Models Wrong About the Past Produce Unbelievable Futures

Models vs. Observations. Christy and McKitrick (2018) Figure 3

The title of this post is the theme driven home by Patrick J. Michaels in his critique of the most recent US National Climate Assessment (NA4). The failure of General Circulation Models (GCMs) is the focal point of his presentation February 14, 2018. Comments on the Fourth National Climate Assessment. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

NA4 uses a flawed ensemble of models that dramatically overforecast warming of the lower troposphere, with even larger errors in the upper tropical troposphere. The model ensemble also could not accommodate the “pause” or “slowdown” in warming between the two large El Niños of 1997-8 and 2015-6. The distribution of warming rates within the CMIP5 ensemble is not a true indication of a statistical range of prospective warming, as it is a collection of systematic errors. Despite a glib statement about this Assessment fulfilling the terms of the federal Data Quality Act, that is fatuous. The use of systematically failing models does not fulfill the “maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information” provision of the Act.

USGCRP should produce a reset Assessment, relying on a model or models that work in four dimensions for future guidance and ignoring the ones that don’t.

Why wasn’t this done to begin with? The model INM-CM4 is spot on, both at the surface and in the vertical, but using it would have largely meant the end of warming as a significant issue. Under a realistic emission scenario (which USGCRP also did not use), INM-CM4 strongly supports the “lukewarm” synthesis of global warming. Given the culture of alarmism that has infected the global change community since before the first (2000) Assessment, using this model would have been a complete turnaround with serious implications.

The new Assessment should employ best scientific practice, and one that weather forecasters use every day. In the climate sphere, billions of dollars are at stake, and reliable forecasts are also critical.

The theme is now picked up in the latest NIPCC report on Fossil Fuels. Chapter 2 is the Climate Science background and the statements below in italics with my bolds come from there.

Chapter 2 Climate Science Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels

Of the 102 model runs considered by Christy and McKitrick, only one comes close to accurately hindcasting temperatures since 1979: the INM-CM4 model produced by the Institute for Numerical Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Volodin and Gritsun, 2018). That model projects only 1.4°C warming by the end of the century, similar to the forecast made by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC, 2013) and many scientists, a warming only one-third as much as the IPCC forecasts. Commenting on the success of the INM-CM model compared to the others (as shown in an earlier version of the Christy graphic), Clutz (2015) writes,

(1) INM-CM4 has the lowest CO2 forcing response at 4.1K for 4xCO2. That is 37% lower than multi-model mean.

(2) INM-CM4 has by far the highest climate system inertia: Deep ocean heat capacity in INM-CM4 is 317 W yr m-2 K -1 , 200% of the mean (which excluded INM-CM4 because it was such an outlier).

(3)INM-CM4 exactly matches observed atmospheric H2O content in lower troposphere (215 hPa), and is biased low above that. Most others are biased high.

So the model that most closely reproduces the temperature history has high inertia from ocean heat capacities, low forcing from CO2 and less water for feedback. Why aren’t the other models built like this one?

The outputs of GCMs are only as reliable as the data and theories “fed” into them, which scientists widely recognize as being seriously deficient (Bray and von Storch, 2016; Strengers, et al., 2015). The utility and skillfulness of computer models are dependent on how well the processes they model are understood, how faithfully those processes are simulated in the computer code, and whether the results can be repeatedly tested so the models can be refined (Loehle, 2018). To date, GCMs have failed to deliver on each of these counts.

The reference above is to a study published in July 2018 by John Christy and Ross McKitrick  A Test of the Tropical 200‐ to 300‐hPa Warming Rate in Climate Models. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Abstract

Overall climate sensitivity to CO2 doubling in a general circulation model results from a complex system of parameterizations in combination with the underlying model structure. We refer to this as the model’s major hypothesis, and we assume it to be testable. We explain four criteria that a valid test should meet: measurability, specificity, independence, and uniqueness. We argue that temperature change in the tropical 200‐ to 300‐hPa layer meets these criteria. Comparing modeled to observed trends over the past 60 years using a persistence‐robust variance estimator shows that all models warm more rapidly than observations and in the majority of individual cases the discrepancy is statistically significant. We argue that this provides informative evidence against the major hypothesis in most current climate models.

Discussion

All series‐specific trends and confidence intervals are reported in the supporting information Table S1. The mean restricted trend (without a break term) is 0.325 ± 0.132°C per decade in the models and 0.173 ± 0.056°C per decade in the observations. With a break term included they are 0.389 ± 0.173°C per decade (models) and 0.142 ± 0.115°C per decade (observed). Figure 4 shows the individual trend magnitudes. The red circles and confidence interval whiskers are from models, and the blue are observed.  Trend magnitudes and 95% confidence intervals. Number in upper left corner indicates number of model trends (out of 102) that exceed observed average trend.

If models accurately represented the magnitude of 200‐ to 300‐hPa warming with only nonsystematic errors contributing noise, these distributions would be centered on zero. Clearly, they are centered above zero, in fact in both the restricted and general cases, the entire distribution is above zero.

Table S2 presents individual run test results. In the restricted case, 62 of the 102 divergence terms are significant, while in the general case, 87 of 102 are. The model‐observational discrepancy is not simple uncertainty or random noise but represents a structural bias shared across models.

Worst and Best Models (Table S2) No Break With Break
bcc‐csm1‐1 220.1 593.3
CanESM2 410.3 534.4
CCSM4 258.1 430.6
EC‐EARTH 296.0 222.5
FIO‐ESM 129.2 310.9
GISS‐E2‐H 157.3 444.8
GISS‐E2‐H‐CC 139.0 468.5
GISS‐E2‐R 382.4 237.7
HadGEM2‐ES 50.0 575.4
INMCM4 0.0 2.9

Note. First column: test score for restricted case (no break). Score is significant at 5% if it exceeds 41.53. Second column: test score for unrestricted case (with break at 1979). Score is significant at 5% if it exceeds 50.48.

