Friday, June 14, 2013

Arctic Sea Ice to Grow as Global Cooling Era Takes Hold

Research into the natural atmospheric and oceanic cycles of the Arctic indicates it is poised to begin a decades-long cold era setting new records for maximum sea ice extent.

This news comes with the concurrent release of the latest quarterly edition of the Global Climate Status Report (GCSR)© produced by the Space and Science Research Corporation (SSRC).

The SSRC is an independent climate research organization that since 2007, has built up a public record for major climate change predictions that is among the best. The SSRC is the leading voice in the US advocating a national plan to prepare the country for the coming cold climate.

Mr. John L. Casey, SSRC President, Editor of the GCSR, and author of the internationally acclaimed climate book, “Cold Sun” was recently named “America’s best climate prediction expert” by

He explains the change in the Arctic’s future by saying, “The Global Climate Status Report just published today includes the important new prediction for the temperature and sea ice trends of the Arctic. It is one of the report’s twenty-four global climate parameters the SSRC routinely uses to assess where the Earth’s climate is headed. What we found is that the Arctic which has recently been setting new records for warm temperatures and the least amount of sea ice extent, is about to leave this past period of warmth and head into many years of deep cold.


Global Warming and the Gipper

Critics of America's policy on carbon emissions accuse it of being a prisoner of free-market ideology. On the contrary, it was the product of hardheaded pragmatism


Might it be that it was Ronald Reagan and not Barack Obama who began to slow the rise of the seas? That is one conclusion that could be drawn from a new paper by Canadian physicist Qing-Bin Lu of Ontario's University of Waterloo. Instead of carbon dioxide emissions, Mr. Lu argues that ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other halocarbons caused global warming. Thanks to the Reagan administration and the 1987 Montreal Protocol, CFCs have been phased out by developed countries. After a lag, Mr. Lu argues that global temperatures peaked around 2002 and predicts they are set to gradually fall over the next five to seven decades.

Upholders of the consensus argue that increased carbon dioxide is the only way to explain rising global temperatures. Now there is a competing explanation, with a chronology that better fits the evidence.

There was always a problem with the CO2-as-cause explanation—how to explain the decline in temperatures from the mid-1940s and relatively flat temperatures until 1975 when carbon dioxide levels were rising all the time. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did this by arguing that sulfate aerosols resulting from coal-fired power station emissions had a cooling effect that temporarily stopped the rise in temperatures.

There wasn't hard data on aerosols, so assumptions were used that couldn't be checked against reality. To anyone but a climate scientist, it was deeply unsatisfactory—especially as different climate modelers used different values to get similar results. Nonetheless, this was the story line the IPCC developed in its 1995 Second Assessment Report. By contrast, in Mr. Lu's telling, the effect of CFCs on the climate only became significant in the late 1970s (Mr. Lu's analysis suggests there is a delay of about nine years before CFCs reach the upper atmosphere and trap heat radiated from the Earth's surface).

More recently, reality intruded again. "The climate is warming faster than anybody anticipated five or 10 years ago," President Obama declared last month. Only it hasn't. As shown in the accompanying chart of temperature data from the U.K.'s Met Office, in the first decade of this century, the global average temperature flattened and started to decline, implying a negative correlation between carbon dioxide and temperature for the time being.

In contrast to the poor predictive record of CO2-driven warming, with CFCs it is a different story. According to Mr. Lu, global surface temperature has a "nearly perfect" linear correlation with CFCs and other halocarbons in the atmosphere since 1970. Making careful calculations of the warming effect of halogenated gases, Mr. Lu can reproduce observed temperatures since 1970 and a cooling trend for the past 10 years. But Mr. Lu cannot reconcile the observed temperatures between 1850 and 1970 or the recent cooling using the IPCC's equation for the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide.

