Raw Water: More Post-Modern Insanity

Available from Amazon

Contemporary style-setters display great nostalgia for pre-industrial ways of living, without ever having to subsist in the natural world. Thus they advocate getting energy from burning trees or windmills so that evil fossil fuels can be left in the ground. Now these Luddites want to turn back scientific progress in water purification, claiming that untreated water is superior.

John Robson explains in the National Post article Raw water is proof the comforts of pampered modernity have gone too far   Excerpts below with my bolds.

With the raw-water craze, people are deliberately drinking unhealthy water for their health, writes John Robson.Postmedia News

In case you’re also in hiding from the insanity we call “popular culture,” there’s this new trend where you get healthy by drinking “naturally probiotic” water that hasn’t been treated to remove animal poop. No, I mean to remove essential minerals, ions and, um, animal poop.

The National Post says people aren’t just deliberately drinking unhealthy water for their health, they’re paying nearly $10 per litre for non-vintage Eau de Lac. Yet they would riot if asked to pay such a price for gasoline or, indeed, to drink ditch water from their tap.

Many reputable people have leapt up to condemn this fad as obviously unhealthy. But they are getting the same sani-wiped elbow that common sense, authority and pride in past achievement now routinely receive. (Can I just note here that the Oprah for President boom, which in our fast-paced social-media times lasted roughly 17 hours, foundered partly because she rose to fame and fortune peddling outrageous quackery? Donald Trump did not invent or patent contempt for logic and evidence.)

Raw water is hardly the only fad to gain in strength, the more reputable opinion condemns it. And let’s face it; reputable opinion has dug itself a pretty deep hole with its propensity for disregarding evidence and silencing dissent. I don’t just mean in the bad old days. But there must be some kind of golden mean between believing every news story with “experts say” in the headline and refusing to vaccinate your children or boil your water.

Seriously. Raw water? Doesn’t everybody know if you must drink from a tainted source it is vital to cook the stuff first? Tea wasn’t healthy primarily because of the plant’s alleged medicinal properties. Boiling water to make it meant you killed the bacteria … before they killed you.

My late friend Tom Davey, publisher of Environmental Science & Engineering, was routinely indignant that people could be induced to pay premium prices for bottled water when safe tap water was the single greatest environmental triumph in human history. But today some trendies are willing to pay premium prices to avoid safe tap water, partly on the basis of the same hooey about trace elements that made “mineral” water popular, partly out of paranoia once the purview of anti-fluoridation Red-baiters, and partly out of amazing scientific ignorance including about the presence of vital nutrients in food, especially if you don’t just eat the super-processed kind.

There. I said it. Some of what we ingest is overly processed, relentlessly scientifically improved until it becomes harmful (a problem by no means restricted to food). But some isn’t, including tap water.

I realize safe drinking water was hailed as an achievement back when mainstream environmentalists wanted the planet to be nice for people. Today’s far greater skepticism about whether human and environmental well-being are compatible creates considerable reluctance to make our well-being a significant measure of progress. But I am in the older camp. Without being insensible to the “crowding out” of ecosystems even by flourishing human communities, let alone poor ones, I still believe we can live well in harmony with nature, and only thus.

Some conservative associates think my deep unease with factory farming requires me to line my hat with tin foil. Other people believe my support for conservatism requires me to line my head with it. But I can only fit so much metal into either, and I draw the line at deliberately drinking the kind of water that used to bring us cholera epidemics.

Would it be impolite to cite this trend as proof that modernity has more money than brains, that the more a life of luxury is delivered to us as a birthright rather than being a hard-won and inherently precarious achievement, the less we are able to count our blessings or act prudently?

By all means save the whales. Get plastic out of the oceans. Protect ugly as well as cute species and their ecosystems. Know that man cannot flourish cut off from nature, and weep at Saruman’s conversion of the Shire from bucolic to industrial in the Lord of the Rings. But you can’t do yourself or the Earth any good while dying of dysentery you brought on yourself by pampered stupidity.

Ross Pomeroy adds an essay at RealClearScience ‘Raw’ Water Is Insulting (my bolds)

In 2015, 844 million people lacked access to even a basic drinking water service. These people, almost entirely from developing areas in Africa and Asia, are forced to play roulette by drinking water potentially contaminated with bacteria and viruses that cause diseases like diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio, as well as a variety of parasitic infections. Globally, a half million people die each year from diarrhea contracted via contaminated drinking water, many of them children. Another 240 million suffer from schistosomiasis, a parasitic infestation of flatworms originating from snail feces.

Here in the United States, we generally don’t have to worry about waterborne illness. That’s because our tap-water travels through a rigorous system of mechanical filtration and chemical treatment which expunges contaminants, resulting in H2O that’s clean, refreshing, and among the safest in the world.

Raw water is insulting; insulting to the health of those that drink it, to the intelligence of those who consider it, and to the hundreds of millions of people around the world who yearn for treated water free from raw contamination.



Ten January Days in Baffin Bay


Sea ice forming in Baffin Bay.

Slowly but surely ice is building up on the Arctic Ocean fringes.  Baffin Bay in the center is shown growing ice the last ten days, while Gulf of St. Lawrence fills in on the left.

Click on image to enlarge.

Meanwhile on the Pacific side, Okhotsk on the left is filling in normally, while Bering is starting to catch up.

Click on image to enlarge.

Overall 2018 Arctic ice has reached 13.5M km2, about 500k km2 or 4% below average. The deficit comes half each from Barents and Bering Seas. Two months remain to reach annual maximum with the standard this decade being about 15M km2.


Drift ice in Okhotsk Sea at sunrise.

Feel Good Climatism

A recent post by Ace of Spades rang a chord. He was talking about partisan politics but I saw another example in the global warming/climate change issue. I was reminded of an email exchange with a relative after I pointed out that some scientists think we are on the brink of global cooling. She replied: “It is confusing, but we have decided that humans are making it warmer.”

Ace provides some insight into this sort of behavior. His post is in fact a comment triggered by Joe Katzman writing in the Daily Caller(here):

A good friend of mine wrote me recently. He complained about smug leftist neighbors who are “making decisions to ‘feel good’ with virtually no regard for true factual input or testing.”

