Monday, October 01, 2018

The myth of a climate crisis

At the beginning of every autumn, as we approach the peak of the hurricane season and the lowest Arctic sea-ice extent, we have to endure a deluge of media hysteria and doom-laden reports about climate change.

This year, for instance, one report, produced by the Global Commission on the Climate and Economy (GCCE), urged governments to spend $90 trillion over the next decade because ‘more frequent and more intense extreme weather events are becoming the “new normal”’ – a claim illustrated with the following chart:

If it were a true reflection of the state of the planet’s ‘normal’ condition, it might be a compelling case for action. But this chart is not derived from weather data. It is as if the putative fact of climate change permits those who assent to it to speculate about its consequences, whereas those who question this speculation are shut out of public debate.

This is something Roger Pielke Jr, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, knows only too well. Debates about climate change, he tells me, have been turned into ‘legitimacy wars’, something he explores in his newly updated 2014 book, The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change. There he retells his own experience of the climate-change debate, and explains why climate advocates are preoccupied with delegitimising opposition, rather than debating it.

One such attack on Pielke’s legitimacy in the US came from within the Democratic Party. The WikiLeaked emails of John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 US presidential campaign, revealed that a climate activist had boasted to billionaire Tom Steyer that Podesta’s Center for American Progress had successfully prevented Pielke from writing for Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website. It didn’t stop there. After Pielke gave evidence about extreme weather and climate change to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 2014, John Holdren, who was then President Obama’s science adviser, contradicted Pielke and accused him of being outside the ‘scientific mainstream’. Holdren’s words convinced Congressional representative Raúl Grijalva to investigate the funding of Pielke’s and others’ research, hoping to discover links to fossil-fuel companies. The investigation revealed that Pielke had no such funding, but the smear stuck.

What had Pielke done to prompt such attempts to delegitimise him? It may be because much of his work (and the main theme of The Rightful Place of Science) challenges the idea that we face a looming and inevitable climate catastrophe – an idea sacred to environmentalists because it allows them to circumvent debate, and make policies in spite of public opinion.

The problem with the climate-crisis idea, as Pielke shows, is that most extreme weather data do not support it. This, explains Pielke, is not a fringe view; it is the consensus of climate science.

Moreover, campaigners’ conviction that anthropogenic climate change is bringing disaster upon us overlooks the extent to which economic and social development has enabled us to cope better with extreme weather events. As Pielke explains, ‘societal change is underappreciated, overlooked, and part of that is politics’. ‘The climate-change issue’, Pielke continues, ‘has taken all the oxygen out of the room for vulnerability, resilience, natural climate variability, indeed pretty much everything else that matters. It is absolutely the case that overall being richer as communities, as nations, is associated with more resilience, less vulnerability to natural disasters, particularly when it comes to loss of life… The climate issue has become so all-encompassing that it’s hard to get these other perspectives into the dialogue.’

In other words, climate change may well be a problem, but the data sets consistently show that economic and technological development mitigate the worst problems that climate has always caused. The GCCE report, for instance, appears to show that occurrences of drought increased globally by nearly 9,000 per cent between 1920 and 1940 and between 2000 and the present. But a full look at the data from the same source reveals that the deaths caused by droughts have fallen by nearly 96 per cent, despite a nearly fourfold increase in population.

Climate-change advocates are now adopting a new strategy, which, Pielke argues, marks a comprehensive departure from the scientific consensus. Rather than empirical analyses, they are now making probabilistic claims to link anthropogenic climate change to extreme weather and natural disasters. These claims are produced by entering extreme-weather stats into two climate simulations: one in which there has been no increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, and one in which CO2 concentration is the same as it is in today’s atmosphere. By comparing the occurrence of extreme events in the two simulations, they can come up with an estimate of climate change’s influence.

But, as Pielke writes, ‘the use of highly uncertain and malleable methods, with essentially no predictive skill, to associate essentially any extreme event to climate change is a recipe for headlines and advocacy’.

Do not pigeonhole Pielke as a climate sceptic, however. He maintains that climate change is real, and presents serious risks to society. His problem is that climate alarmism has distorted both the problem, and how best to understand and respond to it.

‘If the main risk of accumulating greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere was a rise in extreme events, and only extreme events, then it would be a much less powerful case for action’, he tells me. ‘It makes for great headlines, but extreme events in the big picture are not that impactful on societies around the world compared to other things like financial crises and so on.’

