Saturday, December 25, 2010

A new level of Warmist panic

Below is the first part of a report in the NYT on Prof. Richard Alley. He makes the exraordinary claim highlighted below. In a subsequent email to Marc Morano, however, he had a much more cautious story

In an article this week on the relentless rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, I outlined one of the canonical projections of climate science: if the amount of carbon dioxide doubles, the average surface temperature of the earth is likely to increase by 5 or 6 degrees Fahrenheit, a whopping change. I contrasted that with a prediction from skeptics of climate change who contend that the increase is likely to be less than 2 degrees.

One major voice on climate science, Richard B. Alley of the Pennsylvania State University, told me he gets annoyed by the way this contrast is often presented in news accounts. The higher estimate is often put forward as a worst case, he pointed out, while the skeptic number is presented as the best case.

In fact, as Dr. Alley reminds anyone who will listen, and as he recently told a Congressional committee, the estimate of 5 or 6 degrees is actually mildly optimistic. Computer programs used to forecast future climate show it as the most likely outcome from a doubling of carbon dioxide, but those programs also show substantial probabilities that the warming will be much greater.

The true worst case from doubled carbon dioxide is closer to 18 or 20 degrees of warming, Dr. Alley said — an addition of heat so radical that it would render the planet unrecognizable to its present-day inhabitants.

Dr. Alley calls the usual news media presentation of the issue a form of “false balance.” In his view, mainstream climate science should be seen as coming down on the conservative side of a range of numbers that runs from 2 degrees to 20 degrees. And in setting public policy, he said, lawmakers need to entertain the possibility that any of these numbers is correct.


The crucial cloud question

The effect of clouds is absolutely crucial to the alarmist predictions emanating from Warmist "models", but, as we see below, support for what the Warmists claim is at best equivocal

David Whitehouse

Clouds, their effect on climate and how to treat them in climate models, is one of the most pressing problems in climate science and a great limit to our understanding of the workings of our planet and our ability to make predictions. Of all the problems concerning clouds the question of cloud feedback is one of the most puzzling. Many believe that much of the warming over the next century will come from such feedback and not from CO2.

It is estimated that clouds currently reflect, on average 2 Watts per sq metre back into space. The question is, is this number a function of temperature? How do clouds react to changes in temperature? Do they counter temperature change or amplify it?

In a recent paper in the journal Science Dressler of Texas A&M University tackled the question by looking at the El Nino and La Nina effect and asking how they influenced cloud cover.

The researchers looked at changes in global cloud cover during the EL Nino’s and La Nina’s of the past decade and, after removing the effect of H2O feedbacks, say they found a small positive feedback, but then added that they cannot exclude the possibility of a small negative feedback.

The slope of the fitted line is the strength of the cloud feedback. Its gradient determines whether the feedback is positive or negative. It’s clear that the result is equivocal and that the small slope calculated depends upon only a handful of outlier datapoints out of a total 120! Personally, my conclusion is that it is probably best to draw no great conclusion from this dataset other than it indicates that any effect is not large.

Technically Dressler found that the answer to the question I poised at the start of this article; Is the reflectance of clouds a function of temperature, to be yes and gives the result 0.54 +/- 0.74 Watts per sq metre.

The way this research has been presented is somewhat puzzling. It has been described as an important check that climate models have passed?

The Dressler report was published on the final Friday of the UN conference at Cancun and the headline describing the research in the News of the Week section of Science was, “El Nino Lends More Confidence to Strong Global Warming.” In my view this is a misleading description of Dressler’s paper.

In the body of the news report at least the description of the research as “convincing evidence” is in parenthesis and there is a quote by Dressler that his analysis “doesn’t settle the question.” And that he “cannot exclude the possibility of a small negative feedback.” Such comments render the headline of the news report highly misleading.

In addition Dressler looked at the way eight leading climate models handled the issue of cloud feedback and found that on average the models produce a small positive feedback when run over a century. This was said to be some indication that the models successfully simulate the response of clouds to climate variations. Others commented that it was an important check on the models. Given the equivocal nature of Dressler’s results and the overall questions surrounding the approach of many climate models, I think that is too much of a conclusion.