I get this a lot.

“Feel good” about what?

Not about being right, which is best described as “useful, to a point.” Aristotle noticed over 2,000 years ago that many people aren’t persuadable by logical arguments. So what’s the “feeling good” all about?

So what is going on? Ace summarizes (here).  Excerpts with my bolds.

Short version: The right attempts political persuasion. The left, on the other hand, attempts social persuasion — basically seizing the commanding heights of culture-making institutions and then deciding that espousing some political claims (being pro-gay-marriage) increase social status and that espousing other political claims (being against gay marriage) decrease social status and, indeed, make one a social pariah, fit for ostracism, mass mockery, and internal exile.

The left’s method works much better than the right’s. It always has and it always will. Because most people don’t care about politics all that muchbut nearly everyone (except for the crankiest of contrarians, including some of the current assembled company) cares about their social status.

Having higher social status gets you invites to the Cocktail Party Circuit, which is a real thing, defined broadly (and metaphorically) enough. It makes you datable, it makes you “clubbable,” as the old term went.

It can get you promoted at work, particularly if the sort of job you do is a bit vague as far as definite, tangible outputs and thus advancement depends more on how upper management feels about you.

While the left wing continues winning arguments by not even having arguments at all, instead simply demonizing those who espouse any contrary position, the #SmartSet (citation required) of the establishment right continues believing, apparently earnestly and definitely ridiculously, that if they just out argue their political competitors, they’ll change minds.

They won’t. Or not enough to actually matter. Because most people don’t really care enough about these issues to really engage with them on an intellectual level; they just want to know what to claim to believe so that other people won’t think they’re weird, and deem them unfriendable, undatable, and poor candidates for promotion inside The Corporation.

How This Applies to Global Warming

When it comes to global warming/climate change, of course the alarmist notion is embraced by the left, and skeptics (“deniers”) are banished to associate with others mostly on the right. I recently commented to a friend who won’t discuss this topic with me that I used to be a liberal, but have become a libertarian. (BTW my friend is a successful entrepreneur engineer but does not delve into climate science intentionally. Why pick a family fight over something like that?)

Contemporary socio-political orientations no longer fit traditional liberal/conservative definitions. The left is now committed to “post-modern” philosophy and “progressive” political action, deriving from identity politics and cultural warfare. Traditionalists are now on the far right sideline and “conservatives” are tarred with that same brush. People in the middle are a mix of classical liberals and conservatives who still embrace the western rational, free enterprising democracy frame. Progressives want to overturn that heritage with tactics from social class conflict, supercharged in the age of Internet, social media and 24/7 buzz. The middle alternative on the right is more properly termed “libertarian” since the focus is on individual liberty, free enterprise and limited government. The same concerns motivated those drafting the US Constitution.

Whatever you think of Trump, he is the first libertarian to take the fight to the progressive post-modernists. Anti-Trumpism started in the media beginning with his candidacy, and it has only ramped up since, becoming a kind of derangement. Trump recognized early in his term that the media had become the defacto opposition party, and would be willing and eager to say anything to discredit him. So he responded in kind, resulting in public approval of mass media at an all time low, while his own approval ratings remain stuck in the 40% range. The whole circus is at the same time amusing and dangerous. Like watching a train wreck in slow motion, just try looking away.

Global warming/climate change is a football kicked around in this game. During the campaign I didn’t know what to make of Trump.  If it weren’t for some perceptive and prescient posts by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame,  I would have written off his chances.  As one pundit put it: “His detractors take him literally, and not seriously; while his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”

As a CAGW skeptic, I do credit Trump for the guts to pull out of Paris and to point out the nakedness of the climate emperor. And at least so far, he seems to use the culture wars to keep his enemies distracted while quietly doing important libertarian things, like deregulating the economy and reforming the judiciary. It seems the left is claiming incompetence to get him out, while actually they really fear him delivering on his promises.

Just for fun, here is a video of his recently released First Annual Fake News Awards:

Oceans Cool Off Previous 3 Years

The best context for understanding these three years comes from the world’s sea surface temperatures (SST), for several reasons:

  • The ocean covers 71% of the globe and drives average temperatures;
  • SSTs have a constant water content, (unlike air temperatures), so give a better reading of heat content variations;
  • A major El Nino was the dominant climate feature these years.

HadSST is generally regarded as the best of the global SST data sets, and so the temperature story here comes from that source, the latest version being HadSST3.

The chart below shows SST monthly anomalies as reported in HadSST3 starting in 2015 through December 2017.
After a bump in October the downward temperature trend has strengthened. As will be shown in the analysis below, 0.4C has been the average global anomaly since 1995 and December has now gone lower to 0.325C.  NH dropped  sharply along with the Tropics.  SH held steady erasing the Oct. bump.  All parts of the ocean are clearly lower than at any time in the past 3 years.

For Reference:
Global SSTs are the lowest since 3/2013
NH SSTs are the lowest since 3/3014
SH SSTs are the lowest since 1/2012
Tropics SSTs are the lowest since 3/3012

A longer view of SSTs

The graph below  is noisy, but the density is needed to see the seasonal patterns in the oceanic fluctuations.  Previous posts focused on the rise and fall of the last El Nino starting in 2015.  This post adds a longer view, encompassing the significant 1998 El Nino and since.  The color schemes are retained for Global, Tropics, NH and SH anomalies.  Despite the longer time frame, I have kept the monthly data (rather than yearly averages) because of interesting shifts between January and July.


Open image in new tab for sharper detail.

1995 is a reasonable starting point prior to the first El Nino.  The sharp Tropical rise peaking in 1998 is dominant in the record, starting Jan. ’97 to pull up SSTs uniformly before returning to the same level Jan. ’99.  For the next 2 years, the Tropics stayed down, and the world’s oceans held steady around 0.2C above 1961 to 1990 average.

Then comes a steady rise over two years to a lesser peak Jan. 2003, but again uniformly pulling all oceans up around 0.4C.  Something changes at this point, with more hemispheric divergence than before. Over the 4 years until Jan 2007, the Tropics go through ups and downs, NH a series of ups and SH mostly downs.  As a result the Global average fluctuates around that same 0.4C, which also turns out to be the average for the entire record since 1995.