Pielke seems to understand well the character of environmental politics. ‘Many aspects of this debate simply cannot be resolved through evidence, since we don’t have any actual data about the future, only assumptions’, he says. This explains the nastiness of the legitimacy wars. ‘Opponents in such debates’, he says, ‘resort to proxies of expertise to try to assert some phantom mandate. The end result has been neither to win the debate nor to secure a political mandate, but to politicise the science itself.’

Pielke’s response is to appeal to scientists. ‘I’m less worried about politicians who cherry-pick and select facts to support a particular narrative’, he says, ‘than I am about us supposed experts who decide to go along with them because they see it as politically convenient… Being an expert and an academic, I have far more hope that we can control how we behave and what we do in public debates than we can control what elected officials do in democracies.’

The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change, drawing on Pielke’s technical expertise and personal experience, gives a convincing account of the politicisation of science, and how science and politics might be disentangled. He may not fully explain the phenomenon of alarmism or the excesses of political environmentalism, but he takes a big step towards encouraging a more vital, challenging and critical debate over climate change. Those who believe that this is simply cover for sceptics can relax: Pielke points out that countries where there has been an active sceptic voice are the ones that have made the most progress on reducing CO2 emissions.

SOURCE (See the original for links, graphics)

Utilities have a problem: the public wants 100% renewable energy, and quick

Renewable energy is hot. It has incredible momentum, not only in terms of deployment and costs but in terms of public opinion and cultural cachet. To put it simply: Everyone loves renewable energy. It’s cleaner, it’s high-tech, it’s new jobs, it’s the future.

And so more and more big energy customers are demanding the full meal deal: 100 percent renewable energy.

The Sierra Club notes that so far in the US, more than 80 cities, five counties, and two states have committed to 100 percent renewables. Six cities have already hit the target.

The group RE100 tracks 144 private companies across the globe that have committed to 100 percent renewables, including Google, Ikea, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Nike, GM, and, uh, Lego.

The timing of all these targets (and thus their stringency) varies, everywhere from 2020 to 2050, but cumulatively, they are beginning to add up. Even if policymakers never force power utilities to produce renewable energy through mandates, if all the biggest customers demand it, utilities will be mandated to produce it in all but name.

The rapid spread and evident popularity of the 100 percent target has created an alarming situation for power utilities. Suffice to say, while there are some visionary utilities in the country, as an industry, they tend to be extremely small-c conservative.

They do not like the idea of being forced to transition entirely to renewable energy, certainly not in the next 10 to 15 years. For one thing, most of them don’t believe the technology exists to make 100 percent work reliably; they believe that even with lots of storage, variable renewables will need to be balanced out by “dispatchable” power plants like natural gas. For another thing, getting to 100 percent quickly would mean lots of “stranded assets,” i.e., shutting down profitable fossil fuel power plants.

In short, their customers are stampeding in a direction that terrifies them.

The industry’s dilemma is brought home by a recent bit of market research and polling done on behalf of the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group for utilities. It was distributed at a recent meeting of EEI board members and executives and shared with me.

The work was done by the market research firm Maslansky & Partners, which analyzed existing utility messaging, interviewed utility execs and environmentalists, ran a national opinion survey, and did a couple of three-hour sit-downs with “media informed customers” in Minneapolis and Phoenix.

The results are striking. They do a great job of laying out the public opinion landscape on renewables, showing where different groups have advantages and disadvantages.

The takeaway: Renewables are a public opinion juggernaut. Being against them is no longer an option. The industry’s best and only hope is to slow down the stampede a bit (and that’s what they plan to try).


The costs of climate inaction

More prophecy -- from known false prophets

Politics, according to the nineteenth-century German statesman Otto von Bismarck, is the art of the next best. The global approach of politicians to tackling climate change is a sorry example of this.

The problem: destructive storms that hit the United States and southeast Asia this month are the latest reminder of how vulnerable societies across the world are to climate extremes. The best political solution might seem to be to subordinate all policies — domestic and international — to the goal of stabilizing Earth’s climate. This is difficult. So, instead, the world must rely on the effectiveness of voluntary actions that nations have agreed on under a non-binding international compromise treaty forged in Paris in 2015.