Conclusion

Comparing observed trends to those predicted by models over the past 60 years reveals a clear and significant tendency on the part of models to overstate warming. All 102 CMIP5 model runs warm faster than observations, in most individual cases the discrepancy is significant, and on average the discrepancy is significant. The test of trend equivalence rejects whether or not we include a break at 1979 for the PCS, though the rejections are stronger when we control for its influence. Measures of series divergence are centered at a positive mean and the entire distribution is above zero. While the observed analogue exhibits a warming trend over the test interval it is significantly smaller than that shown in models, and the difference is large enough to reject the null hypothesis that models represent it correctly, within the bounds of random uncertainty.

Footnote:

The reference to Clutz (2015) is the post Temperatures According to Climate Models

See also: 2018 Update: Best Climate Model INMCM5

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Required Reading: NIPCC 2019 Summary on Fossil Fuels

Those who seek the truth about global warming/climate change should welcome this latest publication from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). Excerpts from the Coauthors’ introduction in italics with my bolds. H/T Lubos Motl

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels assesses the costs and benefits of the use of fossil fuels (principally coal, oil, and natural gas) by reviewing scientific and economic literature on organic chemistry, climate science, public health, economic history, human security, and theoretical studies based on integrated assessment models (IAMs). It is the fifth volume in the Climate Change Reconsidered series and, like the preceding volumes, it focuses on research overlooked or ignored by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

NIPCC was created by Dr. S. Fred Singer in 2003 to provide an independent peer review of the reports of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Unlike the IPCC and as its name suggests, NIPCC is a private association of scientists and other experts and nonprofit organizations. It is not a government entity and is not beholden to any political or corporate benefactors. This and previous volumes in the CCR series, along with other publications and information about NIPCC, are available for free on NIPCC’s website .

The NIPCC authors do something their IPCC counterparts never did: conduct an evenhanded cost-benefit analysis of the use of fossil fuels. Despite calling for the end of reliance on fossil fuels by 2100, the IPCC never produced an accounting of the opportunity cost of restricting or banning their use. That cost, a literature review shows, would be enormous.

We thank the more-than-100 scientists, scholars, and experts who participated over the course of four years in writing, reviewing, editing, and proofreading this volume. This was a huge undertaking that involved thousands of hours of effort, the vast majority of it unpaid. The result exceeded our hopes, and we trust it meets your expectations.

The NIPCC authors cite thousands of books, scholarly articles, and reports that contradict the IPCC’s alarmist narrative. We once again tried to remain true to the facts when representing the findings of others, often by quoting directly and at some length from original sources and describing the methodology used and qualifications that accompanied the stated conclusions. The result may seem tedious at times, but we believe this was necessary and appropriate for a reference work challenging many popular beliefs.

The NIPCC authors conclude, “The global war on energy freedom, which commenced in earnest in the 1980s and reached a fever pitch in the second decade of the twenty-first century, was never founded on sound science or economics. The world’s policymakers ought to acknowledge this truth and end that war.”

Footnote:

Lubos Motl commented on this publication following his translating of the SPM into Czech.  Some excerpts in italics.

The NIPCC reports are actually amazing

Previous NIPCC volumes have also been extensive and they dedicated more space to the physical and biological scientific foundations. The newest 2019 report dedicated to the fossil fuels is unavoidably more practical and economics-oriented.

But it rationally discusses all the extra layers of the causal chains of the climate warning. Even if one assumes that there will be a warming, does it hurt the environment? The economy? Don’t the benefits exceed the costs? Don’t the costs of the mitigation policies exceed their benefits? As you may guess, the correct answers to all these questions – advocated in the NIPCC report – are almost universally the “skeptical ones”.

It’s so unfortunate that despite the higher quality of the NIPCC report (or at least comparable quality, if one were really generous to the IPCC), the left-wing media establishment – in some loose alliance with the governments – was capable of promoting the IPCC reports as if they were the Holy Scriptures while the NIPCC reports remained almost completely hidden from the world public. 

Are you wealthy enough to believe in Climate Change?

Some insights from an article by Adam Brickley in the Daily Signal Australia’s Election Shock Shows the Perils of Moralizing Climate Change. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

One post-mortem on the election from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation pointed out the wealth issue thusly:

In [Warringah’s] case and in other inner-city seats, support for climate action looks broadly consistent with a “post-materialist” sensibility. … Here the emphasis on quality of life over immediate economic and physical needs encourages a focus on issues like climate change. But this is a sensibility that speaks to those in higher socio-economic brackets, and principally with higher levels of education.

Put more bluntly, climate-based politics appeal primarily to those insulated from the potential economic consequences of climate policies by their high incomes, and shielded from even seeing those effects by their urbanized lifestyles.

Those not materially blessed enough to live as “post-materialists,” however, still make their decisions based on what it takes to put food on the table, pay the rent, and provide for their families.

This sort of growing rich-poor political divide is not unique to Australia. In Israel, working-class Israelis have solidified behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while wealthy areas swing strongly against him.

In the United States, Donald Trump won states like Michigan and Wisconsin while some of Brooklyn’s trendiest neighborhoods elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the House.

It’s not just that the working class is drifting right. The upper classes, especially in gentrifying inner cities, are gravitating hard to a left that is increasingly focused on perceived moral issues and less interested in bread-and-butter economics.

However, there is one key difference that makes Australia unique. Perhaps more than any other nation, Australia has seen climate change loom over its politics for over a decade.

Former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made it the signature issue of his premiership from 2007-2010, with at least one costly program literally going up in flames. Rudd’s plan to re-insulate Australian homes for energy efficiency failed to account for the flammability of the new insulation and led to the deaths of four workers.

In 2009, Rudd’s cap-and-trade proposal caused a massive split in the Liberal Party when then-party leader Malcolm Turnbull tried to force the party to support Rudd on the issue—leading the party’s legislators to remove him and replace him with anti-cap-and-trade leader Tony Abbott.

