Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Faith in science is undermined by peer-review failings

Science has been in the news ­lately. As part of the release of the latest UN Inter­govern­mental Panel on Climate Change report, the boast was made that the contents were based on the work of 91 of the top scientists and more than 6000 scientific references.

This carries on the tradition outlined by the chairman of the IPCC from 2002 to 2015, Rajendra Pachauri: “We carry out an assessment of climate change based on peer-reviewed literature, so everything that we look at and take into account in our assessments has to carry the credibility of peer-­reviewed publications, we don’t settle for anything less than that.”

The trouble for the IPCC — and for many other outlets that carry scientific findings — is that a crisis in science has been brewing for some time. Known as the replication or reproducibility crisis, the fundamental problem is that the results of many peer-reviewed ­papers and reports have not been confirmed when the experiments have been repeated or the data ­reanalysed. Eminent medical scientist John Ioannidis belled the cat as early as 2005 in a much cited technical paper, Why Most Published Research Findings are False.

He concluded that “there is ­increasing concern that most current published research findings are false … For many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.” He further noted research findings were less likely to be true when “more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance”.

There is a variety of reasons for the failure of studies to be repli­cated. At one end of the spectrum is fraud and misconduct, while at the other end is manipulation and cherry-picking of data. Researchers have strong incentives to ­establish significant results while discarding inconvenient data and failed hypotheses. Authors often deliberately make it difficult for other researchers to re-do experiments or check findings.

Additionally, many referees, who are the gatekeepers in the peer review process, do a lousy job by simply reading papers and ­approving them if they agree with their findings. Peer review generally doesn’t involve re-running ­experiments, for instance.

One editor of an academic journal was so troubled by the issue of non-reproducibility that he decided to send out already published papers to new reviewers for their assessments. Apart from the fact a reasonable proportion of reviewers didn’t even recognise that the papers had ­already been published, several of the papers were actually rejected by the new reviewers. So much for the infallibility of peer review.

A serious effort was made in 2015 to replicate the findings of 100 experiments reported in three major psychology journals. Ninety-seven per cent of the original studies had reported significant results but only 36 per cent of the repli­cated studies could confirm these effects. This is a damning outcome.

More recently, a research project tried to reproduce 21 ­social ­science experiments published ­between 2010 and 2015 in the prestigious journals Science and ­Nature. Thirteen replication studies were successful, while eight others could find no effects at all.

The editors of Nature recently conducted a survey of nearly 1600 researchers. It was noted that 70 per cent of researchers had ­failed to ­reproduce other scientists’ experiments. Ninety per cent of respondents felt reproducibility in science was a significant or slight crisis. Only 3 per cent thought it wasn’t a crisis at all.

Whether economics should be regarded as a science is debatable, but a recent edition of the prominent Economic Journal ­included a reassessment of the ­results from several of its published papers. The conclusion drawn was that most of the underlying analyses were statistically underpowered, meaning no reliance could be placed on the conclusions. For the other studies that had enough power, there was a distinct tendency for the size of ­effects to be overstated.

A replication audit of 67 economics papers published in 13 prestigious journals was conducted by the US Federal Reserve and the Department of Treasury. Less than half the studies could be replicated, even with the help of the ­authors. “We assert that eco­nomics research is usually not ­replicable,” concluded the authors.

If all this sounds alarming to the layperson, it should. After all, the results of many of these peer-reviewed studies have had practical effects, warning people to alter their diets or lifestyles as well as influencing public policy initiatives.

At this stage, the disciplines most under a cloud are social ­psychology, neuroscience, chemistry, medicine (including cancer ­biology) and economics. No doubt the list will continue to grow as more replication studies are ­under­taken, although this is often difficult as such studies are generally not government funded.

One of the main elements of this crisis as identified by Ioannidis is the tendency of ­researchers to dredge data to get the most sig­nificant results. (Nobel prize-winning economist Ronald Coase famously quipped: “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.”) To this we can add the downplaying of any deficiencies in the underlying data.

In this context, it is interesting to note the findings of John McLean, an Australian who has been awarded a PhD for his audit of the HadCRUT4 data set on global temperatures used by the IPCC. There are a large number of anomalies in the data set. For ­instance, two stations tracking temperatures recorded monthly average figures above 80C. Another two stations in the Carib­bean recorded averages of 0C. A station in Romania recorded minus 45C and there is data sourced from ships that are located 80km inland.

More worrying is the use by the IPCC of a small number of global temperature recordings from the 1860s and 1870s — coverage was about one-eighth of the world at that time — as the measure of pre-industrial temperature levels. The accuracy of this assumption is highly questionable.

When the British Met Office was asked to respond to these criticisms, the answer was along the lines that there was an awareness of these weaknesses but they were few in number and the Met ­Office continuously was working to improve the data set, and this would be available to the IPCC when it next produced a report. On the face of it, this looks like a very unsatisfactory response, particularly given what we know about the crisis in science more generally.

What does the replication crisis mean for the credibility of science? Should we trust science to reliably inform public policy decision-making? Or should we conclude the scientific world is basically a club of self-serving, like-minded individuals who do not welcome dissenting views and are sloppy to boot? Should we just forget about scientific research and go with our instincts?

In my view, the preferred middle course is along the following lines. All research findings should be treated cautiously. Journals and research outlets should sign up to an open and transparent code of conduct, and published authors should be made to release all the details of underlying experiments, the data sets and computer codes. Studies that find no effects should be considered for publication.

Research funding bodies should allocate a portion of their funding to replication studies. An urgent priority in Australia is for the replication of several contentious studies about the Great Barrier Reef in which the overseas authors have never been prepared to hand over the data or the codes.

There is no doubt science has an important role to play in our ­society and economy. But as University of California computational biologist Michael Eisen warns us: “We need to get away from the notion, proven wrong on a daily basis, that peer review of any kind at any journal means that the work of science is correct.” The leadership of the IPCC should take note.


Former Harvard U. Physicist rejects new UN IPCC report: ‘Similar claims are on par with the spam about penis enlargement’

Former Harvard University Physicist Dr. Lubos Motl on UN IPCC report: “I am no longer reading this garbage – and neither does an overwhelming majority of the people. There’s absolutely no true, useful, or original content in this stuff. Almost identical predictions have been proven incorrect hundreds of times…We’ve been bombarded by effectively equivalent garbage hundreds of times, the specifics of the newest report are completely irrelevant and uncorrelated with any events, insights, or new scientific evidence. All this fearmongering is just a random mutation of nonsense that everyone has seen many times, with some completely irrelevant and random new noise.”

“Only the people who consider themselves to be obedient soldiers of any far left-wing movement pay lip service to that junk but they don’t really believe it, either.”

“Message to all climate fearmongers: Give it up. This unscientific movement has already peaked in 2009, it has been dying a slow and painful death for about a decade, and you will be much happier if you accelerate it and make the climate hysteria die quickly and abruptly.”

“Climate fearmongers, you’ve become some of the most dishonest as well as useless people in the Earth’s history.”


Is Renewable Energy a Fraud?

Can it be that wind and solar energy is a complete fraud? In the book "Dumb Energy," Norman Rogers makes a powerful and convincing case. His main point is that there must be backup generating plants because the delivery of electricity from wind or solar is erratic, depending on the surging or weakening of wind and sunlight. The backup plants supply kilowatt hours when the flow of green electricity falters. As a consequence one has to have two systems, the wind or solar system plus a backup system.

The backup system is usually a fossil fuel plant powered by natural gas. Natural gas plants are best suited to serve as backup plants, because a gas turbine is agile, able to increase and decrease power rapidly. Agility is needed because the variations in wind or solar can happen quickly.

The cost of generating electricity with wind or solar is nearly the same for either technology — about seven cents per kilowatt-hour. The cost of generation is mostly due to the cost of financing initial construction. Building a wind or solar facility costs about four times as much as a natural gas plant with the same average electricity output. A natural gas plant is cheaper to build, but burns about two cents worth of natural gas for each kilowatt-hour generated.

If you have to have a backup plant, why not eliminate the wind or solar and just use the backup plant? The outspoken supporters of wind and solar energy say consumption of fuel in the backup plant will be reduced whenever green electricity is generated. Burning less fuel means less carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted.

Let’s examine those alleged benefits of wind or solar.

Both wind and solar electricity costs about seven cents per kilowatt-hour but the fuel saved in the backup plants has a value of two cents per kilowatt-hour. Do the math. That’s a net loss of five cents for every kilowatt-hour of green electricity generated. Remember, the only financial benefit of wind or solar is the fuel saved in the backup plants. A wind or solar plant can’t replace a fossil fuel plant, because a fossil fuel plant has to remain in place as backup. The backup plants have to be capable of carrying the full load because sometimes there is no green electricity. Sometimes clouds set in and sometimes the wind just doesn’t blow.

The loss of five cents per kilowatt-hour represents a subsidy for wind or solar. Somebody has to cover that bill and just whom do you think that is? That’s right, taxpayers and electricity consumers’ pick-up the subsidy. The subsidy is paid for primarily by increasing rates to consumers and funneling tax-dollars to the plants.