2007 stands out with a sharp drop in temperatures so that Jan.08 matches the low in Jan. ’99, but starting from a lower high. The oceans all decline as well, until temps build peaking in 2010.

Now again a different pattern appears.  The Tropics cool sharply to Jan 11, then rise steadily for 4 years to Jan 15, at which point the most recent major El Nino takes off.  But this time in contrast to ’97-’99, the Northern Hemisphere produces peaks every summer pulling up the Global average.  In fact, these NH peaks appear every July starting in 2003, growing stronger to produce 3 massive highs in 2014, 15 and 16, with July 2017 only slightly lower.  Note also that starting in 2014 SH plays a moderating role, offsetting the NH warming pulses. (Note: these are high anomalies on top of the highest absolute temps in the NH.)

What to make of all this? The patterns suggest that in addition to El Ninos in the Pacific driving the Tropic SSTs, something else is going on in the NH.  The obvious culprit is the North Atlantic, since I have seen this sort of pulsing before.  After reading some papers by David Dilley, I confirmed his observation of Atlantic pulses into the Arctic every 8 to 10 years as shown by this graph:

The data is annual averages of absolute SSTs measured in the North Atlantic.  The significance of the pulses for weather forecasting is discussed in AMO: Atlantic Climate Pulse

But the peaks coming nearly every July in HadSST require a different picture.  Let’s look at August, the hottest month in the North Atlantic from the Kaplan dataset.Now the regime shift appears clearly. Starting with 2003, seven times the August average has exceeded 23.6C, a level that prior to ’98 registered only once before, in 1937.  And other recent years were all greater than 23.4C.


The oceans are driving the warming this century.  SSTs took a step up with the 1998 El Nino and have stayed there with help from the North Atlantic, and more recently the Pacific northern “Blob.”  The ocean surfaces are releasing a lot of energy, warming the air, but eventually will have a cooling effect.  The decline after 1937 was rapid by comparison, so one wonders: How long can the oceans keep this up?


USS Pearl Harbor deploys Global Drifter Buoys in Pacific Ocean


Natural Climate Cycles: Fresh Insights

Multiple aspects of nature cycle and interact over various time scales, frustrating attempts to discern human influence upon the climate. To demonstrate the challenge, consider one simple physical example: The compound pendulum shown in operation below:

Recently a comment (H/T tom0mason) alerted me to the science demonstrated by the double compound pendulum, that is, a second pendulum attached to the ball of the first one. It consists entirely of two simple, well understood objects functioning as pendulums, only now each is influenced by the behavior of the other.

Lo and behold, you observe that a double pendulum in motion produces chaotic behavior. In a remarkable achievement, complex equations have been developed that can and do predict the positions of the two balls over time, so in fact the movements are not truly chaotic, but with considerable effort can be determined. The equations and descriptions are at Wikipedia Double Pendulum.

But here is the kicker, as described in tomomason’s comment:

If you arrive to observe the double pendulum at an arbitrary time after the motion has started from an unknown condition (unknown height, initial force, etc) you will be very taxed mathematically to predict where in space the pendulum will move to next, on a second to second basis. Indeed it would take considerable time and many iterative calculations (preferably on a super-computer) to be able to perform this feat. And all this on a very basic system of known elementary mechanics.  More at Climate Chaos

Fresh Study of Antarctic Oscillation

Many of the cycles driving the climate system are circulations with the ocean and air interacting. A 2018 study looks in more detail at one of the more important ones: The Antarctic Oscillation (AAO), also known as Southern Annular Mode (SAM).  The Antarctic Centennial Oscillation: A Natural Paleoclimate Cycle in the Southern Hemisphere That Influences Global Temperature  W. Jackson Davis, Peter J. Taylor and W. Barton Davis, Santa Cruz USA Published: 8 January 2018
H/T Kenneth Richard NoTricksZone.  Excerpts from paper in italics with added images and bolds.

We report a previously-unexplored natural temperature cycle recorded in ice cores from Antarctica—the Antarctic Centennial Oscillation (ACO)—that has oscillated for at least the last 226 millennia. Here we document the properties of the ACO and provide an initial assessment of its role in global climate. We analyzed open-source databases of stable isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen as proxies for paleo-temperatures. We find that centennial-scale spectral peaks from temperature-proxy records at Vostok over the last 10,000 years occur at the same frequencies (±2.4%) in three other paleoclimate records from drill sites distributed widely across the East Antarctic Plateau (EAP), and >98% of individual ACOs evaluated at Vostok match 1:1 with homologous cycles at the other three EAP drill sites and conversely.

Superimposed upon these multi-millennial climate cycles are numerous shorter global and regional climate cycles ranging in period from several millennia down to a few weeks. Included among these faster oscillations are millennial-scale cycles, particularly the Bond cycle and centennial-scale cycles, notably the Antarctic Oscillation (AAO) known also as the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and tracked quantitatively by means of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI). These interdependent Southern Hemisphere (SH) temperature-proxy oscillations exhibit both centennial and decadal frequency components. Similar periodicity appears in independent reconstructions of more contemporary temperature proxies from James Ross Island and snow accumulation in stacked records from snowpits at Vostok.
Figure 3. Spectral power density periodogram of temperature-proxy records from Vostok over the Holocene. Arrows and associated numerals designate spectral peaks at the indicated periods in years (y) that are discernible within the indicated confidence limits. Discernible peaks at p < 0.005 are labeled 1–6 for reference to the same peaks portrayed in subsequent figures. The confidence limits are represented by best-fit exponential curves fitted to stepwise forward regression data over the whole frequency spectrum represented in the periodogram (Methods and SM). Fisher’s Kappa and the corresponding probability that the periodogram results from white noise are 17.34 and p < 8.7 × 10−7, respectively.

Periodograms of the remaining three AICC2012 climate records during the Holocene are similar to the periodogram of the Vostok record (Figure 4). All are bounded near the low end by a peak corresponding approximately to the mean period of the TOC350V cycles and near the high end by a peak corresponding to the Bond cycle in the NH and ranging from 825 to 1027 years. Between these extremes lie at least four additional centennial-scale peaks in all AICC2012 climate records evaluated.