Australia has been through “climate change elections” before, and experimented with environmental policy as much as any nation on Earth. The results illustrate what happens when politics becomes centered on creating a “better world” by making life harder in the real world.

Such ideas may gain traction among those who know they can afford to weather the storm, and the rich can condemn the poor for their “materialism” in rejecting the new order, but working people (rightly) prioritize feeding their children as a higher moral goal.

Given that Australia’s ever-shifting politics has sometimes drawn comparisons to “Game of Thrones,” perhaps it’s worth noting that Australian Labor and Daenerys Targaryen learned the same lesson in their big finales this weekend: No matter how lofty your aims, there’s little morality in burning the world down in the name of building a better one.

Don’t Miss the Memo on Climate Change


Marlo Lewis, Jr. provides a web memo entitled A Policy Maker’s Guide to Climate Change Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Climate change is not a “planetary emergency.”

2. The climate catastrophe narrative is concocted out of overheated climate models, inflated emission scenarios, political hype, and unmerited pessimism about human adaptive capabilities.

3. All metrics of human well-being show the state of the world is improving; sustaining such progress requires greater access to affordable energy.

4. The very real costs of climate “solutions” hugely exceed their hypothetical benefits.

5. Citizens have more to fear from the climate policy agenda than from climate change itself.

This memo provides supporting evidence for those conclusions.For example,

Models vs. Data. Much of what passes for climate science today is model-based speculation about future climate impacts. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) runs an ensemble of 32 model groups called CMIP5.[1] The models on average projected twice as much warming over the past 40 years as actually occurred in the lower global atmosphere.[2]

A reasonable explanation for the models’ lack of realism is that they overestimate climate sensitivity—the long-term change in average global temperature after a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. The average climate sensitivity estimated in two dozen recent studies is 40 percent lower than the average estimated by the U.N. models.[3]

Only one model in the CMIP ensemble has accurately tracked temperature trends in the bulk atmosphere over the past 40 years—the Russian INM-CM4. When INM-CM4 is run with a realistic emission scenario in which natural gas increasingly displaces coal as an electricity fuel, the world achieves the Paris climate treaty’s 1.5°C warming limit with no new climate policies.[7]

Improving State of the World. If climate change were a global ecological crisis, we would expect to find evidence of declining human health and well-being. Instead, we find dramatic improvement in life expectancy, per capita income, food security, and various health related metrics.[8]

Conclusion. Perceptions of a “planetary emergency” arise from overheated climate models, inflated emission scenarios, disregard of basic data on human health and well-being, and relentless exaggeration by political interests claiming to speak for “the science.” The very real costs of coercive de-carbonization outweigh the hypothetical benefits. The more “ambitious” the climate policy, the more likely it is to damage economic growth, consumer welfare, and our institutions of self-government.[42]

Link to WebMemo in pdf format A Policy Maker’s Guide to Climate Change

 

Fracking Update: Texas Leads US in Pure Energy, Pure Water

John Tintera writes at Texas Alliance of Energy Producers Congress, Look at Texas for the Facts on Fracking.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

On Thursday, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a hearing to investigate whether oil and gas drilling causes water pollution. It’s a very important topic. If drilling pollutes our drinking water, new restrictions would obviously be needed to safeguard public health.

Fortunately, every available piece of scientific evidence shows that drilling — particularly the technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — is safe. As a geologist who has spent decades regulating the energy industry, I’ve seen firsthand the extensive precautions companies take to avoid any accidents and protect our water sources. Current safety regulations are already working. There’s no need to impede energy production by binding companies with additional red tape from the federal government.

Just look at my home state of Texas. It’s by far America’s biggest energy producer, and home to the 75,000-square-mile Permian Basin, the world’s most productive oil field. The Permian and other Texas oil fields use tons of water responsibly whether for hydraulic fracturing, processing, or refining.

How responsible are Texas drillers when it comes to water management? Well, there hasn’t been a single documented case of groundwater contamination associated with fracking.

This drilling technique has led to an unprecedented oil and gas revolution. In just the first quarter of 2019, Texas, for the first time ever, produced more than 5 million barrels of crude oil every day. The state accounts for an astounding 40 percent of all crude production in the United States.

The cooperation between industry and Texas state regulators is chiefly responsible for this spotless safety record.

Texas state law is as crystal clear as its water. Texas outlaws any pollution of any and all bodies of water — whether above or below ground — period. The law defines pollution as any change at all to water that would make it harm humans, animals, plants, property, or public health in general.

There are numerous key laws — 13 total — that serve as a regulatory framework to enforce the no-pollution rule. They outline rules for everything from how to drill to how to clean up a spill. They address almost every water protection concern that could arise from oil and gas production.

Take fracking, a process which requires immense amounts of water. There are rules to govern how practitioners drill, what cement and casings they use, and how they control their wells. Additionally, they are required to continually monitor pressure levels beneath the surface and report malfunctions to inspectors.

Or consider waste disposal. The Texas regulations protect surface and subsurface water from liquid and solid oil field waste. Injection wells, the shafts that carry fluids down to porous underground rock formations, are highly regulated by the EPA and encased in multiple layers of cement to protect drinking water. The EPA audits each injection well annually.

Regulators wouldn’t be able to enforce these rules without a small army of state inspectors. There are hundreds of them in Texas that rove the oil fields to make sure everything is up to snuff. These “outriders” have access to all the online data they need to ensure proper inspection.

Companies are not only complying with the regulations; they are constantly finding new ways to protect water. Operators in the Permian Basin are using new technologies like “clean brine” to make produced water clean enough to reuse. They are also building pipelines to wastewater treatment or recycling facilities and reusing produced water. The reused water is not only used for more drilling, but can be used for community improvement like de-icing roads during winter.

