Thursday, March 22, 2018

When will the US feel the heat of global warming? For the Great Plains, natural variability will dominate until late this century

Even Warmists are noting that the USA hasn't warmed significantly

By increasing the energy stored in our atmosphere, climate change is expected to generate more severe storms and heat waves. Severe storms and heat waves, however, also happen naturally. As a result, it's tough to figure out whether any given event is a product of climate change.

A corollary to that is that detecting a signal of climate change using weather events is a serious challenge. Are three nor'easters in quick succession, as the East Coast is now experiencing, a sign of a changing climate? Or is it simply a matter of natural variability?

A team of researchers has now looked at heat waves in the US, trying to determine when a warming-driven signal will stand out above the natural variability. And the answer is that it depends. In the West, the answer is "soon," with climate-driven heat waves becoming the majority in the 2020s. But for the Great Plains, the researchers show that a specific weather pattern will push back the appearance of a warming signal until the 2070s.

Finding the heat

The study, performed by researchers at three different institutions in Florida, focuses on what they term the Time of Emergence, which they define as the point when "the signal of anthropogenic climate change will emerge against the background natural variability." For this work, they focused on heat waves, which they defined as an extended period of time with temperatures 5 degrees Celsius or more above the typical temperature.

They started out by analyzing historic events, using the temperature records from 1920-2000. They found that there were regions where heat waves tended to cluster. These included the West Coast, Southern Great Plains, Northern Great Plains, and the Great Lakes (they found eight in total). While many of these regions partially overlap, a heat wave that affected one of them typically did not affect any of the others, suggesting they were driven by independent weather patterns. The four mentioned above affect the largest portions of the US population and so were chosen for further analysis.

From here, the analysis is pretty straightforward. The authors used a collection of climate models to examine the frequency of heat waves for the remainder of the present century (2020-2100) under a high emissions scenario. While nations have committed to reducing emissions, this scenario would reflect a continuation of our current trajectory. The frequency of extreme events that showed up in the models was then compared to their frequency in the historic record.

For areas like the Great Lakes and the US West, the results were about what you'd expect: with continued climate change, both the frequency and severity of heat waves went up. For the Great Plains, this was also true, but the effect was much more moderate and emerged only gradually.

To quantify this difference, the authors developed a simple measure: the year in which half of the heat waves wouldn't have qualified as heat waves if it weren't for the influence of climate change. For the US West, that point was crossed in 2028. The West was followed by the Great Lakes, which crossed the threshold a decade later in 2037. But the Great Plains were on a completely different schedule. In the Northern Plains, the 50-percent threshold wasn't crossed until 2056, while the Southern Plains didn't have a clear signal of climate change until 2074.

Explaining the Plains

So why is internal variability so significant in the Great Plains? The researchers suggest two potential causes of these regional differences. One is a difference in the flow of air across the continental US, something that may be changing with our warming climate. If the prevailing winds become more erratic, then it's possible that they would bring cooler air across the Plains more often. The alternative is soil moisture. This takes up heat from the air and ground as it evaporates, which would counteract some of the heating caused by greenhouse gases.

Harsh winter weather in eastern US could be due to warmer Arctic
For the West Coast, the two appear to be related. Our warming climate is expected to produce wind patterns that reduce the frequency of storms and thus lower the amount of moisture in the soil. This, in turn, would reduce evaporation, leading to enhanced heat—which may explain why the climate signal appears there earliest.

For the Great Plains, however, the researchers identified a specific weather pattern that prevailed during the summer months called the Great Plains Low-Level Jet. The LLJ draws moist air up from the Gulf of Mexico, allowing it to fall as rain over the Plains. The evaporation of this rain would then offset some of the heat.

As a bit of science, this is some nice work, as the researchers have not only identified a case where natural variability has large influence on climate change, but they've identified the source of that variability. But they also point out that the findings could be helpful for policy. Over the last three decades, they note, heat-related fatalities have been the biggest weather-related cause of death in the US. Identifying the areas most at risk of increased heat would help us prepare for a future where that's looking increasingly inevitable.

And, in the case of the West Coast, it may be arriving in as little as a decade.


Clean Power Plan: Just Repeal, Don't Replace

Marlo Lewis

Yesterday I submitted comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), which discusses options for replacing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) with some other regulation to control carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing power plants. The EPA is in the process of repealing the CPP, which was President Obama’s marquee domestic climate policy and principal regulatory component of his Paris Climate Treaty emission-reduction pledge. My comments make the case that the EPA should simply repeal the Clean Power Plan without replacing it.