Interannually the AAO shifts between phases, designated here as positive and normal (or negative.)

The null hypothesis that TOC350V cycles comprise random variation in cycle structure was tested by means of cyclic autocorrelation coefficients. We find that autocorrelation coefficients alternate between positive and negative at the same periodicity as the corresponding TOC350V cycle frequency (Figure 5). Near peaks and troughs, nearly all of these autocorrelation coefficients are discernibly different from zero at low alpha levels (at least at p < 0.05). These autocorrelation results supplement and extend spectral periodograms to confirm that TOC350V cycles comprise nonrandom periodic sequences. Such positive autocorrelation results would not be possible unless the short time series evaluated represent relatively stationary time series over the time periods evaluated.

Modern measures of AAO showing the positive anomalies compared to slightly negative normally in this time frame.

Discussion and Conclusions
Centennial-scale climate cycles reported previously by several investigators and in this paper are significant in at least three contexts.

First, centennial-scale climate cycles demonstrate “an important role of natural multicentennial variability that is likely to continue”. When both the mean and variance of any centennial-scale climate cycle are known, as is the case for the TOC350V cycles documented here (Table 1), then the future behavior of such cycles can be projected within well-defined confidence limits. Understanding centennial-scale temperature cycles can therefore contribute to precise climate projections over timelines that are most pertinent to human and civilizational life cycles, decades to centuries. This approach to the projection of future climate change has been pioneered by Liu and colleagues based on analysis of tree ring data from the Tibetan Plateau. From past centennial-scale temperature oscillations, they project a steep decline of temperature on the Tibetan Plateau of ~3 °C between 2006 and 2068, followed by a weaker warming trend and continuing on a cyclic basis into the future.

JMA refers to Japan El Nino index. The graph shows that often a peak in one index coincides with a valley in the other one. This suggests a teleconnection between AAO and ENSO cycles.

Second, centennial-scale paleoclimate cycles comprise a “natural” source of temperature forcing, i.e., one that is free from anthropogenic influences. Human impact on global climate from agriculture and land clearing may have begun as early as the mid-Holocene, but earlier climate change was presumably devoid of anthropogenic influences. Characterizing past cycles of temperature fluctuation can therefore help inform the distinction between natural (non-anthropogenic) and anthropogenic forcing of climate in the present, as discussed further below.

Emperor penguins at the South Pole.

Third, Antarctic temperature fluctuations on several time scales are reflected worldwide and in the NH after a delay of 0.5 to 3.0 millennia. These delays were measured for older time periods, however, generally before the LGT, and may be shorter for more recent climate events in a warmer environment (see below). Given the close association between AIMs (Antarctic Isotope Maxima) in the Antarctic and D-O events in the NH, as demonstrated repeatedly by previous investigators, the discovery here that AIMs are composed of summated TOC350V cycles constitutes strong evidence that ACOs manifest globally. The centennial-scale climate cycles identified in the NH may be northerly manifestations of the Antarctic TOC350V climate cycle documented here, a hypothesis that remains to be tested. In the meantime, the present findings demonstrate that the ACO and its potential modern counterpart (the AAO; see below) influence the temperature of the NH. This finding suggests a potentially-fruitful research direction aimed at assessing the impact of the contemporary AAO on global climate and weather. Our study raises the possibility that the ACO/AAO entrains global temperature and serves as the primary pacemaker of centennial fluctuations in temperature in both hemispheres while simultaneously modulating shorter cycles.








Is Global Warming A Public Nuisance?

Several posts have discussed activist attempts to use legal actions to press their agenda.  Now we have a fine article by Richard A. Epstein of Hoover Institution, published January 15, 2018
Is Global Warming A Public Nuisance?  Text below in italics with my bolds and images.
H/T Jeffrey Taylor

New York City and a number of California municipalities, including San Francisco and Oakland, have filed law suits against five major oil companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell—for contributing to the increased risk of global warming. These complaints cite recent scientific reports that project that sea levels will rise from 0.2 meters to 2.0 meters (or 0.66 to 6.6 feet) by 2100, with a major loss of land surface area and serious climate disruptions. They further allege that the “Defendants had full knowledge that the fossil fuels would cause catastrophic harm.” The complaints rely chiefly upon public nuisance law, which prohibits unreasonably interfering with public rights in air and water through discharges of dangerous substances—in this instance, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. These cities are demanding that each oil company named in the complaint contribute to an abatement fund to counteract the perceived future threats to the environment from global warming.

In this essay, I confine my attention to the soundness of the public nuisance theory offered by San Francisco and New York in order to explain why private lawsuits are the wrong instrument for dealing with the global warming threat. In full disclosure, in this essay, I provide my own independent legal analysis of these complaints, which I prepared for the Manufacturer’s Accountability Project, an organization that focuses on the impact of litigation on the manufacturing industry.

The basic law of nuisance is divided into two parts, public and private, which complement each other. Private nuisances require at a minimum “an invasion of another’s interest in the private use and enjoyment of land.” The defendant must release, emit, or discharge the offensive materials—such as filth, odors, or noise—onto the plaintiff’s property. The relevant causal connection has to be so tight that there are no intervening forces between the discharge and the ensuing physical invasion of the plaintiff’s property. So, for example, the supplier of various materials and chemicals is not responsible for the waste that a manufacturer emits from their use.

The typical private nuisance dispute usually involves one party (or a very few) who either makes the discharges or suffers consequences from them. The basic intuition behind this limitation on private suits is that administrative costs balloon out of control when the number of parties who suffer some degree of harm increases, as happens when pollution is discharged into a public waterway used by hundreds of different people. Yet it is a mistake to ignore large pollution discharges simply because private law suits are an ineffective instrument to secure damages, an injunction, or both. As early as 1536, the English judges filled this gap by developing the law of public nuisances that rested, both then and now, on the key distinction between general and special damages. Thus, if the defendant erected an obstruction along a public road, none of the parties delayed by the blockage had a private right of action. But any individual who ran into the obstacle and suffered physical injuries or property damage could recover in tort. Now, the shortfall in deterrence attributable from not compensating the delayed travelers was offset by a fine against the wrongdoer, the money from which could be used to remove the obstacle or placed in the public treasury.

