Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The latest non-science from the non-science guy

Bill Nye is not a scientist.  He is an entertainer.  His degree was in mechanical engineering.  But we see here a claim from him that Miami is sinking due to global warming.  Che??  How does global warming do that?  It is true that Miami is going underwater to a degree but it is not due to global warming.

There are various parts of the world -- the S.E. coast of England notably -- where the land is sinking.  And Florida is one of those.  To the casual observer, the rise of the sea and the sinking of the land look the same but they are not.  And accounting for crustal movements is an important part of geology, with satellites and all sorts of other observations being used to differentiate sea level rise from land movement.  If he were a scientist, Nye would know that and make proper allowance for it.  He is however aiming at drama rather than informing people.

Prof. Tim Ball has written a short article on the subject and he has in addition emailed the following comments:

"Yes Miami is sinking and it is partly due to water extraction. It is also due to the porous limestone that compresses easily and also has extensive cave structures because it is essentially a Karst topography. This is why sink holes are common.

This sinking of major cities is occurring everywhere with some more pronounced than others. Mexico city is a good example.

However the major reason for Miami sinking is because the entire Gulf coast of the US is sinking as post glacial isostatic adjustment occurs.

During the last glaciation the weight of the ice pushed the entire northern half of the continent down relative to the geoid line and sea level.  Since the removal of the ice the north is rising and the south is sinking. Some think the New Madrid fault line across the centre of the US and site of the largest earthquake in modern US history is a result of the continent 'cracking’.

This is another example, of people like Nye taking a normal event and exploiting it for his political agenda. I think a RICO charge is required for such deliberate deception or at least for blinding ignorance"

More Hansenism

Jim Hansen and some of his usual co-conspirators have put up on an open-access journal a paper titled:  "Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming is highly dangerous".  The basic idea of the paper is to marshall a large body of evidence from different sources in support of that conclusion.

This open-access journal, however, also prints challenges from other scientists and the challenges have not been kind.  Just one excerpt:

"given the way the paper is organized, it is difficult for a reader to connect assumptions made in the model forcing (sections 3.2 and 4.3) to their justification based on paleo-climate reconstructions (section 2.1) and modern observations (section 7.3). What is important is that the prescribed freshwater forcing scenarios have an exponentially increasing form with doubling times of 5, 10 and 20 years. The most extreme of these has sea level rising 5m by the year 2060. This assumes freshwater flux could rapidly reach values up to 8Sv. To put this in perspective, it is about 1800 times the currently observed melt rate for west Antarctica… Prolonged exponentially increasing ice-sheet loss is clearly unphysical and so the authors arbitrarily terminate freshwater input once the associated sea-level rise reaches 5m – it is zero thereafter… The authors provide no assessment of the likelihood of any of their scenarios, and do not cite most of the previous studies that have explored the response of the climate system to much less dramatic freshwater input… They also do not justify the manner in which this freshwater is introduced into the ocean (as liquid water with a temperature of -15◦C, pg. 20079)… simulated global temperature drops to roughly 1.4◦C below preindustrial levels… This is in striking contrast to essentially all published projections of 21st century climate change, and so places a very large burden on the authors to provide evidence in support of rapid global cooling in the face of rising greenhouse gas concentrations…"

See here for more. The heading there is "Hansen et al.: RIP". Tom Nelson also has a mocking comment on the matter.

Britain's idiotic leaders, obsessed with being green, have sabotaged Britain's steel industry

R.I.P. the British steel industry, once the mighty engine of this country’s industrial base. Over the past week, the blast furnaces and coke ovens at Redcar have been closed, with a loss of more than 2,000 jobs.

Now Tata Steel is to cut almost half its workforce of 4,000 at its Scunthorpe plant, and there is similar bad news to come for its workforce in Scotland and Wales.

The fact that this coincides with the state visit this week of the Chinese President Xi Jinping will lead many to say we should use the opportunity to complain to the leader of the world’s most populous nation about its saturation of the global market with ever-increasing volumes of steel.