Is wind or solar justified because it reduces CO2 emissions?

We can calculate how much it costs to use wind or solar to reduce CO2 emissions. Every kilowatt-hour of wind or solar electricity requires a five-cent subsidy. Generating that same kilowatt-hour using natural gas results in the emission of 0.8 pounds of CO2. So it costs five cents to reduce CO2 emissions by 0.8 pounds. That works out to a cost of about $140 to reduce CO2 emissions by a metric ton (2200 pounds). We use a metric ton, because that is the standard method of accounting for reductions in CO2 emissions. Reducing CO2 emissions by a metric ton is called a carbon offset. There are many companies selling carbon offsets, often for around $10 each. They create carbon offsets by such things as planting trees that absorb CO2. Why pay $140 for a carbon offset you can buy one for 10 bucks?

Utility scale wind or solar is 70 percent subsidized — five cent subsidy on a seven cent cost. Residential solar is far more expensive per kilowatt-hour due to the lack of economies of scale, while the benefit of fuel saved is the same. As a result the subsidy exceeds 90 percent. The homeowner that installs rooftop solar may actually save money depending on the economic relationship with the utility but the taxpayers and other electricity consumers pay for the homeowner’s savings. It is laughable that the advocates of rooftop solar depict their highly subsidized installations as allowing homeowners to escape the tyranny of greedy utilities. Actually, the homeowner is swindling the greedy utility, the government and the other consumers of electricity down the line.

The book has a chapter on the extensive propaganda campaigns used to plant the idea in the public mind that wind and solar are a cost saving wave of the future. Environmental non-profits and trade groups generate the propaganda, lots of it. For example they will quote the cost of wind power without revealing the extensive subsidies. Competitors to wind and solar, particularly coal and nuclear, are demonized as dangerous and polluting. Trick photography is used to make it look like coal generating plants are emitting black smoke from their smoke stacks. The meaning of the word pollution has been extended to include CO2, a colorless, odorless and harmless gas essential to plant life. CO2 is not pollution.

The book is primarily about energy, not global warming. But, there is a chapter on global warming. Global warming propaganda has been improved by replacing “global warming” with “climate change.” The reason is that the globe has not been warming significantly, undercutting the climate catastrophe theme. The promoters of climate change now blame every bad weather event on the emissions of CO2. The scientific justification for this is nil, but it makes for good propaganda.

There is a scientific establishment dependent on government money. Scientists are not high-minded and disinterested advisors. Scientific conclusions and advice are slanted to support the interests of the scientific establishment. Scientists who dispute the global warming theme are attacked and may lose their jobs. Scientific truth is discarded if it gets in the way of the money flow from Washington. Rogers provides many examples of corrupt behavior on the part of the scientific establishment.

Rogers does not claim that global warming is impossible. Rather his position is that there are so many different forces that can cause warming or cooling that it is difficult to isolate the effects of CO2 and similar “greenhouse” gases. The data on the Earth’s climate provides little support for the idea that we face a looming catastrophe.

A short chapter on nuclear power shows that nuclear power has been killed in the country where it was invented by environmental hysteria. Nuclear power thrives in Asia and some other countries. Nuclear does not emit CO2.

In contrast to the wildly exaggerated global warming catastrophe there is the danger of a real catastrophe caused by a long term collapse of the electric grid. There are about 2,000 very large transformers that are an essential part of the grid. These transformers are vulnerable to an attack by hacking or by an electromagnetic pulse. If the transformers are destroyed, the grid could be down for years with disastrous consequences for the country. An electromagnetic pulse can be created by a natural solar storm or by the detonation of a nuclear device in near outer space. This is a real danger that can be prevented by protective measures, but that danger is ignored, swamped by the constant propaganda promoting renewable energy and a global warming catastrophe. "Dumb Energy" is a book that takes direct aim at popular beliefs, or delusions, with solid arguments.


Anti-Wind Farm Activism Is Sweeping Europe And The U.S. Could Be Next

In September, the Netherlands counterterrorism unit the NCTV identified a new group threatening public safety: anti-wind farm activists.

These activists, the NCTV claimed, had “radicalized” to the point that they represented a public risk. The picture the NCTV painted—of a group that has threatened, intimidated, and destroyed the property of politicians and developers—might sound bizarre to the casual follower of the renewable energy industry. But anti-wind farm activism is serious business, and it isn’t limited to the Netherlands.

At the December 2017 inauguration of France’s first offshore wind turbine, protesters set fire to tires in front of police in riot gear. Earlier this year, French protesters went even further, setting fire to wind turbines directly and lodging explosives in others. Across Europe, where last year countries erected about 5,000 wind turbines, the sudden emergence of the towering machines—both on land and offshore— has incited deep-seated anxiety in a small but vocal minority. Anti-wind activists are a diverse patchwork, from local residents stirred by NIMBY-ism to fishermen claiming wind farms displace fish populations to coal workers dreading a renewable energy future.

In the Netherlands, which is home to one of the largest offshore wind farms in the world (150 turbines in total) and which is planning another, even larger offshore wind farm that it will anchor to an artificial island, anti-wind farm activism reached a fever pitch this year. In April, activists distributed pamphlets calling pro-wind farm politicians Nazis and planted flags with swastikas that compare the encroachment of wind turbines to living in “occupied territory.” Farmers who have supported the construction of land-based wind turbines have discovered heavy chains, concrete-filled cans, and iron bars on their property, seemingly left by activists who want to damage their farm equipment.

This July, anti-wind farm activists in the northern regions of Drenthe and Groningen in the Netherlands issued a threatening letter to 34 companies involved in the construction of wind farms. Jan Nieboer, a leader of the anti-wind farm group Platform Storm, told the Dutch news service NOS that he has heard of people buying hand grenades and other explosives for protests.

The complaints of these activists are multitudinous. Many resent the way wind farms are located without their input. Others despise the presence of turbines along their skyline. Some fear that living near wind turbines will cut into their home values (although at least in the United States, research has shown no effect).

Another sore spot is that the money made from wind farms is rarely shared with the local community. “Communities are almost always more supportive of wind projects when the financial benefits are distributed widely among locals residents, rather than flowing to outside investors,” Bob Darrow, a PhD candidate at UMass Amherst who studies the politics of renewable energy, told Earther.

But, at least for onshore wind farms, the most galvanizing fears revolve around rumours that wind turbines punish the health of local residents. Activists claim that the low noise emitted by turbines triggers everything from persistent headaches to behavioural changes in animals in what they term “wind turbine syndrome,” a concept that scientists have largely rejected.

A 2013 analysis from researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia concluded that although noise from wind turbines can result in “annoyance” and potentially “poorer sleep quality” among residents, “there is no consistent evidence” tying that noise to many of the self-reported health effects. In a 2014 paper, King’s College psychology professors attributed “wind turbine syndrome” to the “nocebo effect”—a psychological phenomenon in which the expectation of negative health outcomes becomes self-fulfilling—and to anxiety about technological encroachment.

“There is also a lot of ‘fake news’ circulating about wind power,” said Darrow. “Often this misinformation is intentionally spread by groups with a vested interest in slowing the adoption of renewable energy.”

One prominent vessel for those false claims is U.S. President Donald Trump. During an August 2018 rally in Indiana, he insisted that people living near wind farms “go crazy after a couple of years,” before adding that wind turbines “kill so many birds” and that resisters “can blow up the windmills” if they need to.

Whether Trump’s rhetoric has stoked more wind energy resistance on the American right is unclear. But even land-based wind, which is a booming industry across parts of the midwestern U.S. and Great Plains, struggles against backlash from rural communities that pushed over 120 local governments to scrap or restrict turbines from 2015 to 2017. Offshore wind, meanwhile, has long struggled to gain a toehold thanks to fierce local opposition.

In Cape Cod, a 2001 attempt to launch what would have been the U.S.’s first offshore wind farm was abandoned in December 2017 after a decade of lawsuits from local residents concerned about disrupting fishing patterns and coastal views. Rhode Island’s 6-turbine Block Island Wind Farm, which opened in December 2016 after angry locals likened it to “visual pollution,” now holds the title of the first U.S. offshore wind farm.

Recently, U.S. states like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York have unveiled ambitious plans to build offshore wind farms that will power hundreds of thousands of homes within the next decade. But UMass professor Erin Baker, who has written about the rise of offshore wind farms, doubts that these projects will see opposition on the scale of Europe because most U.S. offshore wind farms will be located 40km or more from the coast. That distance “will not get the general public too interested,” Baker told Earther. Fears about “wind turbine syndrome” tend to dissipate when a wind farm is far offshore, and 40km is roughly the distance where wind farms become invisible from the shore, pre-empting complaints of visual pollution.