Some companies are finding novel ways to reuse and conserve water. In 2016, one Texas-based energy company opened a 20-mile pipeline to receive treated municipal wastewater from Odessa, Texas that can be used in all its operations. Reusing municipal wastewater reduced the company’s reliance on freshwater needed in Odessa for drinking, and compensates Odessa for once-useless waste.

Thanks to sensible regulations, regular inspections, and industry efforts, Texas energy companies have little impact on the state’s water supply. A study by the state found that fracking accounts for less than 1 percent of total water use in the state, far less than agriculture.

Texans know what they’re doing when it comes to safeguarding their drinking water. There’s no need for Washington to impose additional, needless regulations when the current ones are already working perfectly.

John Tintera is a regulatory expert and licensed geologist with a thorough knowledge of upstream oil and gas exploration. He spent over 20 years working for the main energy regulator in Texas, the Texas Railroad Commission, and ultimately served as its executive director. He is currently the president of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

Plastic Trash Talking

Following a viral video of a turtle with a straw in his nose, plastics suddenly went from the “greatest thing since sliced bread” to environmental villain. This post first summarizes the waste plastic problem discussed in a recent GWPF paper. As in other cases of environmental issues, plastic trash talking conflates several problems, including littering, waste recycling and plastics disposal. Secondly, we shall see that the obvious advantages of incineration are resisted out of (can you guess?) fear of global warming from CO2.

As reported in GWPF, Dr. Mikko Paunio of the University of Helsinki has warned that the UN’s decision to regulate waste plastic as hazardous and restrict exports will unleash a “surge of waste” on many EU countries. Paunio urges a rapid expansion of waste incineration capacity to stop the plastic waste problem turning into a public disaster. His paper is Saving the Oceans and the Plastic Recycling Crisis. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Executive Summary

The United Nations has just decided to add mixed and contaminated plastic waste to the schedule of materials that are regulated under the Basel Convention. This decision will have major implications.

Firstly, it represents a major victory for the environment because it will effectively prevent a large proportion of exports of plastic waste to developing countries. Much of this material ends up in the oceans, so the UN decision does away with a major contribution to the problem of marine waste.

However, it will also mean that the problem of what to do with plastic waste will return to countries that produce it. What is worse, the EU is putting in place stringent new rules on plastic recycling, which will only increase the size of the problem, as will its new rules on landfill.

As a result, EU countries will find themselves faced with a growing mountain of plastic waste, and with few means at their disposal to deal with it. The EU has previously been deeply opposed to incineration of waste because of green dogma: they believe that recycling is virtuous in its own right, as well as seeing it as part of the fight against climate change.

And even if they were to change their views, there could still be major problems because the incineration capacity available falls far short of what is required.

A rapid expansion of waste incineration capacity is urgently required to stop the plastic waste problem turning into a disaster.

The global waste crisis

The Campania (Naples 1990s) trash crisis is a clear warning to governments about the problems that can be caused by blindly following green ideology. Now, it has become clear that a much larger crisis, global in scale, may almost be upon us. The global plastics ‘recycling’ industry is already on the verge of meltdown as a result of China’s import ban. Not only the biggest plastic waste exporter – the European Union – but also the rest of the English-speaking world, Japan and even Brazil, a developing country, are now witnessing rapidly growing mountains of plastic waste. In all these countries, the people who have in good faith been sorting their plastic waste for recycling can quite rightly feel betrayed.

Wealthy countries have tried to deal with China’s import ban by exporting waste to countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. However, waste
management in these places is often primitive, and the result has been severe problems
with marine pollution. So even though these imports bring much-needed revenue, the situation
is becoming so bad that legislative barriers are being raised to prevent them.

One of the most important developments, which has received little international attention,
is the silent decision of hundreds of municipalities in the US to stop recycling solid waste
altogether. These are not ‘Trumpian’ decisions, but decisions made by both Democrats and
Republican administrations at local level across the country.

The EU’s confused position on incineration

So the EU’s policy response to the marine plastic waste problem has been to adopt policies that will do little to reduce plastic waste, and which will probably cause the problem to become worse. The example of the Campania crisis, which was only resolved by extensive use of incineration, is therefore likely to become important. Incineration is superior to all other waste management options in terms of climate change mitigation, because it avoids the complex and resource-hungry schemes involved in, for example, turning it into diesel fuel or converting it to some other product. Meanwhile, incineration directly reduces demand imports of coal used in large quantities to produce heat and electricity. Recycling is certainly worse on other fronts too, not least the fact that recycling plants release microplastics in their wastewater streams, while only delivering low-quality recycled material that cannot
be used in important applications like food packaging.

The Commission has argued in favour of incineration, but only very rarely. In a paper entitled, ‘A Clean Planet for All’, released before UNFCCC COP 25 in Katowice, it argued for a carbon-neutral economy fuelled by biomass, although it was reticent about explaining where this biomass should come from. The answer is found in an accompanying document, which explains that it will actually be waste that is burned, and suggests that waste incineration capacity should increase to 100 million tons in 2050.

However, mostly it has been strongly against the idea. For example, in reference to the Circular Economy proposal, it said that of the possible approaches to waste management, recycling was to be preferred, apparently on climate change mitigation grounds, although it presented no evidence to support this claim. It also said that reprocessing waste into fuels is not recycling, but is, like waste incineration, ‘material recovery’. As a result, it has declared that its new cohesion fund will not fund waste incineration plants.

Advantages of  Burning Plastic

You will read in alarmist media about the dangers of incineration releasing chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, dioxins, furans and heavy metals, as well as particulates. It is true that incomplete combustion of any hydrocarbon is to be avoided. But mainly detractors are using chemophobia against plastic incineration because of their obsession with CO2. Some common sense is provided by Flo-Bro The surprising benefits of burning plastics. Excerpt below with my bolds.

