Friday, February 03, 2017

Scientists Criticize 'Hottest Year on Record' Claim as Hype

Claims that 2016 was “the hottest year on record” are drawing sharp criticism from scientists who say it reflects how global warming has become more social crusade than evidence-based science.

“The Obama administration relentlessly politicized science and it aggressively pushed a campaign about that politicized science,” said Steven E. Koonin, who served as under secretary for science in Obama’s Department of Energy from 2009 to 2011.

Koonin, a theoretical physicist at New York University who once worked for energy giant BP, also blamed a “happily complicit” media for trumpeting the now-departed Obama administration’s dubious claim.

The controversy began in mid-January when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a report declaring that “the globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2016 was the highest among all years since record-keeping began in 1880.”

NOAA fixed the 2016 increase at 0.04 degrees Celsius. The British Met Office reported an even lower rise, of 0.01C. Both increases are well within the margin of error for such calculations, approximately 0.1 degrees, and therefore are dismissed by many scientists as meaningless.

The reports, however, set the global warming bell towers ringing. Gavin Schmidt, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was quoted at Climate Central referring to the past temperature record and saying “2016 has really blown that out of the water.”

Following the lead of the Schmidt and government press releases, USA Today wrote that “the planet sizzled to its third straight record warm year in 2016.” The New York Times’ front-page headline said, “Earth Sets Temperature Record for Third Straight Year.” The article declared that the latest readings were “trouncing” earlier numbers and the planet had thus “blown past” the previous records.

Such characterizations are absurd, according to Richard Lindzen, a meteorology professor at MIT and one of the world’s foremost skeptics that global warming represents an existential threat.

“It’s typical misleading nonsense,” Lindzen said in an e-mail. “We’re talking about less than a tenth of degree with an uncertainty of about a quarter of a degree. Moreover, such small fluctuations – even if real – don’t change the fact that the trend for the past 20 years has been much less than models have predicted.”

Koonin suggested the White House and the media could consider an alternative presentation of what’s happening.

“I think simply by having the government press releases on the changing climate be fulsomely scientific – that is, putting in all the relevant facts – we would see more genuine science in the media discussions,” he said.

As an example, he offered a headline that read, “Global Temperatures Up 0.0X for 2016; Within Margin of Error for Last N Years.” Rather than exclaim “Sea Levels Highest on Record,” Koonin said, the press releases could encourage, and perhaps media outlets accept, one that reads, “Sea Level Rose 0.1 Inches Last Year, Consistent With Century-Long Trend.”

But would that stir public opinion or sell papers?

“It’s not my job to sell papers,” Koonin said. “The White House positions, the press releases, the published stories – all of that is not exactly inaccurate but it is promoting something considerably less alarming or certain than the layperson might conclude from reading it all.”

The issue is not one of fake news or manipulated data but of emphasis.

The Times said it did not rely solely on data sets that showed a 0.01C increase. The paper’s coverage incorporated other studies that showed a greater increase in average temperatures, particularly those that take Arctic changes into account, said Justin Gillis, who covers global warming for The Times. Gillis provided a bar graph to RealClearInvestigations that showed three other conclusions reflecting higher temperature jumps than those recorded by NOAA and the British meteorology office in conjunction with East Anglia University, one of the world’s centers of global warming research.

Judith Curry, a former Georgia Tech scientist who left her academic post this month largely because of the charged politics surrounding global warming, said the other temperature data sets are less precise.

She said there are “some good reasons” why one of the British 0.01C sources elects not to extend its coverage to the Arctic Ocean. “There is little to no data, and the extrapolation methods are dubious,” Curry wrote in an e-mail.

Neither USA Today nor Schmidt replied to requests for comment.

In addition to Curry, Koonin and Lindzen, five other experts told RealClearInvestigations the layman’s understanding of the issue would improve if the Trump administration adopted a more neutral stance toward global warming stories. That would be certain to be interpreted as one of “denial” about global warming, and already several figures in the emerging Trump team have been denounced by The Times and others as climate deniers.

This rhetoric again obscures the real issue, according to the skeptics, who insist the important question for government and taxpayers isn’t global warming’s reality but rather its extent


The Global Warming Smoking Gun: 1910 to 1940

The global warming narrative is straightforward. Carbon dioxide, (CO2), released by burning coal, oil and natural gas, is increasing in the atmosphere. The increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause the globe to warm. The warming will create numerous bad effects. Therefore, we must reduce the emissions of CO2 by switching to green energy such as windmills, solar power and crops that can be burned for energy.

The global warming idea has caught on, at least in left-leaning circles. Millions of people believe that global warming is solid science. If you doubt the global warming idea, you will be accused of not believing in science. According to the promoters of global warming, doubters are like the people who put Galileo on trial, or the people who think the Earth is flat.