Earlier this year Dr Roy Spencer published similar research, based on the same data that led to a very different conclusion. He calls the Dressler paper a “step backward in climate research.”

He maintains that Dressler is seeing not only cloud changes caused by temperature changes, but (as perhaps would be expected in such a complicated, interconnected system as our atmosphere) also temperature changes cause by natural cloud fluctuations. The problem, he says, is one of separating cause and effect

Spencer et al use a more complex, and they say more powerful, way of analysing the data that they say allows the question of cause and effect to be delineated. In so doing they say the data supports a strong negative feedback. Dressler in the Science paper says that such an approach (though it is not clear if he is referring specifically to Spencer’s paper) has been criticised on methodological grounds.

In the subsequent debate the key issue according to Dressler is that Spencer believes that the El Nino effect is caused by variations in cloud cover. Spencer denies this and says the cause of El Nino’s is not important to his analysis.

Whatever the scientific outcome of the debate about the nature of cloud feedback there are two points that emerge.

There are great policy ramifications of the results of this research and given the state of the science it would be unwise to accept this question as answered when determining policy.

In the News section of Science Dressler says his conclusions are about as good as can be done with the current datasets. This is probably true but, despite the Science headline about this research lending more confidence, the issue has not been settled.

SOURCE (See the original for the graphic)

'The Most Anti-Manufacturing Energy Policy Of Any Government In British History'

A recent speech below by Lord Lawson of Blaby to the House of Lords

My Lords, let me first declare an interest as chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, of which I gave fuller details in this House on 2 November. I must say that I am not the slightest bit surprised that this Bill has the support of the party opposite. It is the most dirigiste legislation the present Government have so far produced.

What I propose to do today is to look at the philosophy and policy that lie behind the Bill, to which the Minister alluded in his opening remarks. It is an area in which I have form, as it were. As the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my right honourable friend Mr Huhne, wrote in the Daily Telegraph on 16 December:

“So today the Coalition begins a consultation on a reform that would reshape this market more fundamentally than at any time since the 1980s, when the Lawson reforms were the pioneer of Europe's deregulation”.

Nor were those reforms simply a matter of energy privatisation, although that was an important part of them. They went much further than that. As Oxford’s Professor Dieter Helm has written in his definitive work, Energy, the State , and the Market: British Energy Policy since 1979,

“the principles of energy policy were rewritten, notably after Nigel Lawson moved to the Department of Energy. His restatement of energy policy in his speech on 'The Market for Energy' in 1982 can be seen, in retrospect, as a defining moment. A new philosophy was set out, motivating much of what followed. His rejection of planning and many of the activities then going on within the Department of Energy was revolutionary at the time”.

That new approach produced well over a quarter of a century of reliable energy supplies at the lowest practicable cost. It should not be torn up, as it is now being torn up, without very good reason.

So what is the reason? According to Mr Huhne, in his Statement on so-called “Electricity Market Reform” last week:

“The current energy market has served us well, but it cannot deliver long-term investment on the scale that we need, nor can it give customers the best deal. Left untouched, it would lock carbon emissions into the system for decades to come."

So there we have it. Pace Mr Huhne the market can certainly deliver adequate investment, provided it is free from arbitrary government impositions and from major uncertainties about future government energy policy. It can undoubtedly give customers the best deal, as it has for more than a quarter of a century. But it is true that it may well lock carbon emissions into the system, to use Mr Huhne’s phrase, for decades to come. That is precisely because it is carbon-based energy that now, and for the foreseeable future, gives energy customers, both corporate and individual, the best deal. Indeed, Mr Huhne freely admitted as much when later in his Statement he said:

“At the moment, there is a bias towards low-cost, low-risk fossil fuel generation”. Indeed there is, and quite right too—except that it is not a bias. It is the market providing UK energy customers with the best available deal.

