Progressively Scaring the World (Lewin book synopsis)

H/T to Global Warming Policy Foundation for this publication. Announcement is here.

Bernie Lewin has written a thorough history explaining a series of environmental scares building up to the current obsession with global warming/climate change. The story is enlightening to people like me who were not paying attention when much of this activity was going down, prior to Copenhagen COP in my case.  It also provides a rich description of happenings behind the scenes.

As Lewin explains, it is a particularly modern idea to scare the public with science, and thereby advance a policy agenda. The power of this approach is evident these days, but his book traces it back to more humble origins and describes the process bringing us to the present state of full-blown climate fear. It is a cautionary tale.

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
― Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

This fearful belief evolved through a series of expanding scares as diagrammed below:This article provides only some highlights while the book exposes the maneuvers and the players, their interests and tactics. Quotes from Lewin appear in italics, with my titles, summaries and bolds.

In the Beginning: The DDT Scare

The Context

A new ‘environmentalism’ arose through a broadening of specific campaigns against environmental destruction and pollution. It began to target more generally the industries and technologies deemed inherently damaging. Two campaigns in particular facilitated this transition, as they came to face-up squarely against the dreams of a fantastic future delivered by unfettered sci-tech progress.

One of these challenged the idea that we would all soon be tearing through the sky and crossing vast oceans in just a few hours while riding our new supersonic jets. But even before the ‘Supersonic Transportation Program’ was announced in 1963, another campaign was already gathering unprecedented support. This brought into question the widely promoted idea that a newly invented class of chemicals could safely bring an end to so much disease and destruction—of agriculture, of forests, and of human health—through the elimination of entire populations of insects. Pg.16

When the huge DDT spraying programs began, the Sierra Club’s immediate concern was the impact on nature reserves. But then, as the movement against DDT developed, and as it became increasingly involved, it began to broaden its interest and transform. By the end of the 1960s it and other similar conservation organisations were leading the new environmentalism in a broader campaign against DDT and other technological threats to the environment. Pg.18

The Alarm

This transformation was facilitated by the publication of a single book that served to consolidate the case against the widespread and reckless use of organic pesticides: Silent Spring. The author, Rachel Carson, had published two popular books on ocean ecology and a number of essays on ecological themes before Silent Spring came out in 1962. As with those earlier publications, one of the undoubted contributions of the book was the education of the public in a scientific understanding of nature. Pg.18

We will never know how Carson would have responded to the complete ban on DDT in the USA. She was suffering from cancer while writing Silent Spring and died shortly after publication (leaving the royalties from its sale to the Sierra Club), but the ban was not achieved for another decade. What we do know is that a full ban was never her intention. She supported targeted poisoning programs in place of blanket spraying, and she urged the authorities to look for alternative and ‘integrated control’, along the lines of the ‘Integrated Pest Management’ approach that is common and accepted today. Pg.19

The Exaggeration

Overall, by today’s standards at least, Carson’s policy position was moderate, and so we should be careful not to attribute to her the excesses of her followers. The trouble with Carson was otherwise: it was in her use and abuse of science to invoke in her readers an overwhelming fear. In Silent Spring, scientific claims find dubious grounding in the evidence. Research findings are exaggerated, distorted and then merged with the purely anecdotal and the speculative, to great rhetorical effect. Pg.19

Historically, the most important area of distortion is in linking organic pesticides with human cancers. The scientific case for DDT as a carcinogen has never been strong and it certainly was not strong when Silent Spring was published. Of course, uncertainty remained, but Carson used the authority of science to go beyond uncertainty and present DDT as a dangerous carcinogen. And it was not just DDT; Carson depicts us ‘living in a sea of carcinogens’, mostly of our own making, and for which there is ‘no safe dose’. Pg.19

The Legacy

If we are to understand how the EPA ban came about, it is important to realise that this action succeeded in breaking a policy stalemate that was becoming increasingly hazardous for the increasingly embattled Nixon administration. On one side of this stalemate were the repeated scientific assessments pointing to a moderate position, while on the other side were calls for more and more extreme measures fuelled by more and more outrageous claims. Pg.21

Such sober assessments by scientific panels were futile in the face of the pseudo-scientific catastrophism that was driving the likes of the Audubon Society into a panic over the silencing of the birds. By the early 1970s two things were clear: public anxiety over DDT would not go away, and yet the policy crisis would not be resolved by heeding the recommendations of scientific committees. Instead, resolution came through the EPA, and the special role that it found for itself following the publication of the Sweeney report. Pg.22

Summary

The DDT scare demonstrated an effective method: Claim that a chemical pollutant is a serious public health risk, Cancer being the most alarming of all. The media stoked the fear, and politicians acted to quell anxiety despite the weak scientific case. Also, the precedent was set for a governmental entity (EPA in this case) to make a judgment overruling expert advice in responding to public opinion.

The SST Scare

The Context

The contribution to the demise of the SST of the environmentalists’ campaign is sometimes overstated, but that is of less concern to our story than the perception that this was their victory. While the DDT campaign was struggling to make headway, the SST campaign would be seen as an early symbolic triumph over unfettered technological progressivism. It provided an enormous boost to the new movement and helped to shape it. Back in 1967, the Sierra Club had first come out campaigning against the SST for the sonic shockwaves sweeping the (sparsely populated) wilderness over which it was then set to fly. But as they began to win that argument, tension was developing within the organisation, with some members wishing to take a stronger, more general and ethical stand against new and environmentally damaging technologies such as this. P.27

With popular support for environmental causes already blooming across the country, and with the SST program already in jeopardy, scientists finally gained their own position of prominence in the controversy when they introduced some new pollution concerns. . . If that wasn’t enough, environmental concerns were also raised in the most general and cursory terms about the aircraft’s exhaust emissions. These first expressions of pollution concerns would soon be followed by others, from scientists who were brought into the debate to air speculation about various atmospheric catastrophes that would ensue if these supersonic birds were ever allowed to fly. Pg.27

The Alarm

What did make the front page of the New York Times on 2 August 1970 was concern about another climatic effect highlighted in the executive summary of the report. The headline trumpeted ‘Scientists ask SST delay pending study of pollution’ (see Figure 2.1).  The conference had analysed the effect of emissions from a fleet of 500 aircraft flying in the stratosphere, and concerns were raised that the emission of water vapour (and to a lesser extent other emissions) might absorb sunlight sufficiently to have a local or even global effect on climate. . . The climatic change argument remained in the arsenal of the anti-SST campaigners through to the end, but it was soon outgunned by much more dramatic claims about possible damage to the ozone layer. Pg.30

Throughout the 1970s, scientific speculation drove a series of ozone scares, each attracting significant press attention. These would climax in the mid-1980s, when evidence of ozone-depleting effects of spray-can propellants would be discovered in the most unlikely place. This takes us right up to the start of the global warming scare, presenting along the way many continuities and parallels. Indeed, the push for ozone protection up to the 1980s runs somewhat parallel with the global warming movement until the treaty process to mitigate ozone damage suddenly gained traction and became the very model for the process to mitigate global warming. The ozone story therefore warrants a much closer look. Pg.31

For Harold Johnston of the University of California, the real problem with SST exhaust would not be water vapour but oxides of nitrogen. Working all night, the next morning he presented Xerox copies of handwritten work projecting 10–90% depletion. In high traffic areas, there would be no stopping these voracious catalysts: the ozone layer would all but disappear within a couple of years. Even when Johnston later settled for a quotable reduction by half, there could be no quibbling over the dangers to nature and humanity of such massive environmental destruction. Pg.44

A New York Times reporter contacted Johnston to confirm his claims and although the report he delivered was subdued, the story remained alarming. It would take less than a year of full-fleet operations, Dr Johnston said in a telephone interview, for SSTs to deplete half of the stratospheric ozone that shields the earth from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Scientists argued in the SST debate last March that even a 1 percent reduction of ozone would increase radiation enough to cause an additional 10,000 cases of skin cancer a year in the United States. The next day, 19 May 1971, a strong negative vote demolished the funding bill. All but a few stalwarts agreed that one more vote in the House and it was all over for Boeing’s SST. After that final vote, on 30 May, the New York Times followed-up on its initial story with a feature on Johnston’s claims. This was written by their leading science writer, Walter Sullivan, an influential science communicator important to our story. Pg.48

The Exaggeration

It is true that in 1971 the link between skin cancer and sun exposure was fairly well established in various ways, including by epidemiological studies that found fair-skinned communities in low latitudes tended to record higher rates. However, the link to ultraviolet light exposure (specifically, the UV-B band) is strongest among those cancers that are most common but are also rarely lethal. The link with the rarer and most dangerous cancers, the malignant melanomas, is not so strong, especially because they often appear on skin that is not usually exposed to the sun. Pg.43