Whether the precise physical mechanism of CFC warming claimed by Mr. Lu is subsequently modified, CFC causation more closely tracks changes in observed temperature. Perhaps climate scientists were suckered: As Mr. Lu notes, from 1970, the rise in halocarbon concentrations has a nearly identical growth shape to that of CO2, but is drastically different from the turn of this century.

Critics of America's policy on global warming accuse it of being a prisoner of free-market ideology. On the contrary, it was the product of hardheaded pragmatism. A 2007 analysis of the Montreal and Kyoto protocols by Cass Sunstein, who later became President Obama's head of regulatory affairs, shows why. Of all countries, the U.S. was expected to gain the most from the Montreal Protocol and lose the most from Kyoto. Each $1 billion the U.S. spent complying with Montreal was estimated to yield $170 billion of benefits; for Kyoto, it was a paltry $37 million.

Within the Reagan administration, a key breakthrough came with a cost-benefit analysis by the Council of Economic Advisers that showed the monetary benefits of preventing future deaths from skin cancer far outweighed the costs. When the results were presented to Reagan—together with the proviso that if the U.S. acted alone, there would be little long-term benefit—the president instructed U.S. negotiators to lower the participation threshold at which the agreement would come into force.

George Shultz told me that the Montreal Protocol was a "magnificent achievement." Former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan described it as perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date. Though not designed to cut greenhouse gases, it has been far more effective at doing so than the Kyoto Protocol.

Mr. Lu's analysis is sure to come under sustained fire, as it implies the current approach to global warming is scientifically mistaken. Unless halogenated gases not covered by the Montreal Protocol are regulated, the slow temperature decline would reverse. And if he is right that CFCs, not carbon dioxide, have driven global temperatures over the last 40 years, then the Montreal Protocol will achieve far more than anyone envisaged. Chalk up another win for the Gipper.


Climate Models Veer Off Course

A new paper shows that climate models are getting worse at replicating a collection of known climate changes as incentivized efforts to improve them have them universally veering off course.

In his work “Emerging selection bias in large climate change simulations,” Swanson finds that the new generation of climate models has become worse at matching recent climate change than the generation of models which they supplant.

According to Swanson:

"[T]he current generation (CMIP5) model ensemble mean performs worse at capturing the observed latitudinal structure of warming than the earlier generation (CMIP3) model ensemble. This is despite a marked reduction in the inter-ensemble spread going from CMIP3 to CMIP5, which by itself indicates higher confidence in the consensus solution. In other words, CMIP5 simulations viewed in aggregate appear to provide a more precise, but less accurate picture of actual climate warming compared to CMIP3.
The climate model collective is becoming more precise, but more precisely wrong."

Swanson suggests that the reason for the deteriorating overall performance of a collection of somewhat “independent” models is that the model developers are focusing too intently on trying to improve a single aspect of climate model performance, that being a better replication of the observed climate changes which have been taking place in the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes. Previous versions of climate models generally tend to underestimate the magnitude of the loss of Arctic sea ice in recent decades and the resulting feedbacks to other aspects of the regional climate.

There is increasing incentive for model developers to get this aspect of climate change right.

It comes from the high profile attention (from climate activists and the media) that is heaped upon observed changes in the Arctic. Just think of all the stories that you have heard about the loss of Arctic sea ice, and the threat to polar bears, seals, native peoples, etc. When it comes to a poster child for global warming, there is little better than some furry dewy-eyed arctic creature precariously perched upon the last bit of ice in an otherwise ice-free Arctic ocean. If climate models are under-predicting the extent of climate changes there, their potential as a tool to force climate change mitigation efforts (e.g., a carbon tax) is being under-realized. The sooner this situation is rectified, the sooner we can get on with saving mankind from itself. Or so it goes.