The plastic revolution

Whilst travelling, we’ve witnessed how several Asian countries such as Cambodia and Indonesia have turned into plastic junkyards. Inland and coastal areas are littered with a colourful mixture of bags, bottles, cups, trays and everything else, it is truly a sad and terrible sight. A lot of countries, not just in Asia, suffer from bad solid waste management. Moreover, littering seems to be a deep engrained cultural element. Whilst care for the environment seems to be on the last stage of people’s and the government’s interests, the nature is suffering and people too.

Reaction to Vermont proposal requiring clear plastic trash bags.

Owing to the favourable properties of plastic – strength, durability and light weight, we embraced them in all areas of life. Plastics have created a revolution and improved the quality of life immensely, however, nowadays they seem to be one of greatest plagues of our planet. I can’t enumerate the number of times I came across an article talking about the great plastic vortex the size of Europe in the Pacific, and that the ocean will soon contain more plastic than fish.

The chemical elements of plastic

Most of the packaging plastics which pollute the environment are based on two to four chemical elements. Polystyrene, polyethylene and polypropylene are made of carbon and hydrogen, whilst PET (polyethylene terephthalate), used for bottles, contains also oxygen. Nylon, a polyamide, which is used to make fibres, also contains oxygen and nitrogen in its structure. These elements are essentially the same ones that fossil fuels are made of. This should be of no surprise, since plastics (long chain hydrocarbons) are also made of the same crude oil, as their “short chain” relatives- gasoline and diesel.

In other words: if burned well, plastics create the same products as wood and fossil fuels -> water and carbon dioxide

Recycle or burn plastics?

In conventional terms, it is environmentally more sound to recycle plastics than dispose them. This approach, however, has so far proven quite challenging and more frequently results in “downcycling”.  But even downcycling requires large centralised facilities with advanced sorting lines and plastic recovery processes, which is very expensive and not applicable to solve the pollution problem.

So, you were always told that burning plastics is bad for the environment. Indeed, incomplete combustion of any hydrocarbon creates noxious smoke. As the above image depicts, burning plastics can create the same products as fossil fuel and wood. In waste incineration facilities, thousands of tons of plastic burn worldwide daily, generating heat and electricity.

Burning any material well and without smoke and noxious fumes needs a high temperature and plenty of oxygen. This is best achieved in a stove, where the heat is concentrated and can be put to good use.

As with most solutions, this one is not free of flaws. Plastics such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is used for plumbing, can create more dangerous products of decomposition – such as corrosive HCl gas; and several plastics. Usually the hard plastic used in motorbikes and cars contain flame retarders, which are too not the friendliest chemicals and may create toxic fumes when burned. Based on what I’ve seen, these plastics are a minority and PVC and hard plastics are denser than water and will sink If they end up in the sea. What you see washed up on the shore are light packaging materials and foams.

Conclusion

Plastic pollution is unfriendly to animals and is undoubtedly aesthetically damaging the environment. Burning them might be the best way to quickly improve the situation. If people recognize the benefit of burning plastics in the right stove, it will save them money on fossil fuels, stop plastic pollution, limit deforestation, and improve the quality of life. Combustion of low value packaging plastics is not a totally new idea and a company has already received an award for it.

See also Fighting Plasticphobia

Duped into War on Plastic

Cyber Solutions Can’t Fix the Climate

This post is dedicated to Silicon Valley nouveau rich and their Cyber-Space Cadets now in the streets demanding that adults fix the climate, and fix it now!  Their thinking is fatally flawed by the simplistic transfer of tactics from cyber world to the real physical world.

Mark P. Mills writes at City Journal Want an Energy Revolution?  It won’t come from renewables—which can never supply all the power we need—but from foundational scientific discoveries. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Throughout history, some 60 percent to 90 percent of every nation’s economy has been consumed by food and fuel costs. Hydrocarbons changed the way that humans organize their productive capacity. The coal age, followed by the oil age, and now by the ascendant age of natural gas, has (at least for developed nations) driven the share of GDP devoted to acquiring food and fuel down to around 10 percent. That transformation constitutes one of the great pivots for civilization.

Many analysts claim that yet another such consequential energy revolution is upon us: “clean energy,” in the form of wind turbines, solar arrays, and batteries, they say, is about to become incredibly cheap, making it possible to create a “new energy economy.” Polls show that nearly 80 percent of voters believe that America is “capable of creating a new electricity system.”

We can thank Silicon Valley for popularizing “exponential change” and “disruptive innovations.” The computing and communications revolutions that have transformed many industries have also shaped both expectations and rhetoric about how other technologies evolve. We hear claims, as one Stanford professor put it, that clean tech will follow digital technology in a “10x exponential process which will wipe fossil fuels off the market in about a decade.” Or, as the International Monetary Fund recently summarized, “smartphone substitution seemed no more imminent in the early 2000s than large-scale energy substitution seems today.” The mavens at Singularity University tell us that with clean tech, we’re “on the verge of a new, radically different point in history.” Solar, wind, and batteries are “on a path to disrupt” the old order dominated by fossil fuels.

Never mind that wind and solar—the focus of all “new energy economy” aspirations, including its latest incarnation in the Green New Deal—supply just 2 percent of global energy, despite hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies. After all, it wasn’t long ago that only 2 percent of the world owned a pocket-sized computer. “New energy economy” visionaries believe that a digital-like energy disruption is not just possible, but imminent. One professor predicts that we will see an “Apple of clean energy.”

A similar transformation in how energy is produced or stored isn’t just unlikely: it’s impossible. Drawing an analogy between information production and energy production is a fundamental category error. They entail different laws of physics. Logic engines don’t produce physical action or energy; they manipulate the idea of the numbers one and zero. Silicon logic is rooted in simply knowing and storing the position of a binary switch—on or off.

But the energy needed to move a ton of people, heat a ton of steel or silicon, or grow a ton of food is determined by properties of nature, whose boundaries are set by laws of gravity, inertia, friction, and thermodynamics—not clever software or marketing. Indeed, the differences between the physical and virtual are best illustrated by the fact that, using mathematical magic, one can do things like “compress” information to reduce the energy needed to transport that information. But in the world of humans and objects with mass, comparable “compression” options exist only in Star Trek.