Thus, sceptics of the fuss over the risk of a few percent thinning of the already variable ozone layer would point out that the anti-SST crowd did not seemed overly worried about the modern preference for sunshine, which was, on the very same evidence, already presenting a risk many orders of magnitude greater: a small depletion in the ozone layer would be the equivalent of moving a few miles south. To the dismay of their environmentalist opponents, the bolder among these sceptics would recommend the same mitigation measures recommended to the lifestyle migrants—sunscreen, sunglasses and sunhats. Pg.43

But in 1971 there was no way to directly measure stratospheric NOx. No one was even sure whether there was any up there. Nor was there any way to confirm the presence—and, if so, the concentration— of many of the other possibly relevant reactive trace gases. This left scientists only guessing at natural concentrations, and for NOx, Johnston and others had done just that. These ‘best guesses’ were then the basis for modelling of the many possible reactions, the reaction rates, and the relative significance of each in the natural chemistry of the cold thin air miles above. All this speculation would then form the basis of further speculations about how the atmosphere might respond to the impacts of aircraft that had not yet flown; indeed none had even been built. Pg.46

The Legacy

But already the message had got through to where it mattered: to the chair of the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Science, Clinton Anderson. The senator accepted Johnston’s theory on the strength of Sullivan’s account, which he summarised in a letter to NASA before concluding that ‘we either need NOx-free engines or a ban on stratospheric flight’.  And so it turned out that directly after the scrapping of the Boeing prototype, the overriding concern about supersonic exhaust pollution switched from water vapour to NOx. Pg.49

As startling as Johnston’s success appears, it is all the more extraordinary to consider how all the effort directed at solving the NOx problem was never distracted by a rising tide of doubt. The more the NOx effect was investigated, the more complex the chemistry seemed to be and the more doubtful became the original scientific foundations of the scare. In cases of serial uncertainty, the multiplying of best-guess estimates of an effect can shift one way and then the other as the science progresses. But this was never the case with NOx, nor with the SST-ozone scare generally. Pg.50

Summary

The SST Scare moved attention to the atmosphere and the notion of trace gases causing environmental damage, again linked to cancer risk. While ozone was the main issue, climate change was also raised along with interest in carbon dioxide emissions. Public policy was moved to withdraw funding for American SST production and later to ban European SSTs from landing in the US. It also demonstrated that fears could be promoted regarding a remote part of nature poorly known or understood. Models were built projecting fearful outcomes from small changes in atmospheric regions where data was mostly lacking.
earth_ozone_1

 

The CFC Scare

The Context

Presumptions about the general state of a system’s stability are inevitable in situations of scant evidence, and they tend to determine positions across the sceptic/alarmist divide. Of course, one could suppose a stable system, in which a relatively minor compensatory adjustment might have an alarming impact on civilisation, like the rapid onset of a few metres of rise in sea level. But it is the use of such phrases as ‘disturbing the delicate balance of nature’ or ‘a threat to life on Earth’ that are giveaways to a supposition of instability. Hence Scorer’s incredulity regarding Johnston’s leap towards his catastrophic conclusion: ‘How could it be alleged seriously that the atmosphere would be upset by introducing a small quantity of the most commonly and easily formed compounds of the two elements which comprise 99% of it?’ Pg.68

Meanwhile, ‘Sherry’ Rowland at the University of California was looking around for a new interest. Since 1956 he had been mostly researching the chemistry of radioactive isotopes under funding from the Atomic Energy Commission. Hearing of Lovelock’s work, he was intrigued by the proposal that nearly all the CFCs ever produced might still be out there. Were there no environmental conditions anywhere that would degrade these chemicals? He handed the problem to his post-doctoral research assistant, Mario Molina. Molina eventually concluded that indeed there were no ‘sinks’ for CFCs anywhere in the ocean, soils or lower atmosphere. Thus we should expect that CFCs would drift around the globe, just as Lovelock had proposed, and that they would do so for decades, even centuries. . . or forever? Could mankind have created an organic compound that is so noble that it is almost immortal? Pg.75

The Alarm

The ozone effect that Molina had stumbled upon was different to those previously proposed from rockets and aeroplanes in one important respect: it would be tremendously delayed. Like a hidden cancer, the CFCs would build up quietly and insidiously in the lower atmosphere until their effect on the ozone miles above was eventually detectable, decades later. But when unequivocal evidence finally arrived to support the theory, it would be too late. By then there would be no stopping the destruction of the thin veil protecting us from the Sun’s carcinogenic rays. What Molina had stumbled upon had, in double-dose, one sure element of a good environmental scare. Pg.77

According to Walter Sullivan, they had calculated that spray-can CFCs have already accumulated sufficiently in the upper air to begin depleting the ozone that protects the earth from lethal ultraviolet radiation.  On current emission trends, 30% of the ozone layer would be destroyed as early as 1994. This was no longer a story about saving the sky for our grandchildren. These scientists had found an effect, already in train, with ‘lethal’ consequences for all living things during the lifetime of most of the New York Times’ massive and influential readership. Pg.82

During 1988, the second wave of global environmentalism would reach its peak in the USA, with CFC pollution its first flagship cause. Mid-March saw the US Congress voting unanimously to ratify the Montreal Protocol. It was only the second country to do so, while resistance remained strong in Europe. The following day, NASA announced the results of a huge two-year study of global ozone trends. Pb.107

The new scientific evidence came from a re-analysis of the ozone record. This found that the protective layer over high-population areas in the midlatitudes of the northern hemisphere had been depleted by between 1.7% and 3% from 1969 to 1986. These trends had been calculated after removing the effect of ‘natural geophysical variables’ so as to better approximate the anthropogenic influence. As such, these losses across just 15 years were at much faster rates than expected by the previous modelling of the CFC effect. Pg.107

The statements of the scientists (at least as quoted) made it clear to the press that this panel of experts had interpreted the empirical evidence as showing that a generalised CFC-driven depletion had already begun, and at a much faster rate than expected from the modelling used to inform the Montreal Protocol.  Pg.109

This linking by scientists of the breakup of the southern vortex with low ozone readings in southern Australia during December 1987 morphed into the idea that the ozone hole itself had moved over southern Australia. All sorts of further exaggerations and extrapolations ensued, including the idea of the hole’s continuing year-round presence. An indication of the strength of this mythology is provided by a small survey in 1999 of first-year students in an atmospheric science course at a university in Melbourne. This found that 80% of them believed the ozone hole to be over Australia, 97% believed it to be present during the summer and nearly 80% blamed ozone depletion for Australia’s high rate of skin cancer. Pg.114

After the London ‘Save the Ozone Layer Conference’, the campaign to save the ozone layer was all but won. It is true that a push for funding to assist poor country compliance did gain some momentum at this conference, and it was thought that this might stymie agreement, but promises of aid were soon extracted, and these opened the way for agreement on a complete global phase-out of CFC production. Pg.119

The Exaggeration

Here we had Harvard scientists suggesting that hairspray destruction of the ozone layer had already begun. Verification of the science behind this claim could not have played any part in the breaking of the scare, for there was nothing to show. It turned out that McElroy and Wofsy had not shown their work to anyone, anywhere. Indeed, the calculations they reported to Sullivan were only submitted for publication a few days after the story ran in the New York Times. By that time already, the science did not matter; when McElroy and Wofsy’s calculations finally appeared in print in February 1975, the response to the scare was in full swing, with spray-can boycotts, with ‘ban the can’ campaigns, and with bills to that effect on the table in Congress. Pg.82

It was on track to deliver its findings by April 1976 when it was hit with the shocking discovery of a new chlorine ‘sink’. On receiving this news, it descended into confusion and conflict and this made impossible the timely delivery of its much-anticipated report. The new ‘sink’ was chlorine nitrate. When chlorine reacts to form chlorine nitrate its attack on ozone is neutralised. It was not that chlorine nitrate had previously been ignored, but that it was previously considered very unstable. However, late in 1975 Rowland concluded it was actually quite stable in the mid-stratosphere, and therefore the two most feared ozone eaters—NOx and CFCs—would neutralise each other: not only could natural NOx moderate the CFC effect, but hairsprays and deodorants could serve to neutralise any damage Concorde might cause. Pg.84

Now, at the height of the spray-can scare, there was a shift back to climate. This was reinforced when others began to point to the greenhouse effect of CFCs. An amazing projection, which would appear prominently in the NAS report, was that CFCs alone would increase global mean temperature by 1°C by the end of the century—and that was only at current rates of emissions! In all this, McElroy was critical of Rowland (and others) for attempting to maintain the momentum of the scare by switching to climatic change as soon as doubts about the cancer scare emerged. It looked like the scientists were searching for a new scientific justification of the same policy outcome. Pg.87

The Legacy

The ban on the non-essential uses of spray-can CFCs that came into force in January 1978 marked a peak in the rolling ozone scares of the 1970s. Efforts to sustain the momentum and extend regulation to ‘essential’ spray cans, to refrigeration, and on to a complete ban, all failed. The tail-end of the SST-ozone scare had also petered out after the Franco-British consortium finally won the right to land their Concorde in New York State in 1977. And generally in the late 1970s, the environmental regulation movement was losing traction, with President Carter’s repeated proclamations of an environmental crisis becoming increasingly shrill (more on that below). Eventually, in 1981, Ronald Reagan’s arrival at the White House gave licence and drive to a backlash against environmental regulation that had been building throughout the 1970s. Long before Reagan’s arrival, it was made clear in various forums that further regulatory action on CFCs could only be premised on two things: international cooperation and empirical evidence. Pg.89

To some extent, the demand for better science had always been resisted. From the beginning, advocates conceded that direct and unequivocal evidence of CFC-caused depletion might be impossible to gain before it is too late.  But concerns over whether the science was adequate went deeper. The predictions were based on simple models of a part of our world that was still remote and largely unknown. Pg.91

Summary.