This would be futile. Worse, it would be missing the most important point. We have done this to ourselves: or, more precisely, it is British government policy which has been driving the final nail into the coffin of our own steel industry.

It is true that Chinese exports have pushed down the price of steel, blowing a hole in the business plans of all other steel producers. But the issue is not just about prices, it is also about costs. And successive British governments have quite deliberately driven up the single most significant cost for steel producers, with their giant blast furnaces: energy.

This stems in large part from one of the last decisions made by Tony Blair as prime minister, when in 2007 he signed up this country to obtaining 15 per cent of all its energy from ‘renewable sources’ — wind and solar — by 2020.

According to the then chief scientific adviser to the government, Sir David King, Blair was supposed to limit our pledge to ‘electricity’, not energy as a whole, but there were ‘very tired people in the meeting … people just took their eye of the ball’. What a shameful admission.

The result is not just that household bills must be at least 15 per cent supplied by expensive and inefficient wind and solar power (what do we do when it isn’t sunny or blowing a gale?), so must high-intensity users of energy such as steel producers.

Over and above that self-imposition, the UK has, uniquely, set a ‘carbon price floor’. This — a means of meeting the targets of the Climate Change Act implemented under Gordon Brown and supported with a three-line whip on Tory MPs by the then opposition leader David ‘Green’ Cameron — means that even if the cost of carbon-based energy falls, our big industrial users are not allowed to get full benefit.

I wrote about all this in 2009, and the consequences it would have for the steel industries of England and Wales: ‘It may well be that they will soon become unable to compete globally, even at current domestic energy prices; but deliberately to make them uncompetitive is industrial vandalism.’

I spoke back then to Jeremy Nicholson, the director of the Energy Intensive Users Group, which represents industries employing 200,000 people in the UK — and an estimated 800,000 indirectly through the supply chain.

He was especially exasperated by the fact that resulting closures of British industrial plants would not even have the effect of reducing global CO2 emissions: ‘A future administration will have to say in public what ministers and their officials already admit in private, that their renewables target is neither practical nor affordable.

‘Outsourcing our emissions is not a solution to a global problem. Politicians need to understand that unilateral action will come at a terrible cost in terms of UK manufacturing jobs, investment and export revenue, for no discernible environmental gain.’

Nicholson overestimated the wisdom of a ‘future administration’: neither the Coalition government, nor the new all-Conservative one, has taken a single step back from the precipice.

According to the official statistical body, Eurostat, far and away the highest energy costs in the EU among ‘extra-large users’ are paid by British firms. In 2014, ours were paying on average just over 9p per Kilowatt hour. This is more than twice as much as France (4.12p per KwH) and almost twice as much as Germany (4.81p per KwH). This is nothing less than negative state aid to British manufacturing industry.

What has the Department for Business been doing about this? During the Coalition years it commissioned a report which set out the problem. Chris Huhne, the then climate change secretary — before he was jailed — tried to stop it being published. This renewable energy fanatic needn’t have worried. Nothing was done.

Now the Department of Business says it is trying to get European Commission approval of a plan to compensate steel and other high-energy users for up to 85 per cent of the cost of being forced to use ‘renewables’.

Even if it is successful, that will come too late for thousands of steel-workers.

The MP whose constituency contains Tata’s Port Talbot steelworks, Stephen Kinnock, has now pleaded with the Government to get the industry ‘immediate respite from the crippling energy costs that it currently faces’.

Yet only last year, Kinnock wrote an article in the Guardian condemning those who questioned as quixotic policies designed to limit climate change, calling instead for ‘a green growth revolution’.

I’m sorry, Mr Kinnock, but your constituents working in the Port Talbot steelworks might soon be the collateral damage of your ‘green revolution’.