For all its symbolic power, that Paris treaty is a truly second-best solution. Even if it had worked as advertised, the promised cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions are weak. And now the withdrawal of the United States — and, de facto, of Australia — has substantially weakened the global consensus before the treaty has even come into effect.

Discussions on how and when it will start will resume at a two-week United Nations meeting in December in Katowice, Poland. Those attending would do well to read a study published this week in Nature Climate Change that highlights just how irrational it is for the politicians who represent many large economies to settle for next best

The analysis revisits the concept of the social cost of carbon: the cumulative economic impact of global warming caused by (or attributed to) each tonne of the pollutant sent into the atmosphere. This study goes a step further than previous ones and estimates the likely cost to different countries. In doing so, it reveals the countries projected to take the hardest hits.

China and the United States, the world’s two largest emitters of carbon dioxide, will incur some of the highest social costs of carbon of all countries, the scientists report, with respective estimated impacts of US$24 per tonne and $48 per tonne. India, Saudi Arabia and Brazil also feature towards the top. In these countries — unlike in Canada, northern Europe and Russia — temperatures are already above the economic optimum. And climate-induced damage increases with wealth and economic growth, meaning that more-valuable property might sit in harm’s way.

Combined country-level costs (and benefits) add up to a global median of more than $400 in social costs per tonne of CO2 — more than twice previous estimates. On the basis of CO2 emissions in 2017, that’s a global impact of more than $16 trillion. The new analysis is based on a set of climate simulations, rather than a single climate model, and the authors calculated future harm using empirical damage functions that were independently developed for that purpose.

The revised costs are still ballpark figures, based on relatively uncertain assumptions on climate physics, emission trajectories, socio-economic development and climate-driven economic damage. In fact, climate change could also have impacts on international trade, security and human migration that calculations of the social costs of carbon don’t capture. But the concept is valuable, nonetheless. Acting like a magnifying glass, it highlights horrendous climate-impact inequality. For example, whereas Canada and Russia are still gaining economic benefits worth up to $10 per tonne of CO2 from rising temperatures, India is already paying an exorbitant price ($86 per tonne).

It also shows that the way in which society currently prices carbon (as a means of reducing its use and protecting future generations) is an order of magnitude too low. The current price of carbon on the European market is just over $20. And in most other parts of the world, it’s effectively zero.

The new analysis sends a powerful message from a future that most people say they want to avoid. In response, will politicians up their ambition and aim for the best — and necessary — solution? The paper unfortunately comes too late to be included in the special report from the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change on the effects of 1.5 °C in global warming, due to be published next month. But it adds to the growing body of research that unpicks that global effect, and breaks it down into regions and countries. This will be needed to plan mitigation and also to prepare for adaptation.


Why I poo-poo climate change as nothing but hot air

According to an article in Forbes Magazine last September, the methane produced by livestock “originated about one-fifth of methane emissions from 2003 to 2011.” The story explained that “methane is a big contributor to the greenhouse effect, helping to trap heat within the Earth’s atmosphere and contributing to climate change.” Moose, hippos and elephants pass gas too. So what? Why blame the animals? What about people?

The world population is 7.6 billion, with the bulk of the populace crammed into big cities where people are piled on top of each other in high-rise apartment buildings. The largest city in the world (by population) is Tokyo with 38 million people. New York City has 8.6 million. On average, a human produces about one pound of natural solid waste per day, 7.6 billion pounds in the world. If I did the math right, humans produce 2,774,000,000 pounds of manure annually, not counting the natural gasses. That’s a lot of methane.

So I see big cities as just one big toilet. But are we to believe that we are pooping ourselves into extinction?

It’s also annoying to me when people who drive gas-guzzling four-wheel-drive pickup trucks, which are necessary to transport hunting and fishing equipment, shellfishing and lobstering gear, tow boat trailers, haul wood, etc., get blamed for harming the planet. Pickup trucks are practical, purposeful and necessary for many recreational outdoor pursuits in addition to commercial applications. Some of us can’t live or work without them. Or both.

Try to pull a ton or two or three of boat and trailer up the slope of a slippery boat ramp with a car. Better have the number for a tow truck handy. You won’t get up the ramp without a four-wheel drive. Got a few ladder stands to put up before deer season? You’ll need a pickup truck unless you want to transport them one at a time. Have to get a moose, deer or elk out of the woods and down a muddy or snow-covered logging road? You guessed it — truck.

