Monday, June 10, 2019

Why Scientists Who Know Climate Change Isn’t Causing Extreme Weather Stay Quiet

This week in Vancouver, Prime Minister Trudeau said the federal carbon tax, a key pillar in his government’s climate policy, will help protect Canadians from extreme weather.

“Extreme weather events are extraordinarily expensive for Canadians, our communities and our economy,” he said, citing the recent tornadoes in Ottawa and wildfires in Western Canada. “That’s why we need to act.”

While members of the media may nod along to such claims, the evidence paints a different story.

Roger Pielke Jr. is a scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder who, up until a few years ago, did world-leading research on climate change and extreme weather.

He found convincing evidence that climate change was not leading to higher rates of weather-related damages worldwide, once you correct for increasing population and wealth.

He also helped convene major academic panels to survey the evidence and communicate the near-unanimous scientific consensus on this topic to policymakers.

For his efforts, Pielke was subjected to a vicious, well-funded smear campaign backed by, among others, the Obama White House and leading Democratic congressmen, culminating in his decision in 2015 to quit the field.

A year ago, Pielke told the story to an audience at the University of Minnesota. His presentation was recently circulated on Twitter. With so much misinformation nowadays about supposed climate emergencies, it’s worth reviewing carefully.

Pielke’s public presentation begins with a recounting of his rise and fall in the field.

As a young researcher in tropical storms and climate-related damages, he reached the pinnacle of the academic community and helped organize the so-called Hohenkammer Consensus Statement, named after the German town where 32 of the leading scientists in the field gathered in 2006 to sort out the evidence.

They concluded that trends toward rising climate damages were mainly due to increased population and economic activity in the path of storms, that it was not currently possible to determine the portion of damages attributable to greenhouse gases, and that they didn’t expect that situation to change in the near future.

Shortly thereafter, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 2007 report, largely agreeing with the Hohenkammer Consensus, while cherry-picking one unpublished study (and highlighting it in the Summary for Policymakers) that suggested a link between greenhouse gases and storm-related damages.

But the author of that study — who just happened to be the same IPCC lead author who injected it into the report — later admitted his claim was incorrect, and when the study was finally published, denied the connection.

In 2012, the IPCC Special Report on Extreme Weather came out and echoed the Hohenkammer Consensus, concluding that once you adjust for population growth and economic changes, there is no statistical connection between climate change and measures of weather-related damages.

In 2013, Pielke testified to the United States Congress and relayed the IPCC findings.

Shortly thereafter, Obama’s science advisor John Holdren accused him of misleading Congress and launched a lengthy but ill-informed attack on Pielke, which prompted congressional Democrats to open an investigation into Pielke’s sources of funding (which quickly fizzled amid benign conclusions).

Meanwhile, heavily funded left-wing groups succeeded in getting him fired from a popular internet news platform. In 2015 Pielke quit the climate field.

So where did the science end up?

In the second half of his talk, Pielke reviews the science as found in the most recent (2013) IPCC Assessment Report, the 2018 U.S. National Climate Assessment, and the most up-to-date scientific data and literature. Nothing substantial has changed.

Globally there’s no clear evidence of trends and patterns in extreme events such as droughts, hurricanes, and floods. Some regions experience more, some less and some no trend.

Limitations of data and inconsistencies in patterns prevent confident claims about global trends one way or another. There’s no trend in U.S. hurricane landfall frequency or intensity.

If anything, the past 50 years has been relatively quiet. There’s no trend in hurricane-related flooding in the U.S. Nor is there evidence of an increase in floods globally.

Since 1965, more parts of the U.S. have seen a decrease in flooding than have seen an increase. And from 1940 to today, flood damage as a percentage of GDP has fallen to less than 0.05 percent per year from about 0.2 percent.

And on it goes. There’s no trend in U.S. tornado damage (in fact, 2012 to 2017 was below average). There’s no trend in global droughts. Cold snaps in the U.S. are down but, unexpectedly, so are heatwaves.

The bottom line is there’s no solid connection between climate change and the major indicators of extreme weather, despite Trudeau’s claims to the contrary.

The continual claim of such a link is misinformation employed for political and rhetorical purposes. Powerful people get away with it because so few people know what the numbers show.

Many scientists who know better remain silent. And the few who push back against the propaganda, such as Roger Pielke Jr., find themselves on the receiving end of abuse and career-threatening attacks, even though they have all the science in their corner.

Something has gotten scary and extreme, but it isn’t the weather.


'We All Owe Al Gore An Apology': More People See Climate Change In Record Flooding

If you predict that the normal will happen you have a 100% chance of being right

Angel Portillo doesn't think about climate change much. It's not that he doesn't care. He's just got other things to worry about. Climate change seems so far away, so big.

Lately though, Portillo says he's been thinking about it more often.

Standing on the banks of a swollen and surging Arkansas River, just upriver from a cluster of flooded businesses and homes, it's easy to see why.

"Stuff like this," he says, nodding at the frothy brown waters, "all of the tornadoes that have been happening - it just doesn't seem like a coincidence, you know?"