The CFC scare brought the focus of dangerous behavior down from the stratosphere to spray cans in the hands of ordinary people, along with their use of air conditioners so essential to life in the sunny places people prefer.  Speculation about ozone holes over polar regions were also more down to earth. And for the first time all of this concern produced an international treaty with extraordinary cooperation against CFCs, with UNEP soaring into prominence and gaining much credit for guiding the policy process.

The CO2 Scare

The Context

In the USA during the late 1970s, scientific interest in the potential catastrophic climatic consequences of carbon dioxide emissions came to surpass other climatic concerns. Most importantly, it came to surpass the competing scientific and popular anxiety over global cooling and its exacerbation by aerosol emissions. However, it was only during the late 1980s that the ‘carbon dioxide question’ broke out into the public discourse and transformed into the campaign to mitigate greenhouse warming. For more than a decade before the emergence of this widespread public concern, scientists were working on the question under generous government funding. Pg.122

The proven trigger for the release of funding was to forewarn of catastrophe, to generate public fear and so motivate administrators and politicians to fund investigations targeting the specific issue. The dilemma for the climatic research leadership was that calls for more research to assess the level of danger would fail unless declarations of danger were already spreading fear. Pg.143

The scare that would eventually triumph over all preceding global environmental scares, and the scare that would come to dominate climatic research funding, began with a coordinated, well-funded program of research into potentially catastrophic effects. It did so before there was any particular concern within the meteorological community about these effects, and before there was any significant public or political anxiety to drive it. It began in the midst of a debate over the relative merits of coal and nuclear energy production. Pg 144

The Alarm

In February 1979, at the first ever World Climate Conference, meteorologists would for the first time raise a chorus of warming concern. These meteorologists were not only Americans. Expert interest in the carbon dioxide threat had arisen during the late 1970s in Western Europe and Russia as well. However, there seemed to be nothing in particular that had triggered this interest. There was no new evidence of particular note. Nor was there any global warming to speak of. Global mean temperatures remained subdued, while in 1978 another severe winter descended over vast regions of North America. The policy environment also remained unsympathetic. Pg.184

At last, during the early 1980s, Nature gave some clear signals that it was coming out on the side of the warmers. In the early 1980s it started to become clear that the four-decade general cooling trend was over. Weather station records in the northern mid-latitudes began again to show an upward trend, which was traceable back to a turnaround during the 1970s. James Hansen was early in announcing this shift, and in doing so he also excited a foreboding of manmade warming. Pg.193

Besides, there was a much grander diluvian story that continued to gain currency: the semi-submerged West Antarctic ice sheet might detach and slide into the sea. This was for some an irresistible image of terrible beauty: displacement on a monumental scale, humanity unintentionally applying the lever of industrial emissions to cast off this inconceivably large body of ice. As if imagining some giant icy Archimedes slowly settling into his overflowing bath, Hansen calculated the consequential displacement to give a sea-level rise of 5 or 6 metres within a century. Pg.195

Moreover, it had the imprimatur of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the AAAS journal, Science, was esteemed in the USA above all others. Thus we can forgive Sullivan his credulity of this string of claims: that the new discovery of ‘clear evidence’ shows that emissions have ‘already warmed the climate’, that this supports a prediction of warming in the next century of ‘almost unprecedented magnitude’, and that this warming might be sufficient to ‘melt and dislodge the ice cover of West Antarctica’. The cooling scare was barely in the grave, but the warmers had been rehearsing in the wings. Now their most daring member jumped out and stole the show. Pg.196

But Hansen went beyond this graph and beyond the conclusion of his published paper to firstly make a strong claim of causation, and then, secondly, to relate this cause to the heat being experienced that year (indeed, the heat being experienced in the hearing room even as he spoke!). He explained that ‘the Earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements’. He had calculated that ‘there is only a 1 percent chance of an accidental warming of this magnitude. . . ’ This could only mean that ‘the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now’. Hansen’s detection claim was covered by all the main television network news services and it won for him another New York Times front page headline: Global warming has begun, expert tells Senate. Pg.224

The Exaggeration

Where SCOPE 29 looked toward the time required for a doubling of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, at Villach the policy recommendation would be based on new calculations for the equivalent effect when all emitted greenhouse gases were taken into account. The impact of the new calculations was to greatly accelerate the rate of the predicted warming. According to SCOPE 29, on current rates of emissions, doubling of the carbon dioxide concentration would be expected in 2100. At Villach, the equivalent warming effect of all greenhouse gases was expected as early as 2030. Pg.209

This new doubling date slipped under a psychological threshold: the potential lifetime of the younger scientists in the group. Subsequently, these computations were generally rejected and the agreed date for ‘the equivalent of CO2 doubling’ was pushed out at least 20 years; indeed, never again would there be a doubling estimate so proximate with the time in which it was made. Pg.209

Like so many of the consensus statements from this time on, this one is twisted so that it gives the appearance of saying more than it actually does. In this way, those pushing for dramatic effect and those concerned not to overstate the case can come to agreement. In fact, this passage of the statement brings the case for alarm down to the reliability of the modelling, which is pretty much true of SCOPE 29. Pg.210

In other words, the Impact on Climate Change working group concluded that the models are not yet ready to make predictions (however vaguely) about the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the global climate.  Pg.210

The Legacy

Today, emissions targets dominate discussions of the policy response to global warming, and total emissions rates are tacitly assumed to be locked to a climatic response of one, two or so many degrees of warming. Today’s discussions sits on top of a solid foundation of dogma established across several decades and supposedly supported by a scientific consensus, namely that there is a direct cause–effect temperature response to emissions. Pg.219

One of the main recommendations for mitigating these dire consequences is a comprehensive global treaty to protect the atmosphere. On the specific issue of global warming, the conference statement calls for the stabilisation of atmospheric concentrations of one greenhouse gas, namely carbon dioxide. It estimates that this would require a reduction of current global emissions by more than 50%. However, it suggests an initial goal for nations to reduce their current rates of carbon dioxide emission by 20% by 2005. This rather arbitrary objective would become the headline story: ‘Targets agreed to save climate’. And it stuck. In the emissions-reduction policy debate that followed, this ‘Toronto target’ became the benchmark. For many years to come—indeed, until the Kyoto Protocol of 1997—it would be a key objective of sustainable development’s newly launched flagship. Pg.221

Summary

The framework for international action is established presuming that CO2 emissions directly cause global warming and that all nations must collectively cut their use of fossil fuels. However, the drive for a world treaty is hampered by a lack of proof and scientists’ mixed commitment to the policy goals.