It is not just in respect of steel that China is the beneficiary of our governments’ self-harming climate change policies. This week, President Xi is to sign a deal to help finance the construction of a £24.5bn nuclear power station in Somerset, Hinkley Point.

It is a fabulous deal for the Chinese: the British Government has agreed a ‘strike price’ for Hinkley’s output which is roughly twice the current wholesale cost of electricity — and index-linked to inflation for the following 35 years. Hinkley will provide 3,200 Megawatts of capacity: yet it will cost as much to build as about 50,000 MW of new gas power station capacity — and the world is swimming in cheap gas.

So why aren’t we going for that, instead? Because in order to conform with the Climate Change Act, we have to abandon hydrocarbons such as gas — and nuclear is the only reliable alternative.

So, it’s not just that steelworkers are being driven into unemployment by policies behind which our political parties — including the SNP — are united in idiocy: all of us will be paying much more for our heating.


Now here’s the good news on global warming

Matt Ridley

Activists may want to shut down debate, but evidence is growing that high CO2 levels boost crops and nourish the oceans

France’s leading television weather forecaster, Philippe Verdier, was taken off air last week for writing that there are “positive consequences” of climate change. Freeman Dyson, professor emeritus of mathematical physics and astrophysics at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, declared last week that the non-climatic effects of carbon dioxide are “enormously beneficial”. Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, said in a lecture last week that we should “celebrate carbon dioxide”.

Are these three prominent but very different people right? Should we at least consider seriously, before we go into a massive international negotiation based on the assumption that carbon dioxide is bad, whether we might be mistaken? Most politicians today consider such a view to be so beyond the pale as to be mad or possibly criminal.

Yet the benefits of carbon dioxide emissions are not even controversial in scientific circles. As Richard Betts of the Met Office tweeted last week, the “CO2 fertilisation effect” — the fact that rising emissions are making plants grow better — is not news and is discussed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The satellite data show that there has been roughly a 14 per cent increase in the amount of green vegetation on the planet since 1982, that this has happened in all ecosystems, but especially in arid tropical areas, and that it is in large part due to man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

Last week also saw the publication of a comprehensive report on “Carbon Dioxide — the Good News” for the Global Warming Policy Foundation by the independent American scientist Indur Goklany, to which Freeman Dyson wrote the foreword. The report was thoroughly peer-reviewed, as was almost all of the voluminous literature it cited. (Full disclosure: I helped edit the report.)

Goklany points out that whereas the benefits of carbon dioxide are huge and here now, the harms are still speculative and almost all in the distant future. There has so far been — as the IPCC confirms — no measurable increase in droughts, floods or storms worldwide, no reversal in the continuing rapid decline in deaths due to insect-borne diseases, and no measurable impacts of the continuing very slow rise in global sea levels. In stark terms, Bangladesh is still gaining land from sedimentation in its rivers’ deltas, has suffered no increase in cyclones, but has benefited from reduced malnourishment to the tune of billions of dollars from higher crop yields as a result of carbon dioxide emissions.

It is worth remembering that commercial greenhouses buy carbon dioxide to enhance the growth of plants, so the growth responses are well known — and it’s not until carbon dioxide reaches five times current concentrations that the benefits level out. As Patrick Moore pointed out, those were normal levels for much of earth’s history.

In addition, hundreds of “free-air concentration experiments” have measured how much increased carbon dioxide levels enhance crop yields in open fields. So it is fairly easy to work out how much carbon dioxide emissions are helping world agriculture: by about $140 billion a year, or $3 trillion in total so far. If reparations are to be paid, perhaps farmers should pay coal producers (full disclosure: I’m both).

Actually, this may be an underestimate: experiments show that crops tend to benefit more than weeds (most crops have a more responsive kind of photosynthetic machinery called C3, while weeds mostly have a less responsive kind called C4). Increased carbon dioxide enhances drought resistance in plants, benefiting dry regions such as the Sahel, which has greened significantly in recent decades. And Goklany calculates that we need 11-17 per cent less land for feeding the world than we would if we had not increased carbon dioxide levels: so emissions have saved — and enhanced the growth of — a lot of rainforest.