In this post, I first discuss—and supplement—the ANPRM’s statutory argument for repealing the CPP. I then summarize three reasons why any CPP replacement rule would also be unlawful.   

Why the CPP is unlawful

The EPA promulgated the CPP under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act (CAA). According to the ANPRM, the CPP exceeds EPA’s authority under that provision. CAA section 111(d) emission performance standards are supposed to reflect the “best system of emission reduction” (BSER) that has been “adequately demonstrated,” taking into account “cost” and the “remaining useful life” of each “source.” The statute defines “stationary source” as “any building, structure, facility, or installation which emits or may emit any air pollutant.” Consequently, all previous CAA section 111 performance standards were based on technologies and practices that could be applied by and at the source.

Abruptly departing from the text and the agency’s historic practice, the CPP requires states to establish performance standards more stringent than any individual fossil-fuel power plant can meet through measures implemented by and at the source. For example, the CPP establishes an emission performance goal for existing coal power plants of 1,305 lbs. CO2/MWh. That is beyond the capability of even new highly efficient super critical pulverized coal power plants, which typically emit about 1,720 lbs. CO2/MWh.

To comply with unattainable standards, the CPP expects power plant owners or operators to reduce grid-wide emissions in their capacity as actors in the electricity marketplace. CPP compliance options include purchasing power from lower-emitting facilities, investing in new renewable generation, buying emission credits from other facilities that over-comply, or simply reducing output, which cedes market share to lower-emitting facilities.

In effect, the CPP regulates the “U.S. power sector” as if it were a single source, with individual power plants—the actual sources as defined in CAA section 111—conceived as mere cogs in a vast machine. However, the power sector cannot be a “source” because it is not a building, structure, facility, or installation. The power sector is a market process comprised of hundreds of sources, hundreds of non-emitting generating units that are not sources, and millions of customers who do not produce power.

Or, as the ANPRM sums up the issue, a valid best system of emission reduction “must be based on a physical or operational change to a building, structure, facility, or installation at that source, rather than measures that the source’s owner or operator can implement on behalf of the source at another location.”

The ANPRM requests information on how EPA might replace the CPP with a new regulation “limited to [CO2] emission reduction measures that can be applied to or at an individual stationary source.”

Why EPA should not replace the Clean Power Plan

While I completely concur that lawful CAA section 111(d) emission performance standards must be based on measures that can be applied to individual sources, even a replacement rule based on such measures would still be unlawful. Four separate statutory reasons lead to that conclusion.

Section 112 Exclusion. CAA section 111(d) excludes from its regulatory purview “any air pollutant . . . emitted by a source category regulated under CAA section 112.” CAA section 112 requires EPA to list and regulate categories of industrial sources of hazardous air pollutants, such as arsenic, mercury, and cyanide. Coal- and oil-fueled power plants have been regulated as hazardous air pollutant sources under section 112 since 2012, and NGCC combustion turbines since 2004. Therefore, EPA may not regulate power plants under CAA section 111(d). The CPP is unlawful under the very provision that purportedly authorizes it. Any CPP replacement rule would be unlawful for the same reason.

Historic practice. The ANPRM suggests that BSER for existing power plants could be based on “equipment upgrades” and “good practices” that increase the efficiency by which those facilities convert heat into electricity. The improvement in thermal efficiency would, in turn, reduce CO2 emission rates. Such measures would be applied by and at the source. Nonetheless, such a BSER is inconsistent with the EPA’s practice of more than 40 years.

Until the Clean Power Plan, the EPA always based Clean Air Act performance standards for both new and existing sources on specific emission control technologies, not recipes to improve the source’s operating efficiency. It would be ridiculous, for example, to define BSER for primary aluminum plants in terms of incremental efficiency gains rather than in terms of technologies that can actually control fluoride emissions. The ANPRM’s suggested BSER is inconsistent with the statutory understanding reflected in EPA’s historic regulatory practice under Clean Air Act section 111.

Non-existent BSER. The Obama EPA claimed carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is the “adequately demonstrated” BSER for new coal power plants. That was highly dubious, because no utility-scale CCS power plant has ever been built without hefty government subsidies. Even with subsidies, CCS power plants are not economical unless they can sell the captured CO2 to firms engaged in enhanced oil recovery. A BSER must be “broadly applicable,” but many coal power plants are not located near enhanced oil recovery operations. Besides, even the Obama EPA acknowledged that retrofitting existing power plants with CCS technology is too costly to pass muster as BSER.

