender in July from about 90 other bidders. It will build a 100-megawatt battery to store energy from French renewable company Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm near Jamestown, 230km north of Adelaide.

Mr Musk won the contract after promising to build the giant battery in 100 days or it would be free. Although the contract start date is listed as July 6, the “100 days or it’s free” pledge starts only once a grid interconnection agreement has been signed.

The opposition said it was outrageous the state government could disclose what it paid Origin for gas, Caltex for fuel and Qantas for air travel, but could not say how much it was paying a foreign billionaire for a battery.

“With every passing day Labor’s secret deal sounds more like a marketing con than a genuine plan to deal with South Australia’s electricity problems,” Liberal deputy leader Vickie Chapman said. “Jay Weatherill needs to be honest with the people of South Australia about how much public money he is handing over to a foreign billionaire.

“The last time the government was being this secretive about a contract it was the Gillman land deal. That ended up being investigated by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.”

It is understood specific financial and technical details of the contract have been kept commercial-in-confidence at the request of Neoen and Tesla. The cost is estimated at about $50 million.

Tesla will not comment, but will make a “milestone” announcement at the site on September 29.

Sources said Neoen, Tesla and the government were negotiating with the Australian Energy Market Operator and private transmission company ElectraNet for approval of the connection agreement as soon as possible.

Construction has started at the site and the batteries are being shipped to South Australia.

A government spokesman said the project would stabilise the wind-reliant grid and add competition to reduce prices.

“Instead of criticising aspects of the plan that AEMO says will improve grid security, (Opposition Leader) Steven Marshall should announce his own energy policies, rather than keep them ­secret,” the spokesman said.

On Tuesday, a fleet of generators that arrived in South Australia from Europe at the weekend were awaiting installation at two sites as part of the Weatherill government’s plan to prevent blackouts this summer ahead of the March state election.

The state government further delayed its Energy Security Target to January 1, 2020, after criticism from companies including Tesla. The target requires retailers to source 36 per cent of the state’s electricity needs from gas gener­ators and other synchronous power sources.




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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