Well, all right, but surely the climate harms will one day outweigh the growth benefits? Not necessarily. At the moment, impacts from the modest warming we saw in the 1980s and 1990s are also positive: slightly fewer premature deaths, which peak in cold weather more than in hot weather, slightly longer growing seasons and so on. A paper published last week concludes that if the world does warm significantly, China’s rain systems will shift north, increasing rainfall in the dry north and reducing flooding in the hot south.

Besides, human adaptation means we can capture the benefits and avoid the harms. The IPCC’s forecast warming range includes the possibility that we will still be enjoying net benefits by the end of the century, when the world will (it says) be three to 16 times richer per capita. The fastest way to cut deaths from bad weather today (such as the storm that just battered the Philippines) is to make people richer, not to make weather safer: we have already cut world death rates from droughts, floods and storms by 98 per cent in the past century.

As Goklany demonstrates, the assessments used by policy makers have overestimated warming so far, underestimated the direct benefits of carbon dioxide, overestimated the harms from climate change, and underestimated the human capacity to adapt.

Well, what about the ocean? Here too there’s good news. More carbon dioxide means faster growth rates of photosynthesisers in the sea as well as on land, an effect that is being observed in algae, eelgrasses, corals and especially plankton, such as the abundant creatures known as coccolithophores, whose biomass has increased by 40 per cent in the last two centuries.

That’s not to say coral reefs and fisheries are not in trouble — they are, but because of pollution, overfishing and run-off, not carbon dioxide. The tiny reduction in alkalinity (misleadingly termed “acidification”) caused by dissolved carbon dioxide is potentially negative in the distant future, but has been much exaggerated — as a big review of 372 studies has concluded. One recent experiment with a common Caribbean coral found that rising carbon dioxide levels would have no impact on its ability to build reefs for several centuries, while modest warming would actually help it slightly.

With tens of thousands of activists and bureaucrats heading for a UN conference in Paris next month, there is such vast vested interest now in demonising carbon dioxide that it will be hard to change the world’s mind. Freeman Dyson laments that “scientific colleagues who believe the prevailing dogma about carbon dioxide will not find Goklany’s evidence convincing”, but hopes that a few will try. Amen.


UN Climate Deal Stuck at `Low End of Ambition' as Talks Resume

Climate negotiators are meeting today in Bonn to take a last crack at a draft plan aimed at nudging the world into a post-carbon era.

The five-day gathering marks the final round of United Nations talks before envoys, ministers and leaders from around the world meet in Paris in six weeks to attempt what a 2009 summit in Copenhagen failed to do: reach a global agreement on how to cut fossil-fuel use.

UN officials this month issued the latest version of a negotiating text, but the draft document is probably “too stripped down” for many countries’ tastes, said Alden Meyer, a long-time observer of the climate talks for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The text ultimately must be approved in Paris by the biggest greenhouse-gas emitters, including the U.S., China and India, the most vulnerable nations, such as Vanuatu and Bangladesh -- as well as oil-rich nations of the Persian Gulf.

Negotiators in Bonn this week are focusing on defining the long-term goals, and how to monitor and verify that promised reductions are actually occurring. In its current form, the negotiating document is about 20 pages, down from roughly 80.

While the proposed pact provides a solid foundation for the Paris negotiations, it is at the “low end of ambition” of what scientists say is necessary to ward off dangerous climate change, said Liz Gallagher, who leads the climate diplomacy project at E3G, a U.K.-based advocacy group. She said hopes envoys will come up with a refreshed document for heads of state and ministers to flesh out at the 12-day Paris summit starting Nov. 30.
Reassessing Emissions

Meyer said one gap in the latest text is that it excludes any call for countries to reexamine their goals before the 10-year mark. Reassessment is crucial because current national plans to fight climate change don’t go far enough to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Above that level scientists say the Earth could tip into the realm of dangerous climate changes.