Spending $1 million on wind or solar hardware in order to capture nature’s diffuse wind and sunlight will yield about 50 million kilowatt-hours of electricity over a 30-year period. Meantime, the same money spent on a shale well yields enough natural gas over 30 years to produce 300 million kilowatt-hours. That difference is anchored in the far higher, physics-based energy density of hydrocarbons. Subsidies can’t change that fact.

And then batteries are needed, and widely promoted, as the way to convert wind or solar into useable on-demand power. While the physical chemistry of batteries is indeed nearly magical in storing tiny quantities of energy, it doesn’t scale up efficiently. When it comes to storing energy at country scales, or for cargo ships, cars and aircraft, engineers start with a simple fact: the maximum potential energy contained in hydrocarbon molecules is about 1,500 percent greater, pound for pound, than the maximum theoretical lithium chemistries. That’s why the cost to store a unit of energy in a battery is 200 times more than storing the same amount of energy as natural gas. And why, today, it would take $60 million worth of Tesla batteries—weighing five times as much as the entire aircraft—to hold the same energy as is held in a transatlantic plane’s onboard fuel tanks.

For a practical example of the physics-anchored gap between aspiration and reality, consider Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) recently announced plan to replace an old gas-fired power station with the world’s biggest battery project—promised to be four times bigger than the current number one, a system Tesla installed, to much fanfare, last year in South Australia. The monster FPL battery “farm” will be able to store just two minutes of Florida’s electricity needs. That’s not going to change the world, or even Florida.

Moreover, it takes the energy equivalent of about 100 barrels of oil to manufacture a battery that can store the energy equal to one oil barrel. That means that batteries fabricated in China (most already are) by its predominantly coal-powered grid result in more carbon-dioxide emissions than those batteries, coupled with wind/solar, can eliminate. It’s true that wind turbines, solar cells, and batteries will get better, but so, too, will drilling rigs and combustion engines. The idea that “old” hydrocarbon technologies are about to be displaced wholesale by a digital-like, clean-tech energy revolution is a fantasy.

If we want a disruption to the energy status quo, we will need new, foundational discoveries in the sciences. As Bill Gates has put it, the challenge calls for scientific “miracles.” Any hoped-for technological breakthroughs won’t emerge from subsidizing yesterday’s technologies, including wind and solar. The Internet didn’t emerge from subsidizing the dial-up phone, or the transistor from subsidizing vacuum tubes, or the automobile from subsidizing railroads. If policymakers were serious about the pursuit of the next energy revolution, they’d be talking a lot more about reinvigorating support for basic science.

It bears noting that over the past decade, U.S. production of oil and natural gas has increased by 2,000 percent more than the combined growth of (subsidized) wind and solar. Shale technology has utterly transformed the global energy landscape. After a half-century of hand-wringing about import dependencies, America is now a major exporter. Now that’s a revolution.

See also Energy Changes Society: Transition Stories

US News is Skewed Up and Dumbed Down

Under the Suspicions Confirmed file, we have quantitative proof that US news is increasingly skewed according to the values of the media outlet. Rand corporation is publishing studies on the theme Truth Decay, based on analyzing 15 prominent and popular media platforms. The latest report is at phys.org entitled US journalism has become more subjective. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

U.S.-based journalism has gradually shifted away from objective news and offers more opinion-based content that appeals to emotion and relies heavily on argumentation and advocacy, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

In a unique analysis on news discourse and presentation, researchers found that the changes occurred over a 28-year-period (1989 to 2017) as journalism expanded beyond traditional media, such as newspapers and broadcast networks, to newer media, such as 24-hour cable channels and digital outlets. Notably, these measurable changes vary in extent and nature for different news platforms.

“Our research provides quantitative evidence for what we all can see in the media landscape: Journalism in the U.S. has become more subjective and consists less of the detailed event- or context-based reporting that used to characterize news coverage,” said Jennifer Kavanagh, a senior political scientist and lead author of the report, which is second in a series of research into the phenomenon of “Truth Decay,” the declining role of facts and analysis in civil discourse and its effect on American life.

News consumers can now see how the news has changed over the years and keep that in mind when making choices about which media outlets to rely on for news,” she added.

The analysis, enabled by a RAND text analytics tool previously used to analyze support and opposition to Islamic terrorists on social media, offers a detailed assessment of how news has shifted over time and across platforms. The RAND-Lex tool scanned millions of lines of text in print, broadcast and online journalism from 1989 (the first year such data was available via Lexis Nexis) to 2017 to identify usage patterns in words and phrases. Researchers were then able to measure these differences not only within one outlet or type of media (e.g. print) but also comparatively with other forms of journalism (e.g. print vs. digital).

Researchers analyzed content from 15 outlets representing print (The New York Times, Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch), television (CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox and MSNBC) and digital journalism (Politico, The Blaze, Breitbart News Network, Buzzfeed Politics, The Daily Caller and The Huffington Post).

The findings point to a gradual and subtle shift over time and between old and new media toward a more subjective form of journalism that is grounded in personal perspective.

Consider broadcast news. Before 2000, broadcast news segments were more likely to include relatively complex academic and precise language, as well as complex reasoning. After 2000, broadcast news becomes less pre-planned as on-air personalities and guests engaged in conversations about news. (That year, 2000, is significant in the evolution of the media landscape, as viewership of all three major cable networks began to increase dramatically.)

Comparing broadcast news to cable programming, differences become more stark, with cable segments dedicating more time to opinion coverage and using argumentative language. The size and scope of these changes is substantial, but researchers also noted that these differences may be in part a result of their different audiences, with cable news focusing on specialized audiences.

When comparing newspapers to digital outlets, researchers were able to identify significant differences. Newspapers have changed the least over time, with content slightly shifting from a more academic style to one that is more narrative. As for digital journalism, the report found that online content is more personal and direct, narrating key social and policy issues through personal points of view and subjective references.