Are you and a buddy going on a deer hunting trip where you’re staying in a cabin and doing your own cooking? Figure at least two guns, gear bags, sleeping bags, coolers with refrigerated food, bins with dry food — and leave enough room to bring back deer if you’re lucky. Figure the same for a fishing trip, but replace the guns with fishing rods and instead of leaving room for deer, save room enough room for a big cooler to bring fish home. A car? Good joke. Make it up yourself?

I don’t believe the man-induced climate change theory, nor do I believe the sky is falling. They are alarmist theories, in my opinion.

Will the inland waters and oceans soon be so hot, you can toss in a sack of potatoes and a bag of onions and have seafood chowder? Will deer, bear and other creatures die off because they’ll be roasted alive in their fur coats, and we’ll return to another tropical Jurassic period where my great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will be hunting creatures like T-Rex and Gigantosaurus? Will there be no more waterfowl hunting in the Lower 48 states because the Arctic tundra, where the majority of ducks and geese spend their summers to breed, won’t be freezing over in the fall, thus the birds won’t need to migrate to warmer climes to find open water?

A few are even using climate change to convince people into believing it’s such a serious threat that they should buy real estate in the Arctic, the only place to escape the heat before long. Those would be the slick realtors with property for sale in the Arctic, I figure.

It’s my belief that because a lot of people, myself included, dismissed “global warming” as horse feathers, the scaremongers switched the name to “climate change” (the human-induced is implied) because it sounded more plausible, more palatable. I’m not buying either one. I expect that my duck guns, bear rifles and fishing rods will be passed on to many future generations of hunters and fishermen to be used as I use them now, on the game and fish as we know them, and here’s why.

Climate change is nothing new. The climate changed for billions of years without man’s influence. It’s been through highs and lows, warm spells and cold spells. It runs in cycles – trends. According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), 2016 was officially the new warmest year on record, globally, edging out the previous record holder of 2015 by 0.07°F. Oh no, not 0.07 degrees! We’ll all be killed! NOAA also states, “climate experts have long known that global warming due to increasing greenhouse gases won’t necessarily mean that each year on Earth will be warmer than the last. Even as the planet warms over the long-term, natural variability will continue to make some years warmer or cooler than their nearest neighbors.”

Some of the global sea temperatures also are experiencing a warming trend, but like the Earth’s temperature, it’s a trend and they’re variable and bound to change, experts say. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the global sea surface temperature rose at an average of 0.13 degrees per decade from 1901 through 2015. While the temperatures of some of the world’s oceans have risen very slightly over the past 138 years, the EPA also notes, importantly, that some areas, such as parts of the North Atlantic, actually have experienced cooling, rather than warming. You don’t hear about that though, do you? Could it just be the climate running in natural cycles — trends?

While deer hunting on top of a mountain in Jackman, Maine, about 20 years ago, I discovered shellfish fossils that resemble tiny scallops. According to the Maine Geological Survey, they are estimated at 400 million to 425 million years old, meaning the top of that mountain was the bottom of the ocean at one time in history, many eons before humans allegedly were affecting climate change at a fatal rate.

Mother Earth has endured five Ice Ages. The most recent, which included the Ice Man and wooly mammoth, reached its peak 18,000 years ago with the shaggy, elephant-like giants going extinct a mere 10,000 years ago. Were mammoth gas and emissions from the Ice Men’s pickup trucks to blame for the change in climate? Or was it a natural occurrence?

The heaviest dinosaur and largest land animal believed to have ever lived was Argentinosaurus, almost 100 million years ago. At an estimated 154,000 pounds, paleontologists estimate that it consumed 1,000 pounds (a half ton) of vegetation daily, equivalent to 20 average bales of hay. The Brontosaurus was a 15-ton vegetarian from around 150 million years ago. Both giants flourished in the tropical and sub-tropical climates of that era.

If the methane produced by cows, which average 1,500 pounds each and eat less than one bale of hay per day, are contributing to a perilous greenhouse effect, wouldn’t the same have happened with dinosaurs? The biggest ones weighed 100 times more - and ate 20 times more - than a cow, surely dropping tons of dino-duty daily. You can bet they broke a lot of wind too, eating all that fiber. And those were just the XXXL-size beasts. There also were herds of large, medium and small dinosaurs too, which were still huge in their own right (compared to cows) contributing to an abundance of methane gas which should’ve created boiling lakes and oceans. Yet the dinosaurs thrived for millions of years before going extinct.