What’s more, only a small subset of the U.S. population actually opposes wind farm development. Just a quarter of residents living within half a mile of a wind farm have a “ negative” or “very negative” view of wind farms, while three-quarters take a neutral or positive view, according to a poll of Americans from researchers at the California-based Berkeley Lab. And most Americans, including roughly 8 in 10 Republicans, support expanding wind and solar energy, according to a May 2018 Pew poll.

In Europe too, the number of people who oppose wind farms is quite small. In the Dutch region of Groningen, where wind farm opposition is at its strongest, only 2 per cent of people have reported experiencing “a form of hinder in their everyday life by windmills,” according to statistics that University of Groningen researcher Tom Postmes shared with Earther. In Denmark, where wind turbines accounted for an unprecedented 43.4 per cent of the nation’s electricity last year, at least 8 in 10 people support their construction.

Still, the anti-wind minority remains an exceptionally vocal one. Especially for onshore wind farms, resistance in Denmark has grown so intense that it has become nearly impossible for some local governments to approve turbines, according to Darrow. “In many municipalities, officials are hesitant to support wind projects for fear of the public backlash such proposals inevitably generate,” he said.

One strategy to quell that backlash is for wind energy proponents to work more closely with nearby communities about where to site wind farms so that they will be the least disruptive. Denmark has seen some success engaging with fishermen to build offshore wind farms away from prime fishing territory, for instance.

But if there’s one thing proponents of wind energy have learned in Europe, Darrow said, it’s “not to get overconfident about the public supporting their projects.” And while U.S. opposition hasn’t reached the kind of fever pitch that it has across the Atlantic, it seems unlikely that the renewable energy source will continue to spread without a few fights.


How the Supreme Court Could Now End the Climate Wars

Many climate skeptics were hopeful that the election of Donald Trump would end the climate wars in the US on favorable terms. Many of us assumed that this would be done by persuading EPA to overturn the greenhouse gas Endangerment Finding (EF). But so far all that has happened is that a number of Obama EPA climate regulations have been put on hold or started down the road towards repeal. If the Democrats should win the Presidency, all these changes could be undone fairly rapidly.

To start the process of EF reconsideration, a number of petitions have been sent to EPA by skeptic groups requesting that EPA reconsider the EF. Unfortunately, EPA has not announced such a reconsideration. I believe this is still the best overall strategy since if successful it would finish off climate alarmism as an option on a fairly permanent basis if upheld by the Supreme Court, which now appears possible. This is the strongest approach, and is still the preferred approach.

A second approach which should now be a possibility would be for the Court to overturn Massachusetts vs. EPA by finding that EPA does not have authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act (CAA). Mass. vs. EPA was decided by only one vote at the Court, including the justice that will  be replaced by Brett Kavanaugh. With such a ruling, the climate alarmists would have to persuade Congress to change the CAA to explicitly allow EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. This appears unlikely.

The  confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh  opens up a third possible approach, however, of getting the Supreme Court to declare the Obama Clean Power Plan (CPP) illegal by exceeding the powers granted by Congress to EPA under the CAA. By ruling that EPA cannot impose limitations on emissions beyond “the fence” of polluters, the Supreme Court could effectively prevent the legal cornerstone of the Obama EPA climate regulations from becoming a regulation. The action of the Supreme Court in staying the CPP has had a similar effect in the near term but leaves the way open for a reconsideration by a future Democratic administration.

Or what might be best is to try to get the Court to endorse all of these viewpoints, which are arranged in decreasing order of effectiveness. That would effectively prevent even a future possible Democratic administration from reviving the Obama EPA’s attempt to impose major decarbonization as the law of the land through regulations and the courts. The great danger is not that the Trump Administration will support decarbonization but that a new Democratic Administration would do so. But if the views above should be endorsed by the Court, that would be very difficult for many years.

The time has come to nail down the death of climate alarmism in terms of achieving its climate goals through regulations and the courts by using the now stronger conservative majority.




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


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

NASA Sees Climate Cooling Trend Thanks to Low Sun Activity

The climate alarmists just can’t catch a break. NASA is reporting that the sun is entering one of the deepest Solar Minima of the Space Age; and Earth’s atmosphere is responding in kind.

So, start pumping out that CO2, everyone. We’re going to need all the greenhouse gases we can get.

“We see a cooling trend,” said Martin Mlynczak of NASA’s Langley Research Center. “High above Earth’s surface, near the edge of space, our atmosphere is losing heat energy. If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold.”

The new data is coming from NASA’s Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry or SABER instrument, which is onboard the space agency’s Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) satellite. SABER monitors infrared radiation from carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitric oxide (NO), two substances that play a vital role in the energy output of our thermosphere, the very top level of our atmosphere.

“The thermosphere always cools off during Solar Minimum. It’s one of the most important ways the solar cycle affects our planet,” said Mlynczak, who is the associate principal investigator for SABER.

Who knew that that big yellow ball of light in the sky had such a big influence on our climate?

There’s a bit of good news in all of this. When the thermosphere cools, it literally shrinks, therefore reducing aerodynamic drag on satellites in low Earth orbit. In effect, the shrinking thermosphere increases a satellite’s lifetime.

But that appears to be where the good news ends, unless you prefer cold weather and increased space junk. “The bad news,” according to Dr. Tony Phillips, editor of, is: “It also delays the natural decay of space junk, resulting in a more cluttered environment around Earth.”

Mlynczak and his colleagues have created the Thermosphere Climate Index (TCI), which measures how much NO is dumped from the Thermosphere into outer space. During Solar Maximum the TCI number is very high. At times of Solar Minimum, TCI is low.

“Right now, (TCI) is very low indeed,” said Mlynczak. “SABER is currently measuring 33 billion Watts of infrared power from NO. That’s ten times smaller than we see during more active phases of the solar cycle."

SABER has been in orbit for only 17 years, but Mlynczak and the scientists at NASA’s Langley Research Center have been able to recreate TCI measurements back to the 1940s. “SABER taught us how to do this by revealing how TCI depends on other variables such as geomagnetic activity and the sun’s UV output — things that have been measured for decades,” said Mlynczak.

In fact, TCI numbers now, in the closing months of 2018, are very close to setting record lows since measurements began. “We’re not quite there yet,” Mlynczak reports. “but it could happen in a matter of months.”

The new NASA findings are in line with studies released by UC-San Diego and Northumbria University in Great Britain last year, both of which predict a Grand Solar Minimum in coming decades due to low sunspot activity. Both studies predicted sun activity similar to the Maunder Minimum of the mid-17th to early 18th centuries, which coincided to a time known as the Little Ice Age, during which temperatures were much lower than those of today.

If all of this seems as if NASA is contradicting itself, you’re right — sort of. After all, NASA also reported last week that Arctic sea ice was at its sixth lowest level since measuring began. Isn’t that a sure sign of global warming?

All any of this “proves” is that we have, at best, a cursory understanding of Earth’s incredibly complex climate system. So when mainstream media and carbon-credit salesman Al Gore breathlessly warn you that we must do something about climate change, it’s all right to step back, take a deep breath, and realize that we don’t have the knowledge, skill or resources to have much effect on the Earth’s climate. God — and that big yellow ball of light in the sky — have much more impact on our climate than we ever could.


China Is Expected to Phase Out Renewable Subsidies, Continue to Build Coal Plants

China’s energy regulator indicated the country will speed up efforts to ensure its wind and solar power can compete without subsidies and achieve “grid price parity” with traditional energy sources. China is encouraging renewable manufacturers and developers to drive down costs through technological innovations and economies of scale in order to phase out power generation subsidies, which have become an increasing burden on the state.

China owes about 120 billion yuan ($17.5 billion) in subsidies to solar plants despite cutting its subsidies to solar power and capping new capacity at 30 gigawatts this year—down from a 53 gigawatts in 2017—because the government is concerned about overcapacity and a growing subsidy backlog.

China’s National Energy Administration issued the draft guidelines on September 13, 2018, indicating that some regions with cost and market advantages had “basically achieved price parity” with clean coal-fired power and no longer required subsidies, and that other regions should learn from their experiences. The draft guidelines urged transmission grid companies to provide more support for subsidy-free projects and ensure they have the capacity to distribute all the power generated by wind and solar plants. Currently, China is soliciting feedback from the industry and has not given a date for implementation of the guidelines.

Coal Construction Continues

While China is putting the brakes on its renewables, it has restarted coal-fired projects that had been put on hold. Approximately 46.7 gigawatts of new and restarted coal-fired power construction has been spotted through satellite imagery. The coal-fired power plants are either already generating power or will soon be operational, increasing China’s coal-fired power capacity by 4 percent.

Coal consumption in China increased 3.1 percent in the first half of 2018 compared with the same period last year due primarily to coal-fired generation. Electricity consumption increased 9.4 percent during that period. A rebound in industrial demand for electricity and electric power shortages during the summer in some regions have made policy-makers more accepting of overcapacity from demand-responsive generation. Economic data for the first half of 2018 indicate that China’s power demand is rebounding.