A string of natural disasters has hit the central U.S. in recent weeks. Tornadoes have devastated communities, tearing up trees and homes. Record rainfall has prevented countless farmers in America's breadbasket from planting crops. Rising rivers continue to flood fields, inundate homes and threaten aging levees from Iowa to Mississippi.

And while none of these events can be directly attributed to climate change, extreme rains are happening more frequently in many parts of the U.S. and that trend is expected to continue as the Earth continues to warm.

For many of the people living in the affected areas, the connection feels clear.

"I think climate change is affecting the world right now and we should probably start doing something," says Lucero Silva, watching the cresting river in Russellville, Arkansas.

"Somebody at my office told me, 'We all owe Al Gore an apology,'" says Breigh Hardman, standing on a bridge over the Arkansas River in nearby Fort Smith. Gore's 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth spurred both activism around global warming and opposition to it.

"It just tells us we got to come to a conclusion — not to get crazy — about global warming," says Matt Breiner, watching the river further upstream near downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma.

NPR asked nearly two dozen people in Oklahoma and Arkansas who were experiencing the ongoing flooding about their thoughts on climate change. All of them said they believed that the climate was changing, even if they didn't directly associate the raining and floods with it, or agree on the cause. (Six people said they believed God was driving the change.)


A 2m Rise In Sea Level By 2100 Is Physically Impossible

Written by Nils-Axel Mörner

There are physical laws setting the frames of possible rate of sea level rise, rate of ice melting and thermal expansion of water

As true scientists, we must provide statements and estimates that respect those frames. Ignoring the frames, and you are in the pink field of nonsense.

Recently (and just in time of the EU election in Europe), a paper has appeared, which surely represents another visit to the “pink field of nonsense”. The paper is written by a well-known group of IPCC/AGW proponents (Bamber et al., 2019).

Significantly, there is not a single reference to observational facts in nature itself, documenting a diverging reality.

The paper was published in the PNAS journal, notorious for publishing anything in favour of scaremongering data with wild exaggerations on temperature rise, sea level rise and ice melting. The paper was edited by Rahmsdorf and accepted by
Schnellnhuber, both notorious proponents for the IGCP/AGW ideas. This means that the paper, in fact, was not peer reviewed but “pal reviewed”. Again, typical actions for persons operating “in the pink field of nonsense”

The central message from the strongly twisted statements presented by Bamber et al. in the PNAS journal (May 2019), is, and I quote:

"We find that a global total SLR exceeding 2 m by 2100 lies within the 90% uncertainty bound"

A rise in sea level by 2 m in 80 years would imply a rate of sea level rise of 25.0 mm/yr. This is far into the pink field of nonsense, way beyond the frames of realistic sea level changes.

At the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary (11,700 BP), ice melted at a higher rate than ever before or after during the last 30,000 years. And there were huge ice caps to melt. Still, the rate of sea level rise was not more than about 10,0 mm/yr (at the most 12.5 mm/yr); i.e. 50% of what Bamber et al. now claim.

This is a clear manifestation of the level of nonsense, and the total ignorance by the authors of physical laws and observational facts.

Obviously, they have an agenda to propagate for ideas keeping human fear alive. With fear you can twist the human heart in whatever direction wanted. But this is very far from acceptable scientific principles.

Let us put the paper by Bamber et al. in the file of statements to ignore and forget.


Patagonia Ice Sheets Thicker Than Previously Thought, Study Finds

After conducting a comprehensive, seven-year survey of Patagonia, glaciologists from the University of California, Irvine and partner institutions in Argentina and Chile have concluded that the ice sheets in this vast region of South America are considerably more massive than expected.

Through a combination of ground observations and airborne gravity and radar sounding methods, the scientists created the most complete ice density map of the area to date and found that some glaciers are as much as a mile (1,600 meters) thick.

Their findings were published today in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“We did not think the ice fields on the Patagonian plateau could be quite that substantial,” said co-author Eric Rignot, Donald Bren Professor and chair of Earth system science at UCI.

“As a result of this multinational research project, we found that—added together—the northern and southern portions of Patagonia clearly hold more ice than anticipated, roughly 40 times the ice volume of the European Alps.”

Patagonia is home to the largest ice fields in the Southern Hemisphere outside Antarctica, and its glaciers are among the fastest-moving in the world.

Surface elevation observations from satellite radar altimetry and optical imagery have shown that most of the ice slabs in the region have been thinning rapidly over the past four decades.

The contribution to global sea level rise from their melting has increased at an accelerating pace during that time.

Study co-author M. Gabriela Lenzano, a researcher with Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council, said the results will “help the scientific community better explain the interactions and consequences of ice sheet dynamics and climate on this cold environment—and the impact on communities and ecosystems downstream.”

With more precise knowledge of the size and shape of the glaciers in this highly protected region—much of which is contained in one of the world’s largest national park systems—researchers and planners will be able to more accurately model the effects of global warming and plan for potential disruptions in freshwater resources that serve its inhabitants.