“We can’t afford to wait until the mid-2020s,” Meyer said.
Christiana Figueres, who’s leading the UN effort to broker a climate deal in Paris in December, said the world has “progressed enormously” in battling climate change since the failed Copenhagen summit. Today, the risk is in the range of 3 degrees, “still dangerous but better than where we were before,” she said earlier this month.


Gov. Brown's link between climate change and wildfires is unsupported, fire experts say

The ash of the Rocky fire was still hot when Gov. Jerry Brown strode to a bank of television cameras beside a blackened ridge and, flanked by firefighters, delivered a battle cry against climate change.

The wilderness fire was "a real wake-up call" to reduce the carbon pollution "that is in many respects driving all of this," he said.

"The fires are changing.... The way this fire performed, it's not the way it usually has been. Going in lots of directions, moving fast, even without hot winds."

"It's a new normal," he said in August. "California is burning."

Brown had political reasons for his declaration. He had just challenged Republican presidential candidates to state their agendas on global warming. He was embroiled in a fight with the oil industry over legislation to slash gasoline use in California. And he is seeking to make a mark on international negotiations on climate change that culminate in Paris in December.

But scientists who study climate change and fire behavior say their work does not show a link between this year's wildfires and global warming, or support Brown's assertion that fires are now unpredictable and unprecedented. There is not enough evidence, they say.

University of Colorado climate change specialist Roger Pielke said Brown is engaging in "noble-cause corruption."

Pielke said it is easier to make a political case for change using immediate and local threats, rather than those on a global scale, especially given the subtleties of climate change research, which features probabilities subject to wide margins of error and contradiction by other findings.

"That is the nature of politics," Pielke said, "but sometimes the science really has to matter."

Other experts say there is, in fact, a more immediate threat: a landscape altered by a century of fire suppression, timber cutting and development.

Public attention should be focused on understanding fire risk, controlling development and making existing homes safer with fire-rated roofs and ember-resistant vents, said Richard Halsey, who founded the Chaparral Institute in San Diego.

Otherwise, he said, "the houses will keep burning down and people will keep dying."  "I don't believe the climate change discussion is helpful," Halsey said.

Brown does not contend that climate change alone is making California's fires worse, said Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the governor's Natural Resources Agency. But she said addressing fires in the same breath as global warming "broadens the discussion and encourages us to think about the future."

Today's forest fires are indeed larger than those of the past, said National Park Service climate change scientist Patrick Gonzalez. At a symposium sponsored by Brown's administration, Gonzalez presented research attributing that trend to policies of fighting the fires, which create thick underlayers of growth, rather than allowing them to burn.

"We are living right now with a legacy of unnatural fire suppression of approximately a century," Gonzalez told attendees.

The Rocky fire, which began in late July in Lake County, spread quickly through mature chaparral in the Cache Creek Wilderness, creating tall plumes that sucked in air from all directions.

California fire records analyzed by The Times show a dozen similar fires from 2000 to 2014 that each moved quickly, spreading at more than 1,000 acres an hour. A few were driven by the notorious Santa Ana winds, but most were similar to the Rocky fire and three other fast-moving Northern California fires that followed it.

Fire behavior specialist Jeff Shelton, who provided daily forecasts for the Rocky fire and, later, the Jerusalem fire, said he could not attribute their behavior to climate change. He cited the summer's dry weather, an abundance of fuel created by a lack of previous fires, and steep slopes that allowed the fires to spread quickly.

Ecologists said their behavior was typical of natural chaparral fires, which burn infrequently but intensely.

A regional staff member in Brown's emergency operations office called the fires "unprecedented," a description then used by the administration for other conflagrations.

But those burns were classic plume-dominated convection fires, fed largely by an abundance of combustible material, fire scientists said.



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