The purpose of this Bill, or, rather, the policy behind it, is to bring that to an end in an obsession to eliminate United Kingdom carbon emissions. Again I will quote from the Statement for what I promise to be the last time. Mr Huhne said that: “we face growing demand, shrinking supply and ambitious emissions reductions targets”.—[Official Report, Commons, 16/12/10; col. 1064.]

We do indeed face growing demand, although the massive economic burden imposed by the energy policy that lies behind this Bill will certainly damage the economy sufficiently to reduce the growth in demand. We are undoubtedly lumbered with self-imposed unilateral emissions reductions targets. The reference to “shrinking supply” is complete nonsense. It is the very reverse of the truth. Indeed, Mr Huhne admitted as much when he explained to the CBI: “Left untouched, the electricity market would allow a new dash for gas”.

Indeed, so it would and so it should. The most dramatic technological breakthrough in the world of energy since my time as Secretary of State almost 30 years ago is the very recent development of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which together have made the production of gas from shale economic and highly competitive. As a result, the official US Energy Information Administration, for example, announced only last week that America’s technically and commercially recoverable shale gas reserves are twice as abundant as they previously thought them to be. Indeed, the United States is already set to overtake Russia—if it has not already done so—as the world’s largest gas producer, and this is just the start.

Although America has been first in the field—a result of a technological breakthrough by the private sector, incidentally, which owes nothing to any government support or technology stimulus—the world is awash with shale, in Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. We now know that we live in a world in which there will be an abundance of gas far into the foreseeable future and beyond. Because it is spread throughout the world, we no longer need to fear the strategic insecurity of being overdependent on either Russia or the Middle East.

Indeed, in so far as there is an energy security problem in this country, it stems entirely from the Government’s obsession of ensuring by means of massive subsidies, combined with growing penalties and restrictions on the use of gas, that we become heavily dependent on wind power. That government-imposed insecurity has three dimensions. First, there is the inherently unreliable nature of wind, which sometimes blows and sometimes does not. Secondly, there is the question of whether it is practically possible to build and install wind turbines on the scale required to meet our energy needs, leaving aside the huge economic and environmental costs of doing so. Thirdly, there is the fact that an indispensable component of wind turbines is neodymium, a rare mineral, which is mined and refined—in a highly polluting way, incidentally—only in China, so we are dependent completely on China.

What are the consequences of the new energy policy which lies behind this Bill, whose essential purpose is substantially to raise the cost of UK energy by turning our back on abundant low-cost gas and relying on higher cost nuclear power and, to an even greater degree, on very much higher cost wind power? There are three consequences, two of them certain and the third quite likely.

The first is that by substantially raising the cost of energy, the policy will do great damage to the economy in general and to manufacturing in particular, at a time when it is clear that our principal competitors overseas have not the slightest intention of following suit. It is indeed curious, to say the least, that a Government that came to power saying they wished to rebalance our economy so as to reduce our relative dependence on financial services, which implies having a stronger manufacturing sector, should be determined to impose the most anti-manufacturing energy policy of any Government in British history.

The second consequence is that, despite the provisions in the Bill before us today, the massive rise in energy costs, which is the clear purpose of this policy, will lead to a huge increase in fuel poverty at a time when conditions are tough enough as it is for those on low incomes. Those two consequences of this policy are certain.

The third, which is not certain but quite likely, is that the dysfunctional energy policy to which the Government are committed will prove unable to provide sufficient reliable electricity to meet the nation’s demand, and the lights will go out. The noble Lord, Lord McFall, warned of that in his intervention earlier in the debate. And all this in the cause of eliminating UK carbon emissions.

Moreover, there is a further irony. Per kilowatt of electricity generated, gas produces only half the carbon emissions of coal, so it is quite possible that by switching from coal to gas, the UK might be able to meet or at least get very close to the 2020 target for emissions reductions enshrined in the Climate Change Act. It would not, of course, make it possible to meet the near total decarbonisation enshrined in the 2050 target, but by 2020, or more likely well before that, it will have become abundantly clear that global decarbonisation is simply not going to happen, and that for this country to persist with a policy of unilateral national decarbonisation will be manifestly absurd and indefensible. Indeed, as we suffer the coldest winter since records began 100 years ago, well before 2020 it might just begin to dawn even on green-obsessed government Ministers that there may not be any case for doing so.