Woman on a ducking stool. Historical punishment for ‘common scold’ – woman considered a public nuisance. (Welsh/English heritage)

It is important to understand the enormous stretch in moving from traditional public nuisances to the modern global warming cases. The first point of difference is that only five companies—but no other carbon-dioxide-emitting polluter in the world—are joined as defendants. That is to say, the cities are apparently seeking to recover virtually all of their alleged abatement costs from the five named oil companies, instead of holding each only for its pro rata share of total emissions from all sources. But just what fraction of total carbon dioxide emissions can be traced to the named defendants? Note first that any release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has the same impact on global warming regardless of its source.

These five oil companies are responsible at most for a tiny fraction of the global total of carbon dioxide emissions. First, just looking at the American scene, some good chunk of the carbon dioxide releases are from other oil companies not named in the complaint. Another, probably larger, chunk comes from burning coal, making cement, and human and animal respiration. Carbon dioxide is also released in large quantities by forest fires, including those that recently overwhelmed Northern and Southern California. And that’s just in America; vast amounts of carbon dioxide are released from a similar range of human activities all across the globe.

Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Source 2013

Here are some numbers: As of 2015, all carbon dioxide emissions from the United States comprised 14.34 percent of the global total, while China’s emissions stood at 29.51 percent. Even if the five oil companies were somehow responsible for, say, 10 percent of the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions, that would be less than one percent of the total human releases. Under standard tort rules, the liability of each defendant must be limited to its own pro rata share of the total harm given that under Section 433A of the Restatement of Torts, there is a “reasonable basis for determining the contribution of each cause to a single harm,” in this instance measured by market shares.
Indeed, these public nuisance lawsuits are especially dubious, given that the oil companies did not by their sales emit any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The dangerous releases came from many different parties, both private and public, including the municipalities bringing these lawsuits. These numerous parties used these products in countless different ways, with as much knowledge of their asserted effects on global warming as these five defendants. How could the oil companies have known about the anticipated course of global warming forty years ago when key government studies done today are uncertain about the magnitude of the effects of emissions on sea levels and the economic consequences?

The first paragraph of the New York City complaint ducks these factual complexities by insisting, falsely, that crude oil was “a product causing severe harm when used exactly as intended.” But the end uses of crude oil are so varied (including, for example, the creation of various plastics in common use today) that the effective control of emissions is best done through the regulation of these end users and not the oil companies. Indeed, even for gasoline, the level of carbon dioxide emissions critically depends on the operation and maintenance of the many different types of facilities, equipment, and vehicles, all of which are beyond the direct control of the oil companies. Yet all these end users are already subject to extensive emissions controls under the Clean Air Act and countless other environmental directives, both at the state and federal level.

This sensible distribution of regulatory authority rests on the superior ability of government agencies (at least compared to the courts), often in cooperation with each other, to formulate and maintain coherent policies to regulate the emissions of carbon dioxide, as well as methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, which the EPA calculates account for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The issues here are especially complex for many technical and logistical reasons. One critical task is to decide the optimal level of emissions. The implicit assumption of the New York and San Francisco lawsuits is that the world would become a better place if all emissions of carbon dioxide were stopped. But that position ignores the enormous benefits that come from the use of fossil fuels, which continue to supply over 80 percent of the nation’s energy needs. No other fuel source could keep manufacturing, transportation, and commerce alive. And it is just exaggeration to claim, as the city plaintiffs do, that these oil companies “have done nearly all they could to create [the] existential threat” of global warming when in fact energy efficiency in the United States has consistently improved, particularly in generating electrical power.

No public nuisance suits for global warming can solve a problem that must be addressed by a coherent regulatory program. Instead, chaos will follow if hundreds of different states, counties, and cities are allowed to bring separate actions under state law. It bears emphasis that in 2011, a unanimous Supreme Court decision in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut held that the combination of the Clean Air Act and actions by the Environmental Protection Agency “against carbon-dioxide emitters . . . displace the claims that the plaintiffs seek to pursue” under a public nuisance theory brought under federal law. The Court left open the question of whether the federal regulation at the time preempted any state law cause of action for public nuisance.


But, as I argued at the time, the only viable solution was for the federal government and the EPA to “orchestrate” the effort to control emissions. The point is doubly true against these remote, upstream defendants who have not emitted anything themselves. The standard analysis of federal preemption has long held that states may not engage in their own remedial efforts, even by actions in tort, when extensive federal regulation occupies the field, or when state activity either frustrates federal action or is in conflict with it. If anything, the scope of federal oversight, actual and prospective, is far more comprehensive than it was when American Electric Power was decided. And so federal preemption alone should block a set of dubious public nuisance claims that should never have been brought in the first place.

Background:  Critical Climate Intelligence for Jurists (and others)

How’s Your CCIQ?


H/T David Wojick and CFACT

Doctors for Disaster Preparedness are concerned to be ready for real disasters and not be distracted by irrational fears like global warming/climate change. They have provided a useful resource for people to test and deepen their knowledge of an issue distorted for many people by loads of misinformation and exaggerations.

From David Wojick:

A new lesson set called the Climate Change IQ (CCIQ) provides a good skeptical critique of ten top alarmist claims. The format is succinct and non-technical. Each alarmist claim is posed as a question, followed by a short skeptical answer, which is highlighted with a single telling graphic.

Then there is a link to a somewhat longer answer, which in turn includes links to a few online sources of more information. Each lesson is also available in a printable PDF version, suitable for classroom use. This compact format is potentially very useful.

CCIQ comes from a long-standing skeptical group called the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (DDP). Despite the name, DDP gives attention to pointing out scares that are not disasters waiting to happen. Not surprisingly climate alarmism gets a lot of this attention.

The ten topic questions are wide ranging, including the following. Each speaks to a popular pro-alarmist news hook.

Is climate change the most urgent global health threat?

Are government-sponsored climate scientists the only credible sources of information relating to climate-change policy?

Is the increase in atmospheric CO2 making wildfires worse?