The Trump EPA should acknowledge the reality that its predecessor refused to face: An adequately demonstrated best system for reducing CO2 emissions from existing power plants does not exist. Absent a bona fide BSER, Clean Air Act section 111(d) may not be used to regulate CO2 emissions from those facilities.

Contrary to congressional intent. As EPA’s 1975 implementing rule explains, one of Congress’s major purposes in enacting CAA section 111(d) was to enable EPA to control air pollutants ineligible for regulation under the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQ) program. Such pollutants may not be regulated under the NAAQ program because they are not emitted by “numerous or diverse sources.” However, carbon dioxide is emitted by both numerous and diverse sources. It is exactly the type of ubiquitous “air pollutant” Congress did not intend to be addressed by CAA section 111(d).

As the 1975 implementing rule also explains, CAA section 111(d) was designed to address air pollutants with “highly localized” effects. For such pollutants, proximity to the source chiefly determines the associated health risks. In contrast, the CO2-greenhouse effect is global, not local. Whatever the impacts of CO2 emissions on global climate, or climate change on particular communities, the potential health and welfare risks are not affected by proximity to the source.

In short, carbon dioxide and CAA section 111(d) are a total mismatch.


Pompeo, Trump and the Paris climate agreement

John Stossel

President Trump's pick to be the new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is not a fan of the Paris climate agreement, the treaty that claims it will slow global warning by reducing the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Politicians from most of the world's nations signed the deal, and President Obama said "we may see this as the moment that we finally decided to save our planet."

That's dubious.

Trump wisely said he will pull America out of the deal. He called it a "massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries."

Unfortunately, Trump often reverses himself.

The climate change lobby has been trying to change Trump's mind. Al Gore called his stance "reckless and indefensible." Most of the media agree. So do most of my neighbors in New York.

That's why it's good that Pompeo opposes the Paris deal. Such treaties are State Department responsibilities. Pompeo is more likely to hold Trump to his word than his soon-to-be predecessor Rex Tillerson, who liked the agreement.

The Paris accord is a bad deal because even if greenhouse gases really are a huge threat, this treaty wouldn't do much about them.

I'll bet Al Gore and most of the media don't even know what's in the accord. I didn't until I researched it for this week's YouTube video.

Manhattan Institute senior fellow Oren Cass is the rare person who actually read the Paris accord.

Cass tells me it's "somewhere between a farce and a fraud." I interviewed him for a video project I am doing with City Journal, a smart policy magazine that often makes the case for smaller government. "You don't even have to mention greenhouse gases in your commitment if you don't want to. You send in any piece of paper you want."

The Paris accord was just political theater, he says. "They stapled it together and held it up and said, 'This is amazing!'"

The media announced that China and India made major commitments.

In truth, says Cass, "They either pledged to do exactly what they were already going to do anyway, or pledged even less. China, for instance said, 'we pledge to reach peak emission by about 2030.' Well, the United States government had already done a study to guess when Chinese emissions would peak, and their guess was about 2030."

In other words, China simply promised to do what was going to happen anyway.

"China was actually one of the better pledges," says Cass. "India made no pledge to limit emissions at all. They pledged only to become more efficient. But they proposed to become more efficient less quickly than they were already becoming more efficient. So their pledge was to slow down."

It's hard to see how that would help the planet.

"My favorite was Pakistan, whose pledge was to 'Reach a peak at some point after which to begin reducing emissions,'" says Cass. "You can staple those together, and you can say we now have a global agreement, but what you have is an agreement to do nothing."

However, Cass says one country did make a serious commitment. "The one country that showed up in Paris with a very costly, ambitious target was the United States. President Obama took all the zero commitments from everybody else but threw in a really expensive one for us."

Obama pledged to reduce emissions by 26 percent. If that ever happened, it would squash America's economy.

Nevertheless, when Trump said he was leaving the Paris accord, he was trashed by politicians around the world.

The UK's Theresa May was "dismayed," and Obama said, "This administration joins a handful of nations that reject the future."

Cass counters that if "the future is worthless climate agreements ... we should be proud to reject."

Don't get me wrong: The Earth has been warming, and humans probably contribute to it.

But the solution isn't to waste billions by making emissions cuts in America while other countries do nothing.

Trump was right to repudiate this phony treaty. It's good that Pompeo is around to remind him of that.


Greenie versus Greenie in Massachusetts

NAHANT — Since 1967, scientists at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center have quietly gone about their work, studying ocean life from East Point, a spectacular rocky bluff that juts into the Atlantic Ocean and was once home to Henry Cabot Lodge’s estate and a World War II bunker.