The IPCC Scare

The Context

Before winter closed in at the end of 1988, North America was brimming with warming enthusiasm. In the USA, global warming was promised attention no matter who won the presidential election. In Canada, after the overwhelming success of the Toronto conference, the government continued to promote the cause, most enthusiastically through its environment minister Tom McMillan. Elsewhere among world leaders, enthusiasm was also building. The German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, had been a long-time campaigner against fossil fuels. Pg.224

In February 1989, the year got off to a flying start with a conference in Delhi organised by India’s Tata Energy Research Institute and the Woods Hole Research Center, which convened to consider global warming from the perspective of developing countries. The report of the conference produced an early apportionment of blame and a call for reparations. It proclaimed that the global warming problem had been caused by the industrially developed countries and therefore its remediation should be financed by them, including by way of aid to underdeveloped countries. This call was made after presenting the problem in the most alarming terms: Global warming is the greatest crisis ever faced collectively by humankind, unlike other earlier crises, it is global in nature, threatens the very survival of civilisation, and promises to throw up only losers over the entire international socio-economic fabric. The reason for such a potential apocalyptic scenario is simple: climate change of geological proportions are occurring over time-spans as short as a single human lifetime. Pg.226

Throughout 1989, the IPCC working groups conducted a busy schedule of meetings and workshops at venues around the northern hemisphere. Meanwhile, the outpouring of political excitement that had been channelled into the process brought world attention to the IPCC. By the time of its second full session in June 1989, its treaty development mandate had become clearer: the final version of the resolution that had passed at the UN General Assembly the previous December—now called ‘Protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind’—requested that the IPCC make recommendations on strengthening relevant existing international legal instruments and on ‘elements for inclusion in a possible future international convention on climate.’ pg.242

The Alarm

The general feeling in the research community that the policy process had surged ahead of the science often had a different effect on those scientists engaged with the global warming issue through its expanded funding. For them, the situation was more as President Bush had intimated when promising more funding: the fact that ‘politics and opinion have outpaced the science’ brought the scientists under pressure ‘to bridge the gap’pg.253

This is what became known as the ‘first detection’ program. With funding from DoE and elsewhere, the race was soon on to find ways to achieve early detection of the climate catastrophe signal. More than 10 years later, this search was still ongoing as the framework convention to mitigate the catastrophe was being put in place. It was not so much that the ‘conventional wisdom’ was proved wrong; in other words, that policy action did not in fact require empirical confirmation of the emissions effect. It was more that the policy action was operating on the presumption that this confirmation had already been achieved. Pg.254

The IPCC has warned that if CO2 emissions are not cut by 60 percent immediately, the changes in the next 60 years may be so rapid that nature will be unable to adapt and man incapable of controlling them.  The policy action to meet this threat—the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—went on to play a leading role as the headline outcome of the entire show. The convention drafted through the INC negotiation over the previous two years would not be legally binding, but it would provide for updates, called ‘protocols’, specifying mandatory emissions limits. Towards the end of the Earth Summit, 154 delegations put their names to the text. Pg.266

The Exaggeration

It may surprise readers that even within the ‘carbon dioxide community’ it was not hard to find the view that the modelling of the carbon dioxide warming was failing validation against historical data and, further upon this admission, the suggestion that their predicted warming effect is wrong. In fact, there was much scepticism of the modelling freely expressed in and around the Carbon Dioxide Program in these days before the climate treaty process began. Those who persisted with the search for validation got stuck on the problem of better identifying background natural variability. There did at least seem to be agreement that any recent warming was well within the bounds of natural variability. Pg.261

During the IPCC review process, Wigley was asked to answer the question that he had avoided in the SCOPE 29: When is detection likely to be achieved? He responded with an addition to the IPCC chapter that explains that we would have to wait until the half-degree of warming that had occurred already during the 20th century is repeated. Only then are we likely to determine just how much of it is human-induced. If the carbon dioxide driven warming is at the high end of the predictions, then this would be early in the 21th century, but if the warming was slow then we may not know until 2050 (see Figure 15.1). In other words, scientific confirmation that carbon dioxide emissions is causing global warming is not likely for decades. Pg.263

These findings of the IPCC Working Group 1 assessment presented a political problem. This was not so much that the working group was giving the wrong answers; it was that it had got stuck on the wrong questions, questions obsolete to the treaty process. The IPCC first assessment was supposed to confirm the scientific rationale for responding to the threat of climate change, the rationale previously provided by the consensus statement coming out of the 1985 Villach conference. After that, it would provide the science to support the process of implementing a coordinated response. But instead of confirming the Villach findings, it presented a gaping hole in the scientific rationale. Pg.263

Scientist-advocates would continue their activism, but political leaders who pledged their support for climate action had invested all scientific authority for this action in the IPCC assessment. What did the IPCC offer in return? It had dished up dubiously validated model projections and the prospect of empirical confirmation perhaps not for decades to come. Far from legitimising a treaty, the scientific assessment of Working Group 1 provided governments with every reason to hesitate before committing to urgent and drastic action. Pg.263

In 1995, the IPCC was stuck between its science and its politics. The only way it could save itself from the real danger of political oblivion would be if its scientific diagnosis could shift in a positive direction and bring it into alignment with policy action. Without a positive shift in the science, it is hard to see how even the most masterful spin on another assessment could serve to support momentum towards real commitment in a binding protocol. With ozone protection, the Antarctic hole had done the trick and brought on agreement in the Montreal Protocol. But there was nothing like that in sight for the climate scare. Without a shift in the science, the IPCC would only cause further embarrassment and so precipitate its further marginalisation. Pg.278

For the second assessment, the final meeting of the 70-odd Working Group 1 lead authors was scheduled for July 1995 in Asheville, North Carolina. This meeting was set to finalise the drafting of the chapters in response to review comments. It was also (and mostly) to finalise the draft Summary for Policymakers, ready for intergovernmental review. The draft Houghton had prepared for the meeting was not so sceptical on the detection science as the main text of the detection chapter drafted by Santer; indeed it contained a weak detection claim. However, it matched the introduction to the detection chapter, where Santer had included the claim that ‘the best evidence to date suggests’. . . .. . a pattern of climate response to human activities is identifiable in observed climate records.

This detection claim appeared incongruous with the scepticism throughout the main text of the chapter and was in direct contradiction with its Concluding Summary. It represented a change of view that Santer had only arrived at recently due to a breakthrough in his own ‘fingerprinting’ investigations. These findings were so new that they were not yet published or otherwise available, and, indeed, Santer’s first opportunity to present them for broader scientific scrutiny was when Houghton asked him to give a special presentation to the Asheville meeting. Pg.279

However, the results were also challenged at Asheville: Santer’s fingerprint finding and the new detection claim were vigorously opposed by several experts in the field. One of the critics, John Christy, recalls challenging Santer on his data selection.  Santer recalls disputing the quality of the datasets used by Christy.  Debates over the scientific basis of the detection claim dominated the meeting, sometimes continuing long after the formal discussions had finished and on into the evening. Pg.280

In September, a draft summary of the entire IPCC second assessment was leaked by the New York Times, the new detection claim revealed on its front page. Pg.281

The UK Independent headlined ‘Global Warming is here, experts agree’ with
the subheading:  ‘Climate of fear: Old caution dropped as UN panel of scientists concur on danger posed by greenhouse gases.‘ The article explains the breakthough: “The panel’s declaration, after three days of torturous negotiation in Madrid, marks a decisive shift in the global-warming debate. Sceptics have claimed there is no sound evidence that climate has been changed by the billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping ‘greenhouse gases’ spewed into the atmosphere each year, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels and forests. But the great majority of governments and climate scientists now think otherwise and are now prepared to say so. ‘The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate’, the IPCC’s summary of its 200-page report says. The last such in-depth IPCC report was published five years ago and was far more cautious.” Pg.283

The Legacy

Stories appearing in the major newspapers over the next few days followed a standard pattern. They told how the new findings had resolved the scientific uncertainty and that the politically motivated scepticism that this uncertainty had supported was now untenable. Not only was the recent success of the attribution finding new to this story; also new was the previous failure. Before this announcement of the detection breakthrough, attention had rarely been drawn to the lack of empirical confirmation of the model predictions, but now this earlier failure was used to give a stark backdrop to the recent success, maximising its impact and giving a scientific green light to policy action. Thus, the standard narrative became: success after the previous failure points the way to policy action. Pg.284

With so many political actors using the authority of the IPCC’s detection finding to justify advancing in that direction, it is hard to disagree with his assessment. Another authority might well have been used to carry the treaty politics forward, but the fact that this particular authority was available, and was used, meant that the IPCC was hauled back into the political picture, where it remains the principal authority on the science to this day. Pg.301

What we can see from all this activity by scientists in the close vicinity of the second and third IPCC assessments is the existence of a significant body of opinion that is difficult to square with the IPCC’s message that the detection of the catastrophe signal provides the scientific basis for policy action. Most of these scientists chose not to engage the IPCC in public controversy and so their views did not impact on the public image of the panel. But even where the scientific basis of the detection claims drew repeated and pointed criticism from those prepared to engage in the public controversy, these objections had very little impact on the IPCC’s public image. Pg.310

Today, after five full assessments and with another on the way, the IPCC remains the pre-eminent authority on the science behind every effort to head off a global climate catastrophe. Pg.310

Summary:

Today the IPCC is a testament to the triumph of politics over science, of style and rhetoric over substance and evidence. A “bait and switch” gambit was applied at the right moment to produce the message wanted by the committed. Fooled by the finesse, the media then trumpeted the “idea whose time has come,” and the rest is history, as they say.   And yet, despite IPCC claims to the contrary, the detection question is still not answered for those who demand evidence.

Thank you Bernie Lewin and GWPF for setting the record straight, and for demonstrating how this campaign is sustained by unfounded fears.

A continuing supply of hot air keeps scare balloons inflated.

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Arctic Ice Grows in Movember

Click on image to enlarge.