“Our analysis illustrates that news sources are not interchangeable but each provides mostly unique content, even when reporting on related issues,” said Bill Marcellino, a behaviorial and social scientist and co-author of the report. “Given our findings that different types of media present news in different ways, it makes sense that people turn to multiple platforms.”

The report is one in a series of RAND-funded reports into the triggers and consequences of Truth Decay. The first report, written by Kavanagh and RAND President and CEO Michael D. Rich, examined how Truth Decay is a set of four interrelated trends:

    • increasing disagreement about facts;
    • a blurring between opinion and fact; 
    • an increase in the relative volume of opinion and personal experience over fact; and
    • declining trust in formerly respected sources of factual information.

That report identified how changes in the media have contributed to Truth Decay by increasing the volume of opinion over fact. Forthcoming reports will examine issues such online civic engagement and use of social media for political activities, public trust in institutions and how to evaluate media literacy programs.

“RAND has always been an institution where facts matter,” Rich said. “This new stream of research sheds additional light on the drivers and implications of Truth Decay and is part of our continuing efforts to use analysis to improve civil discourse and public policymaking.”

Footnote

See also How Mass Media Became One-Sided

For discussion of media impact on global warming/climate change see Climate Is a State of Mind

More Alarmist Hysteria: Trump’s China Tariffs

Brett Arends writes at Market Watch The media is lying to you about Trump’s China tariffs. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The hysteria must have a political agenda because the amount that’s being charged is peanuts.

Are you kidding me?

I’m used to partisan, inaccurate drivel from all sides these days, but the media’s coverage of President Trump’s tariffs and the so-called “trade war” takes some kind of cake.

There’s no serious doubt that some in the media would absolutely love to tank the stock market. They figure that would hurt Trump’s re-election chances in 2020. Monday’s stock market slump, which saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.48% tumble 2.4% and the Nasdaq Composite 3.4%, looked just like what the doctor ordered.

I write this, incidentally, as someone who is no fan of the president. But I remember when politics was supposed to stop at the water’s edge.

And, anyway, facts are facts. Most of what the public is being told about these tariffs is either misleading or a downright lie.

I’ve been following the coverage all weekend with my jaw on the floor.

Uncle Sam benefits
Yes, tariffs are “costs.” But they do not somehow destroy our money. They do not take our hard-earned dollars and burn them in a big pile. Tariffs are simply federal taxes. That’s it. The extra costs paid by importers, and consumers, goes to Uncle Sam, to distribute as he sees fit, including, for example, on Obamacare subsidies.

It wasn’t long ago the media was complaining because Trump was cutting taxes. Now it’s complaining he’s raising them. Confused? Me too.

And the amounts involved are trivial. Chicken feed.

President Trump just hiked tariffs from 10% to 25% on about $200 billion in Chinese imports. In other words, he just raised taxes by … $30 billion a year.

Oh, no!

The total amount we all paid in taxes last year — federal, state and local — was $5.51 trillion. This tax increase that has everyone’s panties in a twist is a rounding error.

Investors panic needlessly
Meanwhile, the total value wiped off U.S. stocks during Monday’s panic was about $700 billion. More than 20 years’ worth of the new tariffs.

Even if Trump slapped 25% taxes on all Chinese imports, it would come to a tax hike of … $135 billion a year. U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) last year: $20.5 trillion.

So even this supposedly scary “escalation” of this “tariff war” would, er, raise our total tax bill from 26.9% of GDP all the way to 27.5% of GDP.

Oh, and isn’t it interesting to see some people’s priorities? Apparently the most shocking part of this trivial tax hike is that it might raise the price of new Apple AAPL, +1.16% iPhones.

Last I checked, these were luxury items, right?

U.S. consumers gain
Meanwhile, the trade spat seems to be bringing down food prices. China is going to take less of our farm products. So wheat prices are down 20% since the start of the year. Soybeans are at 10-year lows.

Good for consumers, right?

No, no, of course not! Silly you. This is also bad news … for farmers!

And all this ignores the much bigger picture, anyway.

The tariffs are simply a means to an end. The president is trying to get China to start buying more of our stuff. He knows the so-called Middle Kingdom, which now has the second-biggest economy in the world, responds to incentives more than to nice words. These tariffs give China an incentive to open up.

OK, so China’s first reaction is just to retaliate. Big deal. That’s just posturing.

Right now we export less to China than we do to Japan, South Korea and Singapore put together. That’s the point. So the effect of China’s new tariffs on the U.S. are yet another rounding error. Even if China banned all imports from the U.S., that would amount to only 0.6% of our gross domestic product. And we’d sell the stuff somewhere else.

Don’t buy the hysteria. President Trump is simply trying to pressure our biggest competitor to buy more American goods. That should be a good thing, even if you don’t like him.

Footnote:

New York Post Editorial Board adds:

President Trump’s tariffs on China may well take a toll on the US economy, but the price of not confronting Beijing would be higher.

The president isn’t playing protectionist here. He’s pushing a single player who needs to be confronted, a cheater and a bully. For decades, China has gotten away with theft of others’ production techniques and other intellectual property, along with technology transfers and mistreatment of US companies. Moreover, it uses its ill-gotten gains to boost its military, adding another threat.

And Beijing just backed off key concessions it had already made in months of trade talks, expecting Washington to fold.

Instead, Trump goosed fees on $200 billion in Chinese imports to 25 percent, from 10 percent. China struck back with its own new tariffs on US products, and now Team Trump is eyeing fees on another $325 billion in Chinese goods (i.e., basically the rest).

The markets didn’t like it: Beijing’s new tariffs brought a 600-point drop in the Dow. Yet the index is still up 9 percent for the year, and nearly 30 percent since Trump took office.

And the Dow isn’t the US economy, which is now robust, with 3.2 percent growth last quarter and 3.6 percent unemployment in April, the lowest in half a century. If the country can’t afford to stand up to China now, it never will.