But that scenic outpost has turned into a bitter battleground. Neighbors are fighting Northeastern’s proposal to build a 60,000-square-foot addition to the center as part of an ambitious plan to turn it into a nationally regarded coastal sustainability institute.

In an ironic twist, residents assert the institute dedicated to protecting vulnerable coastal communities will instead ruin the natural beauty of East Point — one of Nahant’s most cherished spots — and make the state’s smallest town feel more like a heavily traveled college campus.

“No matter how you design it, a 60,000-square-foot building on what we call Nahant’s last wild area will destroy it,” said Jim Walsh, a former selectman.

Jim Dolan, a retired high-tech worker who raised five children in Nahant, said he is so angry at Northeastern’s “total disrespect and total disregard” for the town he’s ready to set fire to the master’s degree he earned from the university in the 1970s.

“How about if we get everyone from Nahant who has a Northeastern degree to go to the board of directors meeting and burn them all?” Dolan said. “I don’t do that lightly. I’m a big education guy. But having a university take a position to not honor its neighbors is unconscionable.”

Such is the intensity of the opposition in Nahant, a one-square-mile peninsula that is home to 4,000 residents and has been a haven for wealthy families since the 19th century.

Hundreds of signs on front lawns in town declare, “Love Nahant, No Northeastern Expansion.” Residents have picketed outside the gates of the center and packed a Town Hall meeting last month, booing when Northeastern officials presented their expansion plans.

Last week, the bad blood reached a boiling point when Northeastern canceled a lecture at the center titled, “Nitrogen: Friend or Foe? Effects of Fertilization on a New England Salt Marsh.” University officials feared that residents who had been posting hostile messages on social media would disrupt the talk.

“It’s been really hard coming through town, the town that I’ve been driving through for 30 years, seeing such hostility,” said Geoffrey Trussell, the center director, who has worked there for three decades, studying ocean predators.


Green/Left governments want us to use public transport

But that puts us in the hands of bureaucrats who don't give a sh*t about us.  The story below is from the Australian city of Brisbane.  The Brisbane train system is actually one of the best in Australia's capital cities.  Sydney commuters have it much worse.  So it is interesting to see what counts as a good system below.  Nobody gives a sh*t in Brisbane either

SCHEDULED maintenance has caused public transport chaos on the night of Ed Sheeran’s first concert at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

Passengers leaving from the city on the Caboolture/Sunshine and Redcliffe lines were being moved on to buses at Northgate station and being told to expect delays of up to an hour on their journey.

Buses replaced trains between Northgate and Petrie stations for the remainder of the evening.

As reported by The Courier-Mail, TransLink announced the works – maintenance on overhead powerlines – two months ago, warning commuters that buses would be used from 9.30pm onwards, before tracks reopened in the morning. That particular maintenance work was only scheduled for last night and will not impact tonight’s show.

Concert goer Katherine Lameree didn’t arrive home at Dakabin until after 1am due to the maintenance work. The gig finished at 10.30pm. Ms Lameree said it took her 30 minutes to reach the station.

Ms Lameree and her partner got off the train at Northgate where they were forced to join the que to the waiting bus.

“The lines were up the ramp for the overpass to get to the busses,” she said. “There was one waiting and they couldn’t keep up with the demand.”

Ms Lameree ended up calling a friend from the station and instead got a lift home, but was left disappointed that the maintenance went ahead despite the event.

“They knew the event was on, they were partnered with it offering free transport. Surely it could’ve waited until Thursday or be done in off peak during the day,” she said.

“A lot of people voiced it (frustration) on the train… but we all were like do we expect any better from Queensland Rail.”

A TransLink spokesman last week told The Courier-Mail last week of the track closure from Northgate to Petrie affecting the Redcliffe Peninsula and Sunshine Coast lines, encouraging Ed Sheeran fans to plan ahead. They did not give a reason as to why the closure was scheduled for that particular night.

Despite the warning many Ed Sheeran fans were angry TransLink chose the night of a major Brisbane event to conduct the maintenance.

In a Facebook comment, concert goer Ashley Darrenkamp called Queensland Rail “utterly ridiculous” for scheduling maintenance on the same night as the the 52,000-capacity sellout gig.

“They really messed up! I had to end up finding another way home, costing heaps of money!,” she wrote.

“Having to wait for buses to then stop at every station then to catch another train... very upset. I was fully aware and expecting delays due to high volumes but this was unacceptable.”

Another fan, Jessica Hopwood, said she too was also caught off guard by the maintenance.

“Traffic to Roma street station from the concert took 40 minutes then been told at the platform to get off the train at Northgate, then waiting in line for 20 minutes for a bus,” she said.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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