Despite the change in coal-fired plant construction, overcapacity is still a problem in China. Utilization rates for coal-fired plants recovered slightly from a 50-year low in 2016, but have not even returned to 2015 levels. About half of the country’s coal-fired power plants were running at a loss in the first six months of this year due to high coal prices. Because of capacity cuts in its domestic mining sector, China’s coal imports increased, driving global prices for thermal coal that is used to generate electricity.

Despite China’s push to ensure all solar and wind production is distributed by the grid, China’s thermal electricity production (coal, natural gas, oil, and biomass) is increasing much faster than its renewable (wind and solar) electricity production. In the second quarter of 2018, wind and solar generation increased by 51 terawatt hours while thermal electricity production increased by 176.9 terawatt hours—about 3.5 times as much. Together wind and solar power represented just 21 percent of the increased power generation in the second quarter, while thermal power provided 72 percent.


China is still counting on coal to keep the lights on and keep its industrialization booming. While it has invested heavily in subsidizing its solar power industry, it realizes it cannot continue with the massive subsidies and has issued draft guidelines to phase them out. Despite having overcapacity and underutilized plants, it is continuing to construct coal-fired plants to ensure that power is available throughout the country and throughout the day.


The “No-Growth” Prescription for Misery

A growing number of academics are claiming that economic growth must stop because the planet is crossing environmental boundaries, and inequality between humans is increasing. They are wrong on both counts, and their agenda is a recipe for keeping poor people poor

LONDON – From their ivory towers, nearly 240 academics have declared that economic growth is bad for Europe and the planet. In two months, they and global supporters of the “no-growth economy” have held conferences in Mexico City, Malmö, and Brussels.

Their efforts herald a return to an earlier, thoroughly debunked form of alarmist environmentalism that is detached from reality and disdainful of billions of the world’s people.

The campaigners claim we must stop economic growth because the planet is crossing environmental boundaries, and inequality between humans is increasing.

But for the most important environmental issues, economic growth has solved problems, not created them. The cleanest places are not the poorest countries, but the richer economies that have cleaned up their act. As societies become richer, individuals can afford to stop worrying about food and sanitation, and to start worrying about the environment.

Indoor air pollution is the world’s biggest environmental killer, claiming lives because poor people burn dung and wood for cooking and heating. As societies get richer, people can afford cleaner technology. In 1990, indoor air pollution caused more than 8% of deaths; in 2016 it was 4.7%. Each year 1.2 million fewer people die from indoor air pollution, despite an increase in population.

Outdoor air pollution worsens as societies first leave extreme poverty. But then it declines markedly as growth, technological change, and public attitudes affect policies and regulations. In China, for example, sulphur dioxide emissions peaked in 2006 and have been declining since.

The world’s forests tell a similar story. For most of human history, trees were decimated wherever humans settled. Higher agricultural yields and changing attitudes have meant rich countries are increasingly preserving forests and reforesting.

Moreover, economic growth delivers improved access to all the vital things that most people on the planet demand or want: health, education, security, and mobility.  Both within and between countries, life satisfaction increases with higher incomes. A study in Europe asking whether prosperity enhanced quality of life found that, “Europeans’ life-quality is better in wealthier societies.”

The no-growth campaigners claim that inequality is at the heart of their concern, but they studiously ignore the vast majority of the planet. The US has experienced a clear increase in inequality: the top 1% earned 18% of income in 1913; this fell to 10.4% in 1976, and returned to 20% in 2014. But the experience is markedly different in most of the world, including continental Europe and Japan, where the top 1% earn about half what they did 100 years ago. Globally, inequality has been declining, because many more people in the developing world have emerged from poverty.

Income is not the only indicator of inequality that is dropping. Half of all welfare gains from 1960 to 2000 come from us living longer, healthier lives. In the past half-century, the gap in life expectancy between the world’s wealthiest and poorest countries has narrowed from 28 to 19 years. As a result, lifespan inequality is lower than it has been for two centuries.

Global trade and economic growth have transformed lives on a scale that was once unimaginable. Two centuries ago, around 94% of the planet was impoverished. In 2015, the World Bank found that for the first time ever, less than 10% of the world’s population was living in extreme poverty. Between 1990 and today, the number of people living in extreme poverty fell by more than one billion.

The latter-day Malthusians are opposed to extending these tremendous benefits to more of the world because they believe that global warming will be so bad that it justifies stopping growth. This contradicts the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which says, “for most economic sectors, the impact of climate change will be small relative to the impacts of other drivers” like changes in population, age, income, and technology.

According to the IPCC, the total impact of climate change amounts to about 0% of GDP now, and in 2100 will cost 2-4% of GDP. That’s a problem, but not one that remotely justifies blocking people’s opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

The solution to climate change – like so many other challenges – will come from technology. We need to work far harder to make green energy cheaper and more efficient than fossil fuels, so we can continue to lift millions from poverty without emitting carbon dioxide.

With blinkered analysis and misplaced concern, the academics essentially say that to reduce global warming slightly, we should end growth that can lift hundreds of millions out of poverty, avoid millions of air pollution deaths, and give billions the opportunity of a better life through improved health care, shelter, education, and income.

There is something deeply disturbing about academics’ telling others to forgo the benefits they have enjoyed. What the world really needs is far more growth and far less hypocrisy.


Fight tuberculosis, not climate change, to save lives

A tiny fraction of the resources wasted on combating climate change could eradicate tuberculosis, the world’s deadliest infectious disease


Global leaders recently swept into New York for the UN General Assembly, trailed by thousands of media, activists and protesters. During the high-level get-together, two very different meetings held at exactly the same time revealed much about their priorities — and their flawed approach to the planet’s biggest problems.

At a glittering gala event, the heads of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Google and the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, joined leaders from Denmark, France, New Zealand and beyond to pledge support for the acceleration of the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

This is a very poor answer to climate change: even Al Gore’s climate adviser, Jim Hansen, now says it is “wishful thinking” that will increase emissions.

The big problem with the Paris treaty is that countries are expensively trying to cut relatively small amounts of carbon dioxide by subsidising today’s inefficient alternative energy. This doesn’t tackle the underlying problem that green energy sources are far from ready to replace fossil fuels: wind and solar energy meet only 0.8 per cent of our energy needs yet require $US150 billion ($212bn) in subsidies.

The best individual and collectively peer-reviewed economic models show implementing the agreement will cost $US1 trillion to $US2 trillion every year from 2030 by increasing energy costs and thereby slightly slowing GDP growth. Yet this will do almost nothing to solve climate change. It is widely accepted by climate scientists that keeping temperature rises below 2C requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to almost 6000 gigatonnes of CO2. The UN organiser of the Paris Agreement estimates that if every country makes every single promised carbon cut between 2016 and 2030, emissions will be cut by the equivalent of 56Gt of CO2 by 2030. Paris leaves 99 per cent of the problem in place.

A far more effective answer to global warming would be to ramp up research and development investments into green energy to outcompete fossil fuels, so all countries can switch without abandoning poverty-eradicating growth.

Across town from the climate event, the first UN leaders’ meeting on tuberculosis made a far smaller splash. Only 16 heads of government showed up, with none from Europe or North America, and no leaders from Silicon Valley or Wall Street.

Public health campaigners were requesting an increase of $US5.4bn a year for the fight against TB, the globe’s biggest infectious disease killer. The disease receives only 4.6 per cent of health development spending from rich countries.

For more than a decade, hundreds of top economists and seven Nobel laureates have undertaken cost-benefit analysis for the Copenhagen Consensus Centre to evaluate solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. Globally and at a national level, this consistently shows testing for and treating TB creates phenomenal returns to society.

TB is especially insidious because it hits mostly young adults, just as they establish families and careers. Recent CCC research looking at several states in India, which has the highest level of TB, found that improving detection and treatment generated huge benefits for society. In monetary terms, every dollar spent can generate a return to society worth more than $US100.

The difference is stark. The World Health Organisation estimates that since the 1970s climate change has claimed about 140,000 lives each year, rising to about 250,000 towards the middle of the century. The Paris response will cost the planet more than $US1 trillion annually, avoiding almost none of these deaths. At an annual cost of one-half of one-hundredth of the cost of Paris, we could avoid the deaths of more than a million people each year from TB.

The two meetings show how global priorities are askew. It shouldn’t be a struggle to get donor attention for challenges such as TB (or the many other health, societal and environmental problems that weren’t highlighted by the UN). This is especially disturbing when money and political capital are being poured into a flawed response to climate change by world leaders who — unlike Gore’s climate adviser — refuse to admit the obvious.

The blinkered focus is affecting development spending for the world’s poorest. The OECD estimates that more than $30bn of country-to-country aid — more than one-fifth — is climate related. That is more than three times what would be needed to eradicate the world’s worst infectious disease. Yet international organisations spend another $US19bn on climate-related aid.

This is not what the world’s poor want. Nearly 10 million people were asked their policy priorities. Education and better healthcare were the clear answers, both globally and from the world’s most destitute. At the bottom of the list came climate policies. We should tackle climate change effectively through green energy R&D. That would leave more attention and money for other important issues, from stopping air pollution and reducing malnutrition to ending child marriage — and for finally eradicating the world’s biggest infectious disease killer.