There’s a reason the president isn’t taking heat from Democrats on this one issue, even though top economic adviser Larry Kudlow admits “both sides will suffer” in this trade war: China knows it will suffer worse.

Short-term, US consumers will pay a bit more — on goods that make up less than 2 percent of the nation’s $20.5 trillion economy. But China is at growing risk of losing access to the world’s top market, because Americans can buy from other lower-wage producers if Beijing doesn’t blink.

And China’s leadership has no remaining claim to legitimacy if it can’t keep its economy booming: President Xi Jinping needs a deal far more than the US president does.

Trump didn’t start this trade war, but he’s well positioned to win it.

 

Cynical Climate Politics

Lots of politicians in the US are grinding the climate ax, but the most cynical play of the climate card is on display in Canada. At Financial Post Gwyn Morgan describes how PM Trudeau is relying on global warming to escape electoral disaster in upcoming federal elections. His article: In choosing to mislead Canadians on climate change, the Liberals are basing their election campaign on a known lie. After describing a list of Trudeau missteps and failures widely criticized in the media, Morgan gets into the climate ploy. Excerpts intalics with my bolds.

So how does a government that can’t campaign on its record go about gaining re-election? By building its campaign around an issue where voters can see them as heroes fighting to save the planet against uncaring opponents. That issue is climate change and their weapon to fight it is carbon taxation. Winning re-election with this strategy requires convincing voters there’s a “climate emergency.” And so on April 1, the day the federal carbon tax kicked in on provinces unwilling to impose a tax that met the Liberals’ requirements, the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change released a supposedly independent report claiming “Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.”

[Note: Friends of Science deconstructed that report in post Climate Change NOT as Advertised, and Ross McKitrick dispelled the logic in Climate Hearsay ]

From now until the election, Canadians will hear Trudeau and his cabinet members blame every weather event, wet, dry, cold or warm on climate change. And the urgent need for a carbon tax to stop it. When the prime minister recently visited flood-ravaged areas in Quebec, he called the floods “the new reality of climate change.” But experts attribute the recent flooding to one of the longest, coldest, highest-snowfall winters on record. Isn’t climate change supposed to be about global warming?

Convincing Canadians of the need for carbon taxation is just the first element of the Liberals’ re-election strategy. Their most powerful — and cynical — tactic is their promise to give most taxpayers a bigger carbon-tax refund than what they will supposedly pay in carbon taxes. How is that possible? The answer is that individuals will get the refunds, while businesses bear the full cost. In other words, tax the job creators and use that money to bribe the voters.

The principal gladiators leading the Liberal carbon-tax forces are Trudeau and his eco-passionate environment minister, Catherine McKenna. The defenders opposing them in the carbon-tax coliseum are the premiers of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, along with federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. Scheer will have most of the spears trained on him. McKenna recently accused him of “having no climate plan.” But unlike the Liberals, Scheer’s climate plan needs to be based on the fundamental fact that Canadians could all move to Mars tomorrow and it would have virtually zero impact on global climate change. Here’s why.

Many Canadians have been led to believe (with the help of Liberal misinformation) that oil is a sunset industry. But the consensus of authoritative forecasts sees growth in developing countries pushing world oil demand from the current 100 million barrels per day to at least 110 million by 2030. Here’s the question Canadians should be asking: If world oil demand is going up anyway, why should Canada cede the market for our most important export to Russia, Iran, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia — countries that don’t care about the environment and have horrendous human rights records? At the same time, hundreds of coal-fired power plants are under construction in China, India and Southeast Asia. (Vietnam, one of the smallest countries in that region, has new coal plants under construction that could end up producing more carbon dioxide emissions than all of Canada.)

As good little scout Canada struggles mightily to meet its commitments under the Paris climate accord, the vast majority of nations on the planet have already given up on the pact. Last year, global greenhouse gas emissions grew by an estimated 2.7 per cent. So if Canada’s economy had simply ceased to exist, our 1.6 per cent of global emissions would have been replaced in just seven months.

These are irrefutable facts. So the decision by the Trudeau Liberals to base their election campaign on the assertion that reducing our country’s relatively tiny emissions will help fight climate change can only be explained in one of two ways. First, Trudeau and his team are breathtakingly unaware of facts anyone can learn through an afternoon of Googling. Second, they choose to mislead Canadians in a desperate bid for re-election. That would mean they choose to base their election campaign on a known lie.

So what should Canada actually do about climate change? The clearest answer was recently offered by a man in hip waders, who was filling sandbags to help with the flooding in Central Canada. When he was asked by a reporter what should be done to prevent the floods, he said this: “Well, there’s all this talk about climate change, but I don’t see what Canada can do about that when China and other countries keep burning more. If that’s going to cause more floods, we’d better figure out how we can be ready for them.”

That’s the most common-sense analysis I’ve heard. Instead of throwing away billions of dollars subsidizing costly and impractical “green power” and handing taxpayer money to buyers of electric cars, let’s redirect those billions to risk mitigation and homeowner compensation. In the case of floods, dikes and dams need to be improved where practical. Homeowners in unprotected flood plains should also be offered the full replacement cost to move, as Alberta did after the floods of 2013. After all, it’s flawed government zoning that put people in the flood plain and created the problem; it’s only fair to homeowners that government make things right. Forest-fire risk can be mitigated by underbrush removal, regulatory setback distances and fire-resistant building materials.

A Conservative climate-change mitigation strategy based on the common-sense words of that flood worker would make Canadians much better prepared for climate change. And it has the added benefit of actually telling Canadians the truth about the climate-change challenge. That would be Andrew Scheer’s most important difference from Justin Trudeau.

Gwyn Morgan is the retired founding CEO of Encana Corp.

Footnote:

A master class in exploiting global warming for political gain was portrayed in the British comedy series Yes Prime Minister

Transcript of video is at Yes PM Pokes Fun at Climatism