Arctic Ice Extents have more than doubled since the Sept. minimum and are now up to 10.4M km2.  The last 30% of maximum will take until March, principally because several basins are frozen over and cannot add coverage.  To date, Beaufort and CAA (Canadian Archipelago) are full, as are Laptev and East Siberian on the Russian side.  Kara is 88% covered and the Central Arctic will add only 2% from here.

In the last nine days of November we can see Chukchi at the top adding ice up to 50% of maximum with Beaufort  and East Siberian already frozen.  On the left, Baffin and especially Hudson bay are now growing more strongly.  On the right is Kara filling in with Barents freezing more slowly.

The graph compares extents over the first 25 days of November.

2017 has reached 10.4M km2, 2007 and 2012 nearly the same, and all are close to the 10 year average of 10.6M km2.  2016 is about 1M km2 behind.  At this point MASIE and SII are both tracking the 10-year average, with SII about 200k km2 lower.

The Table below shows where ice is located on day 329 in regions of the Arctic ocean. 10 year average comes from 2007 through 2016 inclusive.

Region 2017329 Day 329
Average
2017-Ave. 2016329 2017-2016
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 10438529 10596102 -157573 9474596 963933
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070410 1068478 1932 1070445 -35
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 516620 793296 -276676 653560 -136940
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1065427 1082091 -16665 1087137 -21711
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 897451 394 897211 634
 (5) Kara_Sea 826360 732408 93952 328154 498207
 (6) Barents_Sea 191448 209544 -18096 31173 160275
 (7) Greenland_Sea 414638 542031 -127393 419401 -4763
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 701761 637760 64001 651237 50524
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 852553 851808 745 853180 -628
 (10) Hudson_Bay 632312 422809 209504 267718 364594
 (11) Central_Arctic 3182452 3192004 -9552 3082022 100430

The deficits to average are primarily in Chukchi and Greenland Seas. Surpluses are large in Hudson and Baffin Bays, along with Kara Sea.  Compared to last year, Kara, Barents and Hudson Bay all have much greater ice extents.

Footnote

Some people unhappy with the higher amounts of ice extent shown by MASIE continue to claim that Sea Ice Index is the only dataset that can be used. This is false in fact and in logic. Why should anyone accept that the highest quality picture of ice day to day has no shelf life, that one year’s charts can not be compared with another year? Researchers do this analysis, including Walt Meier in charge of Sea Ice Index. That said, I understand his interest in directing people to use his product rather than one he does not control. As I have said before:

MASIE is rigorous, reliable, serves as calibration for satellite products, and uses modern technologies to continue the long and honorable tradition of naval ice charting.  More on this at my post Support MASIE Arctic Ice Dataset

Movember Foundation encourages growing mustaches in support of men’s health and fitness.

 

Climate Adaptation Economics

The Dutch solution to floods: live with water, don’t fight it. The same thing applies to climate change.

This post returns to the theme: Adapt, Don’t Fight Climate Change.  Matthew Kahn is Professor of Economics at USC and one of the more interesting thinkers with this POV. While IPCC scientists foresee climate change coming, Kahn and other economists foresee how societies will react to such forecasts by reallocating capital and shifting priorities.

More than once he has warned against listening to climatists when they make economic forecasts because they misunderstand how economic systems work. He is also critical of economists who forecast climate impacts while assuming societies and individuals are static victims, lacking any freedom to shift priorities, investments and locations, in other words to adapt as humans have always done.

Kahn resists any temptation to address the consensus understanding of the climate system, but rather sticks to his forte: The competition for resources under conditions of changing climate expectations. The result is much more hopeful and optimistic than the gloom and doom dished out by climatologists.

His blog is usually worth a visit to read posts like this recent one Austrian Empirical Economics? even when the title seems obscure. Excerpts below with my bolds.

Sherwin Rosen was one of the greatest University of Chicago economists. While he did not win a Nobel Prize (he died at age 62 during the year when he was the President of the American Economic Association), his student Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize and his student Kevin Murphy has won multiple major economics honors. I was not his best student but he continues to teach me new lessons about economics. I just read his 1997 paper on Austrian Economics. I now see that my Climatopolis work is a type of Austrian Economics.

My 2010 book (see link below) argues that the combination of rising urbanization, human capital and innovation together will allow us to adapt to climate change. Cities compete for the skilled and those cities that successfully adapt to the challenge of climate change will gain in human capital. Home prices (and thus income effects) will fall in areas that fail to adapt. This competition and the potential for migration creates a more overall resilient economy. While I cannot tell you today which cities will win this competition, I am very confident in this “Austrian” vision.

From Kahn’s synopsis of Climatopolis: How will climate change impact urbanites and their cities?

In my new book, Climatopolis: How Our Cities will Thrive in Our Hotter Future (Basic Books 2010), I study how urbanites around the world will cope and adapt as climate change unfolds. The UN predicts that by the year 2030 over 60% of the world’s population will live in cities. While I do not have a crystal ball for predicting exactly how hot Moscow will be in 2012 or how much rainfall Los Angeles will receive in 2030, the basic tools of microeconomics prove to be quite useful for understanding and predicting how diverse households, firms, and governments will respond to the scary and uncertain challenges posed by climate change.

Due to differences in geography, historical circumstances, and national institutions, different cities will face different challenges. At the same time, there are some basic commonalities across cities with regards to common adaptation challenges. Basic incentive theory offers many insights into how adaptation will unfold and the role that capitalism will play in facilitating adaptation.

In the case of climate change, increased risk to a specific city such as San Diego is likely to be a permanent shock. The owners of land in such cities will suffer an income loss but mobile urbanites can protect themselves by moving to another city. This optimistic logic hinges on the assumption that climate change’s impacts on different cities are not perfectly correlated.  A city such as Detroit could enjoy an amenity improvements (warmer winter) at the same time that Phoenix is suffering.

If more of the US population seeks to move to more northern cities such as Seattle then these cities will face increased demand. The recent housing supply literature has highlighted that housing supply regulation and topography determine housing supply (Saiz 2010). In those increasingly desirable cities where housing supply is inelastic, land owners will gain because of climate change induced migration. Within the EU, similar dynamics are likely to play out. Of course, this claim merits further empirical investigation.

My optimism about the role that migration can play in protecting the populace hinges on the assumption that climate change will be gradual. Cities are long-lived durable capital and it takes “time to build” the infrastructure necessary for a city ranging from housing, commercial buildings, transportation infrastructure, sewer systems, electricity generation. We can’t move whole cities over night.

The billions of people who will be affected by climate change create a large market opportunity for entrepreneurs who can serve this market. Acemoglu and Linn (2004) demonstrated that the extent of the market for new drugs triggers endogenous innovation. In the presence of fixed costs to developing new products, the scale of the market is a key determinant. Their logic holds in the case of climate change. If billions of people seek an energy efficient air conditioner to offset hot summers, then there will be sharp incentives to invest in developing such products. Some of these producers will succeed and in a globalised world market, the pay-off to the successful entrepreneur will be huge.

The anticipation that cities will be at risk from climate change encourages innovation. My UCLA colleague Thom Mayne is working with Brad Pitt in New Orleans to design floatable homes that could be sold for less than $200,000. These homes are intended to allow residents to literally float in the midst of the next Hurricane Katrina. Such innovative new products are just the tip of the iceberg. Climate change will create numerous such opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Rotterdam old port protected by dikes for over a century.

In my own past research, I have documented that richer nations suffer fewer deaths from similar natural disasters (Kahn 2005). If climate change increases the frequency and intensity of floods and hurricanes, then poor nations will suffer more deaths from these disasters. Economic development is likely to play a causal role in shielding the population from such risks by providing households and governments with the resources to build higher quality infrastructure, to enforce zoning laws and to provide better ex-post medical care.

In this sense, economic development offers the best strategy for poor cities to cope. A salient example of the role of economic development in protecting the population from public health threats exacerbated by climate change is offered by Thomas Schelling (1997). He contrasts malaria rates in Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore, the richer “geographical twin”, has a much lower malaria rate than Malaysia.

Summary

Researchers seek out “credible research” designs to estimate “b” (impact from climate change). This slope represents the current marginal effect of climate on an economic outcome. This research ignores cross-elasticities. If the climate is bad in Kansas but great in Oklahoma and expected to remain so, the negative shock to Kansas will actually create a boom in Oklahoma. This is a migration (zero sum game) effect. Yes, a migration cost must be paid but this is a 2nd order effect.

Given my read of Sherwin Rosen’s paper, I now see that Austrian Economics focuses on the evolution of the economic system. Entrepreneurs intuit that there is emerging demand for this product (think of Uber) and begin the experimentation to develop it. Some succeed and some fail. The system evolves to economize on scarce resources (signaled by prices) that may becoming increasingly scarce.