Why can’t all States emulate California’s proposed “clean” energy standards?

What would happen if atmospheric CO2 concentration dropped by half, say to less than 200 ppm?

Are human CO2 emissions acidifying the oceans and endangering shell-making animals?

Will Manhattan and Florida soon be under water if humans do not curtail use of “fossil fuels”?

Do 97% of climate scientists agree that catastrophic climate change will result if humans do not curtail use of “fossil fuels”? (This one includes the dynamite John Christy graph showing the rapidly growing divergence of climate model global temperature forecasts with real world observations.)

Is Arctic ice disappearing?

And the number 1 CCIQ question: Would lowering atmospheric CO2 prevent or mitigate hurricanes?

Check it out. Inquiring minds want to know.


This is the January of our ice extent

Click on image to enlarge

Apologies to Shakespeare and Richard III for the title to this post.

The Arctic ice beast is slouching toward mid-March maximum with some peculiarities from the meandering polar vortex.  More on that from Dr. Judah Cohen later on.

A week ago the ice watch post noted the recovery in Okhotsk which has continued and is now above average for the date.  Bering sea ice is below normal and the main reason for lower overall extent this year.

Ice extents for January appear in the graph below; 2018 is shown to January 15, other years for the full month.  11 year average is 2007 to 2017 inclusive.

Click on image to enlarge.

Note that 2007 caught and exceeded the 11 year average ending the month tied.  2018 has now matched 2017 though both lag behind average having started the year in deficit. SII 2018 is running about 200k km2 less than MASIE for the month.

Below is the analysis of regions on day 015.  Average is for 2007 to 2017 inclusive.

Region 2018015 Day 015 
2018-Ave. 2017015 2018-2017
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 13250556 13887982 -637426 13250750 -194
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070445 1070178 267 1070445 0
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 965971 965842 129 964251 1720
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087120 1087134 -14 1087137 -18
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 897842 3 897845 0
 (5) Kara_Sea 918904 911229 7675 866224 52680
 (6) Barents_Sea 329631 545176 -215546 334131 -4500
 (7) Greenland_Sea 492704 625241 -132536 544015 -51311
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1181843 1184801 -2957 1284241 -102397
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 853109 853028 81 853214 -106
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1260838 1252263 8575 1260887 -49
 (11) Central_Arctic 3182898 3216678 -33780 3164223 18676
 (12) Bering_Sea 256467 558895 -302428 253648 2819
 (13) Baltic_Sea 18186 51436 -33249 29954 -11768
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 701953 615696 86257 617141 84813

The core of the Arctic is frozen solid and for the date 2018 is 4.6% below average.  The difference is mainly due to Bering Sea 64% below average and Barents 40% down. The recovering ice in Okhotsk is now above both the average and the extent last year at this time.

Background:  Updated Winter Forecast by Dr. Judah Cohen, January 15, 2018

Dr. Judah Cohen of AER published his current Arctic Oscillation and Polar Vortex Analysis and Forecast on January 15, 2018. His comments are always enlightening, and particularly so this time. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

In previous blogs, I have often discussed winter 2013/14 as possibly the best analog for this winter so far. I do believe that the stratospheric PV disruption that occurred in late December and the subsequent response in the tropospheric circulation are similar to what occurred repeatedly in winter 2013/14. However, I think the two winters are now diverging. The single large-scale weather feature that signals to me a divergence from this winter and 2013/14 is the widespread area of below normal temperatures across northern Eurasia beginning this week but predicted to become dominant across the continent next week. The last winter where persistent extensive below normal temperatures where observed across Northern Eurasia was winter 2012/13. That is also the last winter that a mid-winter major warming was observed (where the mean zonal wind reverses at 60°N and at 10hPa), which occurred the second week in January. I do consider that a major warming occurred in 2015/16 but that was in March and subsequently dovetailed into a final warming.

There are signs that a disruption of the stratospheric PV will occur but the timing and magnitude remains uncertain. But based on the anticipated widespread area of below normal temperatures across Northern Eurasia I do believe that the most significant stratospheric PV disruption of the winter is likely in the coming weeks. Our polar vortex forecast model predicts that the PV disruption will peak the second week of February. The model is speculative but a marker to watch. This anticipated stratospheric disruption is likely to differ from the stratospheric PV disruption in late December where the resultant below normal temperatures were focused across North America while much of Eurasia remained relatively mild. If I am correct that a subsequent stratospheric PV disruption will be more significant than the one in December, then I expect the focus of the resultant cold temperatures to be across northern Eurasia, especially Siberia. Temperatures would likely average below normal across much of Siberia and likely elsewhere across northern Eurasia, possibly through the end of February.

The impacts of a more significant stratospheric PV disruption would be less certain across North America. Still I would consider such a PV disruption to increase the probability of cold temperatures following the disruption across eastern North America. Following the mid-winter major warming in January 2013 temperatures initially turned cold across the Western US but the core of below normal temperatures migrated east as the winter progressed. The Global Forecast System (GFS) is predicting the core of below normal temperatures to be focused in Western Canada during the second half of January. However, my expectation would be for the core of the below normal temperatures to slowly migrate southeastward with time and as of now I favor a relatively cold February in southeastern Canada and the Eastern US.

A wild card in North American weather all winter has been ridging/blocking in the North Pacific. For the first half of the winter it was centered in the Gulf of Alaska and along the west coast of North America, contributing to warm temperatures in western North America but cold temperatures in eastern North America. Latest weather model runs are predicting a westward retrogression of this blocking closer to the Aleutians. This position favors cold temperatures in western North America but warm temperatures in eastern North America. And cold temperatures may be focused in western North America for the remainder of the winter if the ridging remains near the Aleutians but I expect that an eventual PV disruption will at least partially offset or cancel warming forced by the central North Pacific ridging.


Whichever fork of the road the ice takes, the Polar Bears had a very happy New Years Day.



The Children’s Climate Lawsuit Harms The Children

When launching a boomerang, watch out when it comes back on you.