Oil Prices Could Fall Further on Rising U.S. Supplies, OPEC Report Says

Rising crude oil inventories and increased output in the U.S. could push oil prices down in the coming weeks, an internal OPEC report said Thursday.

A coming “seasonal scale back in refinery demand...could result in oil stock builds,” said an internal market report, which was circulated late Thursday within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The buildup, “amid the upward trend in US crude oil production, could be a bearish factor for oil prices in the coming few weeks," the report said.

OPEC’s assessment came as Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, fell below the $80-a-barrel threshold for the first time in nearly a month on Thursday, after data showed an unexpected rise in U.S. inventories.

Late Thursday afternoon, light, sweet crude for November delivery was 0.9% lower at $69.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude was 0.3% lower at $79.78 a barrel.

At a meeting last month, the cartel and its allies debated how much they should open up their spigots to make up for Iranian oil exports, which will fall under a U.S. ban next month.

But while Saudi Arabia and Russia have boosted output, some OPEC officials are worried about a global oil surplus.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Monday it expects American tight-oil production to rise by 98,000 barrels a day from October to November.

The planned maintenance of Russian refineries could hit oil prices charged by Moscow and its competitors in Europe in particular, the OPEC report said.

Meanwhile, revisions to global economic forecasts by the International Monetary Fund, fueled by trade disputes between the U.S. and its partners, “cast more uncertainty over oil demand growth in 2019,” the document said.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday reported crude oil stockpiles had risen by 6.5 million barrels last week, to stand at 416.4 million barrels.

Earlier in October, Brent breached the $85-a-barrel level for the first time in roughly four years.  But prices have come under pressure in the past week, amid global stock market turmoil and signs of weakening oil demand.




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


Monday, October 22, 2018

It will take the Earth 3 million years to recover from the species going extinct in the near future

This is utter nonsense.  To make such a claim, you have to have a firm count of how many species there already are plus an equally firm count of the number of species that existed on at least one occasion in the past.  No such counts exist.  So it is all just guessing.

And in any case extinctions have always happened, sometimes on a massive scale.  On some estimates, 95% of all the species that have ever lived on earth are now extinct. We don't grieve that the once ubiquitous trilobites are no more so it would seem normal to accept the reality of death and extinction. But given the modern-day efforts at nature conservation, it is entirely open to us to conclude that extinctions actually have slowed down in the modern era.  LOL

Note that a lot of the extinctions we know about were from the pre-modern or early modern era, not the product of 20th and 21st century civilization:  The mammoth, the dodo and the passenger pigeon, for instance.  And the extinction of the Australian megafauna appears to date from the arrival of Aborigines in Australia, who were pretty good hunters of slow animals -- and that was about 50,000 years ago -- so definitely not the fault of modern man

And note the implicit assumption that the non-extinction of all animals is good.  Why is it good?  I think we could make a case that it does not matter at all -- excerpt perhaps for sentimental reasons.  The possibility that some one or other of the existing animals might do us some unknown good in the future would have to be vanishingly small at this stage of our knowledge.  We don't allow for all the possibilities in our lives -- or else we would never do anything

Humans will cause so many mammal species to go extinct in the next 50 years that the planet's evolutionary diversity won't recover for 3 to 5 million years, a team of researchers has found.

The Earth may be entering its sixth mass extinction: an era in which the planet's environments change so much that most animal and plant species die out. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature predicts that 99.9% of critically endangered species and 67% of endangered species will be lost within the next 100 years.

The five other times a mass extinction has occurred over the past 450 million years, natural disasters were to blame. But now, human activity is killing mammal species.

In a study published Monday in the journal PNAS, scientists from Aarhus University in Denmark calculated how fast extinctions are happening, and how long it would take for evolution to bring Earth back to the level of biodiversity it currently has.

The scientists concluded that in a best-case scenario, nature will need 3-5 million years to get back to the level of biodiversity we have on Earth today. Returning to the state Earth's animal kingdom was in before modern humans evolved would take 5-7 million years.

Evolution can't keep up

Evolution is the planet's defense mechanism against the loss of biodiversity. As habitats and climates change, species that can't survive die, and new species slowly emerge. But it takes a long time for new species to fill the gaps — and that process is far slower than the rate at which humans are causing mammals to go extinct.

For their calculations, the Aarhus University researchers used a database containing existing mammal species and mammals that already went extinct as humans spread across the planet. They combined that data with information about extinctions expected to come in the next 50 years, and used advanced simulations of evolution to predict how long recovery would take.

Their estimates are based on an optimistic assumption that people will eventually stop ruining habitats and causing species to die out, and the extinction rate will go back down. But even in that best-case scenario, the timeline depends on how quickly mammals start recovering. If the extinction rate doesn't start falling for another 20-100 years, more species will likely disappear, causing greater diversity loss, the study said.

The researchers noted that in their model, certain species were given more importance than others. Matt Davis, a paleontologist at Aarhus University who led the study, cited the shrew as an example. There are hundreds of species of shrew, so if one or two go extinct, that would not kill off all shrews on Earth.

But there were only four species of sabre-toothed tigers on the planet. So when they all went extinct, many years of evolutionary history disappeared with them.

"Large mammals, or megafauna, such as giant sloths and sabre-toothed tigers, which became extinct about 10,000 years ago, were highly evolutionarily distinct," Davis said in a press release. "Since they had few close relatives, their extinctions meant that entire branches of Earth's evolutionary tree were chopped off."

Today, other large animals like the black rhino are facing extinction. Asian elephants' chance of making it to the 22nd century is less than 33%, the study found. These elephants are one of only two remaining species from a group of mammals that once included mastodons and mammoths.

"We now live in a world that is becoming increasingly impoverished of large wild mammalian species," Jens-Christian Svenning, an Aarhus University professor who researches megafauna, said in the press release. "The few remaining giants, such as rhinos and elephants, are in danger of being wiped out very rapidly."

He noted that the planet no longer boasts giant beavers, giant deer, or giant armadillos.

Though the researchers' findings are dire, the scientists said their work could be used to figure out which endangered species are evolutionarily unique, which might help conservationists decide where to focus their efforts to prevent the most devastating extinctions.


Lady big eyes compares global warming to Nazism

Democratic socialist congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to address global warming the same way America defeated the Nazis during World War II.

Speaking at a campaign event on Friday, Ocasio-Cortez made the case that, since Nazi Germany and global warming are both “existential threats,” the same tactics used against one should be levied against the other.

“So, when we talk about existential threats,” said Ocasio Cortez, “the last time we had a really major existential threat in this country was around World War II. So, we’ve been here before, and we have a blueprint of what we did before. None of these things are new ideas.”

Thunberg's recent actions have been celebrated by climate activists including co-founder Bill McKibben, who highlighted the march and thanked the teen for her leadership in a tweet on Saturday:


So stopping less than 2 degrees of warming is worth 60 million dead?  That's what it took to beat Nazism.  But Greenies hate people anyway so that might not be a problem to them

Warmists now relying on kiddy wisdom

Addressing some 10,000 people in Helsinki on Saturday at what some campaigners are calling Finland's largest ever climate demonstration, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg urged marchers to fight for the major systemic changes that experts have said are necessary to limit greenhouse gas emissions and avert a looming climate catastrophe.

"Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground, so we can't save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to change. Everything needs to change and it has to start today," declared the Swedish teenager, who traveled to the capital city of her nation's Nordic neighbor for Saturday's massive march.

"A lot of people say that Sweden or Finland are just small countries and that it doesn't matter what we do," Thunberg added. "But I think that if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school for a few weeks, imagine what we could do together if we wanted to."

Thunberg garnered international media attention when, ahead of Sweden's September election, she refused to attend school and instead protested outside the Swedish parliament, handing out educational pamphlets to passersby. Now that the election has passed, the self-described "climate radical" and others who have joined the strike return to school for four days each week but still protest on Fridays.


Consumers will suffer the hangover from Trump's ethanol binge

President Trump announced earlier this week that he intends to take actions to increase the mandate to add ethanol to fuels. Currently, refineries producing transportation fuel must demonstrate each year that they have blended certain volumes of renewable fuel into gasoline or diesel, or else acquire expensive credits from others who do so.

The Trump administration’s action, which would require formal rulemaking, would direct the EPA to allow gasoline with 15 percent ethanol to be distributed year-round, reversing the current ban during summer months.

That action might be politically savvy, to make good on a campaign promise and to ease the impact of foreign tariffs on U.S. corn farmers by artificially raising demand for corn. (In this country, ethanol is obtained largely by fermenting corn.)

But it has little else to recommend it.

Politics aside, any defense of U.S. ethanol policy must embrace a series of fallacies which include: 1.) ethanol produced from corn makes the U.S. less dependent on fossil fuels, 2.) ethanol lowers the price of gasoline, 3.) an increase in the percentage of ethanol blended into gasoline boosts the overall supply of gasoline, and 4.) ethanol is environmentally-friendly and lowers global carbon dioxide emissions.