My book stresses a fundamental irony. Urban economic growth has caused climate change (think of the billions of people who are achieving the “American Dream”) but it will also help us to adapt to climate change. My optimism about urbanites’ ability to continue to thrive in the face of climate change is based on our ability to migrate and innovate. Free markets play a central role here in determining new investment patterns that will help us to adapt.

More on Climate Adaptation rather than Mitigation:

Adapt, Don’t Fight Climate Change

Adapting Works, Mitigating Fails

Crunching Climate $$$

Climate Policies Gouge the Masses

 

 

School Choice Antidote to Indoctrination

This article School Choice Can Protect Kids From Classroom Indoctrination at RealClearEducation caught my attention since climate change dogma has been embedded throughout curricula, not limited to science instruction.

Interestingly, parents are now pushing back against progressive sex education content. Coincidently in the US these days, sexual behavior has become the determining (sole?) qualification for public service. Any misstep decades ago recalled by a woman as insulting is grounds for dismissal without evidence.  Watch out WSWM (Well-off Straight White Males), you are in the cross-hairs:
Some excerpts with my bolds describing this development in the school system.

Progressive educators are launching new offensives in the nation’s culture wars.

Washington State, for example, has put a sex-education curriculum, developed in part by Planned Parenthood, on its approved list, which has caused controversy in places like Spokane. Nevada’s Washoe County School District is currently debating a sex education curriculum that would introduce topics like anal and oral sex starting in 6th grade. In San Diego, the city’s school district adopted a graphic sex-education curriculum, which elicited a 2000-signature petition by parents opposed to the new materials.

The trend underscores the need for school choice policies. If teachers and curricula developers want to impose certain values on students, parents who disagree with those values should be free to educate their children elsewhere.

In 2014, California’s Fremont school district, with the unanimous support of the district’s health teachers, adopted a college-level health education textbook for use by its ninth-grade students, which discussed sex toys and extreme sexual practices.

Even in the liberal San Francisco Bay Area where Fremont is located, parents were incensed by the decision. As Fremont parent Asfia Ahmed told the New York Daily News, “The main problem is that this book treats the kids as adults and the content is adult.” Many parents complained that the textbook failed to reflect their family and cultural values.

The district ultimately abandoned the textbook, but only after a grassroots revolt of district parents who circulated petitions and packed school board meetings.

Transgender policies are yet another example of public schools imposing certain ideologies on students, despite objections from families who affirm traditional values.

In Pennsylvania, four male Boyertown High School students sued the school district in federal court over the district’s policy that allowed biological females who identify as transgendered to undress in the boys locker room. A federal judge ruled against the male students in August, but the students are appealing that decision.

Public school administrators and state curricula developers are growing increasingly intolerant of traditional values held by many parents and their children. Discussing her state’s approved sex-education curricula, Washington state education official Laurie Dils acknowledged that the system is rigged: “People were suggesting that an abstinence-based program would be more in line with the community values. Well, an abstinence-based curriculum is not really legal anymore.” In the face of such government disregard for the public and its values, it’s important to create alternative education options for families who hold such values.

An increasing number of states are implementing programs such as education savings accounts, tuition tax credits and vouchers that allow parents to choose non-public schooling options for their children. These programs need to be expanded in the states that have them and initiated in those that don’t so that all parents and their children can access education alternatives that meet their needs and preferences.

Summary

No child should be forced to go to an indoctrination center masquerading as a public school. School choice policies could ensure that “back to school” season no longer entails an assault on the values of millions of impressionable children.

Make no mistake.  Climate change is an integral part of progressive value-laden education.  Let’s also take action to encourage teaching of science as a mode of inquiry based in rational skepticism, rather than a catechism of eternal truths like global warming doctrine.

Cold and Snowy Winter forecast Northern US

Figure i. The 2017-18 winter forecast shows below normal temperatures for the northern and eastern U.S., with above normal temperatures in the southwestern and southcentral U.S. The winter precipitation forecast shows above normal precipitation across the northern U.S. and below normal precipitation across the southern U.S.

Dr. Judah Cohen of AER, Nov. 20,2017:

In our model we have four predictors, October Eurasian snow cover extent, September sea ice concentration, El Niño/Southern Oscillation and a metric of high latitude blocking in the Eurasian sector. October Eurasian snow cover extent was above normal, Arctic sea ice extent is below normal, and there has been active blocking at high latitudes this fall. All three indicators favor a cold winter in the Eastern U.S. A La Niña is predicted for this winter, which favors a cold winter in the Northwestern U.S and a mild winter in parts of the Southern US. All four predictors together provide the forecast of cold in the Northern and Eastern US with warm in the Southwestern and Southcentral US.

Finally there seems to be the thinking (among many but certainly not all) including from the National Weather Service that La Niña favors a warm winter in the Eastern US. I am skeptical of this reasoning. I note that since 1990 there have been four warm La Niña winters and five cold Niña winters in the Eastern US. If you are familiar with my research you might understand why I am not considering winters before 1990 but I doubt that the statistics change much if previous winters are included. Therefore I remain skeptical that La Niña is a reason to confidently predict a mild winter in the Eastern US especially if La Niña remains weak.

Full Report is at Arctic Oscillation and Polar Vortex Analysis and Forecasts

Dr. Cohen’s forecasting paradigm is explained at Snowing and Freezing in the Arctic

 

Suicidal Climatist Narrative

Micheal Walsh published The Suicidal Narrative of the Modern Environmental Left, November 16, 2017.

Walsh presents two recent experiences showing how environmental concerns are embedded everywhere including plane trips and merchandising, then gets into the implications. His text with my bolds and images.

It’s all just advertising, of course, and thus harmless enough. It also goes to reinforcing the narrative: that selfish man is the cause of species endangerment, that primitive societies are superior to developed ones (but then who would buy the locally sourced cocoa beans and moringa leaves?), and that traditional medicine—which is to say, no medicine at all—is somehow superior to what those pill-pushing quacks foist on you before they climb in their BMWs and head out to the links for a round or two of golf. Were that true, the ancient Greeks and Romans might all have lived into their 80s, instead of dying in their 20s and 30s, as unsustainable folks tended to do back then.

Which brings us, ineluctably, to “climate change” and this piece in the Times: “The More Education Republicans Have, the Less They Tend to Believe in Climate Change.” Yes, you read that right:

“Climate change divides Americans, but in an unlikely way: The more education that Democrats and Republicans have, the more their beliefs in climate change diverge.  About one in four Republicans with only a high school education said they worried about climate change a great deal. But among college-educated Republicans, that figure decreases, sharply, to 8 percent.”

The author’s underlying assumption is that the more you know about “man-made climate change,” the more eager you should be to chow down on Endangered Species Chocolate or shovel some women’s-collective moringa into your smoothie before you leave your ant-farm apartment to hop on the mass-transit system on your way to a day job that somehow involves you, personally, saving the planet—not so much by what you do, but by what you don’t do.

But that’s not a future we on the Right want to embrace. I take this poll as a heartening sign that the more you educate yourself about the transparent fraud of “man-made climate change,” the less you’re likely to believe in their genteel fictions of peaceful, happy villages in Liberia or their apocalyptic notions of the End of the World as We Know It, just about any day now. As we’ve learned time and again, mountebanks and charlatans are always promising that the end of days is just around the corner, if only we will repent; find Jesus; join their cult; give away all our possessions; or at least sign up for a lifetime supply of snake oil, delivered by Amazon drones right to our doorsteps.

We’ve seen this movie before, of course. In April, Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute detailed 18 different instances when “[t]he prophets of doom were not simply wrong, but spectacularly wrong.”

Never mind that the Earth’s climate is always changing; we wouldn’t be here at all if it hadn’t. Never mind that there’s little humans can do to interfere with planetary processes, most of which are beyond our ken. Never mind that we flatter ourselves if we think so. Never mind that to characterize carbon dioxide—which we exhale so that the Amazon rain forest and those West African moringa plants might inhale—as a dangerous “greenhouse gas” is profoundly anti-human.

It’s what you’d expect from a political philosophy that denies God and sees itself as its own worst enemy: a narrative that must end in suicide, and all in the name of the greater good. All we ask our friends on the Left is not to take us with you.

Climate lemmings on the move.

Arctic Ice Movember Update

Click on image to enlarge

Arctic Ice Extents have roughly doubled since the Sept. minimum and are now up to 10M km2.  The last 1/3 of maximum will take until March, principally because several basins are frozen over and cannot add coverage.  To date, Beaufort and CAA (Canadian Archipelago) are full, as are Laptev and East Siberian on the Russian side.  Kara is 3/4 covered and the Central Arctic wil add only 3% from here.

During the first half of November we can see at the bottom Beaufort  and East Siberian filling in, leaving only Chukchi with open water.  On the right, Both Baffin and Hudson bays are now growing more strongly.   At the top Kara ice extent has reached 75% of its March maximum.