At present, the coalition Government are having to tackle with determination and vigour an unenviable fiscal inheritance in a tough economic climate. I wish them well. But to make that task substantially harder by embracing, for no good reason whatever, the massive self-imposed economic burden embodied in the policy which lies behind this Bill is madness.


Britain's one time chief alarmist rejects the Warmist Met office advice

The row over the need for a multimillion-pound investment in snowploughs, de-icing equipment and salt stocks deepened this morning with the publication of a government-backed report using Met Office predictions that successive hard winters are rare.

The report by David Quarmby, chairman of the RAC Foundation, said the Met Office remained convinced that harsh winters do not come in clusters. Asked whether there should be concerted investment in snow-clearing equipment, following the third snowbound winter in a row, Quarmby said: "Are you happy to invest more in kit that may sit at the back of the depot and won't be used?"

But the findings of the government-commissioned study were contradicted by Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser from 2000 to 2007, who warned that ministers should plan for more cold winters.

This morning, King, the chief scientific adviser from 2000 to 2007, told Radio 4's Today programme: "My advice would be prepare for it [cold winters]. It may not happen but the risk to our economy is very significant if we are not prepared."

Quarmby said the Met Office remained convinced that the severe cold snap is a one-off phenomenon. "We cannot say this is an annual event," he said.

He estimated that the 2009-2010 cold snap may have cost the economy around £1.5bn, adding that his grandchildren had not even seen snow until last year.

However, Quarmby said politicians may have to go against Met Office advice. "Unless we have got advice to the contrary we have to build the business case on what we have been told about the statistical probability of severe weather. It is the politicians and local government who have to stand up and make the decisions.


Met office blames a 'stupid' public for being unimpressed by its refined -- and misleading -- analyses

As Britain remains cold and snowy, an interesting little dispute has boiled up between the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) and the Met Office over the quality of longer-range weather forecasting.

And this is illuminated by documents obtained by the BBC under freedom of information from the Met Office. These shed new light on the problems faced by the Met Office in its public communications and the strategies it has adopted for tackling them.

The Met Office is under attack from the GWPF, for its "poor advice" on the likelihood of a harsh and cold winter. The GWPF is drawing attention to a map published on the Met Office website in October which indicated that the UK was likely to experience above-normal temperatures in the ensuing three-month period.

For the GPWF, which is sceptical of the Met Office and other mainstream analysis of global warming, this is evidence of a Met Office tendency to under-predict cold weather and over-predict mild winters.

The Met Office replies that these maps, which feature in the scientific research section of its website, are probabilistic estimates of the chances of a range of outcomes and are not to be taken as simple weather forecasts that can be right or wrong. It tried to squash news stories in October that it was predicting a mild winter.

It should also be noted that, according to the Quarmby report on transport and winter resilience earlier this week, the Met Office did give "early indications of the onset of a cold spell from late November at the end of October".

This argument is linked to views about climate change, but part of the background is the major difficulty the Met Office has faced for some time over forecasting seasonal weather and conveying its views to the public.

It goes back to the well-publicised (and in due course much ridiculed) Met Office forecast of "a barbecue summer" for summer 2009, which turned out to be true if you use your barbecue for collecting rainwater. It became one of the wettest summers in the past century. The widespread derision that resulted left the Met Office feeling badly burnt (while the nation's sausages were not).

The documents we requested show that scientists within the Met Office were uneasy about the language of this prediction. One internal report states:

"The strapline 'odds on for a barbeque summer' was created by the operations and communications teams to reflect the probability of a good summer. Concern over the use of the strapline and its relationship to the scientific information available was expressed by the scientific community, who were not consulted prior to the media release."