Humans, cows and pickup trucks hadn’t been invented yet so who or what was to blame for their extinction? Some say it was a cataclysmic event, such as volcanic eruption or an asteroid colliding with our planet. Eventually, the Earth even cooled and much of it froze — five times. Call it God, nature, trends or global cooling — either way, it wasn’t man’s fault.

Some claim it will take 2 billion years for global warming to cause the oceans to boil. Honestly, I’m not that concerned about what’s going to happen in 2 billion years. I believe that another catastrophic calamity will change life on Earth as we know it, just as it probably has in the past, long before any man-induced greenhouse effect. Or maybe it’ll be a fatal virus that will wipe-out humans and most other species. Perhaps another Ice Age. We’ve had five. What’s one more? A half a dozen.

So I’ll continue to dismiss the notion that the sky is falling and keep driving my useful gas-slurping pickup without guilt or fear that I’m going to cause the next Apocalypse.

Anyone can make predictions of what the Earth will be like in a million or a billion years because none of us will be alive then to prove them wrong — or right.

The climate has been changing for billions of years and will continue to change, with or without man’s influence, until the only living things left on the planet will be mosquitoes, blackflies, horseflies and ticks, I predict. Them, and poison ivy. I hate poison ivy — and mosquitoes, blackflies, horseflies and ticks. I hate their guts, and for them, I blame Noah. He could’ve left them behind, but noooo ... and that’s a story for another day.


Australian Politicians again show “Real Genius”

Back in the chaotic dying days of the Whitlam-Cairns-Connor government, Canberra was buzzing with Rex Connor’s grand plans for nationalisation of the mining industry, a national energy grid and gas pipelines linking the NW Shelf to the capital cities, all to be funded by massive foreign loans arranged by a mysterious Pakistani named Khemlani. Malcolm Frazer staged a parliamentary revolt. The economy slumped.

A British observer at that time was asked who was the greater Prime Minister - Harold Wilson or Gough Whitlam. He replied:

“Any fool can bugger up Britain but it takes real genius to bugger up Australia.”

Australian politicians are again showing real genius.

Now, we have incredible tri-partisan plans to cover the continent with a spider-web of transmission lines connecting wind/solar “farms” sending piddling amounts of intermittent power to distant consumers and to expensive battery and hydro backups - all funded by electricity consumers, tax-assisted speculators and foreign debt.

We are the world’s biggest coal exporter but have not built a big coal-fired power station for 11 years. We have massive deposits of uranium but 100% of this energy is either exported, or sterilised by the Giant Rainbow Serpent, or blocked by the Green-anti’s.

Australia suffers recurrent droughts but has not built a major water supply dam for about 40 years, and the average age of our hydro-electric plants is 48 years. And when the floods do come, desperate farmers watch as years of rain water rush past to irrigate distant oceans.

Once, Australia was a world leader in exploration and drilling – it is now a world leader in legalism, red tape and environmental obstructionism.

Once, Canberra and the states encouraged oil and gas exploration with geological mapping and research - now they restrict land and sea access and limit exports.

Once, Australia was a world leader in refining metals and petroleum - now our expensive unreliable electricity and green tape are driving these industries and their jobs overseas.

Once, Australia’s CSIRO was respected for research that supported industry and for doing useful things like controlling rabbits and prickly pear and developing better crops and pastures. Now CSIRO panders to global warming hysteria and promotes the fairy story that carbon taxes and emissions targets can change the world’s climate.

Once, young Australians excelled in maths, science and engineering. Now, they are brain-washed in gender studies, green energy non-science and environmental activism.

Once, Australians were proud of our history, our ancestors and our achievements - now we are supposed to feel guilty and apologise.

Once, Australia had a big coastal fleet carrying passengers and goods and catching fish. Now our roads are clogged with cars and freight and we import seafood.

Once, the opening of a railway or the discovery of oil, coal, nickel or uranium made headlines. Today’s Aussies harass explorers and developers, and queue at the release of the latest IPad.

As Australia’s first people discovered, if today’s Australians lack the will or the knowledge to use our great natural resources, more energetic people will take them off us.




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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