This post provides further perspective and some legal background regarding the lawsuit campaign by Hansen et al fronted by idealistic children.  First an article at Investor’s Business Daily points out how the lawsuit is not in the best interest of present or future generations: The Children’s Climate Lawsuit Against The Children  Excerpts with my bolds below from Benjamin Zycher Jan. 12, 2018

Litigation may be as American as apple pie, but some lawsuits are so destructive that they stand out even among the hugely expensive wreckage wrought by our legal system. The most prominent current example is the “children’s” climate lawsuit (Juliana v U.S.): A group of kids, including “future generations, through their guardian Dr. James Hansen,” claim that the government’s actions and failures to act have caused climate change, thus violating the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and have failed to protect essential public trust resources.

First the Policy Concerns the People’s Interest not the Judges

I leave the numerous legal issues to the lawyers (see backgrounder further on), although precisely how the ineffable Hansen came to be the “guardian” for future generations is a question both fascinating and amusing. Instead, it is crucial to recognize first that the fundamental policy assumption underlying this lawsuit — we can make “the children” better off by making them poorer — is preposterous.

More generally, the lawsuit is a blatant attempt to circumvent democratic processes, in terms of both the Congressional power to make policy and the authority of the president to implement it.

Climate policies — mandated reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — by and large are energy policies, and the constitution is silent on which such policies would serve the interests of future generations, or on the appropriate tradeoffs between the interests of “the children” and the adults alive in the here and now.

Those are policy questions, and this attempt to induce judges to interfere with Congress’ legislative powers is deeply destructive of our constitutional institutions. Should “the children” not be concerned about that? Why are “the children” not suing about, say, the national debt?

Second CO2 is Not a Pollutant

The claim about the protection of “essential public trust resources” boils down to an assertion that carbon dioxide is a “pollutant.” No, it is not: A certain minimum atmospheric concentration of it is necessary for life itself. (Merely look at NASA’s time-lapse photo of the earth’s greening over the last 30-plus years.) By far the most important GHG is water vapor; does anyone claim that it is a “pollutant?” Obviously not, and not because ocean evaporation is a natural process; so are volcanic eruptions, and the massive amounts of effluents emitted by volcanoes are pollutants by any definition.

Third Energy Poverty Shortens Lives 

Consider a homo sapiens baby born in a cave some tens of thousands of years ago, in a world with environmental quality effectively untouched by mankind. That child at birth would have had a life expectancy on the order of ten years; had it been able to choose, it is obvious that it willingly would have given up some environmental quality in exchange for better housing, food, water, medical care, safety, ad infinitum. That is, it is obvious that people willingly choose to give up some environmental quality in exchange for a life both longer and wealthier.

The Lawsuit Will Make Future Generations Worse Off

In other words, the children’s lawsuit is inconsistent with actual interests of future generations, as the obvious underlying assumption is that future generations would prefer the purest possible environmental quality. That is not correct: Future generations want to inherit the most valuable possible capital stock in all of its myriad dimensions, among which environmental quality is one important component among many, and among all of which there are tradeoffs that cannot be avoided.

Is it the position of the attorneys representing “the children” that making energy more rather than less expensive unambiguously would make future generations better off? In order for future generations to receive the most valuable possible capital stock, the current generation must consume and invest resources most productively.

If regulatory and other policies implemented by the current generation yield less wealth now and a smaller total capital stock for future generations, then more resource consumption and more emissions of effluents currently would be preferred from the viewpoint of those future generations.

Lawsuit Asserts Facts Not in Evidence

That is only the beginning of the problematic factual assertions and assumptions underlying the children’s lawsuit. The measurable effects of increasing GHG concentrations are far smaller than the climate models would lead one to believe. The degree to which recent warming has been anthropogenic is unsettled in the scientific literature; and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its fifth assessment report (AR5) has reduced its estimated range of the effect in 2100 of a doubling of GHG concentrations from 2.0–4.5 to 1.5–4.5 degrees C.

There actually is little evidence of strong climate effects attendant upon increasing GHG concentrations, in terms of sea levels; Arctic and Antarctic sea ice; tornado activity; tropical cyclones; U.S. wildfires; drought; and flooding. IPCC in the AR5 is deeply dubious (Table 12.4) about the various severe effects often hypothesized (or asserted) as future impacts of increasing GHG concentrations.

One might assume that the facts underlying a lawsuit ought to be consistent with its central claims; one would be wrong. And wrong again if one assumes that the policy objective would make an actual difference: The Paris agreement with full U.S. participation would reduce temperatures by 2100 by seventeen one-hundredths of a degree. The U.S. contribution would be fifteen one-thousandths of a degree. Add another one one-hundredth of a degree if you believe that the Obama pseudo-agreement with China is meaningful. (It is not.)

Children Used by Environmental Ideologues

Precisely what is the children’s climate lawsuit trying to achieve? It cannot be protection of our constitutional principles, or protection of future generations, or environmental improvement. Only one possibility remains: It is part of the long-term effort by the environmental left to use any means possible to exert control over other people’s property, economic choices, and lifestyles. The plaintiff attorneys are happy to participate in a litigation process in which “the children” are irrelevant.

Legal Context

For those interested in the legalities Andrew Varcoe provides a Legal Backgrounder published at the Washington Legal Foundation Does the Constitution Provide a Substantive Due-Process Right to a Stable Climate System?  Excepts below with my bolds.

Americans have many views on the causes and severity of climate change—and on the pros and cons of conceivable policy responses. But most Americans would likely react with some measure of surprise to one suggested solution—the notion that individual citizens have a constitutional right, enforceable by judicial diktat, to a stable climate system. Surprising or no, this suggestion has landed in the lap of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In June, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a mandamus petition in that court in Juliana v. United States, a lawsuit pending in federal district court in Oregon.

The Juliana plaintiffs claim a substantive due-process right— a fundamental, unenumerated right—to a stable climate. They also argue that the federal government has an enforceable public-trust duty to protect the atmosphere and other resources from climate change. DOJ’s mandamus petition asks the Ninth Circuit to direct the district court to dismiss the Juliana case. Although the Trump Administration filed the mandamus petition, the Obama Administration had asserted the same basic jurisdictional and merits arguments before the district court.