But does doing a better job in the Arctic lead to more valuable models?  Swanson isn’t so sure:

"While the observed Arctic warming is spectacular and important, it is unclear why it is more important from the perspective of the evolution of the overall climate system than the relatively modest warming in the tropics and southern hemisphere. It is unclear whether the CMIP5 simulations are even getting the reason for the actual Arctic warming correct, as they are inconsistent with the strong Arctic warming but only modest warming in the Northern Hemisphere midlatitudes and tropics that best describes the recent evolution of the actual climate system."

So what we are left with is a giant mess. Newer models overall perform worse than older models, and in the specific region where the new models are designed to replicate the observed climate the best—the Arctic—it isn’t even clear that they are getting things right for the right reason.

This situation is not much different than the situation leading up to the Great Recession.

In that case, government incentives reduced the independence of decision-making in financial markets. With climate models, environmental incentives have reduced the independent decision-making in model development.  Swanson describes the situation like this:

"[T]he proverbial ‘marketplace of ideas’ about how climate change has and will continue to occur has shrunk. Instead of 38 unique models, each responding differently to increased anthropogenic forcing, in the CMIP5 project climate simulation is evolving towards a state where there are 38 ‘unique’ models that all respond the same.

Incentives have driven a misallocation of resources towards producing an outcome which is getting ever further from the optimal one. Consequences may follow which lead to a decrease in human well-being (for example, restricting the development of inexpensive and reliable sources of energy)."

Swanson provides some suggestions as to how to get climate models back on the right course:

"Whether through re-examination of the radiative forcings that underlie climate change, the dynamical variability of the models, the sensitivity of the models to imposed radiative forcings or the heat uptake of model oceans, a healthy dose of diversity must somehow be reintroduced into climate simulation enterprise. [references removed]"

Allison also recognizes the need to have more diversity in financial decision-making to avoid looming future disasters from deficits in social security and Medicare, annual operating deficits and unfunded government pension liabilities. In his book, he lays out the steps that must be taken to get things going again in the proper direction.

Righting the ship will not be easy.  Allison sums up the situation why, which in form, applies equally well to financial markets as well as climate (and all) science:

"People cannot think unless they are free to think. Government rules and regulations literally prevent thought and prevent experimentation. A free market is a massive experiment in competing ideas, the most productive of which win out. Most of the experiments fail, but even failed experiments lead to a better understanding. When intellectual elitists stop the experiments because they are smarter than the rest of us and know what is in the “public good’ the learning stops—witness the Soviet Union. By now, the elitists should know better. Often they use public good as an excuse for their own lust for power. Those of us who have had to face government bureaucrats often see the lust for power as the true motivation and the “public good” as the bureaucrat’s rationalization."


The Intolerance of Climate Change Zealots

Comment from Britain

This evening on my LBC show we discussed Ed Davey’s outrageous idea that newspapers and broadcasters should refrain from giving a platform to climate change sceptics. How very ‘liberal’ of him. I remember at 18 Doughty Street back in 2007 I phoned Greenpeace to invite them to take part in a panel discussion on climate change. They refused on the basis hat the argument was won and there was nothing to debate. It’s attitudes like this that make me very suspicious of this climate change industry, which is supported by people whose fanaticism borders on the religious.

The very same people who warned the world in the 1980s about the coming nuclear apocalypse are now warning about the end of the planet. In the 1980s we had politicians who were able to expose these zealots for what they were. We now have cabinet ministers who go along with them and give them money. And have the cheek to tell people on radio stations that they shouldn’t be providing platforms for climate change sceptics. Ed Davey agreed to come on my show tonight – first in the studio, then by ISDN, then on the phone, first at 620, then at 630, then at 720. Then not at all. A meeting, apparently. It happens. But if any of his staff were listening, they might have been rather worried to discover than with one exception, every caller expressed some degree of scepticism about global warming. I’d say that proves that the argument is far from won and that people like Ed Davey need to up their game. He’d probably say they were all brainwashed by a climate change sceptical media. of course.

Talking of brainwashing, here’s a text we received from Justin. Justin is a geography teacher. This is what he had to say.