“This is why having accurate maps of the ice thickness is a priority,” said lead author Romain Millan, who was a UCI graduate student in Earth system science for the bulk of this research project and is now a postdoctoral scholar at the Institute of Environmental Geosciences in Grenoble, France. “It is fundamental to get the right contours and depth of the glacial valleys; otherwise, simulations of glacier retreat will always be wrong.”

The difficulty in quantifying bed elevation and thickness has limited scientists’ ability to predict the region’s potential contribution to sea level rise; model glacier dynamics in response to climate change; study the impacts on freshwater resources; or prepare against such hazards as lake outburst flooding, which occurs when a dam containing a glacial lake fails.

Past attempts to gauge the total heft of the ice have fallen short because traditional sounding techniques were limited to the shallowest sections of the ice field.

Another obstacle has been the temperate nature of Patagonian ice. The frozen water in the glaciers is near its melting point from the top to the bottom; the higher water content makes this kind of ice more difficult to measure with radar.

To overcome these challenges, the scientists took to the skies, flying over broad stretches of terrain in helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft equipped with gravimeters, devices that can determine the ice volume by reading changes in Earth’s gravitational field.

The addition of data collected by glaciologists from Chile’s Center for Scientific Studies, who had mapped ice thickness with low-frequency airborne radar sounding since 2002, was instrumental in creating a more comprehensive description of the area’s conditions.

“This research has been enhanced and successfully completed thanks to our collaboration with the Rignot group at UCI and our Argentinean colleagues, with whom we have worked at both sides of the southern Patagonia ice field—disregarding the political border that divides the region,” said co-author Andrés Rivera of the Chilean center.


Australia: Big new wind farm heavily opposed

Proponents of the southern hemisphere’s largest wind farm say it is a “game changer” for energy securit­y and prices, but are facing community headwinds as fierce as the Roaring Forties it seeks to harness­.

The $1.6 billion project is ­proposed by Hong Kong-based UPC Renewables for two sites in Tasmani­a’s northwest, Robbins Island and Jim’s Plain, with a 170km transmission line to connec­t it to the grid.

Chief executive Anton Rohner said if the company’s vision was fully realised, it would combine with Tasmania’s hydro storages and proposed new Marinus interconnector under Bass Strait to substantially address Australia’s energy woes.

“It is an absolute game changer for not just Tasmania, but for Victoria, South Australia and NSW,” he said. “It works beautifully with the (state’s) hydro scheme.

“Our power can be used to pump hydro or to effectively hold the (hydro) electricity. Being able to provide a dispatchable renewable energy — 1000MW — through the Marinus link to the mainland is worth everything … More supply leads to cheaper energ­y for everyone.”

However, the project faces local and federal regulatory hurdles and unrest about the citing of both the Robbins Island wind farms and the transmission line.

Some living near the 9900ha Robbins Island are concerned about the noise and aesthetics of up to 200 wind turbines, and their impact on thousands of resident and migratory shorebirds, some critically endangered.

Mr Rohner said expert studies using tracking devices showed the birds generally flew around the periphery of the island, not over it, but this was contested by some local­s and BirdLife Tasmania.

“The area around the island at low tide is around 100 sq km of exposed mudflat and wetland and it supports more migratory shorebirds than the rest of Tasmania combined,” said Eric Woehler, the BirdLife convener. “We know from work that has been done … that some of the migratory shore birds fly across the island.

“Those radio tracking studies have only been done for one ­species. We have no information about the extent or frequency of flights across the island for the 20 or so (other) species. Birds that are already critically endangered run the real risk of flying into some of these turbines.”

Dr Woehler and some locals fear a walled causeway to the island­, as part of the project, would interrupt tidal flows, damaging the vital sandflat ecosystems.

“What they are proposing is going to kill this beautiful wetland area that is absolutely amazing,” said resident Colleen Murfitt.

Mr Rohner and the owners of the island, the Hammond Wagyu beef farming family, said expert modelling suggested several bridge sections in the causeway would avoid adverse impacts.

“We are cattle people, we love the environment,” said Alex Hammond. “Part of our brand, which sells our beef around the world, is that we are in the cleanest, greenest area in the world. “So we certainly don’t want to do anything to impact on that.”

The transmission line that is taking the power to the grid near Sheffield is causing outrage among some farmers, tourism operato­rs and residents who fear a significant scar on the landscape and compulsory acquisition of land.

Beef farmer and vegetable grower Darren Gibson said the 60m-wide corridor appeared set to blight the southern and eastern boundaries of his Nietta farm, ending his plans for a tourism develop­ment.

“Having six transmission lines cutting across the beautiful views we have here, of snow-capped mountains, just isn’t going to cut it for high-end tourists — it’s ruined our plans,” he said.

Mr Rohner conceded that the company had mishandled public engagement on the transmission line, which was being revised.

He hoped the new plan would avoid crossing the Leven Canyon tourist attraction, an issue of major concern.

Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam said the “vast majority” of locals were “very excited” about and supportive of the project and the jobs and economic stimulus it would bring.



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