Not one of these claims is true. Yet, the ethanol lobby continues to promote them, and many politicians and lobby groups seem intoxicated by them.

Politicians like to say that ethanol is environmentally-friendly, but these claims must be put into perspective. Although corn is a renewable resource, it has a far lower yield relative to the energy used to produce it than does ethanol from sugar cane. Moreover, ethanol yields about 33 percent less energy per gallon than gasoline, so mileage drops off significantly when it is added. Motorists, who buy fuel in order to travel distances, are thus over-charged for every gallon of blended fuel. Fuel costs for Americans are artificially inflated due to the lower energy content of ethanol and the high costs faced by fuel companies trying to comply with ill-conceived fuel regulations.

The truth is that the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates ethanol blends in the first place, has failed miserably in achieving any of its stated goals.

Lower-cost biomass ethanol — for example, from rice straw (a byproduct of harvesting rice) or switchgrass — would make far more environmental sense, but large volumes of ethanol from biomass will not be commercially viable for many years. Moreover, production will be delayed by government policies that specifically encourage corn-based ethanol by employing subsidies.

American legislators and policymakers seem oblivious to the scientific and economic realities of corn ethanol production. Brazil and other major sugar cane-producing nations enjoy significant advantages over the U.S. in producing ethanol, including ample agricultural land, warm climates amenable to vast plantations, and on-site distilleries that can process cane immediately after harvest.

Thus, in the absence of cost-effective, domestically-available sources for producing ethanol, rather than using corn, it would make far more sense to import ethanol from Brazil and other countries that can produce it efficiently.

But, of course, this would defeat the purpose of the policy, which is actually meant to be a sop to Midwestern farmers.

The Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group, applauds the administration’s proposed action, because it creates increased demand for its flagship product. Several years ago, the organization opposed the EPA’s proposed lowering of the Renewable Fuel Standard when severe drought boosted corn prices. A spokesman made this particularly ironic comment: “Ultimately, the market will sort out any imbalances in supply and demand.” But the association had evinced little confidence in the forces of supply and demand when they convinced Congress to mandate the diversion of 38 percent of the corn supply to ethanol production.

This intense lobbying reminds us of this observation by 18th-century philosopher and economist Adam Smith: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

Politicians may be drunk with the prospect of corn-derived ethanol, but it is consumers who will ultimately suffer the hangover.


Australia's climate policy not changing: treasurer

Climate change has been touted as an important contribution to the Liberals' loss in Wentworth but Josh Frydenberg says the coalition won't shift its policy.

Not even being on track for a minority government will force the coalition into a shift in thinking on climate change, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has confirmed.

Independent Kerryn Phelps is headed for victory in the Wentworth by-election after a historic swing of more than 20 per cent against the Liberal Party.

The expected result will see the coalition with 75 seats in the House of Representatives - one short of a majority - with Labor holding 69.

The Australia Institute's exit polling shows climate change and replacing coal with renewable energy was the biggest issue motivating voters in Wentworth.

The research shows 77 per cent of voters said it influenced their vote, with one-third stating it was the most important issue when heading to the polling booth on Saturday.

While Mr Frydenberg conceded climate change was important to the people of Wentworth, he believed other issues were at play.

He said the predicted defeat for candidate Dave Sharma was more about the Liberal Party's ditching of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who had been the local member since 2004.

"The message from the voters of Wentworth is you've been punished for the events of recent weeks with the leadership," Mr Frydenberg told Sky News on Sunday.

Mr Frydenberg went on to tell reporters on Sunday the government was on track to meet emissions targets. "What we will not do is increase people's power bills as a result of these policies," Mr Frydenberg said.

"That is very different to Bill Shorten. He has a 50 per cent renewable energy target and a 45 per cent emissions reduction target. That spells higher power bills for Australians."

Dr Phelps said the public was tired of the government's "self-interest" and important issues must be kept on the agenda. "They want to start to see some movement on action on climate change," Dr Phelps said.

Senior Labor MP Tony Burke said former prime minister Tony Abbott was still in charge of the coalition's policies. "The hard-right agenda has made this government incapable of dealing with issues like climate change and people have had enough of it," Mr Burke told ABC TV on Sunday.

Centre Alliance's Rebekha Sharkie said the message from the public on climate change was clear. "A couple of critical issues in the Wentworth by-election and people raise with me every day in Mayo is ensuring we have climate change action in the parliament," Ms Sharkie told ABC TV on Sunday.




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


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Groan! Another tale about the evils of particulate pollution

New York Magazine has a subsection called "Intelligencer" which would more aptly be called "Dramatizer".  Under the heading, "Trump’s Climate Denial Isn’t Just a War on Our Coastlines. It’s a War on Our Brains'" they have a large collection of tired old Warmist talking points, all of which have been refuted many times by skeptics. Hell! I have refuted them many times.

What has got them particularly stirred up this time is particulate pollution -- tiny little bits of matter that float around in the air.  Diesel truck exhausts put out a lot of it. And various industries put it out too. Technically, it is airborne particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, known as PM2.5.

Various regulations exist to minimize it but there is still some out there.  And to Greenies it is obviously BAD.  They need no evidence to draw that conclusion.  But Greenies are an evangelical lot so they like to draw others into their faith. And a lot of the people they target are pesky people who demand evidence!  So they have often set out to provide it.

That "often"really gives the game away. If there really were any firm evidence that normal levels of particulate pollution were bad for us, they would not have to keep trying to prove it!

For a long time I would write something pointing the holes in the various studies as they came out but I am getting more and more reluctant to do that.  "There are none so blind as those who will not see" and even basic errors of science are usually invisible to the Green/Left.

So let me just give the key paragraph in the whole long winded article and then go on to point out what it misses:

Excerpt: "How big are the developmental and cognitive effects? The term researchers use is “huge” — the equivalent of having lost a year of education. Reducing Chinese pollution to the EPA standard, they found, would improve the country’s test scores by 13 percent and its verbal scores by 8 percent —potential boosts in productivity that should alarm anyone concerned about the country’s rapid economic and geopolitical ascent".

I have recently given a general discussion of such studies here and here and I have dealt with the specific study principally relied on by  New York Magazine here. PM2.5 might be bad for you but that is yet to be shown in a scientifically well-founded way -- JR.

Wow! Media declares moonwalker "mistaken" - Last Man to Walk on the Moon Mistaken About Climate Change on Earth

Why is geologist Harrison Schmitt  mistaken? Because the IPCC says otherwise! And this gem below is used as "evidence" Schmitt is "mistaken." Just how did the Geological Society of London "conclude" this? By a governing board vote of less than a dozen? A vote by people steeped in funding concerns and politics?

Excerpt:  In fact, The Geological Society of London concluded that humans were the cause of rapidly accelerating climate change in a statement published in 2010. Society members wrote an addendum to the statement in 2013 explaining that new climate data from the geologic record bolstered their original conclusion — "that CO2 is a major modifier of the climate system, and that human activities are responsible for recent warming."


Let’s get fracking on with it

The obstructionism has gone on long enough.

At the High Court in London this week, a group of anti-fracking activists had their sentences for blocking lorries going to fracking sites reduced on appeal. Simon Blevins, Richard Roberts and Rich Loizou had received surprisingly long custodial sentences for the protests at a fracking site at Preston New Road in July 2017. The appeal verdict, which reduced those sentences to conditional discharges after the three defendants had already served two weeks in jail, should be welcomed. Peaceful protests should not, ordinarily, attract a prison sentence straightaway. But while those initial sentences are worthy of criticism, so are the aims of the protests themselves.

Thankfully, the protesters appear to have failed to achieve their goal. On Monday at 1pm, according to energy exploration company Cuadrilla, drilling for shale gas started again in the UK. About time, too. The drilling – which is still exploratory in nature rather than for full production – has been held up for years by planning disputes, legal challenges and concerns about earth tremors. But the alarmism is misplaced.

Hydraulic fracturing – ‘fracking’ – of rock is a clever, economic and surprisingly old way to produce energy. It involves using explosions and a pressurised mix of water, sand and small quantities of chemicals to force trapped gas or oil out of rocks. It was first performed in 1947 in America, and the technique has been used since the 1960s in the UK. The big development in the past 20 years or so that has made fracking economically viable is improvements in horizontal or directional drilling, which mean fewer wells need to be dug. Instead, drillers can go deep underground and then drill sideways to maximise the area in which gas or oil is extracted.

There have long been misplaced claims made about fracking. The most lurid claim is that methane can leak from wells into water supplies, allowing tap water to be ignited. This claim is central to the agit-doc Gasland. But while it looks spectacular, the fact is that there have always been parts of the US where methane rising up from underground mixes with water.

In any event, the rocks that are fracked are generally way below the water table. As long as the wells are properly sealed – and drilling companies should be held to account if they’re not – then there should be no way for methane coming up from underground to mix with water.