The graph compares extents over the first 17 days of November.
NHday321

2017 has reached 9.9M km2, 2007 nearly the same, and both are close to the 10 year average of 10M km2.  2012 lags 300k km2 lower than 2017, while 2016 is 877k km2 behind.  At this point MASIE and SII are tracking the 10-year average, with SII about 200k km2 lower.

The Table below shows where ice is located on day 321 in regions of the Arctic ocean. 10 year average comes from 2007 through 2016 inclusive.

Region 2017321 Day 321
Average
2017-Ave. 2016304 2017-2016
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 9904268 10013895 -109626 9026577 877691
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1052982 1067181 -14199 1056304 -3322
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 449182 702958 -253776 616755 -167573
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1076201 1077799 -1598 1087137 -10936
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 897517 328 896732 1113
 (5) Kara_Sea 696550 649727 46822 254492 442058
 (6) Barents_Sea 68869 174077 -105208 25907 42962
 (7) Greenland_Sea 394494 499069 -104575 390593 3901
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 761453 552922 208531 524708 236745
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 852865 851728 1137 853180 -315
 (10) Hudson_Bay 460631 273706 186925 185679 274952
 (11) Central_Arctic 3158068 3183076 -25008 3077808 80260

The deficits to average are primarily in Chukchi, also Barents and Greenland Seas. Surpluses are large in Hudson and Baffin Bays, along with Kara Sea.

Footnote

Some people unhappy with the higher amounts of ice extent shown by MASIE continue to claim that Sea Ice Index is the only dataset that can be used. This is false in fact and in logic. Why should anyone accept that the highest quality picture of ice day to day has no shelf life, that one year’s charts can not be compared with another year? Researchers do this analysis, including Walt Meier in charge of Sea Ice Index. That said, I understand his interest in directing people to use his product rather than one he does not control. As I have said before:

MASIE is rigorous, reliable, serves as calibration for satellite products, and uses modern technologies to continue the long and honorable tradition of naval ice charting.  More on this at my post Support MASIE Arctic Ice Dataset

Movember Foundation encourages growing mustaches in support of men’s health and fitness.

 

CO2 Fluxes, Sources and Sinks

A recent post Obsessed with Human CO2 pointed out how small is the amount of CO2 emissions from fossil fuels compared to natural sources. Human emissions fall within the error ranges around the estimates from land, oceans and biosphere. This post looks deeper into the issue and our current state of knowledge about attributing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

Note the size of the human emissions next to the red arrow. (Units are in GT)

Alarming Claims by IPCC Followers

From Chapter 6 Working Group 1 AR5 with my bolds.

With a very high level of confidence, the increase in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning and those arising from land use change are the dominant cause of the observed increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. About half of the emissions remained in the atmosphere (240 ± 10 PgC) since 1750. The rest was removed from the atmosphere by sinks and stored in the natural carbon cycle reservoirs. The ocean reservoir stored 155 ± 30 PgC. Vegetation biomass and soils not affected by land use change stored 160 ± 90 PgC. {6.1, 6.3, 6.3.2.3, Table 6.1, Figure 6.8}

Since the beginning of the Industrial Era (1750), the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 40%, from 278 ± 5 ppm to 390.5 ± 0.1 ppm in 2011 (Figure 6.11; updated from Ballantyne et al. (2012), corresponding to an increase in CO2 of 240 ± 10 PgC in the atmosphere. Atmospheric CO2 grew at a rate of 3.4 ± 0.2 PgC yr–1 in the 1980s, 3.1 ± 0.2 PgC yr–1 in the 1990s and 4.0 ± 0.2 PgC yr–1 in the 2000s (Conway and Tans, 2011) (Table 6.1).

Coupled carbon-cycle climate models indicate that less carbon is taken up by the ocean and land as the climate warms constituting a positive climate feedback. Many different factors contribute to this effect: warmer seawater, for instance, has a lower CO2 solubility, so altered chemical carbon reactions result in less oceanic uptake of excess atmospheric CO2. On land, higher temperatures foster longer seasonal growth periods in temperate and higher latitudes, but also faster respiration of soil carbon.

The removal of human-emitted CO2 from the atmosphere by natural processes will take a few hundred thousand years (high confidence). Depending on the RCP scenario considered, about 15 to 40% of emitted CO2 will remain in the atmosphere longer than 1,000 years. This very long time required by sinks to remove anthropogenic CO2 makes climate change caused by elevated CO2 irreversible on human time scale. {Box 6.1}

Alarmist Summary: All of the rise in atmospheric CO2 is caused by humans, is increasing and will last for 1000 years.

Sobering Facts from Scientific Observations

Fact 1. The Carbon Cycle System is estimated with uncertainties greater than human emissions.

Carbon fluxes describe the rate of exchange of carbon between the various carbon sinks / reservoirs.

There are four main carbon sinks – lithosphere (earth crust), hydrosphere (oceans), atmosphere (air), biosphere (organisms).

The rate at which carbon is exchanged between these reservoirs depends on the conversion processes involved:

Photosynthesis – removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and fixes it in producers as organic compounds
Respiration – releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when organic compounds are digested in living organisms
Decomposition – releases carbon products into the air or sediment when organic matter is recycled after death of an organism
Gaseous dissolution – the exchange of carbon gases between the ocean and atmosphere
Lithification – the compaction of carbon-containing sediments into fossils and rocks within the Earth’s crust (e.g. limestone)
Combustion – releases carbon gases when organic hydrocarbons (coal, oil and gas) are burned as a fuel source

It is not possible to directly measure the size of the carbon sinks or the fluxes between them – instead estimates are made.

Global carbon fluxes are very large and are therefore measured in gigatonnes (1 gigatonne of carbon = 1 billion metric tonnes).

Because carbon fluxes are large and based on measurements from many different sources, estimates have large uncertainties.

A good summary description of carbon fluxes and reservoirs is at University of New Hampshire (here). This figure from IPCC AR4 shows how estimates have been developed. Explanation below with my bolds.

IPCC AR4WG1 Figure 7.3. The global carbon cycle for the 1990s, showing the main annual fluxes in GtC yr–1: pre-industrial ‘natural’ fluxes in black and ‘anthropogenic’ fluxes in red (modified from Sarmiento and Gruber, 2006, with changes in pool sizes from Sabine et al., 2004). The net terrestrial loss of –39 GtC is inferred from cumulative fossil fuel emissions minus atmospheric increase minus ocean storage. The loss of –140 GtC from the ‘vegetation, soil and detritus’ compartment represents the cumulative emissions from land use change (Houghton, 2003), and requires a terrestrial biosphere sink of 101 GtC (in Sabine et al., given only as ranges of –140 to –80 GtC and 61 to 141 GtC, respectively; other uncertainties given in their Table 1). Net anthropogenic exchanges with the atmosphere are from Column 5 ‘AR4’ in Table 7.1. Gross fluxes generally have uncertainties of more than ±20% but fractional amounts have been retained to achieve overall balance when including estimates in fractions of GtC yr–1 for riverine transport, weathering, deep ocean burial, etc. ‘GPP’ is annual gross (terrestrial) primary production. Atmospheric carbon content and all cumulative fluxes since 1750 are as of end 1994.

The diagram shows that anthropogenic emissions of CO2 from burning of fossil fuels cannot be the reason for the increase in atmospheric CO2.

Fact 2. Land-based Carbon Pools Behave Diversely, Defying Global Averaging.

It should be clear from the observational data that Earth’s biosphere is exerting a powerful brake on the rate of rise of the air’s CO2 content, such that the large increases in anthropogenic CO2 emissions of the past two decades have not resulted in any increase in the rate of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere. The IPCC has yet to acknowledge the existence and sign of this negative feedback, choosing to rely on projections from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) models. Those models “consistently estimate a positive carbon cycle feedback, i.e. reduced natural sinks or increased natural CO2 sources in response to future climate change.” The models further find “in particular, carbon sinks in tropical land ecosystems are vulnerable to climate change” (p. 21 of the Technical Summary, Second Order Draft of AR5, dated October 5, 2012).

Fluxnet Observation Sites around the world.

Soils are the largest carbon reservoir of the terrestrial carbon cycle. Worldwide they contain three or four times more organic carbon (1500 Gt to 1 m depth, 2500 Gt to 2 m) than vegetation (610 Gt) and twice or three times as much carbon as the atmosphere (750 Gt, see Figure 1) [71]. Carbon storage in soils is the balance between the input of dead plant material (leaf, root litter, and decaying wood) and losses from decomposition and mineralization of organic matter (‘heterotrophic respiration’). Under aerobic conditions, most of the carbon entering the soil returns to the atmosphere by autotrophic root respiration and heterotrophic respiration (together called ‘soil respiration’ or ‘soil CO2 efflux’). The mineralization rate is a function of temperature and moisture levels and chemical environment with factors such as pH, Eh, nitrogen level and the cation exchange capacity of the minerals in the soil affecting the mineralization rate of soil organic carbon (SOC) [72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78]. Under anaerobic conditions, resulting from constantly high water levels, part of the carbon entering the soil is not fully mineralized and accumulates as peat.