    "Until two years ago I used to teach both sides of the climate change debate and invite students to discuss the issue and reach their own conclusions based on the evidence available, I have now been stopped from doing this – apparently it confuses the students. I am now only allowed to teach the “climate change is real” evidence. So therefore I have moved to teaching students WHAT to think, rather than to THINK for themselves using the evidence available."

How chilling is that? Now, I have no evidence that what Justin says is true, but it certainly has the ring of truth about it. Can anyone enlighten us? Is this really the case? Who gave the orders? I feel a little cause coming on….

UPDATE: For the avoidance of doubt I don’t deny the existence of climate change or global warming. Nor do I deny that part of it is due to man made influences. But I do deny that the debate is over about the actual extent of man’s influence. Climate change has happened since time immemorial. That, it is safe to assume, is something surely everyone can agree on.


Britain speeding towards a dead-end of blackouts unless realistic energy investments are made soon

Everyone knows that Britain needs to invest massively in the energy sector over the next 20 years.

The National Infrastructure pipeline, put together in the Treasury last year, says that of an anticipated infrastructure spending requirement of £310 billion of energy will take £176 billion. Not all of that is new electricity generation capacity — there’s some there for gas storage and carbon capture and a lot  for upgrading the transmission network — but generation remains the bulk of it.

The sums are so large partly because a lot of old plant needs to be replaced — nine out of 10 nuclear power stations (ie, all apart from Sizewell in Suffolk), plus dozens of old conventional plants and all coal-fired generation. Privatisation of the industry may have achieved many things, but the electricity price collapse of 10 years ago, when more than half the UK generating industry ended up bankrupt and in the hands of bankers, played havoc with  normal plans for plant renewal.

It is true too that economic growth  usually leads to more power consumption but the main element behind the spend is the commitment to go green and have the bulk of electricity in this country generated by wind, solar and new nuclear by 2030. That is now just 17 years away so we need to get on with it.

But at a conference on Infrastructure organised by think tank Reform and hosted yesterday by the Association of British Insurers the question repeatedly asked was, who is going to pay for all this? Only one speaker, Peter Atherton of Liberum Capital, gave a clear and succinct answer: nobody.

He thinks the whole grand energy plan is doomed, and we are heading for big trouble in not recognising this. He questions the dangerously complacent assumptions about the effectiveness of new technologies which are expected to be deployed. But much more he thinks what is being attempted is too big and much too costly to be achieved in the time available.

Atherton has done the maths but can’t get the figures to add up in any way which would deliver a happy result. Nor, for that matter, can the electricity industry which is one reason the current annual build of new capacity is only about one-90th of what will be needed by 2020. There are further signs of disquiet as Centrica now puts most of its growth investments in the US rather than UK and SSE decides to scale back drastically on spending on UK renewables.

The slow progress so far means the spending bill will be even bigger in the future. Atherton reckons that in a couple of years’ time we will need to be spending at the rate of at least £27 billion a year  to have any hope of meeting the targets for 2020 to say nothing of the targets for 2030. At present the spend is around £7 billion a year.

Where is that money going to come from? Not from the electricity companies it would appear. Though the utilities are expected by Government to make these investments, Atherton says they have neither the desire nor the money to do so.

Even if they did have the desire he says, they would be told by their shareholders to lie down in a darkened room until the feeling passed.

Shareholders have good reason to be sceptical. There is a widespread fear of being first with new technologies and with good reason. But the bigger problem is that investors have recently got very badly burned by investing in similar grand plans on the Continent. Consequently, investor portfolios are now stuffed with expensive new plant right across Europe which shows no prospect of generating a decent return and there’s no desire to repeat the experiment here.

The other problem is that no one has asked customers if they’ll be happy with much higher bills. True they have in the past when the increases were modest — for example, at present customers pay a nuclear clean-up levy. But the charges in the future when the green revolution is in full swing threaten to be massively larger than anything they have experienced before. That makes it a different game.