Another common claim is that fracking causes ‘earthquakes’. It’s certainly true that if you set off explosions underground or force water into rocks, then seismic activity can occur. But only occasionally are such seismic events noticeable by human beings without the help of detection equipment. Even the strongest such events, which are very unusual, are so small that they wouldn’t cause damage to property. At most, there is noticeable shaking.

Such concerns ignore the fact that, while significant earth tremors are rare in the UK, minor events of the same strength as those caused by fracking are much more common. These are mostly natural, but can be caused by mining and other activities. The last notable ‘earthquake’ in recent years in the UK, in Lincolnshire in 2008, measured 5.2 on the Richter scale and was felt hundreds of miles away. However, that event – not exactly one that has lived long in the memory for most Brits – was roughly 800 times more powerful than the most powerful tremor caused so far by fracking (2.3 on the Richter scale). To call such seismic events caused by fracking ‘earthquakes’ is like calling a gentle breeze a ‘hurricane’.


Apocalypse Delayed

The IPCC report does not justify climate scaremongering.


We should all be dead by now, thanks to overpopulation and resource depletion. The few of us remaining should be scavenging a landscape denuded of life by acid rains and UV rays. Thankfully, we are not. Also still standing are the scientific institutions and the global bureaucracies that predicted our premature demise. One of those is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The job of the IPCC is to provide a review of climate-change research to policymakers. The bulk of climate policymaking occurs under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which meets yearly to try to wrangle a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the 2015 UNFCCC meeting in Paris, a loose deal was struck. It aimed to limit global warming to 2°C, with a looser agreement to aim to limit it to 1.5°C. Subsequently, the UNFCCC asked the IPCC to compare global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C for a report to be published this year. So far, so boring.

But before the report was even published, it began to excite climate alarmists. In September, the Guardian reported leaked details from the report’s summary for policymakers, claiming that government interference had forced scientists to ‘water down’ their findings and ‘pull their punches’. The claim that ‘temperature rises of above 1.5°C could lead to increased migrations and conflict’ was cut from the final draft, it reported.

It is usually climate sceptics, not alarmists, who point out that the IPCC’s summaries are subject to political interference. These summaries tend to be much more alarmist than what the actual science says in the reports’ technical chapters. In 2014, for example, the summary for policymakers warned that climate change can increase the risks of conflict and migration. But this was totally unsupported by the technical parts of the document.

This year’s IPCC’s report has been a disappointment to many climate activists, including the apparent source of the leak, Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) and the Grantham Research Institute (GRI). The GRI is named after its billionaire benefactor, Jeremy Grantham. Both the CCEP and the GRI are chaired by the world’s leading climate technocrat, Nick Stern, author of the UK government’s review of the economics of climate change in 2007.

The problem for Stern, his financial backers, researchers and PR men is that their political agenda depends on science identifying dramatic risks, which can act as a spur to action: catastrophic increases in the frequency and intensity of storms, flooding and drought, devastating changes to agricultural productivity, increases in diseases and poverty, impacts across society that could lead to civil conflict and war for resources. But so far, signs of these dramatic consequences have not materialised. As a result, these activists, researchers and technocrats are now at odds with the science.

That’s not to say that this year’s IPCC report gives nothing to alarmism. But it tells the alarmists that they will have to wait longer, that the apocalypse has been delayed. It also adds important caveats. Take, for example, the claim that ‘Any increase in global warming will affect human health… Risks from some vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, are projected to increase with warming from 1.5°C to 2°C.’ At face value, this appears to be a clear injunction from science that the 1.5°C target is preferable to the 2°C target. However, digging into the technical chapters of the report reveals that incorporating estimates of global adaptation to climate change into projections of its future trajectory ‘reduces the magnitude of risks’.

What this means is that these risks can be overcome by ‘adaptation’, even as the temperature rises. According to the two most authoritative estimates, the number of deaths caused by malaria has fallen dramatically in recent decades. While malaria has been eradicated from North America and Europe, it remains in Africa. Vulnerability to malaria remains strongly correlated with poverty, not meteorology. This ought to be read as an argument for development. It is ideology, not science, which turns the IPCC statement of risks into an argument for emissions reductions.

None of which is to say that global warming does not create risks. It does. But they are not the risks that climate technocrats have hoped to capitalise on. There are no immediate, looming catastrophes that can easily be detected in statistics which can provide unambiguous instruction to governments. Climate activists and technocrats need this threat of catastrophic risks to sustain their political arguments in lieu of any positive agenda. Though the most alarmist edges have been smoothed out of the IPCC’s output, it is still very much driven by ideology.


Thank fracking for continued decreases in US greenhouse gas emissions

For all the pearl clutching that swept over vast swaths of the Left after the U.S. pulled out of the Paris climate accords, President Trump continued the Obama and Bush administrations' success in decreasing domestic greenhouse gas emissions in his first year in office.

Advocates of increased environmental regulations may find it odd that directly measured greenhouse gas emissions fell by 2.7 percent from 2016 to 2017, and are down 12.2 percent since this type of reporting in was first done in 2011.

Trump entered office advocating for the expansion of the coal and the natural gas industry, and he has even tried to prop up big coal using emergency executive powers. But natural gas has relentlessly continued to replace coal as the electricity-generating fuel of choice thanks to its abundant supply and resulting low price. The combustion of natural gas produces just half of the carbon dioxide of coal.

The shale boom made possible by fracking has become a progressive bogeyman of sorts. Liberals will correctly point out that methane released from fracking is far more potent than carbon dioxide in fueling climate change. But as the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports, nearly two-thirds of reductions in energy-related CO2 emissions in the past decade can be attributed to fracking. Through technological developments, total greenhouse gas emissions from fracking have plummeted.

Even the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that fracking "has increased and diversified the gas supply and allowed for a more extensive switching of power and heat production from coal to gas; this is an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.”

For what it's worth, even as fracking has expanded in the past decade, methane emissions have plummeted. The result is that the U.S., which has repudiated the Paris treaty, avoided the Kyoto Protocol, and refused to impose any sort of national caps on carbon emissions, has been more successfully in reducing its emissions than any of the nations that have embraced such economically damaging measures.

In short, fracking has done more to reduce greenhouse emissions than any environmentalist or environmental policy in modern history.




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


Friday, October 19, 2018

Scientists bet $10K on the climate. Guess who lost

Climate science decided by gambling!  A rather desperate recourse!  There are others better qualified than I to comment on all the matters raised in this but I want to point out a couple of basics.

1). OF COURSE climate skeptics declined to predict a specific climate outcome.  The whole position of climate agnosticism is that the climate is a multivariate product which CANNOT be reliably predicted.  You can only get a prediction right by chance.

2). And the quite glaring fault in Annan's reasoning was that he got his big prediction right because the more recent time period he chose encompassed the biggest El Nino we have seen recently.  So the temperature rise was entirely natural, unrelated to anthropogenic global warming.

Had Annan been a real scientist, he would have corrected his data for the influence of El Nino, which would have shown an essentially flat temperature record -- i.e. no global warming.  Even the simple step of subtracting the leap caused by the previous El Nino would have shown that.

In my research career, I regularly corrected statistically for lots of extraneous factors before I accepted an observed effect as informative.  To make not even an obvious correction is beyond sloppy.  It is non-science

UPDATE: Forecaster Kesten Green writes as follows, putting my point 1 more precisely:

In scientific forecasting terms, what you are saying is don’t expect to beat the no naive no-change forecast of global mean temperatures over longer periods, which Scott, Willie, and I proposed in our 2009 paper in IJF “Validity of climate change forecasting for public policy decision making”.

The logical (and policy-relevant) bet on the predictive validity of “dangerous warming” is not “will it be warmer vs will it be colder” or “will the OLS fitted trend go up or down over the period”, but will the monthly or annual errors from a dangerous warming forecast (the 3C/century that the IPCC have been forecasting for the longest time) be smaller than the errors from a no-change forecast. That was the basis of the Climate Bet that Scott challenged Al Gore to take and that we monitor (as if he had taken the bet) at The initial bet was 10 years to end-2017, which we calculated would be easy for no-change to lose given natural variations over the relatively short period. No-change nevertheless won.

It was a bet any climate scientist would take. It was 2005, and James Annan, a climate scientist at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, had heard enough. Some researchers and conservative thinkers who reject mainstream climate science were arguing that climate models were wrong or that Earth would enter a cooler period after solar flares faded.

So he offered them a bet. The wager was $10,000 that the Earth would continue warming through 2017.

The winner would be decided by comparing global surface temperatures from 1998 to 2003 with those between 2012 to 2017. Annan was confident in the climate models, which showed that it would be warmer. Seven prominent climate contrarians refused to bet. Among them was Richard Lindzen, a physicist associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has rejected mainstream climate science.

Annan was essentially fighting with one hand behind his back. The comparison started in 1998, an anomalously warm year in the temperature records, partially driven by an El Niño. Still, Annan was confident that his science would outmatch political ideology.