The Ninth Circuit may rule on the petition soon. While this litigation presents several important questions, this Legal Backgrounder focuses only on the core merits question whether there is a fundamental, unenumerated right to a stable climate system protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

1. It seems unlikely that a Ninth Circuit panel would recognize a constitutional right to a stable climate system.

A mandamus petition is a request for extraordinary relief. The Ninth Circuit has various options for ruling on the government’s petition without reaching the merits. That said, if the court were to reach the merits now, it seems likely that the court would hold that there is no fundamental right to be protected against climate change. As a general matter, federal courts are rightly reluctant to create or recognize new fundamental rights protected by substantive due process. As the Supreme Court has said, judges must “exercise the utmost care whenever we are asked to break new ground in this field, lest the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause be subtly transformed” into judges’ “policy preferences,” and place great public questions “outside the arena of public debate and legislative action.

Older lower court decisions are consistent with the view that interests related to pollution and climate change are not protected by substantive due process. See Nat’l Sea Clammers Ass’n v. City of New York, 616 F.2d 1222, 1238 (3d Cir. 1980) (Constitution protects no “right to a pollution-free environment”), vacated in part on other grounds sub nom. Middlesex Cty. Sewerage Auth. v. Nat’l Sea Clammers Ass’n, 453 U.S. 1 (1981).

Prudential factors militate against crafting a new constitutional right in the air pollution context. Congress has already enacted a comprehensive statute to regulate air pollution—the Clean Air Act (CAA)—and has amended it over several decades. After the Supreme Court held that the Act authorizes federal regulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, see Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 532 (2007), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began regulating such emissions. Despite recent political changes, EPA has not proposed to stop regulating GHG emissions.

Congress is free to override federal common law, but not a constitutional precedent. For example, the plaintiffs want the district court to determine “the minimum safe level of atmospheric CO2 concentrations” and the “timeframe” for achieving that level. But what if the court misses the mark in doing so? Congress and the President would have no power to override such an error.

2. It also seems unlikely that the Ninth Circuit would extend the state-created danger doctrine to climate change.

The Juliana plaintiffs invoke a different strand of substantive due process when they rely on the state-created danger doctrine. Under that doctrine, a governmental entity takes on a constitutional duty to an individual whom it places in peril in deliberate indifference to his or her safety.5 The Juliana plaintiffs argue that the defendants or their predecessors assumed such a duty when they “authorized, permitted, and promoted the extraction, transportation, and combustion of fossil fuels for decades with full knowledge that such activities would manifest unique and personalized injuries to individuals.” This argument could be seen as an extrapolation from the constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. Nonetheless, as applied to climate change, the argument is fundamentally problematic for several reasons.

First, the state-created danger doctrine covers dangers attributable to government actions, not to government omissions. See DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189, 195, 197-203 (1989). The doctrine provides no remedy for failures to regulate private activity. Second, even when limited to government actions, the plaintiffs’ argument would expand the state-created danger doctrine so radically as to make it unrecognizable and unworkable. The argument proves too much. Courts have applied the doctrine to government actions that cause direct physical harm to individuals— typically, actions by law enforcement officers or other government agents. But climate change is immeasurably more complex than such incidents. Climate change is a kind of global mass tort, with diffuse and innumerable causes and impacts, involving a very large number of potential wrongdoers and victims.

Andrew R. Varcoe is a Partner with Boyden Gray & Associates, PLLC, in Washington, D.C. The firm’s clients and lawyers have a mix of views on climate change policy issues. Mr. Varcoe thanks his colleagues, and Professor Douglas A. Kysar, for their contributions to the ideas in this Legal Backgrounder; he alone is responsible for any errors.

Footnote:  More on Children’s Trust and Lawsuits see Climate War Human Shields

Pipeline Justice Grinding Slowly

Wheels of justice grind slow but grind fine — Sun Tzu, Art of War

An update on pipeline disruption cases is provided by Blake Nicholson, Associated Press, January 9, 2018, in Great Falls Tribune: Court cases from coordinated 2016 pipeline protest delayed. Excerpts below with my bolds.

BISMARCK, N.D. — Several court cases stemming from a coordinated pipeline protest in four states have been delayed, including one where an appeals court is deciding whether to allow two women to argue their law-breaking was necessary to prevent a greater harm.

Eleven activists with the group Climate Direct Action were arrested on Oct. 11, 2016, when they tried to either shut down pipelines in North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Washington state or film the attempts. The activists said they were protesting fossil fuels and supporting people demonstrating against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, which was still under construction.

The activists broke into private property and turned shutoff valves at five pipelines that moved oil from Canada to the U.S.

In Minnesota, prosecutors have asked a state appeals court to reverse a judge’s ruling that would allow two women to use the so-called necessity defense. The defense is popular among environmental activists who argue that global warming caused by fossil fuels is the greater harm, though legal experts say it’s a long-shot defense.

The appeal delayed the December trial of Seattle-area residents Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein, who are accused of closing valves on two pipelines in northwestern Minnesota. The trial hasn’t been rescheduled, and their attorney said he doesn’t expect a resolution on the appeal until spring.

Sentencing has been delayed for two men who were barred from using necessity-defense arguments. Leonard Higgins of Portland, Oregon, was convicted in November of criminal mischief and trespassing in Montana; his January sentencing was pushed to March 20 after his attorneys asked for more time, according to court documents. Seattle resident Michael Foster also was set for sentencing this month in North Dakota but the hearing was moved to February because of a timing conflict.

A Washington state case was resolved last year when Ken Ward, of Corbett, Oregon, was convicted of burglary and sentenced to two days in jail plus community supervision and community service. He, too, wasn’t allowed to use the necessity defense.

The six other arrested activists were accused of filming the vandalism. Prosecutors dropped charges against two of them in Washington. Trials are pending for two others in Minnesota and one in Montana, and one activist is to be sentenced in North Dakota the same day as Foster.


Actually, I don’t mind them taking it slow, so long as they get it right.  Still, putting global warming on trial during this winter weather would have provided at least poetic justice, less so in springtime.


On civil disobedience by climate activists:

A Valve Turner’s Trial: Mostly guilty

Minnesota judge allows ‘necessity defense’ in pipeline case

On the Judiciary unprepared for such cases: Critical Climate Intelligence for Jurists (and others)