Today, eddy covariance measurements of carbon dioxide and water vapor exchange are being made routinely on all continents.  The flux measurement sites are linked across a confederation of regional networks in North, Central and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, in a global network, called FLUXNET.  This global network includes more than eight hundred active and historic flux measurement sites, dispersed across most of the world’s climate space and representative biomes (Figure 1, 2). Fluxnet portal is here Excerpts with my bolds.

The flux network has also been pivotal in refining the functional response of net and gross carbon dioxide exchange with climatic drivers. One notable observation relates to the sensitivity of ecosystem respiration to temperature. That is, respiration is constant across climate and ecological space and increases by a factor of 1.4 with a ten degree increase in temperature. Another emergent property is the plasticity of the timing of the initiation of the growing season, and how it is triggered by when soil temperature matches mean annual air temperature.

Lessons learned from FLUXNET

One of the first and overarching things we have learned is “what is the net and gross annual carbon fluxes, at sites across the globe?” A collation of data has enabled the community to produce a probability distribution of net carbon exchange that is occurring across the network. We see that the central tendency of net carbon exchange is: −157±285 g C m−2 y−1 (Figure 1), representing a sink of carbon to the terrestrial biosphere from the atmosphere. We are also able to document the range of carbon uptake by terrestrial ecosystems. We find that the most negative tail of the histogram is about -1000 g C m−2 y−1. The most positive tail of the histogram, representing sites acting as carbon sources can be as large as +1000 g C m−2 y−1. Of course these values do not consider net biome exchange that would release pulses of carbon from fires or anthropogenic combustion of fossil fuels.

Fact 3. Fluxes are Dynamic and Difficult to Estimate Reliably.

This summary comes from Helge Hellevanga and Per Aagaard in Making Constraints on natural global atmospheric CO2 fluxes from 1860 to 2010 using a simplified explicit forward model (2015) Excerpt with my bolds.

The relative contribution of the emissions and the efficiency of the biosphere and the ocean to mitigate the increase in atmospheric CO2-concentrations, remain highly uncertain. This is demonstrated in chapter six of the latest IPCC report5, where we can read that the net land-atmosphere carbon flux in the 1980s was estimated to −0.1 ± 0.8 Gt C/a (negative numbers denote net uptake). These numbers were partly based on estimates of net CO2 releases caused by land use changes (+1.4 ± 0.8 Gt C/a), and a residual terrestrial sink estimated to −1.5 ± 1.1 Gt C/a.

There are globally much data supporting increased uptake of carbon by the ocean mixed layer (shallow surface water), but the global gross ocean-atmosphere fluxes, partly influenced by annual and inter-annual processes, such as El Niño/La Niña events, are nevertheless not easy to estimate. Obtaining global values of the carbon fluxes are further complicated by large local and regional variations in carbon releases and uptake by the terrestrial biosphere.

Because of the close coupling between oxygen and carbon fluxes during photosynthesis and respiration, the tracer APO (Atmospheric Potential Oxygen), in combination with atmospheric CO2 data, is used to obtain the net amount of CO2 being taken up by the oceanic sink. The net amount of carbon being taken up by the terrestrial biosphere can then be found from the residual (difference between carbon accumulated in the atmosphere and amount taken up by the global oceans).

APO values are however not straightforward to estimate, and a recent study suggests that the strength of the terrestrial sink may be significantly lower than found earlier. Moreover, current measurements of the atmospheric O2/N2 ratio and CO2 concentrations may suggest that the amount of oxygen is dropping at a faster rate than calculated from the APO tracer values.

Fact 4. The Carbon Cycle is driven by Temperature more than Human Emissions.

Global warming, human-induced carbon emissions,and their uncertainties
FANG JingYun, ZHU JiangLing, WANG ShaoPeng, YUE Chao & SHEN HaiHua. Excerpts with my bolds.

However, the current global carbon balance is disturbed by two factors: one is anthropogenic carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion and land use change, which are 9–10 Pg C per year [74], i.e. equal to 1/22–1/26 of the natural emissions from terrestrial and oceanic biospheres; and the other is that increasing temperature can result in a positive feedback of carbon emissions caused from a greater soil heterotrophic respiration and from oceanic ecosystems [77, 78]. This increased emission will be reserved in atmosphere and contribute to the increase of atmospheric CO2 concentration if it cannot be absorbed by ecosystems. In this sense, in addition to the anthropogenic carbon emissions, the positive feedback of terrestrial and marine ecosystems to global warming may be another important source of the increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration. The estimation of global carbon budget indicates that a total of the natural and anthropogenic emissions are 250 Pg C per year, whereas the total of absorption by the natural ecosystems and the atmosphere is estimated as 230 Pg C per year (Table 2). This generates a gap of 20 Pg C between the global emissions and absorptions, which is twice the current total anthropogenic emissions (9–10 Pg C/yr). Therefore, there is a great uncertainty in the sources of the increased atmospheric CO2, and we may not reach to the conclusion that elevating atmospheric CO2 concentration is mainly from human activities.

Fact 5. CO2 Residence Times are Far Shorter than IPCC Imagines.

Tom Segalstad describes how alarmist dogma evolved in order to explain away contradictory facts. His paper is Carbon cycle modelling and the residence time of natural and anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 : on the construction of the “Greenhouse Effect Global Warming” dogma. Excerpts with my bolds.

Both radioactive and stable carbon isotopes show that the real atmospheric CO2 residence time (lifetime) is only about 5 years, and that the amount of fossil-fuel CO 2 in the atmosphere is maximum 4%. Any CO level rise beyond this can only come from a much larger, but natural, carbon reservoir with much higher 13-C/12-C isotope ratio than that of the fossil fuel pool, namely from the ocean, and/or the lithosphere, and/or the Earth’s interior.

The apparent annual atmospheric CO level increase, postulated to be anthropogenic, would constitute only some 0.2% of the total annual amount of CO exchanged naturally between the atmosphere and the ocean plus other natural sources and sinks. It is more probable that such a small ripple in the annual natural flow of CO would be caused by natural fluctuations of geophysical processes.

13-C/12-C isotope mass balance calculations show that IPCC’s atmospheric CO2 residence time of 50-200 years make the atmosphere too light (50% of its current CO2 mass) to fit its measured 13-C/12-C isotope ratio. This proves why IPCC’s wrong model creates its artificial 50% “missing sink”. IPCC’s 50% inexplicable “missing sink” of about 3 giga-tonnes carbon annually should have led all governments to reject IPCC’s model.

Tom V. Segalstad has conducted university research, publishing, and teaching in geochemistry, mineralogy, petrology, volcanology, structural geology, ore geology, and geophysics at the University of Oslo, Norway, and the Pennsylvania State University, USA.  Some images here are from Tom Segalstad’s presentation Carbon isotope mass balance modelling of atmospheric vs. oceanic CO2

Segalstad was a reviewer for IPCC assessment reports in the early days before observational facts were set aside in favor of the agenda and climate models tuned to suit the narrative. His whimsical comment on the experience:

Footnote:

For more on CO2 interchange between ocean and air, see Fear Not CO2: The Real Chemistry

For more on atmospheric CO2 processes, see Fearless Physics from Dr. Salby

For more on temperature impacting terrestrial CO2 sources, see Not Worried About CO2

 

October SSTs Warm Slightly

October Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) are now available, and we see a slight upward response after a steep drop in September.  The rise was led by anomaly increases of about 0.06 in both the Tropics and SH, compared to drops of about 0.2 the previous month. NH was virtually the same as September. Global average anomaly changed as much as the Tropics and SH, but remains lower than the three previous Octobers.

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 October 2017.

HadSST102017

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.

Click on image to enlarge.

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.  IMO the 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.

Summary

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

USS Pearl Harbor deploys Global Drifter Buoys in Pacific Ocean

 

COP23 Warning to Humanity

15000 scientists issue warning to humanity: “Time is running out!.”

Remember:  Fighting Global Warming is Absurd, Costly and Pointless.

  • Absurd because of no reliable evidence that anything unusual is happening in our climate.
  • Costly because trillions of dollars are wasted on immature, inefficient technologies that serve only to make cheap, reliable energy expensive and intermittent.
  • Pointless because we do not control the weather anyway.

Explained in COP23 Briefing for Realists

Update:  Media reporting frustration at COP23 over lack of progress on funding for developing countries.  Thus, the warning above indicates the ritual has progressed to stage 3, and now with early indications for stage 5.

Climate Talks Ritual