The Met Office then resolved to use "more conservative terminology" in future. But its seasonal prediction for last winter was also awry, failing to signal sufficiently the long and severe cold spell.

An internal executive paper noted the impact as follows: "Unfortunately, less 'intelligent' (and potentially hostile) sections of the press, competitors and politicos have been able to maintain a sustained attack on the Met Office ... The opprobrium is leaking across to areas where we have much higher skill such as in short range forecasting and climate change - our brand is coming under pressure and there is some evidence we are losing the respect of the public."

This report argued that one downside of the seasonal forecasts was that they remained on the website and could easily be later compared to reality. It said:

"One of the weaknesses of the presentation of seasonal forecasts is that they were issued with much media involvement and then remain, unchanged, on our website for extended lengths of time - making us a hostage to fortune if the public perception is that the forecast is wrong for a long time before it is updated."
In contrast it noted that the "medium range forecast (out to 15 days ahead) is updated daily on the website which means that no single forecast is ever seen as 'wrong' because long before the weather happens, the forecast has been updated many times."

The intense embarrassment over the seasonal calculations prompted the Met Office to rethink its approach to predictions for several months ahead. It stopped publishing a seasonal forecast for the UK for public consumption (although it added a rolling 30-day view to its main forecast page). Instead it decided to put probabilistic seasonal data on the scientific pages of its website where, in the words of a board paper, such figures can be "more targeted towards users who appreciate their value and limitations".

As another document put it, "'Intelligent' customers (such as the Cabinet Office) find probabilistic forecasts helpful in planning their resource deployment."

A communications plan in February 2010 instructed staff that "interested customers" should be told the three-month outlook will be available on the research pages of the website but that "this message should not be used with our mainstream audiences".

Met Office staff clearly feel the general British public find it difficult to cope with probabilistic statements. A board paper from September 2009 states: "Feedback from Met Office surveys suggests that users would rather receive a deterministic forecast."

It adds: "It is considered that the task of educating the UK public in interpreting probabilistic information will be neither a short-term, nor simple task." It compares this unfavourably with the apparently greater ability of the US public to grasp such material.


Warmists Play Their Christmas Card

First it was the cuddly polar bears (Warning: Polar bears only look cuddly from a distance. They are not really. Should you by chance have a close encounter with a polar bear, do not attempt to cuddle with it) and the cute little penguins, and now USA Today reports that reindeer are endangered by climate change:
Thirteen of the Arctic's 23 largest migrating herds are now in decline, according to the 2010 Arctic Report Card by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A Canadian study last year found that global reindeer populations have fallen 57% from their peak over the past two decades.

"Arctic herds in particular are challenged by climate change, just like polar bears are," study author and University of Alberta ecologist Mark Boyce told Mother Nature Network's Russell McLendon. "It's in the Arctic that climate change is happening faster than anywhere else on the planet."

Can Santa's workshop and the elf population (herds?) be far behind?

I may be wrong but didn’t Finland cull their reindeer herd in 2005 due to overpopulation?

So now the reindeer are endangered according to NOAA because the total amount of reindeer has fallen from a overpopulated high during the Reagan / Bush era. A population that the Norwegians, Sweden and Finland deliberately culled due to overpopulation. A decrease NOAA now claims are due to global warming.

Talk about cooking the books. If increased industrial production increases the reindeer population and decreasing industrial production to fix global warming decreases the reindeer population then the problem is too many environmental activists.

Maybe the solution is to issue hunting permits to cull the herds of environmental activists to save the planet and reindeer herds. After all, if the number of environmental activists are allowed to rise without limit there will soon come a time when their ecological niche is overpopulated and damages all other related niches. Certainly the Conservative and Business environmental niches have been critically damaged.

So call your State Hunting Board today to classify the environmental activists as nuisance wildlife.
They need to be culled to maintain a healthy population as they are currently overpopulated. PETA claims a turkey is a deer is a feral swine is a PETA person. Why not take them at their word and treat them as their philosophy dictates. So call today as only you can correct the dangerous overpopulation of environmental activists.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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