Future household bills could be twice as much as they are now but already there is resentment at the cost of electricity and the level of profits declared by companies. He believes when the time comes customers will rebel against the high charges and politicians will capitulate rather than stand by their promises to the electricity sector.

The risk is that any high tariffs promised to the industry to allow them to recoup the costs of these expensive investments will be revoked, leaving the industry and its investors stranded with hopelessly uneconomic plant.

So it is not a cheerful picture. Atherton might not be right of course, but as one of the leading sector analysts in Europe he is a lot better informed than most people.

At the very least, his ideas should prompt the public to thinking hard about where our present energy policy is leading us.


Fracking could mean lower energy bills for British households

Francis Egan, Cuadrilla chief executive, said the companies would need to develop less than one square mile of land in Lancashire to extract enough gas to supply the UK for seven years.

“Consumers should be delighted. It will lead to lower bills than they otherwise would have been,” he said, but admitted: “Whether they would be lower than they are today, I can't tell you.”

The Telegraph can reveal that Cuadrilla has hired Arup to conduct impact assessments and public consultation this summer at six new sites, where it hopes to drill early next year.

Chancellor George Osborne welcomed Centrica’s investment, describing shale gas as a “key part of the future energy mix”.

The British Gas owner paid £40m for a 25pc stake in Cuadrilla’s Bowland licence, which covers 450 square miles between Blackpool and Preston.

It will pay the next £60m of drilling costs and a further £60m to Cuadrilla and its partner AJ Lucas if drilling succeeds and the companies begin development. Cuadrilla was advised by Jefferies on the deal.

Mr Egan said he was confident the gas would be developed and could begin flowing into pipelines as early as 2016 - contrary to a prediction by Centrica chief Sam Laidlaw in January that there would be no production this decade.

Asked if Mr Laidlaw would have to eat his words, Mr Egan said: “We would hope so. I’m sure he is not going to be saying that to his employees now.”

Cuadrilla’s “conservative” estimate of the gas in the ground is 200 trillion cubic feet. Even if only 10pc could be extracted, it would be equivalent to nearly seven years’ of UK usage.

“This is a huge resource, this has the potential to go into millions of houses in the UK,” Mr Egan said.

Centrica maintained a note of caution on Thursday, pointing out it was not yet known whether shale gas would be commercial to develop.

But executive Mark Hanafin said: “With North Sea gas reserves declining and the UK becoming more dependent on imported gas supplies, it is important that we look for opportunities to develop domestic gas resources, to provide affordable sources of gas to our customers, and to deliver broader economic benefits to the UK.”

Mr Egan dismissed fears that fracking would require “industrialising the landscape”. He said 100 drilling sites of two hectares each should be “more than adequate” to extract 20 tcf of gas - occupying “a total surface footprint of 2km² across a licence area of 1200km²”.

A Cuadrilla-commissioned report by Deloitte, released on Thursday, said that shale gas in the Bowland could generate £580m of tax revenue a year and reduce gas import needs by 14pc by 2020, as well as supporting up to 23,600 jobs.

Cuadrilla will need to win planning consent before it can drill at any of the new sites, or to frack to test its existing wells. Fracking involves blasting water, sand and chemicals into the ground and is opposed by green groups who fear environmental damage.

Cuadrilla caused two small earth tremors while fracking near Blackpool in 2011, leading to an 18-month ban. However, new rules mean it must stop fracking if it causes a tremor of 0.5 on the Richter scale. Mr Egan said that was equivalent to “a bus going outside your door”.

He called on the government to help combat “scare stories”.

Analysts welcomed Centrica’s move, which they said made strategic sense. However, UBS warned it was “not without some reputational risk.”

Friends of the Earth said: “Buying into Cuadrilla is about the only way Centrica could make itself even more unpopular with the public, who are fed up with the company raking in huge profits on the back of rocketing fuel bills."




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  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 and here


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