The global warming narrative consists of assertions, supposedly based on science, and proposed actions that will avert the (purported) disaster. The narrative is very fragile and is susceptible to collapse if the assertions or proposed actions are faulty.

There are a lot of faults in the narrative. For example, the alternative energy proposed is too expensive by an order of magnitude. Carbon dioxide increase could be stopped by switching coal electricity to nuclear electricity because it is only necessary to reduce CO2 emissions by about half, because the other half of the CO2 emitted disappears into the ocean. (See this.) But, most of the global warmers hate nuclear, so nuclear is not on the menu.

The global warming program to reduce CO2 emissions and change the world’s energy sources is a political impossibility because China and India are not going to participate beyond selling windmills to us and to the Europeans. China burns 4 times as much coal as we do.

Then, it is not clear that warming is a bad thing. It might be very beneficial. Some of the supposed bad effects, such as the oceans rising and flooding the coasts, are so silly as to be not deserving of refutation. It is well-established that adding CO2 to the atmosphere helps agriculture, because plants grow better, with less water, in an atmosphere with enhanced CO2.

The most vulnerable item in the global warming narrative is the assertion that CO2 is going to cause substantial warming. It is not unreasonable to expect CO2 to create warming. The real question is how much. The high priests of global warming, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, say that doubling the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will raise the average global temperature by 3 degrees Celsius or 5+ degrees Fahrenheit. The scientific basis for this claim is extremely shaky. The claim is based solely on computer models of the Earth’s atmosphere.

A perspective on the climate models from a prominent scientist, Kevin Trenberth, who is allied with the global warmers, can be seen here. He says there is a lot wrong with the models and the IPCC is not actually making predictions with the models.

The climate models include many approximations and assumptions that are not necessarily well grounded in atmospheric physics. As a result, there are many adjustable parameters the value of which must be set by a “tuning” process. The tuning is accomplished by running the models against the past, adjusting the parameters to make the model output agree with the known past climate. The past climate is also not well known in many respects, so estimating is used, and different modelers have different past climate estimates. The great danger is that the model may be tuned to agree with the past but then fail to predict the future. This can happen if the model is based on faulty assumptions, but that there is enough spare adjusting capacity inherent in the parameters so that the model can be forced to agree with the past even though the model is faulty.

The situation with the climate models used by the IPCC is that they cannot be made to even agree with the past climate. The illustration below is from the 2013 report of the IPCC (AR5: ). It plots the climate temperature observations against the averaged output of the various models used by the IPCC. There are two areas of serious disagreement illustrated by added annotation. From 1910 to 1940 the Earth warmed strongly, but the models do not generate a match to that warming. The other area of disagreement is the period starting in 1998 when global warming stopped, called the “Hiatus” or the “Pause.” The models project global warming continuing, not stopping in 1998.

The climate models attribute the strong warming trend from 1975 to 1998, the late 20th century warming, to the influence of CO2 (and minor greenhouse gases). However, the very similar warming from 1910 to 1940, the early 20th century warming, cannot be blamed on CO2 because in that less industrialized time there was not enough increase in CO2 to account for more than a tiny part of that warming. Although there are plenty of theories, the cause of the early 20th century warming is unknown. Some modelers incorporate speculative theories to try to make their models better match observations. But, the average of the models still cannot fit to the early 20th century warming. The obvious important question is how do we know the late 20th century warming was caused by CO2 and not by the same unknown force that caused the early 20th century warming?

The inability to explain the early 20th century warming, and the real probability that the late 20th century warming may be forced by factors other than CO2, constitute a smoking gun type of evidence, casting doubt on the predictions of global warming forced by CO2. Doubt concerning the viability of the climate models is further reinforced by the lack of warming during the last 18 years, the Hiatus.

What other forces may be driving the Earth’s climate? Exchange of heat with the oceans can potentially have a large effect on climate. Vast quantities of cold, salty water sink to the bottom of the ocean in the polar regions. That sinking water tends to warm the Earth because cold water is removed from the surface environment. However cold water is upwelling to the surface in various places. That cools the Earth. In the short term the sinking and up welling are not necessarily in balance, resulting in net storage or net emission of cold water from the subsurface ocean. The promoters of global warming try to use ocean heat storage to explain model failure. The ocean can “explain” any failure of the models. But, that is speculation because there are not good observations of the interchange of heat between the atmosphere and the oceans. The ocean influence cuts both ways, explaining away the model failures, or else providing an alternative, non-CO2, explanation for the warming and cooling of the Earth.