"They didn't believe what they were saying; this was the whole point to the betting," he said. "It has a serious scientific point to it. ... It's one way of making the point that they're playing debating games."

Eventually, Galina Mashnich and Vladimir Bashkirtsev, solar physicists at the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics in Russia, agreed to the wager. This week, Annan declared that the contest was over and that Mashnich and Bashkirtsev had lost. It comes as NASA said this week that 2018 could be the fourth-warmest year on record and the fourth year in a row that is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above the 19th-century average.

The researchers won't pay, Annan said. Neither Mashnich nor Bashkirtsev responded to questions from a reporter. Annan said Bashkirtsev wants a new bet. It would raise the stakes to $100,000 and cover another eight-year period.

Annan has declined that offer because he doesn't think the money will ever arrive. Besides, he said, his point has already been proved.

"It was obvious of course that this settlement risk was the biggest uncertainty right from the start," Annan wrote on his blog, announcing the contest's end Monday. "I had hoped they would value their professional reputations as worth rather more to themselves than the sums of money involved. On the other hand a certain amount of intellectual dishonesty seems necessary in order to maintain the denialist mindset."

Annan has won money on previous climate bets. In 2016, he and climate economist Chris Hope won a £2,000 wager against members of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a U.K.-based group that rejects climate science. The winners said 2015 would be warmer than 2008.

He has also lost.

Once, Annan bet that 2010 would break high temperature records. He was off by a year. The five warmest years since records began in the 19th century have all come after 2011, and the 10 warmest years have all come since 1998. Annan said that year, 1998, broke records, and now "we won't see a year that cold again."


Cockroach Krugman: Donald and the Deadly Deniers

America's leading Leftist economist is at it again. He is an economist and there is no evidence that he knows anything about climate science but that does not restrain him. It is just another area for him to pontificate in.  His idea of wise comments about climate skepticism is, in the usual Leftist way, mere abuse.  He calls our thinking "cockroach ideas".  Charming. Let me do a Trump and shoot back -- by saying he is the biggest cockroach of all:  Worth squashing only.

And his hand-waving arguments, such as they are, are all attacks on a straw man.  Skeptics have always agreed that there does seem to have been a slight warming (no more than one degree Celsius) in the last 150 years or so but regard a warming of no greater than one degree Celsis over that period as trivial and not significant in any important sense. Nothing recent has disturbed that judgement

Climate change is a hoax.

Climate change is happening, but it’s not man-made.

Climate change is man-made, but doing anything about it would destroy jobs and kill economic growth.

These are the stages of climate denial. Or maybe it’s wrong to call them stages, since the deniers never really give up an argument, no matter how thoroughly it has been refuted by evidence. They’re better described as cockroach ideas — false claims you may think you’ve gotten rid of, but keep coming back.

Anyway, the Trump administration and its allies — put on the defensive by yet another deadly climate change-enhanced hurricane and an ominous United Nations report — have been making all of these bad arguments over the past few days. I’d say it was a shocking spectacle, except that it’s hard to get shocked these days. But it was a reminder that we’re now ruled by people who are willing to endanger civilization for the sake of political expediency, not to mention increased profits for their fossil-fuel friends.

About those cockroaches: Details aside, the very multiplicity of climate-denial arguments — the deniers’ story keeps changing, but the bottom line that we should do nothing remains the same — is a sign that the opponents of climate action are arguing in bad faith. They aren’t seriously trying to engage with the reality of climate change or the economics of reduced emissions; their goal is to keep polluters free to pollute as long as possible, and they’ll grab onto anything serving that goal.

Still, it’s worth pointing out how thoroughly all their arguments have collapsed in recent years.

These days, climate deniers seem to have temporarily backed down a bit on claims that nothing is happening. The old dodge of comparing temperatures to an unusually warm year in 1998 to deny that the planet is getting warmer — which is like comparing days in early July with a warm day in May, and denying that there’s such a thing as summer — has been undermined by a string of new temperature records. And massive tropical storms fed by a warming ocean have made the consequences of climate change increasingly visible to the public.

So the new strategy is to downplay what has happened. Climate change models “have not been very successful,” declared Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser. Actually, they have: Global warming to date is well in line with past projections. “Something’s changing and it’ll change back again,” asserted Donald Trump on “60 Minutes,” based upon, well, nothing.

Having grudgingly conceded that maybe the planet is indeed getting a bit warmer, the climate deniers claim to be unconvinced that greenhouse gases are responsible. “I don’t know that it’s man-made,” said Trump. And while he has sort-of-kind-of backed down on his earlier claims that climate change is a hoax concocted by the Chinese, he’s still seeing vast conspiracies on the part of climate scientists, who he says “have a very big political agenda.”

Think about that. Decades ago experts predicted, based on fundamental science, that emissions would raise global temperatures. People like Trump scoffed. Now the experts’ prediction has come true. And the deniers insist that emissions aren’t the culprit, that something else must be driving the change, and it’s all a conspiracy. Come on.

Why, it’s as if Trump were to suggest that the Saudis had nothing to do with the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished after entering a Saudi embassy — that he was killed by some mysterious third party. Oh, wait.

Finally, about the cost of climate policy: I’ve noted in the past how strange it is that conservatives have total faith in the power and flexibility of market economies, but claim that these economies will be completely destroyed if the government creates incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Apocalyptic claims about the cost of reducing emissions are especially strange given tremendous technological progress in renewable energy: The costs of wind and solar power have plummeted. Meanwhile, coal-fired power plants have become so uncompetitive that the Trump administration wants to subsidize them at the expense of cleaner energy.

In short, while the arguments of climate deniers were always weak, they’ve gotten much weaker. Even if you were genuinely persuaded by the deniers five or 10 years ago, subsequent developments should have made you reconsider.

In reality, of course, climate denial has never had much to do with either logic or evidence; as I said, deniers are clearly arguing in bad faith. They don’t really believe what they’re saying. They’re just looking for excuses that will let people like the Koch brothers keep making money. Besides, liberals want to limit emissions, and modern conservatism is largely about owning the libs.

One way to think about what’s happening here is that it’s the ultimate example of Trumpian corruption. We have good reason to believe that Trump and his associates are selling out America for the sake of personal gain. When it comes to climate, however, they aren’t just selling out America; they’re selling out the whole world.


Where riots will break out because there's no more water. Conflicts would be exacerbated by climate change and rising global populations

The nonsense never stops.  Warming of the oceans would produce MORE rain so warming would ameliorate water shortages, not worsen them.  Junk science in support of junk science below

New research has revealed the areas where real-life 'waterworld' riots are most likely to happen.

Researchers mapped the areas where future global conflict is most likely to break out as a result of climate change-fueled water shortages.

Researchers believe vulnerable areas could face 'hydro-political issues' due to water shortages within the next 50 to 100 years.

Researchers said the areas most likely to be hit by 'hydro-political' issues are those with already stressed water basins.

This includes the Nile, Ganges-Brahmaputra, Indus, Tigris-Euphrates and Colorado rivers.

They believe water-related conflict or cooperation is likely to develop in the next 50 to 100 years as a result of climate change and population growth.

A team of scientists from the European Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC) used a novel machine learning method to identify 'pre-conditions and factors' that might lead to depleting water resources in certain areas, particularly those that contain water sources shared by bordering nations.

They also determined that the two dominant factors leading to 'hydro-political issues' are climate change and increasing population density.

While water scarcity isn't the only trigger for warfare, it's a major contributor.

'Competition over limited water resources is one of the main concerns for the coming decades,' the scientists explained.


Astronaut Dr. Harrison Schmitt rejects UN climate report

The New York Times’ Nicholas St. Fleur: " one of the leading climate change deniers, when there was a huge report that just came out last week [talking about] the risk and what is going to happen … as soon as 2040. I’d love to know if you see any irony in your views on people who denied man walking on the moon vs. your views on climate change.”

Schmitt: “I see no irony at all. I’m a geologist. I know the Earth is not nearly as fragile as we tend to think it is. It has gone through climate change, it is going through climate change at the present time. The only question is, is there any evidence that human beings are causing that change? Right now, in my profession, there is no evidence."

"The observations that we make as geologists, and observational climatologists, do not show any evidence that human beings are causing this. Now, there is a whole bunch of unknowns..."

"I, as a scientist, expect to have people question orthodoxy. And we always used to do that. Now, unfortunately, funding by governments, particularly the U.S. government, is biasing science toward what the government wants to hear. That’s a very dangerous thing that’s happening in science today, and it’s not just in climate. I see it in my own lunar research."...

"If NASA’s interested in a particular conclusion, then that’s the way the proposals come in for funding. So it’s a very, very serious issue, and I hope the science writers in this room will start to dig deeply into whether or not science has been corrupted by the source of funds that are now driving what people are doing in research, and what their conclusions are.”


A vision of the future

Note the huge waste disposal problem it creates.  Not very environmentally friendly.  Video from Finland



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