The sun may have an effect on the Earth’s climate not acknowledged by the models. It is known the sun has various cycles, the 11-year sunspot cycle being most prominent. It is known that an exceptionally cold period from 1645 to 1715, the Maunder Minimum, was accompanied by the near absence of sunspots. But good measurements of the sun only began in the satellite era, so we have a lack of knowledge concerning the effect of the sun. The Danish physicist, Henrik Svensmark, has a pretty good theory suggesting that cycles in the strength of the sun’s magnetic field modulate the arrival of cosmic rays to the Earth and the cosmic rays provide nuclei for the formation of cloud droplets. Clouds affect climate.

The pacific decadal oscillation changes the temperature of parts of the Pacific Ocean about every 30 years. It was only discovered in the 1990’s by a biologist investigating variation in the Alaska salmon catch. That and a similar oscillation in the Atlantic are probably driven by ocean circulation and may drive climate. There may be, and probably are, forces driving climate that are yet to be discovered.

As one professor said, to err is human, but to really foul up you need a computer.


Liberal Mega-Donor Tom Steyer Gives Up On Climate Change (Because No One Cares…)

Tom Steyer – the hedge fund guy with the annoying tartan tie – has decided to quit green advocacy politics and move “beyond climate change” in order to campaign on something – anything – that people actually give a damn about.

“We want to know what matters most to you, and what should be done,” he pleads, desperately, in a new video.

Let us pause for a moment and savour the man’s absurdity, chutzpah and brazen hypocrisy.

Here is a guy who, for the last decade, has been telling us that climate change is the most important issue of our time.

That’s why he spent millions of his personal fortune in the last two election cycles promoting liberal causes and supporting Democrat candidates: in order – as  he puts it on the website of his NextGenClimate SuperPac – to “prevent climate disaster.”

So what exactly has happened to make this great green philanthropist change his mind?

Did the planet stop warming? [well yes, actually, it pretty much did for the last 20 years, but that’s another story…]

Did mankind suddenly see sense and abandon the selfishness, greed and refusal to amend his lifestyle which has caused carbon-dioxide to reach levels unprecedented in the age of humans?

Did the mighty political power of all the nations who met in Paris to secure a climate deal in December 2015 result in an agreement so watertight and effective that the world was saved from the clutches of ManBearPig?

Nope. What happened was that this shyster opportunist – as I reported here, part of his vast fortune comes from his earlier investments in Big Coal – has simply reached the very expensive conclusion that no one gives a damn about the greenies’ imaginary climate problem.

    Steyer spent about $86 million in the 2016 election cycle, trying to get Democrats elected. Republicans, however, held onto both chambers of Congress, won the presidency and saw state legislature and governorship gains. NextGen spent about $56 million in 2016, according to campaign finance data.

    NextGen spent nearly $21 million in the 2014 election cycle, but only had a 38 percent rate of supporting winning candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Steyer spent more than $73 million of his personal fortune that election cycle only to see Republicans take control of the Senate.


Faced with U.S. retreat on climate change, EU looks to China

Faced with a U.S. retreat from international efforts to tackle climate change, European Union officials are looking to China, fearing a leadership vacuum will embolden those within the bloc seeking to slow the fight against global warming.

While U.S. President Donald Trump has yet to act on campaign pledges to pull out of the 2015 Paris accord to cut greenhouse gas emissions, his swift action in other areas has sparked sharp words from usually measured EU bureaucrats.

When Trump's former environment adviser, until the president's inauguration this month, took to a stage in Brussels on Wednesday and called climate experts "urban imperialists", a rebuke from Britain's former energy minister drew applause from the crowd packed with EU officials.

But with fault lines over Brexit, dependence on Russian energy and protecting industry threatening the bloc's own common policy, some EU diplomats worry Europe is too weak to lead on its own in tackling climate change.

Instead, they are pinning their hopes on China, concerned that without the backing of the world's second-biggest economy support for the global pact to avert droughts, rising seas and other affects of climate change will flounder.

"Can we just fill the gap? No because we will be too fragmented and too inward looking," one EU official, involved in climate talks, told Reuters. "Europe will now be looking to China to make sure that it is not alone."

The EU's top climate diplomat Miguel Arias Canete will travel to Beijing at the end of March, EU sources said. Offering EU expertise on its plans to build a "cap-and-trade" system is one area officials see for expanded cooperation.

Enticed by huge investments in solar and wind power in economies such as China and India, Germany, Britain and France are seeking closer ties to gain a share of the business.

But hurdles stand in the way of an EU clean energy alliance with China after the two sides narrowly averted a trade war in 2013 over EU allegations of solar panel dumping by China.

"We need to embrace the fact that China has invested very heavily in clean energy," Gregory Barker, climate change minister to former British Prime Minister David Cameron, told Reuters on the sidelines the environment conference in Brussels organized by conservative politicians.

"If America won't lead then it's clear that China will."


China's partnership with former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration helped get nearly 200 countries to support the Paris climate change pact in 2015.

That agreement, which looks to limit the rise in average global temperature to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels, entered into force late last year, binding nations that ratified to draft national plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But despite Beijing's green policy drive, propelled by domestic anger over smog and the environmental devastation wrought by rapid economic growth, some EU officials are skeptical it can pull as much weight as the United States on climate issues.

"We will make a lot of noises (about allying with China), but let's be honest we lost an ally - a major one," a senior EU energy diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "China's biggest issues are domestic ... It's clean water, air and food."

When the United States last took a step back on climate diplomacy, giving up on the 1997 Kyoto protocol on CO2 emissions under former U.S. President George W. Bush, Europe assumed leadership of global negotiations to cap planet warming.

It is among the first now to legislate on how to spread the burden among its member nations of its promise to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

Talks are tough, though, particularly for coal-dependent nations such as Poland, and EU officials fear climate scepticism in the Trump administration may slow efforts.

"This may give the perfect excuse to a number of countries like Poland," another EU official said. "The deal has always been that we move when the big players (the United States and China) move."

Others are more sanguine, saying a U.S. retreat would dent, but not destroy, the current global momentum in tackling climate change - not least because cities, businesses and civil society are driving for change as much as governments.

"If the U.S. doesn't play the game, that's a problem. But it's a trade problem," an EU diplomat said. "Maybe European business will win out."

To date, there has been no sign that any other country is preparing to pull out of the Paris agreement. Days after Trump's election, almost 200 nations at the Marrakesh annual U.N. talks agreed a declaration saying that tackling climate change was an "urgent duty".


Contrary to reports, climate change doubter Ken Haapala is not guiding NOAA

The protege of Fred Singer, the grandfather of climate change skepticism, was said to have the keys to NOAA’s future. Democratic lawmakers feared he would steer the agency toward outright climate-change denial and appealed to the Trump administration to remove him.

But, according to the Commerce Department, which oversees NOAA, climate change doubter Ken Haapala never met with NOAA leadership and isn’t shaping its future.

“He has never stepped foot on the premises [as part of a transition team],” a department spokesman said.

But confusion arose as official documents list Haapala as a member of the Commerce Department landing team, which helped agencies plan for new leadership prior to the inauguration.

Haapala’s name appears on the website, as a Department of Commerce landing team member (see screenshot below). And, a separate document, prepared by NOAA’s internal transition team, includes Haapala and his biography (see screenshot below) among the landing team group.

But an NOAA spokesman said only a few people listed on the document actually had direct interactions with NOAA’s internal transition team. As for Haapala, the spokesman said: “We’ve had no contact with the guy. We’ve never seen the guy.”

Adding to the confusion, Haapala’s own organization, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, stated he joined the team as of Jan. 2: “Ken Haapala was asked to volunteer for a non-paid, temporary position on a Trump transition landing team. He responded as he would have for any major national candidate – Yes.”

But the Commerce Department spokesman insists Haapala never served, either on the landing team or on the beachhead team, which begins the implementation of the new administration’s policy after inauguration. “He never participated in staffing or policy discussions or any programmatic operations,” the spokesman said.

Haapala, reached by phone, would not “confirm or deny” participation on any transition team, and he said he was told to refer press to the Commerce Department.

In recent weeks, media and lawmakers were alarmed by the listing of Haapala on official documents and the fear he would influence NOAA’s climate-change activities.

On Jan. 12, E and E News published the story headlined, “Climate science denier on Commerce landing team.”

Twelve days later, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote a letter to Trump, protesting Haapala’s appointment, calling it “extremely troubling.” The lawmakers said Haapala has no background in physical or natural science and “has made a career denying the science of climate change and advocating against actions necessary to protect Americans from its worst impacts.”

Science and Environmental Policy Project has promoted doubt about the seriousness of climate change since its inception in 1990. It was founded by Singer and the late Frederick Seitz, a renowned physicist. Haapala said Singer, 92, still serves as chairman but is “not as active” as he used to be in the organization.

Both Singer and Haapala have been vocal opponents of actions to curb climate change, arguing the human influence is small and that its effects are likely to be minimal and benign.

“[It’s] past time [to end the scare and] stop the madness of wasting great sums of money on EPA’s imaginary threat,” Haapala said in 2015.

Scientists and NOAA career staff have expressed concerns that the new administration will meddle in its communication of climate-change science. But Trump’s pick for secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, has stressed that he will allow NOAA scientists to freely share their work and that he seeks to provide the public “with as much factual and accurate data as we have available.”

[Trump’s pick to lead Commerce Department says NOAA scientists can freely share their work]

The NOAA spokesman said the transition to the new administration has gone well so far. “We’ve had a very smooth transition,” he said. “We’re pleased with the interactions we’ve had so far.”



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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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